Satisfying That Old-Time Craving for “Sweeties” – Part 1 by Pam Crooks

Years ago, my mother gave me a cookbook reprinted from 1888 that offered all kinds of advice and recipes for the homemaker. One section was devoted to Confectionaries, and I found their selection of candies, sodas, and ice cream fascinating.  Who knew they had so many? And yep, they called them “sweeties.”

Given that I have had a sweet tooth since the time I was old enough to hold a lollipop, I’d love to share with you my trip through history in both the 19th and 20th centuries in the next few blogs. 

The author of my cookbook mentions the fortune made by a Mr. Pease in New York with his horehound candy.  Ditto with a Mr. H. N. Wild’s candy store on Broadway which must have been a super store at the time, given the description of great numbers of customers (mainly ladies and children) who shopped there at all hours.

But my focus is for the common housewife who made “sweeties” for her family.  She was encouraged to use the best refined sugars that left behind no sediment and that had a bright color, such as sugar from the West Indies or Louisiana.  She was also encouraged to buy coloring materials and flavoring extracts rather than try to make them herself since educated chemists at the time had perfected them for consistency as well as reasonable price.

After a listing of tools needed, the recipes followed for Butterscotch and Everton taffy. Peanut and black walnut candy were different than what I imagined – no chocolate but covered with a sugar syrup then cut into strips.  The Cocoanut and Chocolate Cream candies sounded pretty good, as did the Fig and Raisin Candy, where figs and raisins were laid out in a pan and covered with sugar syrup, cooked slowly over a fire.

Rock candy in various flavors and Ginger candy was pretty self-explanatory. I must admit to being confused on what “paste drops” were. Made with currants, raspberries, pears, apples, and pineapple, I can only imagine them being similar to our Fruit Roll-Ups.

Candy “Tablets” followed. Again, it took some imagining, but since the sugar was boiled, flavored, and poured into molds, I’m thinking the tablets were like our hard candies. Flavors were ginger, orange, vanilla, clove, rose, and fruits like currants, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, cooked and pressed through a sieve for their juice.

Housewives made their own chewing gum with balsam of tulu, sugar and oatmeal, soaked, mixed, and rolled in powdered sugar, then shaped into sticks.

Caramels were a favorite and poured into 1 inch molds. Caramels came in intriguing flavors like lemon, orange and lime, coffee, chocolate, and orange cream and vanilla. Yum!

Popcorn balls were made with molasses. I bet they were pretty good, too!

Soda Water and Soda ‘Sirups’ were popular, and while it wasn’t impossible to make one’s own for their families, the process was much easier while living near a big city for obvious reasons.  Flavors, however, were quite numerous and ranged from Nectar, Sarsaparilla, Walnut, Wild Cherry, Crabapple, and Lemon, to name a few.

Confectioners in the city generally offered “Ice Cream Saloons” to their stores. Adding a saloon was inexpensive and very profitable.  The cookbook provided a recipe that made a large quantity. However, other than the traditional flavor of vanilla, only Coffee or Chocolate flavor appeared to be available.

Well, there you have it.  A glimpse into an 1800’s homemaker’s candy kitchen!

Do you have a sweet tooth? 

Do you enjoy making candy or ice cream?

What is your favorite?

 

We All Scream For Ice Cream (and Oysters!)

“Illinois wants more girls.  Open some free ice cream booths and you’ll fetch ’em”  -Burlington Free Press 1884

Ice cream might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Old West, but as early as 1880, ice cream parlors were all the rage and began springing up in the most out of the way places.

Marshal Wyatt Earp was an ice cream devotee and every afternoon he headed for the Tombstone ice cream parlor on Fourth Street.  It’s not hard to imagine that he was on his way to enjoy his favorite sundae when he got sidetracked by the shootout at O.K. Corral.  He didn’t drink, but he sure did love his ice cream.  He wasn’t alone.

     “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.” (Last words). -Lou Costello           

Ice Cream parlors were popular throughout the west and some frontier towns had more than one.   Many restaurants, hotels and inns advertised Ice Cream and Oysters. Fortunately, the two weren’t served together; ice cream was the summer treat and oysters was a winter delicacy.  

Some parlors were quite fancy.  One in San Antonio advertised plush carpets, oak furnishings and stained-glass windows, but ice cream was also sold out of wagons (the first good humor men?) and tents.  Churches also got into the act and Ice cream socials rapidly grew in popularity.

