Saturday, July 12, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #3

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #3 

On This Day in History

Throughout the summer of 1893 the World's Columbian Exposition rolled on, attracting numerous guests from around the globe. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition was held in St. Louis in 1904. July 10, 1914 also happens to be the day that Babe Ruth made his major league baseball debut with the Boston Red Sox. The Sox won, kicking off the legendary career for the Bambino. Boston sports fans know that when the Sox traded Ruth to the Yankees, the Sox never won another World Series title for 86 years. The World's Colombian Exposition was famous for introducing (or at least popularizing) new foods. One of the new foods that supposedly debuted at the fair was Cracker Jack! What else could I make for both a ball game anniversary and a world fair?

According to The Food Timeline,  during the 1870s the German immigrants Frederick and Louis Rueckheim sold popcorn on the streets of Chicago. They began to experiment with combining popcorn with several other products. When the Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago in 1893, they sold a confection composed of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts, which they prepared in a small factory. After the exposition, orders for the confection rose. The Rueckheims increased production, repackaged the product so that it would stay fresh, named it Cracker Jack, and promoted it nationwide. . . . By 1913 Cracker Jack was the world's largest-selling commercial confection.

 In 1908, the lyricist Jack Norworth and the composer Albert von Tilzer immortalized Cracker Jack in their song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" . . .

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.

I was inspired to make homemade Cracker Jack in honor of Babe Ruth's debut.

Rooting for the Home Team
This was actually my third attempt at making an historical recipe. My first choice was honey biscuits in honor of the Battle of Britain which began on July 10, 1940. You can read about British wartime rationing and the importance of honey at One Hundred Days of Honey. I found a recipe in a Ministry of Food pamphlet. My cookies did not turn out well. The recipe needed more fat and I burned my cookies. 

I then turned to the St. Louis World's Fair to look for something refreshing. The fair had a no stimulants policy so I decided on an orange frappe. I thought I bookmarked the recipe but now I can't find it! I made my own recipe based on memory so since that was cheating, I moved on to Cracker Jack.

The Recipe:
Orange Frappe
Popcorn Balls from The Neighborhood Cookbook, Council of Jewish Women, Portland, Or.: 1914

The Date/Year and Region:
1914 USA

How Did You Make It: 

Orange Frappe
I combined 1 c. Tropicana Florida Natural orange juice with 1 c. water and 1. sugar and the juice of half a lemon in a blender with a bit of vanilla. I then added ice and blended again to get the cracked ice the recipe calls for. 

Cracker Jack
There's very little in the way of instructions for making molasses popcorn. What does "Butter the size of an egg" mean? What size egg? I took out an egg and concluded 3 T. of butter equals one regular egg.

I consulted a 1940s cookbook and a modern recipe for Cracker Jack. First I cooked the popcorn in a pot on the stove since I don't have a popcorn popper. I added peanuts and sprinkled on some Kosher salt. Modern Cracker Jack is caramel made with molasses and corn syrup but I couldn't find a period correct recipe that included corn syrup and I didn't have any light corn syrup on hand anyway. Then I boiled the butter, sugar and molasses to the soft ball stage, poured it over the popcorn and mixed with a well-greased spoon and my hands. Once the popcorn was coated, I spread it onto a greased baking sheet to cool. Once it cooled, I broke it into pieces.


Time to Complete:
Several hours start to finish.

Total Cost:
Under $10

How Successful Was It?: 
 The frappe is surprisingly good. It tastes like an Orange Julius but with a stronger orange flavor. 

Cracker Jack c 1893 is molasses popcorn with peanut. It doesn't really taste like Cracker Jack but it's not bad. It's very sticky and hard on the teeth. I think I killed my pan.

Comments from my parents:
Dad: "This is the best thing I've ever tasted! You should market this?" (Um yes, someone beat me to it in 1893 - it's called Cracker Jack)
Mom: "It tastes just like the real thing. It's soo good! The salt makes it good.  I have to stop eating this!"

How Accurate Is It?: 

Orange frappe made in the blender with commercially available orange juice is not very accurate for 1904.
Cracker Jack - almost 100%. I added peanuts and Kosher salt to the recipe for popcorn balls and just didn't roll them.

1 comment:

  1. I love your top photo! I never thought to make cracker jack.


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