Category Archives: Milan NY History

VINTAGE RECIPES: The Perfect Pumpkin 10/27/19

“Farm produce with small image of horse in the upper left corner”; chromolithograph. Library of Congress. 1893.

Picking the perfect pumpkin is a family tradition. Whether a miniature or the largest pumpkin in the field is chosen to adorn the front step, much discussion and deliberation ensues. Each year, the trip to the pumpkin field ignites memories beginning with “Remember when…”. The excitement and resulting anticipation heightens while bumping through the field on a wagon ride.

Children spring from the wagon and scatter through the field. Some will choose the first one spotted; others will wander for a while with much consideration; one great thinker seemingly arrives on each wagon ride. The most patient driver becomes restless. The other children begin to call. A set of parents begins to apologize as their child carries several pumpkins to a central location and checks for imperfections. Those that do not make the final cut may have a speck of dirt, a rough patch, or perhaps a slightly irregular shape, but the child knows that there is only one “Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”!

The Pumpkin

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Whittier, John Greenleaf. The Pumpkin.

Harvest time on all parts of the farm was busy yet rewarding. In the kitchen, Auntie’s passion for cooking brought joy to family and friends. Each Autumn, I recall the aroma of Auntie’s pumpkin pie.

Auntie’s Recipe for Pumpkin Pie

  • 2 cups of stewed pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 scant pint of milk
  • Bake 45 minutes.
Lee, Russell, photographer. Pumpkins and turnips near Berlin, Connecticut. Library of Congress. October 1939.
Lee, Russell, photographer. Cutting up Pumpkin for Pie. Bakery San Angelo, Texas Library of Congress. November 1939.
Delano, Jack. At the Crouch family Thanksgiving Day dinner. Pumpkin pies. Ledyard, Connecticut. Library of Congress. November 1940

Vintage Recipes: “The Little Peach” and other fruit 8/31/19

Inspiration sometimes derives from the most commonplace thought. When I was captivated with two thick volumes entitled The Cherries of New York and The Peaches of New York dated 1914 and 1915 respectively, I realized how many of my most precious moments included fruit.

Simple idea yet I can plot my growth from child to woman with such experiences. As a child, I recited Eugene Fields’ children’s poem, “The Little Peach”

"A little peach in the garden grew,
A little peach of emerald hue;
Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew, it grew.
One day, passing that orchard through
That little peach dawned on the view...",

learned the Biblical account of Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and viewed many artists’ depictions of fruit arrangements. Despite my appreciation for the arts, it was another role that impacted me even more.

I selected apple drops from beneath the trees in Grandpa’s orchard. The story I learned as a child was that Grandpa, a dairy farmer, had researched which apples would grow best in Dutchess County before purchasing a few additional acres that were set at a higher elevation overlooking rolling hills. In an orchard that already included some old apple trees, he planted Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, McIntosh, and (I believe) Cortland. His research proved insightful as the trees bore delicious and well-formed apples for many years.

This childhood adventure began when our car climbed up the bumpy pathway. When we arrived, we jumped out and ran to select “our” tree. My brother and I were not allowed to climb the ladders; we were in charge of clearing the area beneath each tree. The drops were generally only slightly bruised but could not be sold at full price and were sometimes fed to the farm animals.

After descending from the orchard, we would go to visit Grandma who owned the local general store. She would arise early to bake apple pies and bread at home for her customers. Sometimes she would ask me to help her in the store. Using the old cash register, putting candy bars in the ice cream freezer to prevent melting in the summer, and going down to the crick beneath the bridge were memorable times.

On another farm in Milan, NY where my Grandma grew up, my great-grandfather Burton Coon wrote in his journal entry for Thursday July 18, 1907:

"75 degrees- 5am; foggy, quiet
74 degrees- 9:30pm; partly cloudy
Humid in am-
Showers in pm
picked pail cherries
cut weeds along fence in upper garden
and found wood chuck hole
used trap-got him alright
pulled weeds from sweet corn
and planted a little
pm-raked up
cleaned rifle
42 eggs"

My Auntie was only two when her father wrote that journal entry, but she continued to live at Trail’s End and harvest the fruits and vegetables her whole life. The following recipes were preserved in her recipe box.

Auntie’s Vintage Recipes

Strawberry Cocktails

Slice long, fine berries.
Cover them with orange juice and stand on ice.
Add a teaspoon of powdered sugar.
Serve in sherbet glasses.
Mrs. Horace Dutcher
Peach Melba

Into sherbet glasses, put small squares or slices of plain cake or lady fingers,
half a preserved peach,
2 tablespoons of plain ice-cream,
juice of cooked fruit,
2 tablespoons of whipped cream,
and garnish with Maraschino cherry.
Serve cold.
Mrs. F. S. Rogers
Strawberry Shortcake

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder
3 tablespoons shortening
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients,
mix in shortening;
add beaten egg to milk and
add to dry ingredients to make soft dough.
Smooth one half of dough out lightly.
Put into greased deep layer tin;
spread with butter;
cover with other half of dough which has
also been smoothed out to fit pan.
Bake in hot over 20 to 25 minutes.
Split while hot and
spread crushed and sweetened berries
and whipped cream between layers;
cover top with whipped cream and
whole berries.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Peach Marmalade

10 pounds peaches when peeled and cut small;
7 pounds granulated sugar;
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon;
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger;
1/2 scant teaspoon ground allspice;
1/2 scant teaspoon ground cloves.

Put all in preserving kettle on back of stove and melt down slowly. Bring to front of fire and cook until quite thick, stirring constantly. Remove any scum which may arise. If peaches seem tart, add a little more sugar.
Mrs. Anna B. S.

