By Tara C.
My dad, who collects antique books, recently gave me three antique cookbooks. They are from 1902, 1921, and 1923. As I've mentioned before, I love old and quirky cookbooks. I am having so much fun looking through these treasures.
One of the things I enjoy about these cookbooks, is that, for the most part, they pre-date convenience foods. So, none of the recipes call for condensed soup or the other processed ingredients so popular in the 1950's, 60's and beyond. Without a doubt, these books are old school. The 1902 cookbook explains how to prepare squirrel and oposum. You may be thinking, "but Tara, the problem with with opossum is that one never knows what to serve with it." Stewed cabbage, kale or spinach, pan-baked apples or applesauce, and cornbread is what Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book of 1902 suggests.
Last weekend, I decided to give a couple of recipes a try. (Not squirrel or opossum.) I chose two from the 1923 Holland's Cook Book: pumpkin pudding and maple popcorn. I thought the maple popcorn in particular seemed pretty modern and seasonally appropriate for fall, so that's the recipe I'm sharing today.
One thing ofI noticed about all three of my antique cookbooks is that they are a lot less specific about the methods and ingredients used. For example, they'll simply say something like "cook in a moderate oven until done." No temperature given, no times specified. The same goes for the ingredients--you don't see any specifics such as "unsalted butter." It's just butter. Also, the recipes are all written as paragraphs, not as a list of steps like most recipes today. Here's how the Maple Popcorn recipe is written:
Dissolve 1 cupful of brown sugar and 1 cupful of maple syrup in 1/2 cupful of cold water and boil the syrup until it is brittle. Add 2 cupfuls of popped corn, 2 cupful of nut meats, 1 dessert spoonful of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Stir the ingredients in gently, pour the candy into buttered pans and mark it into squares.
The part of the recipe that I'm most unsure about is "boil the syrup until it is brittle." I'm guessing this means to heat to the hard-crack stage, or 300°-310°F. I would love to tell you that I did this very carefully and scientifically, but I did not. I really just guessed and probably over-heated the syrup since I took it off the heat when it got a faint scent of burnt sugar. (Not to self: Buy a candy thermometer.) But, I'm pleased to report that the finished product turned out very well despite my casual approach. The maple coating was like a hard candy--pretty brittle and crunchy. I did not mark it into squares. Instead, I waited until it cooled and broke it apart into smaller chunks.
This candy did not last long at our house at all. We ate it all in one afternoon.