Friday, September 28, 2012

Dainty Dishes from War Meat.

When the US government decided to sell off a very large quantity of canned meat leftover from WWI  military supplies, it must have been a real challenge for the marketing department.  They rose to this challenge admirably, if we are to judge from the opening paragraphs of A dozen dainty recipes for preparing War department canned meats, by Mrs. Anna B. Scott (issued by the War Department, December, 1920.) Bear in mind that this meat must have been in the cans for several years before it was made available to be converted into dainty and tempting dishes.


War Department canned meats - corned beef, corned beef hash, roast beef, and bacon-are being offered to the American public by the Quartermaster Department at prices considerably below existing market quotations. These meats are not being retailed by the Government. For more than a year 77 Army quartermaster retail stores and branches sold them in small quantities across the counter. Recently, however, when the Army reorganization was accomplished and the needs of the few military forces definitely ascertained, several million dollars' worth were declared surplus, made available for sale, and offered to the public. Because of the large amount and the desire of the Secretary of War to throw all the force of the War Department into the campaign to reduce the cost of living, the meats were offered to the wholesale and retail trades at prices which will permit them to be resold at figures much below those obtaining elsewhere and still realize a reasonable profit.

There is no question as .to the high quality of War Department meats. Packed by the leading packing houses of North and South America, from the choicest cuts, they were prepared under special supervision, not only from the packers, but from the United States Government. The American Army, at home and abroad, found these meats in their daily rations. A healthier or brawnier set of men than those returning from overseas never has been seen, they thrived on War Department canned meats, often going for weeks with nothing to eat except these products. They tasted good in France. That same flavor, that same high nutritive value and quality is found in them to-day.


On the following pages will be found an even dozen of recipes selected from among a score of excellent ones which show the possibilities of these products. These meats should form a part of the menu in every home. They are much cheaper than other canned meats, although both were packed by the same packing house. They are nutritive and they are appetizing.
The War Department already has sold millions of dollars’ worth of these meats. Thousands of persons who have until now known canned meats only as a name recognize them as valuable additions to their daily rations.
If the dealers of the United States have not taken advantage of the War Department offerings, it is their own fault. The consuming public is urged to ask its dealers to lay in a supply of these meats as long as they last. If the dealer hasn't them, he can get them. Six Army supply bases, located in reasonable hauls of every section of the country, will accept orders for as little as $250 worth of meats. The War Department gives its guarantee to stand behind every can that is sold.
If the American public is desirous of reducing its cost of living it will avail itself of the opportunity offered by the Government. If the dealers in any locality have failed to place orders it is to the advantage of their patrons to insist that they do so.
War Department canned meats are tasty; they are nutritious; they are cheap. Serve them in your home; askfor them in cafes, restaurants, hotels, on dining cars, steamships, and wherever food is served. And ask for them by name: "WAR DEPARTMENT CANNED MEATS."

Here is the first recipe in the book:

2 cups canned roast beef.
2 cups cold boiled rice.
1 cup cream sauce.
1 teaspoon salt.
Pepper to taste.
I teaspoon grated nutmeg.
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley.
Breadcrumbs and one egg.
Put meat and rice through food chopper; add sauce and other ingredients; mix well; spread on plate; put in cold place. When cold and firm, take a tablespoon into floured hands and mold into cones or oblong shapes. After all are molded dip in well-beaten egg, which has been mixed with one tablespoon of milk; then in fine bread crumbs. Fry in very hot fat or cooking oil.
This recipe is sufficient for a family of four.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quick Coloured Sauces.

I have from time to time amused myself (and you, I hope) with the subject of coloured sauces. So far we have had green sauce, pink sauce and black sauce. I have been planning at some time to cover yellow and brown sauces, and any other colours I can find (blue sauce is proving elusive so far).

I will get around to those remaining colours, but in the meanwhile, there is a simple set of instructions for creating various colours from a basic sauce in Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book (Philadelphia, 1857), by Eliza Leslie.

For Pink Sauce. Take a few chips of red alkanet root, (to be had at the druggist's.) Pick it clean, and tie it in a very thin muslin bag. Put the alkanet into the mixture, and let it infuse in the boiling drawn butter. It will communicate a beautiful pink color, which you may heighten, by pressing the bag a little. When done, take out the bag, and stir the alkanet color evenly through the sauce. The alkanet has no taste, and is very cheap. Beet juice will color a tolerable red.
For Green Sauce.—Pound some fresh spinach leaves, till you extract a tea-cup or more of the clear green juice. Stir it into the melted butter while boiling.
For Yellow Sauce.—Tie up a very little turmeric powder in a muslin bag. Let it boil in the butter. When done, take it out of the sauce-pan, and stir the yellow coloring evenly through the sauce.
For White Sauce.—Make this with cream instead of milk.
For Brown Sauce.—Stir in plenty of French mustard.
For Wine Sauce.—Stir in, just before you take the sauce from the fire, a large wine-glass or more of very good white wine, and grate in half a large nutmeg, adding the grated yellow rind, and the juice of a lemon. The wine must be of excellent quality, otherwise it will give a bad taste to the sauce.

