Friday, June 29, 2012

Squab Pie, without the squab.

You would never get away with putting “squab pie” on the menu today, if it contained mutton instead of baby pigeon, although you would be correct from a culinary history point of view. Even though the Oxford English Dictionary defines “squab” as (a) “A newly-hatched, unfledged, or very young bird” and (b) specifically “a young pigeon”, it defines “squab pie” as being “chiefly composed of mutton, pork, apples, and onions, with a thick crust.”  Why is it so?

You might get away with your menu item if you qualified it as “Devonshire Squab Pie”, because you could claim it as a traditional recipe from that particular part of the world, which is famous for its apples (and cider). A genuine Devonshire Squab Pie is made from mutton and apples. There were apple types specifically grown for inclusion in squab pies, and there are many recipes in old cookbooks that would support your claim. But how did it all come about?

The mixture of meat and fruit in a pie goes back to mediaeval times, when there was no distinction between the ideas of sweet and savoury dishes: the original mincemeat pie really did have meat and suet in it, as well as fruit and sugar. This does not, however, explain the substitution of mutton for pigeon. Why were they simply not called mutton pies?

It is unlikely that the intention was to deceive the consumer (pie bakers would surely never do that?) – such a widespread deception would hardly have succeeded, and in any case, there does not seem to have been any attempt to keep the contents a secret.

Genuine pigeon pies were food for the rich, who could afford to keep dovecotes on their land. They were virtually the only source of fresh meat over the winter until the development of crops such as turnips, which allowed animals to be fed until spring. Pigeon pies became the symbol of the rich man’s table: they were obligatory at all grand banquets, such as on Lord Mayor’s day, and frequently appeared at the aristocrat’s breakfast. Mutton pies were the food of the common man, if he was lucky.

Perhaps “squab pies” were the peasants’ own inside joke, as they filled out their meagre pie filling with apple and onion, and sometimes potato? Some explanations say that the taste of mutton plus apples plus onions was similar to pigeon, which only seems likely to someone who has not eaten pigeon regularly. More likely, if it was a joke, it was directed at the peasants in the form of a snobbish slur, much like the ethnic slur of “welsh rabbit” (which became welsh rarebit) – the implication being that the Welsh were too stupid or too lazy to catch rabbits, so had to make do with toasted cheese instead.

The least likely explanation, but my personal preference, is from a small Devonshire cookbook in my possession, which says that it comes from “Squabble Pie,” or the compromise pie when the master is demanding meat pie and the mistress wanting apple!

Whatever the explanation, what seems certain is that eventually the combination became one of local pride; a local specialty was born, and Devonshire people would insist: “Mutton and apples, onions and dough, Make the best pie that ever I know”.

Of course, there are always regional and seasonal variations, and fluctuations in supply of ingredients to bedevil pie-bakers, but luckily these are the most creative folk (as I am sure readers will agree). Although the commonest ingredient for squab pies in old cookbooks is mutton, there were others. Cheshire had its “Cheshire Pork Pie”, which does not seem so strange: apples are a commonly accepted accompaniment to pork, because pigs have often been turned into the orchards to feel on fallen apples. In Shropshire, “Fitchett Pie” (so called because it was originally made in a “fitched” or five-sided tin) was made with bacon. If there was no meat at all, there was no problem: I have seen reference to both a fish version, and a wartime meatless recipe, which had lentils or haricot beans and was served with gravy made from Marmite™. The only constant ingredients in all versions are the apples and onions.

The pie even made it to Australia. In 1848, the young Annabella Boswell, of Lake Innes, near port Macquarie wrote in her diary of her cooking attempts:

“I picked some fresh apples for a squab pie … Afterward, finding that the cook was out, I carried my materials to the marble slab and determined  to make the pie  myself – but before I tell what this famous squab pie was composed of I shall give my opinion of its merits by saying that though it is possible I may make another, it is highly improbable that I shall taste it, Mr. Hugh was of a different opinion, or pretended to be, for he dined on it – and insisted on doing so, the pie is made of layers of apple and beef steak covered with pie crust, and baked, pepper and salt of course, but cook says I should have added an onion.”

The first Australian cookbook was not published until 1864, well after Annabella’s attempts, but it did contain a version of the traditional recipe:

Devonshire Squab Pie.

