A Sparkling Vintage Life


Bake an Apple (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 28)

baked apple2When the weather’s dreary and chilly, nothing beats a baked apple for comfort. In her book One’s Company, author Barbara Holland describes a baked apple as the perfect remedy [f]or October, when the days are getting shorter and your coat smells of mothballs.” While she mentions that an apple (with butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar) can be baked in the microwave in four minutes, she notes, correctly, that “it smells better that way and warms up the kitchen” to bake it in a 350-degree oven for an hour.

If you want to do it great-great-grandma’s way, here’s a baked-apple recipe from 1917:

Baked Apples

4 apples
8 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Select apples of uniform size. Wash and core. Place in a pan; cover the bottom with water. Fill each cavity with sugar, a dash of powdered cinnamon, and a tiny lump of butter. Bake for thirty minutes in a hot* oven, basting occasionally. Serve around a platter of pork chops.

I suppose you could add raisins to it, as the photo suggests, or chopped nuts, or even a piece of caramel candy to make sort of a hot caramel apple. But I’m a purist and like mine with the ingredients above, plus nutmeg, plus a dollop of real whipped cream. Yum!

*(Note: A “hot” oven would be about 400-425 degrees Farenheit or 200-220 degrees Celsius.Back in 1917, much baking was done in a wood-burning oven without precise temperature controls. My Grandma Ruby, an accomplished baker, could tell when an oven was ready by opening the door and thrusting her hand into it. I don’t recommend this method, but for Grandma, the way the heat felt on her skin told her what she needed to know.)

Make a Pear-Apple Compote (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 27)

pearsI love pears even more than apples. I remember how, as a thrifty college student studying in France, I would buy a bag of the most delicious, juicy pears at the market and practically gorge on them back in my tiny, cell-like room. To this day, the distinctive flavor of pears transports me back to that time and place.

I was thrilled to stumble upon this extremely simple compote in French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano. (Compote dates back to Europe in the Middle Ages, and can either refer to either a dessert of fruit soaked and/or cooked in syrup, or to the dish that holds such a dessert.)

Mireille Giuliano’s Pear-Apple Compote

1 lb. apples
2/3 lb. pears
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey

Peel, core, and dice the apples and pears. Pour lemon juice over them and toss. Into a heavy pan pour 1/2 cup water and the fruit mixture. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking or burning.

With a fork, crush the fruit coarsely while continuing to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the excess water evaporates. Remove from the heat, add the honey, and mix gently. Serve lukewarm or cold (if you store it in the fridge, take it out 30 minutes before serving.)

Autumn in a Mug: Apple Cider (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 16)

apple cider label“Cider on beer, never fear; beer upon cider, makes a bad rider.”

~ English Proverb

For many of us, the taste of apple cider is the taste of autumn. Available in both both nonalcoholic and alcoholic (hard cider) varieties, cider-drinking has been a hallmark of harvest time for centuries.

The making of cider dates back to Roman times, and became especially popular in England following the Norman conquest in the eleventh century. In areas where the climate was less than ideal for growing grapes, fermented (alcoholic) cider was often a replacement for wine. Cider was also easy and inexpensive to make, thus a well-loved harvest-time drink of the common people. Even the humblest farm boasted one or two apple trees. Colonists brought cider-making to America. and it was a very popular drink among the Founding Fathers and their contemporaries. In a letter to a friend, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Malt liquor and cider are my table drinks.”

What’s the difference between apple cider and apple juice? Experts hold various opinions on the exact distinctions, but most agree that juice has been strained of pulp and solid matter, while cider has not.

Cider served plain is delicious, but spiced cider is a sip of heaven. You can buy spiced cider ready-made, but for real cider-power (and a house that smells heavenly), it’s easy to make it yourself. Heat a gallon of cider over low heat (or in a slow cooker) with cinnamon sticks and cloves mixed in, and even a bit of brown sugar if you like it very sweet (I leave the sugar out). You can also drop in a cut-up apple or orange for extra zip.


…and More Pumpkins! (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 14)

october image bettinaMost American home cooks have a favorite recipe for pumpkin pie, perhaps handed down through generations. I confess (gulpingly) that I’ve never made one from scratch. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, making the pie has always seemed to be someone else’s job. But this year, I’m planning to try my hand at it, perhaps using this old-fashioned (1917) recipe from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband. As with all the recipes in this charming vintage cookbook, the pumpkin pie recipe comes with a little story about newlyweds Bettina and Bob, who served individual pies (placed on doilies)  at their Halloween party–an extravaganza that included bobbing for apples, making popcorn balls, and roasting marshmallows over candles!

Bettina’s Pumpkin Pie (makes 8 individual pies)

For the Crusts:

2 cups flour
2/3 cup lard
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt

Cut the lard into the flour and salt. Add sufficient water to make a stiff dough on a floured board. Roll into shape one-fourth inch thick. Place in tin muffin pans, making individual pies, filling with the following mixture and baking 30 minutes in a moderate oven [I’m thinking “moderate” means 350 degrees F. jl].

For the Filling:

1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin (or pumpkin puree)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Mix the ingredients in the order given, and fill the pie crusts two-thirds full. Bake as above.

Pumpkins, pumpkins . . . (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 13)

All hail the Great Pumpkin! (with a hat-tip to Charles Schulz and Linus)

Autumn’s signature symbol is in its full orange glory this month. Cultivated in the Americas for at least 6,000 years, the pumpkin is very versatile and adapts well to both sweet and savory dishes. It also has delicious seeds to roast and snack on, and makes a wonderful home decoration, indoors or out. What’s not to like?

If you have a hankering to create a pumpkin-flavored edible, don’t automatically reach for the can on the pantry shelf. Try slow-roasting a fresh pumpkin in the oven (after slicing it in half and removing the seeds and “innards”). When the flesh is soft, scoop it into a blender to make a puree to

Miniature pumpkins in my garden

Miniature pumpkins in my garden

use in your favorite recipes.

Did you know that the best carving pumpkin is the Howden variety? It only dates back to the 1970s, when a farmer named John Howden developed a pumpkin that was ribbed, smooth, deep orange in color, and durable. So if carving a jack-o-lantern or other decorative use is your goal, that’s the variety to choose. Be warned, however, that it’s not made for eating. If a great pie is what you’re after, choose a different, and perhaps less photogenic, variety.


Here’s a simple recipe for Harvest Pumpkin Soup that we’ve enjoyed. Makes about 10 cups.

6 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1-1/2 cups chopped carrots
5-1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. salt

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and shallot. Cook for 4-5 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add carrots and stir well. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender (about 10 minutes). Add pumpkin and salt, stirring to blend. Cover and cook 10 more minutes. If you like your soup really smooth (we prefer ours a bit chunky), you can puree it in a blender. I use my favorite soup bowls, but I imagine this soup would be darling served in little hollowed-out mini-pumpkins.

Candied apples (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 11)

Source: allrecipes.com

Source: allrecipes.com

“She’s candy-apple red with a ski for a wheel…” Those lyrics to an old Beach Boys song refer to Santa’s sleigh, but I’m talking about the real thing here…candied apples!

source: pinterest.com

Candy-apple red truck, 1953. Source: pinterest.com

I used to wonder why “candy-apple red” was a description of a brilliant, shiny red paint for cars and trucks (and electric guitars–who knew?), until I realized I was mixing up “candied apples” with “caramel apples.” Candied apples are, indeed, a brilliant, shining red, while caramel apples are, well, caramel-colored and dull (but delicious in their own right).

This recipe for candied apples comes from my recent favorite resource, Olive Landers’ Modern Handbook for Girls (1933). (I’ve been quoting from it a lot lately because it’s frankly fabulous and chock-full of simple ideas for vintage fun!).

(Please note that I have not tried making this recipe yet, as I am presently on Day 5 of the Whole 30 food plan and thus not eating sugar. Poor me! If you try it, I’d love to hear your results, especially with a photo!)

Candied Apple on Sticks

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
Red paste coloring
Oil or essence of cinnamon
Peppermint or clove
10 or 12 apples

Make a syrup by boiling sugar, water, and corn syrup until it is brittle. Test by dropping a little in cold water. Add a few drops of red paste or liquid coloring while this mixture is cooking. When it is done, remove from the fire and set in a pan of hot water. It may be flavored by a few drops of oil or essence of clove, cinnamon or peppermint.

Select red apples of about the same size and not too large. Insert a wooden skewer into the blossom end of the apple. Hod the apple by the skewer and plunge into the syrup. Remove it quickly and twirl it until the syrup coats the apple and spreads smoothly. Dip the apples the day they are to be used, for the coating is likely to get sticky if it stands. It is not advisable to make a smaller quantity of this syrup, and this quantity will cover from 10 to 12 apples.

