Pretty Centrepieces for Thanksgiving Tables & Winter Desserts of Preserved and Canned Fruits

These are the fourth articles in November of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on November 25, 1906. I have transcribed two articles as I did not know which one was the more prominent of the two and thought them both to be interesting.

One article, the shorter, is on dressing a Thanksgiving table while the other is on desserts made of canned fruits.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Pretty Centrepieces for Thanksgiving Tables

WE AMERICANS are little given to sentiment, and we are apt to take our national holidays too much as a matter of course to bestow much thought upon their origin. It seems fitting, however, that in this time of plenty, we should pay some little tribute to the memory of those stern Pilgrim fathers, who nearly 300 years ago set aside a day in which to give thanks for the gathering in of the first harvest in their new country.

There is a pretty custom prevalent in some families on Thanksgiving Day which is worthy of more followers. This is to bring the guests into a table bare of food, decorations, even of a cloth, and with only five grains of corn (for it was for this tiny individual portion that the first Thanksgiving Day was held) lying at each plate. Afterward, of course, the table is spread with all the luxuries and beauties that modern custom demands, and the little lesson in contrasts plants in each heart another note in the swelling song of thanks.

A good dinner is a good thing, but a good dinner daintily served, with charming accessories, is even better, and the successful hostess is she who puts almost as much thought and skill into the arrangement of her table as she does into the planning of her menu.

Fruits and Nuts in Decorations

Fruit, nuts, vegetables and grains form the basis of the true Thanksgiving decorations. If flowers are used, chrysanthemums are the most appropriate, and if you live in a section of the country where the autumn leaves retain their rich coloring until late November, you will find them a charming addition to your table.

A novel centrepiece can be made of a huge yellow pumpkin, to which are fastened great clusters of purple grapes, each bunch concealing a tiny favor. Stick pins, silver bookmarks, any trifle that the grapes will hide, will do for these gifts. Or the pumpkin may be hollowed out and filled with fruit, with candles set at intervals about the edge.

This matter of fastening the candles to the pumpkin is simple enough if you leave a broad rim after you have scooped out the seed and pulp. A sharp knife will cut little sockets, and the candles are made a trifle more secure if the ends are softened by holding them to a lighted match just before they are set into place.

When you don’t care for the candle-trimmed pumpkin, you may scallop the edges, and it is rather effective to suspend a similar pumpkin, scalloped and fruit filled, from the ceiling to a little distance above the one on the table. The cord by which this second pumpkin is hung should be concealed by a clinging green vine, and this vine brought down, twined about the lower pumpkin and across the cloth to each plate, then circling the table, is not to be despised as an aid to beauty.

A more conventional centrepiece is an ordinary flat fruit dish filled with fruit and banked with chrysanthemums. A number of chrysanthemums with very long stems extend from this banking, one ending in front of each guest’s plate. This fruit dish remains in place during the entire meal, the fruit is eaten as a final course, and each guest carries away the chrysanthemum that touched his plate as a souvenir of the occasion.

Corn in the ear makes a beautiful Thanksgiving decoration. If you can get unhusked ears of corn in both yellow and red, lay them about the centerpiece of fruit, flat on the cloth. Strip the husk back from one side so that the gleaming kernels are revealed, then draw the husk over the fruit so that the rich colors of the apples, oranges and grapes gleam through its pale yellow.

The woman who is fortunate enough to be able to get hold of a shock of wheat for her Thanksgiving table has wonderful possibilities at her command. The wheat, loosely bound, with a profusion of fruits apparently falling from it, certainly suggests the richest sort of a harvest. Then she can make her candle shades like miniature shocks of wheat, and she can conceal favors in wheat shocks beside each plate.

Where the autumn leaves are “getable,” a charming effect can be gained by a background of grown leaves, strewn with nuts, from which rises a centerpiece of the usual fruit, banked about with corn and wheat. The dull browns and the pale tints of the grain bring the deeper coloring of the fruits out into unusual beauty.

