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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winter Comfort Foods

By Shellee Murcko, Education Assistant/Foodways Supervisor

Winter weather has finally arrived in Northwest Ohio.  The brisk winds brought chilling temperatures and a smattering of snow.  A warm evening at home sounds delightful and we crave warm, comforting foods to chase away the chill.

Soups and stews are ever-popular traditional winter foods.  Casseroles evolved from the pot pies of the past.  (Did you know that chicken pot pies from the Colonial era were made with whole pieces of chicken, including the bones?)  Other dishes, like macaroni and cheese, have their roots in centuries-old recipes, but have changed a great deal from those early versions.

Well into the twentieth century, most people consumed foods that were locally produced and preserved or seasonally available.  The settlers in Northwest Ohio were no exception.  Winter diets from early 1800s would have included times of hunger, and a monotonous diet based on dried grains, vegetables and fruits, meat from hunting and root crops.  When the railroads came into the area, things started to change.  More settlers came and many communities were organized.  Local general stores, bakeries, butchers and others set up shops.  By the turn of the twentieth century, seasonal foods from other areas were shipped in by rail, including oysters and oranges in the midwinter months.  Many journals were published that spread recipes and ideas of more gracious entertaining throughout the country.  As immigrants from different countries mixed in communities, so did their foods.  People developed tastes for a more varied diet than ever before.

Our Foodways program at the Historic Village has been active throughout the winter researching and experimenting with historic cooking techniques and offering a variety of cooking classes.  The next scheduled class is a Meatloaf class on February 21.  Check out our website for the updated list of class offerings throughout the winter and spring seasons.  We are also offering custom classes, where a group of four or more individuals can register for a class of their choice from a list and the instructor will contact them to arrange a class time and tailor the class to fit the group.  It will be a fun activity for family members, small groups or several friends to share and always includes foods to share that evening and more to take home. We would also like to share a few recipes to bring you warmth throughout the several cold weeks until the fires are once again burning in our hearths and we see you at Sauder Village. 

The first is based on an 1850s recipe for Chocolate from The Modern Housewife Or Menagere, by Alexis Soyer.  Chocolate was first consumed as a drink by the Olmecs and later Aztecs of Central America.  It was taken to Europe by Spaniards in the 1500’s, where it was prepared in a more diluted form (It was very expensive.) and spread throughout Europe.  Thomas Jefferson developed a taste for it as ambassador to France, and brought a large supply and chocolate-making equipment to Monticello.  Chocolate candy bars weren’t perfected until 1847 in England and baking with chocolate became popular even later. 

The next recipes feature several winter vegetables.  Have you tried parsnips?  These look like white carrots and can be prepared quickly and deliciously by peeling, and slicing into strips like thin French fries.  Place in a frying pan with deep, hot oil and stir until lightly browned and cooked through.  Their sweetness tastes great with just a little salt. Soups are always great winter foods.  They warm you from the inside out, the steam helps relieve a stuffy head and the broth soothes a dry or irritated throat.  And finally, Anna’s Potatoes and Pork Chops is baked together in one dish with a creamy, gooey sauce. 

This will make two cups of Chocolate.  You need to buy a bar of very good quality dark chocolate, above 80 percent, to make this an authentic drink, and follow the correct method to make it.   Chocolate has been made this way since the 1700’s.
2 ½ cups (full fat) milk
3.5 ounces of good quality 80% dark chocolate – scraped or chopped into bits
2 tbsp of water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Put two heavy based saucepans on a medium heat.
In one saucepan add a few inches of water, and put a heat proof glass mixing bowl over it so it does not touch the water. Into the glass bowl add the chopped dark chocolate and two tablespoons of water, the chocolate should melt gently in the bowl over the steam, stir only occasionally.
In the second saucepan add the milk and bring it to just under a boil, then stir in the sugar. Note: the sugar can be left out entirely for individuals to add to their own taste when served. By melting the chocolate this way, and not adding it straight into the milk to melt, you will achieve a much creamier and smoother hot chocolate drink, and it is well worth the extra washing up.
Once the sugar has dissolved into the milk, and the milk is at the boil, and the chocolate has melted in the glass bowl, stir the milk into the chocolate, a little at a time. Keep the bowl over the steam and stir continuously for a few minutes until everything has mixed in well.
Pour (or ladle) the hot chocolate drink into heat proof mugs or glasses, allow to cool slightly and drink warm.

Vegetable Soup
1 soup bone
2 lbs. stewing beef
2 quarts water
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup tomatoes
other vegetables (See below; to your family’s taste or what’s on hand)
2 tsp. salt
black pepper

Into 2 qts. of water put soup bone and beef and boil for 2 hours. For a hearty, substantial soup, cut up the meat in small pieces and return to the broth. Add tomatoes, onions and celery. Also add other available vegetables, such as diced potatoes, carrots, turnip, string beans, corn, peas, cabbage or chopped peppers. Boil until all vegetables are tender.

Anna’s Potatoes and Pork Chops
4-6 porkchops, about 4 ounces each
About 5 pounds potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced (like scalloped potatoes)
1 quart of whipping cream (or half and half)
milk as needed
2 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
Minced, dried onion
Dried Parsley
Dried Tarragon
Mild Hungarian Paprika
Sea salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Deeply brown your pork chops in a little oil.  Set aside.
3.  Grease a 13 x 9 inch pan and sprinkle over the bottom: ¼  teaspoon parsley, ¼ teaspoon dried tarragon, ¼ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt and a few shakes of pepper.
4.   Places sliced potatoes in the pan in several layers.  In between each layer sprinkle a few shakes of paprika and a couple pinches of salt.  
5.  Over the top layer of potatoes, scatter the butter pieces and ¼  teaspoon parsley, ¼ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt and a few shakes of pepper.
6.  As the top layer, place the pork chops in a flat row.
7.  Carefully pour a quart of whipping cream (or half and half) over the potatoes.  They should have cream up a little higher than level to the layer of the meat.  (If needed, you can add some milk to bring it just over the pork chops.)
8.  Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for about an hour until the potatoes are cooked through and there are rich brown patches over the top of the potatoes.

1 comment:

  1. I do love chocolates but I haven't tried it spicy Aztec-type of chocolate. I do wonder how it will taste like. I am fascinated by the history of chocolates and wondered if there is one heavenly chocolate drink, which I can indulge everyday.