Category Archives: Pies

Day 355: Mince Meat

Last night I attended the Starry Night event at the Waterloo Region Museum and got to see the heritage village at night with lanterns and kerosene lamps going. I worked there many years ago and it was a good reminder of the world in which the women of the New Galt Cook Book were living. A world where the short daylight hours today were important for accomplishing everything needed for Christmas. So tonight I’m making a classic seasonal recipe from Pie section of The New Galt Cook Book (1898). It is Mrs. G. A. Graham‘s recipe for Mince Meat. This version doesn’t contain meat unlike the other two recipes. One uses tongue and the other simply states meat. All three recipes include suet.

This recipe makes a huge amount so I’m cutting it in half. I’d prefer to cut it further but after all my own Christmas activities I don’t have the brain power to cut it in third or quarters. I also don’t think I have a bowl big enough to hold and mix such a large recipe. I pulled out my largest mixing bowl and got to work.

Several brands of mince meat were advertised in The Canadian Grocer in 1898.

Several brands of mince meat were advertised in The Canadian Grocer in 1898.

The first task was cutting up the apples. I had a four pound bag of discounted Macintosh apples and I added another pound of Northern Spy apples so that I had 5 pounds of apples. (Doesn’t that sound like an arithmetic problem?) I didn’t bother to peel the apples. I cut them in quarters and removed the cores. Then I sliced them and chopped them further into small pieces. This task took the most time but it gave me time to think. I realized that all I could hear was the clock ticking and the crisp sound of the apples as I cut into them and the plop as they pieces landed in the bowl. I wonder if Mrs. Graham worked in a similar atmosphere?

One of the brands of prepared mince meat advertised in The Canadian Grocer magazine in December 1898.

One of the brands of prepared mince meat advertised in The Canadian Grocer magazine in December 1898.

I weighed my suet and discovered I needed almost two of the bags I buy in the frozen meat section of the grocery store to get 1 1/2 pounds of suet. It was time to start weighing the dried fruits and peel. I added 2 1/2 pounds of raisins, 2 1/2 pounds of currants, 2 pounds of lemon peel, and 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of citron peel. The next instruction had me a bit stumped “every kind of spice”. What sort of spices should I use? After spending almost a year with this cook book I have a sense of the most common spices used in the baking recipes so I started measuring. I added 1/2 tablespoon of each of the following: allspice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I stirred everything together since I thought it would be easier while the ingredients were still dry.

This brand of mincemeat was advertised year round in the Canadian Grocer in 1898.

This brand of mincemeat was advertised year round in the Canadian Grocer in 1898.

Time to move on to liquids. I zested 3 lemons and then cut them using my lemon squeezer to get as much juice from them to add to the bowl. If you are using a type of apple that will discolour quickly you might want to add the lemon juice earlier. I poured in 1/2 a bottle of red wine since I didn’t manage to make any of the wine recipes in the cook book. The final ingredient was 1/4 cup of molasses. I took out a heavy spoon and worked to mix everything thoroughly. It was time to pack it into containers to store in the fridge. Mrs. Graham would have put the mincemeat in jars and stored them in a cold place ready to use in making all the mince pies or tarts needed over the Christmas season. Mince meat isn’t cooked ahead. Instead it is stored allowing the flavours to blend. Then it is spooned into pie shells and baked. That’s the moment the mince meat is cooked. I tasted a bit of the mince meat but the real test will be once it is cooked.

Mrs. G. A. Graham is Annie May Nichols. She was born in Toronto in 1859 to Martha (nee Tassie) and Simon Nichols. Annie married George A. Graham in June 1881 when she was twenty-two. The couple married in Toronto but George was a 29 year old bookkeeper in Hagersville at the time. Their only child Evalina was born in November and based on her birth record it looks like George is a bartender in a hotel in Hagersville. The informant for the certificate is John Lawson who is listed as a Hagersville Hotel Keeper.  By the 1891 census the family live in a hotel called the Imperial operated by George. The Imperial Hotel was a respectable hotel with comfortable rooms and a dining room with good food. The census lists a cook so I wonder how involve Annie is in the operation of the hotel. At the time of George’s death of stomach cancer in 1907 they lived in Dorchester near London Ontario. He was 54 and still a hotel keeper.  Since their daughter was newly married I wonder what Annie did next? Could she stay on at the hotel? Or was this a mistake? There is an Annie and George Graham in Toronto in the 1911 census and the ages are correct and this George is a hotel keeper! Annie dies in 1934 and is listed as a widow so George must have died at some point. Her death is recorded in Toronto where she’s been living at 194 Inglewood Drive.