Lay mutton-chops, or mutton, at the bottom of the dish; on the meat strew some onions, with pepper, salt, a little sugar, and half a tea-cupful of water. Place on the top apples and potatoes, in layers, cut thin; cover the sides and top of the dish with crust, and bake well.
If you still insist on putting real pigeon squab in your pies, it is important to remember that the fatter they are, the better. We can learn from wiser folks in older times as to how to ensure this. Firstly, if you happen upon a pigeon nest with very new-born chicks in it, tie each of them down by one leg, so that they cannot escape. The parents will continue to return to feed their slow young ones until they are fat enough for you.  Alternatively, if you prefer to get your live squabs from a live squab supplier, you can give them a final fattening up by following the advice in this magazine article from 1886.
“The extraordinary demand in England for squabs has led to their importation in very large numbers from Germany and France. These are taken by professional feeders and fattened in a peculiar manner. I remember once witnessing the process in operation in London. The feeder was an elderly man with flabby, sallow cheeks and protruding eyes, long matted hair … In a tub of water was a quantity of millet and split peas. The feeder crammed his mouth with them until his cheeks swelled out to hideous proportions. Catching up a young bird and inserting its open beak between his lips, the feeder injected its crop full ... The astonished bird at once assumed a complacent look. With the greatest rapidity bird after bird was picked up and the food thus blown into each. The feeders get about two cents for each dozen birds thus fed, and when it is remembered that they can fill a bird with a rapidity which excels the mechanical bottling of soda-water, it is easily seen that the professors are enabled to earn a tolerably good living at their novel calling. The birds are fed by this process twice a day, and in several days become fat and very tender.”

Sounds like a catchy marketing phrase – “Fattened on the premises”, doesn’t it?

Quotation for the Day.

When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie
heaven. It might be a trick, but if it's not, mmmmmmmm, boy.
Jack Handy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kippers and Jam.

As many of you are aware, I am currently in the UK having some general fun before the fun of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery begins in a little over a week. I have been spending a few days inWhitby on the Yorkshire coast. It is a small town famous for being the setting for Bram Stoker's Dracula, and as the place where Capain James Cook learned his seafaring skills.

The town is inextricably linked with the sea. It was once the centre of a massive ship-building centre (Cook's famous ship the Endeavour was built here,) but first and foremost, Whitby is about fishing. I have thoroughly tested its fish and chips since I have been here, and can personally vouch for their general excellence.

The main fish-and-chip shop fish are cod and haddock, but a lesser known product of the area is kippers (smoked herring.). There is an interesting notice on the wall adjacent to the stove in the self-catering apartment where I am staying in Whitby, the like of which I have never seen before. It reads:

Kippers leave an odour which cannot be readily removed. Therefore cooking and consuming kippers on the premises is not allowed.
Should you smoke or consume kippers, this will result in a £100 room recovery charge in order for us to restore the accommodation back to a satisfactory condition.

Not a notice likely to encourage kipper newbies to try them out, is it?

There is another interesting thing about kippers in this region. The local cafes serve them with a side of strawberry jam. There are references to this combination elsewhere, and sometimes to the brushing of the kippers with jam before grilling, but I have not been able to find out anything else about the tradition, or how widespread it is, in the short time I have been here and with the reduced resources I have available while I am travelling. I am most intrigued by this concept, so if you know of it, and can add anything, please do!

For those of you who prefer to keep your kippers firmly in the savoury camp, the following recipes are for especially for you.

Filleted Devilled Kipper on Toast.
Fillet the kipper in the usual way. Butter some toast. Place fillet on top and cut into any shape you may fancy. Put a little grated cheese, cayenne pepper or black pepper, a pinch of breadcrumbs, and a little butter. Put in paper bag and place on grid.
Allow five minutes in a very hot oven (350 deg.Fahr.)
Soyer's Standard Cookery (1912) by Nicolas Soyer

Yarmouth Straws.
2 oz. cheeese pastry
4 oz. kipper
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese
Beaten egg
Roll pastry into a strip. Brush half with egg. Cover with sliced kipper and cayenne. Sandwich with remaining half of pastry. Brush with egg and sprinkle thuckly with grated cheese. Cut in finger strips and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 420 deg F till brown and crisp. Serve hot or cold.
Lady Young's Cookery Book (Hong Kong, early 1900's)

Quotation for the Day.