Candle shades for this table of autumn leaves can be made in the semblance of several richly tinted maple leaves, out of paper, or, what is far more economical and quite as effective, the hostess may make them herself of the real leaves. All she needs forth is purpose are the tiny wire frames, which are sold at a trifling cost, and which, when covered with thin white paper, may be decorated in any manner that falls in with the proposed dinner scheme.

Yellow chrysanthemum shades are pretty, but by no means novel. Tissue-paper pumpkin shades are a delight if they are not beyond the skill of the amateur shademaker, and clusters of grapes twined over green tissue-paper shades are good to look at, but a trifle top-heavy and therefore keep you on the lookout to guard against fires.

If you want something novel in candlesticks, use carrots that have been cut off at one end to make a substantial base, and hollowed out at the other to form a socket; or pumpkins, or even apples, if you can get the big, rosy ones. Candles set in these fancy sticks are better without shades.

Of course, the hostess who is tireless in her ambition need not stop at decorations which are for the table alone. She can carry out her Thanksgiving idea in her salads, in the garnishing of her dishes and in her ices. Her time, strength and pocketbook are the only limitations to her possibilities.

Winter Desserts of Preserved and Canned Fruits

THERE are more possibilities in preserved and canned fruits than are dreamed of in our housewife’s philosophy.

Of course, she knows that the fruits put up last summer during the torrid days, when, perhaps, the flesh groaned under the effort, will be of use for Sunday night teas and for the luncheon on washday or ironing day, when the exigencies of must-be-dones allow little time for the dessert that is only a may-be-done. But on these occasions the fruit is simply “turned out” into a glass bowl and served with sweet crackers, biscuit, or cake. The children may like it, although they soon weary of the cloying sweetness of too many conserves; but John, remembering his mother’s frugalities, suspects a makeshift in the hastily and easily prepared dessert, and does not ask for a second supply—unless he be that rarity among the masculine sex, a man with an inordinately sweet tooth.

In retrospection, those hot July, August and September days (in which she literally won her metaphorical bread in shape of preserved fruits by the sweat of her brow) will seem better worth while to our housewife if she appreciates that at that time she prepared the nucleus of many a delicious winter dessert-—a dessert in which the boys and girls will revel, and of which John will show his approval by that most convincing of phrases, “A little more, if you please, mv dear!” Pies are expensive and indigestible articles—

“Too rich and good
for human nature’s daily food,”

in a family where digestions are delicate and purses even more slender. Pastry of all kinds is to be taken very sparingly by the child one would have escape American dyspepsia. One mother insists that a diet of apple pie makes the small boy’s complexion of the hue of the soggy pastry and his temper and stomach of the acidity of the not-too liberally-sweetened contents of the crust. Occasionally, however, the pie may be introduced into the bill-of-fare, but only as a stranger with whom one has a mere speaking acquaintance, but is not on terms of intimacy. And when it is thus brought forward, it may consist largely of one of the fruits from last summer prepared by the housemother herself.

For this same housemother, remembering with qualms of the diaphragm and indigestion of soul, recent “pure food” investigations, does not often set before her family the tin-can product from the corner grocery. The amber lobes that were once fresh plums, the carefully halved peaches, translucent and shining; the wax-like Bartlett pears, perfect in contour and firm of texture, are, to her, one and all objects of suspicion. They may be pure, and yet, again, they may not—and in her cautious mind the “nots” carry the day. Looking well after the ways of her household, she fears to introduce some deleterious acid into the stomachs of her family, and so does not trust the wares offered by the salesman as “the finest thing in fruit to be found anywhere, 15 cents a can—two for a quarter.”