The “raw” mincemeat is okay. The main taste is the fresh and juicy apples and the dried fruit. Cold suet is not a nice flavour or texture but I hope it will be amazing once cooked. I think it might need more spices but I’ll wait a few days until I use it to make a pie.

Mrs. G. A. Graham

Ten pounds apples, three pounds suet, five pounds raisins, five pounds currants, four pounds lemon peel, one pound citron peel, one tablespoonful of each kind of spice, six lemons, juice and grated rind, one bottle homemade wine, also a half cup molasses.


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Day 347: Fig Pie

Today I enjoyed a Christmas gathering with my mother’s side of the family. I’d planned to bring something I’d made from The New Galt Cook Book (1898) but chickened out of bringing an untested recipe. Instead I made the Chocolate Pie from day 295 since I know it is delicious and it was well received. Now I’m home and settling in to make tonight’s recipe. I’ve decided to try Fig Pie using a recipe contributed by Mrs. Risk.

For Xmas TradeI’m going to cut this recipe in half since I can’t imagine needing four fig pies. I chopped up 1 1/2 cups of figs and put them in a pot with 1 3/4 cups of water. I added 1 1/4 cups of sugar and stirred well before turning on the heat. Next I tried to figure out how to add the lemon. Is it the juice and peel or is it slices of lemon or lemon slices chopped? I decided to cut a lemon in half and then slice it finely before adding to the pot. I stirred the mixture occasionally as it cooked. It took about 20 minutes of boiling to become a bit thick. The surprise was the way the inside of the figs disappeared leaving the harder outside. Clearly it is important to chop the figs very fine. I put the mixture in a jar to store in the fridge until needed but I also kept some to taste.

Mrs. Risk is Mary Miller Elliott. She was born in August 1866 to Scottish born Thomas and Mary. They’d had four boys and then two girls including Mary who was the youngest. She married Charles Muirhead Risk on Christmas Day 1889 in Galt Ontario. Charles was a machinist from Toronto at the time of their marriage. A few years later the 1891 census shows the young couple living with her parents, brother, sister, a lodger … and their brand new baby girl Ellen or Ella. They had two more children and continued to live with family. Mary died of Bright’s disease in 1924 when she was just 59 years old. Charles died the next year of pernicious anaemia.

Eleme FigsAlthough I didn’t put the filling in a pie crust yet I did taste the mixture. Surprise — it tastes of figs and lemon. Really, it is sweet and seedy and won’t appeal unless you like figs. I liked the flavour but I’m still not a big fan of figs. The filling will make a very dense and rich tasting pie. In the 1890s figs were sold to grocers by the box and there were several varieties available. According to prices listed in an 1898 December issue of The Canadian Grocer magazine there were 10 pound and 28 pound boxes of Naturals and Tapnets. This seems to be describing the packing method. There are also ads talking about Eleme and Comadra Figs as well as pricing figs for table versus cooking use. I have no idea what any of this means but I think it refers to different varieties or sources of figs.

Mrs. Risk

Three cupfuls of figs, cut finely, two and a half cupfuls of sugar, three and a half cupfuls of water, one lemon, boil till thick, make four pies.

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Day 306: Pumpkin Pie

Now that Halloween is past it seems like pumpkins are also passe but not in 1898. Just like the United States in 2014, Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving in November not in October. So it is fitting that I am making a Pumpkin Pie from scratch today using Mrs. James Young‘s recipe in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book.

