First off, since it needs to be said – there’s no gelatin in this. I do make other things, sometimes. If you’re just here for the recipe, click here.
How to Buy Vintage Recipe Books
My mom regularly goes to thrift stores and will look through the cookbook section for anything I might be interested in. Usually the goldmine is recipe books put together by organizations (think “The Junior League of Memphis, Tennessee”) that are crowd-sourced from people they know.
I wasn’t kidding by the way
Unlike an old Better Homes & Gardens Dessert Cook Book, these types of recipe books give you a much better picture of what the heck people were making back in the day – after all, people are much more likely to only submit “tried-and-true” recipes, ones they make all the time because people ask them to.
Can you imagine trying to eat that strawberry shortcake?
Another recipe book category I enjoy, however, is what I’ll call The Brand Book. These are recipe collections put out by specific food bands (i.e., Jell-o🄬) that showcase their product. Since they have to pad out the book, this is where you can find some Interesting Stuff.
Of course, there’s multiple accounts on the world wide web that like to ridicule these recipes, especially gelatin-based ones. I’ve talked in depth about my distaste for them here (scroll down to “Kelp’s Content Preferences”). But to briefly summarize:
- They’re usually only a small percentage of recipes in whatever book they found,
- You can’t assume how popular or liked they were, and
- We currently have no shortage of terrible stuff uploaded on social media every day
Mueller’s Classic Recipes
Anyways. Recently I was presented with one of these Brand Books, for a brand of pasta named Mueller’s that’s still around, although I’ve never seen it in stores. (Guessing it’s more of an East Coast deal.)
Nothing like a mysterious stain to authenticate your cookbook
Pretty much all the recipes in this book are fairly standard pasta dishes. As some of you may know, web-surfing Italians love to judge ‘Italian-American’ food, and I’m sure they’d have things to say about many of the entries in this cookbook. But as some of you may not know, my grandmother immigrated here from Sicily, and their recipe for tomato sauce from scratch isn’t all that far from her recipe.
This seems fine.
“A top fashion designer we know” uh-huh…
Gonna guess this one ain’t authentic, but still, seems fine?
Surprising no one, some of the more interesting recipes are in the pasta salad section, but even then I can tell a lot of what seems strange to us is just “these are the vegetables and other salad ingredients you could reliably get at a New Jersey supermarket in the early 1970’s”.
From 1971 B.P.A., Before the Popularization of Avocado
However, while looking through the book, I came across two Pasta Dessert recipes: kugel, and Macaroni Pudding. Of course I was instantly intrigued, and looking at the ingredients I thought, “This is just a baked custard with macaroni?”
Joke’s on you, Tule fog is a constant menace in the Central Valley
In other words, this had to taste perfectly fine. My resident taste-testers were also quite interested, to the point where I ended up breaking my “don’t make another weird dessert until you finish eating the last one” rule.
Got out the good crystal
And guess what? It does taste, indeed, like a baked custard flavored with nutmeg and lemon zest. The one thing I can see putting people off is the texture – one taste-tester mentioned he felt like he was eating mac ‘n’ cheese, to which I responded “There’s no cheese, tho…” before it dawned on me that yes, it eats like mac ‘n’ cheese. But it tastes like a baked custard. My other taste-tester volunteered “rice pudding”, which is often flavored similarly, and also has some chewy grain-based bits in it.
That’s not to say I didn’t run into any issues. First off, the recipe can’t be easily halved, as it contains three eggs…and I suspect these should have been three 1970’s sized eggs. You see, here in the good ol’ US of A, it’s not unusual to buy JUMBO eggs, which are about half an ounce more than the ‘standard’ Large size.
This can mess with the ratios of old baked recipes, especially egg heavy ones like custards. Technically you can buy smaller eggs here, but recently it was difficult to even buy eggs at all. When I went to make the ribbon (whipped eggs and sugar) for this recipe, it seemed way too liquid-y. It may have affected the final product a bit, so for anyone planning to make this, Large/Medium eggs are recommended. Personally, if I was to make it again, I’d prolly separate the eggs and just use 3 egg yolks.
Another potential problem was the recipe telling you to “Combine the [ribbon] with the [hot milk and cooked macaroni]”. Please don’t.
I don’t know what it is – recipe writers not being thorough, an assumption you know what you’re doing, something else? But I see this ‘mistake’ a lot. For those with less Custard Experience Points, you must temper the ribbon before you add it to hot liquid. Otherwise, you effectively scramble the eggs and kinda ruin your custard. This video provides a good short explanation.
The last problem I had may be a personal one – I had to cook the heck out of this. Based on my experience cooking custard pies, I highly suspect my oven just runs cold. Still, I cooked it at least fifteen minutes longer than the upper bound stated in the recipe, and even then it wasn’t fully set. I took it out mainly cuz the top started to brown. Also, at some point, a clump of macaroni rose to the top, making a weird iceberg in the middle.
Definitely not an Instagram dessert
Luckily, this, as well as the raisins settling to the bottom, was fixed easily when plating with some strategic spoonwork. I ate it both warm and cold (although not with sour cream), and I would say it’s better warm.
4 cups milk
1 cup elbow macaroni
3 (medium) eggs*
½ cup granulated sugar
1 lemon (for zesting)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp nutmeg
½ cup raisins
*If using Big Eggs, you may want to separate and just use the yolks. I haven’t tested this variation, tho.
Bring milk to a simmer in large saucepan, being careful not to boil. Add macaroni and continue to simmer uncovered for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Afterwards, remove from heat.
In a separate small mixing bowl, beat eggs and whisk in sugar to create the ribbon. Temper the eggs and then slowly whisk in to milk. Thoroughly incorporate zest of one lemon, vanilla, nutmeg, and raisins. Pour into lightly greased baking dish (approx 2 quarts).
Kelp tip: I used a 2.5 quart souffle dish and it worked well. The recipe specifies butter to grease with, but I think a neutral cooking spray would also do the job.
Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 45~50 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
Kelp tip: I had to bake mine for over an hour, and it still wasn’t set when I took it out. Baked custards, man.
Let dish cool for a half hour or so before serving. Dish can be served warm or cold.