Your raiment, O herring, displays the rainbow colors of the setting sun, the patina on old copper, the golden-brown of Cordoba leather, the autumnal tints of sandalwood and saffron.  Your head, O herring, flames like a golden helmet, and your eyes, are like black studs in circlets of copper.
- Joris Karl Huysmans (1848-1907

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Travellers' Tales: a Nile voyage, 1857

About travel, the writer James Michener said “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” This is as wise as travel wisdom gets.

Travel is no longer a rare event, available only to the lucky or adventurous few, as it was in the past. Nowadays we are all familiar (or can easily become familiar), with the food and customs of any land that we might chose to visit. I am deeply puzzled by those modern travelers who go to the expense and trouble of ‘going overseas’ and then do reject the food, customs, and people they meet. In the past, I think, this attitude was more understandable (but no less silly and unforgiveable) because the traveler was, by definition, well-off, and therefore of ‘a certain class’- and more likely to take class and national prejudices along with the physical baggage.

The New York Daily Times in 1857 published an account by a traveller and ‘special correspondent’ of a voyage on the Nile. There were eighteen crew and twenty-two passengers aboard the Phantom, and the voyage was to take three months. The writer has the usual (for the era) patronising tone when he discusses the locals. The captain is a ‘tolerably good sort of fellow in his way’, and the boatmen ‘of all shades of colour’ use a ‘respectable English tone’ towards the lady guests. He waxes lyrical about the ‘thousand comforts’ aboard the vessel, basks in the ‘delicious’ weather, is suitably awed by the grand sights, and takes with enthusiasm to the loose, comfortable ‘Eastern articles’ of clothing which they adopt in the evening. But the food – with the exception of some token exotic fruit and sweets, is straight from home. 

The writer notes that the boatmen have bread and onions for breakfast. For the guests, however, ‘…. breakfast … is always delicious; coffee of Mocha, and eggs whitened with lemons before the water touches them, and a broiled bird and chop’

Dinner is even more elaborate. The writer goes on to say:

“. ….. giving our bill of fare for dinner today. I give you my solemn assurance that this is a correct list of the articles on our dinner table today, and this is on a Nile boat, ten days out from Cairo: Macaroni Soup, boiled chicken, fried brains, roast lamb, roast pigeon, roast wild goose, fricasseed chickens, macaroni au gratin, potatoes, plain and mashed, native beans, and the usual pickles and other small articles. For the last course, custards in cups, plum pudding, patés of sweet preserves, calf’s foot jelly, with pomegranate, and then fruit, oranges, apples, pomegranates, figs, dates, and finally a delicate conserve of citron, rose-flavored, and rahot-lo-koom*, know[n] in America as fig-paste, though there is no more fig in it than there is fine-cut. Nor is this an unusual fare. I have given today’s bill of fare because I can remember it more easily. But yesterday, and every day, it was the same, and will be the same, I doubt not so, so long as we are on the river.”
[*lokum, or ‘Turkish Delight’]

As the recipe for the day, I give you fig paste (made with figs, believe it, or not.)

Fig Paste.
Fig paste is easily made: pare the figs when ripe; mash and spread upon dishes and set in the sun; so soon as you can turn, without tearing, take a knife and slip it under the paste and turn it over – this will be on the second day after the past is put out. When dry, sift some sugar, and place two or three sheets of paste one upon the other, with a press on the top. To dry the figs, select those that are ripe but still firm – pare – leaving on the stem or not is a matter of taste; place on dishes in the sun; should be turned over at least once during the day; if it should be over-ripe it will be liable to sour – turn dark etc.
Our Home Journal, Vol. II (New Orleans, 1871)

Quotation for the Day.

So counsel'd he, and both together went
  Into the thickest wood; there soon they chose
    The fig-tree, not that kind for fruit renowned,
      But such as at this day to Indians known
        In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms,
          Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
            The bended twigs take rood, and daughters grow
              About the mother tree, a pillar'd shade
                High overarch'd, and echoing walks between.
      -John Milton, Paradise Lost

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Solid Beer.

