Special Collections & Archives’ Culinary Collection holds just under 700 cookbooks. In order to take a closer look at some of these unique holdings I selected a few recipes to recreate using my favorite ingredient—Honey. Honey is one of the oldest known sweets in the world. The nectar from the honey bee takes on the flavor of the flowering plants nearby and as a result honey's flavor can vary depending on the plant.
The first recipe I tried was the Honey Date Biscuit Roll from Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farm. For the ingredients, I substituted Crisco for Lard. At the grocery store, the box of Lard of the shelf didn’t look very appetizing. For the nut meats, I used a half empty bottle of unsalted mixed nuts that I ground up in a small food processor. For the filling, thinly slicing dates did not sound like fun. I measured out about a cup of dates and placed them into a small food processor to grind them up instead. After rolling out the dough, I spread the filling on top. The dough was then rolled and cut into slices. The finished Honey Date Biscuit Rolls came out very good. The biscuits are a little on the sweet side, but not too sweet. I will definitely make this recipe again.
Next on my list, I had Honey Baked Carrots and Beans from issue 102 of Cooking Magic: Fabulous Foods Step-by-Step Cookbooks. For the ingredients, I skipped the MSG but added everything else. This recipe turned out quite delicious. With the carrots and green beans cooking in a quarter cup of butter and a quarter cup of honey, the dish was yummy. I suspect my doctor would be frowning with the sugar and cholesterol content.
From The Playboy Gourmet, I then tried Honey-Basted Chicken Breasts. This recipe is written to be cooked over a charcoal barbeque. Since I don’t own a barbeque, I decided to cook the dish in the oven. After marinading the chicken breasts, I laid them out on the roasting rack. At this point, I knew from past experience the chicken would not be flavorful enough for me. If I had followed the directions and cooked the dish on the barbeque, I’m sure the smokey flavor would have tasted good. After rummaging around in my spice drawer, I came up with a small bottle of no salt seasoning called “Forward.” After placing the chicken breasts in the oven, I would pull them out every ten minutes and flip them, coating them with the “Forward” seasoning. After the chicken was cooked, I cut the breasts up to make into sandwiches. Although the chicken was moist and tasty, I really didn’t taste the honey.
Next on my list was Honey-Glazed Ham with Figs, this recipe is found in the Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through the Ages. At the grocery store, I found a ten pound precooked spiral cut ham. After cooking the ham and figs in the oven for an hour, I found it a challenge to pick up a hot ten-pound ham to remove the skin. To grip the meat, I ended up using two large metal soup ladles. The ham turned out flavorful and moist but I didn’t taste the honey.
My final recipe came from a 1935 cookbook called Recipes of all Nations. This book was published in New York for the American market with thumb-notch indexes. From the “Dishes from Many Lands” section, I found the Djedjad-Imer recipe. This is a Arabic recipe for roasting a whole chicken. The recipe calls for Benzoin gum and otto of roses. Although I didn’t even try to find Benzoin gum, I found a small bottle Bulgarian Rose Water for a reasonable price. For this recipe, I mixed the honey with 1 teaspoon of Rose Water. After cooking, I sprinkled the bird with finely chopped pistachios and the other garnishes. The visual presentation of the cooked chicken on the serving platter was amazing. As I cut the chicken up to serve, the honey sweet flavor really didn’t permeate the skin. The chicken was moist but a little flat because the recipe didn’t call for salt or pepper.
If you would like to visit the Special Collections & Archives reading room, we have many other cookbooks to explore. Recreating these recipes from the 1930s through the 1970s was a great way to take a deeper dive into these books.