Monday, August 25, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Strawberry Pudding

During World War I, which began in August 1914, the federal government created the Canada Food Board to increase food production and encourage Canadians to eat less flour, sugar, butter, eggs, pork and beef. Massive quantities of these foods were shipped to Europe to feed Allied troops and the civilian populations of Britain and France, who might have otherwise starved.

The Canada Food Board issued a directive to "proprietors of Public Eating Places" such as the University of Saskatchewan concerning the use of flour and sugar. No more than 2 lbs of sugar could be used per 90 meals served. The sugar had to be "yellow" not white (a cheaper form of sugar). For every 4 lbs of white flour, at least 1 lb of alternative flour (oatmeal, corn, whole grain, etc.) had to be used.

The directive admonished, "Do not serve bread and butter before the first course. People eat them without thought."

This recipe for Strawberry Pudding, which appeared in the Saskatoon Daily Star in August 1916, fit the times. It uses brown sugar and minimal butter and flour, while taking advantage of homegrown seasonal fruit. The original instructions were brief, assuming everyone knew how to steam a pudding. I did not. However, I tried it twice, once in a ceramic baking dish and once in small jelly jars, and it turned out well.

Strawberry Pudding
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup soft butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup sliced strawberries

Cream together brown sugar and egg, add butter, milk and vanilla. Blend well. Blend together dry ingredients. Mix into batter. Stir in strawberries.

Pour into a baking vessel that has been buttered on the bottom. It should be about half full as the pudding will rise. Cover with tin foil that has been smeared with butter.

Place in a cooking pot, add water to come half way up the baking dish and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover pot and simmer 2 hours. When cool, tip from mold and serve with whipped cream and strawberries.

Take a look at the food posters produced by the Canada Food Board at

This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WWI Canada Food Posters

During World War I (1914-1918), the Canadian government formed the Canada Food Board to increase agricultural production and encourage frugality here on the home front. It produced a series of colourful posters driving these messages home.
As the above poster indicates, it was illegal to "hoard" foods that were in short supply. Flour, sugar, eggs, meat and fats such as lard and butter were sent to Europe in large quantities to feed Allied troops and civilians at home in Britain. Canadians were encouraged to eat less of them.   
Thirteen of these food posters produced during WWI can be viewed on the website of

The Canada Food Board also created a series of educational illustrations for newspapers. These panels included tips for reducing food waste and for using less bread, sugar, butter and meat. These panels can be viewed on the website of Ontario archives.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Potato and Apple Salad

One hundred years ago, this country was at war. World War I began in August, 1914, making a significant impact on agriculture and the daily diet.

Wheat was in high demand, much of it sent to feed our allies in Britain and our troops in Europe, for whom bread was a staple food. By 1917, the price of wheat had tripled to $2.20 a bushel. Farm families prospered. It was boom time in Saskatchewan.

We also sent pork, beef, butter and cheese to Europe, creating shortages here at home. Recipes published in the Saskatoon Daily Star reflected these shortages. Baked goods were made with less white flour and more oat, corn, rye and whole wheat flour, and less white sugar in favour of brown sugar, syrup and molasses.

There were fewer recipes for meat dishes and more for fish and beans. There were also more recipes for cooking and preserving garden vegetables and local fruit such as apples and berries. Recipes in 1914 such as fancy sandwiches and cheese fondue gave way in 1916 to recipes for baked brown bread and raspberry ice.

This frugal recipe for potato and apple salad appeared in the newspaper on August 28, 1916, along with recipes for curried crab, raspberry ice and whole wheat apple cake.

Potato and Apple Salad
6 tart apples
4 medium boiled potatoes
Juice of one lemon
Salad greens
French dressing

Core apples (peeled or unpeeled) and cut into cubes or thin slices. Marinate in lemon juice one hour. Cut cold potatoes into cubes or thin slices to match the apples. Lightly mix in apples. Serve on salad greens with French dressing.

Note that in 1916, French dressing was not the pinkish salad dressing in our stores today, but a simple blend of 2 tsp vinegar, 4 tbsp oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. To that, I added 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 2 tbsp grated onion and a pinch of sugar.

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wartime Apple Cake

This recipe appeared in the Saskatoon Daily Star on August 28, 1916, during World War I. War shortages had an effect on how we cooked at home. White flour was exported to Europe, so home cooks were encouraged to use more brown flour. Recipes focussed on local ingredients, such as apples and potatoes.

