Monday, April 04, 2016

Taking a Break.

My Dear and Loyal Readers,

After over ten years of five-times a week posting to this blog, this Old Foodie has decided to take a break.

I will be back .....

Friday, April 01, 2016

Things to do with Grapes.

As I mentioned yesterday, the part of south-east Queensland where I am spending a couple of days is an increasingly important wine-producing region. Not all of the grapes grown are for wine however, the table grapes are very fine too. I thought that today I would see what uses I could find for this fruit in Queensland newspapers of a certain age.

Grape Catsup.
Wash and stem the grapes, and stew them slowly, with a little water if necessary, until they are soft enough to rub through a colander. Measure the pulp, and return it to the preserving pan, allowing to three quarts of it 2 lb. of brown sugar,
a pint of vinegar (white wine or cider), an ounce each of ground cloves, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper, and a saltspoonful of cayenne. Boil all together
until the quantity is reduced to about one half, and is very thick. Skim, take from the fire, and when cold bottle and seal with wax.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.)  12 November 1898

Grape Jam.
When grapes are plentiful, use them for making grape jam.
Choose, grapes that are not quite ripe for making jam, pick them over; removing any unsound fruit and wash carefully.
To 3 lb. of, grapes allow1 ½ lb. of sugar and put fruit and sugar in alternate layers in the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and continue boiling steadily for about three-quarters of an hour. Stir frequently and test for setting in the usual way.
Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW) 23 January 1940

Pickled Grapes.
Mrs. E. Crook, of Prospect Terrace, Highgate Hill, wins the "Brisbane Telegraph"
competition prize today with her suggestion for pickled grapes.
To 3 lb. grapes (ripe, but firm) allow 1 quart vinegar, 1 lb. sugar, ½ cup treacle, 2 oz. cloves and 3 chillies.
Put grapes into jars. Boil all other ingredients for ¼ hour, and pour boiling hot over the grapes. Cover at once and allow to stand at least 1 week before using.
Brisbane Telegraph (Qld.) 19 January, 1949

Grape Bread.
Now that grapes are in season the clever housewife uses the delectable fruit in a variety of ways. The following recipe is one that has proved very popular.
Butter several slices of bread and place layers of grapes upon them, then arrange in a stack in a piedish. Make a custard of a quart of milk and two eggs, a cup of sugar, and a pinch of soda in the milk to keep it from curdling. Pour over the bread and allow to soak for half an hour. Then place the dish in a moderate oven until nicely browned. The baking usually requires about an hour.
Evening News (Sydney, NSW) 28 January 1929

Grape Chutney.
Six pounds grape pulp. Prepare this by stemming the grapes, putting them over the fire with a little water, and cooking them until so tender that the pulp may be rubbed through a sieve, leaving the seeds and skins behind. To the pulp thus obtained add 2 lb. of brown sugar, one pint of vinegar, one tablespoonful each of ground cinnamon, mace, cloves, allspice, and white pepper, and a teaspoonful of salt. Put all together over the fire, stew until thick, stirring constantly to prevent burning, and bottle.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.)  24 November 1894

To Make Grape Salad.
Choose good grapes, remove them from the stems, open them at the side,
remove the seeds carefully and fill the space with tiny balls of cream cheese, which has been mixed with a small amount of dressing. Arrange the grapes on lettuce leaves and pour over them a mayonnaise. At the side of each plate place a bunch of grapes.

The Daily News (Perth, WA) 12 November 1910

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Things to do with Apples.

I am spending a couple of days in a lovely little cabin in the bush just outside Stanthorpe, in south-east Queensland. The region is known as the Granite Belt, from its spectacular rocky outcrops, and it is an important region for the growing of cool-climate fruits and vegetables. It is especially well-known for its grapes (and wine) and apples. I intend therefore to feature the apple today, and grapes tomorrow.

I will start with the opinion of the author of yesterday’s featured book Prophylactic Feeding and Therapeutic Feeding (1909) - George Julius Drews.

Fruits are Nature's predigested foods. The APPLE is the king of fruits, because it is the most durably valuable and the most practical although it is not the most luxurious or luscious for the moment. Its special value lies in the fact that its better varieties, under, favorable conditions, can be kept all around the year. It has harmless stimulating properties. It is more nutritious than the potato and it is an excellent brainfood because of its large endowment of phosphorus. Let the children of all ages eat all the apples they crave. Those who eat apples freely are almost protected against all diseases, and especially jaundice, indigestion and torpidity of the liver, because it is very rich in sodium.

Apples were mentioned multiple times in the book, mostly as an ingredient in fruit salad, although there is also the following very minimalist idea:

Sandwiched Apples or Pears
2 or 3 oz. Apple or Pear slices sandwiched with, or only spread with,
1 ½ oz. Lemon Cheese, or Mock Cottage Cheese.

Next, a war-time hint from The Times (London) of December 2, 1940:

Never waste the peel and cores of your apples. Boil them in a little water, and you’ll have a delicious and very health-giving drink.

In the past, local ladies of Stanthorpe could have been expected to have a good apple-cookery repertoire - and it appears that they did.

From the Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Queensland) of 21 February, 1937:

The prize this week has been awarded to MRS. J. WILLMOT, of Dalvecn, Stanthorpe District, for instructions for making apple puffs flavoured with spice. This is a very economical recipe, but a delicious and tasty one.
Spiced Cider Puffs
Sift together ¾ lb self-raising flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and a saltspoon each of cinnamon and spice. Peel, but do not core, a large cooking apple, and grate with a coarse grater into the dry ingredients till a paste can be formed (no other liquid is required). Drop in a frying pan in spoonfuls in hot fat; fry until a golden brown. Drain and roll in sugar, to which a little cinnamon has been added.

From the Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Queensland) of 23 February, 1930:

CHUTNEY.— One and a half pound apples, 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, 1 lb. raisins, 1 lb. brown sugar, 1 oz. mustard, 1 oz. pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 quart wine gar. Peel and. quarter the apples, and tomatoes, chop raisins (seedless) finely, boil all together, stirring well, for 2 hours over a slow fire or gas. — Mrs. S. (Stanthorpe).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Banquet of Unfired Food (1909)

It was impossible to resist going back to our source of a few days ago for some more blog fodder. How could I resist a title like Unfired Foods and Hygienic Dietetics for Prophylactic Feeding and Therapeutic Feeding? As its title suggests, the book promoted raw food as a healthy eating option, and it included a significant number of recipes as well as several menus. But before we get to the details, please enjoy one of the front pages, which contained a mission statement of sorts:

Let it be understood
that this book
is written for those who


and to


those who


It is useless to study


without a foundation
in rational


I give you a suggested banquet menu from the book:

Served in 8 Courses.

Serve only one of the following dishes:
An apple cut into eight sections and arranged to represent a lotus.
An orange with the peeling turned down to represent a flower.
A banana stuffed with a few nuts and peeling replaced.

Serve about one ounce of one of the following foods for nibblers:
Pecan meats, carobs, chufas, dried olives (one-half ounce).

Serve one of the following health drinks:
A lemonade. Orangeade. Fruit frappee. Tamarade. Rhubarbade.
Fresh cider. Fresh grape juice. Near-milk.

Serve according to the convenience of the season:
A fruit salad, an herbal salad, a salad pie or a flower salad.

Serve a small dish of cereal foods as neatly as you can prepare them:
Brownfood. Honey flakes. Evaporated fruit flakes. Pound cake.
Fruit bread.

This course is optional.
Lentil surprise salad (small dish). One ounce of either lemon, cottage cheese, horseradish, cheese, cranberry savory cheese or cereal confections.

Serve a small dish of the following preparations for dessert :
Banana mousse. Berry sauce. Apple sauce. Plain dessert.

Serve the fingerbowl.
When so many courses are served each individual dish must be comparatively small. A menu of six courses is long enough for most festive occasions.

I was baffled by Near-milk and Brownfood. The former is explained, but the latter is not.

Near-milk is prepared like near-buttermilk, with the exception that in place of the rhubarb juice only pure water or orange juice is used. This milk is wholesome, delicious, appetizing, cooling and refreshing. All the infectious diseases, such as consumption, lumpjaw and several fevers which may be transmitted to man in cows milk are barred out of near-milk.

