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viva

Pork Cake

47 posts in this topic

Alrighty - I was recently given a cooking challenge by a dear family member, and I would love to surprise her with a resurrected recipe. I need your help!

Every year for Christmas, she had an aunt who used to make a Pork Cake as a version of fruitcake. She doesn't have too many details about the cake, other than this: she's not really sure how the pork got into the cake (other than it wasn't in large, obvious chunks). It was a light-colored fruitcake, with candied fruits, and no obvious taste of liquor. (Personally, I think the concept of cake, pork, dried apples & whiskey might necessitate a little deviation from that memory).

I posted about this in the Fruit Cake thread, but it landed there with a dull thud. I think y'all are the ones who understand that "Pork" and "Cake" are not mutually exclusive terms.

I've done a bit of internet searching, and Pork Cake looks to be a heritage recipe in the South (and Midwest), but the recipes are pretty vague, specifically regarding the pork. Most recipes say "salt pork" or "fat pork", either ground or chopped fine, either saying "very fat" or "no lean". Inevitably the pork is covered with some boiling water, and then mixed with the other ingredients. Sometimes it is drained, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the instructions say to let the pork/water combo sit and cool. All the recipes are damn old and not specific enough for this inexperienced Pork Cake baker. Even more confusing... some recipes just use "ground pork sausage" without the boiling water step.

Otherwise the recipes appear to be standard fruitcake recipes, maybe with coffee or whiskey, and various chopped candied/dried fruits. This makes me wonder if I can take a good white fruitcake recipe and replace the butter/fat with the ground fat pork/water combo.

There's a teasing mention of a Pork Cake in the Resurrect This Cake thread here, but no one appeared to be up to the challenge. I, friends, am willing to experiment. Thoughts?


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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i'm from n.c. and have lived all over the south. i'll take a look in some of my jr. league cookbooks to see if there's something like this, but frankly, i've never heard of it. could it be like putting suet in mince meat?


"Ham isn't heroin..." Morgan Spurlock from "Supersize Me"

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I don't know about pork cake, but in Portugal there is a creme caramel with pork fat in it to make it extra unctious!

Chloe

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AmbrosiaFood, yes, that looks like most of the recipes I found online. You said your grandmother made something similar...did you like it?

Since I am not sure exactly what I am supposed to be making, I think I am going to try a couple of varieties to see what happens...

- Chopped pork fat/boiling water method, similar to the recipe posted by AmbrosiaFood, adding a few more candied/dried fruits and, er, maybe just a wee bit of whiskey.

- Pork sausage method

- A regular old white fruitcake as emergency backup

Since this could expand the horizons of pork fat cooking everywhere...I'll post results of the Great Pork Cake Experiment! :laugh:


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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AmbrosiaFood, yes, that looks like most of the recipes I found online.  You said your grandmother made something similar...did you like it?

Since I am not sure exactly what I am supposed to be making, I think I am going to try a couple of varieties to see what happens...

- Chopped pork fat/boiling water method, similar to the recipe posted by AmbrosiaFood, adding a few more candied/dried fruits and, er, maybe just a wee bit of whiskey.

- Pork sausage method

- A regular old white fruitcake as emergency backup

Since this could expand the horizons of pork fat cooking everywhere...I'll post results of the Great Pork Cake Experiment!  :laugh:

Yes, I liked my grandma's pork cake a lot! Her cookbooks [with her handwritten notes inside], are in storage, so that is why I had to do a online search.

I will be interested in hearing how your cake experiment turns out!

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Dear Sister and I have researched this topic and we can only find a recipe that she used to make with pork sausage. She was feeding a hungry hoard at the time and this rich cake was a good filler and easy to make. It was like a dense spice cake baked in a bundt pan.

We can't find a recipe amongst our fairly extensive resources with the minced pork fat.

I do have to say that it sounds really good. After all, mince meat had suet in the traditional preparation. I can imagine that the pork fat melting during baking would impart a fabulous texture. I will have to try this.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Okay folks,

Here is the recipe for pork mincemeat cake from my aunt. I spent over an hour on the phone with her while she dictated the recipe. I typed it out then called her back and went over it line by line to make sure I have it exactly as it should be. Should I also post it on the fruitcake thread?

Meemaw's Pork Mincemeat Christmas cake.

