I remember the first time I read Anne of Green Gables and they talked about eating chicken salad as if it were a delicacy. This made no sense to me. Chicken salad was available at practically every restaurant I visited. Why would this be a "special occasion" food? I didn't understand that in order to eat chicken salad, you had to kill a chicken, pluck it, roast it, let it cool, and then make it into a salad. That's a lot of work to go through for something like chicken salad, although I admit, it is one of my favorite foods.
I've decided that this time, as I read through each book, I'm going to take note of all of the foods mentioned and see if I can find recipes from the late 1800s and early 1900s for them. Then, I'll make the recipes and post them here. I know other people have attempted this - I'm not breaking new ground here - but it should be fun. I found this delightful little website, which has an extensive list of the foods from the books, but the recipes are not all authentic to the time period. I am going to try to avoid any recipes that have modern ingredients and use methods of cooking that are more similar to those times, but I don't have access to a wood burning stove, so my glass top electric will have to do. :)
I do want to note that the first food mentioned in Anne of Green Gables is crab apple preserves. Although I love making jellies and jams, I try to do this in season, based on what foods are available at my friends' farms. I will be skipping the preserves and jams for now, but may throw one in if the produce becomes available.
OK. Here we go.
The first recipe from Green Gables I have decided to attempt is for Chocolate Caramels. Anne mentions these as she explains that when she is in "the depths of despair" she isn't able to eat anything, "...not even if it was a chocolate caramel. I had one chocolate caramel once two years ago and it was simply delicious. I've often dreamed since then that I had a lot of chocolate caramels, but I always wake up just when I'm going to eat them." (AOGG, pg. 26)
I searched for Chocolate Caramel recipes from the 1870s, since that is when Anne comes to stay at Green Gables. After a little bit of digging, I found the following recipe from the Public Ledger Almanac for 1870 - 1873. (I've rewritten it in a more familiar format below.)
CHOCOLATE CARAMELS - Take one cup of sugar, one cup of molasses, a piece of butter the size of an egg, one cup of cream or milk, and two ounces of grated, unsweetened chocolate. Put these ingredients in an enameled saucepan, and boil them together, stirring constantly for twenty minutes. Then try them by dropping a little of the mixture into a cupful of cold water; when it is sufficiently cooked it will form into a ball in the water. Then remove from the fire and beat well until beginning to cool. Flavor with half a teaspoonful of essence of vanilla, and pour into buttered tins to the depth of half an inch. Before the caramels have hardened, mark them into small even squares with a knife.To figure out how much butter is the equivalent to "the size of an egg," I used logic.
4 Tablespoons should do it.
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Molasses
- 4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- 1 Cup Cream or Whole Milk
- 2 Ounces Unsweetened Chocolate, grated
- 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Remove the mixture from the heat when it reaches 240 degrees F (soft ball stage).
Stir and stir and stir until the temp comes down to around 120 degrees F and then add the vanilla.
Pour the mixture into a buttered 8 x 8 glass baking dish. Allow to sit for 15 minutes and then cut into squares. You can also roll the caramel into small balls and flatten with the bottom of a glass on a Silpat or parchment paper.
This recipes makes A LOT of candy. I didn't count how many pieces I ended up with, but it was a full Silpat.
Oh, and, this candy gets hard. It reminds me of a chocolate Werther's. Super tasty!
My first "authentic" Anne recipe turned out to be quite the success!
"I'll just eat one tonight, Marilla. And I can give Diana half of them, can't I? The other half will taste twice as sweet to me if I give some to her. It's delightful to think I have something to give her." - Anne Shirley (AOGG, pg. 89)