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Fondly, Pennsylvania

Fondly, Pennsylvania is HSP's main blog.  Here you will find posts on our latest projects and newest discoveries, as well articles on interesting bits of local history reflected in our collection.  Whether you are doing research or just curious to know more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at HSP, please read, explore, and join the conversation!

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Root Vegetables

When I tell people I love to cook from cookbooks that are 150 to 200 years old, I am always surprised by those who cringe. The first question is always, “Eew – how could it be any good?” Second question, with a look of disgust on the face is, “What did they eat back then?” Answer: same as we do! People have always loved good food. The other reaction is that everyone thinks the food was so rich; cream and butter everywhere. While it is true, Mrs. Emlen does use a lot of butter in her kitchen, that is because butter was used instead of oil. In reality, Mrs. Emlen’s cookbook offers a wide range of recipes, from rich with butter and cream to very healthy with very little fat added. Today I want to share one of each, one for turnips and the other for beets.

It’s winter now in Philadelphia, time for root vegetables. Potatoes, yams, turnips, and beets fill out my CSA share. Each week I receive a box of 7-9 vegetables, locally grown, harvested in season and  organic. This is an easy way to remind me how Mrs. Emlen and her family would have eaten. There was no refrigeration nor any jets from Chile, bringing up summer fruits and vegetables. The winter diet of fresh vegetables would have been very limited. At the moment I am looking for turnip recipes to break up the monotony. Time to try Mrs. Emlen’s turnip recipe on pg. 48. I would not have noticed or remembered this one except that it is the second recipe for turnips, next to the first recipe in the book is a note:  a better at 48th page.

Turnips

Pare & cut them in thin slices, put them into water that is boiling hard, boil fast for 1/2 an hour or a little more, press out every drop of water through a colander mashing them perfectly smooth. To 1/2 peck, which makes a large dish, Take 3 jills of milk, boil it, stir into the milk 1/4lb. of butter, which has been mixed with 2 teaspoons of flour, a teaspoonful white sugar some pepper & salt let this cook a little. Put the turnips into this sauce, & stew 1/4 of an hour __ They are excellent. Mrs. Camac

  • 1lb. Turnips
  • 1 1/2c milk
  • 1/2c butter at room temp.
  • 2 t flour
  • 1 t white sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Slice the turnips very thin and boil until cooked. They are very watery so it is a good idea to follow the recommendations and press out as much water through a dense colander or sieve before mashing them. In a small bowl, mix the butter, flour, sugar, salt and pepper together until smooth. Put the milk into a pot that will also accommodate the amount of mashed turnips you have. Bring the milk to just under boiling. With a whisk, stir in the butter mixture. This will take a few minutes before the butter melts. After the butter has melted completely and you see the sauce thicken, turn the heat to low and mix in the mashed turnips. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. I have to agree with Mrs. Emlen – these are excellent!

This recipe does validate the comment - everything was so rich back then! Yes, the milk would have been whole milk, possibly still with the cream mixed in, plus 1/2c of butter? That is a very rich dish. But it is possible to make this dish with 1% or even non-fat milk and it will still be creamy. If you’ve never made sauce like this before – it takes a bit of practice, but once you’ve got it, it will work for any sauce, including gravy.

  • 1lb turnips
  • 2c 1% milk
  • 2T flour (yes tablespoons here)
  • 1t sugar – this smooths out the flavor of the turnips
  • salt and pepper

Boil and mash turnips as above. In a large pot, bring 1 1/2c milk, sugar, salt and pepper to just under boiling. Have ready the extra 1/2c milk with 2T flour mixed in. The best way to do this I’ve found is to put the flour into a jam jar with a lid and add the milk. Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously. You want all of the flour suspended in the milk. When you see that the milk in the pot is ready, give your jam jar one more shake, remove the lid and start stirring the milk in the pot at a medium speed. As you continue stirring, slowly pour the milk/flour mixture in. Keep stirring after you’ve poured it all in. Watch the sauce while you stir and in about a minute or two the sauce will instantly become thicker. Stir for another minute, turn the heat to low and add the turnips. Cook for another 5 minutes.

