Tag Archives: Grandma Vera Anderson

Vintage Recipe: Juiciest Roasted Chicken Ever

I’m thinking of end-of-summer travel and picnics this week.  I know that in my grandmother’s day, a picnic was not a picnic without cold fried or roasted chicken, so I decided to look for a vintage recipe for roasted chicken.

Don’t the women in their Edwardian summer outfits look like they are having fun?  Grandma Vera Anderson was a member of a club that organized cultural events for the town of Killbuck, bringing in plays and lecturers. But they obviously had some fun, as well. This picture is taken in front of a hat shop, run by Node Nelson, the woman standing with her arm raised in front of the porch post. You can barely see hats in the window on the left.

Eating roasted chicken in 1905

Aren’t these ladies having fun eating roasted chicken for a picnic? Vera Anderson top right. Early 20th Century.

Every vintage recipe for roasted chickens that I have read in Joy of Cooking or even in the Betty Crocker Cookbook from the 50s are pretty basic:  Fill the body cavity with some dressing, slather the outside with butter, and put in a 350 oven until it is done.

My Grandma Vera n had a large electric roasting pan, but I don’t recall that she did anything complicated with her chickens.  However, I wanted to see if there was a different way, and so I once again turned to the Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book.

Frugal Kiwi chickens

Chickens in the backyard of the Frugal Kiwi, found at http://frugalkiwi.com

I found a treasure.  Before I got to the recipe, I read through their description of how to deal with poultry and game.  Some of it is basic advice that few people these days know about–how to pluck a chicken, how to judge the quality of the bird, how to cut up a fowl.  Some of it is quite surprising.

…it should be thoroughly washed inside and out, (Read this article for a modern alternative view on washing chicken) and if there is an unpleasant odor form the inside, rub it with a little cooking soda.  If the odor disappears quickly the bird is good to eat. If the odor persists it is best to cut the bird open to see whether there are any bruises or recognizable bad places.  A fowl that ha a bad odor had better not be eaten.

Well, yeah, if my chicken stinks, I don’t think I’ll eat it. But how about this advice?

All game is best in the winter and should never be eaten in the spring.  At that time of the year the broiling chickens are better and can be prepared in such a variety of ways, that there is no need of any other fowl.

I guess it doesn’t really matter since I don’t eat a lot of pheasant or quail, or even duck , but I imagine some restaurants might be surprised at the advice.

The smooth legs of a fowl less than a year old may be used. Scaled with boiling water and skin and claw cases will peel off like a glove.  Place in cold salted water and cook slowly.  Three pairs of chicken feet will make a pint of jelly as fine, and just as nutritious as calf’s foot jelly.

Well, it is certainly good to know what to do when you run out of calves’ feet, isn’t it?

Okay, I’m being a little sarcastic about these dated (from 1925) instructions, that address a cook whose fowl and poultry came directly from the farm or from her back yard instead of from a chicken factory.  But on to the vintage recipe for roasted chicken, which is really superb. (Their fried chicken recipe sounds great too, and I’ll try it one of these days.)

Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken Heritage Recipe from the Buffalo News Cook Book

Here’s the roasted chicken recipe just as it is in The Buffalo Evening News Cooking School Cook Book, and then a few of my notes.

