Friday, April 15, 2011

Food fit for a Cottager.

Household hints are not the only treasures to be found in the depths of books such as yesterday’s source, Cottage comforts, with hints for promoting them, gleaned from experience: enlivened with authentic anecdotes, by Esther Copley (London, 1830.) Sometimes they give us recipes for things long-forgotten – forgotten to most of us city-dwellers and supermarket-shoppers that is. Occasionally they even supply the instructions for some of the down on the farm dirty peasant stuff that no cottager’s wife would have needed to read because she would have learned the skill growing up. Such stuff is chitterlings.

Esther’s instructions for the preparation of chitterlings give the distinct impression that she had never actually prepared them from scratch, herself. Before I give you her instructions for this decidedly not-modern dish, I cannot resist sharing her introductory platitudes, which perhaps go some way to explaining why she does not appear to have put her own hands inside a pig and pulled out its innards. She was in an entirely different social class than the folk who normally prepared such stuff, that’s why.

‘The writer of this little volume has long been accustomed to observe the habits, resources, and privations of the labouring classes of society, and to cherish a lively interest in their welfare and happiness. Under a conviction that the outward condition of these classes might be materially meliorated by an improvement in their moral and prudential habits, she has often indulged the wish that some enlightened and benevolent friend to their true interests would furnish them with a familiar compendium, calculated to meet their daily round of wants, feelings, circumstances, and duties, and to suggest friendly and profitable hints relative to each.’

When the hocks, feet, or cheeks are boiled, it would never enter into the head of a wasteful slattern, that the liquor was good for any thing—it would never enter the head of a careful manager to throw it away. She knows very well, that when cold there will be a cake of fat settled on the top, enough to make a good pudding: and that the liquor boiled up with a few peas and herbs, will make good soup; (a capital breakfast this for a hard labouring man, on a cold frosty morning.) Even from the liquor in which bacon has been boiled, very good fat may be gained, and freed from salt, by skimming it from the liquor while warm, and dropping it into a vessel of cold water—the salt will go to the bottom, and the fat remain at the top. Even the brine that runs off from salting the bacon is useful. A spoonful or two of it put into the saucepan with potatoes, causes them to boil light and flowery: this is particularly useful during the latter part of the winter and spring, when potatoes are old and indifferent, and other vegetables scarce.

Chitterlings.— I am surprised that I cannot, in any cookery book that I have seen, find directions for preparing these: it is a shame they should be wasted — however, I believe all the matter is, immediately they are taken out of the pig to turn them inside out, and give them many, many washings in salt and water, till they are perfectly sweet and clean, and then slowly boil them for several hours.

Quotation for the Day.
He fell upon whate'er was offer'd, like
A priest, a shark, an alderman, or pike.
Lord Byron


Les said...

"I believe all the matter is, immediately they are taken out of the pig to turn them inside out, and give them many, many washings in salt and water...."

This has to be the funniest thing I've read all day.

darius said...

Here's a recipe for chitlins...

You'll find many if you search for the vernacular spelling.

Anonymous said...

The Joy of Cooking (at least, the 1977 edition I own) has a recipe for chitterlings with a great header.

"We were well along in years before we discovered that the name of this dish had an "e," and "r,," a "g" - and 3 syllables..."

Then follow the instructions for preparing them (similar to above, but as one would expect more detailed, and with herbs added to the boiling water) and a recipe for sauteed chitterlings.