Soak in a cup 3/4 full of water
1 oz. Flax seed and beat it about every ten minutes during the course of one hour with a rotary eggbeater. Before beating the last time fill the cup nearly full with water and then let the seed settle. Meanwhile mix and rub into a cream
1 oz. Pignolias or Peanuts flaked exceedingly fine and
½ oz. Rhubarb Juice. Put this cream into a cup and add
3 ½ oz. Rhubarb Juice and beat it briskly with a rotary beater and then add

3 ½ oz. Flaxseed fluid and beat it again briskly. Now pour it through a large tea strainer, stirring the while, to keep it from clogging. Serve in a glass with a teaspoon or rye straw. At your option you may add a half ounce honey (teaspoonful). 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Feasting like an Irish Chieftain.

It seems like a long time since I discussed an old food word. I have found a beauty for you – and am only too sorry that I did not discover it in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

The word is cosher. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means “to feast; to live at free quarters upon dependants or kinsmen.” The etymological explanation of the word is that it is a “phonetic representation of Irish coisir feast, feasting, entertainment.”
The first known written usage of the word in English, as given by the OED, is:

1634–5   Stat. Ireland 10–11 Chas. I c. 16   If any person or persons..shall cosher, lodge or cesse themselves..upon the inhabitants.

The related word coshering is “Irish English” and can refer simply to ‘feasting.’ The first reference given by the OED is earlier:

1577   R. Stanyhurst Treat. Descr. Irelande viii. f. 28/2, in R. Holinshed Chron. I   Their noble men, and noble mens tenauntes now and then make a set feast, which they call, coshering, whereto flocke all theyr retayners, whom they name followers... In their coshering they sit on straw, they are serued on straw.

Coshering also refers more commonly to a much broader practice than simply feasting:
The practice or custom, claimed as a right by Irish chiefs, of quartering themselves upon their dependants or tenants.

c1571   E. Campion Two Bks. Hist. Ireland (1963) ii. viii. 111   The Irishe impositions of quinio and lyvery,..cocheringes, bonnaght, and sutche like.

This last use is of course identical to the English progress or ‘official journey, tour, or visit made by a monarch, church dignitary, or person of noble birth or high office’ in which the local manors or towns en route were expected to provide all food, accommodation, and other requirements to the important personage and his usually large retinue – and be grateful for the honour.

The noun cosher, not unsurprisingly, came also to suggest someone who takes advantage, or is otherwise unscrupulous. There is a piece of nineteenth century Irish legislation called An Act for the suppressing of Cosherers and Idle Wanderers which I must get hold of, and see what it can add to our story!

Naturally, we must have a potato recipe for an Irish story. I have previously given you Eliza Acton’s ‘genuine Irish receipt’ for boiling potatoes. Today I have for you a recipe for ‘Irish’ potatoes – which from the era and source are so called to distinguish them from sweet potatoes.

Irish Potato Hash.
This is excellent made of equal quantities of Irish potatoes peeled, sliced thin, and put to stew in very little water; when they are half done, add as much cold pickled beef, minced very fine, or cold boiled salt mackerel (a little onion and parsley may be put in with the Irish potatoes if liked): a large tablespoonful of butter; pepper and salt to taste. Serve hot. This should be just moist. Mash the potatoes and mix them well with the meat.

Mrs. Hill's Southern Practical Cookery and Receipt Book (1872)

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Ancient Easter Tradition of Sugar-Cupping.

I have discovered another ancient English Easter food custom that I want to share with you today. It seems to be localized to a small area in Derbyshire, and according to the following article, was already in decline in the first few decades of the nineteenth century.

Sugar Cupping
In the Peak of Derbyshire.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
Tideswell, Derbyshire, March 31, 1826.