Dress, clean, stuff and truss a four-pound chicken.  Rub with salt and pepper and place in roasting pan. Rub into a paste three tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of flour and cover breast and legs with it.  Dredge bottom of pan with flour. Place in a hot oven and when flour is browned, baste with one-fourth cup of butter melted in one-half cup boiling water. Reduce oven heat and baste every ten minutes until chicken is done.  If water dries from the bottom of the pan add more.  A four-pound chicken requires one and one-fourth hours to roast. (For stuffing see below).  [A recipe for gravy follows, but I skipped the gravy.]
  • I did make a bread dressing with 2 C bread and 1/2 c melted butter, but whereas their simple dressing is seasoned only with salt and pepper, I added rosemary, a little cumin and dried cranberries and walnut bits.
  • My first challenge was “cover the breast and legs” with the flour-butter paste.  Not as easy as it sounds. I tried doing it with my fingers, and it just didn’t work at all, so I tried spreading with a knife and it spread a little better, but as you can see in the picture, winds up pretty bumpy with exposed spots.
  • “Dredge” I took to mean scatter the flour around the chicken in the pan bottom to cover, but not deeply. I had no idea how long the flour in the bottom of the pan would take to brown.  I set the oven at 400° , which I figured was their “hot oven.” It took more than 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it so you don’t get burnt flour. I reduced the heat to 350°  when I poured the butter and water over.
  • I did have to add water to the bottom of the pan in order to have some liquid with which to baste. (I don’t have a baster, so just used a spoon.)
  • My chicken was 3 1/2 pounds and it was not done after 3 1/2 hours, but that may just be my oven.

The end result was absolutely the juiciest roasted chicken I have EVER eaten.  I know when I roast chicken and turkey, in order to avoid the breast getting dried out or too brown, I cover the bird with foil in the last half of cooking, or I start it breast down and turn it over entirely during the cooking. However, the flour/butter paste serves to protect the top from browning too much and holds in the juices.

Have you ever cooked chicken this way?  Or seen it done?  And how about the chicken-feet jelly??

A Life and Death Story: Squirrel Hunting and Frying

Foraging for mushrooms, blackberries and dandelions is one thing, but I will never forget the trauma of seeing my brother, all ruddy-faced from the cold and beaming with excitement, as he carried the limp bundles of fur into the kitchen at Grandma Vera Anderson’s house. Daddy in his red and black plaid wool shirt was right behind him, his smile even broader with pride at how the little guy (Bro Bill) had learned to stalk and shoot in the Ohio woods. They had been squirrel hunting.

For some reason, all the grown-ups were equally excited and happy. Eleven years old, I was simply appalled. Squirrel hunting was disgusting. How could anyone purposely kill those cute little critters with the big bushy tails. I loved squirrels with their big brown eyes and their business as they scurried around the woods.

Squirrel eating french fry

Squirrel eating french fry. Photo by Joel Bennett

When we lived in Columbus Ohio the year before, we had put a spoon full of peanut butter on the kitchen window ledge and my brother and I laughed as we watched them pick up the spoon and lick the peanut butter off.

And now he had taken a rifle out in the fall woods and actually aimed at them and pulled the trigger! Worse yet, Grandma was getting busy taking off their skins and getting them ready to cook.  I wasn’t around to watch that wretched procedure, having thrown my hissy fit in the kitchen when the mighty hunters returned and stomped out to my bedroom. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to dinner that night.

Okay, I don’t think anybody tried to talk logic to me. Since you ask, I did eat chickens, and turkey, and cows (beef) and pigs (pork) and lots of other animals, and I don’t know how I would have responded if someone had tried to reason with me.  After all, the squirrels were just so darned cute.

I do know that over the years my father and my brother tried to convince me that the benefits of hunting was a pleasant, manly gathering in the outdoors, (reuniting with nature and with their primal selves, I would have added).

Hunting squirrel?

Not a picture of my daddy and my brother. Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Hunting was so important in the time and place I grew up in that there were actually school holidays during hunting season–in some places the entire week of Thanksgiving and in others just the first day of deer season. (The present Ohio hunting seasons are listed on this page.) There was even a kind of social scale that divided people according to what they hunted.  The lowest levels of society hunted possums (regarded as little better than road kill by some) and the higher range of activity would be deer hunting.

Despite being surrounded by a hunting culture, I knew next to nothing about guns. “That could put your eye out,” the perennial warning about B-B- guns,which every boy wanted by the time he was nine or ten.  And I knew that you couldn’t shoot small animals with a shotgun because there was too much shot.  And I knew that you had to get used to the “kick” of a fired gun, but I knew all this through listening, not from practice.