An Apple a Day (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 5)


Nothing evokes the taste of autumn like the first bite of a fresh, crisp apple. Experts say the mellow days of October produce the sweetness, while the cool nights produce the tartness, and the combination is extraordinary. One of my very favorite ways to eat a delicious apple is the following recipe for Jarlsberg, Apple, and Mushroom Salad, from French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano.

Jarlsberg, Apple, and Mushroom Salad

1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (Crimini recommended)
1 medium Golden Delicious apple, cored and cut into thin slices
3 Tb. lemon juice

For the dressing:

2 Tb. red wine vinegar
2 Tb. Meaux mustard
9 Tb. walnut oil
2 Tb. freshly chopped parsley
Pinch of curry
Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 oz. Jarlsberg cheese cut into strips
1 large head lettuce, rinsed and dried, leaves torn

Sprinkle the mushroom and apple slices with the lemon juice. Mix all the dressing ingredients together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add the mushroom-apple mixture and cheese to the dressing. Toss gently with the lettuce. Serve immediately. (Serves 6)

Retro Recipe Wednesday: How to Make a Sandwich

I found this adorable video by way of The Apron Revolution.  I love how the mother and daughter are working together in the kitchen to make tuna sandwiches for their guests. There’s something so homey and charming about such a scene.


The commentary that accompanies the video on YouTube is pretty amusing too. Some women seem most fearful that making a tuna sandwich for a boy will toss them straight back to the Victorian era and shackle them to the stove. Funny! I think we’d all be better off, health-wise and budget-wise, doing more of our own home cooking and relying less on restaurants and take-out.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

31 Days of Summer, Day 29: A Motor Picnic

picnic-3We’ve met Bettina before, from the 1917 book A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, in which newlywed Bettina learns to cook and keep house for herself and her husband, Bob. In this excerpt,

“Hello, Bettina; this is Bob. What are you having for dinner tonight?”

“It’s all in the oven! Why?”

“Couldn’t you manage to make a picnic supper of it? One of the men at the office has invited us to go motoring tonight with him and his wife, and of course, I said we’d be delighted. They’re boarding, poor things, and I asked if we couldn’t bring the supper. He seemed glad to have me suggest it. I suppose he hasn’t had any home cooking for months. Do you suppose you could manage the lunch? How about it?”

“Why, let me think. How soon must we start?”

“We’ll be there in an hour or a little less. Don’t bother about it–get anything you happen to have.”

“It’s fine to go, dear. Of course I’ll be ready. Good-bye!”

Bettina’s brain was busy. There was a veal loaf baking in the oven while, on the table, a fresh loaf of Boston brown bread stood cooling. Her potatoes were cooked already for creaming, and although old potatoes would have been better for the purpose, she might make a salad of them. As she hastily put on some eggs to hard-cook, she inspected her ice box. Yes, those cold green beans, left from last night’s dinner, would be good in the salad. What else? “It needs something to give it character,” she reflected. “A little canned pimiento–and, yes–a few of the pickles in that jar.”

Of course, she had salad dressing–she was never without it. Sandwiches? The brown bread would be too fresh and soft for sandwiches, but she could keep it hot, and take some butter along. “I’m glad it is cool today. We’ll need hot coffee in the thermos bottle, and I can make it a warm supper–except for the salad.”

“How lucky it is that I made those Spanish buns! And the bananas that were to have been sliced for dessert, I can just take along whole.”

When Bettina heard the auto horn, and then Bob’s voice, she was putting on her hat.

“Well, Betty, could you manage it?”

“Yes, indeed, dear. Everything is ready. The thermos bottle has coffee in it, piping hot; the lunch basket over there is packed with the warm things wrapped tight, and that pail with the burlap over it is a temporary ice box. It holds a piece of ice, and beside it is the cream for the coffee and the potato salad. It is cool today, but I thought it best to pack them that way.”

“You are the best little housekeeper in this town,” said Bob as he kissed her. “I don’t believe anyone else could have managed a picnic supper on such short notice. Come on out and meet Mr. and Mrs. Dixon. May I tell them that they have a fine spread coming?”

“Don’t you dare, sir. It’s a very ordinary kind of a supper and even you are apt to be disappointed.”

But he wasn’t.

