Old family recipes give us a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who came before us.
Recently, I attended a presentation at Chicago’s famed Newberry Library by archivist Kelly Kress on a 19th Century family heirloom cookbook donated by the Blatchfords, a Chicago family of note who resided at their home, Ulmenheim (German for “Elm House”), which stood on LaSalle Street between Maple and Elm streets.
The topics of Ms. Kress’s insightful talk ranged from the kinds of foods families ate during the years leading up to the Civil War to the growing influence of immigrant cultures on American dinner tables. To help illustrate her talk, she served a traditional cider cake she made following one of the book’s actual recipes. Sadly, I arrived too late to indulge, but I’m told it was marvelous.
Another popular dessert from that era was jumble cookies, which are a mixture of a variety of ingredients, but usually include raisins, nuts and spices. They are a very old dessert, dating back to the Middle Ages, but also have been popular in the United States since the colonial days.
Martha Washington had a famous jumble cookie recipe and they are reported to have been among the items brought over on the Mayflower and were a staple in Jamestown.
Jumble cookies are simple to make, very flavorful and can be stored a long time without going bad, which probably accounts for their popularity though the ages.
Their name derives not from “jumble” as in a lot of things mixed together, but from the Arabic “jemel”, which means “twin” and refers to the shape into which they were formed. They are sometimes called “jumbals”.
The recipe I found in the Betty Crocker Cookbook (originally published in 1969) called for all ingredients to be mixed together in one bowl simultaneously, but I don’t think that would turn out so well. I’ve modified it to improve the end product.
The recipe also called for applesauce, but I substituted apple butter because I recently made a batch and wanted to use it up. Try this recipe if you want to bring a little history to your kitchen!
Apple Butter Jumble Cookies
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup apple butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Brown Butter Glaze (Recipe below)
Preheat oven to 375F. Cream the shortening and sugar in Kitchen Aid bowl (or use hand mixer), then add the apple butter, vanilla, and the eggs one at a time until absorbed. Meanwhile, combine cinnamon, ground cloves, salt, baking soda and flour in a separate bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, then fold in walnuts and raisins. Use two teaspoons to drop onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving about 2″ between, and cook for about 14 minutes. Remove immediately from the cookie sheet and cool on racks. When cool, ice cookies by dipping them upside down into the glaze, allowing the excess to drip off.
Brown Butter Glaze
1/3 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 to 4 TBS hot water
Heat butter over low heat until it browns, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Once browned, remove from heat and whisk in sugar and vanilla. Thin out with water until proper consistency for dipping.
Does your family have dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation? Share your traditions in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!