Monday, April 8, 2013

The First Texas Cook Book

Dearest Druid cover closeup
Yesterday, I finished writing the next to last chapter in Dearest Druid, Texas Druids book three. At one point, I needed to know what kind of cold drink a sharecropper’s wife might offer guests. Turning to the internet, I learned ice tea, now the “national drink of Texas," wasn't widely in favor until the early 1900s. Also, tea would likely have been too expensive and hard to get for a poor family in 1876.

Not finding a solution on the net, I turned to my bookshelves and pulled out The First Texas Cook Book, A Thorough Treatise on the Art of Cookery, from which I’ll share quotes and a few recipes.

Unfortunately, the book didn't answer my cold drink question, so I improvised. I love hot mint tea, and I know wild mint grows in parts of Texas. It wasn't hard for my fictional hostess to pick some and brew up a batch of mint tea. Sweetening it with honey, she serves it over ice from the family’s ice house. I’m not sure they’d have one, but for my purposes, they do.

Meanwhile, I was charmed by the Texas cookbook. Quoting from the introduction, “The Reverend Mr. E. D. Junkin was in the third year of thirteen years he would be pastor of the church in 1883 when the women of the First Prebyterian Church of Houston published their Texas Cook Book.” Such a convoluted sentence!

The preface calls the book “the first enterprise of its kind in our state.” The unnamed writer goes on to list several historical tidbits about Houston at the time the book was compiled..

  • The city’s population was estimated at around 20,000.
  • Houston’s first telephone was installed five years earlier.
  • The barroom of the Capitol Hotel (later the Rice Hotel) had electric lighting installed a few months prior to the book’s publication.
  • Ten railroads served Houston by 1883.
  • The city boasted a mile of plank “paving,” eighteen blocks of gravel streets and two blocks paved with stone. “The rest, as a rule, was dirt, or in Houston’s case much of the time, mud.”
David Wade, in his forward to the book, wrote “This book confirms what I have always expressed about cooking, that the three most important ingredients of any good recipe are love, patience and butter. Certainly for these early Texans cooking was a labor of love as it required so much more time. Their patience had to be expanded when struggling with the kitchen tools of 1883. You can read just a few pages and you will see that almost every recipe was baptized in butter.”

In the forward by Mary Faulk Koock, written in 1986 for the facsimile edition from Eaken Press, she says one man submitted a recipe for Yacht Pie. “His tongue-in-cheek recipe suggests that ‘the more ladies you have on board, the more onions should be used.'” I think that's an insult, not sure.

Ms. Koock went on to say “Many recipes show that the women of one hundred years ago favored the use of wine and spirts in their cooking. One of the recipes for mincemeat included ‘four pints white wine, one pint brandy.’ And a recipe for making vinegar included ‘three quarts of whiskey.’”  Wooee! I'd be wary of pickles soaked in that stuff.

The preface to the book, written in 1883, states “As many of the very excellent cook books published contain receipts [the old spelling of recipe] not suited to the requirements of our climate, and, as far as we know, no complete treatise on the subject of cookery has been published in our latitude, it has seemed well to supply this deficiency.”  Talk about flowery writing!

Okay, now for some recipes from the book. Excuse the punctuation or lack thereof.

Stuffed Eggs

“Boil some eggs hard, remove the shells, and cut them [the eggs, not the shells] in half lengthwise, take out the yelks [old spelling of yolks], mash them fine and season with butter, pepper and salt, chop some cold boiled ham fine and mix with the yelks, fill the halved whites with this mixture and put them in a pan, set in the oven and brown slightly.” ~~No author cited
Kind of rich but it doesn’t sound bad, does it?

Cold Slaw—No.1 (of 3 recipes)

“Have your cabbage finely shred and place in a salad-dish. Put in a sauce-pan one pint vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar to taste, with one tablespoon butter; set over the fire; break in two or three eggs, and stir constantly until it thickens; them add two tablespoons cream. Pour while hot over the cabbage; then cut two or three hard boiled eggs over the top.”    ~~ Mrs. J. D. Sayers, Bastrop (TX)

Hot cold slaw, that's a new one on me.
Spiced Beef

“Get a round of beef weighing ten pounds, tie it close together in good shape (round) with tape, take one tablespoon ground mace, one of cloves, one of allspice, and one of saltpeter, and rub the meat well with the spices mixed. Place the meat in a deep dish, set aside, and turn over every morning for ten mornings. When ready for cooking, place it in a pot, with the spices, liquor and all. Cover with water and cook four hours. To be eaten cold for luncheon or tea.” ~~No author cited
Ten mornings? Not me! But note this from the preface: “The receipts given have been obtained from our best housekeepers and cooks.” So, they did the turning, not the lady of the house.

