I’m going to start this with a disclaimer. I am making a recipe completely out of season. I vowed that I would only use ingredients available when I prepare the recipes in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) but it is extremely unlike that fresh cherries with stems would be available at the end of November in Waterloo County. However, I somehow missed the recipe for Cherry Cakes during that oh so brief season of ripe and local cherries. In the 21st century we can buy cherries year round. I saw some from Chile tonight so I decided to buy them and make A. W. K. of Preston’s recipe from the Fritters section of the cookbook.
I decided to cut this recipe to one third of the original version. I beat 1 egg before I added 1/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of white wine. I melted a bit of butter and poured it into the batter along with some sugar. I forgot to add the cinnamon before I added flour. I mixed it up until it looked like thin pancake batter. I already had the lard heating on the stove. I dropped a bit o the batter into the fat to see if it was ready. I bundled 5 sweet cherries and hung onto the stems as I dipped them in the batter. I dropped them into the fat and waited until they were starting to get golden before I pulled them out and put some sugar on top. Most of the batter had slid off the cherries so I added more flour to the batter and tried again. This time the batter covered the cherries and stayed on for the entire frying time. This bundle got the same treatment. It was time to tasted my cherry cakes.
A.W.K. of Preston is a mystery to me. I don’t know her identity (I’m assuming it is a woman). When it comes to investigating the availability of various ingredients in 1898 I have been turning to The Canadian Grocer magazine. This trade journal for merchants was published in London Ontario and is a wealth of information about products, prices and selling techniques for the late 19th and early 20th century. Here’s a link to the January to June 1898 editions. I consulted the July to December magazines and found that canned cherries and evaporated cherries were available. I’d assumed that evaporated fruits would be the same as dried but they are listed separately. The season for fresh cherries was extended well into August with imports from California and Oregon as well as Nova Scotia.
I didn’t make perfect cherry cakes but I still liked this recipe. The batter is far more interesting than most used for fritters and it tastes good combined with cherries. The challenge is getting the right amount of flour so that the batter will stick to the cherries. I even liked the batter fried on its own.
Three eggs, one cupful white wine, one cupful water, one spoonful butter, melted, a spoonful or more of sugar, a little cinnamon. flour enough to make a batter. Take nice, ripe cherries, tie five or six in a bunch, dip in the batter and fry in lard. Strew with sugar and cinnamon send to table hot. To be eaten with cream.
I made sure I bought some peaches at the market this weekend so that I could make this recipe for Peach Fritters in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. Paddon of Chicago. The recipe calls for a dozen (12) peaches and that would mean I’d have 24 fritters. I don’t need 24 fritters in the house so I’m making half the batter and I’ll decide how many to make later.
Ad for Olive Oil in The Canadian Grocer 1898
I put 1/2 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a bowl. I grated half a lemon and put the zest in the bowl. Finally I added 1/4 cup of milk and 1 egg and mixed it a little. Then I added 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and “beat the batter unmercifully”. Don’t you love that description? The other surprise is the inclusion of olive oil. This is one of those ingredients I forget was available in Ontario in the 1890s. Next I peeled a peach. Cut it in half and took out the pit. I dipped one half of the peach in the batter and got ready to fry it.
I decided to try frying one peach fritter in a frying pan first since I’m more comfortable with this method. I put some oil in a pan, placed the covered peach in, and fried one side before turning it over. Once both sides were brown I pulled it out and put on a plate to dust with icing sugar. Although this method seemed to work I decided to risk deep-frying the other half of the peach. I melted lard in a saucepan and carefully placed the batter covered peach half in to fry. I kept a close eye on it as I’m always nervous when I deep fry. Again once if was evenly browned I removed it (turned off the heat) and dusted the fritter with icing sugar. It was time to taste my fritters.
Mrs. Paddon of Chicago is still a mystery. I found two Paddon families where at least one spouse in each was born in Canada but in both cases the birthplace was Quebec. I haven’t found a Galt connection. There are no Paddons listed in the Waterloo Region Generations website but there are Paddens. However, they postdate this cook book.
