Monthly Archives: September 2014

Day 273: Ammonia Cakes

Tonight I spoke at the celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Oxford County Genealogical Society in Woodstock Ontario. I met all sorts of people with an interest in food and history. One had Middlemiss ancestors from Galt. I made Mrs. R. Middlemiss’ Amber Pudding recipe from The Galt Cook Book (1898) on Day 169. Another has a recipe for ammonia cookies from her Berlin (Kitchener) grandmother who was a Schmidt before marriage. Our conversation reminded me that I meant to make the Ammonia Cakes recipe on a humid day since they stay crisp even in moist weather. Well today included some rain so I’m going to make it tonight. The recipe was contributed by Miss Roos of Waterloo.

This is a tube of hartshorn also called ammonia

This is a tube of hartshorn also called ammonia

Yes this recipe includes a form of ammonia – that smelly household cleaner – but in this case it is used as a leavening (an ingredient used to lighten baked goods). Do not use the liquid ammonia. The type needed for this recipe can be called bakers or baking ammonia, ammonium carbonate, or hartshorn (hirschsaltz). You might have to search a bit but it is made by many different companies so you’ll find it in tubes as pictured, as well as envelopes, and little tubs.

I started the recipe by cutting it in half. I weighed the white granulated sugar and put 1/4 pound (4 ounces) in a bowl. Next I added a bit of butter (1/4 the size of an egg) and mixed. I added one egg (I know it was supposed to be half but …. I didn’t notice it was just one egg until after I’d added it…. and how do you cut a raw egg in half?) I put the 1/4 ounce of ammonia in the 1/4 pint (1/2 cup) of cream. I poured this into the bowl and stirred again. It was time to start adding the flour cup by cup. In the end it took 2 cups to get a dough that could be rolled thin. Do not taste the dough! It tastes horrible until baked. I shaped the cookies and put them on a cookie sheet. It is a good idea to grease the pan. I baked them at 375 F. for 8 minutes. The time is going to depend on the size and thickness of the cookies. Mine were a little bit thick. If you open the oven door and smell ammonia they need to bake a little longer. I tried to let them cool a bit before I started eating the Ammonia Cakes.

Miss Roos of Waterloo is a mystery since there are many unmarried women in the town of Waterloo with the Roos surname in the 1891 census. I’m wondering if it could be one of Rachel Andrich’s sisters since her maiden name was Roos and she contributed recipes to The New Galt Cook Book. However she was from Preston. Is it 29-year-old Emma Roos or her 23-year-old sister Otilla. They are the daughters of a widow named Catherine. Or is it 18-year-old Elizabeth or her sister Georgena. Their parents are Jacob and Elizabeth.

It is important to bake ammonia cakes long enough for the ammonia to burn off. You will smell ammonia as they bake and that can be very off-putting but it is worth it. You’ll know to leave them a little longer if you smell ammonia when you open the oven door. If you just smell cookies when you open the door and they are a little golden at the edges it is time to take them out. The ammonia helps keep the cookies crisp and airy. This recipe differs from others I’ve tried. They often have lemon added but this version is plain. I still liked it. They could be iced or a modern cook might want to add some lemon. Check out my experience making Lemon Biscuits from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book back in 2012. They have ammonia in them too.

Miss Roos, Waterloo

Half pound white sugar, half a pint sweet cream, one egg, half ounce ammonia, a small piece of butter (half the size of an egg). Flour enough to roll out.



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Day 272: Shepherd’s Pie

I enjoyed my steak last night but it was big and so I still have some left. I’m going to make a classic recipe called Shepherd’s Pie. I made another version from The New Galt Cook Book (1898) on day 145. This time the contributor is Mrs. W. K. McNaught of Toronto.

I cut up the meat and added some salt and pepper. I put the t-bone from the steak in a small pot and added some broth to make a gravy. I also chopped some onion very fine and mixed it in with the gravy. I also quickly made some mashed potatoes to add to the top. I put the dish in the oven at 350 F. and left it to bake. The time is going to depend on the size of your pie. I was making a very small serving just for me so it only took about 20 minutes to heat through. It smelled so good I couldn’t wait to eat.

