May 28, 2008

Winning Chicken Recipes

Everyone knows about the Pillsbury Bake-Off, but many may not be familiar with another cooking contest that's been going on for almost the same length of time.

The National Chicken Cooking Contest began as a smaller regional competition back in 1949, just one of many events found at a local festival promoting the Delmarva Peninsula. A poultry-cooking contest was logical for this area, which is well known for its poultry farms. The world's largest frying pan, shown in this postcard, is still used at the annual festivals for frying chicken.

By 1952 the contest was drawing entries from all over the United States. In 1971 the National Broiler Council (now the National Chicken Council) assumed sponsorship of the contest and offered a $10,000 prize. (The prize for the upcoming 2009 contest will be $50,000.)

Recipes from the contest have been published since its inception. The contest was held annually from 1949 until 1983, after which they adopted an alternate year schedule. The contests are now held on a rotational basis in various cities throughout the U.S. in states which have large broiler chicken industries.

The first compilation of recipes was a 20-page booklet called Prize Winning Del-Mar-Va-Lous Chicken Recipes 1949 & 1950, which was published by the Delmarva Chicken Festival, Inc.

Today's featured cookbook, The Chicken Cookbook (1998, 128 pages) contains the finalist recipes of the 1999 National Chicken Cooking Contest, which was the 43rd competition and also their 50th anniversary.

Like the other Chicken Cookbooks published in later years, it's in a mass-market paperback format.

This edition contains the 51 recipes from the 1999 contest finalists that represent every state and the District of Columbia. There is also a chapter with recipes from Texas, the host state of the 1999 contest. One chapter is devoted to prize-winning recipes from past contests. Another section is entitled "Chicken Classics Updated for New Millennium" and contains recipes such as Chicken Tetrazinni, South-of-the-Border Chicken Cacciatore, Coq au Vin Blanc and Tropical Chicken Waldorf Salad. Other sections are devoted to recipes that save time, use fewer ingredients and utilize select chicken parts such as the thighs, drumsticks and leg quarters.

Despite the bright cheerful cover, there are only four full-page color illustrations in the cookbook.

The 1976 edition is shown here. It's format and contents are similar to the one above. Finalist names and locations are given in all the cookbooks.

Selected recipes from each contest year can be found on the National Chicken Council's Chicken Cooking Contest website. This is handy for those who don't have any of the cookbooks or who would like to see some of the past winning entries. The 1st Place recipe from 1971 might sound familiar: Dipper's Nuggets Chicken (along with three different sauces to dip them in).

There are instructions for ordering the current cookbook from the 47th contest on the website. Out-of-print Chicken Cookbooks can be found here.

May 20, 2008

Gelatine 101

Way back in the 7th grade I was required to take a Home Economics class. I had the choice of either Sewing or Cooking. I chose Sewing. Why, I don't know, as I had already been making my own Barbie clothes, halter tops and other things for quite a while. My mom was a pretty good teacher. I remember making this dreadfully boring A-line skirt in the class. I threw it away at the end of the semester.

Had I chosen the cooking class, I might have been the recipient of some of those great old advertising cookbooks that I collect today. I've previously written about an educational banana booklet that was distributed to schoolchildren in the 50s and 60s and a Fleischmann's Yeast booklet designed for young bakers. Today's booklet is another one published specifically for students.

Some of my very favorite tag sales and estate auctions have been those of retired home ec teachers. Like school librarians, they tend to leave behind large collections of the most interesting paper. In the case of home ec teachers, sometimes there are multiple copies of the old cookbooks that they've saved over the years.

Good Looking Cooking - A Guide to the Use of Unflavored Gelatine for Students (1957, 16 pages) was published by Knox Gelatine. Even back then, it wasn't too soon to start promoting brand loyalty with the kids, although I don't believe the practice was as prevalent then as it is today. Today's advertisers have it down to a fine art.

This booklet is quite logical in it's format, making it easy for students to learn the basics of gel cookery and then advance to the next level.

The booklet "chapters" are divided with a tab-like format into these sections:

  • Why Use Gelatine
  • How to Use Gelatine
  • Whips
  • Sponges & Snows
  • Chiffons
  • Whipped Cream Mixtures
  • Molding
  • Serving
  • Menus & Recipes

It's So Easy to Use - You learn one simple basic method, and every other gelatine dish is just a variation of this.
Basic Gelatine Mixture - a simple combination of unflavored gelatine-plus-liquid

Whip - A clear, basic gelatine that has been chilled until partially set, then removed from the refrigerator and beaten until light and fluffy -- and double in volume

Sponges and Snows - Clear, basic gelatines to which egg whites have been added after the mixture has partially set -- then beaten until stiff, and chilled until firm

Chiffons (and other egg gelatines) - Clear, basic gelatines to which egg yolks are added and the mixture is cooked. It is then chilled, and folded into a stiff meringue of beaten egg whites and sugar.

