What's all this then? Well, it started with my latest acquisition...
I've been hunting for this for such a long time: a 1952 printing of Aunt Daisy's Favourite Cookery Book. It's a goldmine of old, traditional recipes covering all aspects of cooking. The book itself is a little worse for wear; the cover's come adrift and it's torn at the bottom but according to the local bookbinder it's all quite fixable and all for only $! It'll be sent off later this week and I'll show you the finished result once it comes back.
See the price? I'm not exactly sure what six shillings and six pence would equate to today, but I have it on good authority that at the time it would secure the services of a wide-hipped country girl to do your laundry, or half a dozen street urchins to aid you in your attempt to fight crime on the streets of Victorian London.
I've quite a few old cookbooks but none with the binding located at the top - a very handy feature and unique for the time. It's been well used, especially the baking section which is speckled with grease and goop.
So who is Aunt Daisy? Maud Basham, or Aunt Daisy as she was known to her huge audience, was a prominent broadcaster on New Zealand's public radio network, from the 's right through to the early sixties. People would tune in to her daily show, eager for recipes and advice on food, cooking and running a household. Capitalising on audience demand, she released a cookbook which eventually went on to be published annually, even after her retirement from radio. The books, like her radio show, were packed full of tips, hints and recipes. These were always well received and sales rivalled that of that other iconic kiwi cooking tome, the Edmonds Cookbook.
The lady herself, Aunt Daisy:
Many of the recipes contained in this book have been passed on from generation to generation, just like male pattern baldness.
Old ads on the back cover:
Time to put the book to work. I have more fruit and veg than I know what to do with at the moment, so making preserves and jams has been high on my list of things to do. With that in mind, I liked the sound of her rhubarb and strawberry jam so I thought I'd give it a go. As with most of her recipes, it's quite brief so I'll reproduce it here:
To lb. of strawberries allow 1/2 lb. of rhubarb and & a 1/4 lb. of sugar. Cut the rhubarb to size of strawberry, and cover all with half the sugar. Leave all night. Next day bring to the boil, add the rest of the sugar, and boil till it will jell.
Having the fruit sit in the sugar overnight will draw out a substantial amount of its liquid. This is very desirable, particularly in the case of the strawberries, which like most soft fruit tend to fall apart when cooked. The other advantage is that most of the sugar will have liquified. It's essential in cooking your jam that the sugar is dissolved; if it isn't, it won't set, so most of this job is done for you by following this method.
Sterilise your jars by popping into boiling water for ten minutes and then drying in the oven set at c.
Bring your fruit and sugar slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once done, leave to boil for five to ten minutes, or indeed longer if necessary. As you can see from the photo below, a layer of scum formed on the surface. I ignored it, but if it bugs you, it can be remedied by either one of two ways (cheers mum!). Firstly, before you start, grease your pot with a little butter. She didn't know why, but it stops the scum from forming. The other way of fixing the problem also uses butter. Wait until your jam is cooked and off the heat, then stir in a knob of butter - the foam disappears like magic. Whatever you do, don't skim it off - they're not impurities rising to the surface as happens say, when making stock; they're simply air bubbles creating foam as they struggle to the surface through the viscous fluid.
Test the set of your jam by using either a sugar thermometer (set occurs at c), or by plopping a teaspoonful on a chilled plate; leave to cool in the fridge and then nudge it with your finger - if it goes right through the jam, place finger near mouth, lick and continue cooking out your jam. If the jam wrinkles, it's ready and it's time to take it off the heat.
The jam was very sweet. I was a bit worried it would overwhelm the flavour of the rhubarb and strawberry, so I squeezed some lemon juice into it just to temper the sweetness, but not too much otherwise it would taste too lemony. Taste yours and adjust accordingly. Pour jam into sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool dark place.
Done! How did the finished product taste? In terms of texture, it was nice and chunky. It was very flavoursome for a jam (I guess I'm just used to the bland commercially made stuff) and a good use of seasonal ingredients. Next on my list from the Aunt Daisy book are rose petal jelly and blood orange marmalade (although I think the season for them is almost over - the ones I saw were from Oz and cost an arm and a leg, then your other leg for good measure). I also want to whip up some blackberry jam too (might throw some star anise in as well, just to tart it up).
Time for some tea and toast. I leave you now with some vintage jam: