Recipe cards an intimate look into kitchens of the past

Published 2:12 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

It’s not often that I unearth handwritten recipe cards left behind – and up for grabs at an estate sale. With internet resources, I was afraid most people had done away with any handwritten notes.

I didn’t know the lady and I’d never met her. But after rescuing and reading scores of her neatly scripted recipe cards, I felt as if I’d rediscovered a long-lost friend. I’d like to introduce you to Miss Pam. A part of her culinary journey will live on through me, and I’m delighted to share.

First, let me tell you what I recognized about Miss Pam from the get-go. She was a woman who loved being at her stove – but not for long. She was efficient in a kitchen and had found the sweet spot – that place between minimal time spent and the achievement of delicious, gourmet food.

Miss Pam’s chosen entrees were concise, uncomplicated, yet tasty. Her recipes spoke of the good life – one where above-par food was relished. From pages of recipes from cooking classes at the L’ Academie De Cuisine in Bethesda, Md., I knew something else – Miss Pam had once thirsted for culinary knowledge and a higher skill level. Her quest? To become a better cook. Often she corresponded with others – writing down favorite recipes and sharing with folks near and far through by mail.

From her collection, I gleaned Miss Pam loved the main entrée – especially the many delicious ways she enjoyed preparing pork. I could hear guests oohing and aahing when a perfectly cooked pork loin smothered in a delectable sauce was placed on her dining table. And Miss Pam’s guests savored some divine beef and chicken dishes, as well. And her Yummy Rum Cake – well, I could see eyes roll due to that one addition that made her cake a delight – real dark rum liquor.

Hand-scripted recipes talk for themselves- they say someone actually took the time to write me down on paper. They divulge – I am a family secret recipe, a child’s favorite, or one fabulous culinary experience that someone once enjoyed. There’s no getting around it – the simple handwritten recipe card speaks volumes, exclaiming,” I’m someone’s favorite!”

And Miss Pam has provided us with specific written cooking instructions – those essential to good results. Haven’t we always written down what was important to remember?

And all through recorded history, we see that, as well – the writing down of the most important details and facts. God spoke to Moses, giving him the 10 commandments – and writing them down.

In the book of Exodus, verse 18, reads, “When the Lord finished speaking to Moses, on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” (NIV)

By putting these 10 rules in writing, their importance was emphasized – we were shown how to live more holy.

The instructions – they’re relevant for a positive outcome.

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH MUSTARD SAUCE

2 ½ -3 lb. pork tenderloin

¼ cup each soy sauce and bourbon

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Mustard Sauce

1/3 cup each, sour cream and mayo

1 Tbsp. each dry mustard and scallions

1 ½ tsp. each vinegar and salt, to taste

Marinate pork tenderloin in soy sauce, bourbon, and brown sugar for several hours. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour or until tender. Serve with mustard sauce. For the mustard sauce, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, dry mustard, and scallions. Add vinegar and salt, to taste.

PORK TENDERLOIN DIANE

1 lb. pork tenderloin

2 Tbsp. lemon pepper

2 Tbsp. melted salted butter

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

1 Tbsp. minced parsley or chives

Cut tenderloin crosswise into 8 pieces. Pound each tenderloin slice to a 1-inch thickness. Sprinkle surfaces of pork with lemon pepper. In a heavy skillet, heat butter. Cook tenderloin slices 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove pork to serving platter and keep warm. To the skillet with pan juices, add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard. Cook while stirring until heated through. Pour sauce over pork. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

WINE BRAISED PORK LOIN

2 tsp. salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3 minced garlic cloves

1 crumbled bay leaf

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 lb. center-cut pork loin roast, rolled/tied

2 chopped onions

4 chopped cloves of garlic

2 cut in strips and halved, red bell pepper

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup crushed tomatoes with puree

1 cup beef broth

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp. crumbled dried marjoram

In a bowl, combine salt, ground pepper, garlic cloves, and bay leaf. Rub dry pork with salt mixture. Cover and chill 6-24 hours. When ready to cook, in a Dutch oven, heat oil. Add pork and brown on all sides for 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat and saute onions 10 minutes. Add garlic and peppers and saute for 5 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, and marjoram. Add the pork fat side up and any drippings on plate. Bring to a boil, cover, and bake in preheated 350-degree oven 45 minutes or until tender. To serve, transfer meat to platter and allow to stand 15 minutes. Boil sauce until reduced to 4 cups. Season with salt and pepper. Place half of sauce in a baking dish. Top with pork slices and then remaining sauce. Cover and chill. Rewarm in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve pork with sauce.

