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The wit and wisdom of Winnifred Jardine, retired Deseret News food editor

For 36 years, Winnifred Jardine was the Deseret News' woman for all seasonings. By the time she retired as the newspaper's food editor in 1984, her tenure had spanned the tide of cooking trends — from '50s-style from-scratch home cooking to gourmet cuisine to microwaveable frozen dinners to organics.

She witnessed the launch of appliances that changed the kitchen, such as home freezers, automatic dishwashers and microwaves. Along the way, she interviewed a White House chef, authored several cookbooks and was featured in Better Homes & Gardens.

At 86, Jardine is still energetic. When interviewed at her home on a recent afternoon, she was wearing her apron, having just finished lunch with her husband, Stu. She still cooks, but it's different from her days of testing Deseret News recipes. Stu was diagnosed with diabetes 20 years ago, so she tries to create suitable meals for him.

But holiday cooking traditions have always been part of her life. When she was 10, her family moved from Utah to Iowa, where her father, Clawson Young Cannon, headed the dairy husbandry department at Iowa State University. It was common for the Cannons to host 40 to 50 university students for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Also each Christmas, the Cannon kids delivered their mother's homemade tea rings around the neighborhood. After she married, Jardine continued the tea-ring tradition with her own family.

In 1941, she earned a degree in technical journalism with a nutrition minor at Iowa State. She began her career with Swift & Co. in Chicago, where she test-marketed a new lard-based product called "Swiftning" to compete with Crisco vegetable oil shortening. In 1942, she began working for the American Meat Institute in Chicago. During World War II, she helped on the home front by teaching homemakers how to get by on their meat rations.

"The prime cuts of meat were used for the military forces, so we gave demonstrations on using utility-grade beef," Jardine said. "With the really tough cuts of meat like pot roast, you have to cook it long and moist to tender it out."

In 1945, she went to work for a Kansas City radio station, doing two daily cooking shows. "That changed my style of writing, because it was more informal, like you were talking to someone," she said.

On V-J Day (Aug. 19, 1945) she became engaged to Stuart Jardine, who was in the Navy. They began their married life in Salt Lake City, where she taught food science at the University of Utah and freelanced for a local advertising company. She came on board at the Deseret News in 1948, just in time to help with a "Pioneer Recipes" contest and cookbook as part of the Desert News' centennial celebration. When the food editor position came open the next year, she agreed to do it if she could work at home.

For many years, she would start writing as early as 3 a.m., with her husband dropping off her typed copy to the newspaper on his way to work. She often tested recipes in her kitchen late into the night.

"I can remember testing late at night, and walking out in the street to see whose lights were still on so I could borrow an ingredient," she said. "I loved what I did, and I had the best of both worlds. I had other job offers that paid better, but it always smelled good in the house when the kids came home."

Her husband and four children served as taste-testers. "My kids learned to like things they thought they didn't like — they got it all. My daughter, Ann (Bardsley), sometimes refers to the wild rice pancakes that we tried and rolls her eyes."

But since Jardine wasn't part of the editing and production process, "I would sometimes pick up the paper and find the editor or proofreader had made a change and ended up skewing the amounts of the ingredients. Once I sent money to a lady to pay for her ingredients because her fruitcake didn't turn out right."

When she did a Christmas story on Norma Matheson, Jardine made Matheson's fruitcake recipe to photograph. "I left this gorgeous cake out on the counter and went to the dentist. When I got home, my daughter had brought a friend home and they'd cut into it. We doctored it up and covered it with icing, but I remember the shock wave of that."

Another year, she did a New Year's Eve story featuring several couples who always celebrated with a progressive dinner. For the photos, they staged the event in advance, with beautiful decor and food arranged around the hostess's swimming pool.

"Wally Kasteler took the pictures, and the people ate the food. Later Wally called me, and it was the only time the pictures didn't turn out right. So the woman did the whole thing again for us. Do I ever love her for doing that!"

