In my linen closet there is a box of curtains that I haven't used in years but recently I dug it out searching for some ivory sheers I wanted. In the box I discovered a cookbook that belonged to my mother – why it was in there we can only guess. The book was printed in 1955 and is called Pickles and Preserves by Marion Brown (the link is to a 2001 reprint). In the fall this was my mother's bible and it is one of those highly readable cookbooks filled with stories and anecdotes that are delightful. It is also chock full of newspaper clippings and recipe cards, some in my mother's handwriting.
What makes this cookbook particularly enjoyable is the variety of strange and fascinating recipes. Some are quick and easy to be made in small batches. A few are labeled “Career Girl” recipes and are made from frozen fruits and vegetables so busy “career girls” (a popular term in the 50s) could hurry home from their “girl Friday” jobs and whip up a batch of salad pickles that tasted like she had slaved in the kitchen for hours.
I love some of the very old-fashioned sounding chapters. Crystallized Fruits & Flowers has detailed instructions for crystallizing everything from strawberries to violets and tons of recipes including Honey & Rose-Petal Preserves and Glacéd Wine Figs. There is a chapter on Conserves, which I happen to be partial to, including Rhubarb (Pie Plant) Conserve and Red Beet Conserve. The rather lengthy Meats and Sea Food chapter includes all Venison Mincemeat, Pickled Oysters, instructions for brining, corning, and pickling meat, a variety of meat pastes, sausages and scrapples and “Easy Brined Shrimp”.
Marion Brown's section on Preserves is testimony to the fact that early cooks could figure out a way to preserve darn near anything and includes quaint recipes like Sun-Cooked Strawberry Preserves, Pumpkin Chips, and Cantalope Preserves.
Perhaps the most unique recipe in the book is one she copied from a fifteenth century cookbook for “Peris in Syrippe and Wyne”:
Take warden and cast hem in a fair potte. And boile hem til hei ben tendre; and take hem vppe, and pare hem in ij. or in iij. And take powder of canell, a good quantite, and caste hit in gode red wyne, and cast sugur thereto, and put hit in an earthen potte. And let hit boile; And then cast the peis thereto, And late hen boile togidre awhile, take powder of gingre, and a litell saffron to coloure hit with, and loke that hit be poyante and also Doucet.
She adds 2 interpretations of that, her own and a variation by a friend which adds orange slices. I love the idea of adding saffron.
I don't know if this cookbook can be found anywhere anymore but if you need a recipe for Lime Relish, English Mint Chutney or Creole Whiskey Peaches just let me know. I love this book, I'll be re-reading it cover-to-cover this week.
All is quiet out back this morning:
Thanks for reading.