Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hickory Smoked Yeast

The idea of the necessity of ‘fortifying’ foods with extra vitamin-power is not new. It is difficult to sort out how much of it is driven by real nutritional requirements, and how much by the desire on the part of industry to make a profit from ‘waste’ or surplus products. One manufacturer came up with an idea to value-add (and presumably profit-add) to the already value-adding ingredient of brewer’s yeast in the 1940’s.

The News of Food column in the New York Times in late 1942 ran an article on the problem of obtaining brewer’s yeast in a palatable form “only to be told that the superlative source of the vitamin B complex is now hickory-smoked.” The story of hickory-smoked yeast was picked up some time later in the same column, and the writer continued:

“As a matter of fact, one company has been smoking it in this way for more than six years, marketing it among a few stores scattered about the city. The yeast – processed without heat so that none of the nutrients are destroyed – is a pale yellow powder, smelling like bacon, and tasting a little like it too. A couple of teaspoons furnish about 200 international units of B-1, which is a little below the daily requirement recommended by the National Research Council. The idea is not to eat the stuff as it comes from the silver container, but to blend it with any foods that combine pleasantly with it.
Certain persons, according to one informant, like the yeast, with butter, spread on toast or crackers, pancakes or waffles, fish or meat. Others advocate its usefulness in cheese and egg dishes, baked beans, gravies. Still others sprinkle it on baked potatoes or employ it instead of sugar – at least, so they say – with dried or cooked cereal. The concern itself reports that its versatile yeast is included in the ingredients of many dehydrated soups, some of which find their way to the Army.”

About twelve months later the same columnist gave a number of recipes which included brewer’s yeast as a ‘fortifying agent’. Some of the recipes would appear to have needed the plain variety of yeast, but the following one would lend itself well to the smoked variety. It sounds interesting – a sort of baked bread-and-bean savoury pudding flavoured with sage and ‘fortified’ with yeast (and presumably ‘bacon flavoured’ if the smoked variety is used.)

Sage Baked Beans.
(serves six)
1 ½ cups navy beans.
5 cups cold water
1 ½ teaspoons salt.
1 cup soft breadcrumbs.
1 ½ cups milk.
2 medium-sized onions, chopped.
2 tablespoons drippings or other fat.
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons sage.
½ teaspoon salt.
Dash pepper
2 eggs, beaten.
4 tablespoons brewers yeast.
Soak beans overnight in the water, add salt, and then simmer until tender but not too soft. Soak the crumbs in milk. Brown onion lightly in fat and mix all ingredients. Pour into a greased baking dish, cover and bake in a slow oven (325 degrees F.) and bake one hour.

Quotation for the Day …

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.
Martial's Epigrams

3 comments:

Anne @ Pink Galoshes said...

What a great side dish for a tailgate party. Can't wait to try this out. I love anything that uses sage!

Kathryn said...

Sounds like Vegemite to me! Yum.

SometimesKate said...

I did a quick google search to try and find this stuff, but didn't turn up a thing. I love beans with sage, though I prefer using red beans to white. I think red beans have more flavour. Any clue where I could buy some on this side of the planet?