If “The Flavor of Wisconsin” is included among the cookbooks you keep within easy reach, consider yourself lucky. Researched and written in 1981 by the late and local well-known journalist Harva Hachten, each page captured the incredible warmth of early settlers and immigrants by providing an “informal history of food and eating in the Badger State” we so proudly call home. However, if you’ve never had the joy of absorbing what the book offered, you are in for a treat with a new edition, revised and expanded in 2009 by regional food specialist Terese Allen and published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
Jerry Minnich, well-known restaurant critic, and author of “Eating Well in Wisconsin” as well as writing and publishing many other statewide books on gardening and food, describes Allen as being Wisconsin’s “foremost food historian, keeper of our culinary heritage.” As a personal friend of Allen, it also gives me great pleasure to bring her efforts and accolades to the attention of my readers, especially newcomers who deserve to learn more about Wisconsin including 460 recipes from its delicious ethnic past.
Considering what the book offers, it shouldn’t be any surprise that while recently paging through my revised copy in search of something else, I discovered a recipe for salt-rising bread. More than a few months ago, a reader called to request what I thought was a self-rising bread recipe. With nary a single response, a search began by going through hundreds of my own cookbooks without success. When the reader called again asking if I had received a response for salt-rising bread, I understood why I hadn’t. It was all due to misunderstanding a word in a telephone message. Requested by Faith Kail for Tom Hall, here is the recipe, found in “The Flavor of Wisconsin.”
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
7 tablespoons white or water-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoons shortening, at room temperature
10 ½ cups soft wheat flour, divided
Scald milk and stir in 1 tablespoon sugar, cornmeal, and salt. Place in a clean, covered jar and place jar in water as hot as the hand can bear. Allow to stand 6 to 7 hours in a warm place or until gas can be heard to escape, indicating fermentation is sufficient.
Add lukewarm water, shortening, remaining sugar, and 2 cups of flour. Beat thoroughly. Place jar in warm water to maintain an even temperature and let rise in a warm place until sponge is very light and full of bubbles, about double in bulk.
Turn into bowl and add remaining flour, which will give a stiff dough. Knead on a floured board 10-15 minutes. Cut, form into 2 loaves, and place in greased pans. Let rise in a warm place until 2 ½ times original bulk. Bake at 375 degrees 35-45 minutes. Make 3 ¼ pounds of bread.
Submitted by Mrs. Elmer Hare, Dalton
Long ago, a request for pain perdu arrived with no results received. While patiently waiting, I’d learn that the classic way to use stale bread was to fry it in some manner, the best-known being called French toast but the French Canadians call it pain perdu, meaning lost bread. Although the initial request for pain perdu served at a King Street restaurant was not available, here it is from “The Flavor of Wisconsin,” submitted by Mrs. Florence M. Vint, Springfield, Virginia, formerly of Milwaukee.
2 large eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup cold milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla or brandy or rum
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ pound butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 to 8 slices stale white or French bread
4 tablespoons sugar
Jam or Jelly
In deep mixing bowl, beat egg whites with salt until stiff. Add yolks and continue beating while pouring in milk, vanilla or brandy, and nutmeg. Mix well. Place butter and oil in large iron skillet on medium heat. When the shortening is hot enough to brown a cube of bread in 60 seconds, slowly dip each slice of bread into egg mixture to coat on both sides and place in skillet. Fry on both sides, turning once, until browned. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle one side with sugar and spread the other with jam. Serve at once to 6 or 8.
Fry several slices at a time depending on size of skillet. May also be served with cinnamon-sugar or maple syrup.
Here is a Polish soup described as being hearty and delicious. It was submitted by Charles Shetler, Madison, and featured in “The Flavor of Wisconsin.”
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound kielbasa (Polish sausage), sliced
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery and leaves
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups sliced, pared carrots
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried leaf thyme
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ cups beef bouillon
5 cups water
3 cups cubed, peeled potatoes
In a soup kettle, melt butter; add kielbasa, onion, and celery. Cook until onion and celery are tender. Add cabbage, carrots, bay leaf, thyme, vinegar, salt, bouillon, and water. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Add potatoes, cover, and cook 20 minutes or until potatoes are done.
Makes 8 cups.
Friday nights throughout Wisconsin are known to possess an aroma of hot oil from frying perch, cod, bluegill, smelt, or catfish. Today’s column is a perfect time to include Quivey’s Grove, on Nesbitt Road in Fitchburg on page 218 of “The Flavor of Wisconsin” with their version of fish fry breading initially found in Margaret Guthrie’s book “Quivey’s Grove Heritage Cookbook,” published by Minnich’s Prairie Oak Press in 1994.
Quivey’s Grove fried fish breading
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
2 tablespoons water
½ cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup fine pretzel crumbs
1 ½ to 2 pounds panfish fillets
Pour oil into deep-fat fryer or heavy pot to a 2- or 3-inch depth. Heat oil over a medium-high flame to 375 degrees. Mix egg with 2 tablespoons water in a deep plate; combine cornmeal and pretzel crumbs in another. Working in batches so you won’t crowd the pot, dip each fillet in egg mixture, then in pretzel mixture. Fry until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with coleslaw, potatoes, and your favorite Wisconsin beer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
I have a sweet tooth and to select just one recipe in the dessert category was not easy. So here is a molasses cookie recipe, described as being one from many ethnic groups with variations in flavorings, submitted by Frances W. Booker, Milwaukee.
Molasses crumb cookies
- 2 cups dry grated bread crumbs
½ cup molasses
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
1 ½ cups flour
Mix bread crumbs and molasses. Add shortening creamed with sugar. Beat in egg, cream, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and flour. Mix well. Form into balls with fingers. Bake on greased baking sheet at 375 degrees until done, 8 to 10 minutes.
And that’s just a hint of what “The Flavor of Wisconsin” is all about.