Strawberry shortcake at a small-town church
Hot apple cider with an old-fashioned donut
Caramel or candied apples?
What are your favorite fruit recipes?

Stay tuned for more of Auntie’s Vintage Recipes next time.

Vintage Recipes: From a Farm Stand 8/10/19

From a Farm Stand

Zucchini, patty pans, onions, scallions, and beets displayed in a vintage basket. Vegetables purchased from a farm stand in Milan, NY in July 2019.

What is the lure of a farm stand?

Meandering the backroads of New York state, I have frequently passed farm stands. What is it that makes some of us stop and return to take a closer look?

A few weeks ago, I pulled into a farm stand in Milan, NY. At first, it appeared to be a simple setup with some vegetables arranged on a wooden table. When I approached a gentleman seated on a lawn chair, we greeted each other before I began to examine what was on display. A jumble of vintage books in a crate and other curiosities surrounded him. He slowly began to tell some stories about the items, and I prompted him with questions and some of my memories of visiting relatives at Trail’s End Farm.

Gradually, I explained my fascination with stories passed down through the generations, and he began to tell me about his origins as a Czech immigrant. His eyes sparkled and his voice became resonant as he recalled those earlier days and a time that was pivotal in the life of his family. It is not only his poignant story which should be heard but also those stories in our own families or communities.

Patty Pan and blueberries are displayed on a Davenport Flow Blue plate and vintage table cloth.

As his story ended, I realized that I hadn’t chosen any vegetables for dinner. A vivacious young lady assisting him packed up my selection ranging from patty pans to blueberries. After we said our goodbyes, I drove away wondering…

  • What is the lure of a farm stand?
  • Is it the beauty of the palette of nature?
  • Is it the succulent flavor to add to our meal?
  • Is it the yearning for a simpler life?
  • Does it bring back memories?

Whatever compels me, you may still find me stopping at a farm stand… What are your memories of a farm stand?

Canned Berries

  • Blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries and strawberries should be canned as soon as possible after picking.
  • Hull or stem.
  • Place in strainer and wash by lifting up and down in pan of cold water.
  • Pack into hot sterilized glass jars, using care not to crush fruit.
  • To insure a close pack, put a 2 or 4 inch layer of berries on the bottom of the jar and press down gently with spoon.
  • Continue in this manner until jar is filled.
  • Boiling water or boiling thin or medium syrup should be poured over the fruit at once.
  • Loosely seal.
  • Sterilize 10 minutes in boiling water.
  • Remove jars, tighten covers, invert to test seal and cool.

Note: This torn and yellowed recipe was preserved in Auntie’s recipe box.

Vintage Recipes: Auntie’s recipes 7/13/19

Auntie’s recipes dating from the early 1900s were well-used and spattered with years of good cooking yet preserved in this box.

As I select vintage recipes to transcribe from Auntie’s recipe box, I recall those treasured moments in her kitchen when I observed and assisted or perhaps hindered her progress with the meal.

photographer: Dorothea Lange, Mrs. Granger’s storeroom. 1939 She has 500-600 quarts of canned food. “You never know what may happen.” Yamhill farms. (FSA – Farm Security Administration). Yamhill County, Williamette Valley, Oregon. “From the NY Public Library”

My memories of the cooking experience include my hesitant journey into the dirt floor cellar of the old farmhouse to retrieve a Mason jar of the requested fruit canned the previous season. Slowly, I took the first step on the worn narrow stairs illuminated with a swinging dusty bulb. I viewed the cobwebs, smelled the dust, and felt the damp chill of being underground.

I proceeded cautiously toward the wooden shelf containing neatly lined and labelled Mason jars. With two hands tightly grasping the blue glass jar, I turned around and saw shadows in the dark corners. An avid reader of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, I imagined myself the protagonist of my own mystery …

Film Still From Nancy Drew: Detective; 1938 “From the NY Public Library”

until I heard my Auntie calling.

Auntie was the best cook that I can recall. What are your memories of a favorite cook?

Desserts

Chocolate Caramels

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of molasses
  • 1/2 cake of Baker’s chocolate

Boil an hour and cool on buttered tins.

Courtesy of Mrs. A. Campbell

Tapioca Cream

  • 2 tablespoons of tapioca, soaked in cold water.
  • Set on the stove.
  • When thoroughly dissolved, pour in a quart of milk.
  • When this begins to boil, stir in the yolks of two eggs, well beaten.
  • Stir in a cup of sugar.
  • When this boils stir in the egg whites, beaten to a stiff froth.
  • Take immediately from the fire.
  • Flavor to taste.

Courtesy of Mrs. A. Campbell

Content: C.W.S. Cigarettes – England. Cigarette Card; “From the NY Public Library”

Ruth’s Layer Cake

(Ruth may have been Ruth Coons of Barrytown, NY- the site of memorable July Fourth Family Gatherings.)

  • 1 cup of butter or lard
  • 2 level cups of sugar
  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 level cups of flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 level teaspoon of salt

Bake in 4 layers.

Auntie’s box of recipes includes cooking-related ephemera of the time.

Apple Custard

  • Pare and core half a dozen very tart apples;
  • cook them in half a tea cup of water till they begin to soften;
  • put them in a pudding dish and sugar them;
  • beat eight eggs with four spoons of sugar;
  • add three pints of milk;
  • pour over the apples and bake half an hour.

Shared by Miss M. A. Hedden

Included in Auntie’s box of recipes.

Breads

Biscuits

  • Into a quart of sifted flour put two heaping teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt;
  • mix together while dry;
  • then rub into it a piece of lard a little larger than an egg; mix with cold sweet milk;
  • roll thin;
  • cut with a tin cutter;
  • and bake a light brown in a hot oven.

Send to the table immediately.

Come back to visit again soon. New recipes will be added each week.