Pork Mincemeat 1 1/2 pounds (prepare at least a week ahead)

See below for recipe.

currants or sultanas 15 oz

chopped pecans 2 cups

vanilla 1 Tablespoon

rum or brandy 1/4 cup (or a mixture of the two)

butter melted 1/2 cup

brown sugar 2 cups

eggs, separated 3 extra large

baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoons

water 1/4 cup

cake or pastry flour 3 cups

1. Preheat oven to 275°. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan (can use bundt pan)

2. in a large bowl, combine mincemeat, currants or sultanas, nuts, vanilla and liquor - set aside

3. In a large mixer bowl, combine butter, sugar and egg yolks: beat well. Combine baking soda and water, add to mixture.

4. Sift flour over mincemeat mixture, stir to mix well.

Combine contents of both bowls; mix well. (Batter will be stiff)

5. In small bowl of mixer, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.

6. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 275° for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until done. (Cake will pull away from sides of pan)

7. cool slightly, remove from pan. Cool completely and wrap to store.

(Wrap in cheesecloth - *spritz with rum, brandy, flavored brandy or flavored liquor - then wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil) Place in cake tin.

Cake keeps very well.

* I keep a small spritzer bottle in the kitchen just for liquor - the alcohol will evaporate rapidly from cooked foods and will evaporate in about 3 days when used on baked goods like this cake - for people like me who have an allergy to alcohol.

This method uses much less alcohol than pouring it on the cake and there is less chance of having soggy lumps saturated with liquor.

There is a commercial rum and brandy mix that is usually only available during the holidays. With the addition of vanilla - about 1 teaspoon to 1 cup of the liquor, this gives a very nice flavor to this type of cake.

Cherry Heering or Peter Heering the cherry liquer is also an excellent flavoring for fruit cakes.

-------------------------------

MeeMaw's Pork Mincemeat

1 pound lean cooked pork cut into strips

1/3 pound pork fat cut into strips

1 pound dried apples cut into pieces

1 pound Sultanas or golden raisins

1 pound mixed peel

1/2 pound citron

1/2 pound dried pineapple

1/2 pound blanched almonds

zest and juice of one large orange

zest and juice of two lemons

zest and juice of one grapefruit

1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground

1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground

1 teaspoon allspice, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup sweet sherry

1/2 cup brandy

1/2 cup rum

Gather the first 8 ingredients on a tray or platter.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Using a food grinder with the coarsest blade, alternate ingredients as you put them through the grinder so they are combined in a Dutch oven or roasting pan large enough to hold everything.

After grinding, mix well with your hands.

Add the next 8 ingredients, cover tightly and cook for 2 hours.

Remove from oven.

Place a metal colander in a large pan, line with cheesecloth and spoon the mixture into the colander.

Stir gently, turning the mixture over to drain away most of the liquid fat.

Return the mixture to the cooking pot.

Add the sherry, brandy and rum, stir well.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Ladle into sterilized jars, cover tightly and store in a cool place for one week prior to use.

Once opened, store in refrigerator.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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:wub::wub: I'm all over this. Thank you for passing on MeeMaw's recipe, andiesenji!!

I picked up dried fruits at the store today and will be making fresh candied peel tonight. Will stop at the butcher tomorrow for some pork & pork fat... actually I asked at the grocery store today (wishful thinking), and got a blank stare: "you want what?" Yeah, you heard me. Pork fat. <sigh>

I think MeeMaw's recipe is the closest to what I am looking for, I'll post pictures of how it looks during the process! I'm also going to try one of the chopped fat/boiling water recipes, if only because I want to see how it turns out.

I'm thinking that maybe Applejack might be a good liquor to use as well? I've been hankering to use some after the Applejack thread popped up in the Fine Spirits forum.


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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You can use any kind of liquor as long as the proportions are the same and you can substitute it for the sherry too.

The amount of alcohol is critical as that is the preservative that keeps the stuff from spoiling or getting moldy.

My aunt said that she used Galliano one year when she had a bottle that someone had given her and she had no other use for it (doesn't drink anything except an occasional Ezra Brooks bourbon and water).

She said that she often uses "whatever is handy" meaning that if someone leaves a bottle of something at her home after a party, she feels free to appropriate it for her baking. That is, anything but scotch. She says that it may be sacrilege to some but the smell of it always reminds her of her husband's old boots. (He was a petroleum engineer.)