That was one of the great parts of the job — "Meeting such wonderful people and telling the history of these recipes."

One of those interesting people was cookbook author Myra Chanin, who shared the recipe for Mother Wonderful's Cheesecake.

"It's a great dessert for entertaining because it's made two days ahead of time and then removed from the refrigerator a couple hours before serving, to come up to room temperature," Jardine said.

She also maneuvered around the challenge of giving proper credit for recipes, which are often passed around from one person to the next. "Finally I would just say, 'If I tasted it at your house, it's your recipe.' "

She was a contemporary of Julia Child, "But I didn't do that much on her French cooking, because I was into very practical things. I tried to make everything very understandable and time-wise. We did a lot of stories about families, quick meals for working women, meals for Sunday dinner and budgeting. But we did some fancy things, too."

One of her cookbooks, "Managing Your Meals" (1965), grew from a booklet Jardine wrote for use with home "deep" freezers that had just come on the market. A local company told shoppers they could buy a freezer full of food and pay for the freezer with the money saved on food costs. To help them, Jardine was asked to do a month of menus based on frozen foods, as well as a shopping list.

"It's a very fun cookbook because the meals cost 25 cents each and other small amounts," she said.

For "Mormon Country Cooking" (1980), she asked readers to submit their favorite Deseret News recipes, the tried-and-true ones they had clipped out and used.

She and her daughter, Ann, wrote a cooking column together for the LDS children's magazine, The Friend. When Ann was growing up, the two of them often baked French bread together in the morning, and Ann sold it on her way to school for 25 cents a loaf.

The title of "food editor" carries expectations. "Stu used to take his lunch to work and people would open it to see what I sent, and that could be embarrassing to me," she said.

There's also the story floating around the neighborhood of the new young couple who moved in, met the Jardines at church and promptly asked them to dinner that afternoon, with no idea they would be entertaining one of Utah's foremost cooks.

"Yes, that's a true story, and no, she didn't know I had been the food editor, I was retired by then," Jardine said. "If people feel intimidated, I just tell them that nobody enjoys good food more than I do."

Having had her fill of food for so many years, Jardine doesn't watch TV cooking shows or keep up on food trends. But she's noticed some changes.

"If I were the food editor now, I wouldn't tell them how to make it, I would tell them how to buy it," she said. "People are involved with so many things today, they don't cook as much. And so much of the food has gone to gourmet glamorous, where it's like watching a fashion show. You eat it with your eyes. But people use so much of their money eating out, and even the prepared foods are expensive. Will people ever go back to home cooking? Maybe if there's ever a depression, they will have to."

Planning ahead can save time and money, she said. "If you plan two weeks of menus and repeat those every two weeks, you would have as much variety as most people have now," she said. "Draw up a shopping list from those menus, and you can really save money, because we often shop and buy stuff we don't need."

She's also convinced that good nutrition influences health, especially with her husband's diabetes.

"We've finally buckled down to eating what he ought to, and his health has improved. I just don't bake desserts anymore. In a way it seems kind of dull, but we have a society that's overweight, and there's a big effort to get people to eat more vegetables. Another thing you can count on for better health is eating a wide variety of foods. And I've learned you can get along on a lot less food than you think. Serving sizes have gotten so much bigger."

She says she's a "brand person," who sticks with products she likes. "I won't use anything but Karo syrup in my candy. I've learned what works for me."

Her candy recipes hint at changing times. The Chocolate Almond Balls call for three 8-ounce chocolate almond bars, but today's Hershey's giant-size bars have been downsized to 5 ounces. (To reflect the difference, we changed the recipe to 5 5-ounce chocolate almond bars. If you're worried about exactly following the recipe, break yourself off a 1-ounce bite before mixing.)

CHOCOLATE ALMOND BALLS

5 5-ounce chocolate almond bars

1 12-ounce carton non-dairy whipped topping

1/2 of a 12-ounce package vanilla wafers, crushed fine

Melt chocolate over hot, not boiling, water. Stir into whipped topping; blend well. Chill slightly. With spoon, shape into balls 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll in vanilla wafer crumbs; place on waxed paper. Refrigerate until time to serve. May be frozen. Makes 4 dozen. — Winnifred C. Jardine

OUR FAVORITE TOFFEE

1 cup unblanched whole almonds or blanched slivered almonds

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (may be half margarine)

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 pound milk chocolate

1/2 pound walnuts (2 generous cups), coarsely ground

On foil-lined cookie sheet, arrange almonds in single layer over a 7-by-12-inch area; set aside. In heavy saucepan, combine butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Cook over high heat 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly with a clean, dry wooden spoon, until candy cooks to a walnut brown (about the color of a brown paper sack). Immediately, without scraping pan, pour candy over almonds, covering all nuts. Allow candy to stand until completely cool. In meantime, melt chocolate over hot (not boiling) water in a double boiler. Break toffee into large pieces. Dip each piece into melted chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip off, then coat lightly with ground walnuts. Place on waxed paper to set. May be stored indefinitely in covered tin in cool, dry place. If desired, break into smaller pieces. Makes 2 pounds, or 25 large pieces.

Notes for success:

1. Use a heavy pan.

2. Cook over highest heat, stirring constantly but gently to prevent sugar crystal formation on the sides of the pan.

3. For each batch, use a clean, dry pan and clean, dry wooden spoon.

4. Once candy begins to cook, don't let anything divert attention!

5. Do not double recipe.

6. Candy cooked to nut brown color has a better flavor than if cooked to a lighter color, but take care not to burn it.

7. To melt chocolate, grate or cut into fine pieces and place in top of a double boiler. Boil water in bottom of double boiler and set the top over it. Keep water hot but not boiling. Stir chocolate until melted. Don't let even one drop of water fall into chocolate: it will spoil entire batch of chocolate. — Winnifred C. Jardine

APLETS

1/2 cup cold applesauce

2 envelopes (2 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup applesauce

2 cups sugar

1 cup walnuts, broken

1 tablespoon vanilla

Soak gelatin in cold applesauce. In meantime, combine 3/4 cup applesauce with sugar in medium saucepan; bring to boil, then cook 10 minutes. Add gelatin mixture to hot mixture; cook and stir 15 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour into loaf pan that's been rinsed with cold water. Refrigerate overnight. Loosen edges and, working with fingers, loosen from bottom of pan onto mound of powdered sugar. Cut into 1-inch squares; roll each piece in powdered sugar.

For Cotlets: Drain 1 29-ounce can, or 1 quart, apricots. Puree apricots in blender or processor. Substitute for applesauce. —Winnifred C. Jardine

PERFECT CARAMELS

2 cups light corn syrup

2 cups granulated sugar

3 cups heavy cream (heavy cream gives greater volume)

1/2 of a 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup walnuts, coarsely broken

In a heavy saucepan cook together syrup and sugar until mixture boils and changes color slightly about 5 minutes. In meantime, combine heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk in double boiler and scald over boiling water; keep warm. Add warm cream to syrup, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well. Allow 45 minutes for total addition.

Keep candy boiling over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook to firm ball stage (at sea level, 242 degrees; at Utah's altitude, this will be around 232 to 234 degrees; see note below.) Remove from heat; stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour, without scraping pan, into buttered 8-or-9-inch square pan. Let stand overnight. Remove candy from pan; cut into 8 pieces each way. Wrap in waxed paper. Makes 3 1/2 pounds or 64 pieces. — Winnifred C. Jardine

Note: Most candy recipes from cookbooks are written for sea level temperature. At higher altitudes, liquid evaporates faster, so candies finish cooking at a lower temperature. To adjust your thermometer for your altitude, put it in rapidly boiling water for 1 minute, and then subtract the temperature reading from 212 degrees (the sea-level boiling point). For instance, if your thermometer reads 204 degrees, you would subtract that from 212 and get 8. From then on, subtract 8 from the temperature given in candy recipes. The altitude along the Wasatch Front ranges from about 4,200 to 4,500 feet, and at 4,000 feet, water boils at 202 to 204 degrees. Individual thermometers can vary by a couple degrees, so it's best to calibrate your own.

