THE LAST THING in the world "Third and Main" could be is a cooking column. But how in the world cam you write a daily column for 20 years and not mention food once in a while" Left to my own inclinations, I'd write about soft pretzels and nectar sodas and fresh homegrown strawberries and call it a day.
But the readers-ah, they like to take after a topic and worry it down until they have it where they want it.
The readers wanted cream pie. The origin of Pocketbooks also known as Piggies and Pinwheels. My mother's apple butter recipe and her mashed potato doughnuts. Somehow or other I stumbled upon oven-fried chicken and, for a spell, that's the only way some people served it, Sunday after Sunday!
Even Congress got into the act and the readers wanted to hear again the favorite bean soup recipes of the senators and representatives in Washington, DC.
Hold your hats, here we go ...
YOU HEAR so much these days about people moving in and out of Washington, I'm certainly glad to hear that ONE thing hasn't changed. The bean soup in the House of Representatives' restaurant!
I've never tasted it, but I've heard about it for years. That's the soup that is on the menu every day the restaurant serves. Before 1904, bean soup was on the menu every now and then, but it was in that particular year when Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois, speaker of the house, ordered bean soup and there was none. It had been omitted because of the weather.
"Thunderarion,' roared Speaker Cannon. "I had my mouth set for bean soup. From now on, hot or cold, rain, snow, or shine, I want it on the menu every day." And it has been.
I know how he feels abom getting his mouth set for some favorite dish. When I get my mouth set for something like chicken livers, or fresh strawberries, I don't want to be put off with substitutes, either.
The information about the bean soup situation in Washington comes straight from the news letter of Paul E. Schenck. And I think it kinda nice that a congressman takes the trouble to keep us informed about stuff like that.
Paul even included the recipe for that famous bean soup. "For six servings, make it like this: Two pounds No.1 white Michigan beans. Cover with cold water and soak overnight. Drain and re-cover with water. Add a smoked ham hock and simmer slowly for about four hours until beans are cooked tender. Then add salt and pepper to suit taste. Just before serving, bruise beans with a large spoon or ladle, enough to cloud."
Yes, sir, it is nice to know that important things like bean soup arc still the same, elections or no!
IKE'S INAUGURAL certainly stirred up a lot of things. Bean soup, too. Again.
I thought the House of Representatives' bean soup was the most famous. Well, sir, it seems the Senate has its own way of preparing bean soup and the Senators won't take a back seat to anybody when it comes to bean soup!
Mrs. J. E. Magel, 202 Wayne avenue, Eaton, sent me the Senate Bean Soup recipe with the note that her family "needs no second call to the table when they know there's Senate Bean Soup for lunch!"
Guess we can't slight the Senators. If you want to eat like one, try THEIR bean soup:
Soak two cups soup beans (great white Northern) overnight.
Cook slowly two hours in three quarts water, with a hambone which has some ham left on it.
Add two cups cubed raw potatoes, three onions finely chopped and one small bunch chopped celery, tops and all.
Cook all together with the beans, about I ½ hours. Salt and pepper to taste. Chop ham into bite-sized pieces. Mash beans slightly. Serve with corn sticks.
It is now a foregone conclusion what is going to happen to the hambone at our house this weekend, the one that started out as a baked ham last Sunday, was eaten as cold sliced ham on Monday, diced in mushroom sauce with a bit of leftover turkey (served on English muffins) for Tuesday, and may turn up with green beans and potatoes tonight ...
"YOU GAVE a recipe for old-fashioned bean soup in your column the other day," begins a note from Mrs. Robert P. Hocker, 56 East Norman avenue, "and I want to add something to it, being a resident of Maryland (below the Mason and Dixon line)."
You mean the recipe for the bean soup always served in the House of Representatives' restaurant in Washington, D.C.? OK, what's the addition?
"Our family always added Patches to our soup.
"This is how you make them: one cup flour, one teaspoon baking powder, one-half teaspoon salt. Sift together and mix in one tablespoon shortening to make fine crumbs. Add enough water so that you can roll the dough to one-quarter of an inch and cut in one-inch squares and steam for 15 minutes.
"If you don't have a steamer, place squares on rack in large kettle which has a small amount of boiling water in the bottom. Cover tightly and turn fire low and DON'T remove lid until 15 minutes are up. Turn the fire out. Take up the soup in dishes and put patches on top and serve at once.
"Try them, Marj, and see how you like them."