Now here is a new (to me) idea – solid beer! Who would have thought it? Just the thing to wash down your  portable soup and meat biscuit. From The Food Journal Volume 1 (London, 1871), I give you the following enlightening information:

“The age produces some queer paradoxes, and none more so than in the results of manufacturing science. In former days it was the custom to buy bread, and even beef, by the yard; but we believe that it is only in the present day that we can get our beer by the pound. By a very simple process, introduced by Mr. Mertens, the wort, after being made in a mash-tub of malt and hops in the usual manner, is sucked up by a pipe into a large vacuum (exhausted by an air-pump), and then persistently worked round and round, while the moisture is evaporated. The wort emerges from its tribulations with a pasty consistence, and is allowed to fall from a considerable height into air-tight boxes, in which it reposes, like hard-bake. It soon gets exceedingly tough, that it has to be broken up with a chisel and mallet, and, in that condition, is easily sent abroad, or to any part of the world, for people to brew their own malt liquor. We have had the wort subjected to analysis, the results of which, in 100 parts, who that there is almost absolute purity:- Gum 64.219; sugar, 20.664; lupulin (the active principle of hops), 2.000; albumenous matter, 0.600; mineral matter, 1.500; moisture, 11.017.”

There is another way to make solid beer (or ale). From the same journal, I give you:-

Ale Jelly.
Put an ox-foot into three quarts of water; boil it till it leaves the bones quite bare; strain the stock, and when it is cold and the fat removed, cut it into four, and put it into the pan with 1lb. of Lisbon sugar, the juice of three lemons (with the rind, pared very thin) seven cloves, a small teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon, and three-quarters of a pint of very weak pale-coloured beer (say a pint of Bass’s ale); when these are all in the pan, add, lastly, two eggs well beaten, the whites and shells of three others; boil for five minutes, quickly, stirring all the time; when it has risen up well in the pan, take it off the fire, and set it on the ground without stirring it. While settling, the jelly bag will be found quite clear by the time a pint has been run through, so that another vessel must be in readiness; and as soon as it runs clear, the finest must be put back very gently into the bag, so as not to shake it. The clearness depends on its quick boiling, and the quantity, on having the material that surrounds the bag well heated, so as not to chill it. A metal mould should be used, as the jelly will not turn out of earthenware.

Quotation for the Day.

I have fed purely upon all; I have eat my ale; drank my ale, and I always sleep upon ale.
George Farquhar (1678-1707)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Coffee Leaves vs Tea Leaves.

I have a new-old beverage to remind you about today. A beverage made from an infusion of roasted coffee leaves. We have considered it before, in a previous blog post (here), but I have a little more to add to the story. 

There may be some of you who have tried to grow your own coffee, but are in the wrong climate, or have poor gardening skills, and cannot get your trees to fruit well enough - this story is especially for you.

The source for the previous blog post on ‘coffee leaf tea’ was dated 1854. It appears that the concept was still a novelty a decade and a half later. A new monthly publication appeared in London in 1871, with the aim “to treat of food in every possible aspect and variety, and particularly in its national bearings …”. It was called, simply, The Food Journal.  The following extract is taken from an article entitled Coffee Leaves vs Tea Leaves, in Volume 1.

“Of the hot drinks that form the daily refreshment of the human race, infusions of leaves stand pre-eminent, and especially those derived from one or other of the various tea plants, which are consumed by more people than all the others united. … Somewhat akin to tea is mate, the leaves of the Ilex Paraguayensis, or Brazilian holly. Although not consumed over such a wide area as tea proper, it is as much the universal beverage of the southern American republics as China and Assam tea are of Europe and Asia…
It must be evident even to the most desultory reader that any new product capable of use as tea or maté, and containing a fair proportion of the same chemical constituent which distinguishes them [theine and caffeine], is entitled to a niche in popular favour. Such position we claim for prepared coffee leaves. So far back as the year 1845, Professor Blume, of Leyden, who had spent much time in Java, pointed out that an infusion of roasted coffee leaves had from time immemorial been a favourite beverage amongst the natives of the Eastern archipelago. In Sumatra, especially, it formed the only drink of the entire population. Mr Ward, resident many years at Pedang, in Sumatra, thus wrote to the Pharmaceutical Journal (vol. xiii, page 208): “As a beverage, the natives universally prefer the leaf to the berry, giving as a reason that it contains more of the bitter principle [theine or caffeine], and is more nutritious.” This is borne out by analysis, it being found that roasted coffee leaves contain about 1.25 per cent of theine or caffeine (the same amount present in mate), prepared coffee beans only yielding from 0.117 to 1.08 per cent. The same author continues: “In the low lands, coffee is not planted for the berry, not being sufficiently productive; but for the leaf, people plant it round their houses for their own use. It is an undoubted fact that everywhere they prefer the leaf to the berry. While culture of the coffee plant for its fruit is limited to particular soils and more elevated climates, it may be grown for the leaf wherever, within the tropics, the soil is sufficiently fertile.”
If you have tried this beverage, do let us know. Is it prepared and sold commercially anywhere? If not, why not? As the above writer indicated, there is always room for another leaf beverage.

As the Recipe for the Day, I give you a nice coffee cake from the 1870’s.

Coffee Cake.
The ingredients are: one cupful of coffee (left cold from breakfast), one cupful of butter, one cupful and a half of sugar, one cupful of molasses, five cupfuls of flour, one teaspoonful of soda, some raisins, and whatever spices you prefer.
Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine (Philadelphia, 1870)

Quotation for the Day.

Resolve to free yourselves from the slavery of the tea and coffee and other slop-kettles.
William Cobbett, 1829, Advice to Young Men.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cooking with Seawater.

I understand that in the days of long sea voyages, with fresh water at a premium, sea-water was used for cooking. Salted meat was a staple food of these voyages, and we know it was often very old, very hard and very salty indeed – so salty that the day’s ration was sometimes attached to a rope and towed behind the ship to reduce its saltiness. Then it was cooked in salt water, or at least a percentage of salt water. How palatable – and how salty – must it have been?

I also understand that fishermen occasionally also cook their catch in seawater, not out of necessity, but because they believe it enhances the flavour.

Although I had heard these stories, I had never actually seen sea-water given as the cooking liquid of choice until I discovered a recipe in the famous Alexis Soyer’s book The Pantropheon, or, History of Food and its Preparation (1853.)  I don’t know if Soyer ever actually cooked the following recipe, but he suggests that was a dish enjoyed by the Ancient Romans.

Quarter of Wild Boar a la Thébaine.
Cook it in sea water with bay leaves. When very tender take off the skin, and serve with salt, mustard, and vinegar.

A little reading around this idea of using seawater as a cooking liquid led to some information on a ‘gastronomic delight’ from the Canary Islands called Patatas Arrugadas, or ‘wrinkled potatoes.’ This is a dish of unpeeled new potatoes cooked in seawater , then dried briefly over the heat, leaving them with a powdery, salty skin. A couple of other sources also suggested that these are also enjoyed in the Shetland and Orkney islands.

Patatas Arugadas would be an interesting recipe to follow around the world. It appears that it must have made its way from the Canaries, or Shetlands, or Orkneys, to Syracuse, NY, if The Complete Cook Book (Philadelphia, 1900), by Jennie Day Reese, is correct. Please let us all know if you have heard of them, eaten them, or know something about their history.

Hot Salt Potatoes.
In every locality there is always a favorite dish that once partaken of by "strangers within her gates," is forever connected with that particular city or place. Philadelphia scrapple is as well known "down east" as Boston's beans and brown bread, and in the central city of New York State, Syracuse, is served a tid-bit that outshines them all, and one which courts favor among the male citizens. The name of this dish is hot salt potatoes, prepared thus: Enough brine is bought at the salt yards to fill a kettle three-quarters full. Medium-sized smooth potatoes are scrubbed clean and put into the boiling brine, covered and left to boil until a straw will pierce the vegetables; then they are drained and served piping hot. When eating these they are never cut; the ends are pressed with the fingers, which bursts open the center, pop in a generous lump of good butter, and the delicious tid-bit will be relished. The outside will be covered with salt crystals, the inside mealy, white and permeated with a relishing seasoning.

Quotation for the Day.

Without the potato, the balance of European power might never have tilted north.
Michael Pollan.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rules for Eating.

Today we have some final advice from the book that has been our source for the week - Jennie June's American Cookery Book (1870). It seems to me that of all the advice we have culled from the book this week, these ‘rules’ are the most enduring and relevant.

1. Eat slowly as if it was a pleasure you desired to prolong, rather than a duty to be got rid of as quickly as possible.
2. Don't bring your prejudices, your dislikes, your annoyances, your past misfortunes, or future forebodings, to the table--they would spoil the best dinner.
3. Respect the hours of meals, you have no right to injure the temper of the cook, destroy the flavor of the viands, and the comfort of the family, by your want of punctuality.
4. Have as much variety in your food as possible, but not many dishes served at one time.
5. Find as little fault with the food prepared as possible, and praise whenever you can.
6. Finally, be thankful, if you have not meat, that you have at least an appetite, and hope for something more and better in the future.

I feel like something a little indulgent now, so here, from the book, is the recipe for a rich sponge.

Almond Sponge Cake.
Ten eggs, one pound of sugar, half pound of flour, a few drops of lemon. When these ingredients are well beaten, add half-pound of sweet almonds, blanched, and pounded in a white mortar or stout bowl. To blanch them - that is, skin them - pour boiling water upon them. Add a little peach extract, and bake in a brisk oven. This is very rich.

Quotation for the Day.

Eating rice cakes is like chewing on a foam coffee cup, only less filling.
Dave Barry.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hints on Economy.

I just cant resist sticking with Jennie June's American Cookery Book (1870) for a couple more days, as it still has treats in store for us.

Today I give you in their entirety the ‘Hints on Economy’ from the book. I particularly draw your attention to the exhortation to wear pretty morning dress (protected by an apron of course), because it is advice entirely lacking in every modern cookery book I have ever read.

PROVIDE ON SATURDAY for Monday, so as not to take up the fire with cooking, or time in running errands, any more than is possible on washing day.
WAIT TILL ARTICLES, fruit, fish, poultry and vegetables, are in full season, before purchasing. They are then not only much lower in price than when first brought to market, but finer in quality and flavor.
OUTSIDE GARMENTS, bonnets, cloaks, hats, shawls, scarfs and the like, will last clean and fresh much longer, if the dust is carefully removed from them by brushing and shaking after returning from a ride or a walk.
WHEN YOUR APPLES begin to rot, pick the specked ones out carefully; stew them up with cider and sugar, and fill all your empty self-sealing cans. In this way you may keep in nice apple sauce till apples come again.
PICKLE OR PRESERVE JARS should be washed in lukewarm or cold water, and dried in the sun or near the fire. Hot water cracks the polished surface of the inside, and renders them unfit for their specific use.
NEVER ALLOW CHILDREN to eat butter with meat or gravy; it is both wasteful and injurious.
HOT BUCKWHEAT CAKES will go farther and last longer than any other single article of food. A celebrated judge declared that he could remain in court all day, without feeling a symptom of hunger, after a breakfast of buckwheat cakes.
A STEW is not a bad dish for a family dinner, once a week; make it of good meat, and savory with sweet herbs, and the most fastidious will not object to it.
RISE EARLY on fine summer mornings, and throw all the windows of the house open, so that it may exchange its close atmosphere, for the cool, fresh air. Have the work done before the heat of the day comes on, and save it as much as possible during the warmest weather.
TAKE CARE OF THE FOOD that is brought into the house, and see that none of it is wasted; but do not be always on the lookout for cheap things. Beans are cheap, and very good sometimes; corn meal is cheap too, and even more available, because it can be made into a great variety of dishes, but people would not care to live on beans and corn meal all the time, because they are cheap. Eating is intended as a means of enjoyment, as well as of sustaining life; and it is right to avail ourselves of the abundant resources provided, as far as we can consistently.
USE TEA LEAVES, or short, freshly cut grass, to sprinkle upon carpets before sweeping. It will freshen up the colors, and save the usual cloud of dust.
HAVE EVERYTHING CLEAN, on Saturday night, something nice for tea, and also for Sunday morning breakfast. Let the approach of the Sabbath be anticipated in all things, with pleasure. Stay at home with the children on Sabbath evening, and finish the day with a sacred concert.
ALLOW NO HOLES, or corners in the house, in drawers, on shelves, or in closets, for the stowing away of dirty rags, old bottles, grease-pots, and broken crockery. When bottles are emptied, let them be cleaned, and put down in the cellar, until they are wanted. Harbor no dirty grease pots, and when an article is broken past recovery, throw it away at once; there is no use in keeping it to collect dust, and cobwebs.
MAKE A POINT of examining safe, refrigerator, closets, drawers, and all receptacles for food, and kitchen articles, at least as often as once a week, either Saturday, or washing day. Look into pickle jars, bread jars, cake jars, butter tubs, apple, and potato barrels, everything in fact, examine their condition, see if they are kept covered and clean, and that food put away, is not left to spoil, or be wasted.
THE FEWER SERVANTS THE BETTER--two requires a third to wait upon them, and so on ad infinitum. Have good servants however, pay good wages, and make them responsible for their work.
IF IT IS POSSIBLE, and when there is a will there is a way, call your household together, after breakfast every morning, and have domestic worship, be it ever so short. A verse of a hymn, a passage from the Bible, and just a few words of heartfelt prayer, and praise, sets everything right for the day, smooths ruffled tempers, and puts the domestic machine in nicely running order. It is also no bad preparation for the temptations and annoyances of business.
BEFORE SWEEPING a room, have the furniture, and especially all the small articles, dusted and removed. This keeps them looking fresh, and new.
WEAR PRETTY MORNING DRESSES; they are inexpensive, and easily preserved from injury, by a large calico apron enveloping the skirt of the dress, and sleeves of the same kind, gathered into a band, top, and bottom, and extending over the elbows. These can be slipped on and off in a minute, and with a bib added to the apron in front, affords complete protection, while engaged in dusting, making pastry, and the like.
ALWAYS HAVE YOUR TABLE served neatly, and then if friends "happen in," you will not be ashamed to ask them to share your meal. Be hospitable, if it is only a crust, and a cup of cold water; if it is clean and good of its kind, there is no reason to blush for it; the hearty welcome will make amends for the absence of rich viands.
IF CHILDREN WANT ANYTHING between meals, which they should not, give them a cracker, or an apple; do not encourage an irregular and unhealthy appetite, by giving them pie, cake, or ginger-bread.

