July 19, 2010
Crackers and Jam
Crackers and strawberry jam

This recipe is from a “Taste the Past” event at Conner Prairie, which is a Food for Thought partnering program.  Guests can sample new (but old) recipes every Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m., and can help prepare that week’s recipe, learn tips and tricks from experienced cooks, and taste a bite of the finished product. Enjoy!


1 ½ cup milk

½ cup butter

4 cups flour

Mix butter into flour.  Add milk and knead to make a dough you can roll out.  Roll it as thin as possible (1/8” to 1/16”).  Cut into 1” squares and prick with a fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until crisp & very lightly browned.  Makes about 200 crackers.

Strawberry Jam:

Equal parts fresh strawberries and sugar.

Put fruit in a brass or copper pot.  Add a little water or fruit juice to prevent scorching.  Bring fruit to a boil & let boil for 15 mins, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.  Add sugar slowly, while stirring.  Let simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring regularly.  The longer it simmers, the stiffer the mixture will get.  Let it cool & transfer to storage containers.

Jam has been a dinner table favorite for countless generations.  In 1836, jam was one of the few ways to preserve the delicate fruits that ripen in the spring and summer.  Even though sugar was a relatively expensive and precious commodity, it was worth using this much sugar to keep the flavorful and nutritious fruits on the table for several weeks or even months longer than the fruit would last without preservation.  Since sugar is a natural preservative, if kept correctly, jam made in this manner can store for six months or more in a stoneware jar in a cool, dark place.  It would not be uncommon for the top layer to get a little mold after even a few days in storage, but a frugal housewife would simply scrape that off because the jam underneath should be just fine.  Later on in the 19th century, housewives could rely on the process of canning to preserve fruits.  Canning creates an air-tight seal, which prevents the growth of most microscopic organisms like mold, meaning that the fruit could last even longer.

Crackers have been a favorite option for cooks stretching all the way back into ancient times.  Because it is unleavened bread (it doesn’t have yeast or soda in it to make it light and fully), it is an incredibly easy recipe to make using ingredients you could almost always have on hand.  Of course, it’s a little tricky to get the dough just the right consistency to allow you to roll it out thin enough to yield crispy crackers, but once you get the hang of it, it can be very fun to try this at home.  You can experiment with incorporating different garnishes – for instance, if you sprinkle the crackers with salt as they cool, you end up with crackers that compliment more savory items, like soup.  You can also sprinkle sesame or other seeds on the crackers, for even more flavor and texture.

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