“Marj’s Oven Fried Chicken”
MODERN LIVING, the Journal Herald women's department, mailed out hundreds of copies of this recipe in the years since it turned up one day in a conversation with a home economist visiting Dayton on a routine tour to promote fresh dairy butter.
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons paprika 1/4 pound butter
chicken, cut in pieces ready to fry
I-Mix flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a paper sack and shake three or four pieces of chicken in the sack at one time to coat them.
2-Melt butter in shallow baking pan in moderately hot oven, 400 degrees F.
3-Remove the baking pan from oven and place chicken, skin side down, in a single layer.
4-Bake in same moderately hot oven for half hour. Turn the chicken.
5-Bake another 30 minutes until tender.
6-If you want crustier chicken, let the chicken remain in oven another I5 to 20 minutes, but watch carefully.
7-If you can't serve the chicken at once, reduce oven heat and brush with more melted butter until ready to serve.
During the last half hour of baking, place small, well-scrubbed potatoes (with skins on) in the baking pan with chicken.
Baste potatoes as you baste chicken. When serving, break open potatoes with fork and ladle the butter-drippings from pan over the hot potatoes.
MRS. W. L. C. of Dayton tells about the time her younger son, then three, was helping her in the kitchen the day she discovered that the chicken she wanted to cook wasn't disjointed.
"I'd never cut up a chicken before," she says, "so I sent my son, Randy, in to wake up his father to do it. He reported that he couldn't wake his daddy, so I tackled the chicken by myself.
"I must have been making a mess of it because Randy bowed his head and prayed, 'God, please help Mommy cut the chicken.'
"I was touched. But just then my husband came into the kitchen, finally awake. Back down went Randy's head and he said, 'Never mind, God, Daddy's here.'''
My OWN favorite recipe, clipped from a magazine during the first weeks of my marriage in 1934, was for Pineapple Cookies. I felt like such an accomplished cook when I baked them.
To truly understand the taste of these cookies, one must understand that they were baked in a honeymoon aura with a hug and a kiss as a reward if they weren't burned. They were sampled as soon as the spatula lifted one cookie from the cookie sheet-they never had a chance to cool. With a big glass of cold milk, there is nothing to compare with these cookies-for personal memories, anyway.
½ cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canned crushed pineapple
¼ teaspoon soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 5/8 cups flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter and sugar thoroughly. Add unbeaten eggs and beat well. Add flavoring and pineapple. Mix and sift flour, salt and soda. Add to first mixture, beating just enough to make mixture smooth. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet (well apart) and bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees) for 10 minutes. Makes about six dozen cookies.
MARJ’S EXPLANATION: You can tell THIS one was clipped years ago-look at the way it starts: butter, sugar, eggs .... But I must confess that the original recipe called for only two-thirds cup of crushed pineapple, and I always bought a small can, measured out the two-thirds cup, added it to the batter-and then, because there was always just a little dab of pineapple left in the can, I just emptied the rest of it in ... the extra pineapple (making a cupful, but NOT heaping, or packed down' ) makes the cookies very moist-and I doubt if they will keep very long - they never did at our house, we ate them almost as fast as I could take them from the cookie sheet!
I HAVE TO EAT my words, sometimes, and when they're about pineapple cookies, I like 'em!
I'd better. I've found out people are making pineapple cookies to a fare-thee-well and when I'm confronted by results from my own recipe, I'd BETTER eat my words or never appear in public again.
I tried to explain about that recipe-how old it was, starting out the way it did with butter, sugar and eggs. That it was one of MY favorites since I like cookies, pineapple and home-baked things fresh from the oven but it didn't necessarily follow that everybody else would like it. And I thought I made it plain that it wasn't a "keeping" or a "sending" cookie, or even a "packable" one but just a good tasting cookie that was easy to make and heavenly to eat warm from the cookie sheet with a glass of cold milk.
Heavens to betsy, if you're looking for a cookie that looks and tastes like a "boughten" one-go BUY one-don't waste time in the kitchen and all those expensive ingredients! Me-well, I like to putter around the kitchen now and then, baking for the fun of it, and I like the fragrance of a warm kitchen with nice baking smells, especially when it gets nippy outside, and I like to sample fresh cookies while the cookie sheet is still soaking in the suds. A few fresh cookies, a glass of milk, or a mug of hot coffee, something good to read-and the whole prospect of a big, leather chair pulled up to the fire is made even more inviting.
