This is the time of year when all sorts of apple varieties are plentiful. I still have some apples so I decided to try making the Apple Trifle recipe contributed by Miss Agnes Little. The New Galt Cook Book (1898) has an entire section on Trifle.
This recipe has three components: the cooked apples, the custard, and the whipped cream. I started with the apples. I cut the recipe in half. I peeled, quartered and removed the cores of 4 apples before cutting them in thin slices. I cooked the them in 1 tablespoon of water along with 3 ounces of sugar. I also chopped up the peel of 1/4 of a lemon and added it too. It didn’t take very long to cook the apples. I pushed them through a sieve and put it in a bowl. While the apples were cooking I started on the custard. I put 1/4 pint (1/2 cup) of milk in a saucepan along with 1 egg. I’m not great at making custard so it curdled a bit but I decided to use it anyway (I don’t like custard much even when I make it perfectly). I set it aside to cool. Finally I whipped 1/4 pint (1/2 cup) of cream. It was time to put together Apple Trifle. I put the apple mixture in the bowl first and then poured custard over and topped it with whipped cream and a garnish of lemon. It looked very nice but I had to taste it.
Miss Agnes Louisa Little was born in Galt Ontario in 1875. Her mother Mary Ann was a local but her father John was from St. John New Brunswick. Agnes was a newlywed when this cookbook was published i December 1898 since she married Albert Willrich in September 1898. He’d also been born in Galt. Their only child Carleton was born in 1899 and then the family moved to Michigan in 1910. Sometime between 1920 and 1930 the couple divorced! I have no idea what happened to Agnes after this point.
This is an interesting trifle. There isn’t any cake in it like a typical trifle so it is more like a pudding or other dessert. It is pretty and light tasting. Personally I’d skip the custard and probably the whipped cream too. I really really liked the apples with the lemon. I’m going to try that part again.
Miss Agnes Little
Ten good-sized apples, the rind of half a lemon, six ounces white sugar, one-half pint milk, one-half pint cream, two eggs. Peel and cut the apples into thin slices, put them into a saucepan with two tablespoonfuls of water, the sugar and minced lemon rind, boil till tender; put apples through a sieve, put them in a glass dish; have the custard cool to pour over the apples, then put your whipped cream with a little sugar and lemon peel on the top.
I had planned to make another sort of thing tonight but I had supper out tonight and just didn’t feel like making something really fiddly. Instead nearby was this recipe for Trifle from Mrs. Howie from Waterloo. There’s an entire chapter devoted to Trifle in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) and I happen to like trifle but never make it. Instead it is a dessert I associate with trips to Great Britain and with a wonderful former colleague named George who was from Northern Ireland. His wife would make trifle whenever we had a potluck.
I started with the cake. I had one of those packets of six sponge cakes that are often found in the fresh fruit section of the grocery store. Households in 1898 could also buy cake from bakeries. They didn’t always have to make their own baked goods. A special booklet produced in 1898 talks about the Smith & Hunter Bakers & Confectioners on North Water street in Galt (Cambridge) and check out this site to find out about one bakery in Berlin (Kitchener).
I made just one-quarter of this recipe so I put 1 1/2 cakes in a dish and spread some raspberry jam on them. I had an old bottle of white wine in the fridge — not vintage wine — just wine left from a party that had been in the fridge a long time. I decided to pour some of it on the cake and then left it to soak in. I was worried about using too much wine since I don’t like really soggy cake in a trifle but I might have been a little too sparing. Next I made some custard. I used Bird’s Custard powder to make my custard since this product existed in 1898 and doesn’t have eggs in it. I put some custard on the cake and then started making the whipped cream. I put 1/4 quart (1 cup) of whipped cream in a bowl and added 1 1/2 ounces of sugar. I wasn’t sure what was meant by “piece of lemon” but decided it was shavings or zest of lemon. I zested 1/4 of a lemon over the bowl of cream. I whisked it all until it was light and thick and then added some to the trifle. It was time to enjoy some trifle.
I’ve written about Mrs. Howie of Waterloo on a number of occasions. She’s Mary Ann Gardham. Her husband Alexander Howie was an excise officer and so they moved around quite a bit , at least until they reached Waterloo. They made Waterloo their home until they died.
I’m very happy with my trifle. It was delicious. I wish I’d used a bit more wine to soak the cake since it was just little dry. This is a hard thing to get right since it depends on the freshness of the cake. Stale cake works but needs more liquid. The flavour of the wine worked well with the other ingredients. The lemon flavoured whipped cream was wonderful. I highly recommend it.
Mrs. Howie, Waterloo
One quart good cream, six ounces sifted white sugar, piece of one lemon, whisk all together. Place in a trifle dish six small sponge cakes, some candied lemon peel, cut small; spread the cakes with jelly or raspberry jam; pour a little light wine on the cake. When this has stood for a short time pour in about a pint of thick custard; then spread over the whipped cream.