Bettina’s picnic supper that cool day consisted of:

Warm Veal Loaf
Cold Potato Salad
Fresh Brown Bread
Spanish Buns
Hot Coffee

Bettina’s Boston Brown Bread (six portions)

1 cup rye or graham flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup sour milk or 1-1/4 cup sweet milk (if sweet milk is used, 1 T. vinegar to 1-1/4 c, milk will sour the milk)
2/3 cup raisins

Mix and sift dry ingredients, add molasses, liquid, and raisins. Fill well-buttered moulds (sic) two-thirds full, butter the top of the mould, and steam three and one-half hours. Remove from moulds and place in an oven to dry ten minutes before serving. Baking powder cans, melon moulds, lard pails or any attractively shaped tin cans may be used as a mould. Two methods of steaming [may be] used: (a) Regular steamer, in which the mould is placed over a pan of boiling water. Buttered papers may be tied firmly over the tops of  uncovered moulds, or  (b) Steaming in boiling water. The mould is placed on a small article in the bottom of a pan of boiling water. This enables the water to circulate around the mould. Care must be observed in keeping the kettle two-thirds full of boiling water all the time of cooking.

(From A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron.)

31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Life, Day 27: Cook over a campfire

campfireWhen’s the last time you ate a meal that had been cooked over an open fire? If you don’t camp regularly, it’s probably been quite a while.

As the weather cools, gathering around a campfire begins to sound more appealing, and having something special to eat just adds to the fun. The Camp Fire Girls handbook of 1925 said, “Outdoor cooking is being appreciated more and more every day. One of the best sports and most healthy and invigorating pastimes is to strap a few necessities on one’s back and go away for one or two days’ trip. To be able to get far into the woods, away from houses, stores, and restaurants, and depend on one’s own resources is a delightful experience.”

(CAVEAT: Safety first! Follow your local fire and burning laws and regulations, tend your fire carefully, drench it completely before you leave the area, and always make safety your first priority.)

To start, of course, you must build your fire. The manual advises, “In choosing a spot on which to build a camp fire, make sure that there is no flammable, dry grass near. Note the direction of the wind and relative locations of buildings, brush piles, roots, dry grass, etc. If the wind is high, fire should be protected by earth banks, which will prevent sparks carrying. The lee side of a rock, stone fence, or bank makes a good place for a fire where there is danger of the sparks being carried.

“A fire for cooking should be very small. Always choose dry wood. In laying the fire, it is well to make a small, tent-shaped structure of the shavings having an opening in which to insert a match. Always be sure that the finest material is at the bottom and have other materials at hand so as to be ready to lay on larger twigs or sticks, letting no bit of kindling burn up without igniting a larger stick above it. A skilled woodsman does not use paper for kindling his fire and he seldom finds it necessary to use more than one match. The finely shredded bark of the yellow birch, which is found in the northern forests, makes the best kindling known.

“Having secured some dry wood, make “fuzz sticks” by whittling long thin shavings, but not cutting them off completely. The inner bark of standing, dead cedar trees makes excellent kindling, while dead twigs from the lower branches of standing trees, especially hemlock, balsam, and spruce, if dry, ignite very easily.

“Build a wigwam of small sticks around a bunch of little twigs or fire sticks. Around the wigwam lay in cross-cross fashion a pen of sticks about one inch square. Light the fire in the center, and in a few minutes the pen will fall to a bed of hot coals. After this is burning briskly, lay side logs either parallel or closer together at one end (to hold the pot or pan). The fire is then ready for cooking.”


When you think of cooking over a fire, does your mind immediately go to hot dogs and s’mores? Those are traditional campfire fare, to be sure, but this Fudge Feast from the Camp Fire Girls sounds mighty tempting.

Menu (for six people):

Corn chowder
Bread and butter

Corn chowder: 1 can corn, 4 cups parboiled potatoes, 1 small onion, 1/4 lb. bacon, 2 cups milk, 1 cup water, 6 crackers, salt and pepper to taste. Cut the bacon into small dice, fry until crisp, add the onion diced and fry all together until a light brown, stirring constantly. Then add corn. Cook until hot. Add potatoes (diced) and water. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few broken crackers and milk. Take from fire and serve immediately.

Fudge: 3 cups sugar, 3 squares unsweetened chocolate, 1-1/2 cups milk OR 1 can evaporated milk and 1/2 can water, 1/2 tablespoon butter (if using evaporated milk, omit the butter). Cook together in the frying pan until it forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water. Set to one side to cool. Then beat until creamy.

When you’re through eating and have finished enjoying your fire, it’s time to put it out. The manual emphasized, “Never leave a fire until you are sure that it is out. If there is sufficient water near, drench them thoroughly. If there is any doubt, throw fresh, moist earth over the fire, stamping it to smother all coals”