CURRY GLAZED HAM

17 oz. drained apricot halves

¼ cup dark corn syrup

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. curry powder

¼ tsp. dry mustard

8 lb. boned, rolled ham

In a blender, place all ingredients except ham. Cover and blend until apricots are chopped. In a saucepan, heat and stir apricot mixture until warm. Set aside. Cut ham into ¼-inch slices. Reassemble to original shape and tie together with string. Place on rack in shallow baking pan. Roast covered in a preheated 325-degree oven for 2 ½-3 hours while brushing with apricot mixture. To serve, place ham on platter and remove tie cords. Serve remaining glaze as a sauce for the ham.

RIO GRANDE PORK ROAST

4-5 lb. double, boneless pork loin

½ tsp. each salt, garlic salt, chili powder

1 cup apple jelly

1 cup catsup

2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 tsp. chili powder

½ cup crushed corn chips

Rub roast on all sides with salt, garlic salt, and chili powder. Place roast fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake in a preheated 325-degree for about 2 hours. In a saucepan, combine jelly, catsup, vinegar, and 1 tsp. chili powder in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered 2 minutes. Brush roast with jelly mixture. Sprinkle with corn chips. Return to oven; bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve with sauce. Yield: 12 servings.

BEEF RAGOUT WITH SOUR CREAM

2 lbs. 1 ½-inch cubed round steak/chuck

2 lg. sliced onions

1 Tbsp. curry powder

1 cup beef broth

1 cup red wine

½ tsp. salt and ground black pepper

2 cups sour cream

1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish

In a large stove top and oven-safe pot, combine meat, onions, curry powder, beef broth, wine, and seasonings. (Instead of beef broth and wine, you can also use 2 cups of water or broth.) Bring to a boil on top of the stove. Then cover and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 ½-2 hours or until meat is very tender. Remove pot to top burner. Stir in sour cream and horseradish. Reheat but do not allow to boil. Serve with buttered noodles, green beans, and plenty of hot garlic bread to sop up the sauce.

PECAN ENCRUSTED CHICKEN BREASTS

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 Tbsp. melted salted butter

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

6 oz. coarsely ground pecans

½ cup sour cream

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Lightly flatten chicken breasts with meat pounder between two pieces of waxed paper. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 Tbsp. mustard. Dip each chicken piece into the butter and mustard mixture. Heavily coat each piece with ground pecans by patting them on with your hands. Put chicken breasts into an oiled baking dish and bake 8-10 minutes. In a small skillet, combine the sour cream and mustard with salt and pepper. Quickly bring sauce to a boil and then remove from heat. To serve, put sauce on a plate and place the chicken breast on top of sauce.

SWEET POTATO & FRUIT CASSEROLE

2 lbs. drained sweet potatoes

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

½ stick of melted, salted butter

¼ cup finely chopped pecans

½ tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. rum/sherry

11 oz. drained mandarin oranges

Topping

½ stick melted salted butter

¼ packed light brown sugar

¼ cup chopped pecans

In a pot, mash sweet potatoes. Beat in brown sugar, half stick of butter, pecans, salt, and rum. Mash and mix well. Fold in oranges. Mix well. Turn into a buttered 2-quart oven casserole dish. For the topping, combine melted butter, brown sugar, and pecans. Sprinkle over top. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes.

