Wednesday, July 28, 2021

THE PA MELTING POT - Introduction to Ethnic CuIsine in western PA and more!

THE PA MELTING POT - Introduction to Ethnic Cuisine...:  A look at the evolution of food in southwestern  Pa. RECIPES - Introduction This introductory post contains recipes from early Southwestern PA

THE PA MELTING POT - Introduction to Ethnic Cuisine in western Pennsylvania: Recipes, Photos and Videos

 A look at the evolution of food in southwestern Pa.
RECIPES - Introduction

This introductory post contains recipes from early Southwestern PA before all the LARGE ethnic food groups became a major part of this area.  The dates under the recipes' titles show when the recipes actually occurred in print. There is a modern day counterpart link for each recipe. 

As a native (German, PA Dutch, Scotch-Irish & Welsh) of Southwestern PA & many time resident, visitor & student to Northwestern W VA & Southeastern Ohio, I have found many commonalities and much diversification in cuisine from this area.  

I grew up on Italian, German, Polish, PA Dutch (Deutsch) & other foods.  In this area your next door neighbor could be a a German or an Italian or a Serb, etc.  

There were lots of festivals for ethnic groups.  Some of the Native American residents who inhabited our region early on were the Eries, Senecas, Iroquois and Shawnees.  

Pre-1700 foods were nuts, berries, and roots. They hunted (bison, elk, deer, beaver & wild turkey) & fished. Common vegetables raised were corn, beans & squash.  As you can see these foods had an influence also on the foods of the area. 

14 ETHNIC immigrant groups have been identified as making up the “melting pot” of the area which is probably THE MAJOR “melting pot” in the USA.  These groups immigrated to the US from the 1700’s to the 1960’s.  These groups were the 

  • (1) Germans (from Bavaria, Alsace, Moravia, Switzerland, Bohemia, Holland, PA Dutch from several areas) 
  • (2) British (from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales), 
  • (3) Russians, 
  • (4) African-Americans (from the southern US), 
  • (5) Ukrainians, 
  • (6) Macedonians, 
  • (7) Bulgarians, 
  • (8) the western Europeans: Slovaks or Slavs (parts of countries of Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Moravia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia ), 
  • (9) Italians, 
  • (10) Polish, 
  • (11) Jews from Poland, Germany 
  • (12) Native Americans 
  • (13) Scandinavian 
  • (14) Indians & other minor groups:  Swedish, French (first to settle but most immigrated to other areas after Washington chased them out), Spanish (Basques), Syrian, Chinese, etc. (These minor groups also contributed to the ethnic food of the area.)
This series of articles will focus on these immigrant groups and their cuisine THEN and NOW!!

(Remember, they didn't measure anything back then)

Potato Balls 1894

Mash some cooked potatoes with salt, pepper, butter and a little chopped parsley.  Roll into balls, dip in beaten egg, roll in bread crumbs & fry for a few minutes in hot butter. 

LINK to Modern Day Potato Balls

Stewed Celery 1894

Scrape & wash one or two heads of celery, cut the stalks into 2 " lengths & boil half an hour, or until tender, in salted water.  Drain off the water, pour over the celery sufficient cream sauce to cover; simmer a few moments & serve. 

LINK to Modern Day Stewed Celery

Squash 1796-1882

Take young, tender summertime squash & boil whole without peeling.  Use as little water as possible and cook until tender. Drain thoroughly, mash & set aside to dry out remaining moisture.  Stir occasionally, then season with salt, butter, pepper and a little cream.  If using old squash, remove the peel, take out seeds & slice & season and season as above.  Serve hot.  

LINK to Modern Day Squash Recipe

Cranberry Sauce 1893

 Wash & pick the berries, removing all imperfect ones. Put them in a porcelain kettle: to a quart of berries allow a pint of sugar.  Boil 10-15 minutes taking care not to mash the berries.  Pour into a deep dish or a mold.

