Friday, May 01, 2009

Take one thousand beans ....

I had numerous (admittedly vague) ideas for the one-thousandth post at The Old Foodie but the event has been eclipsed by the even more momentous birth of my grandson five weeks early. I am no longer certain what those ideas were, but I seem to remember they involved a lot of recipes inspired by the word “thousand”, to be enjoyed in a giant cyber-celebration with all my loyal readers, and the requisite number of bottles of champagne.

My time being somewhat fragmented right now (and perhaps for the next couple of weeks), the party will be cut short – although hopefully the champagne will flow freely – and you must do what you will yourselves with the following ideas.

First, the vegetables:

Here is an interesting idea: I had never heard of this plant until I came across the following recipe, from A Shilling Cookery for the People, by Alexis Soyer, 1855

Plant Called The Thousand Heads.
On seeing this plant growing in great abundance in Yorkshire, I inquired of the farmer on whose land they were—if they were a vegetable for the table, and their name ? when he informed me that they were intended for spring feeding for sheep, during the lambing season; that he never used them as human food. I asked him to let me have some to try and see how they eat. He did, and I cooked them like greens; and an exceeding nice vegetable they are. They are also good stewed, and cooked with a piece of bacon. As they grow at a time of the year when other green vegetables are scarce, I consider them a valuable article of food. They are sown about April, the small plant put out about October, and planted about three feet apart, and by March or April the whole field will be one luxuriant crop of greens.
Farmers in the vicinity of large towns would do well to undertake their cultivation, as they would find a ready sale in all such places. At that time of year they are in full bloom, and are called by the above singular name in consequence of the thousands of heads continually sprouting from their root. The plant covers nearly one yard in circumference, and bears no resemblance to any other green I recollect seeing, not even to Brussels sprouts.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am disinclined to count the number of individual beans required for a dish:

The Dutch Method of preserving French Beans.
Take a thousand French beans, when in full season, cut them slanting, and as thin as possible ; then procure a stone jar sufficient to contain them ; in which deposit alternately a layer of beans, and then of common table salt, observing that the proportion of salt must be, for every thousand of beans, about four pounds. When the jar is full, let it stand to the following day, and then press them down well till the water overflows, and the harder they are pressed the better. Cover them with a cloth within the jar, tight down upon the beans, over which place a trencher the size of the inside of the jar, and then a heavy weight on the top. It will be proper now and then to take off the cloth and wash it clean, when it must be put on again, as before-mentioned. By these means the beans may be preserved for a considerable time. When dressed, let the quantity chosen be steeped the night before in cold water. In the morning they must be well washed in two or three fresh waters, and put into boiling water, letting them boil hard till they become tender, for which half an houf will be sufficient. Take them off the fire, and stew them with a little butter, when they will be fit for the table.
The London art of cookery and domestic housekeeper's complete assistant, by John Farley, 1811

But a thousand beans is nothing compared to a thousand-weight of pork (although I have no idea what this really means – this is your homework for the week.)

To Cure Bacon.
To one thousand weight of pork, put one bushel of fine salt, one pound and a half of saltpetre rolled fine and mixed with the salt; rub this on the meat and pack it away in a tight hogshead; let it lay for six weeks, then hang it up and smoke it with hickory wood, every day for two weeks, and afterwards two or three times a week for a month; then take it down and rub it all over, with hicko.ry ashes, which is an effectual remedy against the fly or skipper. When the weather is unusually warm at the time of salting your pork, more care is requisite to preserve it from taint. When it is cut up, if it seems warm, lay it on boards, or on the bare ground, till it is sufficiently cool for salting; examine the meat tubs or casks frequently, and if there is an appearance of mould, strew salt over; if the weather has been very warm after packing, and on examining, you should find evidence of its spoiling, lose no time in unpacking the meat; for a hogshead of hams and shoulders that are in this state, have six pounds of brown sugar, three pounds of salaeratus, mixed with half a bushel of salt; rub each piece with this, and as you pack it in the hogshead, (which should be well washed and cleaned,) sprinkle a little coarse salt over each layer of pork, and also' on the bottom of the hogshead. I have known this plan to save a large quantity of pork, that would have been unfit for use, if it had not been discovered and attended to in time. Some persons use crushed charcoal to purify their meat. Shoulders are more easily affected than hams, and if the weather is warm the ribs should be cut out of the shoulders. Jowls also require particular care; black pepper, about a pound to a hogshead, sprinkled on the meat before it is hung up to smoke, is valuable as a preventive where flies are troublesome; have a large pepper-box kept for the purpose, and dust every part that is exposed; pepper is also good to put on beef before it is hung up to dry; wash it off before cooking, and it does not injure the flavor.
Domestic cookery, useful receipts, and hints to young housekeepers by Elizabeth E. Lea, 1859

And of course no celebration is complete without dessert. I give you millefeuille (“thousand leaves”)

A Pyramid Of Paste, Or Mille Feuilles.
For this purpose a set of tin paste cutters is required, oval, octagon, diamond, scalloped, or any other form; the largest nine or ten inches, and from that size down to an inch or less. Roll out puff paste half an inch thick and cut out with as many sizes as you want, beginning with the smallest. Bake them on a tin or sheet of paper* laid on a haking plate; the top may he done over with yolk of egg heibre baking, or iced when nearly done; bake them of a light brown colour. Have a dish to fit the largest, and when cold spread on it a layer of one kind of jam, then another sheet of paste, then another kind of jam, and surmount the top with a caramel or ornament, see Chap. xiii. The order of the jam should be so as to display a variety of colours; either by contrast, the darkest and lightest next to each other, or in shades from the darkest to the lightest, as damson, gooseberry, raspberry, or red currant, strawberry, apricot, greengage, or white egg plum.
The housekeeper's guide, by Esther Copley, 1838

Looking forward to being with you all for the next one thousand!


Anonymous said...

Congrats! ...on both milestones, the grandson and the blog. I'll be here faithfully waiting for the next mille! (posts not grandchildren)
Obermuda :)

Gigi Little said...

"Jowls also require particular care."


A thousand toasts to you - for this thousandth post and for a new grandson. Your blog is always such a pleasure.

The Austerity Kitchen said...

Congratulations! Your blog is wonderful! Such a lovely treasure trove! I am looking forward to the next 1,000 posts...

Kathryn said...

Congratulations on your grandmotherhood and 1000 posts. Your topic today reminded me of a book I have of 15th C. English recipes called _Take a Thousand Eggs or More_ by Cindy Renfrow

Here's to the next thousand!


Ken Albala said...

I Like a thousand beans very much!

As well as the bacon recipe. I might just have to try it. What's that, 200 slabs of bacon?



Ken Albala said...


I like the thousand beans recipe very much.

And a thousand pounds of bacon. What is that, 200 slabs?

~~louise~~ said...

I see you have retained your sense of humor. Grandmas need to have a sense of humor you know:)

One thousand posts oh my...I just slid past 200. It sure is a lot easier to swallow 1,000 posts than it is birthdays.

Congrats Janet, and one thousands toasts to you...with many more to come...I'm feeling rather woozy:)

Heather said...

Congratulations on the birth of your grandchild.

I think a thousand weight must be about 500 kilos. This is based on the fact that the old hundred weight (Imperial, not US measure) was 112 pounds, which is apparently very close to 50 kilos. You can google 'hundred weight' to read about this if you want to know more. Too much pork or whatever it was, I would have thought, even in the present circumstances.