Mrs. W. K. McNaught is Caroline Eliza Lugsden. She was born in 1851 in England. Her parents brought her to Canada in 1857 when she was just six years old. Caroline grew up in Toronto and married her husband William Kirkpatrick McNaught there in 1872. William is the brother of two women very involved in the development of the Galt Cook Book. Margaret McNaught Young is his elder sister and Frances McNaught is the next closest sibling to him. Caroline and William raised their five children in Toronto and spent the rest of their lives in that city. William was the president of American Watch Case Company and eventually became involved in provincial politics and had an interest in the game of lacrosse. He even wrote a book about it. Ironically my workplace is having a First Peoples Festival this week and this ultimate Canadian game is featured. One of their children died when she was a few years old but the rest had very long lives. The family lived at 188 Lake Shore when the 1911 census took place and if I’ve found the right place it is currently for sale so you can see it here. Caroline’s sister Martha was living with them and a 42-year-old maid named Lara. Caroline died in 1933 when she was 82.

This is one of my favourite things to order in pub style restaurants but I never think to make it even though it is incredibly easy. The seasoning and liquid are important. It can’t be too soggy and it needs lots of seasoning to make it more exciting since the ingredients are so simple. The addition of gravy and emphasis on onions are the only differences between this recipe shepherd pie and the one on day 145 from Mrs. Dalgleish.

Mrs. W. K. McNaught, Toronto

A nice way to use up cold roast beef. Slice the beef and season with salt and pepper and put a minced onion to it; make a gravy of the bones, then add the mince to it, let it boil a few minutes, then put it into a deep pudding dish, have some mashed potatoes prepared, lay them gently on the top of the mince until the dish is full, smooth over the top and bake a nice brown. Those who like onions may spread them over the meat before putting the mashed potatoes on the top. The onions should be partly cooked. This is very nice made of the neck of mutton cut into pieces.

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Day 271: The Gridiron

I’m excited to try my new gridiron again. I’m going to try broiling a steak on it since I bought a reversible griddle. One side is smooth for cooking pancakes and scones and so on while the other side is ridged for steaks and other grilling. I’ll be using the recipe entitled The Gridiron in the Meats section of The New Galt Cook Book (1898). It is a long recipe and I can’t seem to get it to format properly. It should be four paragraphs.

The instructions given in the cookbook are for using a gridiron on a wood or coal fired cook stove. I tried it with an electric stove so I had to adapt. Rather than opening dampers on a stove I turned on my exhaust fan. I have a t-bone steak that is a little thinner than the 1 1/2 inches mentioned in the recipe. It was already trimmed of most fat so I dredged it with flour, seasoned with a touch of salt and pepper, and placed it on the hot gridiron. I seared it on one side and then on the other before settling down to cook it. As indicated in the recipe I used the back of a knife to score the beef steak as it cooked. I soon realized that sitting on two electric burners was not broiling it. I put the gridiron into the oven and turned on the broiler feature. I don’t like rare meat so I cooked it longer and it turned out beautifully. It was tender and flavourful. The searing gave it that wonderful caramelized taste along with the beef. I’m sure some people are horrified at the idea of adding catsup/ketchup to a steak but catsup in the 1890s was not necessarily the sweet thick tomato sauce of today. It was thinner and based on recipes I’ve tried catsup had more complex flavours.

This recipe describes techniques that modern meat cooks probably already know. However, for historic cooks it gives great evidence of the types of meats prepared in the 1890s and how it was executed with a wood or coal fired cook stove. No go out and use that barbeque while the weather holds and be grateful you can cook outdoors on a warm evening instead of firing up a stove. You can even enjoy a cup of coffee or tea without having to build a fire. Although I enjoying cooking over an open hearth or on a woodstove, there are some aspects of a modern kitchen that I thoroughly enjoy.


