(The following was written by Marilyn Gibboney, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
Refrigeration before electricity was an icebox. Some fortunate people had a spring house. In any of the milk houses there would be water tanks to cool milk. My maternal grandfather and his brother shared a ice house for many years. They would cut the ice on Darby Creek near Georgesville in the winter and haul it to the ice house where was packed in sawdust. They piled straw around the ice house to retard the thawing of the ice. The ice was used in the summer to cool food but not used for human consumption.
The recipes grandmother used were a “pinch” of this or that– the feel of the thing–the looks of it. The recipes were handed down and shared with friends. There were not many printed cookbooks. The stove did not have a temperature gauge so she just knew when it was hot enough and when it was time to take out the bread. Most recipes were given in pounds and ounces for basic ingredients.
In an old cookbook, 1890 Royal Baker and Pastry Cook, All the frosting and icing recipes use pulverized sugar. The following is an example using the terms of the day. 1 1/2 lbs. of white sugar dust, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 oz. rose extract. Place whites of 4 eggs and sugar in a bowl with juice and extract. Beat with a wooden spoon until letting some run it maintains the threadlike appearance for several minutes, then use as icing. Another read as follows: Place 1 lb. of pulverized white sugar in saucepan with 1/2 pint water, boil until consistency of mucilage, then rub sugar with wooden spoon against side of pan until it assumes a white milky appearance. Stir in 2 tablespoons extract of vanilla.
My grandmother’s and every other woman in her day baked bread. It was done every other day but not on Sunday. The flour came from the wheat that was taken to the mill and ground. The cornmeal used in cooking was also a product that was ground at the mill. Coffee cake was a staple food and eaten at all meals not only breakfast. They were variations on this called kuchens and baked regularly. Different kinds of fruits were placed on top of the raw coffee cake dough, punched down and sugar and sour cream added to this. It was Delicious, Pies were made with lard crusts and fruits that were grown on the farm. Milk was plentiful so many custards were made. Cakes were for special occasions. They were usually a sponge or pound cake variety, jelly rolls were also a favorite.
My grandmother told me a story about her young days–maybe 1890. She went to a house dance and, as custom dictated, the girls would bring something baked. After the dancing was over, they would have a Dutch lunch. She baked a 2 layer sponge cake and spread jelly between the layers for icing.
(The conclusion of this story in the next blog entry.)