It might come as a surprise to see a recipe like Macaroni and Cheese in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. This recipe was contributed by Mrs. Weiland of Montreal and there are several more macaroni recipes in the cook book. Macaroni was available in Canada for a long time. Some of the earliest references are for using it in soup.
The term macaroni was used a bit the way we talk about pasta. In this case it means any dried type of pasta rather than fresh. During this era it was sold in boxes much as today. You can see reproduction boxes in the 1914 Dry Goods and Grocery Store in Doon Heritage Village at the Waterloo Region Museum. As the recipe hints, the macaroni of 1906 was more like the spaghetti of 2012 and the boxes often had lovely artwork.
I bought some long tubular dried pasta at Vincenzo’s to get some idea about macaroni 1906 style. This particular type is called mezzi ziti. I took one-quarter of the 500 gram package and broke the long tubes into my attempt at 1/4 inch pieces and put them in a pot containing 6 cups (3 pints) of salted water. My pieces were longer than 1/4 inch as the tube pasta was extremely hard. This measurement appears to be designed for something like spaghetti. The mezza ziti package says to cook for 8 minutes so I was very hesitant to cook for 20 minutes. I decided that they started with cold water since the recipe doesn’t say boiling water. I did the same. I grated some old cheddar cheese while waiting to see what would happen with the macaroni. It seemed to boil up much as it does when placed in boiling water.
Next I made the sauce (a basic white sauce) by melting a tablespoon of butter, adding a tablespoon of flour, and once that was mixed slowly adding the 1 1/2 cups of milk. I added just a bit of salt since the butter was salted. I let it simmer and kept stirring. I pulled the macaroni off the stove and let it drain with cold water on it and continued stirring the sauce. When the sauce thickened, I completely drained the macaroni and put one-third in a casserole dish, poured some sauce on and sprinkled grated cheese, and kept doing that until everything was gone. I didn’t add bread crumbs since I’d used them all in yesterday’s recipe. I put the dish in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Keep it in longer if you want more crispy edges but I prefer creamy mac ‘n cheese.
I wonder if Mrs. William Weiler of Baden is the same person as Mrs. Weiler of Montreal. The first Mrs. Weiler’s husband worked in the Livingston oil mill in Baden. Did the family move to Montreal? No, they are still here in the 1911 census along with a few more children. The 1911 census doesn’t have any Weilers or Wielers in Quebec. I wonder how a an English-speaking census taker accustomed to dealing with French names mangle a German name?
This is one of the ways macaroni and cheese was made before the famous commercial version came along (apparently in 1937). Macaroni and cheese recipes have been in North America since the early 19th century. Just think … people have been eating this childhood favorite for two hundred years here and much longer in Italy! I love macaroni and cheese but it doesn’t love me. My favourite version is similar to this one but the cheese is melted into the sauce. Mrs. Weiler’s Macaroni and Cheese might be my new favourite. The pasta was still had some bite (al dente) and there was lots of cheesy sauce. This method lets the cheese melt into the sauce on its own. The choice of cheese and the amount used of course will affect the end result. I’m always generous with cheese. Grab a package of spaghetti or your favourite tube pasta, make the sauce and sprinkle some cheese. Hardly any more work than the famous kind and you have lots more control with this version. Yummy!
For more about the ancient history of macaroni check out http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/id/50/
MACARONI AND CHEESE
1/4 pound macaroni broken in 1/4 inch lengths and cooked for 20 minutes in 3 pints of salted water. Turn into a colander and pour over it cold water, drain, make a sauce of 1 tablespoonful butter and 1 of flour, 1 1/2 cupsful of hot milk, pinch of salt. Place a layer of macaroni in deep dish, then a layer of grated cheese, when full cover with sauce, sprinkle with crumbs. Bake until brown.