Nell’s Bells, Booze, Homeade Vinegar, and Funky Whipped Cream

Despite this post’s seemingly risque title, it is actually the post wherein everybody gets to read some poetry and see what I’ve cooked up from inside my great grandmother Nell’s gorgeous heirloom cookbook, which I introduced you to in a previous post. The poem just happens to be about hell’s bells and the recipe happens to be for whipped cream, all on the same page. My ancestress was nothing if not creative in what she chose to place on the same page, no? 🙂

Before I show you the food I made, first let me show you this reference page that Nell put together from pages that I assume came from other cookbooks, because I was unable to find them in magazines or newspapers:

A few notes about these clippings that she saved:

  • As my other post mentions, the beginning of this book dates to around 1915-1916. Nell had married only a couple of years previous to that time (in 1913), so she was likely compiling this book out of a genuine need for a more effective and personalized woman’s-helper and reference/guide.
  • Note the reference to mutton–haha.
  • Note the 45-60 min time on bread–this is unique, too. I have old pioneer bread recipes that take this long to bake; the doughs are very wet and sponged. Modern-day bread recipes only require 20-30 minutes tops because they’re dry/full of air due to the addition of gluten flour (an overly processed component from inside the wheat kernel that causes the dough to balloon up and act more plasticky).
  • Love the cornstarch counsel; I’m *so* using that in the future
  • My best scratch-made custard pie recipe does follow the egg/milk ratio herein, so whew, I passed that test (haha!)
  • And the gelatin advice you see here? It is going to save my bacon in a few posts when I’m forced to make a savory gelatin dish (gulp). Send me thoughts and prayers, folks, that’s all I can say–I don’t even OWN a jello mold, haha!

So here are the very first items that I whipped up from the recipes in my great-grandma Nell’s cookbook: funky whipped cream (with egg whites!) and tarragon vinegar.

(I am Mormon, so I won’t be mixing up the “1916 Cocktail,” and reviewing it for my readers obviously. I’m sure glad she clipped and saved this, however, because (a) it further helps me date this book, (b) it rounds out the toast mocking prohibition in my other post, and (c) it further endears me to Nell’s husband, who had a medicinal prescription for liquor during prohibition (hee hee!). Ah, what I wouldn’t give to see the look on their faces to know they have a very “dry” great-granddaughter, lol.

But speaking of demon spirits (giggle) before I show you the fruits of my culinary labors, first a look at the poem which Nell so cleverly scripted into her book as the literal foundation for her gin recipe–does this woman have a dry wit (pun intended!) in her book-crafting artistry, or what?

The bells of hell go ting a ling a ling

For you but not for me

For me the angels sing a ling a ling

They’ve got a crown for me!

Oh death, where is thy sting a ling a ling

Oh grave, thy victorie?

This song, which was written around 1911, didn’t become popular until around World War I, so Nell maybe have added it to her book later (maybe to fill a blank spot?), perhaps even after she served in World War I herself–she was in the Navy while her husband went to France with the Army. The song then was made popular by a 1966 film about the war:

Nell didn’t die until about a decade after this movie’s release, but I have to wonder if she would still be adding to her early housekeeping book so late in life as that? I’m inclined to think she was fashionable enough to have stumbled upon the song earlier in life and added it to her tome then, given her penchant for all the fashionable magazines, as I posted earlier.

This entry in the book—the song –is fun and poetically ironic for a woman clipping cocktail recipes, whose husband has a prescription for medicinal liquor. She demonstrates a deliciously irreverent wit both here and throughout her other pages as my subsequent posts will show! In fact, Nell is so naughty that I wanted it to buy the domain name “NellsBells” or even “NellsBelles” for this blog as a play on words for her “devil may care” attitude (since I have several ancestresses named Helen/Nell), but this name/brand was already taken by a women’s group in England, alas. Good on them, lol! 🙂

Anyway, now on to the actual mixing and tasting:

I mixed up Nell’s tarragon vinegar recipe, even though I *despise* tarragon.

To make tarragon vinegar fill a jar with one pint of tarragon leaves 1 pint of vinegar 3 peppercorns & 2 cloves

I followed great-grandma Nell’s handwritten instructions, even thogh the smell of the fresh Tarragon leaves made me gag as I chopped them (I assumed I needed to chop them. Instructions didn’t say to do this, but how else to release the flavor into the vinegar, right?).

Did I mention I’m not a fan of tarragon?

This is what it looked like after a couple of weeks. The herbs had soaked up the vinegar, the peppercorns and cloves settled to the bottom (they floated around a bit at first), and so I decided to give it a taste . . .

Half the tomatoes have the vinegar with the herbs strained out; the other half with the herbs included. Salt and fresh cracked pepper added.

Even though I am not a fan of tarragon, I really, really liked this! I am really glad that this recipe was such a keeper. Whew. Even the one with the tarragon chunks–I really really liked it and ate this entire plate. Yay! I think the vinegar tempered all the things that I don’t like about tarragon. Or pickled them at least, lol.

Now on to the last recipe on the page–the one that I was kind of oogey about eating–whipped cream with RAW eggs in it!

I made two bowls of whipped cream–one according to Nell’s recipe, and one according to my own recipe books (cream and powdered sugar only). Can you tell which one is Nell’s and which one was made according to my modern cookbook recipe?

Here are two closeups–

Again, one of these is Nell’s clipped recipe with egg whites and vanilla, and another is simply cream and powdered sugar. Can you tell which is which?

Here is one, it came out kind of silky–

And here is the other is more coarse in appearance–

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, the first photo, the smooth one, is Nell’s. I was shocked, but the addition of egg whites and vanilla made the whipped cream really silky smooth. It also gagged me out. I mean, RAW egg white in whipped cream? Blech. The whipped cream without it was lighter and airier, but as a result also less pretty, less smooth and not as silky.

As for the taste?

I hate to admit it but the one with raw egg whites tasted better. It had a custardy taste that was awesome. it filled me up faster, though. I couldn’t’ finish the ice-cream that had this whipped cream on it. Or maybe because the thought of raw eggs was gagging me out? Hm, not sure which, but I just felt heavy and full so I stopped halfway through my Sunday. The regular whipped cream didn’t do this to me–I just plowed right through it. because really–I am extremely biased against raw egg whites. My mother-in-law used to make a cake with marshmallow frosting that had raw egg whites in the frosting, and then she would stick the cake on the counter and  LEAVE IT THERE  UNREFRIGERATED FOR DAYS  ON END AND THEN OFFER PIECES TO MY KIDS, GAH! I always just prayed to their guardian angels to keep them safe from salmonella because I had a marriage to preserve, and they miraculously survived every time, whew. So that’s probably why I subconsciously rejected this creamier, tastier whipped cream with the egg whites in it, haha.

(My kids devoured the remainder of both bowls with equal gusto. Whipped cream is whipped cream is whipped cream to a child, apparently. They don’t discriminate.)

Conclusion: Great-grandma Nell’s book has made me enjoy both tarragon *and* raw eggs in my food, something I never thought would happen. But the recipes to come are even more daunting, so we will see if her brilliant selectivity proves equally brilliant in upcoming posts! 🙂

~ Jenny

P.S. I was able to identify the source of the funky whipped cream recipe! It is a FUN old cookbook from 1914 (again, the date of this book is staying around the 1914-1917 range) that can be found online at the Michigan State University archive. I’ll put a link here below, but first I just have to show off the darling cover because I adore vintage cookbooks–will you just look at this darling thing?

And here is the page that I found the recipe on–notice how the type, text, and numbering next to it is identical to the clipping in my Nell’s book? It made me swoon, like I had found her fingerprints on the Internet–this is the very book that she leafed through, clipped out, and then passed down to ME!

and finally, here is a link to the entire book, for those of you who want to scroll through its entire contents–and I recommend you do because it is such a delight to read!