Threshing Scene, 1915
Postcards from the Past PC 740
It is getting to be very cold at night and in the mornings there is a suggestion that soon there will be, dare I say it, frost. (Sorry) For our grandmothers on the prairies, this often meant that it was time to start making preserves and laying down food for the winter. I think I have written before about the great collection of cookbooks we have in the Community Heritage and Family History collection and it was to this collection that I turned for some recipes for the kinds of preserves they would be making.
Haying in Lethbridge, ca 1909
Postcards from the Past, PC 242
Prairie cooks used not just what they grew, but also what grew wild around them. From The Pioneer Cook comes this recipe for Rose Hip Jam. Remember, if you are going to try this recipe that grandma would most likely have been collecting hips from roses that grew wild and had not been treated with any kind of chemicals.
Gather berries after the first frost, and preserve the same day as picked. Boil 4 cups berries with 2 ½ cups water, until berries are tender. Force through a sieve to remove seeds. Add 1 cup sugar to 2 cups pulp. Mix thoroughly, and bring to a simmer slowly. Cook 10 minutes. Bottle. A layer of sugar sprinkled on the top helps to improve the flavor. (True of everything in my humble opinion!) This recipe was from Edythe Windsor, Koostatak Manitoba. (Page 101)
Rose hips can be used as a source of vitamin C, which can be quite useful when fresh fruits and vegetables are not available.
I am very interested in trying this next recipe because I have about 8 tomato plants in my yard, none of which has produced a ripe tomato yet, and likely won’t unless it stays summer until October.
Green Tomato Chow-Chow
1 peck green tomatoes
4 large onions
6 green peppers
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Chop tomatoes (not too fine) and let stand in brine overnight. Drain and cover with vinegar (not too strong). Add peppers, onions, sugar, and spices and cook until tender. Place in bottle or jars with parowax over them if corks or covers are not available.
From The Blue Bird Cookbook by the Domestic Science Department of the American Woman’s Club of Calgary.
I suppose another thing we have to keep in mind if we are using older recipes to make preserves is that processes have changed and even though we may love these old recipes, we should follow current instructions for canning – for example, process the chow-chow in a canner rather than covering the jars with paraffin or corks. I still rely on my Bernardin book for information on how to safely preserve food. We do have copies of this at the Calgary Public Library. It is called The Complete Book of Home Preserving. Copies can be found at most branches.
If you would like to see our collection of cookbooks, come on down to the 4th floor of the Central Library and visit our Community Heritage and Family History collection. Some of the cookbooks, mostly the older ones, are in our storage collection and don’t show up in the catalogue. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a look at them, though. Just ask and we will get them for you.
Hays Farm, ca 1960s?
Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1286