Casseroles, Jell-O Salad & Other Treats from 1968

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The perfect dish for a perfect casserole! The Pyrex casserole dish pictured above was passed down to Archivist, Stephanie Mihalik from her grandmother. The red and yellow floral and bird motif is called the “Friendship” pattern and was available from 1971 to 1974. Stephanie mostly collects the “Amish Butterprint” or “Golden Butterfly” pattern, but she was happy to inherit this family heirloom into her Pyrex collection.
Casseroles are still part of our everyday American cuisine. However, these “one pot meals” were wildly popular in the 1960s and 70s. “The Hungry Doctor” was written by the Woman’s Auxillary to the Berks County Medical Society, Pennsylvania and was published in 1968. In this vintage cookbook from the Berks History Center Research Library collection, we found a number of casserole recipes including: Hot Chicken Salad, Noodle Pudding a la Crystal, Shrimp ‘n’ Noodles, and Swedish Hamburger Casserole.

 

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What’s Cooking in Berks in 1979?

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What’s Cooking St. John’s? published in 1979 by members of St. John’s Church Reading. BHC Research Library Collection

Throughout 2018, the Berks History Center is getting a taste of local history with the Berks County Foodways project. As we explored the eating habits and culinary practices of Berks Countians, we have had a chance to sample the diverse flavors of Berks County from pig stomach to spanikopita. This month, as we approach the Berks History Center’s 6th annual fundraiser – the Magical History Tour concert on August 18, 2018 – we began to wonder about the culinary delights of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.  So BHC Archivist, Stephanie Mihalik, turned the archives and dug up some groovy treats from the Berks History Center Research Library collection.

Do you remember any of these party favorites? The members of St. John’s Church in Reading, PA compiled this recipe book in 1979. We found that gelatin was a common ingredient in dishes from the 1970s, such as this recipe for crab mousse:

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Also, canned goods were wildly popular and were common ingredients in both party fare and daily lunch menus. Other fun finds included recipies for ham-liverwurst rolls and liver cheese spread.

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This article was written as part of the Berks History Center’s 2018 Berks County Foodways Project. Click here to learn more about Berks County Foodways. 

As Berks County as Shoo-Fly Pie

 

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When it comes to potlucks, M. Catherine Shearer has a go-to family recipe that wins every time – her great-grandmother’s shoo-fly pie! The Shearer family is no stranger to Berks County’s rich heritage; Catherine can trace her family’s lively and accomplished lineage back to Pennsylvania’s founding era.

Mary Sellers Shearer lived on Fritztown Road in Vinemont, PA with her husband, Solomon Shearer. The recipe was passed down to Mary’s daughter and eventually made its way into the hands of her great-granddaughter, M. Catherine Shearer, who was happy to share the recipe for this classic Berks County Foodway with us!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping TB. Crisco

Mix dry ingredients together and combine with Crisco until crumbly.  Set aside 2 handfuls for the top of the pies. Using the remaining flour mixture add:

  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1 cup molasses (Turkey Syrup)
  • 1 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Fill 2 (8″ or 9″) pie shells with the molasses mixture and top each pie with the crumb topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

The Berks History Center thanks M. Catherine Shearer for sharing her family recipe for shoo-fly pie with us! A native of Berks County, now living in Exeter Township, Shearer has been a Trustee of the Berks History Center for close to two years, and a is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Berks County Genealogical Society. Before her retirement, she was a well-known community leader. As part of her employment at the Berks County Chamber of Commerce, and the Berks County Career Link, she was involved in heightening the community’s Economic and Workforce Development efforts. 

Mountain Mary: The Medicine Woman of the Oley Valley

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Log channel that carried water into Mountain Mary’s milk house. The outbuildings are part of her hill farm. Photo: BHC Research Library Collection

Nearly 200 years ago, this would have been Mountain Mary’s favorite time of year as she worked around her farm in the Oley Valley. The Oley area reminded her of the Rhine Valley, where she and her family emigrated from. They came here at about the time of the Revolution. Her farm was a hill farm of about 42 acres. Her farm consisted of a log home, an outdoor bake oven, a milk house, a lean-to for her cows, several large meadows and a small cemetery plot where her mother and two sisters were buried. She was very proud of her milk house, which was cooled by a stream of mountain water channeled into the building through hand-hewn logs. The stream began as a spring high on the hill and flowed through the building continuing downstream to irrigate a meadow.

