Christmas Breads and Church Cook Books

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Festivefoodfair Church Cook Books.   (Did I mention I collect cook books?)

I'll qualify this by saying I have over 20 of them so I speak from (some) experience.
None are more recent than the mid-70's.

Are they everywhere or is this simply a Midwest phenomena?

For those of you who aren't familiar: a church cook book is a compilation of recipes from the ladies of whatever church, printed, spiral bound and sold to everyone within reach to raise money for good works…and more church cook books.

Regardless of what church they come from: Lutheran (any synod), Methodist, Catholic, Church of Christ; they all have a few things in common:

Each recipe is attributed to one of the ladies (sorry, guys, I have never seen a recipe in a church cook contributed by a man…just isn't done).Coobooks
And said lady, unless (and even then only rarely) she is a widow, she is identified by her husband.
Mrs. Bob Dylan
Mrs. Jerry Garcia
Mrs. Timothy Leary
Never, ever, ever: Janis Joplin.

You are wondering: what if she's single? 

I haven't a clue…either single women didn't exist; weren't allowed in church; or weren't allowed to cook.

The other thing that stands out is the type of recipe contributed.  The breakdown is usually like this:

Norwegian foods:  10 pages
    Fatigmand, Jule-Kage, Romme Grot, Rosettes, Sandbakkels, etc.
Miscellaneous (punch, dips, household advice):  10 pages
    7-Up Ice Cream Punch, Bologna Salad, Preserved Children, Keeping your man happy, etc.
Canning (bottling), preserving, jams and jellies:    20 pages
    Watermelon pickles, Bread and Butter Pickles, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, etc.
Salads and salad dressings:  15 pages
    Pineapple Jello salad, Canned Vegetable Salad, Wilted Lettuce Salad, Tomorrow Salad, etc
Main Course:  20 pages
   Creamed Salmon and Peas, Tator Tot Hot Dish, Grandma's Meat Loaf, Best Fried Chicken, etc

Now, you should note that the above is less than half of the cook book – any cook book.  Here is the rest.  Does this tell you anything?!?

Breads and Rolls:  25 pages
    No actual yeast bread because everyone knows how to make that… In this section we have coffee  cakes, sweet rolls, muffins, quick breads and tea cakes.
Desserts:  25 pages
     Peach Upside Down Cake, Rhubarb Dream, Round Robin, Plum Pudding, Apple Rumm Dumm, etc
Cakes and Frostings: 25 pages
     Bible Cake, Scripture Cake, Chocolate Salad Dressing Cake, Crazy Cake, Never Fail Frosting, etc
Pies: 20 pages
     Always Perfect Pie Crust, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, Sour Cream Raisin Pie, Strawberry Pie, etc.
Bars and Cookies:  40 pages
     Stain Glass Bars, Wedding Bars, Brown Sugar Cookies, Molasses Overnight Cookies, etc.

If any of you are looking for that lost recipe of Steamed Suet Pudding or Clouds at Sunrise let me know. 

Naturally, my church cook books yielded the recipes for my favorite Christmas treats.

After my fabulous coup of cranberries the other day I was able, for the first time in 11 years, to make Cranberry bread.  It takes so little to excite me these days….

For my family, Christmas just isn't Christmas without Cranberry Bread and Pumpkin Bread on the table.

Cranberry Bread (Tea Cake)
    Mrs. Glenn Schmidt, Halfway Creek Lutheran Church

1 cup white sugarLoaves
1 tbs shortening (I use butter), rounded
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice
2 cups  flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cranberries, cut in half
1 cup nuts, chopped (I use walnuts)

Cream sugar, shortening and egg together.  Stir in juice.  Add flour, soda, baking powder, stir well.  Add vanilla, cranberries and nuts, stir.  Bake 350F in 9 X 5 loaf pan for 60 minutes.  (I line the bottom with parchment, then butter and flour the pan).

Pumpkin Bread (Tea Cake)
    Mrs. William Hollis,
Halfway Creek Lutheran Church
I've modified the recipe, it was written in paragraph rather than list form.

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup oil (I use corn oil)
1/4 cup water (I don't use if using fresh pumpkin)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg (my addition)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (my addition)
1 2/3 cups flour

Cream sugar and eggs.  Add pumpkin, oil, (water) and blend.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Bake 350F in 9 X 5 loaf pan for 60 minutes. (I line the bottom with parchment, then butter and flour the pan).

This is my entry for Festive Food Fair hosted by the lovely Anna, of Morsels and Musings.  Visit her blog after December 10 for the  Food Fair!

Happy Christmas Baking!!!!

30 thoughts on “Christmas Breads and Church Cook Books”

  1. There’s nothing more festive than cranberries at this time of year! There are three cranberry bogs in Rhode Island, and many more in nearby Massachusetts. All grow for Ocean Spray, the large cooperative that packages cranberries and cranberry juice and sends it all around the world. Just before harvest, the bogs are flooded to bring the cranberries to the surface, where they are skimmed off — so that when you drive past, you see huge red “lakes” of floating cranberries.

  2. Katie, that green cookbook in the center of the photo looks very familiar. I love church cookbooks – especially the old ones that are mimeographed from the 1950s and 60s – the recipes show absolutely no concern for calories, carbs, fat, salt! Ah, those were the days!
    Women’s club cookbooks are very similar, and those from junior leagues often feature recipes that are a bit more chi chi.
    Great post! You hit it on the head here.

  3. first off, I opt for the cranberry bread.
    Secondly, ths posts reminds me of the cookbook I found that was sold by my grade school.
    I looked through it recently and I was amazed at how ethnically diverse it was (even for the 70’s)!
    I have a good Pork Aspic recipe in there, if you like! lol

  4. OMG Katie, I have loads of these books on my shelves. In fact, I was even the editor, typist, recipe collector, etc. for one of these books I did for my son’s marching band. We sold them to raise money for new uniforms! Wow, that brings back memories! I am thrilled that you are enjoying your cranberry find!

  5. Oh yes, I’ve had several of those. Obviously you never got the one my mother-in-law gave me that had the beet and cottage cheese recipe from Obed Williams.
    Hooray for your cranberries! Your loaf looks delicious. That’s on my to-bake list for this week.

  6. That cranberry loaf looks so divine.
    The books are incredible Katie! Most of mine like that came from my mother’s collection. Some of the recipes are strange (too many canned soups added) but then there are the winners like you got with these two tea cakes!

  7. Lydia, for years Christmas just didn’t seem right without the cranberries…. People are going to get really tired of my raving about cranberries! I’d love to see the bogs!
    Mimi, I think the only concern was hot to get the most calories into the smallest bite! They really are fun to look through, and I get such a kick out of the names of the dishes!
    Grade school, Peter? I come from a very Norwegian area, thus the Norwegian section. Lefse, lutefisk, ya sure!
    Deb, wow, editor! That must have been fun! I remember my mother working on the PTA book. I, myself, never participated… I have a great ability to be busy elsewhere!
    Lynn, I have been thoroughly enjoying my cranberry bread – and I really liked the pumpkin bread with ginger…I’ll do that again!
    Tanna, cans and freezer boxes! They really weren’t much interested in main courses…but the Sweets, not that’s another story!

  8. Katie, when it comes to cookbooks, my friends always ask if I ever stop buying them. 🙂 It’s never quite enough you know?
    And how much I love your bread! It will be great for the celebration for sure.

  9. And after you look through enough of them you start to see some of the same recipes over and over — and if you trace a lot of them back to their origins, they came from the cocoa box or mayonnaise jar or jello packet.

  10. I had to come back to see what everyone was saying about these fabulous cookbooks. I used to have one in which – I swear – every recipe called for lard.
    Wonder what Mrs. Bob Dylan made? I want some of Mrs. Jerry Garcia’s brownies…

  11. Your comment about the Mrs. and the absence of single women is hilarious! The cranberry loaf looks delish – glad that you have found cranberries! how exciting. 🙂

  12. I introduced my mom to Cranberry Bread and she makes it every Christmas. Last year when my daughter and I flew home for Christmas she made all my traditional recipes….I have developed my own traditions for Christmas morning over the years!!

  13. I think that Church cookbooks are real gems. All these tried and tested recipes that usually have been around for many years. Thanks for sharing the recipes. I would like to try the cranberry cake with dried cranberries (if I can find them).
    As for the breakdown recipes contributed, it seems as though there are more sweets there, or maybe that’s just me who noticed that 😉
    These breads are wonderful contributions to a festive fair. I can just imagine the aroma from your kitchen when you baked these…

  14. I have several of these cookbooks – not all religious. I’m wondering if maybe the single women pretended they were widowers so they could use the ‘Mrs.’ moniker.

  15. Sandi, I remember, after my father died, my mother introducing herself as “I was Mrs …
    A generational thing!
    Casey, right you are…and the Bisquick box, cake mix box. I with I could find my ‘Joy of Jell-O’ cook book.
    Kevin, thanks, fresh cranberries do have a beautiful color~
    Mimi, I know! Some of the baking recipes start with ‘1 cup lard’. Can you imagine? Although, my mother always kept a paper/cardboard container of lard in the pantry.
    SwissMiss, I’am so easy to please these days…it’s all about the food – no single women allowed,,,hahaha
    Bellini Valli, I love it – reverse traditions! My sister introduced cranberry bread to my family.
    Nora, I think the ration of sweet to savory recipes is about 25 to 1! One of the cook boobs only had 15 pages of casseroles – all the rest sweets!

  16. Somehow, I’ve ignored cranberries all my life…until this year. Now that I know what I’ve been missing, that cranberry bread looks awfully tempting…

  17. I have a few church cookbooks – one from the church I went to as a child. It’s fun to look through it and see the names of the women whose children I grew up with, attributed to a recipe that I fondly remember, some more than others.
    Any cranberry bread is at the top of my list for this holiday season. We get ours shipped fresh from the Oregon cranberry bogs.

  18. Boy did this post make me smile…I have a few church cookbooks too. Guaranteed source of america folk cuisine…how about a tater tot casserole…made from scratch, besides the tots, I wouldn’t say no 🙂

  19. Mike, cranberries – and the stuff one makes with them, are so much better if you start with fresh…but you know that now…
    Yes, Scientist, those are church cook books…and a little bit of history in them as well!
    Christine, when I was flipping through them before this post it was like the proverbial walk down memory lane! I didn’t know Oregon had bogs!
    Meredith, except the tots…and the Cream of Mushroom soup…and the French’s Onion Rings… but, yeah, they all tasted pretty darn good!

  20. Would you like a few more of those type of cookbooks?I have quite a collection~same recipes, i bet, too! Your bread turned out wonderfully, the berries are so colorful!

  21. this looks sooooooo good!!!!
    Do you by chance, know of any quality online food services? I am starting to order all my food online because of various reasons. (Health being one of them) So far I have found 2 services, Fresh Dining (an LA company) and Celebrity Foods, but you have to call them so they can talk to you about your need. I would really like any suggestions that you may have, so I can widen my list of quality places online where I can order healthy food from.
    Thank you and have a great night or day…depending on when you read this. LOL!!!!

  22. The strangest place I’ve ever encountered a church cookbook was actually in an Amish meat market and I still have it. Your chapters list is right on target, 7 UP cake and weird ways to clean the silver.
    Where I live now, church (and hose company) bake sales are VERY popular. Every day, you can find event notices for them in the smaller local papers and there’s even a listing after the “top stories” on the morning news show. You’ll find everything from pierogi and Welsh cookies to takeaway chicken dinners.
    Will definitely try the bread recipes!

  23. Jann, I love those old books…but I have plenty, thanks! ;-). Cranberry Bread is just so Christmas-y to me…the pretty reds…
    leosatter, I would try checking the local ‘premium’ supermarkets in your area. A lot of them offer online shopping with delivery. My old local one in Minneapolis does.
    Cymey, some of the household hints are really a hoot aren’t they. And a lot of them really work – if you dare!!!

  24. Katie, these cookbooks come from all over the country — and some even from overseas. I even have one from Lagos in Nigeria (although the recipes in that one do vary from the standard ones you mention!) Excellent summary of this genre — and the recipe ain’t half bad either!

  25. I like the cranberry bread. It is my favourite bread. However I take it in lunch as it is tasty recipe! Thanks for sharing such nice recipes here. You gave the tips very well so every one can easily understand it. I would like to make it.
    Thanks for this great site. I will visit it again. Hope you will back here with new one tasty recipe. I will wait for it.

  26. I LOVE this post!!! I love those old church and community group cookbooks and I have a few – mostly synagogue sisterhood cookbooks so no Christmas recipes 🙂 Fantastic! Hey I even have an old cookbook that was my mom’s and the author? Mrs. Simon Kanter! Yeah, her husband’s name! Gotta love it!

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