Miss Leslie’s basic sauces, to be coloured as you will, are butter sauces, and here are her instructions for them:
This is frequently called Drawn Butter. For this purpose none should be used but fresh butter of the very best quality. It is usually sent to table with boiled fish and boiled poultry. Also, with boiled mutton, lamb, and veal. It is never served up with anything roasted, fried or broiled. Numerous sauces are made with melted butter. If mixed with too much flour and water, and not enough of butter, it will be very poor, particularly if the water is in too large proportions. To prepare it properly, allow a quarter of a pound of nice butter, to a heaped table-spoonful of flour. Mix the butter  and flour thoroughly, before it goes on the fire. Then add to it four large tablespoonfuls of milk, or hot water, well mixed in. Hold it over the fire in a small sauce-pan, kept for the purpose. One lined with what is called porcelain or enamel is best. Take care there is no blaze where the saucepan is held. Cover it, and shake it over the fire till it boils. Then having skimmed it, add three or four hard-boiled eggs chopped small, and give it one more boil up; or season it with any other ingredient with which you wish to distinguish the Sauce.

For this purpose use none but the very best fresh butter, such as is made in summer, when the cows are well pastured. Cut up the butter, put it into an enameled or porcelain stew-pan, and melt it gently over a clear and moderate fire. When it simmers, skim it thoroughly, draw it from the fire, and let it stand five minutes, that the milk or sediment may sink to the bottom. Then pour it clear from the sediment through a muslin strainer, or a fine clean hair sieve. Transfer to jars with close covers, and keep them in a cool dry place. If well prepared, and originally very good, this butter will answer for sauces, stews, &c, and continue good a long time. In France, where they do not salt any butter, large quantities are melted in this way for winter use.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Holland Style.

I often get side-tracked chasing some intriguing but obscure old food word or reference, and forget that there are many well-known foods or recipes that I have not pursued for the purposes of a blog story.  Yesterday’s source,  The 3-6-5 cook book, for use 365 days in the year (1899), by Mary Shelley Pechin included a recipe (which I give you below) for Hollandaise Fritters. This got me thinking that I have not so far written about Hollandaise Sauce.

Hollandaise sauce is one of the classic five “mother sauces” of classic French cuisine. It is an emulsion made from butter, lemon juice, and egg, served warm (not hot or it splits or curdles.) Made well, it is rich and buttery, with a slight tang, and it is and it is essential to Eggs Benedict.

There are of course a number of theories and myths as to the origin of the style of sauce and the specific name. ‘Hollandaise’mean Holland-style or from Holland, and is commonly held to reference the rich buttery-ness of the sauce - Holland historically being famous for the quality of its dairy produce. It is generally also assumed to be French in origin, although various buttery sauces were in existence in Europe long before the classical French cuisine era. Other buttery sauces such as ‘Dutch Sauce’ and ‘Sauce d’Isigny are variations on the same theme, so the debate is as much about the name ‘Hollandaise’ as about the actual recipe.

As this is a blog post, not a thesis, I toss in a few random points to challenge the accepted ‘truth’ of Hollandaise sauce:

·         “Dutch sauce” was known in Britain in the second half of the sixteenth century.
·         Several buttery sauces appear in a seventeenth century Dutch cookbook (De Verstandige Kock )
·         According to the late, great Alan Davidson, there is mention of “sauce a la hollandoise” in Marin’s Dons de Comus (1758)

And now for our recipes. I have given you one version of Hollandaise sauce in a previous post (here), and give you another, for comparison:

Hollandaise Sauce.
For Meats.
One-fourth pound of butter; mix in this one teaspoonful of flour, and the yolks of three eggs well beaten, the
juice of one-half a lemon, a little grated nutmeg and one tablespoonful of water; mix together and stir constantly
over a slow fire. The sauce must not boil, or it will curdle, and be unfit for use.
The 3-6-5 cook book, for use 365 days in the year (1899), by Mary Shelley Pechin
And here is the fritter recipe which triggered the story:

Hollandaise Fritters.
Four cupfuls of cold, boiled rice; two eggs well beaten, one-half cupful of grated cheese, one tablespoonful of cream, a little salt and pepper. Mix well together and make into small flat cakes; have some hot fat in the pan, not a deep fat; brown the cakes in this, cooking slowly; turn and brown on the other side. Serve hot with either lamb chops or steak.
The 3-6-5 cook book, for use 365 days in the year (1899), by Mary Shelley Pechin
And for good measure, a Holland-style creamy eggy soup from one of England’s nineteenth century celebrity chefs:

