Yesterday we considered bacon and eggs as they were described and cooked in the early seventeenth century – which is pretty well the same way as they are cooked today. Sadly, one thing that has not persisted since early times is the enormous pie. Nowadays we have shaped metal containers to hold the food we wish to bake in an oven, but before the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, the only baking ‘dish’ for a large joint of meat was a thick pastry shell or ‘coffin.’
The source for yesterday’s recipe, The English Houswife, by Gervase Markham, published in 1615, also gives a wonderful description of how a whole gammon (leg) of ham could be baked at that time. Notice that the ‘pie’ is shaped to make it look like a pig, the ‘head’ being modelled separately out of pastry and attached to the ‘body’ – a nice take on the ‘Sham Pig’ idea of a few days ago.
A Gammon of Bacon Pie.
Take a Gammon of Bacon, and onely wash it clean, and then boyl it on a soft gentle fire, till it be boyl’d as tender as is possible, ever and anon fleeting [skimming]it clean, that by all means it may boyl white: then take off the sward [skin], and farce it very well with all manner of sweet and pleasant farcing herbs: then strew store of Pepper over it, and prick it thick with Cloves: then lay it into a coffin made of the same proportion, and lay good store of Butter round about it, and upon it, and strew Pepper on the Butter, that as it melts, the Pepper may fall upon the Bacon: then cover it, and make the proportion of a Pigs Head in paste upon it, then bake it as you bake red Deer, or things of the like nature, only the Paste would be of Wheat-meal
William Salmon’s The Family Dictionary, or Household Companion (1695) describes how to dress ‘in the neatest way’, a Gammon of Bacon. I love this book: the next entry in this very useful general household manual is ‘Gangreen’.
Gammon of Bacon.
To dress this the neatest way, having water’d it [soaked it to remove the excess salt], scrubb’d it with a Brush, and scraped the Rind, and dry’d it again with a Cloth, put it into a Kettle wherein it may have sufficient room: then take Sage, Marjoram, Fenel, Sprigs of Bays and Rosemary, and boil it till it is enough; then split the Skin, and so curiously carve it, and stick the places so stript with Cloves; strew some Pepper on it, and serve it up with Mustard, Pepper, Vinegar, and the Herbs small minced, cut up in fine slices of what length you please, but of very indifferent thickness.
Quotation for the Day.
He describes it as a large apartment, with a red brick floor and a capacious chimney; the ceiling garnished with hams, sides of bacon, and ropes of onions.
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers.