Summer (Cooking) School, Part 2: Canning and Preserving

Picking up on the theme from earlier this month, I thought it might be fun to continue some cooking school lessons over the summer. So, this week, we’re looking at Ola Powell’s Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, published in 1917.

Each chapter includes a LOT of informational content, but each is also punctuated by photographs and illustrations throughout. Since the book is really designed to be a lesson book, though not exactly a text book, it does come complete with built-in quizzes. The end of every chapter includes a list of questions about the content, so you can make sure that learning has really soaked in and been preserved (pun intended, of course). The chapters cover the foods you would expect: fruits, veggies, pickles and relishes, jellies, preserves/conserves/marmalades, and fruit juices. But it also includes chapters on the history and safety of canning and preserving, techniques, drying foods for preservation, canning as a business, and teaching canning.

The diversity of this content is an important reflection on the significance of canning and food preservation. It was a necessity for feeding a family, but it was also a social activity, a profit-making opportunity, and clearly integrated into many aspects of domestic and home life, whether rural or urban.

Ola Powell was an extension agent by training and that surely shows. In addition to the many editions of Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use, between the mid 1910s- and the early 1940s, she also authored or co-authored works on a variety of other topics, including making and caring for mattresses and bedding, sewing, plants and plant diseases, home demonstration work, and farm and garden management.

You can find Successful Canning and Preserving; Practical Hand Book for Schools, Clubs, and Home Use in its entirely among the scanned books from Special Collections online. You know, in case you’re looking for a good mushroom ketchup recipe or a few trivia questions on the advantages of canning in tin versus glass.

Until our next summer school lesson, stay cool and enjoy something tasty…

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Peterson’s Pickled Peppers?

It’s been a while since we talked about canning and food preservation. Although we have lots of earlier publications that deal with different aspects of food preservation, this week, we’re looking at the oldest manual dedicated to the subject in our collection (at least for now): Peterson’s Preserving, Pickling & Canning Fruit Manual: Containing A Choice Collection of Receipts for Preserving, Pickling and Canning Fruits, Many of Them Being Original from Housewives of Experience, written in 1869 by Mrs. M. E. P[eterson]. If you weren’t sure what this book was about by the title, the subtitle sure clears it up! I think it also serves as an interesting marketing technique. It emphasizes the idea that this is a book written for housewives by housewives.

And yes, as the blog title suggests, there are recipes for a variety of pickled peppers, too! Throughout the book we can also find “recipes” that are more like household hints: how to dry herbs, remove fruits stains, or make a sealant for canning jars, for example.

In many cases, Mrs. M. E. P. has attributed the recipe to the author, but she is no more specific than “Mrs. C’s.” We don’t really have a way to trace these recipes. Still, I can’t help but wonder if they might be ladies whose names we’ve seen elsewhere. Whatever the case may be, clearly, Mrs. P. knows her stuff. The best part about this manual is its timelessness. The technology may have changed, but the ingredients haven’t. So next time you’re thinking marmalade or pickles, maybe we can help. 🙂

Women’s History Month Profile, Part 5: Ruth Berolzheimer (1886-1965)

March means it’s Women’s History Month again and I thought it would be fun, like last year, to profile some awesome women and their roles in American culinary history.

Culinary Arts Institute logo
Culinary Arts Institute logo

We have more than a few of Ruth Berolzheimer’s volumes in our collection. In fact, hers is a name I encountered early on in my work with the History of Food and Drink Collection and one that persistently appears, if I’m hunting for recipes and publications from the 1940s and 1950s. She was a prolific editor of culinary publications as the director of the Culinary Arts Institute in Chicago. She edited a series of booklets devoted to various foods. Our holdings include:

  • 250 Classic Cake Recipes, c.1949
  • 250 Delicious Soups, c.1941
  • 250 Superb Pies and Pastries, c.1941 and 1953 editions
  • 250 Ways to Prepare Poultry and Game Birds, c.1940
  • 250 Ways to Serve Fresh Vegetables, 1950
  • 300 Healthful Dairy Dishes, 1952
  • 300 Ways to Serve Eggs from Appetizers to Zabaglione, 1940
  • 500 Delicious Dishes from Leftovers, c.1949
  • 500 Delicious Salads, 1940, 1949, and 1953 editions
  • 500 Snacks, c.1949
  • The Cookie Book, c.1949
  • The Dairy Cook book, c.1941
  • Victory Canning: Preserving, Drying, Smoking, and Pickling of Fresh Foods for Future Use, c.1942
  • The Wartime Cookbook: 500 Recipes, Victory Substitutes and Economical Suggestions for Wartime Needs, 1942.

Among those not in our holdings are publications on desserts, fish and seafood, potatoes, meat, sandwiches, breads, and candies.

In addition to the themed publications, Ruth Berolzheimer and the Culinary Arts Institute produced a lengthy list of other cookbooks. There were multiple editions of The American Woman’s Cook Book, as well as the wartime variant, The American Women’s Food Stretcher Cook Book: Make Your Ration Points Go Twice as Far, and many editions of the Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook.

On a related note, I found this great 2008 online article about Ruth and her work, which also includes an interview with one of her nephews: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-cookbook-queen/Content?oid=1106100.

Be sure to check back next week, when the blog features publications from the History of Food and Drink Collection by Lily Haxworth Wallace!

Kerr-ful Canning: Preservation at Home

Wander the shelves that contain our History of Food and Drink Collection and you’ll find lots about preservation: canning, freezing, pickling, and drying texts abound. We’ve covered preserving from a home perspective (pickling recipes from handwritten manuals) and canning from a women’s publication. Today, we’re turning to the professionals.

Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation began in 1903 as a distributor of glass jars and related canning supplies and still remains a household name today (at least where food preservation is concerned). This week, we’re featuring the 1948 Kerr Home Canning Book. It’s a practical “how-to,” chock full of instructions, recipes, and even a FAQ! Recipes range from the expected (fruits, veggies, jellies/jams/preserves, butters and conserves, and pickles) to the less common (fish, meats,  and soups/stocks) to the downright “Unusual Foods” section (featuring plum pudding, milk, and tamales).

Home canning, a staple during the early 20th century, also proved vital to storing and rationing during World War II. In more recent years, it has seen a revival in all kinds of communities, with farmers markets, CSAs, and home gardens. Although the information has certainly changed some (you don’t necessarily want to rely on the 1948 FAQ when it comes to modern technologies), the reasons behind and interest in home canning processes have not.

Here at Special Collections, we have Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation publications from the 1940s up through the 1990s in both the library catalog and the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, as well as publications from the competition (Ball Brothers, Co., later Ball Corporation) dating from the 1920s-1970s. Feel free to stop by and peruse. We might have just the recipe for extra fruits and veggies (and rabbit meat if you’re looking to make “Bunny Sausage”).

P.S. If anyone can explain the porcelain dolls and elves to me, I’d love to hear your theories. I’m still not quite sure what either have to do with food preservation…

Kentucky Home Cooking

We featured several pages from the Kentucky Receipt Book a while back, in a post about the variety of lettuce sandwich recipes. However, this is a LOT more to this wonderful publication from 1903 and it’s high-time the cookbook had its moment in the spotlight…

One of the most noticeable things about this cookbook is the lack of a table of contents. The index at the back gives pages numbers for recipes by category (see image above), but if you’re looking for something specific, it takes a little digging. But, if you’re willing to dig, this book is full of surprises. A few examples:

  • the Kentucky Receipt Book is believed to contain one of the earliest printed recipes for banana pudding–however, if you look at the images above, you’ll notice the vital absence of vanilla wafers (although Nabisco was producing a cookie similar to the modern wafer by 1903).
  • there is an entire section devoted to oysters: fried, baked, skewered, curried, griddled, broiled, creamed, deviled, roasted, fricasseed, pickled, raw, in pastry, on toast, in an omelette, as a croquette, in a sauce…the book even contains directions for feeding oysters (keep them in your cellar!).
  • a whole host of unique animals and particular parts appear, including wild grouse, squirrel, terrapin, hog and calf head (for scrapple and mock turtle, respectively), backbone, and sweetbreads.
  • there is a section on beverages with directions for making fruit wines, cordials, beer, vinegar,  punches, and cocktails (gin fizzes, manhattans, and of course, the mint julep!). Several of the tea recipes also include rum.
  • directions on how to pickle everything from cucumbers and peppers to figs, melons, and walnuts
  • household hints and remedies like treating freckles with horseradish, cleaning zinc with kerosene, and curing headaches with lemon slices.

The Kentucky Receipt Book  is available here at Special Collections if you’re in the area and looking for a gelatin salad or pigeon dish for your next party. You can also view it through the Internet Archive, since it is out of copyright.

And remember, you only need to feed those oysters every other day, so take today off and bake a lemon pie, instead. This cookbook has seven variations…

Veggie Displays in the Reading Room!

Next week, there’s something exciting happening here on the Virginia Tech campus–the premiere of “Vegetable Verselets: A Vegetarian Song Cycle!” Inspired by a book from our own Culinary History Collection, the Sunday April 29th concert event sets to music a series of poems about vegetables. Following the concert, Special Collections will open its doors and share some of the Culinary History Collection during a reception in the library.

To whet your whistle, in celebration of the concern, the collection, and National Poetry Month,we have two themed exhibits in our display cases here at Special Collections. One is all about vegetables; the other is highlights poetry about food from our Rare Book Collection. There are a few pictures below, but if you’re in the area, you’ll want to stop by!

More information, including ticket prices and location, is available online. We hope to see you there!

For more about how this collaboration came about, check out the spotlight here–it includes a video preview.

The Fruits (and Veggies) of a Little Kitchen Labor

Food preservation tends to be a relatively common topic in food research, at least here at Special Collections. Early on in the blog, we featured a publication on nuclear testing and preserved foods. This week, we’re taking a slightly different approach. In other words, no cans were harmed in the creation of the Ladies’ Home Journal’s How to Can Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats from 1917–just the foods being canned.

This pamphlet features advice on how to can, what to use/what not to use, and common failures and their causes. In addition, it points out the monetary values of preserving your own garden to save on shopping and to make a little extra cash:

If you can produce a “fancy” quality of fruits and vegetables you can demand as fancy price as many fancy grocers. Last year one girl put up such an excellent quality of fruits and vegetables that she was able to market them at…unusual prices.

Possible overuse of the word “fancy” aside in the paragraph above, the money-saving aspect of canning has continued to make it a common practice today. And then there’s the convenience of getting fruits and veggies “from your own cellar.”

The second half of the pamphlet includes canning-specific recipes for different types of foods, including the challenging (meats) and the easy basics (soups). All the information comes from a variety of sources, helpfully compiled here by the Ladies’ Home Journal–which was likely all the more valuable during war-time. The pamphlet doesn’t make too many explicit references, but it is important to remember this was published during World War I. (It does, however, refer to canning work by “Uncle Sam’s girls” more than once.) Stretching, rationing, and saving are themes of no small importance in 1917 and we will see them repeat even more so during World War II, as women increasingly split their time between work and home.

So, don’t be scared when it comes to preserving your fruits and veggies, war-time or not. Just remember, if you can eat it, you can probably can it. Which is a good thing, right?