I always start out with a plateful of cookies and I still end up with a polite handful because this is the way we eat cookies at my house-one for Marj, one for Buff, turn the page, one for Buff, one for Marj, one for Buff, share the next one, turn the page, one for Buff-and the plate's empty. WHERE did all the cookies go? If I've been too immersed in reading and can't be sure that I didn't eat them all myself, all I have to do is look closely at Buff. If he has that contented, sleepy look, and he curls up by the side of the chair without begging for more cookies - and esPECially if there's a crumb on his whiskers and he's too full to lick it off-then I KNOW for certain that you can't blame me for the empty plate.
The kitchen in the restaurant in Arcanum where I eat my breakfast has been by-passing the usual egg this week when they get the word that I've stumbled sleepily in the door. That's in deference to all the eggs I had to eat last weekend, when I carefully and consistently broke 36 of them. But the other morning I didn't even get any kind of recognized breakfast. I got pineapple cookies! And I ate 'em!
Mrs. Erma Swank, who baked them from my old recipe, mentioned something that sounds reasonable but something that I hadn't thought of. "I added a little more flour," she said. "I've noticed that the kind of flour we get nowadays doesn't thicken the way the old flour used to."
I've run into that problem, before. Rice, for instance. Today's rice is so different from the rice of 20 years ago, say, that you can't use the same old recipes and get the same old results. Flour may be another one of those ... I don't know.
But, in case there are others who, like the lady who phoned the other day and said: "Marj, are those pineapple cookies supposed to be all flattened out like pancakes and look like not much of anything?", the answer is:
"Well, then, I did it right," she said.
“A Good Cook”
BY NOW I should see these things coming. I should not only see them, I should run and hide. But, no, each time I think THIS time I can get away with mentioning a favorite food or a remembered taste and that will be the end of that. Marjorie, Marjorie, what a dreamer you are ...
All right, I'm licked. I was the one who said there were times when nothing sufficed but a slice of my mother's homemade bread spread with some of the homemade apple butter of her own design which tasted as if she'd spent hours stirring it in an iron pot over an outdoor fire when, actually, all she did was whip it together in a culinary twinkling. I admit it. I said it. And I'm licked. I admit that, too.
"Please, Marj, may we have your mother's apple butter recipe?" That was the first one. Then, "Please, Marj, would you send me the reopc for your mother's homemade bread?" Then came the deluge ...
I know it's not fair to create, however innocently, a demand for something and then fail to produce the wanted item. I do not mean to keep such tempting things just out of your reach. But it's like this: you don't know how difficult it is to get a recipe out of my mother! Oh, she's generous with her recipes-that's not it. She'd not only give you the recipe, but she'd whip up a batch of whatever it was that you were asking about -and then send you home with a few pie-dough pocketbooks just to tide you over until supper!
I say it's hard to get a recipe out of my mother because she doesn't cook in level cupfuls or fahrenheit degrees. She cooks in pinches and dabs and her favorite directions are "bake until you think it looks right" or "oh, you'll know when to take it out, sister!"
It's maddening to translate home-kitchen directions like that and expect the level tablespoon kind of cooks to duplicate my mother's results. I am between the devil and the deep blue sea. The position is untenable. I called my mother and asked her for her recipe for apple butter.
"All right, sister," she said, agreeably, "but you might think it is kind of funny."
Send it along, anyway, I begged. The readers are running me ragged with their requests for that recipe just because I mentioned it the other day.
"Oh, it IS good, sister, and all you do is take your applesauce and season it the way you want and bake it until you smell it and that's all there is to it."
No, no, mother. Not over the phone! You write it down and remember absolutely every ingredient and exactly how you do it and ...
"There's no need for that, sister. Just tell them to mix it good and they won't have any trouble."
Well, she wrote it down, anyway, and 1 give it to you with my blessings and if your apple butter doesn't come out the way it ought to, you just don't hold your mouth right when you mix it!
HELEN EVERS' APPLE BUTTER
"Take 3 cans applesauce and to your own taste add brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice. Mix good. Put in 300-degree oven and forget it until you smell it, maybe about 3 or 4 hours. Makes about 3 pints or 3 small jars."
Except if your kids dip into it before you get it into pints or jars!
I KNOW you asked for the homemade bread recipe, too, but I just don't have the strength to go into it right now. It's not my mother's fault - she had that bread recipe copied out quick as a wink. It started out: "Put in granite pan ... " And somewhere in the middle she said "take one heaping sieveful of flour" ...
