Welcome to The Food Historian's 31 Days of Halloween extravaganza. Between social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and this blog, I'll be sharing vintage Halloween content nearly every day this month!
We're revisiting the October, 1917 issue of the Ladies' Home Journal this week with some very fall-ish recipes. The beautiful color plate featured in the magazine contains a number of recipes for baked goods using wheat substitute flours. Refined white flour was a shelf stable product necessary for the war effort to feed both American troops and our French, British, and Belgian allies. But the 1916 wheat harvest was poor throughout the Americas, and the United States joined the war in April, 1917 - too late to increase wheat crops for the year. Herbert Hoover, United States Food Administrator, asked Americans to voluntarily reduce their consumption of wheat (along with meat, fats, and sugar). This page of helpful recipes bears Hoover's portrait and purportedly a quote from him as well, reading "Every woman who serves in her home these good things to eat will, in just that degree, by conserving wheat flour, help win the war."
Not the snappiest quote from Hoover, but the emphasis on using wheat substitutes, especially corn, were popular at the time. Although rationing was voluntary, not mandatory, many Americans tried to make their baking more patriotic and reduce their reliance on refined white flour.
Because this is from 1917, we don't have mandatory sugar rationing, as we see by the fall of 1918. But cornmeal, rice, rye flour, graham flour (today sometimes called entire wheat flour - made from whole wheat berries and different from modern whole wheat flour, which is white flour with some wheat germ added back in), oatmeal and oat flour, and barley flour were all used to help reduce the reliance on white flour. Of them all, cornmeal and rice were the most plentiful.
In the Halloween spirit, I've transcribed two of the most festive recipes on the list - the unimaginatively named "Corn Muffin Dessert with Spiced Apples" and "Pumpkin Biscuits." Enjoy these seasonal treats!
Corn Muffin Dessert with Spiced Apples
Cut four medium-size apples into eighths, and core but do not pare them. Divide each eighth crosswise into four pieces. Place one teaspoonful of whole cloves and half a stick of cinnamon in three-quarters of a cupful of vinegar and boil for five minutes. Then add one cupful and a half of sugar and half of the apples and continue boiling. When the apples are tender remove with a skimmer and cook the other half. Remove when done and boil down the liquid into a heavy sirup. Pour this over the apples and cool. Make eight large-size corn muffins by any standard recipe, slightly increasing the amount of sugar. When they come from the oven, cut a circular "lid" from the top of each and scoop out the interior with a teaspoon (the rejected portion can be dried for crumbs, or utilized in bread pudding). Fill with the spiced apples and sirup and place the lids on top. Serve immediately.
My translation of the recipe:
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole cloves
half stick cinnamon
1 1/2 cup sugar
8 corn muffins (homemade or store bought)
Cut the apples into quarters and then again in half to form eighths. Core, but leave skin on. Cut crosswise into thick slices. Bring the vinegar and spices to a boil and let boil for five minutes. Then add sugar, stirring well to dissolve. Add half the apples and cook until apples are tender (can be easily pierced with a fork or sharp knife). Remove to a dish with a slotted spoon, then add the remaining apples and cook until tender. Remove to dish and continue cooking spiced vinegar syrup until it is thick. Pour over apples and let cool. Cut tops from muffins and use spoon to carefully hollow out, leaving at least an inch of muffin on all sides. When apples are cool, spoon into muffin cases. Serve cold for dessert.
Put into a bowl one cupful and a half of cooked pumpkin; add four tablespoons of sugar, one teaspoonful of salt, a quart of a cupful of butter substitute melted, half a cupful of lukewarm milk, half a yeast cake dissolved in a quarter of a cupful of lukewarm water, five cupfuls of whole-wheat flour and two cupfuls of white flour. Let rise; put together in thin biscuits, with butter substitute in between; brush over with milk; when risen, bake in hot oven.
An here's my modern translation:
1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin (or 1 can)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup milk, warmed
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
5 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour.
Mix pumpkin, sugar, salt, melted butter, and milk. In a separate bowl bloom yeast in warm water - if it foams it is ready to use. Add to pumpkin mix, then add flour gradually (start with white flour). Knead well. Cover and let rise in a warm place. When doubled in bulk, punch down and roll out thin. Cut into rounds with biscuit cutter. Spread one round with softened butter or margarine, then stick another round on top. Brush top round with milk. Preheat oven to 425 F. Let rise again, then bake in hot oven, 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
What do you think? Would you try either of these recipes?
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.