To dispel the myth of only rich food, I offer my other favorite root vegetable dish from Mrs. Emlen; beets. This week in my CSA share I got blond beets, aren’t they beautiful? They taste exactly the same as the red ones but are bright orangey-yellow.

Beets

Put young beets into boiling water, with a handful of salt, & keep them boiling hard, for an hour, then dip them in cold water, the skin will pull off whole cut them in quarters, put to them a large piece of butter a teaspoonful of vinegar, a little black pepper & salt. Be particular not to cut tops & tails. E.B.C [Mrs. Camac]

  • 1 – 2lbs beets
  • 1/4c salt
  • 1-2tsp butter
  • 1tsp white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Boil the beets for 30-40 minutes depending on what they need (and I would cut tops and tails). They are done when you put a fork in and they are mostly soft with a little resistance. Dip each beet into cold water separately and gently pull on the skin – it will slip right off. Quarter the beats and put them in a bowl, add the butter while they are still hot so that it melts. Add the vinegar and flavor with salt and pepper. Toss to coat everything. If you want a completely non-fat dish, leave out the butter, but really, you aren’t adding that much so it’s okay. The vinegar is what makes the flavor amazing.

For more delicious recipes for 1865, check out the facsimile of Mrs. Emlen’s cookbook available in HSP’s online shop here.

This will be my last foodie blog post for the season. I hope you've enjoyed reading and have tried some of the recipes for yourselves. I wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company

As an intern with the Greenfield Digital Project, I’ve been working through the summer and the fall researching organizations related to the Bankers Trust story. So far I’ve been most excited about the story of Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, the predescessor to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and its president from 1911 to 1929, Thomas Mitten.

Philadelphia Rapid Transit was incorporated in 1902, and began construction of electric streetcar lines to West Philadelphia, as the affluent and fashionable suburb was developing rapidly. Within the year, PRT made plans for the city’s first subway line running under Market Street (predecessor to today’s Market-Frankford Line), completed in 1907, as well as a street-surface line on Broad Street.

Electric PRT trolley, 1902 (Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue Collection, no. V7).

The company planned and grew at exponential rates in the early 20th century, but its management was inefficient, secretive, and grossly unpopular with the public. By the time the Market Street line was complete, PRT was nearly bankrupt, and its poor financial decisions trickled down to fed up workers. Hoping to piggyback on the public’s dissatisfaction with PRT’s recent fare increases, streetcar drivers decided to strike for higher wages and better conditions in May 1909.

As someone who rides SEPTA almost every day, it’s not hard for me to imagine Philadelphia public transit inciting riots in the streets, although labor unrest on this scale seems foreign to me in 21st century. On the afternoon of May 29th, 1909, strikers gathered all over the city, especially concentrating in streetcar suburb areas like West Philadelphia, Frankford, Brewerytown, and Germantown. The strikes turned violent after sunset: strikers gathered into unruly groups that at some points swelled to over 600 men. Some left dynamite on trolley tracks, vaulted rocks into crowds, stormed trolley cars, and uprooted supportive trolley poles.

Damages to the transit network tied up almost all of the lines in Philadelphia for days. The strike was eventually called off after negotiations between the PRT unions and management began, but the company continued to experience extreme labor unrest, including another long and violent strike, into 1910.

Enter Thomas Mitten, an Englishman who was installed as PRT president in late 1911, after the former president, Charles E. Krueger, dropped dead of a heart attack at his clubhouse earlier in the year.

Greeting riders aboard a PRT trolley. Albert M. Greenfield is third in line (Albert M. Greenfield Papers, collection no. 1952).

I was excited to learn about Mitten and PRT’s labor solutions: breaking clean of the conflict-ridden, top-down model of negotiations between company management and the two PRT unions, Mitten instead developed his “Cooperative Plan,” which earmarked 22 percent of all company earnings for wages, pensions, and other benefits. By late 1912, Mitten had installed the Cooperative Welfare Association, which organized employee sick and death benefits, and provided for co-op buying of food and other consumer goods for employees. PRT was fairly unique in its labor dealings, and employees resisted outside unions like the Amalgamated Association through the 1920s.