Our housemother prefers to know just what she gets for her money, and knows that sweet, firm fruit and pure sugar went to the preparation of her preserves which are, let us hope, as sweet now as they were the day she parboiled herself and cooked them against the time when heat and fruit would be expensive luxuries. And just here is it well to remind this same housekeeper that, if her fruits show signs of fermentation, they should not be used, even in pies and puddings. Turn them back into the preserve kettle, add sugar and “cook them over” before serving them in any shape. The little acrid taste that leaves a “tang” on the tongue may leave a worse reminder upon the sensitive mucous membrane lining the stomach.

In the following recipes there are often directions for draining the fruit from the liquor in which it is canned or preserved. Our housewife may save this liquid and make of it excellent pudding sauces.

Plum Batter Pudding.

Drain the liquor from a can of plums and set in an open bowl for an hour. Remove the stones carefully, not to break the fruit.

Sift three teacupfuls of flour with a heaping teaspoonful of baking powder. Beat four eggs very light, add a generous tablespoonful of melted butter, a quart of sweet milk into which a saltspoonful of salt has been stirred, and, lastly, stir in lightly the flour. Have two dozen stoned plums arranged in layers in the bottom of a deep, greased pudding dish, pour in the batter and bake at once in a hot, but steady, oven. While baking, make a hard sauce, flavoring it with vanilla. Serve the pudding with this sauce as soon as baked.

Small Plum Puddings.

Drain and stone the plums as in the last recipe. Put four plums in the bottom of a very deep greased patty pan or very small pie plates. Work into a large cup of flour a scant tablespoonful of butter, add a gill of milk and a little, salt. Work smooth, then spread over the top of the plums. Bake in a quick oven. When ready to serve, loosen the edge of the crust on each tin, and turn upside down on a broad platter. Serve with rich cream.

Cherry Turnovers.

Drain canned or preserved cherries into a pound of flour, and rub a cup of butter. When like a coarse powder, moisten with a teacupful, or less, of iced water, and work to a paste, handling as little as possible. Roll out upon a floured board, fold up and roll out again, and yet once more. If very cold still, use at once. If not, set in the ice chest until chilled. Chop the cherries (from which the pits must have been removed, unless this was done before canning them), add two beaten eggs and the juice of one lemon. Roll out the paste, and cut into rounds the size of a large biscuit. Put a tablespoonful of the mixture on one-half of the round, and turn the other half over upon the fruit and itself, pinching the edges together. Lay these half-circles in a floured baking pan and bake to a golden brown. These are good, hot or cold. Sift powdered sugar over them before serving.

Cherry Bread Pudding.

Drain the liquor from a can of stoned cherries, and chop these small. Cut the crust from a loaf of bread, and slice thin, then spread each slice with the chopped cherries. Pack all into a deep dish, and pour slowly over the bread—allowing time for it to soak in well—the liquor from the cherries. Set aside in the ice-box for some hours, or until the juice is thoroughly absorbed by the bread. Make a custard of three eggs, a pint of milk and sugar to taste, and pour this over the bread. If this quantity does not fill the dish, add more milk, for the bread must be entirely covered with the custard. Put a plate or cover on the bread to keep it under the custard, and bake until the custard is set. Serve with powdered sugar and cream.

Steamed Cherry Pudding.

Make a batter of a pint of milk, a tablespoonful of melted butter and two well-beaten eggs. Add three cups of flour that has been sifted with a teaspoonful of baking powder and a pint of cherries that have been drained from the liquor in the can. Dredge the fruit well with flour and stir it in lightly. Turn into a greased mould and steam for three hours. Eat with a hard sauce flavored with the cherry liquor.

Raspberry Pudding.

Open a can of canned or preserved raspberries, and drain off the liquor, saving it for sauce for the pudding. Make a rich biscuit dough: roll this into a sheet a half inch thick, spread thickly with the berries, sprinkle bits of butter over these and roll up the sheet of dough as you would a sheet of music. Put into a floured cloth and boil for three hours. Add to the raspberry liquor a little sugar and boil up once. Take the pudding from the cloth, lay on a dish and pour the steaming sauce over it.

Rhubarb Pie.