HOLIDAY TEA RINGS

4 1/4 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup milk

1/2 cup margarine or butter

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1/3 cup melted margarine or butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup candied red cherries, chopped

1/2 cup candied green cherries, chopped

1/2 cup candied pineapple, chopped

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Rum icing:

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon rum extract

1 to 2 tablespoons hot water

In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups of the flour and the yeast. In saucepan, heat milk, the 1/2 cup margarine or butter, the first 1/2 cup of sugar, and the salt until warm (120 to 130 degrees). Add the milk mixture and the eggs to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Cover and refrigerate the dough six to 24 hours. Stir down dough. Grease 3 pans, using either 9-inch pie plates, or 8 1/2-inch or 9 1/2-inch round baking pans, set aside.

Divide the dough into 3 portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion into a rectangle, about 14-by-8 inches. Brush the rectangle of dough with 1/3 of the melted margarine or butter. Sprinkle rectangle with 1/3 of the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cherries, pineapple and nuts. Roll rectangle of dough loosely, starting from a long side; pinch edges together. Shape the roll into a circle, pinching the ends together. Place the circle of dough in a prepared pie plate or in a baking pan. Using scissors, cut from the outer edge almost through to the center at 1-inch intervals; twist each 1-inch piece 1/2 turn to the left to form a tea ring.

Repeat process with the 2 remaining portions of dough to make 2 more tea rings. Cover lightly with plastic wrap; allow the dough to rise for 6-24 hours in the refrigerator. Bake tea rings at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until light brown. Transfer to a wire rack.

Make rum icing by stirring together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon rum extract and enough hot water to make an icing consistency. Brush tea rings with rum icing while hot. Serve warm or at room temperature. To freeze for later use, wrap cooled tea rings thoroughly in freezer wrap. Will keep for up to 3 months frozen. Makes 3 tea rings. — Winnifred C. Jardine

CRANBERRY MINT CHEESECAKE

Crust:

1/4 pound (1 stick) lightly salted butter

2 cups very finely ground vanilla wafer crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

Melt butter over very low heat. Combine butter with crumbs and sugar with a fork, until well blended. Press mixture over bottom and all the way up the sides of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan.

Filling:

2 pounds (4 8-ounce packages) cream cheese

1 1/2 pounds sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons mint extract

Pinch of salt

4 large eggs

2 cups fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar, and beat for 2 minutes, or until soft. Add mint extract and salt, and blend thoroughly. Add the eggs, one at a time, keeping the mixer on the lowest speed to prevent too much air from destroying the batter's proper consistency. Mix just until each egg has been incorporated into the batter. Gently fold in cranberries with a rubber spatula, being careful not to break them. Pour filling into crust and bake 40 minutes. If ingredients were colder than room temperature, add 5 minutes to baking time.

Topping:

2 cups sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon creme de menthe (or mint extract)

Combine sour cream, sugar and creme de menthe or mint extract with a rubber spatula in a plastic bowl. Spread evenly over top of baked filling and return to 350-degree-oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place in the refrigerator to cool immediately. This prevents cracks from forming in the cheesecake.

Note: Cheesecake should be baked about 2 days before serving and allowed to mellow in the refrigerator. Don't cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap; condensation will cause moisture to collect on the topping of the cake. Instead, cover with a piece of cardboard. Remove from refrigerator a couple hours before serving to allow it to come to room temperature. — "Mother Wonderful's Cheesecakes and Other Goodies," by Myra Chanin


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com