Today I attended an event at the University of Guelph called What’s Cooking in the Archives that celebrated and revealed some of the special things in their culinary collection. . . and to eat some food! Although the food was tasty the recipes were not very old but they did come from some of the cook books in the amazing collection of food related books, periodicals, manuscripts and ephemera in the University of Guelph Library Culinary Collection. http://www.lib.uoguelph.ca/resources/archival_&_special_collections/the_collections/digital_collections/culinary/ I was able to examine some cook books that were at least 200 years old. Later I spent some time in the archives looking at another original copy of the 1906 Berlin Cook Book and other material from the era which I hope will make this blog even better!
All of this reenergized my interest in this project and I decided to tackle one of the sections I find difficult in the cook book — Pies. Those of you that have followed my adventures for a while know that making pastry is a challenge for me. I decided to get creative and focus on the fillings for the pie and find an alternative to the pastry. Today I am making Emma Hopp’s Buttermilk Pie but I’ve put the filling in commercial tart shells. I know it is not historically accurate to use frozen pastry but the filling will be the same and tarts are accurate too.
There are three recipes for Buttermilk Pie in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book and each one is slightly different. I started by mixing the butter and brown sugar together since I couldn’t figure out how else the butter was going to blend with the other ingredients. Butter is quite cold at this time of year whether it is in an ice box (refrigerator) or sitting on a table like mine. I creamed the two ingredients, separated three medium eggs and beat the egg yolks. Once the yolks were incorporated into the mixture I added the flour. I dissolved the baking soda in the 1 pint (2 cups) of buttermilk and then stirred it with everything else. My method might have been faulty as things didn’t blend all that well. I spooned the mixture into twelve prepared tart shells and baked them in the oven for 30 minutes at 325° F.
I used commercial buttermilk since I don’t have access to the sort of buttermilk available in 1906. This would be the byproduct of butter making either at home or commercially but the cream used for the butter was unpasteurized. The cream was skimmed from the milk before it was churned into butter. Once the butter formed the remaining liquid was buttermilk. I could take cream and turn it into butter and use that liquid but it takes a lot of cream plus the buttermilk would still not be the same sort of product.
Once the tarts were firm and the pastry slightly brown I removed them temporarily. I whisked the egg whites until they were stiff and spooned that on top of most of the tarts. I sprinkled cocoanut on the majority of the tarts. I plan to serve them to some friends visiting tomorrow and not everyone like cocoanut. I put the tarts back in the oven for ten minutes. I took them out to cool before sampling.
Emma Hopp was born in 1874. In 1901 according to the census she lived with her parents and a slightly older sister. Emma worked in a button factory like many other young women in Berlin Ontario. Women also worked in textile related industries in town but button factories had become synonymous with Berlin which was sometime nicknamed Buttonville. One of the things that was a little different about Berlin was the way people of different societal levels lived nearby. Emma’s father was a day labourer but listed further up the same page of the census are families like the Rumpel’s who owned factories! It was common in this town (soon to become a city) for factory owners to live near their factories and for the employees to have homes nearby also.
For some reason, until I tasted it, I didn’t pick up on the idea that buttermilk pie filling would be like a custard pie — something that appears far down on my list of edible pies. Yes, buttermilk pie filling is edible and even a little tasty if you like custard but the other problem for me is the “frosting” of egg whites. This is not the sweet meringue of lemon pie. This is simply egg whites whipped and put on top of the pie, or tart. I know I’ve picked the wrong recipe when the cocoanut sprinkled on top is my favourite part and I’m scooping out the filling to eat the pastry! Usually I skip the pastry and eat the filling. My advice to fellow food time travellers — try this recipe if you have buttermilk on hand and like custard pies since it will turn out for you. Otherwise skip the entire thing.
Beat the yolks of 3 eggs, add 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1 pint buttermilk. Frosting — Beat the white of the eggs to a stiff froth, then put cocoanut over the top. Bake in slow oven.