Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kitchen Bags.

November 8 ...

A bag (whether or not you call it a ‘belly’, as we did yesterday) is a very useful culinary item over and above its value in bringing the ingredients home. Plastic bags are only useful for wrapping rubbish and messing up the environment, but fabric bags are a different thing altogether - although we don’t use fabric in the kitchen as much as we used to. Food processors have obviated the need to laboriously press stuff through a piece of wool or flannel or silk to make a purée, and dishwashers mean that we don’t need as many towels. And how many of us still use tablecloths?

Nevertheless, bags still have some uses in the kitchen. Small muslin ones hold bouquet garni; bags with nozzles allow us to pipe fancy biscuit shapes and write ‘Happy Birthday’ on cakes; a fine cloth still does a fine job of filtering the finest debris from stock to convert it into consommé, and jelly bags are indispensible for making jelly; our Christmas ham stores best in a calico bag, which, if we are of a mind, we can recycle the next year to boil the Christmas pudding.

A quick browse in the eighteenth century turned up this idea too:

To recover sour ale.
Scrape fine chalk a pound, or as the quantity of liquor requires more; put it in a thin bag, into the ale.

Thinking of Christmas and the inevitable over-eating, my eyes lighted on this recipe from the same book, which also uses a bag:

Surfeit Water.
To every gallon of French brandy put four pounds of poppies pick’d clean from the greens and seeds, and gathered very dry, half a pound of raisins ston’d, half a pound of figs, a quarter of a pound of green liquorice scrap’d and slice’d, a quarter of a pound of coriander-seed, a quarter of a pound of aniseed bruis’d, and an ounce of cardamum-seed; let them infuse in a glass jar in the sun for fourteen or fifteen days, then run through a jelly bag, and put to it a quart of aniseed water, and a little sugar.
[The London and country cook …. Charles Carter; 1749]

Cookbooks and household manuals often used to contain home remedies such as this one, and they were the responsibility of the mistress of the household. They were made in the still-room – so called because much distillation occurred there. Surfeit-waters used to be very popular to cure – as the name suggests – the discomfort of over-indulgence. Some were made by distillation, others, like the one above, by infusion.

Tomorrow’s Story …

The end of a meal.

Quotation for the Day ….

Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four food groups: Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat. Alex Levine.

1 comment:

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I still use a tablecloth, but usually have to scramble for a piece of cheese cloth when a recipe calls for it. That is rare, but there is no good substitute!