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THIS IS GOOD OR I’LL EAT MY CHRISTMAS TREE

By Jane Thomson

My first recipe is from 97 ORCHARD , an Edible History of Five Immigrant Families, by Jane Ziegelman. This book interests me because my father grew up in a New York tenement (the word just meant “rental building” at the time; I don’t know how shabby his family’s apartment was, but I suspect it was not spacious). The building at 97 Orchard is on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and is now the Tenement Museum. It was built about 1860 and was abandoned after 1935. It has been preserved and restored. The first time I visited the building about 20 years ago, it was left just as it had been found. The tour started in the narrow dark front hall with a dingy frieze painted on the wall, a tin ceiling and rickety stairs going up to the next of several stories. We were then taken to an apartment composed of two small rooms with one window between them and one window to the outside. There were layers of old wallpaper peeling, and numbers on the wall showing the quantity of trousers that had been sewn, as the apartment was also a sweat shop. Since then several apartments have been restored and decorated as they might have been when an immigrant family lived there – one for an Irish family, one for a German family, one for an Italian family and one for a Jewish family. Furnished and decorated it is much more cheerful; but I hope one apartment has still been left as found.

The recipe is one that might have been made for a Jewish family that lived at 97 Orchard, the Rogarshevsky‘s. It was contributed to the book by Frieda Schwartz, who was born on the Lower East Side in 1918.

STUFFED CABBAGE

1 lb. ground beef

3 cups of canned tomatoes

(6 oz. can of V-8, Jane’s addition)

1 egg

1 peeled and grated apple

3 T. grated onion

Beef bones

3 T. rice

3 T. water

3 t. salt (Jane thought that too much and used 2t.)

½ t. pepper (Jane used more.)

1 head of cabbage

A few T. of lemon juice

a couple T. of brown sugar

The recipe says to pour boiling water over the cabbage and let it stand for 15 minutes. Trial and error make me say: cook the cabbage whole for a few minutes until slightly tender and then drain it. Into the now vacant heavy pot, put the tomatoes, V-8, some of the salt, the pepper and the beef bones, and maybe a little water. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Separate the leaves of the cabbage, keeping them whole except for removing most of the thick white stem part. (There will be some cabbage left as the leaves get smaller.) Mix the ground beef, onion, apple, egg, rice, some of the salt and the 3 tablespoons of water. Place a heaping tablespoon of the mixture in each cabbage leaf and roll the leaf around it. Put the rolls in the tomato sauce (bones now removed). Add some lemon juice and brown sugar. Cook for 2 hours (This is why you need a heavy pot-this is hard to stir. I ruined a light pot by burning the bottom.) If you don’t like this dish, I’ll eat some of my Christmas tree.

SPRUCE BUTTER – from the New York Times, December 25, 2010

Don’t make this large a recipe. There is a chance you won’t like this.

7 oz. butter 3 ½ T. pine needles

Sprig of lemon thyme ( I used dried thyme and some dried lemon peel)

Run through a blender for 8 minutes

Pass through a chinois sieve (A what sieve? I didn’t do this. The butter would have been better if I had.) As it was, it tasted like a Christmas tree used to smell back in the day. It was rather good on a white roll and on a potato. It might be good on a plain cracker.

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