PRT’s fortune under Mitten rose with the all but too common seedy financial practices of the 1920s, and fell dramatically when the system became unstable later in the decade. After some questionable business gambles, the company went up for sale to the city in 1927. In September 1929, still heading the company, the city began an investigation against Mitten citing “excessive fees and diversion of funds.” A month later Mitten was found dead, drowned in his summer home in the Poconos. The Great Depression halted transit construction in Philadelphia, and the transit workers cooperative ended with PRT’s downfall.

Germantown trolley, 1939. (Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue Collection, no. V7)

In 1940, PRT was officially reorganized into Philadelphia Transportation Company (Albert M. Greenfield, the star of our Bankers Trust project, was one of two men who led the reorganization of the company!). The old company union was long gone by the mid-‘40s, and employees were organized by the Teamsters and the Transit Workers Union. Control of the city’s transit lines passed to National City Lines in the 1950s, which was then consolodated into SEPTA in 1968.

Give History for the Holidays

Looking for a unique and personal gift this holiday season? Archival prints of materials from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's collections are the perfect gift for the history lover on your holiday shopping list. Whether you are interested in views of old Philadelphia, stunning photographs, colorful watercolors, or historic maps, HSP's Digital Library has a wide range of unique items to choose from.  There are more than 60,000 images available to browse online and the image database increases every day as HSP staff scan and post additional historical documents, graphics, and photographs from our collections.

Archival prints are produced in-house at the Historical Society’s Digital Lab on a high-quality Epson color printer and are available in various sizes, ranging from 8x10 inches to 24x36 inches.  Custom sizes are also available.  Prints are produced on either matte, glossy, or fine art paper, creating a virtual facsimile of HSP's historic maps, photographs, or watercolors.  For more information on sizes, pricing, and how to purchase a print check out our FAQ

An archival-quality reproduction is printed on the Epson 7900

Now through December 10th, mention the code "HOLIDAY" to receive 10% off your print order (HSP members receive 15% off).  Not sure where to start? Browse our featured galleries of favorite images, including local landmarks, baseball, maps, and railroads.  Place your order by December 19th to ensure delivery by Christmas.  We look forward to serving your rights and reproductions needs and sharing the gift of history this holiday season!

Liberty Bell, 1915

 

A Great American Tradition

For some, Macaroni and Cheese is a sacred family recipe, passed down from generation to generation. For others it is a box purchased in the super market with pasta and a pouch of mystery stuff. Try Mrs. Emlen’s “Macaroni au Gratin” and you will never buy the boxed stuff again!

The recipe starts with the rather non-politically correct explanation:  From the cock eyed girl of the Café di Europa Naples 1851 - to Geo. W. Chapman 

Put 4 pints of water in a sauce pan over a good fire. When it boils put in 3/4 of a pound macaroni (the large size) when sufficiently cooked, take it out, & lay it in a colander where the water will drain entirely off – Then make the sauce – Melt in a saucepan 1/4 of a lb butter, add 2 even tablespoons of flour & stir it for about a minute, then 16 ounces of milk (or 1 pint _1 gill cream) mix all well so as to form a rich cream. Place the macaroni in this sauce, sprinkle with salt, flavor with a little nutmeg add 6 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, & mix all well together. Then take a copper baking dish grease it well inside with butter & lay in the macaroni; spread in as you lay it in, 1oz of butter, & 3 tablespoons of grated cheese; a little grated biscuit of stale bread will make the crust firmer; Now put on the lid & on it a sufficient fire, to cook the whole through & form a brown crust –

  •  1 16 oz bag of pasta (I used penne since that's what I had on hand. I also had no idea what the "the large size" could mean)
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 cups milk ( I used whole milk)
  • 9 T Parmesan cheese (separated)
  • salt to taste
  • a few good gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • bread crumbs

Cook the pasta as directed and drain. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. When melted completely, sprinkle two tablespoons flour over the butter. Stir everything well – no lumps! Slowly pour the milk in and you can increase your heat to medium. Stir until the sauce becomes thicker, about 5 minutes. Add 6 T Parmesan cheese, salt and nutmeg to the sauce and stir well. Add the cooked pasta. Have prepared a casserole dish. This should be buttered and some extra bread crumbs can be dusted over the butter. Pour the pasta and sauce mixture into the dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 3 tablespoons of cheese and breadcrumbs – not too thickly. Place into a 400°F oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Or if you just want to toast the top of the casserole, put it under the broiler for a few minutes.