How big is your sieve? I tried to ask quietly and calmly.
"Why you know how big my sieve is, sister. The one I've been using for years. I always use that sieve."
I know, but I meant how many cups does it hold-and besides, mother, we just can't use heaping sieves or heaping spoons anymore in modern recipes. Everything has to be level.
"I don't see why. It works just as well with a heaping sieveful."
But, mother, some of these new little cooks might have a little bitty sieve and you have a big old-fashioned sieve and that would make a difference when they made the dough.
"Then all they'd have to do would be to add more flour, sister. That wouldn't be hard to do."
Helen Evers, you go right out to your kitchen and fill that sieve with flour and then pour that amount on to a piece of paper and spoon it back into your one-cup measure and then you call me back and tell me how many cupsful you get! Sometimes you have to be firm with my mother!
It wasn't long before the phone rang again. "All right, sister," she said. "I did it. And it makes five cups of flour."
Good. Now wait until I write that down. Five cups of flour, you said.
"Yes. Five heaping cups of ... "
HEAPING! You can't use HEAPING cups' They have to be level' Didn't you level off the top of the measure with a knife' Wait, you didn't pack down the flour, did you? Did you spoon it in, or shake it down afterwards?
"Well, I might have shaken it a little, sister, but not much, and anyway you can't cook with level cups of anything, you have to heap a little to make it taste right ... "
Do you see what I mean when I say I haven't the strength to straighten out the homemade bread recipe right now? The apple butter recipe left me limp as it was ...
"PLEASE, Marj-I loved your column about your mother's apple butter and her bread recipe and the way she measures by the sieveful. But maybe I haven't lived right. I had to go back and re-read ... yep, there it is!
"Quote: 'and then send you home with a few pie-dough pocketbooks just to tide you over until supper.'
"MARJ, WHAT IS A PIE-DOUGH POCKETBOOK?"
I set my own traps and walk right into them, don't I? Well, a pie-dough pocketbook is what my mother makes with the scraps of dough that are left after she bakes pies and she puts ... hmmm ... maybe I had better ask her for sure. I know how to make those pocketbooks myself but they never DO taste as good as the way she makes them so I might as well swallow my culinary pride once more and ask my mother how she bakes something. Heaven only knows how I will fare . . but it is worth a try.
We’re having Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house tomorrow so maybe I can get my brother and his wife, and my sister and her husband on my side and maybe the five of us can get mother to give us a reasonably accurate recipe. Oh, it's accurate for mother-I mean one that the level teaspoon cooks can understand.
Come to think of it-I wonder why she calls them pocketbooks?
THE GIRLS in "Modern Living" can get pretty insistent at times. They leave me notes, they waylay me in the halls, they haunt my every moment-on those occasions when they think I am letting things slip that oughtn't.
Like that recipe for my mother's mashed potato doughnuts.
I mentioned that once, in passing. But the readers didn't want a mention in passing. They wanted the recipe. The phones began to ring, not constantly, but often enough to give the girls an idea that they had better build a fire under me or they'd never get the recipe to placate those who called so regularly.
The first small fire made me remember to ask my mother to write out the recipe for me. The second' fire made me remember to bring the recipe in to the office.
Then I "lost" it-which is the term I use when I, a non-conformist in the ways of proper filing, make hash out of my files.
Lately, the fire's been so warm under my chair I had to get up off it and "do something" about the files. I found the recipe as my mother wrote it, and I quote verbatim:
"Marj-Grandma Rhodes brought this recipe from Fort Wayne about 75 years ago-it originally came from Germany. I made 100 dozen of them in 1922 for the McKinley PTA bazaar. Durst's Milling company gave me a 100-pound sack of flour; also everything else was donated. I rolled and cut them myself, but the ladies on the committee donated their kitchens and their stoves and they fried them. Ina Kinzig and Laura Faber were the ladies. We sold the doughnuts for 25 cents a dozen. Mother."
MASHED POTATO DOUGHNUTS
Boil five medium-sized potatoes; when mashed, this makes two cups.
Into the potatoes stir a pinch of salt, one tablespoon butter, two cups sugar, three eggs beaten well, one cup sweet milk, three teaspoons baking powder and five cups flour, plus enough cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.
Fry in white shortening and roll in powdered sugar. This will make about 60 doughnuts.-Mrs. Helen Evers.
