The base for many dessert recipes in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book is a custard. I decided to try making the Boiled Custard recipe to use as a base for some of the other recipes this week and because I now have time to decipher this long recipe. For some reason no one claims this one but I suspect it was submitted by one of the women editing the cookbook.
(photo by Candice Leyland).
I put 1 quart (4 cups) of milk in a double boiler. I did not add the baking soda since it isn’t summer. I started the milk heating while I beat 5 eggs in a bowl. Once the milk was hot I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of sugar. I stirred well and then poured the hot milk into the bowl of eggs. I mixed it well and then poured it back in the double boiler. I kept stirring and it really does take about 15 minutes for the liquid mixture to become custard. Although I didn’t notice the colour change I did find the taste changed as it cooked. The consistency test is a good one because it is easy to over or under cook custard. I set the custard to cool and added 1 teaspoon vanilla before tasting.
This is a good custard. For once it doesn’t taste of eggs and it is very smooth.The detail in the recipe is helpful but a bit intimidating which is why I’ve waited so long to try this recipe. Now I wish I’d made it earlier in the year so that I’d have been able to use the techniques with other recipes. I suspect the yellow colour mentioned in the recipe would come from the yolks of the eggs. My eggs were regular grocery store eggs and therefore the yolks were quite pale unlike the eggs from chickens running around outdoors. This particular recipe is the first in the Custard section of the cookbook. I’ve started to notice that the first recipe in a section is a basic one and provides information helpful for other recipes in that chapter.
One quart of fresh, sweet milk, five eggs, one cup of sugar, one-quarter teaspoonful of salt, one teaspoonful of essence of vanilla, lemon or bitter almonds. Heat the milk to a boil in a farina kettle or in a tin pail set in a pot of boiling water. In warm weather put a bit of soda no larger than a pea in the milk. While it is heating beat the eggs in a bowl. When the milk a scalding add the salt and sugar and pour the hot liquid upon the eggs, stirring all the while. Beat up well and return to the inner vessel, keeping the water in the outer at a hard boil. Stir two or three times in the first five minutes, afterward almost constantly. In a quarter of an hour it ought to be done, but of this you can only judge by close observation and practice. The color changes from deep to creamy yellow, the consistency to a soft richness that makes it drop slowly and heavily from the spoon, and the mixture tastes like a custard instead of uncooked eggs, sugar and milk. Take it when quite right — just at the turn — directly from the fire, and pour into a bowl to cool before flavoring with the essence. With a good boiled custard as the beginning we can make scores of delightful desserts.
I’m not a fan of custard but I do like oranges so I thought I’d see if S.B.C.‘s recipe for Orange Custard in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) could change my mind about custard.
Florida Orange ad from 1916
Since I wasn’t sure if I’d like this custard I decided to reduce the recipe by 1/5th. I peeled one orange and removed the pulp from the “skin’ and put it in a custard cup. I started the custard by putting 1 egg yolk and measured out the milk (partway between 1/3 and 1/2 cup). I mixed them in a saucepan and added a bit of sugar. I kept stirring as the heat increased. I removed the pan when the custard had thickened and added a bit of orange flavouring. I left the custard to cool while I whipped 1 egg white. I folded the white into the custard and then poured it over the orange bits. I put a pan of water in the oven and placed the custard cup in it. I had the oven preheated to 300 F. and left the custard to bake for 20 minutes. I think it actually needed more but it appeared done when I pulled it out. It was when I put my spoon in that I realized it probably needed a bit more time but I went ahead and tasted.
S.B.C. contributed interesting recipes but with just these initials I have no idea how to find this person. The Florida orange crop was particularly good in the summer of 1898, according to The Canadian Grocer magazine so it was likely easy for people in Galt to get this particular type of orange.
For an orange custard select five fine Florida oranges, removing the skin, every portion of the inside tissue around the lobes and the seeds, leaving only the pulp. Slice this pulp and lay it in the bottom of a porcelain pudding dish, pour over the oranges a cold custard made of a pint of milk and the yelks of five eggs sweetened and flavored with orange essence, beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth and stir in. Set the pudding dish in a pan of hot water, bake it till it is firm in the centre.
Custards must have been important in 1898 since The New Galt Cook Book has an entire section devoted to this type of dessert. My success rate with custards is quite low so I’ve been avoiding any recipe that included the word custard whether as a filling or a dessert on its own. Today I decided to face my custard fear and try making Miss Minnie Kean‘s recipe for Custard Cream.
I put 1 cup (1/2 pint) of whipping cream (35%) in a saucepan. I think you could use a cream with lower butter fat but this is what I had on hand. I pared a couple of strips of peel from a lemon and added it. Then I went in search of my cinnamon sticks. I was certain I had some but my pantry gets a bit packed when I work regularly with historic recipes so I had to substitute a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon as a guess at the amount of cinnamon flavour the custard would absorb from a stick.
Sugar Cone at Joseph Schneider Haus
Then I added 8 sugar cubes. The use of the term “lump sugar” makes me suspect this is a much older recipe. It likely dates to the era of sugar cones. White sugar was purchased as a cone of sugar wrapped in blue paper and bits of the sugar were cut from the cone using sugar nippers or whatever a household had handy. Sugar could also be cut from a sugar cone at the store. The lumps of sugar were then broken with a mortar and pestle or simply with the back of a spoon in the mixing bowl much as you might if your brown sugar has hardened.
I turned the heat low and let the various flavouring agents mix with the cream. Meanwhile I separated 4 medium eggs. I set the whites aside for another use and beat the yolks. Once the cream was bubbling I turned the heat down and removed the saucepan. Now comes the part that makes me avoid preparing custards. I usually end up burning them or making scrambled eggs or ending up with a separated mess. At what point should the egg yolks be added to the hot cream? Should I wait until it has cooled completely or try adding them while the cream is still boiling hot or pick a time and temperature in between the two? I decided to wait until the cream wasn’t steaming hot but was still hot. I quickly added all the beaten yolk and stirred. I kept stirring as I put the saucepan back on the low heat. I continued to stir as it thickened and removed the pan from the heat before it boiled. Success!I removed the lemon peel and poured the custard into two custard cups to serve.
Miss Minnie Kean is a bit of a mystery. I can find only one female with the surname Kean living in Galt for the 1891 census. She is 27-year-old Mary Kean who works as a servant for the Young family. Since Mrs. James Young and her sister Frances McNaughton are both contributors and organizers for The Galt Cook Book she seems the best possibility. Perhaps her formal name was Mary but she’d been called Minnie in her family so she wasn’t confused with another Mary. The census indicates that both her parents were born in Scotland and she is of the same religious denomination as her employers.
This recipe is a winner simply because I made custard cream successfully. It didn’t burn, curdle, or separate. The bonus is the taste. The cinnamon and lemon flavours on their own would be different from other custards I’ve tasted and the two combined seems very unique. This recipe does not make very much custard which makes me wonder how Miss Minnie Kean used her custard. This would be a great addition to yesterday’s steamed pudding. I sampled the custard while it was hot and again once it grew cold. It was warm and comforting when it was hot but the flavours were more pronounced when the custard was cold. It did develop that milky skin on top as it cooled so be prepared to deal with it in your customary way. My habit is just to skim it off. Other people stir it in or enjoy it, and I’ve heard you can press plastic wrap to the top to prevent the skin from developing. I’m going to keep this custard in mind anytime a recipe calls for custard. Try it if you like custard or just as a way to overcome your fear of custard.
Miss Minnie Kean
Boil half a pint of cream with apiece of lemon peel,a stick of cinnamon and eight lumps of white sugar, beat the yelks of four eggs, then mix the eggs and cream very gradually together, simmer it gently on the fire, stirring it until it thickens, but remove it the minute it begins to boil.