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Interesting.

The mincemeat recipe looks very much like a traditional Xmas mincemeat, except without the sugar, and with pork instead of beef. I wonder if that is beacuse that was all that was locally available?

Mincemeat recipies with fruit and meat in turn can be traced back to medieval times. It was usually used as a pie or tart filling or to stuff apples. I wonder if there is the equivalent.

The cake recipe may in turn relate to European puddings with meat or mincemeat, such as Xmas pudding,or the Scottish Black Bun.

Is there the porky equivalent of other sorts of suet puddings? Roly Poly, Spotted Dick, Ssssex Pond, etc?

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The Pork Mincemeat Cake Experiment began last night with a fresh batch of candied orange and lemon peel. I added a bit of triple sec to the sugar syrup for some extra kick.

gallery_19995_308_1099268221.jpg

This morning I found my pork fat at the local carnicerias – they were much more helpful than the local chain grocery, although unfortunately my Spanish knowledge does not extend to “pork back fat”, so we were all gesturing at our backs while saying “pork” and “lard”. It worked.

The only change I made was to add white figs to the dried fruits, but keeping the total weight of dried fruit the same. Here’s everything all chopped and ready to be ground (with pork & pork fat front & center):

gallery_19995_308_1099268255.jpg

This was my first foray into meat (well, anything) grinding, and damn is it fun! Was it wrong that I kept singing “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out” while the standing mixer was grinding away? It is Halloween, after all. I’ve got to find more recipes where I get to grind stuff. [/end brief juvenile foray]

Anyway, here’s everything all ground up and ready to be put in the oven:

gallery_19995_308_1099268301.jpg

2 hours later, here’s the mincemeat out of the oven:

gallery_19995_308_1099268344.jpg

It smelled and tasted ***phenomenal***. (I ate a bit.) There was no obvious “pork” flavor, but it was rich and fruity.

There was really no liquid fat to drain off the mincemeat, it had the consistency of a very moist stuffing. I didn’t worry too much, since I don’t have a problem with a little extra pork fat. I moved on to cooking the mincemeat with the liquor… here I substituted Applejack and rum (Appleton, heh). Jarred it up, and it is now resting peacefully for the next week:

gallery_19995_308_1099268496.jpg

I’m hoping there might be a little extra mincemeat in addition to the 1.5 lbs that the recipe calls for, because this, added to a little cornbread or similar, would be a spectacular stuffing for turkey.

Next weekend, the actual cake.


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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2 hours later, here’s the mincemeat out of the oven:

It smelled and tasted ***phenomenal***.  (I ate a bit.)  There was no obvious “pork” flavor, but it was rich and fruity. 

Next weekend, the actual cake.

My aunt said that one of the "problems" of making this stuff was that if Meemaw (and now her) turns her back after the roasting, some of it would "disappear" and she would catch one of her sons tucking into a leftover biscuit with a bit too much gusto.

This is a reduced size recipe. Meemaw made 8 quarts in a batch and usually made two or three batches. My aunt cut it down when she began making it 40 or 50 years ago. She hasn't made it for several years but our discussion has reminded her just how good it was and she is going to make a batch this week.

She said her husband liked it layered in between layers of "Johnnycake" or sweetened cornbread.

She would make 4 or 5 thin layers of sweetened cornbread, with buttered brown paper on the top during baking so it wouldn't form a crust. After putting the cake together with the mincemeat in between the layers, she would drizzle "raisin wine" on it. Which is simply sherry in which raisins (or other dried fruits) have been soaking for some time.

She would then wrap it tightly in muslin with more of the liquid drizzled over it and then in "tin" foil. However she would store it in the ice box, usually hidden behind the vegetables to keep the boys out of it.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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By the way, your photos are wonderful.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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The Pork Mincemeat Cake Experiment began last night with a fresh batch of candied orange and lemon peel.  I added a bit of triple sec to the sugar syrup for some extra kick.

This was my first foray into meat (well, anything) grinding, and damn is it fun!  Was it wrong that I kept singing “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out” while the standing mixer was grinding away?  It is Halloween, after all.  I’ve got to find more recipes where I get to grind stuff.  [/end brief juvenile foray]

I’m hoping there might be a little extra mincemeat in addition to the 1.5 lbs that the recipe calls for, because this, added to a little cornbread or similar, would be a spectacular stuffing for turkey.

