Monthly Archives: February 2014

Day 59: Milk Oatmeal Porridge

Today is the day I’m finally facing up to the various oatmeal recipes in The New Galt Cook Book (1898). It has an entire chapter dedicated to this grain. I like oatmeal porridge but some of the recipes do not sound appetizing particularly when they talk about gruel and I’m not entirely certain what sort of oatmeal is needed for each recipe. Some do specify rolled oats while others talk about coarse oatmeal. I visited Scotland many years ago and discovered they take oatmeal porridge very seriously. I decided to start with Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock’s recipe for Milk Oatmeal Porridge partly because a friend works in that city and drops me off at work each morning. I woke this morning to temperatures in the -20 C range so it seems like a good day for hot oatmeal porridge.

I wasn’t sure how much milk to use but decided to start with 1 cup of milk. Once it was boiling I added a few shakes of salt and 1/2 tablespoon butter. I had steel-cut oats and decided to try them with this recipe. I’ve never used them so I measured out 1 cup of oatmeal and started adding it by handfuls. I waited until the milk came to a boil again before adding each handful. I’ve made cornmeal porridge this way over an open-hearth and found that waiting for the liquid to return to the boil was the best technique. I also stirred with each addition to avoid lumps. There is a special wooden stick called a spurtle that is used for stirring oatmeal. I don’t know if it was common in Galt households in 1898. In the end I only needed a small amount of oatmeal for the amount of milk. I used almost 1/2 cup of oatmeal and soon realized that this was too much. I added a little more milk and left if to simmer with the lid on the sauce pan. I stirred occasionally. After 15 minutes I removed the oatmeal from the heat and it was ready to eat.

Mrs. Robertson could be one of at least three women in Woodstock. Jessie and George E. Robertson and Scottish born Peter and Ruth Robertson are the older couples. Kattie and John Robertson are slightly younger. All three couples have a number of children. So far I haven’t found the Galt connection for any of the Robertsons. Peter was a wood-carver, George worked in a dry goods store and John was a cabinet finisher.

Milk Oatmeal Porridge

Milk Oatmeal Porridge

My oatmeal was chewy. I don’t mind that texture but I should have let it cook for the full 20 minutes. I also checked the proportions given on the package of steel-cut oats and discovered it says 1 1/2 cups water or milk to 1/4 cup of oatmeal. The cooking time is 2o to 30 minutes depending on the preferred texture. I expected to dislike oatmeal made with milk but it was fine. If you can use the calories and can consume dairy then this makes a very nourishing stick to the ribs breakfast. My oatmeal was thicker than gruel (at least the way I imagine gruel) so reducing the amount of oatmeal would help. Although I might not make Mrs. Robertson’s version of oatmeal I am certainly going to try making my own from scratch oatmeal instead of instant packets all the time. It is easy, doesn’t take nearly as long as I expected, and I like the opportunity to make it to suit my taste and preferred texture and thickness. March is predicted to be colder than usual in Ontario so it is the perfect time to try homemade oatmeal and experience a little of life in 1898.

Mrs. Robertson, Woodstock

Bring milk to a boil, add salt and a little butter, put in your oatmeal by handfuls gradually, and enough meal to make of the consistency of gruel. Boil fifteen or twenty minutes. Serve hot. Flour instead of oatmeal makes a very nice dish. Nice for invalids.


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Day 58: Icing with Cream

Although yesterday’s cake was okay I thought I’d try improving it by making an icing using a recipe from the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. I selected Mrs. Killer of Waterloo’s recipe for Icing with Cream.

This is a very simple recipe that makes just the amount of icing needed. I decided to put 1 cup of icing sugar (powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar) in a small bowl. Today we don’t see the term sweet cream but it simply means cream that isn’t sour. It is fresh cream vs sour cream. There’s no need to add anything to your carton of cream. I used whipping (35%) cream but you could use whatever you have on hand. How much cream should I use? I started with 1 tablespoon of cream and stirred. I needed more cream and ended up adding another 2 tablespoons before the icing was a spreadable consistency. I spooned it onto the cake and spread it out. I let it sit a few minutes before cutting a slice of cake and sampling the icing.