Whipped Cream Mixtures - Clear, basic gelatines with whipped cream folded into the mixture after it has partially set. Bavarian Creams are made like Chiffons (with egg yolk) and the whipped cream is folded in with the beaten egg whites

There's a Page of Pointers with tips like these:

How Thick is Thick? - Before adding solids, gelatine should be chilled to the consistency of unbeaten egg white. Solids will sink to bottom or rise to top if added when mixture is too thin. Before whipping, gelatin should be chilled to a slightly thicker consistency than unbeaten egg white. If whipped too soon, mixture will become fluid again or will separate, leaving a layer of clear gelatine at bottom. Before adding beaten egg whites or whipped cream, gelatine mixture should be chilled until it mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon.

This illustration decorates the section on molding and serving gelatine dishes:

Bavarian Creams are made like Chiffons (with egg yolk) and the whipped cream is folded in with the beaten egg whites.


1 envelope unflavored gelatine
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs--separated
2 tbs lemon juice
1-1/4 cups canned crushed pineapple and syrup
2/3 cup evaporated milk--whipped
18-21 thin chocolate cookies

Mix together gelatine, sugar, salt in top of double boiler.
Beat egg yolk slightly; add lemon juice, pineapple and syrup. Add to gelatine mixture.
Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly until gelatine is dissolved (about 8 min.). Remove from heat.
Chill until mixture mounds when dropped from spoon.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into gelatine mixture.
Fold in whipped evaporated milk.
Spoon 1/4 of mixture into waxed paper-lined 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; add layer of cookies. Repeat 3 times, ending with gelatine.
Chill overnight. Unmold and serve with whipped cream.
Yield: 6 servings

This junior cook is on the rear cover:

May 19, 2008

Birds Eye Frosted Foods

The text below is from the first page of the Birds Eye Cook Book (1941, 64 pages). When I first read it, I thought it would have made good material for an infomercial, if there had been infomercials back then.

A Miracle Comes to the Kitchen

You've dreamed of it! (Of course!) You've hoped for it! (Who hasn't?) And maybe you thought the day would never come!

But here it is...a glorious fact today, for now you can buy honest-to-goodness, farm-fresh foods the year round! Just think. Strawberries... flavorful and fresh in June or January. Corn on the Cob, perfect golden ears ...yours now, regardless of season.

And here really is another miracle for today's busy homemaker.

Never again need you spend precious time washing and trimming spinach, shelling peas and Lima beans...for now these grand vegetables come right to you, farm-fresh and scrupulously clean, ready to cook.

Now you can buy the choicest fish from the ocean, trimmed of all waste, even the bones. And the glistening fish fillets and steaks are all ready to pop into the pan.

Even the finest quality, selected poultry and meats are trimmed of excess waste before you buy. Always guaranteed to satisfy, they come to you ready for the oven.

What is this miracle? It's Birds Eye Quick-Frozen Foods!
There's a element of enthusiasm and excitement that runs through the cookbook that I don't sense in many of the others.

The booklet describes how the quick-freeze process, invented by Clarence Birdseye in the late 1920s, made it possible for a homemaker to prepare and serve a complete dinner within 20 minutes. This entire cookbook is about the new "modern" way of cooking.

The rear cover shows some of the dishes that could be prepared--everything from fried fish to hamburgers with mac 'n cheese:

There were over 60 different kinds of Birds Eye frozen foods in 1941. Remember these little rectangular cartons? Back then they were lined with cellophane.

The booklet stresses over and over again how much time the old way takes and how much waste there is. Oh, the drudgery of shelling peas and cutting up chickens.

The Birds Eye frozen poultry line included broilers and fryers. The fryers weighed 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds and were cut into 10 pices, all thoroughly cleaned. The giblets were wrapped separately. The cookbook says that Birds Eye poultry was the "Top Half of Grade A" Government Inspected poultry that had been fed a diet of buttermilk and grain. "They taste like the chikens you had, as a child, down on the farm."

There were several varieties of fish. The photo below shows the Fillet of Haddock. The fillets were sold in one pound packages. They emphasize the fact that there is less waste here too. "In the good old days, you bought a whole haddock, weighing 3 pounds. You threw away the head, the tail, the bones, and the insides. You cooked and ate only about 35% of it."

There are lots of little black and white drawings that accompany the recipes.

I'm not sure I like the message this one is sending.

What a difference seventy years makes. In 2008, we have so many choices that sometimes it's stressful just making decisions about what to buy.

A mail-in order cookbook form was tucked between the pages. Another piece of ephemera to add to the jillion other pieces I already have.

May 16, 2008

Ball Home Canning

If I toil in my garden long enough and if the bugs, weeds and heat don't do it in, perhaps I'll eventually need this book (or the more recent version):

The Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving Recipes (1943, 56 pages) is a standard reference for both novice and experienced home canners. This particular edition is Edition V and was published during World War II, a time when home canning was an attractive prospect for many reasons, one of which was the high number of ration points needed to buy canned food. Home food preservation was also a way in which homemakers could feel like they were contributing to the war effort.

