This recipe could really go either way. It could be edible or really terrible. Cottage Cheese? It’s potentially better than the cream soups that are staples in 20th century casseroles so it’s got me interested to know how this recipe stacks up to Grammie’s other casseroles. The notepaper the recipe is written on has a watermark that can be seen on the other side. It says “Nekoosa Bond.” I was hoping the type of paper would have helped narrow down the date of the recipe a bit but no luck. According to the Lehman Brothers Collection – Contemporary Business Archives at Harvard University Library, the Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation…
“…was a Wisconsin paper company, founded as the Nekoosa Paper Company in 1883. A merger in 1908 created the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. Nekoosa-Edwards expanded into fine paper production in the 1930s, with continued growth through the 1950s.”
It goes on to talk about the evolution of the company into the 1970s. Nakoosa Bond paper and envelopes are still in production and can be bought at some retailers. Check the Almighty Google for a list.
The ingredients list looked really good for this recipe. The prep time was a little more involved than just dumping the ingredients in a casserole dish (which is why there are no photos of prep, I was watching the pasta and cooking the celery and onion and had no hands for the camera) and I had to muddle my way through some of the directions, like the pasta instruction. Grammie wrote, “add 4 cups noodles cooked and drained.” Okay, so did that mean measure 4 cups dry pasta then cook it or did it mean 4 cups of already cooked pasta? I deliberated with the Hubs. And then I winged it. I cooked 3 cups of dry pasta which turned into way more than 4 cups. The 4 cups of cooked pasta was plenty. I used Creamette since Grammie referred to the brand in other recipes and I (obviously) know that it was around in her day.
Also, our local Jewel did not have Krafts Cracker Barrel cheese so the Hubs asked around and was told that Kraft medium cheddar was a good substitution. Because this recipe was very specific about the kind of cheese used, I checked out the Kraft website to see if they had a similar recipe and they did! It’s a paired down version, only uses five ingredients, and all the reviews all said it was too dry but if you want to check it out, click here.
Grammie titled this wonderful photo, “Me in my flower garden.” Grammie and Grampie always had a large garden in their back yard. I wonder if she did much canning? I’ll have to ask her sisters. I don’t remember the garden as much as the grape arbor. I can still taste them. Every year on Labor Day weekend, my family travels to Grammie’s town for the annual town festival. We always drive by the old house, which has definitely changed since Grammie and Grampie passed away. Last year, as we drove by, we saw the owner outside having a cook out and decided to stop and introduce ourselves. The new owners (I call them new but they’ve owned the house since 2004 when they bought it from my father) were so nice. They showed me where Grampie carved his name into several places in the garage and I talked about the grape arbor. The man got excited and said it was still there and producing grapes after all these years. He said that they had just harvested the last bunch the day before and offered them to me. They tasted exactly how I remembered! The owners were so sweet and I’m so glad we decided to stop by. I’m going to stop by again this year and see if I maybe I can take a cutting with me.
VERDICT: Not So Bad
Ham Medley is a good solid recipe. Well done Grammie! The amount of prep work was totally redeemed by the end product. The consistency was balanced (not too creamy, not too dry), as was the flavor (not too salty or too plain), and the topping gave a nice little crunch. Speaking of the topping, the next time I make this (and yes, there will be a next time), I’ll either double the recipe for it or perhaps use Italian seasoned bread crumbs or both. One thing I did do differently (because I’m an idiot and didn’t see the whole “Bake 350 1 hour” at the top of the recipe) was put the dish under the broiler before I baked it for an hour. Since I made this the same week I made that horrible Chicken Casserole and my Boys prefer chicken over ham, half of this is going straight into the freezer for me to enjoy another time. Yay!