“Bake the potatoes, and when cold, chop or cut them to size of dice; have cream boiling with a little butter and salt, put in the potatoes and let simmer for 15 minutes. Then place in a fresh dish, and bake for 15 minutes. Mrs. G. Corning” From the Saginaw Cookbook published by the First Congregational Church of Saginaw.
Castle Test Kitchen Interpretation of Mrs. Gurdon Corning’s Recipe for Creamed Potatoes:
5 Baked potatoes (We used Russet potatoes. Knowing that we would be cutting and
cooking them further, we were careful not to over bake them.)
2 Cups of Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons of Butter
Salt to taste
Preparation: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
After potatoes have cooled, peel and cut into ½ inch cubes.
Place cream, butter and salt in saucepan and bring to boil. Add potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Take care when to stirring – potatoes will break easily, and the cream and potato mixture will burn easily. Place into a butter baking dish and cook in oven.
Notes: As you may have noticed, in the original recipe many details are left up to the cook’s imagination. Does one peel the baked potatoes? How much cream? And, exactly what should the completed dish look like.
After a great deal of thought, we decided to peel the potatoes and arrived a potato ratio of 2 cups of cream to 5 potatoes. (This magical ratio was discovered/determined by what the test kitchen had on hand and forgot to purchase at the store.)
Quite honestly, our test kitchen thought this recipe was going to be bland, runny, and boring; however, the finished potatoes were wonderful. It had a rich, creamy, and nutty flavor. Our official test kitchen tasters have requested that this dish reappear at Thanksgiving – if not before.
A dietary note: Our test kitchen is aware of dietary concerns and would love to be able to suggest the substitution of milk – or a non-dairy alternative – for heavy cream. However, it is the test kitchen’s opinion, that the mixture will not thicken properly with these substitutions. This may be a recipe best reserved for small servings on special occasions.
Mrs. G. Corning
Two weeks ago, we featured a recipe for Mrs. G. Corning’s Salmon Salad and focused on the history of her home, 1446 South Washington Avenue.
“The beautiful home of Mr. and Mrs. Gurdon Corning was the scene of brilliancy last evening, where nearly a hundred young women of the Young Women’s Christian Association spent a most enjoyable evening, one that will long be remembered by the girls. A most amusing and entertaining time was spent in hearing the varied experiences of the girls who been earning money to apply on the piano fud, Delicious refreshments were served in the most dainty manner and all departed grateful to the host and hostess for the pleasures afforded them.” The Saginaw Evening News, October 26, 1895
When we research and write the brief stories that accompany our historic recipes, we are often challenged to document the lives and accomplishments of the recipe’s author – especially when the cook/author is female. Media coverage of the work of women has frequently been neglected. While there are numerous articles detailing the Corning family’s business accomplishments, the elegance of the family’s home in the Grove, and stories of the business accomplishments of Louise Corning Bartlett, Lucy Corning’s sister-in-law, there are far fewer records of Lucy’s achievements.
For a synopsis of her life, we turn to Lucy Westron Corning’s obituary:
“Mrs. Lucy Corning, One of the Founders of Y.W.C.A. Here, Dies.”
“News has been received of the death Tuesday of Mrs. Lucy Westron Corning, widow of Gurdon Corning, at the home of daughter, Mrs. William H. Oxtoby, in Sand Anselmo, Cal, after an illness of several months.
“Mrs. Corning was born in Rives, Jackson county, Michigan, December 28. 1842, and was educated in the school of Jackson County, and Hillsdale College. She was married to Mr. Corning in Saginaw August 23, 1870, and lived until the death of her husband in 1909. Since 1910 she had made her home with her daughter in Philadelphia and more recently in San Anselmo. During her 40 years in Saginaw, she was a member of the First Congregational Church and always was interested in church and Sunday school activities.
“She was one of the founders of the [Saginaw] Y.W.C.A. and took an interest I various philanthropic and charitable movements. She was active in club work, being a member of the Winter club and of the Tuesday Study club. During all her residence here, Mrs. Corning resided at the Corning homestead.” The Saginaw News Courier, December 22, 1920.
Other coverages in the census and newspapers provides additional details about her life.
The 1900 census indicates that the Corning household had two servants that also took care of Louise Bartlett’s home in the southern part of the residence. Earlier, the household had separate staffs.
Lucy Corning’s husband died suddenly. The April 29, 1909, issue of the Saginaw Evening News reported that Lucy and Gurdon Corning had been visiting a neighbor and, on the return, they were caught in an early spring snowstorm. He had difficulty walking home and died shortly after they went into their house.
Her decision to move to Philadelphia to live with her daughter appears to have been reached soon after her husband’s passing. Suggesting that she was in the process of closing her Saginaw home, in November 1909, she gave two paintings by Michigan artist Leo Dabo to the Saginaw Art Club. In the letter accompanying her gift she stated:
“The first gift seemed incomplete without adding a second picture representative of Michigan, ‘The Pines,’ the material products of which made it possible for me to give to future generations of Saginaw an uplift from nature up to nature’s God.”