Mrs. Killer could be one of three women married to men with the surname Killer living in the town of  Waterloo in 1891. Is she Hannah Charlotte Sugget wife of merchant Caspar Killer, Elizabeth Mogk wife of John Killer, or is it Christina Schneider wife of Johannes Nicholas Killer and mother of John and Caspar?

This is the sort of icing I know from childhood since we always mixed icing sugar with warm water or milk. It was a special occasion if we made a butter icing. This sort of icing suits yesterday’s eggless cake. Next time I’ll add the nuts as I think it would have complemented the spices and raisins in the cake.

Mrs. Killer, Waterloo

Take icing sugar and mix with sweet cream until stiff enough, and then spread it on. It is very nice with chocolate icing over the white or with nuts cut up and put into the icing.

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Day 57: Cake without Eggs

I’ve run out of eggs something that also could happen in the 1890s. Therefore the recipe Cake without Eggs caught my eye tonight. Mrs. Richard Jaffray contributed this recipe to the 1898 New Galt Cook Book.

I creamed the 1/2 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar together. In a separate bowl I mixed the 3 cups of all-purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder. I decided to add the spices to the flour. I chose 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a few shakes of cloves. I added the 1 cup of milk alternately with the flour until it was well mixed. I chopped raisins until I had 1 cup and then mixed them with a bit of flour before adding to the cake batter — well really it was a dough. I tasted the dough to see if I needed more spice and decided to add a little more cloves. I spooned the dough into a loaf pan. I’m not sure why I picked a loaf pan rather than a cake tin. I think it was the nature of the cake since it resembled cookie or bread dough. I baked the cake at 350 F for 45 minutes before removing it from the oven. I let it cool briefly but I really wanted to taste this cake so it was still warm when I took my first slice.

I talked about Mrs. Richard Jaffray on Day 7 but I’ve found a bit more information.  She is Mary Havill (or Havel), daughter of James and Mary Ann Havill. Her English-born husband Richard Jaffray was involved in local politics and was in the newspaper business. He died the year this cook book was published. They had three daughters none of whom married. The eldest Mary Gertrude died in 1900 at the age of 31 of “nervous prostration” after several years. I’d never seen that particular illness on a death record although I’ve seen the term used in other contexts. It turns out it is not unusual to see it as a cause of death. There seems to have been a recognition in the Victorian era that one could die from emotional disorders. Did she have another illness that was missed? Was this anxiety or depression the result of some other disorder? Or did she simply fade away while suffering some loss?

The second daughter Kate Fleury remained single and was a registrar at Galt Collegiate Institute. The youngest Minnie was a music teacher. In 1901 the household included Mary and her daughters Kate and Minnie plus a 52-year-old woman named Kate B Nairn who is listed as a companion. She disappears for the 1911 census but that is the only change right through the 1921 census. Mary died the next year in 1922. Fifty year old Minnie died in 1929 from pneumonia and influenza. She was a matron at the posh Toronto girls’ school Havergal College at the time. Thirty years later Kate died at age 87. Her death notice appeared in the Barrie Examiner

Cake without Eggs

Cake without Eggs

The Cake without Eggs is an acceptable cake. It isn’t a special occasion cake but the sort of everyday basic cake Mrs. Jaffray or a servant could make quickly if they were running short of something to serve for tea or dessert. She didn’t even need to have eggs on hand to make this cake. It seems most basic cook books of this era have at least one eggless cake recipe. I’ve even seen a few eggless, butterless and milkless cake recipes. I should have baked Mrs. Jaffray’s cake in a square or round cake pan rather than in a loaf. It would have baked more quickly. I was too skimpy with my spices and if I was baking this as a modern cook I would add more raisins. I tried a slice of the cake warm with butter and found it works well as a sort of tea bread too. I’ll try this recipe again sometime.

Mrs. Richard Jaffray

One and a half cupfuls sugar, half cupful butter, one cupful milk, three cupfuls flour, two teaspoonfuls baking powder, one cupful chopped raisins well floured and added the last thing before putting into the oven. Spices to taste.

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Day 56: Butter Scotch

It’s been several weeks since I tried a candy recipe from The New Galt Cook Book (1898). I’ve had mixed results with these recipes but wanted to see if I could successfully make a very different type of candy. I selected Mrs. Husband of Hamilton’s recipe for Butter Scotch.

