Friday, January 20, 2012

A Nice Bit of Powsoddy.

There is an old dish from the north of England and Scotland called powsoddy (spelled in various ways.) I loved the name when I first came across it, so naturally wanted to find out exactly what it was. It turns out that the name is applied to several quite different things.

Powsoddy number one is a type of ‘ale posset with rum, sugar, nutmeg, and toasted bread; usually introduced during Christmas in Cumberland.’ 

Powsoddy number two is perhaps a variation of the above, as it can mean ‘a poisonous draught.’

Powsoddy number three is ‘any of various cooked dishes containing a mixture of various ingredients; a stew, a hotchpotch’, but the term is especially applied to a broth made of a sheep's head – from ‘pow’apparently meaning ‘head’, and sodden being an old word for boiling.

Powsoddy number four is ‘a suet pudding placed under a roast’ – otherwise known as ‘Aud-wife’s Sod’ or ‘Cinder-catcher.’ Some descriptions call it ‘Yorkshire Pudding’ too, because the original way of cooking this was by placing the mixture under the roast – although this mixture is a batter, not a suet pudding mixture. 

The Oxford English Dictionary admits that the etymology of the word is problematic, but I am more puzzled by how such different dishes came to be described by the same word – albeit a word with a large number of different spellings. Any ideas?

Recipe for the Day.
I am most intrigued by the first part of this recipe relating to the use of the sheep’s brain when it is removed from the head.

Sheep’s-Head Broth.
Have a sheep’s head and feet singed, split up, take out the brains and rub the head and feet with them; let it lie all night, and in the morning put it on the fire, in a pot with cold water. Le tit get hot, but not to boil; take it from the fire and let it stand one hour, then wash it well, brush it with a brush until you are ready to put them to the boil. Have a pot ready, put in one tea-cupful of barley, two ounces of whole rice, two pounds of the neck of mutton; put in the head and feet, and plenty of cold water and a little salt.Skim it well, and when it comes to the boil, draw it to the side of the fire, and let it boil slowly but constantly for another two hours; then add carrots, turnips, onions, cut neatly, and let it boil for another two hours, salting to taste. If your head is tender, take the broth off the fire, dish the head with the feel round it, and pour a little melted butter and minced parsley.
Practice of Cookery and Pastry (Edinburgh, 1854), I. Williamson.

Quotation for the Day.
I know it's not cat food, but what exactly is it that they put inside of tinned ravioli?
Doug Coupland


Mizz Harpy said...

The different spellings probably give a clue to it's different meanings it's that the mother language has been lost through time.

Keith said...

Think I will stick with number 1. Could definately be worth trying.

sesanner said...

Well, brain is or was used to soften untanned leather. Might it have a tenderizing effect on the sheep's head and feet?

What a luxury we lose when the wood(coal, peat et al)-fired cookstove is abandoned. Moving a kettle to the side or back, rising bread in the warming oven at eye level, that tantalizing supply of warm-to-hot water next to the oven. I hope to live my last days on Earth in a shed with a cast iron cookstove and a stack of dry wood.

Lastly, preparing and eating food with body part names. Another luxury lost? Raising, butchering, gardening, harvesting, storing, cooking on a cookstove. Heaven! Lived it years ago, long to live it again.

A fine article on Powsoddy. Anyone know how it is pronounced? Pow-soddy, rhyming with cow-body?