Thursday, April 19, 2007

52 Sunday Dinners and Cottolene

What the heck is Cottolene? It was a product that was invented in the late 1800’s as a substitue for lard. Lard was considered a lower class food item. Lard was messy. People were becoming modern and more urbanized. Marketing of pre packaged products was in its infancy. Cottolene was a combination of cottonseed oil and beef tallow: two of today’s worst offenders in the war on fats. Beef suet that was including in the frying mixture at McDonald’s was the ingredient that gave the fries their distinctive flavor. Here is a link to an informative article about the long gone Cottolene product.

52 Sunday Dinners, by Elizabeth O Hiller, was published in 1915 as a promotion for the Cottolene product. This was a common practice to bring new foods to the consumer. Many people collect these promotional publications from companies like Jello, Nestle and Crisco.

People had different ideas about meals and the importance of eating together than we do now. On any given Sunday now, we are all going different directions and may not even eat at the same time or same table. Sunday dinners were an occasion to feast on the day of rest. Day of rest.... well, maybe not so much for the housewife who spent the day preparing the meal.

A sample dinner from 52 Sunday Dinners on the fourth Sunday in March is like this:

Cream of Lettuce
Baked Ham with Hot Horseradish Sauce
Sweet Potato Croquettes (fried in Cottolene of course)
Grapefruit salad
Cheese Balls
Rhubarb Tart
After Dinner Coffee

Always there was the after dinner coffee!!! I suspect they ate a bit earlier than we do now.

Here is the Ham and Horseradish Sauce in their very own words:

Select a lean ham, weighting from 12 to 14 pounds. Cover with cold water (or equal parts water and sweet cider) and let soak skin side up over night.

Drain, scrap and trim off all objectionable parts about the knuckle. Cover flesh side with a dough made of flour and water. Place in a dripping pan, skin side down.

Bake in a hot oven until dough is a dark brown; reduce heat and bake very slowly five hours. Ham enclosed in dough needs no basting.

Remove dough, turn ham over and peel off the skin. Sprinkle ham with sugar, cover with grated bread crumbs and bake 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and decorate with cloves;place a paper frill on knuckle, garnish with sprays of parsley and lemon cut in fancy shapes.

Serve hot or cold

Notice no temperature instructions. Our housewife was most likely cooking on a wood stove. A hot oven was a matter of experience. Objectionable parts? I have no real idea here. No measurements either. It was assumed that the gentle reader of the cookbook already had a knowledge of cooking that was most likely learned in her own Mother's kitchen who learned it from her mother and so on. I like to envision it as an endless reflection of people looking into a mirror showing a reflection of themselves looking into the mirror and so on and so on.

Hot Horseradish Sauce

1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish
1/4 cup fine cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp grated onion

Cook crumbs, horseradish and milk 20 minutes in double boiler. Add seasoning, vinegar and lemon juice slowly stirring constantly. Add grated onion, reheat and serve

I have made this horseradish sauce using the undiluted Tulelake horseradish. It is hot and my husband tends to temper it with some sour cream.

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