If you would like to enjoy more of Ellen Emlen’s historic recipes, a copy of her cookbook is available for purchase here.

Join me next week to explore some of the delicious vegetable dishes in the book.

From a distance...Montana that is!

This internship fell into my lap just when I thought I was not going to find anything to fulfill the fieldwork requirement for my Master of Library & Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I live in the great state of Montana, which is large in area but NOT in population or infrastructure. Major towns - of which there are probably only four - are 100+ miles apart. Trying to complete 150 hours of fieldwork is not realistic because the distances are so great. I live in Great Falls, and while it may be a town of over 60,000, there really is a lack of archival institutions in which to complete any meaningful project.

Distance is only half of the issue as well. Montana is an "outdoor" state, meaning most people come to Montana to recreate and live in the natural world. High tech infrastructure in archival repositories is minimal at best. There really is no archival institution that can offer remote access to collections or has the staff resources to oversee a student remotely. Alas my need for a virtual internship outside of Montana.

The project I have been working on with another student since September is describing the Edith Madeira collection. The collection is made up of mostly a scrapbook of images from World War I and transcripts of letters that Edith wrote to friends and family members during her time as a field nurse for the Red Cross Commission to Palestine. First, we began by describing the many photographs and other pieces of ephemera in Edith's scrapbook. I found this slow-going at first because I didn't know if I was saying too much or not enough about each image. Also, attaching accurate subject headings was tricky because the obvious subject heading may not have been in the Library of Congress subject headings or you really had to be creative with pulling out obscure subject matter.

Once the images were complete we moved on to the transcripts of Edith letters. I enjoy reading Edith's letters and seeing how language and culture have changed since 1918. I also find it fascinating to read about World War I through Edith's own words. There was still such a formality about the world and how people interacted - even during wartime. I felt more comfortable describing the letters than I did the images. The challenge though was not to rewrite the letter in the description field but still hit the pertinent points of the letter so that enough detail was given for users who may be looking for information about this time period or subject matter. Subject headings were far easier to find, though in a 14-page letter they could be numerous.

I feel as though I have only just begun to develop my skills for description by working on this collection. The most significant drawback to working remotely is that you can't just run to the shelf to look at an image or object to get a better understanding of just what it is. But all in all, I have had an extremely positive experience and Matt Shoemaker has been delightful to work with. I truly appreciate this opportunity and I am happy that I have contributed to the preservation of this charming collection...from Montana that is!

Remembering Louisa May Alcott

This November marks the 180th birthday of popular novelist Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), author of such works as Flower Fables (1854), Hospital Sketches (1863), and Little Women (1868).  Most people associate Alcott with her life and work in Massachusetts, but did you know she had a Philadelphia connection?

Louisa was born in Germantown on November 29, 1832 at 5425 Germantown Avenue.  Her parents were from Massachusetts, Amos Bronson Alcott was an educator and Abigail May was a social worker. The couple moved to Philadelphia at some point after they were married in 1830. Amos was called to teach in Germantown with the help of Reuben Haines, then owner of the Wyck House.  Amos served as the head of a school on Eighth Street near Locust Street; and he later ran a school in Germantown.  Accounts vary as to when exactly the family moved back to Massachusetts; but once they did move, they lived in Concord and a short-lived experimental communal village known as Fruitlands before moving to Boston.  Amos continued his work in local schools and became friends with the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Amos and Abigail successfully raised a family for four daughters: Anna (born 1831), Louisa, Elizabeth (born 1835), and Abigail (born 1840).

American authors Emerson and Thoreau, as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller, played roles in Louisa education in Massachusetts, though she we primarily educated by her father at home.  As a child she was a voracious reader. She began writing her own stories as a teenager, but she did not find immediate success in the field.  Her sisters had found work to help support the family, and Louisa did the same with the occasional sewing job or work as a governess.