OK, HERE IT IS ... the recipe for that fresh cocoanut cake. Remember the lady who said she'd trade us the recipe for information-she wanted to know where she could get fresh grated cocoanut?
Many readers supplied the answer ... postscripting the request that they'd certainly like to have the recipe. So here it is:
FRESH COCOANUT CAKE
Ingredients: ¼ pound butter, don't use substitute; 2 cups sugar, ¾ cup milk, 2 cups sifted flour, 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup fresh cocoanut, 4 egg whites, ¼ teaspoon salt.
Method: Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar gradually (save a little from the measured amount to lightly dust the cocoanut). Add milk alternately with flour. Add baking powder and vanilla. Fold in cocoanut. (Be sure you take out all the lumps.) Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake in moderate oven, 350 degrees, about 35 minutes.
Our Cocoanut Lady (Mrs. B. of Trotwood-that's all she wants in print) adds this word:
"I usually buy one-quarter pound of cocoanut and that is enough for the cake and frosting. Fresh cocoanut doesn't keep long, so be sure to keep it cold until it is used.
"This cake is best with a fluffy white icing. For a change you can omit the cocoanut and add two medium mashed bananas. Hope you all enjoy the cake!"
I'm drooling right this minute, ma’m. Memo to mother: Wouldn't you like to try this cake, Mrs. Evers? I'd be glad to bring home the cocoanut if you'd just say the word. And save me a small piece, will you, huh? Say about four inches across and six inches deep?
HOT MILK SPONGE CAKE
I cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
I cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons hot milk
Method: Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and sift together three times. Beat eggs until very thick and light and nearly white (10 minutes). Add sugar gradually, beating constantly. Add lemon juice. Fold in flour, a small amount at a time. Add milk, mixing quickly until batter is smooth. Turn at once into ungreased tube pan and bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 35 minutes or until done. Remove from oven and invert pan one hour, or until cold.
MARJ’S EX PLANATION: I always followed the directions exACTly on this one, sifting three times just like it says. When I got an electric beater, it never took all of 10 minutes to get the eggs thick and white, but I never cheated on this maneuver, either ... they had to be VERY thick. And never one drop more than six tablespoons of hot milk.
This cake was NEVER iced, but always eaten plain. At some of those old Christmas parties we used to have, the dessert was always fresh strawberries ladled over slices of hot milk sponge cake with whipped cream on top. Making the cake was fun-it was getting those fresh strawberries at Christmas time that was tough. And to think that some youngsters reading this today will wonder why on earth I once thought getting fresh strawberries in the dead of winter could be so difficult ...
“Pizza Pie – for Laughs…”
OLD-FASHIONED ONES, because this first appeared in 1956:
PIZZA PIE? All I said was (a) I was probably one of the last persons in town to taste them and (b) I used to think they were too hot for me and (c) I still do.
Wham! The ceiling fell. I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears and pizza pies fell all over my desk.
When the tomato sauce cleared, whose bright face did I spy? Vic Cassano's, that's who.
"What do you mean saying pizza pies are HOT?" he shouted at me.
"Hot, sure, if you want them that way. But you can make pizza pies mild. Not hot. Mild. Mild. Do you hear, Marj? Mild!"
I hear, Vic.
"Marj, you hurt me. Here," he laid a hand over his heart and his face was a study in sorrow. "I've been telling people for years that pizza pies aren't hot-not if they don't want them hot and if they WANT them hot, we put on the garlic and the crushed red pepper and the sliced onions and the hot pepperoni-and I got them believing me when I say mild I mean mild. And then you-YOU!" Vic pointed a finger at me. I tried to slide down under my desk. He hauled me back up on the chair.
"YOU!" he accused. 'You say you tasted a pizza pie and your throat was on fire. Oh, Marj, how COULD you!" He crumpled against the wall and three of us had to fan him before he recovered.
Honest, Vic, it was a MILD pizza. I said so. Nothing but tomato sauce, cheese, bland mushrooms. But, I can't help it-it tasted mild and swallowed hot. Oh, wait, Vic, don't faint ...
He'd disappeared right out of sight. I stood up, leaned over the desk and tried to see where he'd landed. And I got it, right under the nose -a pizza pie coming up from the floor where Vic had dived into a pungent box. He set the pie down on the desk.
"There! Mild! Taste it!" he ordered. I couldn't refuse, he was violent.
I tasted. OK, mild, I admitted. But I haven't swallowed yet!
