Monday, May 24, 2010

More Science in the Kitchen.

I want to briefly continue the theme of science in the kitchen today. Some time ago I gave you some of the ‘original, palatable, and wholesome recipes’ from a book with the actual title of Science in the Kitchen, published by Ella Kellogg, the wife of John Harvey Kellogg in 1893. A book that could just as easily fall under the heading of ‘High Moral Tone in the Kitchen, and certainly No Sex Anywhere Near It’, and a book based rather more on opinion than science. The nineteenth century was a time of increasing interest in science, so surely, I thought, there must be more ‘cookery’ books with a science spin?

I give you a short extract from The Scientific Phenomena of Domestic Life familiarly explained, by Charles Foote Gower, Esq., published in London in 1847. The book contains two chapters which may be relevant to us: Chapter III, The Breakfast Parlour, and Chapter V The Kitchen. Here is the author’s scientific advice in relation to fruit pies.

“ ... it appears that there are many of the operations of the kitchen conducted on solid philosophical principles; but we now come to one of which the benefit is less apparent, although from the universality of the practice one is inclined to fancy there must be some advantage derived from it. I allude to the custom of placing an inverted cup in a fruit pie, as the cook will inform us, to contain the juice whilst the pie is baking in the oven, and prevent its boiling over; and she is the more convinced in her theory because when the pie is withdrawn from the oven the cup will be found full of juice. When the cup is first put in the dish it is full of cold air, and when the pie is placed in the oven this air will expand by the heat and fill the cup, and will drive out all the juice, and a portion of the present air it contains, in which state it will remain till removed from the oven, when the air in the cup will condense and occupy a very small space, leaving the remainder to be filled with juice, but this does not take place till the danger of the juice boiling over is past. If a small glass tumbler is inverted in the pie its contents can be examined into whilst it is in the oven, and it will be found what has been advanced is correct. Our own cook was very sceptical on this head till she tried this experiment.”

Mistress Meg Dods (aka Christian Isobel Johnstone) does not consider an inverted cup necessary: from her The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1847 edition), we have the following simple instructions.

Ripe Fruit Pies.
Black cherries and currants, damsons, plums of all kinds currants or raspberries and cranberries, apricots and gooseberries suitably mixed or alone, are all made into fruit pies. Place the fruit picked and washed in a flattish pie dish raising it high in the middle. Allow enough of sugar and cover with a rich light paste which fruit pies require more than those made of meat.

Quotation for the Day.

I prefer Hostess fruit pies to pop-up toaster tarts because they don't require as much cooking.
Carrie Snow

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