I put 1 cup of white granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan and turned the heat to medium. Once it boiled I added 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of butter. I stirred and then left it to boil for twenty minutes. I kept a close eye on it since I’ve had mishaps with candy making. I began to wonder what the candy would look like since it was so colourless. However, it started to darken a bit and then more and more until I was afraid it would burn. I realized I couldn’t let it boil for 20 minutes and removed it a few minutes early. I added one teaspoon of vanilla and discovered the candy was “threading” as I mixed in the vanilla. I poured the candy into a buttered rectangular pan and let it cool a little before marking it into squares. It was soon ready to sample.

I’m going to talk about one possible Mrs. Husband. There are several listed in Hamilton in the 1891 census. However, I discovered through Waterloo Region Generations that Dr. George Edmund Husband and his wife Elisabeth Howey previously lived in Galt making them a strong possibility. George was born somewhere around 1835 in Drummondville Ontario and Elisabeth was born in the same area about ten years later. The couple are listed in the 1871 census in Galt and one of their three children are born in the town. By 1876 the family lives in Hamilton and that is where their two-year old daughter dies of diphtheria.  George is usually listed in the census as a physician and he is listed as an allopath in a directory of deceased physicians. He died in 1909 and Elisabeth died in 1915.

Butter Scotch

Butter Scotch

This butter scotch is more like brittle than butterscotch. I nearly cut myself on a sharp edge of this candy. I’m not sure what went wrong but I’ve basically made a caramel brittle. It has a nearly burnt taste that I only like on creme brulee. I don’t think this was a successful candy recipe. I need to experiment with it further to determine my mistake.

Mrs. Husband, Hamilton

One cup of sugar, half cup of water, one teaspoonful of vinegar, butter size of a walnut. Put the sugar and water in a kettle to boil, add the butter and vinegar and let all boil twenty or thirty minutes. When done add flavoring, if desired (vanilla is best), and pour into enough buttered tins to have the candy not ore than one-fourth of an inch thick, and when partly cold mark off into butter scotch strips.


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Day 55: Chicken Broth and How to Draw a Fowl

Stewing Chicken

Stewing Chicken

I bought a chicken at the Kitchener Market on Saturday. It was labeled as a stewing hen and an old one at that, so it is perfect for making a rich tasting chicken broth. Stocks and broth are an important base for some of the savoury recipes in The New Galt Cook Book (1898). Although today we can buy a carton or can of broth, homemade was the main option at the end of the 19th century. I’m using Mrs. A. Taylor‘s recipe for Chicken Broth but I’m also going to share some of the information about Poultry from The New Galt Cook Book including How to Draw a Fowl. That is not about art but about butchering. No contributor is attributed to this information.

How do you buy chicken? Today we have a number of choices when buying chicken but the one most of us never see, at least not in Waterloo Region, is the opportunity to turn a live chicken into supper. We don’t even see poultry that resembles the bird. There are no feathers on our chickens and unless you enter some specialty stores poultry doesn’t even have feet or heads. Many people buy chicken parts — a package of boneless breast, chicken wings, or thighs — rather than a whole roasting or stewing bird.

One of the most memorable meals I ever had was in the north-eastern part of Thailand. Everything served had been grown, raised and cooked right there by the farmer — an amazing woman raising a family on her own — and that included the chicken. It had been running around the yard a short time before it became supper. The feathers and blood were saved and each part of the bird was cooked including the feet.

Chicken in the pot

Chicken in the pot

In the 1890s the chicken dinner could come from the yard or from a butcher shop or market stall like this at the Berlin Ontario Market. The information about how to Draw a Fowl would be useful for anyone who was buying a live or partially prepared chicken like in this photo from the Byward Market in Ottawa in the 1920s. Fortunately the chicken I bought had been killed, plucked, and cleaned (drawn) so I just needed to cut it up — a more challenging task than I expected. A sharp knife is important and I found it difficult to cut through the skin. I realized that I’ve always cut a chicken after it was cooked. I managed to split it open and partially remove the wings and legs. I put the chicken in a stewing pot and added 6 cups (3 pints) of cold water. I put the pot on the stove and turned the heat to medium.