"So swallow!" he ordered. His eyes had a wild gleam. I swallowed. "See? MILD!" Vic shouted in triumph, and dived down to the floor again, coming up time after time after time with pizza pies until my desk was covered. Everybody on the second floor who got a whiff of pizzas began flocking around, drawn like flies to sugar.
"Taste, taste," Vic urged. And they all plunged into the pizzas, smacking their lips, and going back for more. "This one is a little hotter, and this one hotter yet, and this one a little bit more, and this one ... " Vic was in his glory, hauling out more pizzas until he landed one loaded with anchovies and spices and everything but the kitchen sink. The gang around my desk sighed with pleasure and reached for more samples.
NOBODY noticed me fall back against the filing cases. "Helen, Helen," I pleaded, tugging at the sleeve of a staffer who was aiming for a third piece of the hottest pizza on the desk. "Water, Helen, water, Coke, something, Helen, help." She took pity on me-after she'd finished off that pizza segment, smacked her lips and set another piece aside for dessert.
She bootlegged me a Coke and I pretended I had to look for something in a bottom drawer so I could sooth my throat with a cooling draught out of Vic's sight.
When the top of my desk looked like a pizza battle had been waged and lost, and the staffers fell back exhausted as they licked their fingers, Vic dived once more into the box on the floor.
He held aloft another pizza pie. "The mildest of the mild. Special mild. Nothing but NOTHING in it. All mild. For you. Half-baked."
I stared at him.
"The pizza-half-baked," he explained. "For you, special. See? Your name spelled out in mushrooms."
"You take it home. You put it in the hottest oven. You brown it. You eat."
Vic gently caressed the pizza and traced the monogram. "We only had room for the 'M' on top," he said, "but we were going to put your whole name on it ... "
Even Vic knew the dramatic heights had been reached. He picked up his pizza box and silently stole away.
Nothing has touched me like that since I fell down the cellar steps when I was five. Imagine-having my name spelled out in mushrooms across a pizza pie!
“That Cream Pie”
I'VE HAD IT!
And now I give it to you, with all best wishes: The Modern Living George Liebherr Third and Main Frigidaire Kitchen Tested Old Fashioned Cream Pie.
With variations! Oh, how there are variations-dozens, hundreds, trillions at last count.
Here's how it all started. Fella name of George Liebherr - husky guy, weighs about 200 pounds, foreman in the service department at Master Electric company, lives at 4201 Blue Rock road-got fed up with driving to Richmond, Ind., every time he got hungry for an old-fashioned cream pie. Had to drive that far, he said, because there was a restaurant there that made the best cream pie he ever tasted and since he got hungry for cream pie every week, it meant an 80-mile round trip.
If his wife could get that recipe, he wouldn't have to drive so far every time he had a hankering for cream pie. His wife said she'd tried, but couldn't find it.
"Why don't you ask Marj?" said George.
So she did ... and before the ink was dry on the Third and Main column in which George's pitiful little plea appeared, the recipes came flooding in ... they came on cards, on notepaper, in ink, typewritten, in pencil, on scraps of paper, on bits and pieces of every kind of writing material, written by men, women, children and pie bakers, amateur and professional, all over this Miami Valley.
I gave them to George's wife. She started baking. Nope, said George.
Not yet, said George. Almost, said George. She kept on baking, all through November and December and January.
This it IT! yelled George. To be sure, George's wife used the same recipe for three pies in a row. Yes, sir, we got it THIS time, he said.
She sent a sample pie to the office. We all gathered 'round for a taste. Twelve pieces of pie-twelve opinions. My mother used nutmeg, not vanilla, said one. We always put an egg in it, said another. There shouldn't be any brown sugar in it, said a third.
I sent out an SOS for expert help. Verna Miller, director of home economics, Frigidaire, and her staff began to bake cream pies in every variation they could manage in five short weeks. They baked pies with brown sugar, without brown sugar, with egg yolks, without egg yolks, with nutmeg, with cinnamon, with heated cream, with unheated cream, with granulated sugar.
They baked pies in 8-inch pans, in 9-inch pans, at high, medium and low temperatures and various combinations. They had pies to run over in the oven, they had soggy crusts. They mixed the pies with wooden spoons, with their fingers. They stirred the filling during baking, or let it alone. They mixed the ingredients right in the unbaked pie shell, and mixed them in a bowl and then poured them in the shell.
