Monday, April 13, 2009

"Virginia Cookery - Past and Present" & "McCalls' Cook Book" - Champagne Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

Date I made these recipes: April 12, 2009 (Easter Sunday)

Virginia Cookery – Past and Present - Including A Manuscript Cook Book of The Lee and Washington Families Published for the first time – by The Woman’s Auxiliary of Olivet Episcopal Church, Franconia, Virginia
Published by The Woman’s Auxiliary of Olivet Episcopal Church, Franconia, Virginia
© 1957; Twelfth printing, February 1994
Recipe: Champagne Ham from “Key to the Pantry,” Danville, Virginia, 1898 – p. 137

McCall’s Cook Book – The Absolutely Complete Step-By-Step Cooking and Serving Guide by McCall’s magazine
Published by: Random House
© 1963 (8th printing)
Recipe: Scalloped Potatoes – p. 593

But first, a headline: Cookbook Blogger Felled by Falling Roasting Rack. Details at 10….

Well, there I was, trying to grab my large roasting pan from a top shelf without using a step stool to do so when all of a sudden, the pan crashed to the floor and the roasting rack inside the roaster fell on my head. Since I was not wearing a helmet (not that I would, I’m just saying…), I feared major injury and so reached into my freezer for my (ever-ready) trusty ice pack that I then Velcroed to the top of my head for a bit of time. (It looked ridiculous—as if I was nursing a mega hangover! – but dang it, it works great on killer headaches) It still hurts like hell but as long as I don’t die from the injury, I’ll be okay; I can’t help but think, though, of poor Natasha Richardson, the actress who died from a head injury while learning to ski on a bunny hill. Head injuries of any form are nothing to sneeze at! (By the way, in case you didn’t know, cooking is a hazardous job—many severe injuries occur in the kitchen and being a restaurant chef almost requires combat pay. Beware of falling pans, falling knifes and hot liquids!)

Okay, injury aside, it’s Easter and so that means either ham or lamb and since I don’t like lamb, I settled for ham.

Now ham is not necessarily a hard thing to bake but as usual, finding a suitable recipe took some time. I don’t know of any grocery stores around here that sell “fresh” ham, nor do I know of any that carry the famous Smithfield hams but the minute they do, I have a Smithfield cookbook all ready to roll.

So my options were now whittled down to making either a pre-cooked or a ready-to-cook ham and so I bought a ready-to-cook ham. But as per usual, kids, I ran into technical difficulties right up front.

I told my sister-in-law that I was so focused on the ingredients of my ham recipe (okay, specifically champagne) that I didn’t make note of the cooking instructions, or lack thereof, until after I bought the ham and so had to make some alterations. For example, this recipe called for me to cook the ham in a “slow” oven; what does that mean??!! Nancy laughed and said “Didn’t you run into the same problem with that “patriotic meal” you made?” (She’s actually referring to a meal I made for the 2006 elections but it was close enough. In that case, the cookbook I used said to cook something in a “hot” oven.)

So anyway, here’s what this recipe said: “Boil ham until tender.” Okay, let’s parse that sentence: how much ham are we talking here, and boil for how long? How long is tender, folks? Then, after the ham is done boiling, I’m supposed to bake “slowly” for 1 hour. And the temperature we’re looking for here is ????! (For the record, Google shows that the temperature of a slow oven is between 250 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit).

Now, those expecting my usual rant will be disappointed because the cookbook I used, Virginia Cookery – Past and Present – indicates that the source of this recipe was “Key to the Pantry,” Danville, Virginia, 1898. I’m more than willing to cut some slack to a recipe created in 1898; 1998 is another story altogether. At any rate, with instructions like these (or lack thereof), I decided to use the instructions on the ham wrapper and bake it at 325 degrees for 2.75 hours and then the last hour of cooking (determined by the size of the ham x 25 minutes/pound) bake it “slowly” with all of the yummy ingredients added.

As to the potatoes, sure, it’s traditional to go with yams (preferably candied although my mother never did the marshmallow thing) but I’m not overly fond of yams. I am, however, extremely fond of scalloped potatoes and so searched the world over until I found an easy recipe in the McCall’s Cookbook.

And speaking of McCall’s, my mother was a big fan of “ladies” magazines and so we always had Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, Women’s Day and Family Circle in our house. We were not, however, Redbook people – I think my mother thought that magazine was a little bit too modern for her tastes (although I must confess that my favorite column in the Ladies Home Journal, then and now, is “Can This Marriage Be Saved” – something my mom probably skipped over as being entirely too revealing of people’s personal lives even if the names were changed to protect the innocent.)

At any rate, I have several of those women’s magazine’s compilations in my collection (along with The Seventeen Cookbook – ah, shades of my youth) that will show up eventually in this blog as they are good for showcasing basic, “housewife” cooking—nothing too fancy and nothing too difficult.

Well, the ham is out of the oven and it is very tasty even if I didn’t exactly cook it to “code,” and the potatoes are a success as well although with more onions that I usually like. I started cooking them at 275 along with the ham and just ramped the temperature up to 400 (the recommended temperature) to finish them off. I’m going to add some peas to the mix because I love peas, and we’re going to call it a day. But before I go, let me just say that while I’m not a major fan of musicals, I do love the 1948 movie, Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. I’ve been whistling the tune “Happy Easter” around the house all day (likely to the great annoyance of my husband). I’ve also been singing “When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam’” but that’s another story for another day.

Champagne Ham (serving size varies depending on how large of a ham you buy!)
1 ham
Brown sugar
1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1 cup vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 pint champagne

Original instructions:
Boil ham until tender then skin. Rub with brown sugar. Place in baking pan and cover top with 1 tablespoon allspice, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup champagne and ½ cup sugar mixed together. Bake slowly 1 hour. Add another cup of champagne. Serve gravy with ham.

My instructions:
Bake ham according to instructions on the label. In my case, I had a 9-pound ham and the instructions were to bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes per pound. This brought me to 3.75 hours. I baked it for 2.75 hours, then lowered the oven temperature to a “slow oven” (275 degrees), poured the spice/champagne mixture on the ham (I honestly don’t know how one would “cover top” with a liquid glaze so I didn’t) and baked it at that temperature for the final hour.

Scalloped Potatoes – Make 6 to 8 servings
3 pound potatoes
4 medium onion, thinly sliced
Boiling water
3 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
2 ¼ cups milk
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly grease 2-quart casserole.

Wash, pare and thinly slice potatoes; measure 8 cups.

Cook potatoes and onions, covered in a small amount of boiling water (I used 2 cups), with 2 teaspoons salt, about 5 minutes, or until slightly tender. Drain.

Melt butter in saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in flour, pepper, paprika, and remaining salt until smooth. Blend in milk.

Cook, stirring, over medium heat, to boiling point, or until thickened and smooth.

In prepared casserole, layer one third of potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley; top with one third of the sauce. Repeat. Then add remaining potatoes and onions and top with remaining sauce.

Bake, uncovered, 35 minutes, or until top is browned and potatoes are tender when pierced with fork.

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