I want to wrap up, for the time being, the topic of fruit with meat. Yesterday we looked at pork (and goose) with apple. In previous posts we have explored the quite ancient ideas of pairing chicken with pears, turkey with raspberries or pomegranate (a much older idea than with cranberries, it seems), and duck with orange (originally, and much more deliciously, the bitter Seville orange). If we extend the idea of ‘meat’ to include other forms of animal protein, then we have also met the idea of eggs with orange (Seville oranges again) in a recipe from Hannah Glasse’s famous cookbook The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.
It is time to consider fish with fruit - over and above the ubiquitous but uninspiring wedge of lemon with every dish. A sour edge to an otherwise sweet or oily dish is not difficult to understand, but a much earlier pairing with fish was gooseberries. Citrus fruits were an expensive imported delicacy during the medieval era. It is recorded that the Leathersellers’ Company (one of the Liveried Companies of England) paid six silver pennies for a single lemon for a feast they gave to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533.
Gooseberries, on the other hand, were very easily available, having been cultivated from ancient times, and persisting even in the wild. Think on that, you English fish-eating locavores and wild-foodies. Gooseberry sauce with fish, especially mackeral was a favourite combination in the relatively recent past, and perhaps the idea deserves re-discovering. What was a cook to do however, to get that desired sour note in the fish dish, if there were no lemons and no gooseberries for whatever reasons?
Use rhubarb, of course. No argument about its sourness, and no thorny bushes to harvest. Here are a couple of rhubarb sauces for you.
To make a mock gooseberry sauce for mackarel, reduce three dozen sticks of rhubarb to a marmalade [ie a thick puree], and sweeten it with moist sugar. Pass it through a hair sieve, and serve it up in a boat.
The cook and housekeeper's complete and universal dictionary, Mary Eaton, 1822.
Rhubarb sauce [to keep.]
Boil the stalks over a slow fire, till tender, in a small quantity of water with sugar and such spices as suit the taste, and strain off the liquor, squeezing the stalks dry, and when the liquid syrup or sauce is cold, bottle and cork it tight; this will keep for years.
The Farmers' Register, Edmund Ruffin , USA, 1841
Quotation for the Day.
My living in Yorkshire was so far out of the way, that it was eleven miles away from a lemon.
Sydney Smith (1771-1845)