Sir,—The pleasure and instruction I have derived from the perusal of your interesting miscellany, induce me to offer to your notice a custom in this neighbourhood denominated Sugar-cupping, which, like similar remnants of the "olden time," is gradually running into disuse.
Last Sunday, being Easter-Day, I walked to the "Dropping Tor," the rendezvous of the "sugar-cuppers," but, owing to the extreme inclemency of the weather, no one was there, nor was it, I believe, once visited during the day. From frequent inquiry of the oldest persons in the neighbourhood, I can learn nothing but that, on Easter Sunday, they were used, when children, to go to the "Dropping Tor," with a cup in one pocket and a quarter of a pound of sugar in the other, and having caught in their cups as much water as was desired from the droppings of the spring, they dissolved the sugar in it, and drank it. The natural consequences resulting from the congregation of a quantity of "young men and maidens" followed, and they returned home, I was anxious to discover some jargon repeated by the youthful pilgrims, as an invocation to the saint of the spring, or otherwise; but I could not collect any thing of the kind. I conjecture this custom to be peculiar to this part. If yon, or any of your cop. respondents, can furnish more satisfactory information respecting it, some of your readers will not regret I have troubled you with the hint.
With respect, I am,
Your obedient servant,
A Peakril.

How fascinating is that! Again, as with the Good Friday tradition of North-West England which was the feature of my story on that day, it seems likely that the tradition has very ancient roots, even if the profligate use of sugar itself must have been relatively recent, given that sugar remained expensive in Britain until the eighteenth century.

The recipe for the day is from the sugar-cupping county, and seems like a fine way to use your quota of sugar:

Derby or Short Cakes.
Rub in with the hand one pound of Butter into two pounds of sifted Flour:- put one pound of Currants, one pound of good moist sugar, and one egg; mix all together with half a pint of milk, - roll it out thin, and cut them into round Cakes with a Cutter;- lay them on a clean Baking-Plate, and put them into a middling-heated oven for about five minutes.

Cook’s Oracle, William Kitchiner (1823)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fig-Sue for Good Friday.

I came across a charming – but sadly, now defunct – Good Friday food tradition recently, and wanted to share it with you today.

My source was The Remains of John Briggs (1825), in the chapter Westmoreland As It Was.

It would formerly have been counted extremely profane, not to have dined, or at least supped upon, fig-sue, on Good Friday. This was made of ale, figs, and wheat bread. It may not be amiss to note that this fig-sue is a perfect cure for coughs and colds, if taken at bedtime.

I then came across this little snippet, which reveals a Scottish connection:

Customs of Scotland: ‘Fig-one’ is a mixture consisting of ale, sliced figs, bread, and nutmeg for seasoning: boiled together, and eaten hot like soup. The custom of eating this on Good Friday is still prevalent in North Lancashire, but the mixture is there known as ‘fig-sue,’ the origin of which term I am unable to make out. The dish is a very palatable one.
                        W.P.W. (Notes and Queries, 1864)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known written reference to the name is to be found in 1851 in a glossary of Cumberland (a historic county of England, now part of Cumbria) and the word is a corruption of ‘fig soup.’

The association of the fig with Easter in the North-West England is further reinforced by the fact that Palm Sunday in Lancashire used to be also called ‘Fig Sunday,’ and Fig Pie was the traditional food. I would love to know a little more about this particular association. I suspect it has very ancient roots.

In the seventeenth century, figs were a feature of the Good Friday dinner at Brazen-nose [now Brasenose] College in Oxford, England, if we are to believe the following:

It was formerly the custom, at Brazen-nose College, for the scholars to ave almonds, raisins, and figs, for dinner on Good Friday, as appears by a receipt of thirty shillings, paid by the butler of the college, for ‘eleven pounds of almonds, thirty-five pounds of raisins, and thirteen pounds of figs, serv’d into Brazen-nose College, Mar. 28th, 1662. – Pointer’s Oxon. Acad. P.71
Times Telescope (1826)

That is all I have for you at present, on figs at Easter, but I will certainly put the topic on my list of thing to look into further.

As the recipe for the day, I have a most strange and unappetizing idea from a book with the rather ominous, but intriguing, title of Unfired Foods and Hygienic Dietetics for Prophylactic Feeding and Therapeutic Feeding (1909) by George Julius Drews.

Cream of Fig Soup
1 oz. Dried Figs, mince and soak them 4 to 6 hours in
2 oz. Tepid Water. Then add to this
1 oz. Pignolias or Peanuts flaked
¼ Teaspoon Fennel or Anise seed ground (optional) and

4 oz. Tepid Water, not scalding. Beat and serve in a bowl heated in boiling water.