'Settlement' cookbook updates recipes of the past

May 27, 1992|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Universal Press Syndicate

Like the drum-beating pink bunny in the battery commercials, some cookbooks just keep going and going and going.

Among them, for example, are "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management," first published as a book in 1861 and still popping up in various forms today, and "The Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book," by Fannie Merritt Farmer. It has been revised and updated many times since its initial appearance in 1896.

The same can be said for "The Settlement Cook Book," an immediate yet modest best-seller when it came on the scene in 1901 in Milwaukee. Since then it has been revised -- and revived -- four times and matured through 34 printings. The latest revival of this culinary institution is "The New Settlement Cookbook," edited by Charles Pierce (Simon & Schuster, 814 pages, $25).

The original grew out of Mrs. Simon Kander's cooking classes for young immigrants to Milwaukee at the turn of the century. Assisted by her fellow instructors and her students, Kander organized a collection of simple and more elaborate "heirloom" recipes. One thousand copies of the first "Settlement" book were published for less than $20.

Much to everyone's amazement, the 174-page book quickly sold out and the women embarked on a 1903 edition, which was equally as popular. A $12.95 facsimile of it, including all the advertising the women secured to underwrite their project, was published in 1984 by Hugh Lauter Levin Associates Inc., New York, and distributed by the Scribner Book Cos.

Mr. Pierce spent three years bringing the "New Settlement" up-to-date. "Revising a cookbook of this magnitude (more than 1,000 recipes) has been a happy challenge," he admits. Along the way he tried to bring the recipes in line with modern trends, such as new kitchen equipment and today's concerns for healthy foods.

"The goal of this new edition is to strike a happy balance of old and new," he says.

The old and the new are easily discerned. Mr. Pierce has included, for example, an indicator for the "heirloom" recipes, "cherished treasures from old traditions." But that doesn't mean they are necessarily a duplicate of the original. Virtually everything had to be brought forward 90-plus years. In addition, there are notations for recipes where a food processor or microwave may be used.

From Boiled Kohlrabi to Peanut Brittle, "New Settlement" is pretty basic fare. As such, it would be a good book to have around the kitchen for the quick and easy recipes, which most are. Also handy are the scores of charts and graphics, everything from cutting up a chicken and freezing foods to the removal of common stains and calorie charts. There's even a discussion about sweeping a room: "Sweep with short strokes, keeping the broom close to the floor."

Despite such helpful hints and the abundance of recipes, "New Settlement" is not a clean sweep. One could have hoped for a little history from Mr. Pierce, especially that which undoubtedly is associated with many of the heirloom recipes. Once past the introduction, however, the book contains little of historical significance.

The following recipe is not to be found in the 1903 edition facsimile. As a matter of fact, not a single pork or ham recipe appears therein. The reason is simple: Most of the settlers who created the original cookbook were Jewish and kept Kosher households. Over the years, many more recipes were added to the collection, including this one.

If a meat thermometer is not handy, pierce the meat to check for doneness. The juices should run clear, without even a trace of pink.

Sherry-glazed pork

Makes 4 servings.

2 pounds pork loin

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground cloves (or 2 teaspoons bottled ground cloves)

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Season the pork with salt and pepper. In a large saute pan, melt the butter and oil. Brown the pork in the saute pan over high heat. Remove to a covered ovenproof casserole.

In a saucepan, combine the sherry, sugar and cloves. Bring to a boil and cook until syrupy, about 3 minutes.

Spoon glaze over roast. Place in oven and roast until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees to 170 degrees (20 to 25 minutes per pound). Baste frequently with the glaze and accumulated pan juices. Let sit, covered loosely with foil, 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Variation: Molasses bourbon glaze: Follow the recipe above. Substitute 1/2 cup bourbon for the sherry and 1/2 cup dark molasses for the brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon fresh thyme and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger in place of the ground cloves.

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