Lee Family Recipes
From The Robert E. Lee Family Cooking and Housekeeping Book
By Anne Carter Zimmer, great granddaughter of Robert E. Lee

Mrs. Lee's Gingerbread
Roman Punch
Sally Lunn
Owendaw Cornbread
Tomato Concentrate


Mrs. Lee’s Gingerbread (Mrs. Lee marked this recipe as a family favorite)

6 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. salt
1 c. minus 1 T. lard
1 T. butter
1 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
1 c. buttermilk
About 1 c. dark molasses
5 T. ginger or 4 T. ginger, 2 t. cinnamon, and 1 t. cloves

Sift flour with salt, baking soda, and spices. Cream together lard, butter, and brown sugar. Stir in flour mixture and buttermilk, adding alternately until well mixed. Stir in molasses until dough is the right consistency to be rolled. On a floured surface, roll out to a thickness of about ¼ inch and cut into 2- to 2¼- inch rounds or other shapes. Bake at 350° 12-15 minutes. Makes about 6 dozen.

Note: Many of the gingerbread receipts (recipes) taste lovely made with today's molasses. Molasses was probably stronger and more bitter than today. Mrs. Lee wrote, "Recipe for my gingerbread on one of her two gingerbread receipts. It has significantly more brown sugar than molasses, and it leaves the spicing entirely to the cook. The dough is usually chilled now so it can be rolled out with less flour, making more tender, flavorful cookies.

Roman Punch

Juice of 5-6 lemons
3 c. sugar
1 c. (8 oz.) currant jelly
2 qts. minus ½ c. water
1 c. brandy
2/3 c. black rum
About 5-6 T. or bags of green (or black) tea

Heat about half the water with sugar and jelly, stirring to dissolve. Make tea with the rest. Combine the two mixtures. Cool, add lemon juice, brandy, and rum. Ripen overnight at room temperature or up to 3 days in refrigerator, then freeze if you like. Makes about 3 quarts

Note: This punch could have been served frozen in small glasses at multi-course Victorian meals as a palate cleanser, as sorbets sometimes are today. The cassis flavor comes from currant jelly. Black rum gives it depth, while sugar adds smoothness; the sweetness diminishes with cold. Made with 70- to 80- proof rum (35 to 40 percent alcohol), this becomes a smooth, soft sorbet, a delightful summer dessert. More alcohol and less sugar produce a daiquiri-like cocktail that semifreezes. Or still-freeze it to a slushy consistency and pour it without more ice into a punch bowl.

Unsweetened peach brandy is best, but a medium-priced regular French brandy will do.

Sally Lunn

1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter plus more for greasing pan and top
4c. sifted flour
1 t. salt
2 c. whole milk or (better) half and half
3 eggs
2 T. homemade yeast *

Melt butter in milk.  Add salt, cool to lukewarm, and add yeast and beaten eggs. Stir in flour. Batter should resemble a thick pancake batter and will double in about 2 hours. Bake in a greased angel food cake pan in bottom third of oven preheated to 350° about 30 - 40 minutes. Makes one loaf. Do not serve cold.

Note: *For those who prefer commerical yeast, 2 cakes or packets, softened as instructed, equals 1/4 cup homemade. Count the liquid used to soften the yeast as part of the total liquid called for in the recipe.

Owendaw Cornbread (this recipe was marked as "very nice")

3 -3 1/2 c. hot cooked grits
2T. butter, plus more for the pan
4 eggs
2 - 21/4 c. milk or half and half
1 - 11/2 c. white water-ground cornmeal
21/2 t. baking powder and 1 t. salt may be added, if desired

Stir butter into hot, cooked grits. Grease a 10-cup or larger baking dish and put into an oven while it preheats to 400°. Stir salt and baking powder, if desired, into cornmeal. Beat eggs very light. Fold eggs into cooled grits, then milk, then meal. Carefully pour batter into hot pan; it should sizzle. Bake in lower third of oven about an hour, until well browned.

Tomato Concentrate

4 qts (8 lbs) ripe tomatoes, fresh or frozen whole at home
1 qt. (2 lbs) okra, stemmed and chopped
1qt. (2 lbs) onions, peeled and chopped
3 T. salt
11/2T. black pepper, or to taste

First, peel the tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, submerse a few at a time in boiling water 1-2 minutes, then slip off skins; frozen tomatoes peel easily while thawing. Chop roughly. Cook vegetables in enamel or stainless steel pan; otherwise okra turns black. Start cooking the tomatoes while chopping the onions. Add onions and simmer an hour before adding okra. Stir occasionally, then frequently, to prevent burning. Simmer 1 hour or more, add half to three-quarters of the salt and pepper. Simmer at least another hour, to desired thickness. Adjust seasoning. To reconstitute, add broth or water as needed.

Note: Zimmer indicates that daughter Mary Custis probably wrote up this recipe. She and Mildred both visited Louisana, where slaves brought okra, one of the notebook's few identifiably African touches, via the Caribbean. And, Mary writes that the Parisian family she served it to, raved about it.