Like most recipes of that era, these instructions are not detailed. For instance, this recipe does not state the temperature of the oven. I'd say 375F. I haven't cooked this cake yet. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out!

Apple Cake
Put into a basin half an ounce of grated unsweetened chocolate, two cupfuls of brown flour, a handful of currants and half a teaspoonful of cloves. Make a cupful of sauce from sour apples and stir into it a large teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda, add three parts of a cup of sugar and half a cup of sour milk. Then pour in the other mixture, beat well and bake in a modern oven for nearly an hour.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Beaver Stroganoff

As you throw another steak on the BBQ, consider the pioneers.

Their summer diets were largely vegetarian. With no refrigerators or freezers, it was impossible to butcher a pig or a cow as most of the meat would quickly spoil, and the chickens were better kept for eggs. The answer: wild meat.

In 1882, the Baines family arrived from Manchester, England, and would have starved on several occasions if not for wild meat. Fred Baines, who was a child at the time, recalled that "badger was an oily strong nauseating meat, it took a strong stomach to handle it. Personally, I prefer skunk or muskrat."

Of course, wild game fed prairie families for millennium, primarily the bison, but also beaver, rabbits, moose, prairie chickens, geese, gophers and the aforementioned muskrat and skunk.

Beaver was long considered a delicacy, but not by everyone. Artist Paul Kane didn't much like beaver when he travelled here in 1846: "It is a fat, gristly substance, but to me by no means palatable; the rest of our party, however, seemed to enjoy it much. The tongues were decidedly delicious; they are cured by drying them in the smoke of the lodges."

I wanted to taste the pioneer experience for myself. Thanks to a friend, I acquired a piece of beaver, cleaned and frozen, which I cooked in a traditional recipe for beef stroganoff, a staple of Hungarian settlers. It was amazingly delicious with local chanterelle mushrooms. If you don't have beaver, substitute beef. :)

Beaver Stroganoff
1 lb meat, trimmed of fat
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2-3 cups beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup sour cream

Boil beaver in water for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. Slice meat against the grain into thin strips.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Cook onions until soft. Add meat. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Sauté until meat is no longer pink.

Add mushrooms, 2 cups broth and Worcestershire sauce. Cover skillet and simmer two hours or more, adding more broth if needed, until meat is tender.

Before serving, stir in sour cream. Bring to a light bubble and remove from heat. Serve on noodles.

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Spudnuts

The annual Saskatoon exhibition begins today, and that means more than 50,000 spudnuts will be consumed over the week. Spudnuts are a summer tradition in this city, but their history goes way back.

The word "spud" is an old English nickname for the potato. As such, spudnuts are a doughnut made with potato as a main ingredient. Many of the European cultures that settled Saskatchewan brought a potato-based doughnut in their culinary repertoire. They used mashed potatoes, which produces a lighter fluffier doughnut than with flour alone.

In the early 1900s, spudnuts were introduced to the Saskatoon exhibition. For many years, they were made by volunteers, first by the Church of Latter Day Saints and then the Boy Scouts; Prairieland Park took over production a decade ago. As many as 90 employees are put to work making 45 batches of 200 spudnuts every day of the fair, rolling and forming each one by hand, according to Carl Schlosser, director of events at Prairieland Park.

Nowadays, he says, they do not use mashed potatoes but an exclusive (and secret) flour-dry potato mix. So, if you can't get to the Ex, you can enjoy some old-fashioned spudnuts at home.

2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup warm potato cooking water
1 cup mashed potatoes
3/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
3 – 4 cups flour
Vegetable oil or lard for deep frying

Dissolve yeast in warm potato water and let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes. Stir in mashed potatoes, milk, butter or oil, sugar, egg and salt. Add 3 cups flour and knead 8–10 minutes, adding the remaining flour as needed to form a smooth dough that is not sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough to oil all sides, cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down and rise again until doubled.

Roll dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut with a doughnut punch, or cut in circles and work a hole in the centre with your fingers. Rest spudnuts 15 minutes.

Heat vegetable oil at a depth of 2 inches to 350F, when a drop of dough browns nicely but does not burn. Working in batches, fry spudnuts until golden brown, turning to cook both sides and draining on paper towel. Dip into sugar or glaze with icing.

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)