I peeled a pie pumpkin and cut it into chunks. I put them in a saucepan with a little bit of water and left it simmer for hours. I kept topping up the water until it had cooked for four hours. I put the pulp through a colander and measured. I had exactly two cups. I boiled 2 1/2 cups of milk and then added it bit by bit to the pumpkin pulp. Once it was blended I added 1/2 tablespoon of ginger, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon. Next I mixed 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of whipping cream, and 5 eggs. I poured it in a pie crust and baked at 350 F. for about 30 minutes. I lost track of my baking time since we changed the clocks for daylight savings as it baked. I let the pie cool a little but we couldn’t resist for long.

Mrs. James Young is a familiar name now as she contributed so many recipes.

This was a very good pie. There was just one piece left after four of us ate our fill. More to come tomorrow(laptop battery dying).


Mrs. James Young

The first essential is a good, sweet, field pumpkin. Peel it and cut it in pieces and cook it very slowly for four or five hours with only water enough to keep it from burning. This slow cooking makes the pumpkin rich and sweet. When it is done, mash it and strain it through a colander, and to two cupfuls of strained pumpkin add slowly two and a half cupfuls of boiling milk, half a teaspoonful of salt, one dessertspoonful of ginger , one of cinnamon, one of mace and one of nutmeg. Beat well five eggs, stir them in a cupful of cream and add one cup sugar to sweeten the whole. Line tin pie plates with plain pastry, brush it over with the white of an egg, crimp an ornamental border of puff paste around the pie and fill it with the pumpkin custard. bake the pies in a moderately hot oven till they are firm in the centre and brown. This makes three pies.

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Day 300: Cheese Cakes, No. 2

I’ve been wanting to try one of the cheese cake recipes for ages since it seems so strange to me to find cheese cakes in The New Galt Cook Book (1898). Two recipes plus introductory information about cheese cakes appear in the Pie section of the cook book. Tonight I’m trying the recipe titled Cheese Cakes, No. 2 contributed by Mrs. Gardham of Brantford.

I have to admit that I can’t really consider this an exact reproduction of this recipe. I’ve had to guess at proportions so that I could reduce it plus I’m not really sure how much milk would be in a milk pan. Also I’m using homogenized and pasteurized milk. I have a head start on replicating and understanding this recipe because I’ve actually worked with fresh milk and milk pans. I worked for two years in the Cassin House (a little early settler log cabin) at what was once the Ontario Agricultural Museum. Cows were milked daily and I could request milk delivered to the cabin so that I could use it for demonstrating various dairying activities. Usually that meant pouring the milk in the milk pans and eventually skimming the cream and later making butter. My cheese making experience is limited to preparing fresh cheese sometimes called cottage cheese or pot cheese. My cow milking experience is even more limited — some modern dairy barns and a few attempts at hand milking over the years.

I decided to pour the milk I had available into a flat container and get a sense of how much milk might be in a milk pan. I ended up using 2 cups of 2% milk and that looked like about a quarter of what I remember in a milk pan. I decided to try making one quarter of the recipe looking and tasting along the way to see if I was using reasonable amounts. I began with my 2 cups of milk and warmed it. Once it was ready I added several tablespoons of white vinegar. I slowly stirred and watched the milk begin to separate into curds and whey. Once all the curd had appeared I poured everything into a strainer and pressed out the whey. I didn’t bother washing the curds to remove the last of the whey since the curds would be used immediately.

Next I put the curds (somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup) in a bowl and beat them until smooth. I added a bit of salt and about a 1/4 teaspoon of butter plus a handful of white sugar.  I forgot to add the currants. I added some lemon peel and a few drops of lemon flavouring. I stirred and then tasted the mixture at this point. It was delicious. I used just 1 egg and mixed it in. Finally I added a few drops of brandy and a pinch of cinnamon. I put the mixture into pans and baked at 350 for 15 minutes. I let the cheese cakes cool a bit but I was eager to sample.