Next weekend, the actual cake.

There IS something about grinding things that look one way and have them look totally different when they come out of the grinder.

I love making pimento cheese, alternating mild cheddar and the canned large pimentos or sweet peppers from the middle eastern store.

The mincemeat mixture would be good in stuffing. It is also good in fried pies or little tarts. I also seem to remember that Meemaw made a side dish with this mincemeat and chestnuts.

Since I didn't spend as much time at their house as I did with my other grandparents, my memories are not as sharp.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I may bring any extra mincemeat to Thankgiving and do a little stuffing experimentation exercise. It's still sitting there, looking tasty, and I am trying to keep from eating it all before I make the cake.

To borrow Emeril's phrase, pork fat rules.


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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I may bring any extra mincemeat to Thankgiving and do a little stuffing experimentation exercise.  It's still sitting there, looking tasty, and I am trying to keep from eating it all before I make the cake.

To borrow Emeril's phrase, pork fat rules.

You could probably make another batch, after all, there is "another" holiday in a month!!!


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I received a newsletter today from Diana Serbe, from In Mama's Kitchen,

and noted that there were several English christmas recipes represented, including one for mince meat, the real thing, containing beef.

This one appears to be fairly simple, fewer ingredients and fewer steps than the one I have so I am posting it for those who may not want to use pork.

Mincemeat recipe.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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That "In Mama's Kitchen" site is wonderful! I've often thought that the best memorial I could make to my mother is to organize her recipes and pass the old favorites on to those who would like them. There's a good 100 years of recipes to go through, just gotta get them out of storage when I go back to NZ next.

I'd appreciate it if you would post the pork mincemeat cake on the cakes thread - here in Japan, beef suet is hard to find, and beef is either dubious or ruinously expensive. I will most certainly be trying this recipe out!

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Well, folks, I finished the Pork Cake last night. Yay!

First step is the batter. I’m pleased to report that there is probably 3-4 times as much mincemeat in Andie’s recipe than you need for the cake, so there’s plenty left over for stuffing experimentation and, well, just general snacking. I added chopped dried apples, dried pineapple, and sultanas in the final batter, and used Applejack again as the liquor.

gallery_19995_308_1099839642.jpg

All I have to say is that MeeMaw must have had a mean right arm, because stirring the flour into the mincemeat requires muscle power. “Batter will be stiff” is an understatement! Heh. Anyway, after adding the brown sugar-egg mixture, the flavors in the mincemeat came out even more.

I had enough batter to make myself a little mini-loaf too – because the cake is a gift, I need quality control, don’t I? Just to make sure it’s a good gift?

gallery_19995_308_1099840234.jpg

After 2 hours of smelling wonderful, the cake was done…

gallery_19995_308_1099840388.jpg

This is a picture of the interior of the half-eaten mini-loaf. Sorry that it isn’t in the best focus, but let’s just say by the time I realized the focus problem, the mini-loaf was <ahem> gone. It was ***delicious***… by far one of the best tasting fruit cakes I have ever had. Snaps to MeeMaw!

gallery_19995_308_1099840436.jpg

I’m clearly going to need to start rendering my own lard, because pork fat is just a whole ‘nother flavor dimension. Next up I am going to make another of the recipe types, wherein you chop the pork fat and pour boiling water over it. The dried fruit is soaking now.

Thanks for your family recipe, Andie! I’ll let you know how my family likes it in a few weeks.


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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That "In Mama's Kitchen" site is wonderful! I've often thought that the best memorial I could make to my mother is to organize her recipes and pass the old favorites on to those who would like them. There's a good 100 years of recipes to go through, just gotta get them out of storage when I go back to NZ next.

I'd appreciate it if you would post the pork mincemeat cake on the cakes thread - here in Japan, beef suet is hard to find, and beef is either dubious or ruinously expensive. I will most certainly be trying this recipe out!

Helen,

It is post #8 in this thread. I can post it on the fruitcake thread if necessary. However I believe Viva has already cross linked it.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Regarding the "very stiff batter" in the pork cake. I think Meemaw used her hands to mix it.