     The process of broiling is a simple one, but it requires deftness and exactness of method.
A clear, strong fire is necessary for broiling. The meat should be well trimmed of fat, seasoned and dredged lightly with flour. The dampers should all be open, so as to send the smoke from drippings (if any drippings fall) up the chimney, instead of allowing it to penetrate the meat. A properly trimmed and properly dredged steak will not drip to any extent. It is not necessary to grease the gridiron. Simply lay the meat in it, and place it quite near the fire when it is first put over, so as to sear the surface thoroughly. When it is seared on one side, turn it on the other and sear that side. This sets the surface of the meat so that the juices remain within. After this the gridiron may be removed to within two or three inches above the fire, and the steak broiled about four minutes longer on each side. The time given will cook a steak an inch and a half thick, so that it is red throughout.
When it is laid on the platter, there should be no gravy around it, but the red juice should flow the moment the meat is cut. A mutton chop cut as it should be, about an inch thick, may be cooked rare in about eight minutes. Lamb should be well done and cut thinner. Take half a dozen well-trimmed chops. Season them with salt and pepper and broil them over a brisk fire for about two minutes. Lay them in a hot oven for about five or six minutes, turning them as they brown, from one side to the other. A beefsteak should be one and a half inches thick.
Before cooking the steak should be pounded on a board, or score it with the back of your knife while cooking. A spoonful of tomato catsup in the beefsteak gravy is very nice.
Cutlets and steaks may be fried as well as broiled, but they must be put in a hot butter or lard. The grease is hot enough when it throws off a bluish smoke.

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Day 270: Highland Scones

The scent of wood smoke is lingering around me and I don’t mind at all. Today I felt right at home cooking over the open-hearth in the wash-house at Joseph Schneider Haus Museum in Kitchener. I was there as part of their Heart & Hand Festival. They bring in all sorts of different artisans and my specialty was food history. I made potato soup using a recipe from Day 3 that was a big hit with everyone who tried a sample today. I also prepared Highland Scones using a recipe Mrs. Wanless of Toronto contributed for the 1898 New Galt Cook Book.

I took my scale with me so I could weigh the flour and butter needed for this recipe. I put 1 pound of white flour in a bowl and then mixed in 3 ounces of butter. I added a bit of milk along with the 2 eggs. I kept adding milk until I had a dough. Once I rolled out a bit of the dough, I used a tin cup to cut out some scones and then placed them on a heated frying pan. When the scones were browned on one side I flipped them over to cook on the other. It was time for me and others to taste some Highland Scones.

Considering that Toronto is already a large city in the 1890s, I’m always surprised that there is just one Mrs. Wanless in the city in the 1891 census. She is Susan Kinsmen daughter of Daniel and Joanna and was born in England in 1831. She came to Canada when she was about 14 and married a man named William Bell just two years later. She was just 16 years old and William was 22. They had two girls Elizabeth and Jenny. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when or why their father William died but he was in his early 30s. It must have been before 1860 because Susan married John Wanless Sr that year. They lived in St. Andrews ward and later St. Patrick’s ward and eventually the couple had four more children including a son also named John. He followed in the family jewellery business and even has a Toronto school named after him. Check it out here. Susan died of pneumonia in 1901 when she was 71. Her husband John lived for many more years. He seems to have been quite resilient since according to the newspaper excerpts cited on this website, he endured being attacked during a robbery at the jewellery store.

Scones in this cookbook are nothing like the scones people expect at high teas. Those are fluffy and more like tea biscuits but the scones in the Galt Cook Book are paired with recipes for oat cakes and pancakes. Very few of them are baked in the oven. Instead they are baked on griddles or frying pans just like I did today. I used a cast iron frying pan for some of the scones and then tried out my new griddle.  Some people commented that the scones reminded them of bannock. They are not anything special but they are not horrible either and went well with the soup.

Mrs. Wanless, Toronto

One pound flour, three ounces butter, hot milk sufficient to make a dough, two eggs. Mix the flour and butter together, then make into a dough with the milk and eggs. handle quickly, roll out and cut in any shape or size required. Bake on a griddle or thick-bottomed frying-pan. Serve hot.

