Thursday, June 14, 2012

Green Sauce.

The how and why of recipe-naming is a constant source of blog-post material for me, and to judge by the emails and comments I get, I think it is interesting to many of you, too. We have puzzled over and laughed over the names of many dishes, but a too-simple name merely introduces another sort of mystery.

A short while ago we considered a number of variations of ‘black sauce.’ Today I want to look at ‘green sauce.’ In food terms, ‘green’ used to mean ‘fresh’ or ‘young’, as in green cheese and green goose. In sauces, it can mean almost anything, but in any given era or locality the diners would most likely know what to expect.

Let us start with the concept of green sauce in Ancient Rome. I have given this recipe before, but it is useful to repeat it here for completeness. It is from the Vehling translation of Apicius’Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome:

Green Sauce for Fowl.
Pepper, Caraway, Indian Spikenard, Cumin, Bay Leaves, all kinds of green herbs, Dates, Honey, Vinegar, Wine, Little Broth, and oil.

And as an example of ‘green’ meaning young, below is a recipe from La Varenne’s The French Cook, 1653. I have no idea what colour this sauce would actually turn out to be, not having tried to make it. I would love to hear from any of you who have experimented with the recipe.

Green-sauce is made thus; Take some green corn [i.e wheat], burn a tost of bread, with vinegar, a little peper and salt, and stamp it all together in a mortar, and strain it through a linen cloath, then serve your sauce under your meat.

Hannah Glasse goes all green (colour) in her sauce for green goose. From her famous book The Art of Cookery (1784) we have:

Green Sauce …. Is made thus: take half a pint of the juice of sorrel, if no sorrel, spinach juice: have ready a cullis of veal broth, about half a pint, some sugar, the juice of an orange or lemon; boil it up for five or six minutes, then put your sorrel juice in, and just boil it up. Be careful to keep stirring it all the time, or it will curdle; then put it in your boat.

 And another couple of indisputably green-coloured sauces from The Professed Cook (1812) by B. Clermont.

Sauce Verte.
Green Sauce.
Take chervil, parsley, Tarragon, and burnet; wash all well; squeeze out the water, and pound them very fine; then put it on the fire with good consomme; sift it in a stamine with expression, and add butter rolled in flour, pepper and salt; simmer it without boiling.

Sauce Verte d'une autre Facon.
Green Sauce of another Kind.
Scald a handful of spinach for half an hour, with parsley and tops of green shallots; then take all out, squeeze it well, and pound it very fine; put into a stew-pan a few mushrooms, sliced onions, two cloves of garlick, two or three Tarragon leaves, one of laurel, a little basil, two cloves, a little butter, two spoonsful of cullis, and as much white wine; boil it a moment, then add your green sauce, and sift it in a stamine; add pepper and salt, and simmer it without boiling.

Finally, a ‘green sauce’ sauce from Dr William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle (1845)

Green Mint Sauce.
Wash half a handful of nice young fresh-gathered Green Mint, (to this add one-third the quantity of Parsley,) pick the leaves from the stalks, mince them very fine, and put them into a sauceboat, with a teaspoonful of moist Sugar, and four tablespoonsful of Vinegar.
Obs. – This is the usual accompaniment to Hot Lamb; - and an equally agreeable relish to Cold Lamb.

I hope there is a green sauce here for everyone, but please do add any others that you find, or like.

Quotation for the Day

The difference between good and bad cookery can scarcely be more strikingly shown than in the manner in which sauces are prepared and served. If well made....they prove that both skill and taste have been exerted in its arrangements. When coarsely or carelessly prepared....they greatly discredit the cook.
Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845)


Les said...

These green sauces look good. For me green sauce is the green chili based sauce served with enchiladas suizas. I've never understood why they are called suiza though.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Les, I hope a few others chime in with their idea of green sauce too. We will have a nice collection in that case!