Soup à la Hollandaise.
Peel three carrots, and an equal number of turnips and cucumbers; scoop these out into the shape of small olives, and, after blanching them, boil them in two quarts of good strong blond of veal; when the vegetables are done, remove the soup from the fire, and mix in with it a leason [liaison] of eight yolks of eggs, half a pint of cream, a pat of butter, and a little sugar; set the leason by stirring the soup over the fire, and then pour it into the soup-tureen, containing about half a pint of young peas boiled green, and an equal proportion of French-beans cut into diamonds, and serve.
The Modern Cook, (1846) by Charles Elme Francatelli

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

'Broken Victuals'

I remember as a child being sent to the local store to buy broken biscuits. They were dispensed from a large tin on the grocer’s counter, at a lower price per pound than the whole biscuits. When I came across the phrase ‘broken victuals’ recently, in my innocence I assumed it referred to something along the same lines. A little further reading, however, turned up a slightly different concept:

‘Some Footmen, without considering the number of persons to be at table, will pile up the basket with large pieces of bread, the half of which, perhaps, not being eaten, goes amongst what is called the "broken victuals," which the Cook may either with, or without, your permission, give to some poor person. That the poor should have the crumbs from your table, is very right; but it should always be by your express orders; for the term broken victuals is sometimes understood in so very comprehensive a sense, as to include cold meat, potatoes, greens, butter, bread, soap, and candles, which are conveyed out of the house once or twice in a week, to sell at shops where such articles are regularly purchased.’
The Home Book: Or, Young Housekeeper's Assistant, (1829) by ‘A Lady.’

This little piece of kitchen wisdom comes from one of the many nineteenth century manuals offering advice to the young newly married woman. It must have been a tense time for a girl groomed solely to find a husband, to return from the honeymoon to discover that she had to actually manage an entire household. The situation was full of traps for the new wife: willful and intimidating servants, unscrupulous tradesmen, dinner parties to plan, household account books to balance, and keeping the level of kitchen perquisites and broken victuals to a reasonable level.

The tradition of the scraps from the kitchen of a large wealthy household being given to the poor at the gate goes back to ancient times. There was sometimes even a separate cupboard – or room – allocated for the storage of these edible alms for the poor. The first source gave it the name almonarium – a word which the Oxford English Dictionary does not know, which is in itself interesting.

Another source defines almonarium as ‘a cupboard; an ambrey.’ The OED also knows ambrey as aumbrey – which may be:
-          A place for storing things, as a cupboard, locker, safe, press, etc.; a repository; (in later use) esp. a niche or recess in a wall used for storage. Formerly also (occas.): a storeroom or storehouse (obs.).
-          A place for storing food. Now rare (chiefly Sc. and Eng. regional (north.) in later use).Applied to various kinds of storage, as a pantry, store-cupboard, meat safe, etc.
-          Christian Church. A cupboard, locker, or recess in the wall of a church or church building, to hold books, communion vessels, vestments, etc.

Another definition appears in Specimens of Gothic Architecture selected from various ancient edifices in England (1829) by Augustus Charles Pugin

Almonarium, armarium, almeriola, Lat. Almoire, armoire, Fr. A cupboard, closet, or recess; so called from the hospitable old custom of setting aside cold or broken victuals in a particular place for alms to be given to the poor. The Ambrey, Aumbry, or Aumery, is still spoken of in the north of England.’

Naturally, I have to give you a recipe for leftovers today, and I have chosen something that would not have been be added to the broken victuals in the past, and would today be consigned to either the compost bin or rubbish bin – orange rinds. The recipe is from Left-over foods and how to use them, with suggestions regarding the preservation of foods in the home , (1910) published by the McCray Refrigerator Company in Kendallville, Indiana.
Firstly, the author’s philosophy of leftovers:

‘I cannot say that I altogether agree with the statement, "Scraps are accidents to be taken care of, no doubt, but the very last objects on which to bestow either expense or labor." The "scraps" or "left-over" bits of food that accumulate in the average household, are worthy of consideration and with little labor and expense are convertible into the most palatable viands.’

Candied Orange Peel
Save the left-over peel from four large thinned-skin oranges cut in quarters or halves. Cover with cold salted water, let stand overnight. In the morning drain and rinse thoroughly. Put peel in a sauce-pan and cover with cold water, bring to boiling point, let boil five minutes, pour off water and cover with fresh boiling water; repeat three times. Then add boiling water and let cook until tender. Drain and remove the white portion, using a teaspoon. Cut peel in narrow shreds, using the shears. Prepare a syrup of two cups sugar and one -half cup water, skim syrup if necessary, and let cook until it spins a thread when dropped from the tip of a wooden spoon. Simmer shreds of orange peel in syrup until they have absorbed nearly all
the syrup; then boil rapidly, stirring until each shred is well coated with sugar. Drain and coat with fine granulated sugar. Let dry in a warm oven. Then store in tin left over crystalized ginger or marshmallow boxes.

Amazing how a single random phrase can lead down such interesting linguistic and culinary paths, is it not?