Chicken and rice

Chicken and rice

I measured half a cup of rice and put it in with the chicken. I decided to use rice in honour of that long ago chicken meal in Thailand. I added a few shakes of salt and covered the pot. I turned the heat down and left it to simmer for one hour. Close your eyes and imagine the smell — a very nice chicken soup smell. After an hour, I removed the chicken to a plate and poured the broth in a large bowl. I had to scoop some of the rice out of the chicken. I added pepper to the broth and put a bit of butter on the plated chicken. It was time for sampling.

Mrs. A. Taylor contributed many recipes and I’ve already made several of them. Until her marriage to Alfred Taylor a dry goods merchant she was known as Maggie (Margaret) Fisher. By the time this cook book appears she is a well established Galt matron living in a lovely home on Grand Avenue in Galt. Her card is one of the visiting cards saved by the Stirling McGregor family and donated to the Cambridge Archives. Just imagine her coming out of her home to pay a call on Mrs. McGregor. You can see the house here.

Chicken Broth

Chicken Broth

I’m not sure how Mrs. A. Taylor (Maggie) served her chicken broth but it is very good. This sort of simple soup could be served at the beginning of a family or company meal. There’s nothing really different about it but it is nice to know everything that went into the broth. I don’t know the history of the chicken but at least I know the rest of the ingredients. This broth makes a good base for other soup recipes and it is basically chicken and rice soup. The rice was starting to get mushy. Add it a little later in the cooking time if you prefer a firmer rice in your soup.

Chicken with butter

Chicken with butter

The chicken meat however was tough. I think it needs to cook longer than one hour indicated in Mrs. A.Taylor’s recipe. The chicken was cooked but wasn’t tender. Give the Chicken Broth recipe a try if you can find a flavourful chicken and be grateful you don’t need the other recipes.


To judge the age of a fowl touch the end of the breast bone; if it bends easily from side to side the fowl is young.
The skin of the chicken should be firm, smooth and white.
If a fowl is tough rub it inside with a teaspoonful of baking soda, being careful to wipe it off before cooking it; it is also good for tough meat.
Lumps of charcoal put with fowls when they are a little tainted will restore the flavor.
Slices of lemon cut into small pieces and stirred into drawn butter and allowed to come to the boiling point, served with fowl is a fine addition.
The inside of poultry should be ribbed with salt after it is drawn.


It is not every housekeeper that understands how to draw a fowl so that all the interior parts come out in one piece. In order to do this, first split the skin on the back of the neck and turn it back over the neck. Loosen the pipes around the neck with the finger. Remove all fat that can be reached under the skin and lay it aside for use. When this is done, cut with a sharp-pointed knife from the leg to and around the vent, in order to open the chicken. Pass the hand up the back of the chicken on the inside carefully till you reach two little ligaments near the wings, which seem to bind the intestines down to the back. Loosen them and pull slowly and firmly, and all the pipes in the neck, with the entire mass of intestines, will come out together without breaking. When they are on a plate it is easy enough to cut out the gall bladder and separate the liver and other giblets from the parts that are to be thrown away. The fat of poultry should always be taken out of the bird, because it gives a strong taste if cooked in it, but it should be saved, as it has many uses in cookery, except in the case of turkeys, geese and ducks, when it is too strong. Goose oil is saved for medicinal purposes by prudent mothers, and that of turkeys and ducks may well be added to the soap-fat can.

Mrs. A. Taylor

One chicken, three pints of water half a teacupful of pearl barley or rice, pepper and salt. Cut up the chicken put it in the cold water with the barley or rice and salt, cover it close and let it simmer for an hour, add pepper to your taste. The chicken my be placed on a plate with pieces of butter over it.

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Day 54: Molasses Pudding

It is Sunday. In 1898 that would mean a day of rest to many of the recipe contributors and purchasers of The New Galt Cook Book. However, it didn’t include the women preparing a hot Sunday dinner. Some households would eat a cold meal but many enjoyed the best meal of the week with a roast and a nice dessert. Today I’m at home and can let something simmer for hours and so I’m making a boiled or steamed pudding. I’ve selected a recipe that requires only a few eggs since it is still winter. It also doesn’t require butter or very much milk. This recipe for Molasses Pudding was contributed by Mrs. R. Wallace.