I tell you Verna and Helen Verba, Ruth Whiting, Mary Young and Clarette Smith worked like beavers to do the impossible: to standardize a recipe for a pie for which all the oldsters say there IS no recipe. When Eleanor Ahern of Glendale, Frigidaire's laundry consultant, dropped in, SHE even stayed around to discuss the chemical reactions of brown sugar in such a pie!
The variations mounted, the choices narrowed-until finally, Wednesday, the last taste-test was held. Men attending a meeting in Plant 2 auditorium were hauled out of their meeting, set down before a tableful of cream pies and told to start eating. Their reactions?
Brown sugar is best, said one. The one stirred during baking is best, said another. The pie with nutmeg, said a third. I like 'em all, said Harold Bayless. I may as well die happy, said Bob DeMarse, let me taste some more.
As Verna Miller so wisely said: "We have standardized two recipes, one with brown sugar, one with granulated sugar. Now each cook can vary her recipe with egg, heated cream, cinnamon, different temperatures to please her own family. There's where the art of good cooking comes in-you bake the pie the way YOUR man likes it."
As Helen Verba said: "After testing dozens of pies, I'd cook the filling on top the range and put it in a baked shell, if I had MY way!"
As George Liebherr said: 'To heck with everyone else-I got the one I like."
As Marj says: Well, that's what we started out for, wasn't it?
CREAM PIE No. 1
(Mrs. Liebherr's kitchen-tested recipe)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 pint cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon butter (optional)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg yolk (optional)
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
1. Mix together the sugars, flour and salt.
2. Place butter and vanilla in cream, and warm.
3. Pour the cream mixture into the sugar mixture, stirring gradually.
4. Stir thoroughly.
5. Pour into unbaked pie shell.
6. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 275 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.
7. Cool several hours before cutting.
CREAM PIE No.2
1cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 pint cream
1 tablespoon melted butter
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
9-inch unbaked pie shell
1. Mix as listed, in the unbaked pie shell. Or mix ingredients in a bowl and pour into the pie shell.
2. Bake in a pre-heated oven 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until filling is set.
4. Cool several hours before cutting.
BAKING TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
AFTER MANY WEEKS of cream pie baking and testing, Verna Miller, home economist, and her staff have the following observations to make:
A cream pie is not a glamor pie. It doesn't look like much when it comes out of the oven and looks even worse when it stands a while. If you want a pretty pie, bake an apple, or a pumpkin or a pie with toasted meringue on top. A cream pie's glamor is in its taste-a rich, creamy filling that is, in many cases, tied in with memories of years ago when mother or grandmother baked a cream pie as the last pie on the weekly baking day. She had no recipe-she patted what dough was left into the size pan it needed, dumped in some sugar, a little flour for thickening, a little salt and the family's favorite flavoring. She mixed it all together with her fingers. Then she poured in cream "to swim"-if the cream was all, she used milk. Then into the old gas range, or the wood-burning range, at a temperature never measured by a thermometer because she knew by heart the vagaries of her own stove. Sometimes she stirred the filling while it baked, sometimes she didn't. The cream pie, last to be baked, was the first to be eaten-usually by hungry boys who grew into men whose memories of cream pie included the fragrances of the kitchen on family baking day.
If your cream pie boils over in the oven, your pie pan is too small.
Change to a deep 8-inch pan or a 9-inch pan.
The cream filling bakes more rapidly around the edges of the pan so if you want to stir the filling during the baking period, wait for about 20 minutes and THEN stir.
The cream pie will be runny if cut when too warm. It is best to let it set for several hours before cutting.
This is a very rich, very sweet pie-and folks who do not like rich, sweet pies won't like it. It has been unofficially estimated that there are "two billion five hundred million" calories in each slice! (Estimated by a woman on a diet, that is! )
You can follow your grandmother's mixing method and mix the dry ingredients directly in the unbaked pie crust, adding the liquid and stirring with a wooden spoon or folk. If the liquid is not heated, it is best to add 10 to 15 minutes more baking time, or increase the second baking temperature 25 degrees-make it 300 degrees instead of 275 degrees.
Some cream pie bakers add both egg and butter to the traditional flour-sugar-flavoring-cream ingredients. It is important to please your own family so no matter how you vary the basic recipe, it will still remain a Cream Pie, anyway.
If your family likes a caramel flavored cream pie, use light brown sugar in your recipe.
Heating the cream is not necessary. However, when the cream is heated, the baking time is lessened and the ingredients are more thoroughly mixed.
