“The day was ending in perfect satisfaction. They were all there together. All the work, except supper dishes, was done unitl tomorrow. They were all enjoying good bread and butter, fried potatoes, cottage cheese, and lettuce leaves with vinegar and sugar.”
—Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town On The Prairie
As noted in my last blog post, I went to Local Harvest Cafe last night for their “Little House on the Prairie” dinner … and as promised, here are the first two recipes for the dishes we enjoyed last night, taken from The Little House Cookbook.
Our meal began with graham bread, which was dense, nutty, and reminiscent of a graham cracker. Topped with Chef Moore’s homemade butter, made from raw milk from Greenwood Farms, this was a lovely and fresh way to start the evening.
A little digging on the Internet revealed that graham bread recipes were the brainchild of Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister known for his strict adherence to vegetarianism and healthy living. Oh yeah, he also invented the graham cracker.
Graham advocated the use of bread at least twelve hours old, baked from whole wheat that was unbolted and coarsely ground. He also proposed hard mattresses, open bedroom windows, cold shower baths, vegetables, fresh fruits, rough cereals, pure drinking water, and cheerfulness at meals. I like all of these things so I think I’d have liked Sylvester Graham, but apparently, he also believed that masturbation could cause mental illness (I’m not joking, see here) so now I’m not too sure.
Anyway … here is the recipe:
Yeast, 2 small cakes or envelopes
Whole-wheat flour, 4 cups stoneground
White flour, 2 cups unbleached all-purpose
Salt, 2 teaspoons
Molasses, 1/4 cup
Drippings, 1 tablespoon [I think olive oil could be substituted.]
1. In a small bowl, crumble yeast into 1/4 cup bloodwarm water [yes, that’s what it said]. Let soak 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine flours and salt, and make a wide, deep well in the center.
3. To the yeast, add the molasses and 2 cups of bloodwarm water and stir. Pour this liquid into the well and stir around and around at the center. Gradually the batter will thicken into a stiff dough. When all the flour is mixed in, dust the dough mass with the extra hnadful of flour so it no longer sticks to the bowl. Cover with a dishtowel and set it to rise to room temperature (68°F) for about 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
4. With a floured fist, punch the dough down and turn it onto a floured board. Knead a few times, then pull into a rope and cut in half with a knife. Flatten each half into a rectangle and roll up like a jelly roll. Grease loaf pans with drippings. Turn loaves to grease them as you put them in pans. Cover, and set to rise for another 2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the loaves about 40 minutes, then remove bread from pans. Return loaves to oven rack to bake for 10 minutes more. Cool well. Slicing will be easiest next day.
Makes two 1 1/2 pound loaves.
Next up on the menu was lettuce leaves with vinegar and sugar. What, you say? I know, and I thought the same thing, but this was a surprising—and fun—way to enjoy a simple salad just as the pioneers did. The recipe …
Lettuce Leaves With Vinegar and Sugar
Lettuce, 1 full head fresh garden variety
Vinegar in cruet
Sugar in bowl
1. Wash lettuce by dipping leaves quickly in a basin of cold water (a running spigot wastes water; soaking leaves wastes vitamins). Drain on kitchen towels; pat dry. Arrange lettuce in bowl and take to the table with cruet and sugar bowl.
2. At the table, take leaf in your fingers, sprinkle it with some vinegar and sugar, roll it tight, and eat as you would a celery stalk.
Yep, that’s it. It was crunchy, sweet, and tangy … and it was good.
Oh, Chef Moore used Bibb lettuce because as the author of The Little House Cookbook mentioned, “One certainty is that it was not iceberg, a modern lettuce bred with tight leaves and a firm head suited for interstate shipping. It was probably a loose-leaf variety, such as Simpson, but in this recipe you can also use butterhead [Bibb or Boston] or romaine (cos) lettuces—just so they’re garden fresh.”
Stay tuned tomorrow for more pioneer recipe fun from The Little House Cookbook.