Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Day with the Baron.

This is only the second Leap Year day post in the history of this blog. The last one, in 2008, the story was called ‘Bachelor Cooking’, so I was of a mind to make today’s story ‘Spinster Cooking’, but I dislike the word (although I have no objection to the state), which is a perfectly good justification for me to reject the story idea. Anyway, I couldn’t find any ‘Spinster Soup’, or ‘Spinster Cake’ recipes – and I have already told you about ‘Old Maid Pie’ in a previous post.

Almost all of the menu-a-day cookery books which have been published since the early nineteenth century forget entirely the poor folk who have a birthday or some other anniversary on February 29th (I am thinking of my brother and sister-in-law whose wedding anniversary it is today.)

One author who did not forget was the French aristocrat-turned-food columnist, the Baron Brisse, who wrote 366 Menus and 1200 Recipes of the Baron Brisse, in 1868. The menu indicates that the date was a fast day in that year. I give you the dinner menu for the day and a recipe from the English translation of 1896.

Purée of green peas and rice.
Cod à la Hollandaise.
Pickled cabbage and oysters.
Vegetable salad with smoked salmon.

Blanc-mange of almonds.
Blanch one pound of sweet almonds and half an ounce of bitter almonds, soak in cold water, so as to make them perfectly white, pound in a mortar and moisten gradually with two pints of milk, squeeze through a cloth into a bowl. Dissolve two ounces of gelatine and three quarters of a pound of sugar in a pint and a half of water, when cold add to the milk of almonds, flavour with a little orange-flower water, pour into a mould, and place in the refrigerator for two hours, by which time it will have set.

Quotation for the Day.

In cookery, above all things, “Nothing can come of nothing.”
Baron Brisse.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be-basted, Be-sauced, and Be-garnished.

Laugh if you will, my ