Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ankerstock for New Year.

What New Year food are you planning for tonight and tomorrow? Many cultures have a particular New Year food tradition. Of course there are many dates for New Year, depending on the country, religion, and historic time, but for most of us in the West, tonight is New Year’s Eve. Before the partying starts, some thought must go into the celebratory food, and the one I have for you today requires some advance preparation. It also fits, I think, neatly into the ‘forgotten food’ that has been a bit of a theme this week.

In Scotland, once upon a time, there was Ankerstock. I am officially considering it ‘forgotten’ because the Oxford English Dictionary does not know it. Ankerstock (or Anchor-Stock, Ankerstock, Ankerstoke) was a spiced rye bread with currants, sometimes called Ankerstock Gingerbread (which means it also fits in the Through the Ages with Gingerbread archive.) Its name apparently refers to “some fancied resemblance to the stock of an anchor” – although whether this means its shape or its weight and solidity is a bit unclear.

Most mentions of Ankerstock in the literature refer to a single source – an article in Blackwood Magazine of December 1821.

“One of the first demonstrations of the approach of Christmas in Edinburgh was the annual appearance of large tables of anchor-stocks at the head of the Old Fish-market Close. These anchor-stocks, the only species of bread made from rye that I have ever observed offered for sale in the city, were exhibited in every variety of size and price, from a halfpenny to a halfcrown.”

Luckily for us, Maria Rundell included a recipe for Ankerstock in her wonderful book Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for rich and poor, in1827.

Ankerstock or Rye Bread
Requires very little yest [yeast]; mix with the water from two to six ounces of treacle for each pound of flour; let it be strained through a very fine gauze or lawn sieve, as treacle is often adulterated with sand; add salt, caraway, or anise of Verdun; the rye being sweet, the additional sweet gives it a determination, and corrects a disease to which that grain is liable, and makes the bread pleasant, healthy, and nourishing. It is an excellent sea store.

Quotation for the Day …

Gastronomers of the year 1825, who find satiety in the lap of abundance, and dream of some newly-made dishes, you will not enjoy the discoveries which science has in store for the year 1900, such as foods drawn from the mineral kingdom, liqueurs produced by the pressure of a hundred atmospheres; you will never see the importations which travelers yet unborn will bring to you from that half of the globe which has still to be discovered or explored. How I pity you!
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)


Anonymous said...

Traditionally black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread for New Year's Day. However I being not so traditional the black-eyed peas will be in Cowboy Caviar, the greens will be a big salad and the cornbread will be Mexican cornbread and maybe some ham on the side. Judy

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Judy - I am hoping there are lots of comments here to tell us what is traditional around the world. Thanks for your input!

srhcb said...

There may be some connection to the fact that an "ankar" was apparently a unit of liquid measure, as used here by Robert Burns:

"Ferintosh whisky is mentioned again by Burns in a letter to David Blair, a gun maker. The letter talks about a durk (a dagger), which Blair had in his possession at the time of writing, but which originally belonged to Lord Balmerino. Burns describes the wanderings of the durk and how it was sold to a friend of his for an anker of Ferintosh whisky a number of years ago."

The Old Foodie said...

fascinating shrb! I had no idea. I just checked in the online Dictionary of the Scots language and it says:
"Anker has a more extensive meaning in some parts of Scotland than in St.Eng., where it signifies a liquid measure and also the barrel containing the liquid. It is now obs. as a dry measure in St.Eng. It can still be used in Ork. and Sh. as a dry measure, and in n.Sc. we find it used for salmon and butter."
then it gives some quotes - one refers to measuring potatoes.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting idea -- do we have any local Australian food traditions for New Year? I can't think of any in my family or among my friends.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Duncan. I dont think we have any Aussie foods specific for New Year. I guess we come from such a wide variety of places around the world that individual families might have an inherited tradition, but there is no national one as such.

Rob Sterowski said...

The recipe is frustratingly vague. In modern Scotland a soft, cakey gingerbread with currants is still sold, and New Year means black bun, which is basically a heavy fruit cake encased in pastry. Both of these are themselves regarded as rather old-fashioned. Rye breads are rarely light so the anchor might well refer to the weight, rather than the shape, and another source says they were round; but on the other hand there is a long tradition of moulded gingerbreads. I am tempted to suspect we are dealing with something similar to the dense, flat gingerbread still found in Germany and Scandinavia at Christmas time. Remember also that in Scotland New Year was a more important festival than Christmas right up until the 1960s.