The obvious choice for the recipe for the day is the buckwheat cakes from the book.

Buckwheat Cakes.
Take equal quantities of buckwheat, Indian meal and Graham flour, to make one quart, add half a cup of new yeast, a tea-spoonful of saleratus, a little salt and enough good milk, or luke warm water to make a thick batter. Set it near the fire to rise, and when risen, cook them in a well buttered griddle.

Quotation for the Day.

“That's a good girl. I find you are perfectly qualified for making converts, and so go help your mother to make the gooseberry-pie.”
 Oliver Goldsmith  (1730-1774)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kitchen Hints, Part 2.

Today I want to continue giving you some kitchen wisdom from old cookery books. The principles of saving fuel, money and time are timeless, and I am sure that the following advice is just as relevant today as when it was written. See if you agree.

From "Win the war" Cook Book (1918) published by St. Louis county unit, Woman's committee, Council of National Defense, here are a few ideas to save kitchen fuel.

Save Gas: Never leave burner lighted while preparing material - better to use an extra match.
When oven is used plan to bake at same time a roast, apples, potatoes and a pudding or cake.
The boiling point is 212 F. No amount of heat will make it higher. Notice this and turn flame accordingly.
There are three-cornered sauce pans: 3 vegetables or sauces may be cooked at one time.

And here is some further advice from: Jennie June's American Cookery Book (New York, 1870), by Jane Cunningham Croly.