BLUE CHEESE SCALLOPED POTATOES

3 med, peeled, thinly sliced russets (8 cups)

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 oz (1 cup) crumbled blue cheese

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 thinly sliced medium onions (4 cups)

12 oz. evaporated milk

Nonstick cook spray

In a 9 x 13 greased baking dish, layer 1/3 of potatoes in bottom. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of flour, ½ cup of blue cheese, and ½ tsp. of pepper. Top with ½ of onions. Repeat layering of potatoes, flour, cheese, pepper, and onions. Top with final 1/3 of potatoes Pour the milk over top. Allow to stand 5 minutes. Spray top with nonstick cooking spray. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Increase heat to 375-degrees and bake for 30 additional minutes or until potatoes are golden brown on top and tender.

HARVEST SALAD WITH CIDER VINAIGRETTE

2 chopped red pears

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

¾ cup thinly sliced dried apricots

¾ cup thinly sliced dried figs

½ cup golden raisins

1 thinly sliced purple onion

1 cup diced jicama (optional)

Cider Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp. cider vinegar

2 pressed cloves garlic

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

½ tsp. sugar

1/3 cup olive oil

6 oz. fresh spinach leaves

½ cup toasted walnuts or pecans

4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese

For the salad, in a bowl, toss together pear and fresh lemon juice. Add sliced apricots, figs, raisins, onion, jicama, and the cider vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette, in a bowl, whisk together the cider vinegar, garlic cloves, Dijon mustard, and sugar. Gradually whisk in oil until blended. Toss pear and vinaigrette mixture well and chill for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve, arrange spinach on plates and evenly top with pear mixture. Sprinkle with nuts and crumbled cheese.

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY BARS

1 box. Duncan Hines yellow cake mix

2 cups finely chopped pecans

½ cup softened, salted butter

3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, divided

16 oz. jellied cranberry sauce

1 Tbsp. Fresh orange juice

3 large eggs

15 oz. real pumpkin (not pie mix)

14 oz. sweetened condensed milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, combine cake mix, nuts, butter, and 1 tsp. pumpkin spice until crumbly. Reserve 1 ½ cup of crumb mix and set aside. Press remaining crumb mix into bottom of a 13 x 9 pan. In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce and orange juice. Heat on medium while stirring until smooth. Cool and set aside. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add pumpkin, condensed milk, and remaining 2 tsp. pie spice. Mix well. Spread cranberry sauce over the crust. Pour pumpkin mixture over cranberry. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

TOOT’S RUM CAKE

4 beaten eggs

1 box yellow cake mix

3.4 oz. pkg. instant vanilla pudding

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup rum

½ cup Wesson vegetable oil

½ cup black walnuts

Rum Drizzle

1 stick salted butter

1 cup sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup rum

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add box of yellow cake mix and instant vanilla pudding while alternating with water, rum, and oil. Mix well. Put nuts in bottom of a well-greased and floured tube cake pan. Pour batter over nuts. Begin baking in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325-degrees and bake 50 minutes or until tests done. Allow cake to cool 20 minutes. Remove from pan and pour icing over cake. For the icing, in a saucepan, add butter, sugar, water, and rum. Bring to a boil for 4 minutes. Pour over cake after cooling for 20 minutes. Then let the cake set 30 minutes before removing.

APPLE DELIGHT

20 oz. undrained crushed pineapple

4 unpeeled, sliced apples

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 box Duncan Hines plain yellow cake mix

½ cup melted, salted butter

Decorator large granule sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

Pour undrained crushed pineapple into bottom of a lightly greased 8 x 12 x 2 baking pan. In a bowl, combine sliced apples, sugar, and fresh lemon juice. Evenly pour over top of the pineapple. Evenly sprinkle top of fruit layers with dry cake mix. Melt butter and evenly pour melted butter over the top. Evenly sprinkle top with large granules sugar and chopped pecans. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Then cut with knife into serving portions to allow juice to rise to the top. Bake for 30 additional minutes. Serve warm or cold.

PECAN HALF PIE

3 beaten eggs

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup melted salted butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 tsp. salt

1 cup whole pecan halves

9-inch unbaked pie crust

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and corn syrup, and mix well. Add melted butter, vanilla, and salt and mix well. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust. Arrange top with pecan halves. Bake in a preheated 350-eree oven for 45-50 minutes or until center tests done. Cool before serving.