Mountain Mary supported herself by making butter from her cow’s milk and by keeping bees for honey. She would then give the butter and honey to a neighbor, who would take it to market to sell in Philadelphia. She would often send along some food for the poor.

Mary was very religious and would read her German Bible; Piety, faith and charity were central to her life. In addition, Mountain Mary used many of the native herbs and plants which grew on the hillside for healing and poultices. She would collect and dry the herbs over the years. Then she used them to make lotions and salves. Her neighbors came regularly to her cabin for help or medical advice. She often prayed with them and shared her knowledge and teas, etc. She used peppermint and spearmint to make tea. Bergamot would come a little later in the spring. Dandelions even were used to make a spring tonic to pick up spirits. Berries made excellent sauces and juice.

Mountain Mary died on November 16, 1819 at age 73. More than 1,000 people attended her funeral, which was quite an honor. Some people call her Pennsylvania’s first “visiting nurse.” There are a lot of legends about Mountain Mary, including some that developed after her death. The strangest story is that she was engaged to a man named Theodore Benz, who fought and died with George Washington’s army in the Revolution. This has never been proven, but as they say, in every legend is a grain of

Hallie Vaughan is a Women’s History enthusiast, instructor and reinactor and longtime volunteer at the Berks History Center. As a guest blogger Hallie will focus on Women’s History in Berks County. 

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Mystery Woman #6 Answer 

Rachel Carson

Sime’s Hot Bacon Dressing: Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4!

As I recall growing up, there was always one traditional PA Dutch food that was always part of the holiday meal at my Grampop and Gramom’s home. Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, Endive with Hot Bacon Dressing was always on the table!

Unfortunately, I never learned how to make hot bacon dressing from my grandparents, but rather, from my father, who learned to make it from a close friend of the family, Richard “Dick” Bortz. My Father told me that Mr. Bortz said; if you remembered the rule of thumb, 1, 2, 3, 4, you could make hot bacon dressing.

1, 2, 3, 4, refers to: 1 tablespoon flour, 2 large eggs, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 4 tablespoons white granulated sugar, and of course, slab bacon. With that as our baseline, let’s begin!

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Ingredients for approximately 6-8 servings

¼ lb. slab bacon

1 table spoon white flour

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons white granulated sugar

1 bunch curly endive (sometimes call chicory or escarole)

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Cut bacon into ½” – ¾” cubes and fry until crispy brown. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan. Drain the bacon pieces on a paper towel.

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Let pan and bacon grease cool to room temperature, otherwise you’ll have scrambled eggs further along in the recipe.

While the pan and the bacon grease cool, mix 1 tablespoon white flour with a tablespoon or so of tepid water and blend into a slurry.

Next, beat the 2 large eggs in a small bowl

Pour the flour and water mixture into the cooled pan with the bacon grease and begin to warm the mixture over a very low heat.

Add the 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar along with the 4 tablespoons of sugar to the pan and whisk until well blended.

Remember, keep the heat low, or this is where you’ll get the scrambled eggs.

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Whisking ingredients together

As the mixture warms, it will begin to thicken. Keep a small measuring cup of tepid water handy to thin the mixture as the flour cooks. I prefer hot bacon dressing to be a consistency that just coats a spoon. If you like it thicker, go for it, it’s your choice, just don’t add as much water.

Once the flour has cooked, add salt and pepper to taste and return the cooked bacon to the pan.

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That’s all there is to it! All you need to do now is spoon the hot bacon dressing over the curly endive and toss, or, serve the hot bacon dressing separately and let your guests dress their endive as they like.

Ess dich satt un hot en frehlicher Oschder! (Eat yourself satisfied and have a merry Easter!)

