Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Food for Journeys, Part 3.

As you read this I will be somewhere in the air, en route home to Australia after a wonderful few weeks in the UK. I continue with the theme of food for travelling, and, technology-willing, this story will reach you about the usual time.

In yesterday’s post, we considered the sorts of new food that travellers eat in new places, courtesy of the land and its existing inhabitants. Of course, sensible travellers go prepared with supplies from home, and they take their preferences with them too. Here is a novel idea for preserving fish.

Russian Method Of Preserving Fish.
When the Russians desire to keep fish perfectly fresh, to be carried a long journey in a hot climate, they dip them into hot beeswax, which acts like an air-tight covering. In this way they are taken to Malta, sweet, even in summer.
Practical American Cookery and Domestic Economy, Elizabeth M. Hall; 1860

There are numerous recipes for preserving milk for long journeys – and presumably for infants and children this may have been important. It is difficult however, to imagine the necessity or desire for cream to be so great that an American or European traveller would wish for a recipe – but here is one example:

To Preserve Cream.
Take four quarts of new cream; it must be of the richest quality, and have no milk mixed with it. Put it into a preserving kettle, and simmer it gently over the fire; carefully taking off whatever scum may rise -to the top, till nothing more appears. Then stir, gradually, into it four pounds of double-refined loaf-sugar that has been finely powdered and sifted. Let the cream and sugar boil briskly together half an hour; skimming it, if . necessary, and afterwards stirring it as long as it continues on the fire. Put it into small bottles; and when it is cold, cork it, and secure the corks with melted rosin. This cream, if properly prepared, will keep perfectly good during a long sea voyage.
Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery; Eliza Leslie, 1831.

As for dripping (the fat collected from roasting meat), it is nowadays totally shunned by the nutrition police. Once upon a time the very quality that makes us discard it - its greasy calorie count - made it extremely desirable, particularly for pastry-making (encasing meat in a dense ‘coffin’ being another great preserving method). The book The Housekeeper's Instructor, Or, Universal Family Cook, by William Augustus Henderson (1805) has an entire section devoted to food for long voyages, and includes this recipe (note the suggestion to minimise its pilfering by rats!)

To preserve Dripping.
This is one, among many other useful articles at sea, and in order that it may properly keep for that purpose, it must be made in the following manner: Take six pounds of good beef dripping, boil it in some soft water, strain it into a pan, and let it stand till it is cold. Then take off the hard fat and scrape off the gravy which sticks to the inside. Do this eight times, and when it is cold and hard take it off clean from the water, and put it into a large saucepan, with six bay-leaves, twelve cloves, half a pound of salt, and a quarter of a pound of whole pepper. Let the fat be all melted, and just hot enough to strain through a ceve into a stone-pot. Then let it stand till it is quite cold, and cover it up. In this manner you may do what quantity you please. It is a very good maxim to keep the pot upside down, to prevent its being destroyed by the rats. It will keep good any voyage, and make as fine puff-pafte crust as any butter whatever.

Quotation for the Day.

Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own country-men, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untraveled minds.
Caleb Colton


Bilejones said...

Where you gone, Girl?

The Old Foodie said...

Nowhere, Bill. Home and happy.