Arrange work so as to save fuel as much as possible. Mix bread at night, so that it will be ready to bake with that "first fire" which always makes the oven hot in the morning. Prepare fruit over night, so that pies or other things can be quickly made and baked immediately after. Prepare hashes for breakfast, over night. Have the kitchen and dining room put in order before retiring to rest. Have kindlings and whatever is needed for building fires laid ready, and the fire in the kitchen raked down, so that it can be built up in the shortest possible space of time. This is not only a saving in the morning, but will be found useful in case of illness in the night, when a fire is often required at a moment's notice.
Try to buy in as large quantities as possible, so as to save the perpetual running out to the grocery. Supplies on hand also enable the housekeeper to provide a more varied table, with far greater economy than is possible where everything is bought by the half a pound, more or less.
Every family that can possibly find means to do it, or a place to properly keep the articles, should commence winter with fuel, potatoes, apples, flour, and butter, enough to last till Spring. A good supply of hominy, rice, farina, Indian meal, preserved fish, and other staples, including sugar, should also be laid in, not forgetting a box of raisins, one of currants, a third of soap, and a fourth of starch.
There is such an immense saving in soap well dried, that it is surprising so many housekeepers content themselves with buying it in damp bars. Starch also is frightfully wasted by quarter, and half pound purchases, which are frequently all absorbed at one time, by careless girls, in doing the washing for a small family.
Regularity is the pivot upon which all household management turns; where there is a lack of system there is a lack of comfort, that no amount of individual effort can supply. Forethought also is necessary, so that the work may be all arranged beforehand; done in its proper order, and at the right time. Never, except in cases of extreme emergency, allow Monday's washing to be put off till Tuesday; Tuesday's ironing till Wednesday, or Wednesday's finishing up and "setting to rights," till Thursday. Leave Thursday for extra work; or when that is not required, for resting day, or half holiday, and as a preparation for the up stairs' sweeping and dusting of Friday, and the downstairs' baking and scrubbing of Saturday.

As the recipe for the day, I give you a little something from Jennie June: 

Mock Duck.
Procure a steak cut from the rump of beef, and fill it with a dressing made of chopped bread, pork, sage, onions and sweet marjoram, and well-seasoned; sew it up, put a slice or two of pork, or some of the dressing, on the top, and set it in a pan, into which pour a pint of water; cover down tight, and let it cook slowly in the oven three hours; then take off the lid, brown quickly, and serve hot.

Quotation for the Day.

The object of cooking is to make food healthful, and palatable; the secret is therefore, how to combine elements and flavors, so as to produce the best results.
Jennie June's American Cookery Book.(1870)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kitchen Hints, Part 1.

This week (on Wednesday) I am off to England for a holiday, and to participate in the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery.  How lucky am I ?

My plan is to pre-post a story for every weekday while I am away, so, barring attack by the cyber-gremlins of the blogosphere, they will appear at the same time as usual. Those of you who like the stories delivered to your email box will get them too, although at fairly erratic hours, as I get opportunity to send them.

As is usual when a trip is imminent, I am firmly in the grip of the inevitable last-minute clearing of the decks, but before I go there is time to give you some ideas and kitchen wisdom from old cookery books.

If you have ever lost sleep wondering what you would do until the repair man came if your oven thermostat broke down, the advice below, from the era long before oven thermometers should give you an interim strategy. It is from the section on ‘Pastry’ from Culture and Cooking: or, Art in the Kitchen, (New York, 1881) by Catherine Owen.

The condition of the oven is a very important matter, and I cannot do better than transcribe the rules
given by Gouffe, by which you may test its fitness for any purpose :
Put half a sheet of writing paper in the oven; if it catches fire it is too hot; open the dampers and wait
ten minutes, when put in another piece of paper ; if it blackens it is still too hot. Ten minutes later put in a third piece; if it gets dark brown the oven is right for all small pastry. Called "dark brown paper heat." Light brown paper heat is suitable for vol-au-vents or fruit pies. Dark yellow paper heat for large pieces of pastry or meat pies, pound cake, bread, etc. Light yellow paper heat for sponge cake, meringues, etc.
To obtain these various degrees of heat, you try paper every ten minutes till the heat required for your purpose is attained. But remember that "light yellow" means the paper only tinged; "dark yellow," the paper the color of ordinary pine wood; "light brown" is only a shade darker, about the color of nice pie-crust, and dark brown a shade darker, by no means coffee color.

As the recipe for the day, from the same book, here is a good idea for your leftover pastry trimmings.

Pastry Tablets.
Cut strips of paste three inches and a half long, and an inch and a half wide, and as thick as a twenty -five cent piece; lay on half of them a thin filmy layer of jam or marmalade, not jelly; then on each lay a strip without jam, and bake in a quick oven. When the paste is well risen and brown, take them out, glaze them with white of egg, and sugar, and sprinkle chopped almonds over them; return to the oven till the glazing is set and the almonds just colored; serve them hot or cold on a napkin piled log- cabin fashion.

Quotation of the Day. 

Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards…therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate.
Grimod de la Reynière.