I mixed the 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup suet, and 1 cup of white granulated sugar together in a bowl. Then I added the 2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. I added the 1 cup raisins and 1 cup currants next. Finally I added the 1/2 cup molasses, 1 cup milk, and two eggs. I stirred well and the tried to decide how much cloves and nutmeg to add. I grated some nutmeg and used about 1 teaspoon of cloves. I greased a pudding mold and spooned the thick mixture into it. I smoothed the top before setting it in a pot of water to simmer away for three hours. I checked on it each hour and added more water as necessary. After three hours I removed the pudding from the water and left it to cool a little before unmolding it to sample.

In Waterloo Region Generations, all the Wallace men with the first initial R were named Robert.  However the only one living in Galt in 1891 is 20 years old and single.  The eldest Robert Wallace was married to Isabella Sutherland. He was a storekeeper. They were both born in Scotland and lived many years in Galt Ontario where all their children were born including a son named Robert Sutherland Wallace. He married English-born Sara Marsden in 1880 in Hamilton Ontario. I’m not entirely sure which woman contributed this recipe. Neither couple seems to be living in Galt in the 1890s. Robert and Isabella live in Toronto by 1891 and that’s where Robert dies in 1893 and Isabella is listed in a city directory in 1896. Isabella died in Toronto in 1903 at the age of 84 and was buried in Galt. The younger couple Robert and Sara start their married life in Hamilton and live in various parts of the area. I’m going to have to do some more research to be sure who contributed this recipe.

Molasses Pudding

Molasses Pudding

The Molasses Pudding filled the mold completely and was a little challenging to remove. Eventually I got it out in one piece although it looks a little ragged. Time to sample. This is a nice simple steamed pudding. The raisins and currants don’t overwhelm the pudding and the spices and molasses add to the sense of comfort food. It is a perfect winter pudding.

Mrs. R. Wallace

Three cups flour, one cup suet, one cup sugar, one cup raisins, one half cup currants, one half cup molasses, two eggs, two teaspoonfuls cream tartar, one of soda, a cup of milk. Season to taste with ground cloves, nutmeg. Steam three hours.

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Day 53: Cabbage Salad

Cabbage is a great winter vegetable. It keeps a long time with little attention. One part of my house is very cold and makes a great winter storage area. However, there’s a cabbage that is looking a little sad so it was a good time to make Mrs. W. T. Smith‘s Cabbage Salad. It is one of several recipes for cabbage salad in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. I made the dressing first. I measured 1/2 cup of 1% milk and started heating it in a small saucepan. Next I separated the egg, setting aside the white for another use, and stirring the yolk in  small bowl. I added 1/4 cup white granulated sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Once the yolk, sugar and butter were well mixed I added them to the milk and turned up the heat. Just as it reached the boil I added 1/2 cup of white vinegar.

Cabbage Salad ready to sample

Cabbage Salad ready to sample

This dressing didn’t thicken like I expected so I boiled it a little but it remained thin. I let the dressing cool while I sliced some cabbage into fine shreds. I shook some salt and pepper over the cabbage and then mixed it with some of the dressing before sampling. Mrs. W. T. Smith is Annie Henderson. She was born in Blair Ontario in 1835 and married Scottish born William Thomas Smith sometime before 1853. They had at least eight children. As you can imagine tracking a family with the surname Smith is challenging. I’m relying heavily on Waterloo Region Generations to help me match up the various Smiths.  The family lived in the Blenheim area and in Wilmot Township for a while before moving to Galt. In 1891 the household included William and Annie and three of the children (Thomas 33, George 29 and Bella 25) plus a 19-year-old English servant named Jennie Bailey. George dies shortly after this of consumption and their twenty year old son Elton had died two years earlier of Bright’s disease. William died in 1909 and Annie dies in 1915.

Cabbage Salad

Cabbage Salad

This cabbage salad is basically cole slaw with a dressing that is a cross between the creamy type and the oil and vinegar type. I like coleslaw in either version but this dressing was great since it isn’t as harsh as the vinegar style and still has a slightly creamy feel. The thin consistency of the dressing lets the cabbage taste and texture come through. This is a good dressing for a vegetarian since you’ll have some protein from the egg and milk.


Shave a medium-sized cabbage fine, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and pour over it the following dressing: Heat half cupful of milk to a boil, beat together the yelk of one egg, one-fourth cupful of sugar, a piece of butter — size of a walnut, stir this into the milk, let it come to a boil, then add half cupful of vinegar.

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