Wednesday, July 8, 2020

19th Century Bossier Parish Picnic Cuisine

A picnic at Gregg's Landing in Koran, La., c. 1902.
Bossier Parish Library Collection: 0000.001.052.

According to an article in The Bossier Banner, Aug. 6, 1885, which gives insight to the American picnic of the 19th Century, the writer explains that “the distinctive American badge for a day’s out-of door recreation is the basket. It is democratic in character and has a wonderful significance of freedom and independence. It is representative of a day when the cares of business or the household are put aside.”

July is national picnic month and culinary arts month, too. To celebrate these two observances, this writer has compiled some popular recipes from the Bossier Banner, that were commonly found in a 19th Century picnicker’s basket.

Mrs. Julia Zachary on a picnic with grandchildren, c. 1910.
Beulah Findley Collection: 1997.054.051.

Sep. 16, 1880 – “Picnic Buns. – Eight ounces butter, fourteen ounces flour, six ounces sifted sugar, two eggs, half a nutmeg, teaspoonful of sifted ginger, large spoonful of caraway seeds. Beat the butter to a cream; add the eggs, well beaten; mix the other ingredients together and work them well into the butter; add a tablespoonful of flavoring essence. Bake in tin patty-pans, in a moderately hot oven.”

Oct. 2, 1879 – “Potted Beef – Boil a round of beef well, and cut very fine, as fine as for mince pies; season with sage, allspice, salt and pepper; melt butter enough to knead it all together, pack it closely in bowls, and pour melted butter over it. It will keep a week in cool weather.”

Dec. 18, 1890 – “A stoned olive stuffed with a well-flavored chicken force-meat is a delicious tid-bit at a picnic, or for any cold luncheon. Select the large queen olives for this purpose, cut with a penknife a slanting lengthwise cut in each olive, and continue to hold the knife next to the stone and thus remove it. It will come out easily. Stone a number, fill the opening with chicken force-meat, and if you wish to keep them perfectly in shape tie each one up and remove the string after a few hours and just before serving.”

Apr. 29, 1871 – “May Haw Jelly – Simmer the fruit in a brass or earthen vessel with just enough water to prevent burning, in the beginning. When done, and the juice runs from the fruit freely, strain through a flannel cloth. To a cupful of the juice put a cupful of sugar. Boil together in a brass or earthen vessel for twenty minutes. Pour into small vessels as cups, tumblers, &c. When cool cover nicely with writing paper dipped in whisky, the paper dipped in whisky, the paper to lie immediately on the jelly. Sun the vessels a few days. The common plum also makes an excellent jelly when treated in the same way.”

May 25, 1872 – “Sweet Pickle (peaches) - Boil a pickle made of one pint and a half of cider vinegar, three pounds and a half of sugar, with mace, cloves and cinnamon. Pour this boiling hot over six pounds of fruit; plums require five pounds of sugar to six of fruit.”

Picnic in Plain Dealing, might be a Zachary family reunion, c. 1910.
Beulah Findley Collection: 1997.054.052.

Aug. 28, 1879 – “Chow-Chow - 1 peck green tomatoes, well chopped; sprinkle a handful of salt and let remain over night; in the morning drain off the water and add 1 cabbage chopped fine, 1 cauliflower picked fine from the stalk, 2 red peppers, 2 green peppers, 2 onions, ½ cup salt, 2 tablespoons celery seed, 4 ounces white mustard seed, 2 teaspoonfuls whole cloves, 2 teaspoonfuls allspice, 2 sticks cinnamon. Boil the cabbage and cauliflower in a little vinegar 20 minutes; then put the rest of the ingredients together and boil 10 minutes longer. Cover with cold vinegar and set away. The chow-chow made in this way keeps excellently well.”

Jan. 2, 1896 – “Sponge Cake – Two cups of sugar, two cups of flour, eight eggs, one teaspoon of lemon. Beat well together and bake in dripping pan.”

Aug. 31, 1882 – “Cakes which are particularly nice for picnics, as they can be carried in a basket without much danger of crumbling, are made of one cup of sugar, half a cup of butter, two eggs, half a cup of sweet milk, one teaspoonful of cream of tartar, a half a tablespoonful of soda (or two even teaspoonfuls of baking powder.) Mix with flour enough to make the dough as stiff as for sugar cookies. Roll out, or cut in strips, twist these strips like old-fashioned doughnuts, bake till they are a light brown. They may be flavored with lemon, or with cinnamon, or they may be dipped in cocoanut and sugar while hot. - N. Y. Post.”

These recipes are just a sampling of ideal picnic foods, no matter what century it is. Other everyday items were bread and butter, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, crackers, pickles of any variety, cold meat, and salad fillings, such as chicken or egg salad. For beverages, lemonade was a favorite in the 1800s, as well as tea and coffee.

By: Amy Robertson

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