Drain the liquor from a can of rhubarb and chop this. Add to it a half cup of sugar, the yolk of an egg, a piece of butter the size of a walnut and a tablespoonful of flour. Moisten with three tablespoonfuls of the rhubarb liquor and bake in an open piecrust. When done, make a meringue of the white of the egg and sugar, spread this on the pie and return it to the oven just long enough to “set” the meringue. Eat cold.

Rhubarb Pudding.

Drain the canned rhubarb and put a layer of it in the bottom of a greased pudding dish. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, add a few drops of lemon juice and dot with bits of butter. Now put in a layer of crumbs and moisten these with the liquor from the can of rhubarb. Put in more rhubarb, sugar and butter and more moistened crumbs. Continue in this way until the dish is full, having the top layer of dried and buttered crumbs. Cover and bake for fifteen minutes in a hot oven, then uncover and brown. Serve hot with hard sauce.

Huckleberry Shortcake.

Into a quart of flour chop a tablespoonful of butter and work in a half cup of powdered sugar. Add three cups of milk and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder. Mix to a soft dough, handling as little as possible. Roll out, and cut into rounds that will fit in two layer-cake tins. Bake in a quick oven. When these two biscuits are done, turn out, split open and spread with butter. Have ready the contents of a can of huckleberries, drained and heated, and spread each layer thickly with these. Place the rounds on top of each other, pour the remaining berries and liquid over the top round and serve at once.

Dutch Peach Cake.

Drain the liquor from a can of peaches, and, if not already stoned, stone them, cut into strips or eighths, and set in the colander to drain well while you make the cake.

Sift with a pint of flour two teaspoonfuls of baking powder and a half teaspoonful of salt. Into this stir a beaten egg and a teacupful of milk. Grease a loaf tin and put in the dough, then press the pieces of peaches into the top of the loaf, laying them close together. Sprinkle with bits of butter, and dust all with sugar, adding but a little of this, as the peaches are already sweetened. Bake until done, and serve with whipped cream or, alone, as a cake.

Peach Tapioca.

Soak a cup of pearl tapioca until clear and soft. Cut up canned peaches into bits. There should be eight or ten of these peaches if large in size and a cup of their liquor. Boil the tapioca in a pint of water. When tender, add the peaches and liquor, and stir while the mixture comes to a boil, then remove immediately from the fire. When cold, set in the ice until wanted. Serve with cream.

Peaches and Cream.

Drain the liquor from halved preserved or brandied peaches, and set on the ice until very cold. Beat a pint of cream very light, sweetening it as you do so, and whipping into it a half cup of blanched and chopped almonds. Arrange the halves of the peaches on a chilled platter, and fill the cavity left by the stone in each half with the whipped- cream mixture, heaping this high.

Keep in the fire until ready to serve. Pass fresh sponge cake with this dessert. This makes an attractive and delicious company dessert. It is still prettier if a Maraschino cherry top each mound of whipped cream.

Apple Whip.

Chop canned apples very small, or, better still, if you have canned apple sauce, use that. Rub through a colander. Beat the whites of four eggs to a stiff meringue, and add gradually to this a pint of the minced apples, adding, also, a dash of lemon juice and a little sugar, if needed. Line a glass bowl with ladyfingers and fill the bowl with this mixture. When serving, put a great spoonful of cream on each portion.

Strawberry Souffle.

Drain the liquor from a can of preserved or canned strawberries. Beat the whites of seven eggs to a stiff froth, adding the berries gradually. Turn into greased pudding dish and bake for a half hour in a steady oven. Serve at once with whipped cream.

Strawberry Jelly.

Soak a half box of gelatine in a little water, and, when the gelatine is dissolved, add a cup of the liquid in which strawberries were canned, and the berries themselves. Stir for a moment, pour into a wet mould, and set aside until cold, then put in the icebox. When turned out, the berries will be at the top of the form, the pink jelly at the bottom. Turn upon a platter and heap whipped cream about the base of the form.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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