Both methods of frying fritters worked and both resulted in edible fritters. I didn’t find the peach was tender so I’ll need to adjust the temperature to slow down the browning. The peaches were warm or even hot inside and the batter was cooked but the coating slipped off the peach when I cut into it. I think I’ll keep this recipe around since it is simple and a different sort of dessert.
Mrs. Paddon, Chicago
Peel a dozen peaches and cut them in half, removing the stones. Sprinkle them with sugar and have ready at once a batter made by mixing a cupful of flour, a half teaspoonful of salt, a teaspoonful of sugar and yellow rind of a lemon grated, and adding a half cupful of milk and the beaten yelks and whites of two eggs beaten well, finally add a tablespoonful of sweet olive oil or melted butter. Beat the batter unmercifully and dip each half of peach in the batter so as to completely cover it. Fry the peach fritters fiver or six minutes, or till a fine brown, and are tender through. Sprinkle them lightly with powdered sugar after steaming, and serve hot.
Elderberries & Elderflowers
Tonight I was walking in my neighbourhood and I noticed some elderflowers. The scent was my first clue and then I saw the flowers. These umbrels of tiny white florets smell wonderful and eventually produce tiny purple elderberries. I was suddenly transported back to when I was twenty-five and travelling round Europe with my friend Catherine. During those four months of travel we met with the kind of hospitality you read about in books. In Vienna Austria we were put up by a friend of a friend of a friend. When we arrived the young woman hosting us asked if we wanted a drink of hollersekt. We had no idea what it was and she didn’t have a translation for us but we were adventurous and tried it. Bliss. It was years before I found out it was a cordial made from elderflowers and many more years before I was able to find it here in Ontario
The next morning our Viennese host served us lovely pancakes made from flowers. It turned out these were the elderblossoms. Today I’m making something similar. After glimpsing the elderblossoms tonight I remembered the Elderberry Blossom Cake recipe in The New Galt Cook Book (1898). It was contributed by A.W.K. of Preston and appears in the Fritter section of the cookbook. I picked just one blossom so I’m going to reduce this recipe significantly. I’ll make one-third of it.
I cracked one egg into a bowl and beat it a little with a fork. I added 2/3 cup of milk since 1 pint equals two cups. I started adding flour and it took about 1/2 cup to create a batter suitable for fritters. I examined the blossom and it looked clean. I broke the blossom into segments. I melted some lard in a frying pan and dipped my blossom segments in the batter. let it drip a bit and then quickly fried them flat in the pan. The stems of the blossoms provide great handles for dipping and lifting the fritters. I removed them to a plate and sprinkled the fritters with sugar and cinnamon. I can’t wait to taste them.
I have no idea about the identity of A.W.K. of Preston so i is straight on to sampling her or his elderberry blossom cake which are really fritters. I’m not sure why the author of this recipe calls them cake unless it is used in the same sense of pancakes. The editors of The New Galt Cook Book must have been familiar with them since the recipe was correctly placed in the fritter section. The batter makes a good fritter no matter what is placed in it but elderflower fritters provide a lightness since the batter gets spread like a net. The flavour of the flowers themselves is elusive in this batter. It is important to keep the batter light and fry them quickly and eat them as fast as they come out of the pan. I’m not sure the cinnamon is necessary but the sugar is a nice touch. If you can locate some elderflowers in the next week or two, be sure to give this recipe a try. Leave some flowers so that you can enjoy the elderberries in a few months.
ELDERBERRY BLOSSOM CAKE
A. W. K., Preston
Three eggs, one pint milk, flour enough to make a batter (as for apple fritters), a pinch of salt. Take elderberry blossoms, pick them carefully over to free from leaves and insects, dip the bunches into the batter and fry in lard. Before turning cut off the stems with a pair of scissors. If the bunches are too large divide them. Strew them with sugar and cinnamon and eat with cream. To be eaten hot.