The home economists who tested the cream pie recipes prefer a glass pyrex pie pan. If your favorite pie pan is tin or aluminum, you will have to adjust the temperatures and baking times according to your own baking methods.
Which is the best flavoring-nutmeg or cinnamon? Which do you LIKE best? That's the one!
P.S.: If you're going to stir the filling during the baking time, use a wooden spoon. THIS is not the time to stir this pie with your fingers!
Memo for beginner-cooks: the pie "shakes" when it is finished. Don't worry. It isn't nervous-it always acts like that.
Most people prefer the top of the pie lightly browned. If your family wants a light-complexioned pie, or a deep brown one, do it the way they like it. You can sprinkle a bit of nutmeg or cinnamon across the top before putting the pie in the oven, if you wish.
WHEN WE REPRINTED and gave away thousands-actually-thousands of leaflets with all this Cream Pie information, the last page contained variations on the theme by 'Third and Main" readers, thusly:
Bake cream pie at 325 degrees for one hour-s-don’t keep changing temperatures.-Betty Blauser, Troy.
Use one cup light cream and one cup boiling water.- Mrs. H. G. Young, Bradford.
Add about ¼ teaspoon baking powder to each pie, and the flour and cream blend together so much better.-"A farmer's wife from Arcanum."
The proper name for this pie is Poor Man's Pie, Crumb Pie, Milk-Sugar Pie, Sugar-Cream Pie, etcetera.-From ALL the readers.
Bake pie until milk forms a big brown blister on top. This is the Johnson county-Hoosier idea.-From a Hoosier.
Add two egg whites, beaten until stiff, to the filling.-Mrs. Harold Moore, Dayton.
Add four square soda crackers rolled fine. The salt on the crackers is enough to salt the pie.-Mrs. M. K., Germantown.
Stir filling with a spoon after pie is baked-but don't stir too deep. "Mom" of Lewisburg.
Dot generously with butter.- Mrs. Janet Smith, Dayton.
For the best cream pie of all, use whipping cream instead of coffee cream.- Mrs. Harold Scherer, Tipp City.
For people who are getting tired of cream pie, make a vinegar pie the same way only use vinegar instead of cream, and stir with a fork, it's more sanitary!-Dayton Reader.
Add a teaspoon of cream of tartar-and bake it in a round cake pan. -Mrs. Roy E. Barnes, Dayton.
Use 2 tablespoons cornstarch instead of flour, and 1 tablespoon lemon extract instead of cinnamon.-Mrs. Edna L. Houser, Dayton.
Bake it slow-until it is quivery, and don't let it get too hot.-Mrs. A. S. Collett, Harveysburg.
Use a four-pronged fork to mix.- Mrs. Seldon Conover, Germantown. Mix sugar and flour with a little milk so it won't be lumpy, and then add the cream.-Mrs. Clyde Srayrnan, St. Paris.
Cook the filling on top of the stove until the butter melts and then put it in the pie shell.-Besse Satterfield, Hillsboro.
Use butter the size of an egg.-May Wolberton, Dayton.
Crumb one slice of bread in bottom of shell.-Mrs. Cecil Palmer, Spring Valley.
Use 1 ½ cups canned evaporated milk diluted with ½ cup water. Mrs. John Davis Kelly, Piqua.
Use the white of an egg or ½ teaspoon baking powder.-Cora Thomas, Ludlow Falls.
Use a quart of milk, and sugar to taste, plus the yolks of two eggs. Mrs. Forest Schubert, Dayton.
Beat the ingredients thoroughly with a beater.-Mrs. C. H. Herin, Dayton.
Do not stir after the cream is added. Bake at least two hours at reduced heat.-Third and Main Fan, New Carlisle.
Stir during baking to prevent crust from forming on top-and use milk instead of cream if you can't stand a rich pie.-Helen Mitchell, Centerville.
Best way to stir during baking is to drag a four-tonged fork through the filling, but do not puncture the crust. This stirring is important. Mrs. John H. Peoples, Pleasant Hill.
Stir with your finger and don't ask why. It's better that way.- Mrs. H. B. Boecker, Minster.
Bake until the knife comes clean.-Mrs. Ross Matthews, Xenia.
Pie must bubble up to have a creamy texture.- Mrs. Tom Shiflett, Franklin.
Dot butter all over the milk after you have mixed it in the pie pan. -Mrs. W. C. Busche, Brookville.
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