Written by BHC Executive Director, Sime Bertolet

This article was written as part of the Berks History Center’s 2018 Berks County Foodways Project. Click here to learn more about Berks County Foodways. 

Clam Pot Pie: A Local Twist on a Uniquely Berks County Dish

 

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So, we’re talking pot pie, and not just any pot pie, but, Berks County Pot Pie! When most people think or talk about pot pie they’re generally referring to the deep dish, crust on bottom, crust on top pot pie made famous by Mrs. Smith, Swanson, et al. While the homemade variant of that type of pot pie can be good, they haven’t nearly the complexity of sensory taste and texture that the unique cultural dish that those of us from southeastern Pennsylvania and especially Berks County call pot pie.

Berks County Pot Pie is a symphony of onion, potato, parsley, sometimes butter and those handmade, hand kneaded, hand rolled, squares or rectangles of dough that differentiate our pot pie from those of the rest of the country. There are many variations of pot pie and most people are familiar with chicken, turkey, beef and if there is a hunter in the home, squirrel, rabbit or groundhog. All of those recipes are excellent, but, the recipe that I will put forth in this blog is one that has been and remains a staple in my Bertolet Family repertoire. Clam Pot Pie!

I can’t even really tell you how I learned to make it. I “watched” my Gremmom and Grempop make it a hundred times and talked about making it with my Father and Uncle Herbie about the same number of times, but I can’t remember ever making it with them. I guess I just learned to make it by osmosis.

Let’s begin.

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Ingredients for 8-10 servings

Pot pie dough:

2 ¼ cups all purpose unbleached flour

3 large eggs

2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

Remaining ingredients:

25 shucked top neck clams (cut clams in half and reserve the clam liquor/juice)

2 bottles clam juice

3 russet potatoes (cut into ½”-1” cubes)

3 yellow onions (chopped medium size pieces)

½ – ¾ cups (finely chopped parsley)

1-½ sticks (12 tbsp) butter

Dough Preparation:

Making you own dough is relatively easy, but it takes some practice, so make a couple of practice runs before you proceed to the main event.  It’s well worth the effort. (If you would like to begin by practicing with a smaller amount, I have found that a ratio of 1 large egg to ¾ cup of flour along with ½ – ¾  tsp salt and ½ – ¾  tsp baking powder works very well.)

Traditional dough preparation:

To prepare the dough, combine the flour, eggs, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Keep a small glass of tepid water handy if extra moisture is needed.

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Begin folding the above ingredients together until a dough ball forms (this may require adding 1 tbsp of tepid water at a time until the dough ball forms). About 3-5 minutes.

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After dough ball forms, knead the dough ball until it acquires a smooth texture/finish. About 8-10 minutes.

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At this point, cover or wrap the dough ball in a towel or plastic wrap and let it “rest” for 2-3 hours, or place the wrapped dough ball in the refrigerator if you are making it ahead.

Alternative dough preparation:

Now, mixing and kneading dough by hand is the reason our otherwise petite grandmothers were so strong. It’s work! So, I’ll offer an alternative method for mixing and kneading dough with the photos and directions below. (The ingredients and quantities remain the same.)

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This method of dough preparation is called modernity and if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer it really makes the job a whole lot easier. Begin by mixing all the ingredients using the unit’s mixing paddle (as shown in Alternate dough making photos 1 & 2) until the dough ball forms (again, adding 1 tbsp. of tepid water at a time if more moisture is needed) When the dough ball is pretty well-formed, switch out the mixing paddle with the dough hook (as shown in Alternate dough making photo 3). Begin kneading with the dough hook. The dough ball will form once and then break apart, this is normal, keep kneading with the dough hook until the doug ball reforms a 2nd time and continue kneading it until the dough takes on that smooth texture/finish.

Now that the dough ball has “rested,” begin rolling out the dough until you achieve the desired thickness.

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I gauge the desired dough thickness with the help of Stella, my Black Lab. When the dough thickness approximates that of Stella’s ear, it right!