Nothing says love like ice cream

Many a young man courted his lady love at an ice cream parlor. A Texas newspaper in the 1880s had this advice: “Love takes away the appetite.  If the woman of your dreams is on her third dish of ice cream, she’s not in love with you.”

The same newspaper also announced the wedding of couple who knew each other only fifteen minutes before tying the knot. But a successful marriage was assured as both had a passion for ice cream.

Then as now, the most popular flavor was vanilla.  Ice cream was flavored by fruit and even chocolate, but there were some strange flavors too (Avocado ice cream, anyone?)

Toward the end of 1880s, newspapers began issuing warnings against overindulging in that “insidious foe of health” ice cream, but as far as I could tell no one paid heed and no such warning seemed to exist for oysters.

So where did all that ice come from?

Before the train, ice was wrapped in sawdust and transported by wagons.  By the late 1880s, Tombstone had two ice companies; the Arctic Ice (two cents a pound) and the Tombstone Ice company (one and half cents per pound).

“Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”-Voltaire

According to 23&me, people with my DNA prefer chocolate ice cream. Well, they got that right. So tell me your favorite ice cream flavor and I’ll tell you your personality type,  and you don’t even have to send me your DNA! 

 

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Ice Cream Parlors of Yesteryear

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Hi, Winnie Griggs here. In one of my upcoming books my characters will be travelling ‘back east’ to visit some folks in New York. One of the things I wanted them to do was stop in at an ice cream parlor but I had to do some research to see what they would find in such an establishment.  I thought that I would share a few fun facts from my research with you today.

 

In the late 19th century the establishments were called various names, depending on locale and period. They were called Ice cream saloons (this surprised me but then I learned that during that period a saloon merely indicated a generously-sized room) They were also called ice cream parlors and Ladies’ Cafes.

Ice cream parlors were in existence here in America much longer than I’d thought. According to one source I read, they were around as early as the 1770s.  In fact, there’s record of advertisements in 1774 sponsored by an establishment owned by a Philip Lenzi announcing the sale of iced creams and other popular sweets. As for elsewhere in the world, they date even earlier. There is record of an establishment in France that sold gelatos in 1686!

 

Ice cream soda, otherwise known as an ice cream float, was invented by Robert Green, almost by accident, in the late 19th century. Green operated a parlor in Philadelphia and used syrups, carbonated water, and cream to make his sodas. Legend has it, one day Green ran out of cream and decided to substitute ice cream. It proved quite popular, so much so that soon his earnings grew from $6 to $600 a day.

The ice cream sundae was also invented in the late 19th century. There are a number of different claims as to its origins however. One story has it invented in Evanston, IL around 1890. The story goes that the city passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of soda water on Sundays. In response the ice cream parlors removed the soda water from their ice cream sodas sold on that day, leaving only the ice cream and syrup. A second claim has it originating in Two Rivers, WI in 1881 when a customer requested a dish of ice cream with soda syrup poured on top. Yet a third claim places its origins in Ithaca, NY in 1893. It is said the proprietor of Platt & Colt’s drugstore, presented a local reverend with a bowl of ice cream that had been elevated with both cherry syrup and a candied cherry on top. Regardless of its true origins, for the purpose of my story set in 1895 it would definitely have been around!

Sundae

As for myself, I have wonderful memories from my childhood of sitting at the soda fountain counter in the Woolworth store and enjoying an ice cream float. I know, I’m dating myself.

So what about you? Did anything in today’s post surprise or intrigue you? And what is your favorite frozen treat?

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And in honor of my new book, Texas Cinderella, which hits the shelves next month, I’d like to give away an advanced copy to one person who leaves a comment before noon CST tomorrow.

TEXAS CINDERELLA

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In Search of a Groom 

After a life of drudgery on her family’s farm, Cassie Lynn Vickers relishes her new-found freedom working in town as a paid companion and planning to open a bakery of her very own. When her father suddenly demands she come home, however, she decides her only way out is to find a husband.

Riley is on the run. He’s desperate to keep his niece and nephew safe from his crooked half brother. But a stopover and unexpected delay in Turnabout, Texas, shows him everything he didn’t know he was missing: home, family—and Cassie Lynn. Can he find a way to become her Prince Charming…and build a real family with the children and Cassie Lynn?

(click on cover to read an excerpt)