Hunting is still a popular sport, somehow more forgivable when people actually eat what they hunt, or make it hard on themselves by hunting with bow and arrow instead of gun. And wild game is a popular item on restaurant menus. But grandma, who had no patience with my squeamishness, was of a practical turn of mind, and if somebody brought something edible into the house, she’d cook it. And eat it. But this is kind of how I saw squirrel hunting–and frying:

A Life and Death Story
Recipe Type: Entree
Cuisine: Wild Game
Author: Vera Marie Badertscher
Serves: 5-6
Hunting Squirrel Becomes Frying Squirrel
Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb. bacon
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 6 squirrels cut into 4-5 pieces each
  • 1 C flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C milk
Instructions
  1. Fry bacon in large skillet
  2. While bacon is frying, dip squirrel pieces in flour (seasoned with salt and pepper), then milk, and back in flour.
  3. Let pieces of squirrel meat dry slightly on rack
  4. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels, leaving grease in pan.
  5. Fry sliced onions
  6. Fry squirrel meat until crispy and medium brown
  7. If you want to make cream gravy, after you remove the meat from the pan, stir in a couple large spoonsful of flour, then stir in milk to the consistency you want.

 

Photos used here come from Flickr and are used with a Creative Commons license. You can click through the first two to see the photographer and learn more about him. The bottom photo is by Mike Licht, and here is the link to his Flickr page.

More Food Foraging: A Recipe for Weeds

Foraging in the Side Yard

Besides gathering berries in field or forest, you can find wild foods closer to home. I suppose you might include the gathering of eggs from the chickens in the back yard under the category of foraging. They certainly were as local as you can get and totally natural. Grandma Vera Anderson occasionally came up with chamomile with which she made tea. I don’t know where she got that. There was an old apple tree in the back yard and I imagine she got some apple butter out of the apples. Although she grew nasturtiums, she did not garnish with the blossoms. And unlike the prior story, she didn’t put the grass in the pies.

Foraging for Dandelion greens
Dandelions, photo by Jayaprakash R

But she did have a delicious way to get rid of weed–dandelions in particular.  I loved grandma’s dandelion greens. Another sweet and sour dish, like her red pepper jam, this one cooked up in the trusty iron skillet in some bacon grease and sprinkled with vinegar and sugar.  Here in Arizona, I don’t have dandelion greens growing in my desert yard. I tried buying them at a store and cooking them, but the mess I came up with was–a mess–a very BITTER mess. I figured they were not fresh enough–like the corn-picking method my Dad talked about here, you needed to go straight from the yard to the pan.

Foraging CookbookSince then, I learned from Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook: An Illustrated Guide to 70 Wild Plants–a great cookbook for all your foraging needs–that I should have boiled the greens twice before proceeding. (Note: My Wild Foods Book is the 1976 version, signed by the author in 1977. Three is a 1985 edition also, but both are out of print and available as used copies. Euell Gibbons was the other popular wild foods guide in the 70’s.) Here’s what grandma’s recipe would look like with Billy Joe’s suggestion.

Grandma Vera’s Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens, roots trimmed off and flower stem removed. (From a lawn that has never been sprayed by weed killer or insecticide, please.)

1/4 lb.Bacon

1/4 C.Vinegar

1 to 2 T. Flour

1 T. Sugar

Wash leaves well, and tear into large pieces. Place in pot and add boiling water to cover. Bring back to a boil then drain off the water. Add fresh boiling water to cover again and cook about 15 minutes.  While the dandelions are boiling the second time, fry up 1/4 pound or so of bacon. When the bacon is crisp, remove and drain on paper or cloth towels. Keep grease in skillet.Stir greens into the bacon grease, sprinkle with a couple of large spoons of flour as you stir. Add vinegar to taste and sugar  to balance the vinegar.  Scrape into a bowl and top with crumbled bacon.

Just like my discovery that the mushrooms that grandma stirred up in an iron skillet were high-priced gourmet items in restaurants, I was surprised to learn recently that the back-to-nature and locally-sourced-food movements have bred  professional foragers. You can learn about them here. Maybe you’d like to shoot for that new profession?

Have you ever cooked dandelion greens? What is your recipe?