The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Historical Cooking: Fourth of July Pudding from 1916.

Fourth of July Pudding.  Photo: Liz Raven.
The Redone Challenge: Today in History (June 29-July 12, 2014) Make a dish based on or inspired by a momentous occasion that took place on the day you made it. Get creative - you would be surprised by all the interesting things that happened every single day!

The Recipe:
A Fourth of July Luncheon. To be served buffet style or on the porch.  By Cora Farmer Perkins.

FOURTH OF JULY PUDDING: Pick over, wash and hull one quart box of strawberries.  Sprinkle with one cupful of granulated sugar, cover, and let stand two hours.  Mash, squeeze through a double thickness of cheesecloth, and add one cupful of cold water, and lemon juice to taste.  Turn mixture into a brick mold.  Beat one pint of heavy cream until stiff and add one-half cupful of powdered sugar, one-half tablespoonful of vanilla, a few grains of salt, and two thirds of a cupful of rolled dried macaroons.  Pour cream mixture over fruit mixture to overflow mold.  Cover with buttered paper (buttered side up) and adjust cover, when mixture should be forced down sides of mold.  Pack in rock salt and finely crushed ice, using equal parts, and let stand three hours.
            Remove to chilled serving dish, garnish with selected strawberries, and cut in slices for serving.
--from _Woman’s Home Companion_, July 1916. 

The Date/Year and Region: the United States, 1916. 

ingredients for Fourth of July Pudding.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
How Did You Make It: I followed the recipe with a few alterations. 

3 cups frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup frozen dark cherries, thawed [raspberries would have also been good]
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 pint heavy cream, whipped
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup crushed Maria cookies

I thawed the berries and sprinkled them with the granulated sugar, and let them stand for an hour or so. Then I started to press them through a wire strainer because I didn’t have any cheesecloth, but the berries were still too firm to go easily through the strainer, so I took them out of the strainer and mashed them as much as possible with my potato masher, then added the lemon juice.  I kept the liquid, and the pureed fruit that went through the strainer, separate from the fruit solids.  I put the fruit solids in the bottom of a loaf pan.  

Next, I whipped the cream and added the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar, and added about 2 cups of the whipped cream to the juices and pureed fruit, which I then spooned into the loaf pan on top of the mashed fruit.  

I put the cookies in a plastic zipper bag and beat them with a wooden spoon to crush them, then measured 2/3 of a cup (heaping) and folded them into the remaining whipped cream, which I spooned into the loaf pan on top of the other ingredients, filling it to the very top.  I covered the pan with waxed paper and then wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap.  I put it in the freezer overnight and stored it in my friend’s freezer until the afternoon of the 4th when it was turned out of the loaf pan and served in slices.

Cream whipped, cookies crushed,
berries macerating.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Time to Complete: about 30 minutes, plus freezing time. 

Total Cost: around $20 (using a bottle of vanilla that I already had, and juice from a lemon from a friend’s tree). 

How Successful Was It?: it was delicious!  I brought it to a Fourth of July party and it was a welcome addition to the menu,  as we had just returned from walking in the parade and were looking for cold things to eat and drink. 

I did have a bit of trouble freezing it – but that is likely because my tiny half-size fridge has an even tinier freezer compartment which is strong enough to keep already-frozen things frozen, but not really strong enough to freeze things that are only slightly cooler than room temperature.  However, I put the dish of pudding in my friend’s standard-size freezer before the parade, and when we returned a few hours later, the pudding was frozen solid. 

I also had a little trouble turning it out of the dish; I had to stand the bottom of the dish in a container of hot tap water, and loosen the pudding from the sides of the dish with a butter knife, in order to turn it out, but I think that’s just typical of this kind of thing.  This frozen pudding would work well with any kind of fruit.  I’m thinking peaches might be good for the next time I make this!

When making the pudding, I didn’t have the cheesecloth to squeeze the fruit through as the original recipe instructed, so I tried pushing the fruit through my wire mesh strainer.  However, the fruit was still too firm to do that easily, and the wire mesh ended up getting pulled out of its frame, so I had to resort to a potato masher!  If I had had my food chopper I would have pureed the fruit in there, instead of risking ruining my mesh strainer; plus, it would have been less messy than either the mesh strainer or the cheesecloth.
Everything in the pan, ready
for the freezer.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

How Accurate Is It?:
The original recipe called for you to use fresh fruit and let it macerate in sugar for 2 hours; instead, I used frozen fruit, thawed, and let it macerate for only about 10 minutes.  I didn’t have enough strawberries, so I used some frozen dark cherries to fill out the fruit quota.  I also didn’t have any cheesecloth, so I changed the method of pureeing the fruit, and ended up having to include the chunks of fruit as well as the puree, in order to have enough fruit.  Since I used frozen fruit, there was a lot of liquid already present once the fruit had thawed, so I omitted the water called for in the original recipe. I’m allergic to almonds, which are the main ingredient in macaroons, so I substituted Mexican Maria cookies, which have a similar crisp texture when turned into crumbs but have a different flavor; if you don’t have an almond allergy you could use Italian amaretti cookies and have the same flavor (and are cheaper than French-style macarons, which are what the original recipe calls for).

The usual allowances made for modern machinery for whipping the cream and freezing the mixture, but most of the other changes I made are the kinds of things that a cook in 1916 would have done.  She probably would have substituted canned fruit for the fresh, since frozen fruit wasn’t available, and she might have made her own cookies instead of using macaroons, but otherwise, I’d say that the final version of this recipe is close to 90% historical accuracy. 

I have a vintage ice cream mold that I would love to use for an ice cream or frozen dessert recipe, so the next time I make this I’d like to pack the mixture into the ice cream mold instead of the loaf pan; I’d have to line the mold with waxed paper or something to get the mixture out, but that would be fun to have on the table!

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)