Still, she did not give up on writing entirely. She had some short stories and poetry published early on, and became a more well-known author with her first book, Flower Fables, published in the 1850s.  She found company with other authors and performing artists in Concord and Boston, which helped her remain in the area's cultural and literary loop.  She took a brief break from writing in 1862 when she moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as a nurse during the Civil War.  While there, unfortunately, Louisa contracted typhoid fever.  She was treated with a drug containing mercury and suffered from the effects of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life.

She picked up writing again after her service and found monetary success publishing sensational stories, such as Pauline's Passion and Punishment (1863), under the pseudonym "A. M. Barnard." But it was her best known work Little Women (1868) that brought Louisa fully out of obscurity. Little Women did not take shape until about a year after one of her publishers asked Louisa to write a book for girls.  The novel -- based largely on Louisa’s own life with three sisters -- was an instant hit and Louisa May Alcott was officially a household name. Little Women spawned several sequels, and Louisa went on to produce novels for children and adults.

In the 1870s, Louisa became active in the women’s suffrage and temperance movements.  She never married but came into custody of her sister Anna's baby, Louisa or "LuLu" as she was called," after Anna's untimely death in 1879. Her mother had died a couple years earlier, so Louisa spent most of her later years with her father.  He died in March 1888 just a few days before Louisa. The family never again returned to Philadelphia, but a historical marker denotes the place of Louisa's birth in Germantown.

Coffee As You've Never Had It

In the Penn family papers (Collection 485), Volume NV-006, there are two recipe books.”  Institutional lore says that they were written by each of William Penn's wives and as they are in obviously different handwritings, this is possible. However, at the top of one of the pages there is a note, "My Mother's receipts for Cookerys.... [signed] William Penn." Unfortunatly for this blog post, I do not have the time to explore this mystery further. Suffice to say, the manuscripts belong to the Penn family. One of the manuscripts is easily legible and concerns many remedies for eye afflictions. The other manuscript details a wide variety of recipes including Almon Cakes, Snuff, and Marmalade of Oringes. I have not spent much time with either of the books, as the first set of recipes (those for eye care), can make the reader queasy. The handwriting in the second set of recipes is so difficult to read that it took me the better part of a day to puzzle out the recipe I wanted: Too Make Coffee. When first looking at the recipe I read,  Too Make Coffoo as the construction of the “e” is backwards (see below). But working my way through the strange letter construction and extra flourishes of this handwriting was worth it for a chance to taste a 300-year-old coffee recipe.

Too Make Coffee:

Take water and boyle it but very littell then have ready your coffee pott that hold a pint a quart with an oz of the powder in it and brew it with a quart of water as you doo burnt wine then lett it stand in the Coffee pott with 3 or 4 springs of Rosemary and 20 grains of saffron desolined (my underline) it must stand so as to bee scalding hott butt not boyle you may drink it in 1/2 an hour butt if it stand an hour or too its better.

There is only one word I could not work out, desolined. If anyone else can make out this word, please let us know. 

If you would like to try this recipe yourself, here’s what I did:

  • 4c water
  • 4T ground coffee of your choice
  • 3 – 4 twigs of fresh rosemary approximately 4inches long
  • 2 good pinches of saffron (or you can count out 20 grains, tweezers might help with this)

Put the water and coffee into a pot and bring them to a boil. When making coffee this way I let the coffee boil up, remove the pot from the heat until it settles, put the pot back on the heat and repeat this process twice more. Turn heat to low, add the rosemary and saffron, and allow it to simmer for an hour. Strain the liquid before serving.

I will be honest about my reaction; the first sip was a bit of a shock. I found the flavor to be very unusual. This is a recipe for the adventurous palate to be sure! However, after a few sips the flavor mellows. With milk and sugar I ended up drinking the whole pot and decided it was delicious! 

