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Old 04-20-2013, 11:02 PM   #1
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Question Help: Vintage Vinaigrette Ideas

Some decades ago when I was young ineed, there was a hippy-ish restaurant that my cooler and older cousins took me to. It had a great salad that came in a big wooden bowl and was shared family-style by the table.

The salad was dressed with an herbal vinaigrette and I've taken it into my head to try and duplicate it (if my tastebuds can remember that far back). I figure that the original had to have been based on some 50's or 60's vinaigrette recipe--with the chopped up herbs being the unique element (it had a ton of chopped up herbs in it, though, no, I don't believe any were--a-hem--illegal). So, I'd like some thoughts from those who have ancient cookbooks on what the contents of this vinaigrette might be.

And yes, I have checked out the Joy of Cooking.

As olive oil wasn't being used in the U.S. at that time like it is now, I presume we're going to be working with vegetable oil. I also think it was white vinegar rather than red (but no swearing to that). If there was garlic or mustard in it, they were on the light side, as a garlic/mustard flavor didn't dominate. There might have been some sugar as I recall a hint of sweetness (but, again, no swearing to that).

I'm hoping that I'll recognize it if I get it right--though, honestly, who's going to contradict me if I say "that's it!"? Thoughts?
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Old 04-20-2013, 11:48 PM   #2
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Sweet or savory?
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Old 04-21-2013, 12:18 AM   #3
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If white vinegar was used, it would have been very distinct, even overwhelming. Most salad dressings, if they use vinegar at all, utilize red wine vinegar.

I would suggest, as a start, mix equal parts of your choice of oil and red vinegar, then experiment with minced garlic, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lemon zest, orange zest, dried minced onion, red pepper, onion salt and celery salt. To start.

Since you mentioned there was some sweetness, you might try adding some extract of raspberry, currant, orange, or any other fruity flavor. But not too much; with extracts, a little goes a very long way. Avoid adding sugar directly; that can seriously mess with the acidity and consistency. Fresh lemon, lime, or orange juice also works well.

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Old 04-21-2013, 04:10 AM   #4
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Balsamic vinegar is sweet.
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Old 04-21-2013, 01:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JAMESBJOHNSON View Post
Balsamic vinegar is sweet.
Apple cider vinegar has some sweetness also, but not as much.
Vinaigrette is typically 3:1, oil to vinegar. If vegetable oil doesn't get you what you want, try walnut oil or grapeseed oil.
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Old 04-21-2013, 01:46 PM   #6
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Keep the time-frame in mind

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Originally Posted by soflabbwlvr View Post
Apple cider vinegar has some sweetness also, but not as much. Vinaigrette is typically 3:1, oil to vinegar. If vegetable oil doesn't get you what you want, try walnut oil or grapeseed oil.
Apple cider vinegar's a good idea, and far more likely than balsamic, which few Americans at the time even knew about, let alone used in their cooking.

Keep in mind in regards to these ideas that we're talking about American vinaigrettes of the 50's/60's--that means that they were not yet using any of the options that we so casually use now. I seriously doubt this restaurant could even find, let alone use walnut/grapeseed oil.

I also doubt, Slyc, that it used any fruit extracts; there just wasn't much out there at the time for that. Dried celery salt and garlic salt might be the ticket, as both of those were certainly out there.

You have to go back in time here. Don't think about a modern vinaigrettes and what you'd put in them. Think of making one with ingredients common to any American cook back in the 60's. Your pantry choices are limited to ingredients found in a U.S. market at that time, not to any you might find in our amazing superstores now.
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Old 04-21-2013, 01:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3113 View Post
Apple cider vinegar's a good idea, and far more likely than balsamic, which few Americans at the time even knew about, let alone used in their cooking.

Keep in mind in regards to these ideas that we're talking about American vinaigrettes of the 50's/60's--that means that they were not yet using any of the options that we so casually use now. I seriously doubt this restaurant could even find, let alone use walnut/grapeseed oil.

I also doubt, Slyc, that it used any fruit extracts; there just wasn't much out there at the time for that. Dried celery salt and garlic salt might be the ticket, as both of those were certainly out there.

You have to go back in time here. Don't think about a modern vinaigrettes and what you'd put in them. Think of making one with ingredients common to any American cook back in the 60's. Your pantry choices are limited to ingredients found in a U.S. market at that time, not to any you might find in our amazing superstores now.
I suppose I was thinking along the lines of, what would have been available thirty or so years ago. Going back further is a little out of my personal experience. I do know that my grandmother used cherry extract quite often when I was a kid in the seventies, and I'm under the impression she had done so for quite a while prior to that time period.

I don't see why, however, things like lemon zest and orange zest wouldn't have been used. Just take a grater to the side of the given fruit and voila, zest. Bust some of the other ingredients might have been hard to find unless the restaurant was in Little Italy or something.
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Old 04-21-2013, 05:39 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slyc_willie View Post
my grandmother used cherry extract quite often.
Ick and shudder! Yes, you're right, cherry extract as well as lemon, orange, almond and a few others have been around forever, but usually they were used in cookies and cakes, for frozen desserts and jellies. For vinaigrette? I suppose they might have been used in salad dressings, but I really doubt they were used for this hippy-trippy-"let's-be-natural" salad dressing. And I kinda think any of those flavors would have really turned me off the dressing...like instantly. This dressing was not cherry flavored

Quote:
I don't see why, however, things like lemon zest and orange zest wouldn't have been used.
You're right, of course, that there were graters for cheese, potatoes and such and that these could have been used to zest citrus. BUT, the inclination to put citrus zest in just about anything--from marinades to baked goods to vinaigrettes wasn't typical. People could do it--they had the tool--but they didn't think about doing it (at least not in the U.S.) and 99% of the recipes that today *would* include zest didn't include zest--just the citrus juice.

Which, by the way, doesn't mean zest went unused in other parts of the world, or even that it wasn't used in U.S. cooking prior to the 60's (more likely, however, the recipes for such were baked goods). It only means that U.S. was woefully behind the times when it came to thinking of using such ingredients in anything other than great--great-grandma's lemon pound cake. (Julia Chile has some wonderful laments about the dreary and unimaginative state of U.S. cuisine in the 50's/60's in her book "My Life in France.")

It really wasn't until the 80's and those handy-dandy stick-like zesters appeared on the market that everyone went zest crazy. Funny how something isn't quite done (though it can be done) until the right tool makes it cool to do.

So, no, I don't think this vinaigrette included citrus zest.
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Old 04-21-2013, 05:51 PM   #9
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Well, you're just making this is hard as it can be, can't you?

I guess if you're sticking to bare basics, go with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, and basic spices that have been around forever. Personally, I love using sage and rosemary in just about everything. Add some lemon or lime juice for that sweetness you mentioned. Ultimately, it just comes down to experimentation.
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:47 PM   #10
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Fresh basil will add a little sweetness also.
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Old 04-22-2013, 04:09 AM   #11
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Have you ever had Good Seasons dressing? It comes as a pouch of herbs that you combine with vinegar (preferably red wine) and oil (olive or canola unless you prefer something else like grapeseed). You could try it and see if it is similar to what you remember. From there if you still want to make it from scratch you could google and probably find lots of people talking about what herbs are in Good Seasons.
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Old 04-22-2013, 06:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3113 View Post
As olive oil wasn't being used in the U.S. at that time like it is now, I presume we're going to be working with vegetable oil.
Erm. In addition to local neigborhood stores serving Italian-American families, my mother never had any problem finding olive oil in our local Giant supermarket in the '50s. The selection wasn't as extensive as it is in today's mega food stores, but the Giant did have a half-dozen varieties to choose from.
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Old 04-22-2013, 07:50 PM   #13
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That vinaigrette sounds like an old Better Homes Gardens cook book recipe:

1 cup of salad oil (likely a vegetable soy blend)
2/3 cup vinegar (doesn't say what kind)
fresh snipped herbs to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika

herbs: thyme, oregano, basil, tarragon, dillweed and chives.

Paprika was big in the 60's so it will be an ingredient in any vinaigrette in that era. They also substitute lemon or lime juice for the vinegar. Apple cider vinegar was likely used instead of white because white has a really strong bite. Also, wooden salad bowl sets seemed to come in fashion in the 60's.

ETA Red Wine Dressing (also from the same recipe book)

1 cup of salad oil
1/3 vinegar
1/3 red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove of minced garlic

Last edited by Neonurotic : 04-22-2013 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:34 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunandshadow View Post
Have you ever had Good Seasons dressing?
No! I never heard of that. I'll check it out. Thank you.
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Originally Posted by Tyro999 View Post
Erm. In addition to local neigborhood stores serving Italian-American families, my mother never had any problem finding olive oil in our local Giant supermarket in the '50s.
You just noted the important difference from your personal experience as compared to my "generic" Americans in the 1950's...your neighborhood has Italian-Americans, enough to have Italian-American markets catering to their old world tastes and needs. Want to travel back in a time machine to, oh, say, Julia Chid's very white-bread Pasadena home and see if her local market had any olive oil for the non-existant Italian-American families it didn't have in it?

Which is to say, I don't mean that European ingredients didn't exist in the U.S.--though I will adjust my generalization that supermarkets didn't carry such--they would if the neighborhood had enough of a certain ethnicity to make it economically a good idea. I only mean that most Americans who were not of a part of a particular ethnic family were not likely to come across such ingredients or think of using them. Why would a non-Italian American family buy olive oil? For what are they going to use it when the one spaghetti recipe they us doesn't call for it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neonurotic View Post
That vinaigrette sounds like an old Better Homes Gardens cook book recipe:

1 cup of salad oil (likely a vegetable soy blend)
2/3 cup vinegar (doesn't say what kind)
fresh snipped herbs to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika

herbs: thyme, oregano, basil, tarragon, dillweed and chives.

Paprika was big in the 60's so it will be an ingredient in any vinaigrette in that era. They also substitute lemon or lime juice for the vinegar. Apple cider vinegar was likely used instead of white because white has a really strong bite. Also, wooden salad bowl sets seemed to come in fashion in the 60's.

ETA Red Wine Dressing (also from the same recipe book)

1 cup of salad oil
1/3 vinegar
1/3 red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove of minced garlic
Ah-ha! I think we're on the right track. But did you make a mistake there on the second one? I assume there's only one 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, not a 1/3 cup of, say white wine and a 1/3 cup red...or is it 2/3rds vinegar to 1 cup oil? That's a pretty tart vinaigrette!

I have to hold off on experimentation for a week or two, but I'll try out both of these. Thanks!
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:03 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slyc_willie View Post
Well, you're just making this is hard as it can be, can't you?
Well, remember, I'm trying to re-create a lost flavor, one decades old. I can't do that if I allow any and all modern flavors out there as possibilities, from pomegranate balsam vinegar to blood orange oil. I have to start by setting limits--what would have been readily available and used by this restaurant in the 1960's?--and hope that gets me close to it.

If I were after creating my own new vinaigrette, on the other hand, than all bets would be off; I'd be asking for not only crazy new oils and vinegars, but unique fruit juices and cheeses or pastes. Ditto if I was trying to re-create a classic European-Mediterranian vinaigrette which likely would have used more adventurous flavors.

Next time around I'll try to ask for a vinaigrette (or something) to go along with some strange and exotic meal and let you all run wild with it--no boundaries. This time around, however, I need those hard boundaries if I'm going to have at least a starting place for finding what I'm after.
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:01 AM   #16
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I'm under the impression she had done so for quite a while prior to that time period.
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:15 AM   #17
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3, might I suggest looking up vintage recipe books from the time period? Here is a set I found on a quick Google search.
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Old 04-23-2013, 09:53 AM   #18
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Quote:
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Ah-ha! I think we're on the right track. But did you make a mistake there on the second one? I assume there's only one 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, not a 1/3 cup of, say white wine and a 1/3 cup red...or is it 2/3rds vinegar to 1 cup oil? That's a pretty tart vinaigrette!

I have to hold off on experimentation for a week or two, but I'll try out both of these. Thanks!
Yes, yes, I meant 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar with additional 1/3 cup vinegar. The recipe in the book doesn't say what type the other vinegar was. I assume apple cider vinegar and not distilled white for the reason I stated before. I guess it would be what you prefer.
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