Monday, August 31, 2009

Any Apple in That?

Our sugar-saturated society sees a clear divide between “sweet” and “savoury” dishes - and we wrinkle our noses in distaste, and puzzle over the odd taste preferences of our medieval ancestors when we read ancient recipes with sugar and fruit included in predominantly meat dishes. The crucial point of course is to do with quantity. A small amount of sugar, used in the way of an exotic, expensive, imported spice, was the medieval way. And we have not abandoned the idea of fruit with meat completely, have we? We have apple sauce (or prunes) with pork, cranberries with turkey, and pineapple in some of our interpretations of “Chinese” sweet-and-sour dishes for example.

A week or two ago, we looked at bananas in savoury dishes. A year or more ago we had William Ellis’ mid-eighteenth century Onion Pye made by labouring Mens Wives, - which was as much apple as onion, and was clearly meant to be a “sweet” (i.e “dessert”) dish to rival pumpkin pie. Today I have for you a recipe for a “savoury” pie with apple, to remind you of the almost infinite adaptability of the fruit. It is taken from The English Art of Cookery, by Richard Briggs (1788) - but plagiarism was rife in those times, and the exact same recipe appeared in a number of popular cookbooks of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It is called “onion” pie, but has equal amounts of potato, apple, and onion.

Onion Pie.
Pare a pound of potatoes, slice them thin, peel about a pound of large onions, and slice them, pare the same quantity of apples, core and slice them likewise, boil six eggs hard, take off the shells,and cut them in slices; lay a thin sheet of puff-paste over the bottom of the dish, put on a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, mix a quarter of an ounce of beaten mace, a tea-spoonful of pepper, and three of salt, strew some over the butter, then lay in a layer of potatoes, a layer of onions, a layer of apples, and one of eggs, strew some seasoningon, and so on till all the ingredients are in; strew the remainder of the seasoning on top, put on a quarter of a pound of butter, and our in half a pint of white wine; put a thin puff-paste over it, and bake it one hour and a half.

Quotation for the Day.

The onion being eaten, yea though it be boyled, causeth head-ache, hurteth the eyes, and maketh a man dimme sighted, dulleth the senses, ingendreth windinesse, and provoketh overmuch sleepe, especially being eaten raw.
John Gerard (1545-1611)


Liz + Louka said...

Our family loves sugar, honey and fruit in meat dishes. I think I first started doing this when my mum got Claudia Roden's book of Middle Eastern food, but now I improvise this sort of thing often.

Tri2Cook said...

I love playing with the boundary between sweet and savory in my cooking so this was particularly fun to read for me. I've finally made it through the entire site. Every single article. I also collected the majority of the recipes from the articles into a file where I can easily reference them. I hope that's ok.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Liz: my family take a bit of coaxing on this - which is unusual as they pretty well like everything.
Tri2Cook - Wow! I am impressed that you have collected most of the recipes into one file. I am embarrassed that my recipe archive is so out of date that it is ridiculous. I stopped archiving the recipes at one time when I was just too busy and needed to eliminate a few non-essential things. Then it got too big a backlog and it is now in the too-hard basket. I think I should set myself to catch up one month's worth each week!

Anonymous said...

Hey there,
I too love dishes that contain more than one "primary flavor." My mother often adds apples or other fruits to meat dishes as a lightweight, healthy sweetener and I like it just fine:)

She often cooks pork and sauerkraut with apples or applesauce or apple juice to cut down on the acidity. I really like sauerkraut the way it is but either way it's good.

We had an exceptional apple crop this year. Last year wasn't so good but the year before was great. IIRC that year we canned 13qts from our one tree! This year both trees are producing...eek!

At this moment we have a slowcooker full of apples rendering into applesauce!

Thank you for continuing the traditions of classical cooking and providing us with excellent recipes and ideas:)