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Day 269: Cream Meringues

It’s been a long day and so I’m going to try a recipe that sounds like a quick treat. It’s Cream Meringues, a recipe Mrs. W. H. Lutz contributed for the 1898 New Galt Cook Book.

Although I like meringues I don’t want to overindulge so I’m going to cut the recipe in half. I separated 2 eggs and started whisking the egg whites. Based on the recipe I wasn’t  sure when to add the next ingredient. Should it be at the beginning? I split the difference and added the 8 ounces of icing sugar when the whites were foamy but not in peaks. I assumed that Mrs. Lutz meant icing sugar when she wrote powdered sugar. I hope I’m correct. I continued whisking but seemed to have created a drizzly style of icing rather than the base for meringues. I preheated the oven to 400 F and then tried to spoon the mixture onto a cookie sheet. There was no “heaping” with this stuff. It spread into a flat blob. I decided to stop with just a couple and try baking the meringues. I popped them in the oven and checked after ten minutes. I expected a mess but they had puffed up a bit and were golden. I removed the pan from the oven and started whipping some cream. I really should have checked on what charlotte russe style cream involved. I was supposed to have dissolved gelatine and then mixed it in. Since I already had a strange mess of meringue I decided to just use plain cream. I tried scooping out the middle but these were such flat meringues there wasn’t much of a middle. I let it cool a bit and then piled some whipped cream in the middle. It was time to taste this concoction.

Mrs. W. H. Lutz is probably Mary Jane Stuart. Her Canadian born parents Elisha and Zillah were living in Brant county when she was born in 1851. Mary Jane was the only girl among five boys. She married William H. Lutz in 1876. Their only child Ethel Lorne Lutz was born a few years later in 1879 but unfortunately this little family experienced the ultimate tragedy. In 1886 seven-year old Ethel caught diphtheria and died a week later. It must have been extra heartbreaking since her father was a druggist. Two years later William was part of the first board of trustees for the Galt Hospital Trust and continued this commitment for 40 years. The couple continued to be involved in the Galt community for many years afterwards. Mary Jane died in 1929 and her obituary transcribed here mentioned her involvement with good works.

I think made correctly this would result in something resembling Pavlova. Mine was more like Eton mess. I’ve successfully made Pavlova, a meringue based dessert, many times. Based on that experience I think I should have whipped the whites completely before adding the sugar and maybe used fine granulated sugar rather than icing sugar.

Mrs. W. H. Lutz

Four eggs (whites), one pound powdered sugar, lemon or vanilla flavoring. Whip the whites of the eggs and sugar stiff, and add flavoring; heap in the shape of half an egg upon letter paper, lining the bottom of the pan; have them one-half inch apart; when a light yellow brown, take out and cool quickly; slip a knife under each; scoop out the soft inside and fill with cream shipped as for charlotte russe. Oven should be quite hot.

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Day 268: Bread Omelet

I was at work today and then went to a wonderful Turkish cooking class where we got to eat till we could eat no more. I’m stuffed with delicious food so the thought of trying to cook something from The New Galt Cook Book (1898) tonight is a bit daunting. What recipe doesn’t take long to prepare, cook, and that I can possibly eat without exploding? The answer came as I leafed through the Egg section. I don’t like them anyway so I really won’t be jeopardizing my view of the end result by having little appetite so tonight I’m using Mrs. Richard Strong‘s recipe to make something called Bread Omelet.

I am cutting this recipe to one–third. I know that this will throw off the cooking time perhaps but I also know I’d be throwing out most of it. I separated one egg and beat the yolk well. I boiled what i hope was a third of 1/2 cup of milk and then poured the milk over the same amount of bread crumbs. I seasoned it with salt and pepper as well as 1/3 tablespoon of melted butter. Next I beat the egg white and mixed it with the rest. I had some butter heating in a frying pan and poured this mixture into it. Once it was cooked on one side I turned it over to cook on the other. When it was firm and crispy on the edges I removed it to a plate and took a forkful to eat.