No Link but here is my EASY personal recipe:
1 package frozen cranberries
1 orange
1 cup sugar or to taste (I make mine tart)

Put the defrosted cranberries and the cut up orange (skin and all after removing seeds, if any) into the food processor.  Process.  Add sugar and mix.  This is so simple it is unbelievable. I get asked to take it to every Thanksgiving & Christmas invite!!

Corn fritters 1893

  For corn fritters, either cooked or raw corn may be used. 
With 4 eggs (separated) and 8 ears of corn are needed.  Strip the corn from the cob.  
  • 1 TBSP of sugar
  • 1 TSP of salt
  • 1 pint of sweet milk
  • 1 TBSP of melted butter
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • NEXT
  • Whisk egg yolks until smooth
  • Stir the corn in slowly and
  • then the sugar, salt, flour, melted butter, milk and last of all the whipped egg whites (whipped into a stiff froth).
  • Heat a griddle
  • grease it lightly with butter, 
  • & drop the batter in tablespoonfuls.
  • Turn with cake turner (spatula).
  • NOTE:  The fritters must be quickly cooked and served very hot. 

LINK to Modern Day Corn Fritter Recipe with VIDEO

Oyster Stew 1700's

1 pt. oysters
2 cups milk, scalded
1 tablespoon butter

Put shucked oysters and liquid into a saucepan.   Heat about 5 minutes, or until oysters are plump and edges begin to curl.  Stir oyster mixture into the milk.  Add the butter and season to taste.  Serve immediately. 

Apple Dumplings 1700's

  NOTE:  Cooking was an adventure for people back then since they didn't always write down recipes nor quite follow modern day methods. 

Rich baking powder (no measurement given)
(couldn't find a definition for "rich" baking powder so I would just use what you normally use)
Biscuit dough (remember they didn't measure anything)
6 apples, medium size (I like tart so I would use Granny Smith 
but use any apple that will hold its shape)
1/2 cup brown sugar (Up to you whether you use light or dark; it certainly will affect the color)
1/2 TSP salt
1 TSP cinnamon
1 TSP nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins (use white or dark or a mixture for color)
1 TBSP butter

Prepare biscuit dough.  
(After looking at recipes this appears to be recipe for a two crust pie or your favorite recipe for biscuits.) 
Roll 1/4 inch thick and cut into squares: 6 x 6 (depending upon size of apples).
Pare and core apples & place one in each center of square. 
Fill each with a portion of the seasonings, sugar & raisins & dot with butter. 
Bring corners of the dough to the top of the apples & seal by pricking with a fork.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with cream or milk.  

Sponge Cake  1890's

One large cup of sugar, four eggs beaten into a foam, three tablespoonfuls of milk, two teaspoonfuls of baking power, one large cup of flour, flavor with lemon.
This makes a small cake. It should be baked in a shallow, square pan and eaten fresh. Rich and delicious according to grandma.  Again no time frame for the  baking. 

Lemon Butter Late 1600's

Lemon butter is good for sweets and other foods.  I would spread on the pound cake or on the plain tea cakes or plain cookies.


Pumpkin Pie 1890's

One quart of pumpkin pressed through a sieve
Eight eggs (separated) beaten separately
Two scant quarts of sweet milk
One pint sugar
A teaspoonful each of butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. 
Beat together and bake in pie pans lined with rich pastry.  (No time frame on this)

Tea Cakes 1756


NOTE:  Recipe as written:  Of flour, sugar, a quarter of a pound of each and as much yolk of egg as will mix into a stiff paste.  Make them into round cakes the size of half a crown.  Below this line is a photo of a half crown (a British coin)

NOTE: I couldn't find an American coin that compared to it. 
I am guessing they are small or about the size of this coin!

Bake them in tins. Put some caraway seeds in them. 

Next part of The PA Melting Pot will be German Sects Part 1.  (The Germans from various parts of Europe were the largest immigrant group to this area.)