There is nothing like cooking out of a cookbook from more than a hundred years ago to remind the modern cook that we have lost the kitchen knowledge, once passed down from mother to daughter throughout the millennia.
The recipes are brief narratives designed with the assumption that the cook knows “butter the size of a walnut” means one ounce and that two wineglasses of an ingredient is a half a cup, or one gill, and that two gills is the equivalent of two coffeecupfuls, which is equal to one pint. There is no note on what degree to bake anything at, because back then ovens had three settings, low, high and off.
Recently, I stumbled across a worn box of crumbling cookbooks in the attic of my family home, a two-story Victorian built circa 1902 in historic Fernandina Beach. The musty collection included The Working Band Cook Book, edited by the working band of the First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, Fla., published in 1902. Cookbooks like these, church compilations or women’s club charity cookbooks, hold the favorite family recipes specific to the culture of a place in time. They are treasure troves of authentic home cooking.
Summer is tomato season, and there is no better way to eat a tomato (except perhaps sandwiched between two slices of white bread slathered in mayo) than to stuff it with sweet corn and bake it. Thank you to Mrs. E.A. Groover for sharing this simply delicious recipe in The Working Band Cookbook for us to enjoy today, and hopefully for many years to come.
Original Recipe for Stuffed Baked Tomatoes
By Mrs. E. A. Groover
Choose large, smooth tomatoes and cut a thin slice from the blossom end of each, laying it aside for further use. Scoop out the inside and chop fine with a little grated bread, some green corn, salt and pepper, a teaspoon of white sugar, and a tablespoon of butter. Mix well, and stuff the hollowed tomatoes. Fit the top on neatly, place in circular rows in a deep dish and bake three-quarters of an hour to a light brown. Fill the interstices with the force meat if you have any left, before you bake. Do not peel the tomatoes. Add to above force meat, some minced ham or cold chicken and a little onion, more butter and more sugar. Bake nearly an hour covering at first. These are delicious.
Modern Adaptation of Mrs. E.A. Groover’s Stuffed Baked Tomatoes
By Chef Scott Schwartz
4 large tomatoes
1 cup fresh corn cut off the cob
1 cup grated fresh French bread
1 clove chopped garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cutt off the top of each tomato and remove core. Carve out the flesh with a paring knife, and place flesh in a bowl. Strain the majority of the tomato juice off the flesh. In a sauté pan, melt butter and add the garlic and thyme. As soon as you smell the garlic cooking, remove the pan from heat and add to tomato flesh. Add salt, pepper and corn, stir gently. Mix in grated bread. Lightly season the inside of the tomato cups with salt and pepper, and place inside a cast iron skillet. Use a spoon to scoop mixture and fill tomato cups. Place a pat of butter on each tomato. Bake in oven, uncovered for 45 minutes.