Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Blacksmith in the Kitchen

I have just spent a week in the Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby. There is a pub just outside the town called The Stiddy. I love English pub names, specially those I dont understand. It turns out that a 'stiddy' is a blacksmith's forge, or perhaps more specifically, the blacksmith's anvil.

Indulge me in a whim, if you will. One of the little things I amuse myself with from time to time of the idea of three degrees of separation between food and pretty well anything else. I did not have to go far to find a connection between the blacksmith and the cook - and I wanted a closer connection than the obvious one of the smithy's usefulness in making cauldrons and fire-irons and the like.

As motivation for not positioning your kitchen too far from the blacksmith, I give several handy hints and recipes. Firstly, from The Practice of Cookery: Adapted to the Business of Every Day Life (1830) by Mrs. Dalgairns:-

Sheep's Head Broth.

After having the sheep's head and trotters singed, which is done with a red-hot iron, (the head and trotters are usually sent for this purpose to a blacksmith's forge,) split the head, and take out the brain, which is not used, cut out the white of the eye, and rub the head and feet well over with it; let them lie for two hours, then wash them very well in lukewarm water, and rinse them thoroughly. Cut out the tough membrane from between the toes, and lay them in cold water for two hours. Put on two gallons of water, and three quarters of a pound of Scotch barley ; when it boils put in the head, trotters, and neck of the sheep, of carrots and turnips, a quart; when cut down in dice, add a little salt, cover the pot closely, and let it boil four hours; take off the scum as it rises; put in some chopped onions about an hour before serving. Boil some whole carrots and turnips, or cut them in half, to put round the head, trotters, and neck in the dish. In summer, green peas are a great improvement to this broth.

And secondly, a suggestion from The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1774), by Hannah Glasse which will surely save wear and tear on your kitchen bench:-


Are very different from those before mentioned; they being dried in the frost without salt, are in their kind very insipid, and are only eatable by the ingredients that make them so, and the art of cookery: they should be first beat with a sledgehammer on an iron anvil, or on a very solid smooth oaken block; and when reduced almost to atoms, the skin and bones taken away, and the remainder of the fish steeped in milk and warm water until very soft; then strained out, and put into a soup dish with new milk, powdered cinnamon, mace, and nutmeg; the chief part cinnamon; a paste round the edge of the dish, and put in a temperate oven to simmer for about an hour, and then served up in place of pudding.

N.B. The Italians eat the skin boiled, either hot or cold, and most usually with oil and vinegar, preferring the skin to the body of the fish.

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