Mrs. Gardham of Brantford was probably Elizabeth Mary Ann Richardson. She was born in 1856 in England and had married a man with the surname Davis. After his death she met and married widower Joseph William Gardham. He and his first wife Isabella had several children including three who only lived a short time. After Isabella’s death in 1880 Joseph and Elizabeth were married in 1881 and had five children. Joseph was an engineer. For some reason the family moved to the United States just after the 1901 Canadian census that shows them still in Branford but by 1910 Joseph, Elizabeth and the two youngest children are in Detroit. Joseph is listed as an engineer for an auto supply company. Their son George is a tool maker in an auto shop and their lodger is a carpenter also in an auto shop. Here we are at the beginning of the auto industry!! Interestingly many of their neighbours seem to have come from Canada too. The 1920 census shows them living on Tennyson avenue in Highland Park, Michigan. Joseph is listed as a mechanic at a motor plant. Elizabeth dies shortly after the census and is buried back in Brantford.

If you’ve ever had ricotta cheese or a cottage cheese based fresh cheese cake then you can probably imagine the texture of Mrs. Gardham’s baked cheese cake. I liked the version I created but the texture might put some people off since the cheese springs back and has a somewhat grainy feel.

Mrs. Gardham, Brantford

Take a pan of milk, curdle it with rennet or vinegar (if vinegar is used, not quite half a cupful); pour the whey off, beat the curd fine, add a little salt, also a cup of currants, a piece of butter size of an egg, one cup of sugar, one ounce lemon peel, one tablespoonful essence of lemon, four eggs, one tablespoonful of brandy and a little cinnamon. Bake same as No. 1.

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Day 295: Chocolate Pie

I’ve been struggling with what recipe to make tonight on a day when both Canada and my family are facing unexpected news. And yet, I actually find history comforting knowing that ordinary people have faced challenges of all kinds in the past and survived. The women I write about here lived in a world I can never truly experience no matter how many recipes I prepare from The New Galt Cook Book (1898). But we share the common need to feed ourselves and others. So, tonight I’m sharing a recipe for Chocolate Pie contributed by Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock. Chocolate anything is one of my comfort foods.

A coffeecupful is just under a cup so I grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge only to discover that most of it was frozen. I took the carton next to it which turned out to be cream. I used it anyway but I have to imagine I’m using very creamy milk to consider it a proper test of this historic recipe. The creamy milk went into a saucepan and I started heating it. Next I grated the chocolate using one square of Bakers chocolate and added it too. As it heated I separated 3 eggs and beat them into 3/4 cup of white granulated sugar. I slowly stirred the sugar and egg mixture into the hot chocolate milk. It quickly started to thicken so I removed it from the heat and poured it into a prepared pie crust. I’m a disaster when it comes to making pastry so I’m using the crust prepared by my ‘servant’ (the grocery store). I baked the chocolate pie for 30 minutes at 350 F. I skipped adding the egg white topping since I never seem to like them. Instead I removed the pie from the oven and tried to wait for it to cool but it looked and smelled so good. I ended up cutting and eating a warm piece of chocolate pie.

Mrs.  Robertson of Woodstock is elusive since there are several possible women married to men with the surname Robertson. She contributed a lot of recipes and when I’ve made her recipes earlier in the year I speculated that she might be Jessie Fisher, wife of George E. Robertson. She was born in 1841 in Scotland and came with her parents Alexander and Georgina to Canada around 1853. A few years later in 1860 Jessie married George E. Robertson. They lived in Blenheim Ontario and then moved to Woodstock where George had a store.

Mrs. Robertson’s Chocolate Pie is wonderful! I tasted the filling while it was cooking and it was basically a good chocolate pudding. I wasn’t sure if baking it in a pie would make any difference. It turned out to be an improvement. The top had a touch of crispness a bit like meringue and then the inside is creamy and soft and oh so good. This is a chocolate pie that tastes like chocolate. It is very sweet so it might be best to use a bitter chocolate. The cream of course gave it extra richness but I think it would still be great with milk. If you love chocolate this just might be a quick and easy way to get a hit of your favourite comfort food. A tiny slice is satisfying so this might make a great company dessert especially if you use a special pie crust. This is one recipe that time travels well. Perhaps George Robertson kept a good stock of chocolate in his store so that Jessie could make this recipe any time.