Like many of the food company cookbooks published during this period, reference is made to wartime within its pages: The following is found inside the front cover:

This Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving Recipes is dedicated to the home canners of America in admiration of the magnificent contribution they are making to the nation's food supply.
More is found at the end of the book:

To Save is to Serve: Home-makers can food because it is pleasant, convenient, economical, and healthful to have a well stocked pantry in time of peace. In time of war, home canning must be done so that all may be well nourished. All surplus fruit, vegetables, and meats must be saved by canning for every jar of home canned food will be needed by you, your children, your neighbors, and your nation.

Today, the Stars and Stripes fly over a land of freedom. We can, we will, keep it so, if we but remember that the wages of waste are high and that saving on the Home Front brings Victory on the Battle Front.
Although the Ball Brothers are obviously promoting their products, a variety of glass mason jars and lids, they do a fine job of explaining every detail of home canning in the meantime.

This book is filled with fabulous, detailed instructions that range from selecting the appropriate containers, explanations of the different methods of processing, timetables and recipes for all types of fruits and vegetables.

Instructions for processing meats, poultry, fish and game and soups and stew are also covered. I've never had any home canned meat or poultry. My father once remarked that he sure missed his mother's home canned chicken. Thank goodness for freezers is all I can say about that.

I picked 8 lbs of blackberries at a Pick-Your-Own farm the other day, most of which I put in the freezer to use for making cobblers. Perhaps I'll give them another visit next week and get enough to attempt some jelly or jam. The booklet contains a recipe for Cantalope Butter, which might be interesting, assuming I can harvest the cantalopes before the wildlife does.

Although I don't consume enough pickles to consider making any large batches of them, I am fond of sweet pickles with horseradish on occasion. Unable to find the Nathan's brand down here, I thought I might have to resort to canning my own. Adding a big dollop of horseradish to the Sweet Cucumber Pickles recipe in this booklet might have worked. Fortunately, last week I discovered Boar's Head Sweet Pickle Chips with Horseradish at one of the grocery stores, saving me the trouble.

A neighbor recently gifted me with a jar of home canned "Cowboy Candy," a sweet relish made of ground up jalapeno peppers. Since it was so good, and gone in less than two days, I might have to make some of that.

In the back of the recipe book there's a full-page color illustration of the different Ball jars, jelly glasses and lids that were available at that time.

I didn't learn the art of home canning from my relatives. By the time I was old enough to care anything about it, my grandmother had progressed to that point where she used old mayonnaise and peanut butter jars for the containers. My mother and I experimented, learning together, several years ago, and canned some tomatoes, pickles and jam that required nothing more than the boiling water-bath method. I've also made a good deal of strawberry and peach freezer jam in my time, but I've never canned anything using the pressure canner.

My mother once gave me a lovely new pressure canner that I never used. (I was afraid of it.) I stored it for several years, eventually selling it at a garage sale for $10. However, now that I've successfully learned how to use a pressure cooker with out blowing up either the kitchen, or myself, I wish I still had it. I can see that my fears regarding pressure cooking have cost me in the long run--it's going to cost a little more than $10 to replace that canner.


Remove rind and seed from ripe melons. Cut melon into small pieces. Add just enough water to prevent sticking. Boil until soft, then press through a sieve. Measure. Add from 1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon or other spices to each quart pulp. Boil until thick. Pour while hot into hot BALL jars. Process 10 minutes in hot-water bath; then complete seal.

May 05, 2008

Working on Green

Sometimes I feel a little awkward responding to other blogger's posts about cooking with fresh foods and "going green," particularly in the kitchen. After all, I do spend a great deal of time posting about processed food cookbooks.

Culinary Types asks "What have you done to green up your kitchen?" Well, quite a bit, actually.

One of the things is that I've finally planted a vegetable garden again after many years of not doing so. Although it was rather a late start, right now there are several varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, Serrano, Jalapeno and Pablano peppers, carrots, radishes, onions, tomatillos and bell peppers. Another bed holds asparagus, which won't be harvested for a couple of years yet.

The zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers are coming along nicely. And there's a whole bed of green beans.

We also planted lemon, lime, orange, fig and pear trees this spring. There are several plum trees that have been quite neglected over the years that we'll work to straighten out. There was an existing grapevine that was taking over everything so I've cut that back. I think the man before us made wine--I found lots of bottles in the attic that indicates this was so.

I've started composting my kitchen scraps and yard waste again.

I'm deathly scared of these, and it's actually why I haven't put in a garden for the past several years. But, I'm trying to conquer that particular fear, mostly through the process of learning to identify them after they're thoroughly dead.

Perhaps in a few months I'll have a submission to The Perfect Pantry, on her series of Other People's Pantries that will look like this:

So while I continue to write about the cookbooks that promote the use the much-maligned, overpackaged, over-processed foods as recipe ingredients, I'll be keeping an eye out to see how the food companies respond to the changes taking place in our kitchens in that aspect.