Mrs. Richard Strong is Mary Dowker. She was born in England and so was her husband Richard Sidney Sparks Strong. They were married sometime in the early 1850s and had about seven children. Richard was involved in several areas including Gore Insurance. They lived at 57 Grand Avenue North in Galt and it is amazing what can be found on the internet these days. I found their address on the Waterloo Region Generations website and then I found a virtual tour of the home including floor plans! Use your imagination and eliminate the modern features to get a glimpse of Mary’s home.

I’m shocked. One forkful turned into more. I LIKED Bread Omelet!! Well at least more than a regular omelet. I’m sure those of you who have connections to France and its cuisine are recoiling in horror that this combination of eggs, milk and bread crumbs could be considered French or even an omelet but really the result is very much like French toast. I liked the crispy edges and ate more than I expected. It is sort of like combining the toast you’ll eventually eat anyway when you eat your omelet. Give it a try if you want to stretch your eggs and are looking for something a little different – a combo of omelet, French toast and pancakes in one serving.

Mrs. Richard Strong

Three eggs, one-half cupful sweet milk, one-half cupful bread crumbs, piece of butter the size of a small egg, a little chopped parsley, pepper and salt to taste, separate yelks and whites, beat yelks well, boil the milk, pour some over the bread crumbs, then add the pepper, salt and melted butter, the beaten yelks; beat whites to a stiff froth. Mix all thoroughly and fry on one side in a buttered pan, then fold over.

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Day 267: Succotash

Sufferin’ succotash. I know this as a saying rather than an actual food. At least that was the case until 2012 when I prepared succotash using a recipe in The Berlin Cook Book (1912). I discovered it was good but still haven’t made it again … until tonight. I’ve decided to try the Succotash recipe in the Vegetable section of The New Galt Cook Book (1898). This is another recipe from the mysterious S.B.C.

Lima Beans in Peter Henderson seed catalogue 1898.

Lima Beans in Peter Henderson seed catalogue 1898.

I’ve been trying all summer to make this recipe but I haven’t been able to find fresh Lima beans. I’ve just done some online research and apparently they are ready in this area in September as I thought but neither farmers markets seem to have them. Instead I bought some frozen Lima beans, not an option in 1898, but these beans must have been more popular. I decided to cut the recipe in half so I put 1/2 pint (1 cup) of frozen lima beans in 1 quart (4 cups) of boiling water and added 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I left if to boil for 1 hour. This was a huge mistake. The pot boiled dry and the beans burned. I had to start over.  This time I boiled the beans gently for 15 minutes since they were starting to become too soft. I thought they might disintegrate. Clearly my 2014 frozen lima beans are different from fresh in 1898.

Just before the beans were ready, I started the corn. First I heated 1/2 pint (1 cup) of milk in a pot and then added 1/2 quart (2 cups) of corn kernels and a bit of pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon butter. I let it cook for 5 minutes and once the beans were done it was time to turn it all into succotash. I drained the beans and seasoned them with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a bit of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of butter. I added the seasoned beans to the corn and milk mixture and let it cook for another 5 minutes.  It was time to try my succotash.

As usual I’m at a loss as to how to discover the identity of S.B.C. The gentleman responsible for the incredible and useful website called Waterloo Region Generations has been able to identify another of the women using just initials but we’re stuck with S.B.C.

Well S.B.C. has contributed an interesting recipe. It is more detailed than the one in The Berlin Cook Book but the proportion of the beans and corn is the same. The only aspect that differs is the amount of milk. This recipe uses a specific amount of milk but I think it is too much. It would be difficult to serve this along with any other food unless a slotted spoon was used. Otherwise it is an acceptable vegetable side dish. The lima beans were tender and combined well with the corn.


Put one pint of tender Lima beans in a stew-pan with two quarts of boiling water and a teaspoonful of salt, and boil gently for one hour. Cut enough green corn from the cob to make one quart. Put this in a stew-pan with one pint of hot milk, one-quarter of a teaspoonful of pepper, one teaspoonful of salt and one teaspoonful of butter, and cook for five minutes. Drain the water from the beans and season them with a level teaspoonful of salt, a little pepper and one tablespoonful of butter. Stir them into the dish of corn and milk and cook for five minutes longer. Serve very hot.

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