I’m really tempted to give you the gentleman’s recipe for Yacht Pie, but he kind of rambled on. Instead, here's my own favorite brisket recipe. I think it originated in Memphis, so it’s not Texas style, but my family loves it. I often fix it for 4th of July get-togethers.
A brisket packaged in plastic with fat side up.

24-Hour Brisket

One 5-6 lb. beef brisket                                                             3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup strong coffee                                                                    2 Tbsp. liquid smoke

2 cups ketchup                                                                           2 Tbsp. mustard

10 oz. Coke, Pepsi or other cola                                                ¼ tsp. tobasco sauce

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

Twenty-four hours ahead, place brisket fat side up in large, deep roaster or Dutch oven; pour coffee over meat, cover and bake at 200° for 24 hours. The next day, remove from oven, carefully lift meat from pan and set aside. Pour off greasy liquid (expect a lot) into a large plastic or metal container. My husband cuts the top off a gal. milk jug. Trim off fat (a bit messy) and return brisket to roasting pan. In medium bowl, combine all remaining ingredients, mix well and pour over meat. Bake at 200° for at least one hour. Meat will be fork tender. You can slice it and serve with side dishes or cut up smaller and serve on hamburger buns. The sauce is sweet and tangy.

Note: The brisket can be frozen, but freeze the sauce separately. It’s fine reheated in the microwave. In fact, I often prepare it ahead, layering the meat and sauce in a Corningware Dutch oven I’ve had forever, and heat it up when our company arrives. You can also double the recipe. Just buy a bigger brisket and make sure your roaster is big enough to hold all the grease it produces. Enjoy!

White Witch, Texas Druids Origins

Darlin' Druid
Dashing Druid


Ginger Simpson said...

Great post, Lyn. Are you available to make the brisket for my family on July 5th? We don't mind if it's a day late for the holiday.

Honestly, I'm going to try the recipe. Sounds delicious.

Lyn Horner said...

LOL! Ginger, you're welcome to come share the 4th with me and my gang if you want to. It would be such fun!

I hope you enjoy the brisket.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Very interesting. I love old recipe books. I have a few of them and am amazed at how they cooked in the olden days. Great post - sorry I don't know what kind of drinks they had either.

Lyn Horner said...

Hi Paisley, thanks for popping in. Yes, it's fun to read old recipes. The First Texas Cook Book is kind of hard to find, but I think there are a few copies available on Amazon and Ebay, used ones that is.

Carra Copelin said...

I love old recipe books, too, and own quite a few. My favorites were put out by churches.
Lovely post, Lyn, thank you for bringing these receipts for us to share.

Lyn Horner said...

You're very welcome,Carra. Thank you for visiting. When we get together, I'll show you the cookbook. It's a treasure!

Lyn Horner said...

In case anyone's curious about the change in my avatar, I just changed over to Google plus. I posted the photo that I use on the back of my book covers.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you for the Texas food tips and recipes.
I don't know is sassafras grows in Texas, but in North Carolina, sasafras tea was used for refreshments. I've had some and it's pretty dang good. Mine was iced tea, but you can drink it hot, too. sassafras grows wild here.

Lyn Horner said...

Sarah, I appreciate the tip. I'll find out if sassafras grows here in Texas, specially up near the Red River. If it does, I'll change the drink to sassafras tea. Thanks!

Sharla Rae said...

I always love the wonderful tid bits of history in your blogs Lyn. I'm going to look for that Texas cook book!

Ciara Gold said...

Too fun. Made my mouth water. My mother-in-law still cooks with lard. I tend to grimace at that but then that's the way they fried things back then.

The oldest cookbook I have was published in 1908. You got my curiosity up so I've been browsing through it. Interesting stuff.

Lyn Horner said...

Sharla, I'm glad you enjoy my posts. You will love The First Texas Cook Book. I sure do!

Lyn Horner said...

Ciara, my Grandma Novotny kept a cup of bacon grease on top her big old stove. She brushed a dab of it on homemade breads and for cooking all kinds of food. And she was a great cook!

Let me know if you find something fun in your 1908 cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

Ruby said...

What a great post! I remember old cookbooks where butter was always used to coat bread for sandwiches. Lard was used a lot for baking and frying. I don't ever remember mayonnaise used for sandwiches or EVOO or Canola used for frying. It's interesting taking a look back at how people used to live.

Ellen O'Connell said...

The cookbook I still use is probably historical now - The Woman's Home Companion Cook Book, copyright date 1942. It was my mother's and is falling apart, but since I don't do a lot of cooking, I drag it out when I need to find a way to do something.

Comments are coming up differently for me today - in a window on top of the page instead of a new page loading with the blog on top and comments below. Can't wait to see if my apostrophe comes out properly. How can the apostrophes in contractions in the post be fine, but not in a name?

Ellen O'Connell said...

Yee haw!

Anonymous said...

I love old cook books as well. Great post. I tweeted.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Lyn, what a fun post. :) We'll be over for brisket, too. It's gonna be quite a party!