Although I still have access to my stove in my freshly painted kitchen, it is just too hot to contemplate cooking anything requiring much heat. Generally on days like today people in 1906 Berlin would eat their hot meal at noon and then have a cold supper. Even with a hired girl to do the cooking and serving it is difficult to imagine anyone in 1912 wanting to eat anything hot tonight. At 6:00 pm it is 34 degrees Celsius (93 Farenheit) but the humidex is 41 C (106 F). The temperature is slowly dropping from the high of 35 an hour ago. We also have severe thunderstorm warnings which means I could lose my power. I decided to try the Porto Rican Stuffed Dates recipe from the Cheese section of the 1906 Berlin Cook Book since it requires minimal effort and no cooking. It was contributed by Mrs. C. Everett Hoffman.
Since I was sceptical about this recipe I decided to make a tiny amount. I took a teaspoon of traditional cream cheese, added a bit of butter and a dash of paprika and salt before mixing and stuffing a couple of pitted dates.
Wilhemine Pattison married Charles Everett Hoffman in 1888. They did not have children and sadly her husband died a few years after the cook book was published. He was a druggist but diabetes was a fatal disease in 1910. The 1911 census shows 40-year-old Minnie Hoffman as a widow living with a 32-year-old housekeeper at 117 Queen street N. The housekeeper was Nellie Dingley, a recent emigrant from England. Both were Anglican.
After I tasted two of these treats I went back and added a dash of sherry to the mix and stuffed a few more dates. I’m not sure if this is an appetizer or dessert as it is sweet but also piques the appetite. There is huge scope for the modern cook with this recipe. Add some cinnamon and it is clearly a dessert. Add some coriander and it is an appetizer. I imagine Porto Rican Stuffed Dates are similar to Figs and Marscarpone. If you are reading this in shorts and a t-shirt, imagine being dressed like Mrs. Hoffman in a corset and several more pieces of underclothing, stockings, skirt and waist (blouse) sitting on her porch in this heat. This snack/dessert/appetizer would be quite nice if the cream cheese has been kept cold.
I’m not sure why they are called Porto Rican Stuffed Dates rather than just stuffed dates. Porto Rico had recently become a territory under the control of the United States but it doesn’t produce dates.
Update: June 2013 — This has become a popular recipe for me. I take Porto Rican Stuffed Dates to speaking engagements and parties where they are a big hit.
PORTO RICAN STUFFED DATES
Season cottage cheese with a little butter, salt and paprika, pit large dates and fill the cavities with the cheese, pressing closely so as to show but a little of the filling. Choose large dark dates, and any good cream cheese if preferred. This can also be moistened with a little sweet cream, or dry sherry wine.