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Now that the dough has been rolled out to the desired thickness it’s time to cut the dough. See photos below:

Now, a word about the clams. It used to be that you could purchase shucked clams in their liquor/juice from any seafood market, but not anymore. What I do now is purchase top neck clams in their shells and prepare the clams for use in the pot pie.

I start by scrubbing the clams under cold water to get the sand off of them and then cover them in cold water in the sink to let them purge. I change the water about 3 times until the last change of water remains clean, indicating the clams have purged all the sand they were holding.

Following the purging, I put the clams in the freezer for 24 hours until they are frozen. After the 24 hours, I remove the clams and let them sit a room temperature 4-5 hours until they begin to thaw slightly and I can open them easily with a clam knife. By shucking the clams this way the clams and all their liquor/juice remain in a nice frozen ball which can be placed in a bowl until thawed completely. When thawed, I cut each clam in half and drain them reserving the liquor/juice.

Next, cut/chop your potatoes, onions and parsley as described in the ingredients list. If preparing ahead of time, cover the potatoes with cold water to keep them from turning brown and cover the onions with plastic wrap.

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Assembly:

Now that we’re at the assembly line stage of the preparation, bring all the components within reasonable proximity to the pot you will cook the pot pie in.

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Put the clam liquor/juice in a large pot along with the two bottles of clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a fast simmer and when the clam juice begins to “froth,” skim off all the froth and discard. With the clam juice at a very fast simmer/near boil begin layering the potatoes first, onions second and a layer of cut pot pie dough last, repeating the layering until all the potatoes, onions and pot pie dough are used up.

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Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

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While the pot pie is simmering, begin melting the butter over medium heat until it browns. Don’t let it burn! The butter should be a “nutty” brown, not black.

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After the 15-20 minutes check the pot pie to make sure the potatoes are done and when they are, add the clams and mix well. Cover the pat again and cook until the clams are done.

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When the clams are done, add the brown butter and the chopped parsley and mix well.

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Well, that’s all there is to it. If you like pot pie and you like clams, you’ll love my Gremmom’ s Berks County Clam Pot Pie. Serve with pepper cabbage, cole slaw or chow-chow and you’ve got a Berks County Dutch dinner on the highest order.

Ess dich satt!

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Written by BHC Executive Director, Sime Bertolet

This article was written as part of the Berks History Center’s 2018 Berks County Foodways Project. Click here to learn more about Berks County Foodways. 

The 3rd Annual Berks History Conference Focuses on Berks County Foodways

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The Berks History Center invites you to attend the 3rd Annual Berks History Conference on April 21, 2018, located at 940 Centre Avenue, Reading, PA 19601.

The Berks History Conference is an annual gathering for history enthusiasts that features a series of lectures on Berks County’s history. This year’s conference will focus on Berks County Foodways and will cover a variety of topics that explore Berks County’s unique culinary traditions including: local cuisine during the American Revolution, agriculture and its influence on culture and history, whiskey distilling in Berks County, and the foodways of the PA Dutch.

The Berks History Center welcomes four distinguished conference speakers: Alan G. Keyser, PA Dutch Foodway Historian; Bradley K. Smith, Berks History Center’s Museum Curator; Dr. Irwin Richman, Professor Emeritus of American Studies & History at Penn State; and Dr. Clarissa F. Dillon, Historian & Demonstrator.

“The Berks History Conference is a unique opportunity to explore Berks County’s vibrant cultural traditions through an academic lens,” said Sime Bertolet, Executive Director, The Berks History Center, Reading, Pa. “We are pleased to host four esteemed historians who will share their research and interpretations of a cultural activity that we all enjoy: food!”

This year’s conference is part of “Berks County Foodways” a year-long series of events and a digital community storytelling project at the Berks History Center. The Berks History Conference is sponsored by The Berks Packing Company, Inc. and Sweet Street Desserts.

Tickets are $25 for students, $50 for members, $60 for non-members and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375.  Berks History Center is also offering a special new member fee for $95 that includes admission to the conference and a discounted membership to the Berks History Center. Lunch is included for all participants. Call 610-375-4375 to register or click here for more information.