Did you ever pause to wonder how cooks in previous times managed to do their job without clocks and oven thermometers, not to mention all the more obvious gadgets of the twenty-first century kitchen? We did touch on this theme some time ago, in a post which described the use ofprayers as a timing device, but there are plenty more hints and ideas from the past which we have not explored.
In 1623, the prolific English writer Gervase Markham published his book A Way to Get Wealth: containing six principall vocations, or callings, in which every good Husband or House-wife may lawfully employ themselves. The book was not about the entrepreneurial way to riches, as the title might suggest to us today, but about developing the skills to enable one to properly perform one’s role in life, and to husband one’s resources. Naturally, at this time, for the housewife, this meant skills in the art of cookery – not necessarily so that one could perform this often lowly job oneself, but so that one could properly supervise and train the cooks and kitchen staff (many of whom would have been illiterate.)
Here is his advice on how to know when meat is roasted enough – roasted on a spit in front of a fire, that is, not ‘roasted’ in the oven as we do today.
“Lastly, to know when meat is rosted enough: for as too much rawness is unwholsome, so too much dryness is not nourishing. Therefore to know when it is in the perfect height and is neither too moist nor too dry, you shall observe these signs: First, in your large Joynts of meat, when the steam or smoak of the meat ascendeth either upright, or else goeth from the fire, when it beginneth a little to shrink from the spit, or when the gravy which dioppeth from it is clear without bloodiness, then is the meat enough.
If it be a Pigge, when the eyes are fallen out, and the body leaveth Piping: for the first is when it is half roasted, and would be sindged [?] to make the coat rise, and crackle, and the later when it is full enough, and would be drawn; or if it be any kind of Fowl you roast, when the thighs are tender, or the hinder parts of the pinions at the setting on of the wings, are without blood, then be sure that your meat is fully enough roasted: yet for a better and more certain assuredness, you may thrust your Knife into the: thickest parts of the meat, and draw it out again, and if it bring out white gravy without any bloodiness, then assuredly it is enough, and may be drawn with all speed convenient, after it hath been well basted with butter not formerly melted, then dredging as aforesaid, then basted over the dredging and so suffered to take two or three turns, to make crispe the dredging: Then dish it in a fair dish with salt sprinkled over it, and so serve it forth. Thus you see the general form of roasting all kind of meats: Therefore now I will return to some particular dishes together with their several Sauces.”
As our recipe for the day, I give you Markham’s instructions for roasting mutton with a stuffing of oysters – a concept reminiscent of the Carpetbag Steak which we considered recently in another post.
Roasting of Mutton with Oysters.
If you will roast Mutton with Oysters, take a shoulder alone or a legg, and after it is washt, parboyl it a little; then take the Oysters, great Oysters, and having opened them into a dish, drain the gravy clean from them twice or thrice, then parboyl them a little, then take Spinage, Endive, Succory, Strawberry leaves, Violet leaves and a little Parsly, with some Scallions; chop these very fine together, then take your Oysters very dry drain'd and mix them with an half part of these herbs; then take your meat, and with these Oysters and herbs farce or stop it, leaving no place empty, then spit it and roast it, and whilst it is in rosting, take good store of Verjuice and Butter, and Salt, and set it in a dish on a chafing dish and coals; and when it begins to boyl, put in the remainder of your herbs without Oysters, and a good quantity of Currants, with Cinnamon,a and the yelks of a couple of eggs. And after they are well boyled and stirred together, season it up according to your taste with Sugar; then put in a few Lemon slices; the meat being enough draw it, and lay it upon this sawce removed into a clean dish, the edge thereof being trimmed about with Sugar and so serve it forth.
Quotation for the Day.
Roast Beef, Medium, is not only a food. It is a philosophy. Seated at Life’s Dining Table, with the menu of morals before you, your eye wanders a bit over the entrees, the hors d’oevres, and the things a la though you know that Roast Beef, Medium, is safe and sane and sure.
I think the word would translate to us as "singed". Pork was often cooked with the skin on, as poultry still is (unless you are of the "skinless, boneless chicken breast" persuation.) This may, in fact, be referring to an entire pig (as in suckling). Exposing the skin to the actual flame would burn off the bristles, and crisp up the skin. Nobody had ever heard of cholesterol.
Usually the bristles were scrubbed off during butchering, but I can definitely see how the skin would rise due to the fat under it and turn brown and puffy, which sounds just marvelous.
I was a bit squicked at the bit about the eyeballs acting like little pop-up turkey timers, though I suppose it's better than them bursting. Unless it meant that they popped out because they burst. In that case, erlack.
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