As I went back to the original manuscript for this blog post, I realized that the coffee recipe is not with other foods or drinks. It is in the middle of recipes for medical ailments and sundries including "receipt to Cure the biting of a mad dogg if taken within 9 days." Many old family recipe books did not have any organization. New recipes were added at the end as they came along. But it seems there is some kind of organization to this manuscript.  Is it possible that this recipe was intended, not as an enjoyable drink, but as medicine? The caffeine would have given a remarkable energy boost, and in the 17th Century coffee was still a relatively new drink in England. According to Reay Tannahill in her book, Food in History, the first coffee house in England was established in 1650. Merchants advertised it as a magical elixer to cure everything from gout to asthma. William Penn was born in 1644 and if these are indeed his mother's recipes, she would have learned them at or close to the beginning of coffee in England. Could this recipe have been an early experiment for an even better "cure"? If anyone can provide insight to this, feel free to comment.

In the meantime, should you be intrigued enough to try your own pot of Mrs. Penn’s coffee, there is plenty of time to brew one this holiday weekend.

Join me next week for another recipe from Ellen Emlen's Cookbook.

HSP wishes you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

Martha Washington's Cookbook

Within the first three days starting my job at HSP, I was told of our major treasures. These include:  the first four drafts of the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation proclamation signed by President Lincoln. And as an aside, someone mentioned that  we also own Martha Washington’s cookbook. Since my first introduction to it, this book has become one of my favorite documents in our collections. I am a foodie and I love to cook. I enjoy the challenge of a unique recipe, especially one 400 years old.

Martha Washington inherited this book from her first mother-in-law, Mrs. Custis. A book such as this would have been written for a daughter so that she could take the family recipes with her when she married. Mrs. Washington kept the book in her possession for fifty years before giving it to her granddaughter Nelly Parke Custis. When the book came up for sale in 1892, HSP purchased the book.

According to Karen Hess who transcribed and annotated the manuscript, (Columbia University Press, 1981), the cookbook was most likely written in England at the beginning of the 17th Century. It begins from both ends with one side of the book containing The Booke of Cookery, and the other Sweet Meats. The Booke of Cookery is primarily recipes for savory dishes. The Sweet Meats refers to desserts and cakes. Ms. Hess was able to date the book by the ingredients from the recipes themselves. Characteristic of its time, the recipes are strongly influenced by French cooking and contain none of the ingredients from the new colonies in the Americas. There no mention of potatoes, tomatoes, corn or squash. Instead the book shows how much French and English cooking was influenced by food items from the near east. Almonds, rosewater, and Damascus Prunes, were all ingredients brought back by the Crusaders and became standard in recipes of the wealthy.

By my second year working at HSP we decided we wanted to have a potluck from the book. The surprise, prize winning recipe that afternoon was “To make a Lettis Tart”. Yes, I know, this doesn’t sound appetizing, but bear with me. Lettis was used to refer to many different leafy greens including spinach, chard and in this case probably cabbage. This recipe has become my standard for Thanksgiving potlucks as I always have an empty dish at the end of the evening. You will be pleasantly surprised how delicious and easy this recipe is – try it!

The recipe reads:

When you have raised ye crust, lay in all over the bottom some butter, & strow in some sugar, cinnamon, & a little boyle yr cabbage lettis in a little water & salt, & when ye water is drayned from it, lay it in yr coffin with some dammask pruens stoned; then lay on ye top some marrow & such seasoning as you layd on ye bottom. Yn close it up and bake it.

Modern Translation:

  • ½  medium cabbage (about 2-3cups after blanching)
  • 1c prunes chopped
  • 1T sugar
  • 1t cinnamon
  • 1/2t powdered ginger or 1 good grating of fresh ginger
  • 2 pie crusts, enough for base and lid

Preheat oven to 350F and set a large pot of salted water to boil.

Prepare the pie crust in a pie pan according to your favorite recipe. My favorite recipe is go to Trader Joes and purchase one from the frozen section, follow the directions on the box.

In the bottom of the pie pan spread out the chopped prunes. Sprinkle sugar cinnamon, and ginger over the top of the prunes.

Chop the cabbage and blanch quickly in boiling water. Allow to drain completely before placing this on top of the prunes and spices.

Cover the pie with remaining pie crust.

Bake at 350 for 30 – 40 minutes.

Enjoy!

Up next week, join me for a cup of Hannah Penn's coffee. You've never had coffee like this before.

If you would like your own adventure of cooking directly from original historic recipes, you can purchase a facsimile of Ellen Emlen’s Cookbook here.