She did have strong arms. Even though by the time I knew her, they had had a washing machine for several years, the bedding always was washed or boiled, in a big tub in the back yard and Meemaw would work that tub full of sheets with a long handled paddle.

She wasn't a very big woman but tough. She would go out to the woodshed and split wood for the wood stove if the "boys" weren't moving fast enough for her.

I either use my hands (gloves, of course) or use the Danish whisk I got from King Arthur Flour a few years back. It is perfect for cutting through stiff dough.

I always wear gloves because invariably, as soon as I get my hands in a mess of something, the phone will ring. This way I just strip off a glove and answer. Clean hand = clean phone.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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By the way, Viva, I am so pleased that you like the cake. As soon as I get caught up with my current tasks, I am going to fix some of the mincemeat also.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Andie, I'm happy to do your family recipe proud. I think my stepmother will be very pleased as well - I can't wait to see if this is the type of cake that she was fondly remembering from her youth. If it ain't, I'm taking the whole thing back home with me! :)


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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You certainly did a beautiful job with it. It looks perfect.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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      + + +
      We moved to Salem, Oregon from The Dalles, in the Summer of 1964, when my Father, Edgar Ross, accepted a position at the Oregon Department of Agriculture in the Commodity Commissions Bureau. My parents settled on a ranch-style, three-bedroom home on the corner of Ward Drive and 46th Avenue in the new community of “Jan Ree” Gardens. Our lot was bordered by new homes on two sides and to the East was a field of Blue Lake bush beans that would soon be consumed by the encroaching development. Mother and Father shared a few details about our new home. It had a second bathroom, a wood-paneled living room and an unfinished family room that my father promised would have a metal wood stove. But they kept one little secret from my sister and me until we were a block from our final destination on the day we drove to Salem -- our new house was next door to the grade school. I didn’t know whether to feel good or sick at the thought of living next door to the school where I would spend the next five years.

      Hayesville Elementary School was typical of the architecture of grade schools built in the early 1960’s-an L-shaped, non-descript building painted in drab green and grey. The assembly room, cafeteria and administrative offices anchored the building with the classrooms jutting out from the principal’s office. I started the school year in Mrs. Rhonda Sample’s second grade class. She was young, blond and attractive, totally unlike the spinster vision I had of the teacher that awaited me at my new school. The highlight of the school year was the annual “Open House at Hayesville.” Students showcased their talents, dazzling parents with displays of frogs and snakes in aquariums, samples of cursive writing on paper chains hung over the blackboard and paper mache busts of historic American figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Mothers and fathers could take a tour of the gleaming, stainless steel kitchen where Mrs. Fox prepared our hot lunches each day-warm, billowing cinnamon rolls dripping with powdered sugar frosting and her buttery, oven-fried chicken. But the most anticipated event of Open House at Hayesville was the annual Cakewalk Raffle -- a silly fun dance around the classroom. The winner won a cake and the proceeds went to fund other activities at school.

      We cut footprints out of colored construction paper and pasted them in a large circle on the spotless, pink vinyl-tiled floor. Each “foot” was given a number from one to twenty. Red, white and blue streamers were tacked on the outer walls and then brought to the center of the ceiling to define the center point of the cakewalk circle. When the room was ready, Mrs. Sample turned on the lights and opened the door, welcoming a parade of Mother’s who pranced into the room carrying Tupperware cake caddies, Pyrex baking dishes, glass cake domes and disposable aluminum trays coddling their precious cake creations.

      Three long tables were placed against the wall and covered with proper linen tablecloths. The tables served as the stage upon which the cakes would strut their stuff. The chorus line of cakes went on and on through the annals of cakedom-Chiffon, Angel Food, Devils Food, Sponge Cake, Pound Cake, Marble Cakes, Chocolate Torts and Jelly Rolls. There were cakes garnished with coconut, dusted with nonpareils, frosted with peanut butter, sprinkled with peppermints, and dotted with spiced gum drops. I entered the Cakewalk over and over until I won, seemingly always at the end of the evening when very few of the best cakes were left on the table. While Mother’s “Burnt Sugar Cake with 7-Minute Frosting” was good, it would be a total embarrassment in front of ones classmates for a kid to choose the cake made by his mother. No, should I win the Cakewalk and should it still be available, I would choose the Spiced Praline Crunch Cake made by Bernie Bennett’s Mother.

