Baking, Fruit, Winter

To Make Carolina Snow-Balls

For most readers, snowballs likely conjure memories of childhood winter games or, perhaps, the small, rounded cookies covered with shaved coconut or powdered sugar often prepared around the winter holidays. There is also the Sno-Ball snack cake (cream-filled chocolate cakes covered with marshmallow frosting and colored coconut flakes), first introduced to American supermarkets in 1947. We cannot forget the Baltimore Snowball, an iconic concoction of shaved ice and sweet syrup often topped with marshmallow cream. The association between snowball named treats and coconut is a decidedly mid-twentieth century convention, likely due to the increased affordability, availability, and accessibility (dehydrated flakes) of this tropical fruit. In the nineteenth century and today, region determined the form of this dessert.

A pink Hostess Snoballs snack cake. https://www.hostesscakes.com/products/snoballs/pink/

Research into printed and manuscript recipe collections suggests several versions of Snowballs circulated within the Anglo-American world during Mary Randolph’s lifetime. These recipes consisted of apple dumplings served with a sauce or icing. One of the earliest references to Snow-Balls occurs in Elizabeth Raffald’s classic cookery text, The Experienced English Housekeeper, first published in London in 1760. A particularly sumptuous version from Colin Mackenzie’s Five Thousand Receipts, first published in England in 1823 with several expanded American editions between 1829-1860, consisted of whole apples, cored and filled with orange or quince marmalade, covered in pastry and baked. Once removed from the oven, the Snowballs were covered in icing and set near the fire to harden.[1] It is easy to imagine the source of the name; these balls of boiled rice covered with sugar glistening in the candlelight likely bore a striking resemblance to the snowballs manufactured by local children. This recipe’s comparative extravagance is unsurprising considering the middle-class or higher audience for Mackenzie’s recipes.

A Carolina Snow Ball. https://savoringthepast.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/001snowball.jpg

American versions of this recipe, appearing in several sources such as an entry for Snowballs in Caroline Hayward’s manuscript recipe collection and a clipping pasted into an edition of Catharine Beecher’s Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, alter the recipe to maintain the appearance but reduce the cost of the dish. These variations consist of peeled and cored apples, flavored with lemon peel, cinnamon, and cloves, and tightly wrapped in cooked rice. Hayward’s recipe instructs the cook to tie each apple “up in a cloth like dumplings.”[2] These recipes are sometimes labeled Carolina Snow Balls, a reference to the use of rice. The finished product would resemble Mackenzie’s Snowballs, but with rice in the place of pastry. Since this version did not require the butter and refined wheat flour required for pastry or the costly marmalade, it may have been more economical to produce for family suppers or those with limited means.

Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper (London: T. Wilson and R. Spence, 1806), 263.

There is no evidence whether Mary Randolph prepared or enjoyed these apple dumplings. However, the recipe circulated widely during her lifetime and she certainly had access to the ingredients and, as a recipe for rice to serve with curry attests, was familiar with preparing rice. Nineteenth-century cooks used rice for a number of innovative purposes, “they molded the rice in tea-cups, making a cavity in the centre and filling it with brightly coloured jelly; they layered individual rice puddings with cooked fruit, they folded custard or stiffly beaten egg whites into rice puddings before baking them; some topped puddings with meringue.”[3] While Randolph did not include a rice-based dessert recipe in her cookbook, she was likely familiar with these dishes.

Carolina Snowballs are a unique variation on apple dumplings. Naturally gluten-free, these intriguing little dumplings are reminiscent of winter-time fun!

To Make Carolina Snow-Balls

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (London: 1788)

Adapted by R.A. Snell

Ingredients

Pudding:

Half a pound of medium grain rice

Six apples, peeled and cored

Lemon peel

Sauce:

Quarter pound butter, melted

A glass of white wine or apple juice

Nutmeg and cinnamon, to taste

Sugar, to taste

Special equipment:

Six Pudding cloths (a clean piece of unbleached muslin works well)

Method

1. Place a pot of water to boil, be sure there is sufficient room for six apple-sized dumplings.

2. Divide the rice into six equal parts and place each portion of rice in a pudding cloth.

3. Place one apple on top of the rice in each pudding cloth. Placed finely shredded lemon peel in the core of each apple.

4. Wrap the pudding cloth around each apple so that the rice is evenly distributed around the apple. This is the most challenging part! Once the cloth is tied, gently massage the dumpling until the rice surrounds the apple. Be sure the cloth is firmly noted and there is space for the rice to expand.

5. Boil the puddings for 75 minutes.

6. When the puddings are nearly done (after about one hour of boiling), prepare the sauce by boiling all ingredients together.

7. After 75 minutes, carefully remove the puddings from the boiling water. Before unwrapping, dunk the puddings in cold water and squeeze out any excess water.

8. Carefully remove the pudding cloth and serve alongside the sauce.

Yield: six dumplings


Sources

[1] Colin Mackenzie, Five Thousand Receipts in all the useful and domestic arts (Philadelphia: James Kay, Jun. & Co., 1831), 182.

[1]Caroline Hayward Recipe Book, 1815-1834, Joseph H. Hayward Family Papers, s. N-2368. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA 02215. 

[1] Jeri Quinzio, Pudding: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2012), 92.

Catharine E. Beecher, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, designed as a supplement to her treatise on domestic economy (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1857), Library Company of Philadelphia, Am 1857 Beecher 102993.D;

New England Cookbook 1825-1870 and Jane E. Hassler Cookbook, June 1857, Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbooks, The University of Iowa Libraries.

Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper (London: T. Wilson and R. Spence, 1806), 263.

