Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Use and Meaning of Sauce, 1588.

I suggested yesterday that I might not have exhausted the food-story possibilities of our source for the day – The academy of armory, … (1588)  by Randle Holme. The brief extract given below provides an interesting insight into the concept of sauces in the sixteenth century.

Sauces of all sorts, and of what Compounded.
Also Sauces of all sorts, and for most Dish-meats of Flesh, Fish, or Fowle, are by the Cooks Art compounded of these ingredients.
Fatnings, as Butter, Gravey, Hogs-Grease, Sewet, Marrow, Lard.
Liquids, as Muskadine, Sack, Claret, White-wine, Sider, Vergis, Vineger, Aliger, Cream, Milk, Sallet Oyle, Pickles of several pickled things, Water, Jellies of several sorts, Strong-Broth.
Thickenings, as Eggs, Bread or Sops, Biskets, Onions, Leeks, Chibals, Garlick, Artichoke bottoms, Sweet herbs chopped, Asperagus, Skerrets, Parsnips, Turnips, Green Pease, Colliflowers, Apples, Samphir, Anchovie, Blood, Capers, Olins, Mustard.
Sweetnings, as Sugar, Cinamon, Cloves, Mace, Peper, Nutmeg, Salt, Goosberries, Barberries, Grapes, Raisins, Currans, Plums, Dates, Oranges and Lemons and them candiet, Mellatcattons.
It is an easie thing to be a famous Cook, when he flows [?] all things to his desire; but he is the best Cook that shews his Art with small cost, and little expence of Fire.

So, in the sixteenth century, ‘sauce’ included vegetable sides or garnishes. The word ‘sauce’ is based, like the word ‘salad’, on the Latin word ‘salsa’ - which references ‘salt,’ but the specific meaning of the word has changed over time, as words do, and as The Oxford English Dictionary definition indicates:

“Any preparation, usually liquid or soft, and often consisting of several ingredients, intended to be eaten as an appetizing accompaniment to some article of food. Formerly occas. applied to a condiment of any kind [since 14th C.]”

There is another interesting little angle to this word-evolution story. Early English colonists to the Americas took with them their word ‘sauce’ for vegetables, and as so often happens with words, this usage persisted in the new country after it had virtually died out in the old. In some parts of the USA until well into the nineteeth century, (and perhaps even still?) one could order side dishes of ‘long sauce’ (carrots, parsnips, beets), or ‘short sauce’ (potatoes, turnips, onions.) The OED acknowledges this usage, too:

"Chiefly U.S. Vegetables or fruits, fresh or preserved, taken as part of a meal, or as a relish. Often = Salad."

As the recipe for the day, I give you something to assist you your sauce-making in the Fatnings category.

The keeping of Lard after my Lady Marquesse Dorsets way.
Take a fat hog and salt him, and when he is through cold, quarter him, and take all the bones and flesh from the fat: and then take the fat of the said hog, and couch it in fayre dry white salt, and so keepe it two or three dayes: then change it again into faire drie white salt, everue thirde or fourth day, and at the fourteen daies end, take faire cold water and white salt and make a very strong brine, so that your brine be made so strong that it will beare an egg almost cleane above the brine, and put it in a faire close vessel: then take the said Lard and lay it in the said brine, so that the brine cover it over: so change it into new brine every fourteen daies, for the space of [three letter word here] weeks, and after that it needeth not to be changed. But the brine may not be made of wel[l] water.
The good Huswives handmaid, for Cookerie in her Kitchin (1597)

Now that recipe would fit nicely in our collection of ‘Extreme Kitchen DIY’ recipes, wouldn’t it? I will try to find another version of the text, and clarify the blurred, but vital word for the number of weeks that the lard must be brined.

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