 

Historical Recipes for your Holiday Table

The collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania include several manuscript recipe books. This includes Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and the Mrs. Penn's cookbooks, along with several volumes from family papers. In the next few weeks before the holidays I thought I would post some of our favorite recipes from these books. If you are looking for something unique for your holiday table, check back weekly for delicious dishes. Recreating the recipes from these books is fun and educational. Those who enjoy such adventures in the kitchen will be well rewarded.

I will start with one of our favorites from Ellen Emlen's Cookbook. Ellen Emlen (1814-1900) was a Philadelphia housewife, who left comprehensive manuscript cookbook behind. Her recipe for Cherry Bread ([147) is easy and delicious.

Pick the stalks from 2 lbs. of cherries, put them in a preserving pan, with about a pint of claret or port wine & 3/4 lb. of sugar – allow this to boil, remove the scum as it rises then run the whole through a sieve. Then cut a dozen pieces of bread, fry them in butter, & dry them in a cloth, shake some cinnamon & sugar over them & simmer all slowly or put in an oven for 1/2 an hour.

Written in typical paragraph style of recipes written pre 20th Century,the recipe is easy enough to follow, despite its unfamiliar form. The only piece of information missing is that the cherries should be sour cherries. The information is not provided as this would have been common knowledge to any cook in the mid 19th-Century. Luckily, all of these recipes are easily adjustable. You can substitute other cherries such as fresh, frozen (thawed first of course), or canned. Just be sure to adjust how much sugar you need by tasting the sauce as it simmers. If you are using regular cherries you will not need as much sugar.

Here is the recipe in modern terms:

  • 2 – 3 cups of sour cherries, stems removed, pitted if you are keeping the fruit (as I do)
  • 2c Claret or Port wine
  • 1 1/2c sugar or amount to taste
  • butter for frying bread 
  • loaf of white or whole grain bread (you need about 12 slices of sandwich size and thickness)
  • extra sugar for sprinkling bread
  • cinnamon

Combine the first three ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and allow mixture to reduce to a syrup. Meanwhile, prepare a baking dish such as a 9x13 cake glass cake pan, unless of course, you have a copper pan as mentioned. Fry the bread in butter until it is golden brown and slightly crispy. As you remove the bread from the frying pan place it in the baking dish and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it. When the cherry mixture has reduced a bit you can strain it if you wish. I choose not to because I like the fruit with the bread. Note: if you choose not to use all of the sugar, the mixture will not be quite as syrupy. But this will not affect the flavor of the dish. Pour the cherry mixture over the bread and put it in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes. The cherry syrup can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.

An easy post-Thanksgiving breakfast perhaps?

Next week - a surprise favorite from Martha Washington's Cookbook.

If you would like your own adventure of cooking directly from original historic recipes, you can purchase a facsimile of Ellen Emlen’s Cookbook here.

Nearing the Finish Line on the Greenfield Digital Project

As the Greenfield Digital Project enters its final months, I'm amazed at all we've accomplished and also trying not to think too much about all the work we have left to complete.                  

We've spent the last two years developing a new web resource that will tell the story of the 1930 failure of Bankers Trust Company, the first large bank to fail in Philadelphia during the Great Depression.

We’ve digitized, transcribed, and encoded about 350 documents (though not all made it through the final vetting to be included in the project). We’ve written brief descriptions of 148+ people and organizations involved in the story of the failure of Bankers Trust. We’ve created a custom XML text-encoding schema and planned additional contextual resources for teachers and other users.

As we continue proofreading and tackling a hundred other tasks, we’re now working with outside web developers and designers to turn our two years of planning into an actual, working web site.

We’ve known from day one the rough outlines of what we’d like to do: present document images and document transcriptions side by side, with links to annotation and other contextual information, and all within a web site that is either part of or matches HSP’s main web site.

But the devil’s in the details.

Do we want users to walk through a specific interpretive story, like in a physical exhibit, or do we envision this working more like a document database, where users can search or browse a list of resources?

Should our document images appear in portrait or landscape orientation, and what would it take to present both? What do we lose by selecting only one default shape, and what do we lose by NOT defining a default shape?