      The historical importance of the Cakewalk wasn’t a part of Mrs. Sample’s second-grade curriculum at Hayesville in 1964. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we were insulated from the racial struggles of the South at that time. I was a young white boy in a middle-class American family. I led the colorful life of a kid, yet I lived in a country that saw only shades of black and white.

      Only three years before my second grade, in the Spring of 1961 the Freedom Riders set out on a campaign to test the Supreme Court Ruling that upheld the segregation of blacks and whites at bus depots, waiting rooms, lunch counters and restrooms throughout the South. The Freedom Riders were met with ignorance and violence. African-Americans couldn’t drink from the same water fountain I drank from. I never knew.
      + + + The Cakewalk played an important role in the history of America -- a long-forgotten chapter that tells the story of the struggles forced upon the enslaved, who in spite of their burdens rose above the oppression of race and found a new form of the expression of freedom.

      The seeds of the Cakewalk were sown in the segregated deep South sometime around 1850, as a parody of the way plantation owners escorted their ladies into a formal ball. The women wore long, ruffled dresses of silk and glass beads with long, white gloves that reached above the elbow. The gentlemen were outfitted with top hats and tail coats. Couples pranced and paraded into lavishly decorated ballrooms, arm-in-arm in high-stepping fashion, marching into the center of the party, often to the music played by a banjo-strumming fiddler who worked in the fields.

      The winner of the dance contest sometimes won a cake presented by the master of the house, leading many to think this is where the name the “Cakewalk” comes from.

      African-American slaves who watched the proceedings took the dance on as their own in the yards outside their shacks, mocking what they saw as the frivolous customs of the plantation owners. According to the oral histories of slaves and their descendants, the Cakewalk was a marriage of traditional African tribal dances and rhythms combined with the dance steps of the upper classes. When the land barons and ladies saw the slaves dance, they missed the satirical element entirely, but the popularity of the Cakewalk had been established among the elite and it now transcended the boundaries of class.

      Wealthy farmers went on to sponsor competitions between plantations and the dance moved to large cities in the South and then to the East where it became a staple of traveling minstrel shows and ultimately to Vaudeville, the lights of Broadway and throughout Europe.

      On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation with these humble words, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Inspired by the renewed freedom gifted to them through Emancipation, a freedom that allowed them to express themselves openly through dance and music, African-Americans led a creative revival that would usher in new forms of dance and music that had never before been seen or heard. The artistic contributions of former slaves and their descendants would forever change the creative landscape in America.


      From this humble beginning in the sweltering, humid heat and back-breaking work of picking cotton, African-American artists penned the notes of a new from of music called ragtime that would eventually evolve into jazz. It was the Cakewalk, unintentionally and ironically, that crossed the bounds of race and class status as it burst into the popular consciousness of America By the 1890’s, African-American actors, dancers and musicians had started forming their own production companies and staged versions of the Cakewalk became all the rage.

      Scott Joplin, (1867-1917), was an early musical pioneer of the Cakewalk style of music. Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Joplin wrote and performed in the style of rag—a combination of dance and marching music entwined with the “ragged” rhythms and soul of African music. One of Joplin’s most famous pieces was “The Ragtime Dance,” (published in 1902), that included a Cakewalk:

      “Turn left and do the “Cakewalk Prance, Turn the other way and do the “Slow drag, Now take your lady to the World’s Fair and do the ragtime dance. Cakewalk soft and sweetly, be sure your steps done neatly.”

      The vaudeville team of Mr. Egbert Williams and Mr. George Walker were two of the first African-Americans to take their musical show on the road in a grand scale. Crowds packed into The New York theatre in 1903 for 53 stunning performances of song and Cakewalk dances in William’s and Walker’s new production “In Dahomey” -- the first all-black musical to be performed on a grand scale in a major Broadway venue. After its raging success in America, “In Dahomey” crossed the Atlantic, performing for seven months of standing-room-only audiences at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London before returning to New York.

      By the turn of the century, Americans were moving off farms and into towns and cities in record numbers. Ragtime music transformed into a new genre called “Jazz,” with emerging talents like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington playing at the Cotton Club in New York.

      By 1930, the public fascination with dance theatre began to fade as America was lured by the intrigue of other forms of entertainment like talking motion pictures. But the early concepts and the heritage established by the Cakewalk endured throughout the twentieth century and into the 21st, namely, as a contest to raise money at church socials and school functions. The Cakewalk also delivered new words into the American vocabulary-“take the cake,” and “it’s a real cakewalk,” are terms used to refer to something that is “the best,” or a job easily done. Cakewalk software is a cutting-edge firm today that produces award-winning digital audio and recording software to the music industry.

      + + +
      I’m nearing my 54th birthday in November, some 46 years removed from my second-grade class. I had been lost until that Cakewalk at Yoke’s, yet now I’m found. I’ve learned a lesson in respect through the Cakewalk -- a lesson that taught me how emancipation allowed the enslaved to express themselves through music and dance. A lesson that freedom is an unalienable right bestowed upon all Americans. I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the place that this little ditty we call the Cakewalk plays in the history of America, opening our eyes to a world that was color blind.

      I found my personal truth in the Cakewalk -- a truth far richer and deeper than the dreams of a boy winning a cake.

      * * *
      David Ross lives in Spokane, but works a one-hour plane ride away. When he's not tending to his day job -- or commuting -- he writes about food and reviews restaurants. He is on the eGullet Society hosting team.
    • By JohnT
      I have been asked to make Chinese Bow Tie desserts for a function. However, I have never made them, but using Mr Google, there are a number of different recipes out there. Does anybody have a decent recipe which is tried and tested? - these are for deep-fried pastry which are then soaked in sugar syrup.
    • By shain
      Makes 40 cookies, 2 loaves. 
       
      50-60 g very aromatic olive oil
      80 g honey 
      120 to 150 g sugar (I use 120 because I like it only gently sweet) 
      2 eggs
      2 teaspoons of fine lemon zest, from apx 1 lemon 
      230 g flour 
      1 teaspoon salt 
      1 teaspoon baking powder 
      75 g lightly toasted peeled pistachios
      50 g lightly toasted almonds (you can replace some with pine nuts) 
      Optional: a little rosemary or anise seed
      Optional: more olive oil for brushing
       
      Heat oven to 170 deg C.
      In mixer (or by hand), mix oil, honey, sugar, lemon, egg and if desired, the optional spices - until uniform. 
      Separately mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. 
      Add flour mixture to mixer bowel with liquids and fold until uniform. Dough will be sticky and quite stiff. Don't knead or over mix. 
      Add nuts and fold until well dispersed. 
      On a parchment lined baking tray, create two even loaves of dough. 
      With moist hands, shape each to be rectangular and somewhat flat - apx 2cm heigh, 6cm wide and 25cm long. 
      Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden and baked throughout, yet somewhat soft and sliceable. Rotate pan if needed for even baking. 
      Remove from tray and let chill slightly or completely. 
      Using a sharp serrated knife, gently slice to thin 1/2 cm thick cookies. Each loaf should yield 20 slices. 
      Lay slices on tray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes until complelty dry and lightly golden. 
      Brush with extra olive oil, if desired. This will and more olive flavor. 
      Let chill completely before removing from tray. 
      Cookies keep well in a closed container and are best served with desert wines or herbal tea. 
       
        
    • By Tennessee Cowboy
      I'd like help from anyone on making the best Pistachio Ice cream.  This forum is a continuation of a conversation I started in my "introduction" post, which you can see at 
      I recently made Pistachio ice cream using the Jeni's Ice Cream Cookbook.  I love Pistachio ice cream, so I've launched an experiment to find the best recipe.  I am going to try two basic approaches:  The Modernist Cookbook gelato, which uses no cream at all, and ice cream; I'm also experimenting with two brands of pistachio paste and starting with pistachios and no paste.  Lisa Shock and other People who commented on the earlier thread said that the key is to start with the best Pistachio Paste. &nbsp;  
      Any advice is appreciated.  Here is where I am now:  I purchased a brand of pistachio paste through nuts.com named "Love 'n Bake."  When it arrived, it was 1/2 pistachios and 1/2 sugar and olive oil.   I purchased a second batch through Amazon from FiddleyFarms; it is 100% pistachios.  I bought raw pistachios through nuts.com.  The only raw ones were from California.  If anyone has advice on using the MC recipe or on best approaches to ice cream with this ingredient I'd appreciate them.  I will report progress on my experiment in this forum.
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