Fall, Vegetable

Carrots

Boiled carrots, a side dish so uncomplicated, few would consult a recipe to prepare them. Mary Randolph’s recipe for cooking carrots draws into question her prowess as a cook. Further, it reveals who likely did most of the cooking at her renowned boarding house. The recipe also shows how Randolph viewed her recipes and her editorial process.

Mary Randolph’s The Virginia House-wife, first published in 1824, was republished at least nineteen times before 1861. The rate of new editions is a testament to the popularity of Randolph’s work. Changes between editions and Randolph’s descriptions of her work suggest how the recipes were compiled. In the preface to the 1824 edition, Randolph declared, “the greater part of the following recipes have been written from memory, where they were impressed from long continued practice.”[1] This statement infers that Randolph herself did not keep a collection of written recipes to reference as she prepared The Virginia House-wife. Rather, she wrote the recipes from memory. Writing from memory could explain the imperfections in the text. Randolph recognized the flaws in her work. In March 1825, she wrote to James Madison:

“I did not offer you a copy of the first edition of my cookery book because it was exceedingly defective. The second is more correct and I have the pleasure of asking you to accept one.”

Mary Randolph to James Madison, 1825. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mjm019536/.
Instructions to cook carrots from the 1824 edition of The Virginia House-wife.

Her instructions to boil carrots in the 1824 first edition are curious. Much of the method for cooking carrots relies on the preceding recipe for parsnips. In this recipe, Randolph reveals boiling as the cooking method. In the carrot recipe, she focuses on preparing the carrots to be cooked and instructs on the reader on checking the vegetables for doneness. She writes, “let [the carrots] be well washed and brushed, but not scrapped.” Once cooked, she commands the reader to “rub off the peels with a clean coarse cloth.” Reading Randolph’s directions raised an eyebrow, but I gamely followed along, boiling my carrots without removing the outer layer. I simmered the carrots until tender, strained them, and rubbed them with a clean cloth. The results confirmed my suspicions that this was a terrible method for preparing carrots.

First, the hot carrots were difficult to handle. Second, the peels did not easily remove. Hard rubbing broke or squished the carrots. At the same time, soft rubbing did not remove the outer layer. A bowl of lukewarm carrots with the peels mainly intact appeared on the table. I simply did not have the time or patience to fiddle with rubbing more peel of hot carrots. Bemused, I consulted the 1838 edition. These instructions could not be correct; would Randolph correct them in later editions? I discovered in the 1838 edition revised instructions: “let [the carrots] be well washed and scrapped.”

Why would Randolph include such strange instructions for cooking carrots in her cookbook? Even if writing from memory, the instructions are too specific to be accidental. Surely anyone who attempted to rub the peels of hot boiled carrots will realize the folly of their ways? My theory is that Randolph did not cook many carrots. In fact, she likely did little cooking despite her reputation as the best cook in Virginia. She may have produced showpiece dishes like cakes and puddings. She may also have made recipes that used rare or expensive ingredients like preserves. Who did the everyday cooking in Randolph’s home, you ask?

“The Cook”, Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed October 21, 2020, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/520

Enslaved persons, likely women, cooked, cleaned, and performed other duties related to maintaining the home. Randolph, as the mistress, managed and oversaw their labor. In 1810, two years after the advertisement for her boarding house ran in The Richmond Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser, the Census listed Mary Randolph (husband David was in England at the time) as the head of a household that included a total of twenty-six people – twelve of whom were enslaved.


1810 Census for Richmond, Virginia with entry for Mary Randolph highlighted. Ancestry Library.

Celebrations of Randolph’s work focus on the melding of Native American, African, and European cuisines displayed in her recipes. However, we must also recognize a long history of white women appropriating black women’s labor and expertise in the domestic and public realms.  Randolph’s cookbook is part of this history. Like other southern cookbooks, The Virginia House-wife “give[s] instructions on how to cook, but [it] also expose[s] this more complicated history of conflict and culinary adaptation.”[2]

Carrots

Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife (1838), p. 103.

Adapted by RA Snell

Ingredients

  • 1 lb carrots
  • Butter, salt, and pepper, to taste

Method

1. Wash and peel the carrots. While Randolph boiled her carrots whole, cutting the carrots into roughly equal sizes will accelerate the cooking process.

2. Place the carrots in boiling water. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender. The amount of time will depend on the size of your carrots and, as Randolph notes, whether they are young or fully grown. Test for doneness by “thrusting a fork into them while they are in the water; when this goes easily through, they are done enough.”[3]

3. Season to your taste with butter, salt, and pepper.

Yield: four servings


[1] Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook, ed. Karen Hess (Washington, D.C., 1824; repr., Columbia: S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), x.

[2] Christopher Farrish, “Food in the Antebellum South and the Confederacy,” in Helen Zoe Veit, Food in the Civil War (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2015), 1.

[3] Mrs. Mary Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook, (Baltimore: Plaskitt & Cugle, 1838), 102.

Sources

Beth A. Latshaw, “The Soul of the South: Race, Food, and Identity in the American South” in John T. Edge, Elizabeth S.D. Engelhardt, and Ted Ownby, eds., The Larder: Food Studies Methods in the American South (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2013).

Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (New York: Harper Collins, 2017).

Katharina Vester, A Taste of Power: Food and American Identities (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015).

Andrew Warnes, “‘Talking’ Recipes: What Mrs. Fisher Knows and the African –American Cookbook Tradition” in Janet Floyd and Laurel Forster, eds., The Recipe Reader: Narratives, Contexts, Traditions (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), 52-71.