Mrs. Robertson, Woodstock

One coffeecupful milk, two tablespoonfuls grated chocolate. Heat chocolate and milk together, add three-quarters cupful sugar and the yelks of three eggs beaten to a cream; flavor with vanilla. Bake with under crust. Spread beaten whites on top.

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Day 287: Pineapple Pie

I had intended to make pumpkin pie tonight but discovered I didn’t have any pumpkin pulp. Instead I found a recipe for Pineapple Pie on the same page of The New Galt Cook Book (1898). It was contributed by Mrs. Andrich.

Fresh pineapple was available in Galt Ontario in 1898 but canned pineapple was also in stores. I opted to use canned pineapple to make this pie. I opened a can of crushed pineapple and drained it. I measured the pineapple and found I had almost the 2 cups needed for the recipe. I put it in a bowl and added 2 tablespoons of crushed crackers. Then I added 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. I beat 3 eggs well and stirred them in with everything else. I poured the mixture into a prepared pie crust and baked at 350 F. for 40 minutes. I completely forgot about adding the egg whites to the top but I don’t really like it anyway. The pie seemed to be set and the crust was browned so I decided it was ready and I would soon be able to taste it.

Mrs. Andrich is Rachel Roos daughter of Charles and Elisabeth who was born in 1849 in Preston Ontario. She married Martin Andrich in 1868 and they had six children. Her husband was a German born butcher. I’ve talked about her quite a few times since she shared several recipes. She was 88 when she died in 1937.

This pie is interesting. It turned out not to be as set as I hoped so I think I should have drained the pineapple even more and maybe used just a bit less water. Perhaps it needs to cook longer too. I really like the taste of this pie. I was worried that the egg would dominate but its fine. If you like pineapple it might be worth trying Mrs. Andrich’s Pineapple Pie.

UPDATE: Last night I let this cook a bit longer and then cool completely. I tasted it again today and it is wonderful. It is now firm and delicious.

Mrs. Andrich

Mix with two cups of grated or finely chopped pineapple two tablespoonfuls fine cracker crumbs, a scanty cupful of sugar, half a cupful of water and three well beaten eggs. Put the whites of two of the eggs on top of pie.

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Day 256: Cream Pie

It is cold enough today to have the oven on so I’m making Cream Pie. The recipe appears in the Pies section of the 1898 New Galt Cook Book.

I’m not all that fond of cream pie so I decided to cut the recipe in half. I put 1 cup of milk in a saucepan and then added 1 egg yolk, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tablespoon flour, butter the size of half an egg. I turned on the heat and kept stirring until it was thick. I removed it from the heat and poured it into the pie. I baked it in a preheated oven until it was done. Time for dessert!

The Keefer's grocery store in St. George, Ontario.

The Keefer’s grocery store in St. George, Ontario.

Mrs. C. P. Keefer of St. George contributed lots of recipes for The New Galt Cook Book so I’ve talked about her several times. Charles Parsons Keefer was married twice. His first wife Emily “Emma” Guppy died just three years after they were married. She was just 21 years old when she died of typhoid fever in 1880. The couple’s first child died at birth and their second child died just  few weeks after his mother due to dysentery. Seven years later in 1887 Charles married Ann Elizabeth Crandell. Her first husband had died four years earlier after over ten years of marriage. Ann didn’t have children in either marriage. Both she and Charles died in 1925. Charles had been postmaster and storekeeper in St. George at the time of the 1891 census and was also a member of the Masonic Order.

This was surprisingly good … at least for a cream pie. The custard was fine and works on its own just as well as in a pie. This was a nice comforting dessert on a cold night.

Mrs. C. P. Keefer, St. George

Yelks of two eggs, one-half cupful of sugar, one tablespoonful of flour, butter the size of an egg, two cupfuls of milk. Boil before putting it in the pie.

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