It's March 24th. Some parts of the country are warm and the flowers are blooming. Others are experiencing blizzard conditions and snow and hail. While I live in North Carolina and am enjoying the former, the author of our Twenty Lessons in Domestic Science was probably freezing in Minnesota in 1916. And fruits? The availability of fresh and juicy fruits at this time of year was probably just a dream.
There is a wonderful recipe in Marian Cole Fisher's book for English Rocks and it is curious and interesting at the same time. I've known English Rocks as a cookie similar to a fruitcake. It would contain dried fruits and nuts. The recipe in our book has only one fruit ingredient - currants.
The answer comes from several resources and the best description is here:
"The commercial cultivation of Currants was outlawed in 1911 in the U.S. by an act of Congress. The lumber industry put forth the bill believing that the botanical disease known as White Pine Blister Rust, which need both the White Pine and Currants to complete it’s cycle, could wipe out the then valuable White Pine industry. Because of this legislation, Currants have remained off the radar screen of the American Consciousness until recently when Greg Quinn, a farmer, was able to overturn the law in New York by demonstrating that new resistant varieties eliminated the specter of the disease."
So it is a simple matter of supply and demand and the supply apparently is very limited especially in view of some recent studies linking the currant to prevention/treatment of Alzheimer's Disease. The Zante Currant is actually a grape although somewhat more tart than the grapes which constitute our supply of raisins and therefore is closer to the tartness of the currant.
With that knowledge in hand I decide that my 1916 cookbook may have required currants but perhaps by then the supply was already limited and as my grandmother (19 years old in 1916) might have done, raisins are a nice substitute.
|Flour and baking powder measured and ready for sifting.|
|Sifted 4 times.|
|Six tablespoons of shortening ready to cut into flour/baking powder mixture.|
|My cutting-in tool.|
|Ready for the next step.|
|3/4 cup of sugar and pinch of salt added.|
|3 eggs beaten.|
|Eggs added to dry ingredients.|
|A nice moist dough results.|
|Lastly my currant substitute - one cup of raisins.|
|Mounds placed on well-greased baking sheet.|
|After 20 minutes in 350 degree oven.|
Also, as my English grandmother would have done, this wonderfully sweet raisin cookie called an English Rock would have been accompanied by a perfect English tea.
|Warm, soft, chewy with raisins, and sweet!|
|Tea time! English Rocks and Twining's.|