Apples are one of the most popular and available fruits in America. That was especially true during the last century. In the early years of the twentieth century the apple was food, drink and medicine and were therefore held in high esteem.
Gertrude Mackay wrote The Housekeeper’s Apple Book in 1917. She presented over two hundred ways to prepare apples for the “modern” housekeeper. In addition to the recipes, there was prudent medical advice extolling the virtues of the apple:
Doctor Harry Barnard, Chairman of the Food Division of the American Chemical Society says, “An apple eaten in the evening will mechanically and chemically clean the teeth and protect them from the bacterial ravages during the night when most damage is done.”
And this advice:
Doctor Hobart of Tasmania says: “The sailor who lives for a long time on salt pork and biscuit alone will rot with scurvy, and if he takes the sugars, acids, etc., contained in an apple every day separately, he will still die, but if he takes an apple a day his blood will keep perfectly right.”
With advice like this to the average “Housekeeper” one can only imagine what an impact this advice had on these women and how they must have run right out to the nearest orchard for help. Ironically, many of these recipes add a ton of sugar; so all that mechanical and chemical tooth cleaning might really be needed after the marmalades, cakes and puddings.
As was the style, MacKay’s book offers up a small paragraph of ingredients and instructions but for most of the details the cook is on her own.
Apples in Maple Syrup
Cut eight apples in halves and remove the cores with a teaspoon, put into a baking pan with one cup of maple syrup and one and one-half cups of water and two tablespoons of butter. Bake until the syrup is thick and serve with whipped cream.
This is one of my favorite recipes. I make a lot of marmalade and jams and I am always getting new cookbooks featuring confiture. Books published in America are meticulous about the canning process. When I run across recipes like this one, I always chuckle.Looking at all the care that goes into canning today and then looking back at all the canning that was done a hundred years ago, without thermometers, and fancy canning tops and pressure cookers, one might wonder why we are still all alive.
For years I ate my great-aunt’s jams sealed with paraffin. I recently read a blog where a reader asked if he could make old-fashioned jam like his mother and seal the jars with paraffin. The answer was a resounding no. (In fact, the blogger was so horrified at the thought of sealing a jar with paraffin one would have though the poor guy wanted to can human blood.)
Here is an old school jelly recipe, but for heavens sake, don’t try this at home.
Apple and Mountain Ash Jelly
Take equal parts of quartered apples and the berries of the mountain ash. Boil until soft. Drain and add one pound of sugar to each pint of juice. Boil until it jellies. Turn into tumblers and cover with paraffin.
Remember: An Apple a day keeps the doctor away. As for that pound of sugar -- you're on your own.