How do we want transcribed text from our documents to appear on screen? Should handwritten edits be displayed differently than typed text? How should we present shorthand notes that we can't translate into readable text?

The list goes on and on. We’ve spent many hours hammering out these sorts of questions and working with the developers to pin down how the new web resource will work.

Soon, we’ll get to see all these plans turned into reality. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be testing out an alpha version of the site, uploading our documents and other content into the system, and then testing everything again to make sure all the moving pieces fit together as we expected.

You can read past blog posts on the Greenfield project, part of a larger effort funded by the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation, here.

I look forward to announcing our launch in early 2013!

12/10/12
Author: Tara O'Brien

When I tell people I love to cook from cookbooks that are 150 to 200 years old, I am always surprised by those who cringe. The first question is always, “Eew – how could it be any good?” Second question, with a look of disgust on the face is, “What did they eat back then?” Answer: same as we do! People have always loved good food. The other reaction is that everyone thinks the food was so rich; cream and butter everywhere. While it is true, Mrs. Emlen does use a lot of butter in her kitchen, that is because butter was used instead of oil. In reality, Mrs.

Comments: 1

12/7/12
Author: Allison Chomet

As an intern with the Greenfield Digital Project, I’ve been working through the summer and the fall researching organizations related to the Bankers Trust story. So far I’ve been most excited about the story of Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, the predescessor to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and its president from 1911 to 1929, Thomas Mitten.

Comments: 16

12/5/12
Author: Hillary Kativa

Looking for a unique and personal gift this holiday season? Archival prints of materials from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's collections are the perfect gift for the history lover on your holiday shopping list.

Comments: 0

11/29/12
Author: Tara O'Brien

For some, Macaroni and Cheese is a sacred family recipe, passed down from generation to generation. For others it is a box purchased in the super market with pasta and a pouch of mystery stuff. Try Mrs. Emlen’s “Macaroni au Gratin” and you will never buy the boxed stuff again!

Comments: 1

11/28/12
Author: Jessica Godfrey

This internship fell into my lap just when I thought I was not going to find anything to fulfill the fieldwork requirement for my Master of Library & Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I live in the great state of Montana, which is large in area but NOT in population or infrastructure. Major towns - of which there are probably only four - are 100+ miles apart. Trying to complete 150 hours of fieldwork is not realistic because the distances are so great.

Comments: 0

11/21/12
Author: Cary Hutto

This November marks the 180th birthday of popular novelist Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), author of such works as Flower Fables (1854), Hospital Sketches (1863), and Little Women (1868).  Most people associate Alcott with her life and work in Massachusetts, but did you know she had a Philadelphia connection?

Comments: 0

11/20/12
Author: Tara O'Brien

In the Penn family papers (Collection 485), Volume NV-006, there are two recipe books.”  Institutional lore says that they were written by each of William Penn's wives and as they are in obviously different handwritings, this is possible. However, at the top of one of the pages there is a note, "My Mother's receipts for Cookerys.... [signed] William Penn." Unfortunatly for this blog post, I do not have the time to explore this mystery further. Suffice to say, the manuscripts belong to the Penn family.

Comments: 2

11/15/12
Author: Tara O'Brien

Within the first three days starting my job at HSP, I was told of our major treasures. These include:  the first four drafts of the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation proclamation signed by President Lincoln. And as an aside, someone mentioned that  we also own Martha Washington’s cookbook. Since my first introduction to it, this book has become one of my favorite documents in our collections. I am a foodie and I love to cook. I enjoy the challenge of a unique recipe, especially one 400 years old.

Comments: 2

11/9/12
Author: Tara O'Brien

The collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania include several manuscript recipe books. This includes Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and the Mrs. Penn's cookbooks, along with several volumes from family papers. In the next few weeks before the holidays I thought I would post some of our favorite recipes from these books. If you are looking for something unique for your holiday table, check back weekly for delicious dishes. Recreating the recipes from these books is fun and educational. Those who enjoy such adventures in the kitchen will be well rewarded.

Comments: 2

11/7/12
Author: Dana Dorman

As the Greenfield Digital Project enters its final months, I'm amazed at all we've accomplished and also trying not to think too much about all the work we have left to complete.                  

Comments: 0