Holiday blast from the past

Since I’ve been busy with typing up the recipes for the Daily Globe’s 2011 Recipe Roundup Book, which is enclosed with this edition, here’s another holiday blast from the past from DotMom’s Mixing and Musing column from December 1971:

Are you curious about America’s heritage of Christmas customs? Consult Mrs. Gil Johnsson.
Wife of the Nobles County librarian, Lillian Johnsson seems to have read ever book in the library dealing with Yule traditions, especially in the field of cookery.

Not only has Mrs. J researched much culinary data, she has also applied it to her kitchen. In turn, she has “applied” it to the hips and waistlines of those of us attending the library’s Tuesday “Mama Is” Christmas foods program.

Billed as “Chef de Cuisine,” Mrs. Johnsson displayed, discussed and dispensed tastes of delectable dishes and dainties. In grammatic parlance, that’s far too much alliteration. In gastronomic terms, it was far too much temptation.

The dazzling array of foods of many nations — all prepared by Lillian Johnsson and her mother, Mrs. John Starkenburg — included unusual breads, several varieties of plum puddings and sauces, cookies, candies, desserts.

More than 100 homemakers, eager of holiday ideas, attended the Tuesday session and sampled the festive fare. Observing the tasters in their nibbling and diagnosing, we decided this cranberry dish, a favorite in the Starkenburg family for many years, was most popular.

Baked Cranberries

Combine 1 can whole cranberry sauce, 1 can jellied cranberries, 1½ boxes (8 ounce size) chopped dates and 1½ cups chopped pecans. Mix all together and put in buttered Pyrex 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until set. Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Being a rice pudding devotee, my personal vote for tops in desserts would be cast for this one.

Fruited Rice Pudding

Drain a 1-pound can fruit cocktail, reserving syrup. Combine the syrup with 3 cups cooked rice, ¾ cup milk, 2 well-beaten eggs, ½ cup granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon grated lemon rind. Put in well-greased 1 ½ quart casserole. Top with fruit cocktail.

Mix 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup finely chopped nuts and 2 tablespoons flour. Cut in 3 tablespoons butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on fruit.

Bake at 375 about 45 minutes. Serve warm or cool. Makes 6 servings.

’Tis said, according to Lillian Johnsson’s research, that Henry VIII decreed that his cook concoct a new plum pudding every day for the 12 days of Christmas. ’Tis assumed that this library cooking expert made about that many puddings in preparation for her program. This was one of them.

Steamed Christmas Pudding

Cream ½ cup softened butter and 1 ½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed. Beat in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 1 cup peeled, grated carrots, 1 cup peeled, grated apples, ½ cup raisins, 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped. Sift 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Add 1 cup fine dry white bread crumbs. Mix well. Spoon into well-oiled 1½ quart mold. Cover securely with mold lid or several thicknesses of waxed paper tied in place with string.

Place mold on a rack in covered kettle of boiling water. Water should come halfway up on the mold. Steam for three hours. Unmold pudding onto serving plate; flame if you wish. Serve hot with caramel sauce. Serves 8 to 10.

Caramel sauce: In small saucepan combine ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dash of salt. Add 1 cup boiling water. Cook until thickened and clear; stir constantly. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

For flame: Soak sugar cubes in lemon extract tinted with red food color. Just before serving, place 2 or 3 cubes on top of pudding or several around sides, not touching pudding (use a metal or flameproof dish. Light the cubes.

Of all the traditions discussed by Lillian Johnsson, the one most ladies in her audience could identify with most was “borrowing Mother’s recipes.” This is one of Mrs. Starkenburg’s specialties which made a hit among the tasters.

Almond Slices

Combine ½ cup shortening and ½ cup butter with 2 cups flour, ½ teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup cold water. Prepare like pastry dough. Roll out a little more than half the dough to fit a 9- by 13-inch pan. Bring it up the sides of the pan.

Beat 4 egg yolks, adding 8 tablespoons milk, 2 cups sugar, 8 tablespoons flour and 4 teaspoons almond extract. (That’s right — 4 teaspoons.) Beat until well-blended. Pour over crust. Cover with remaining dough, rolled out. Brush top with cream and sugar. Bake at 350 about 1 hour, or at 325 if Pyrex pan is used. Cut in squares.

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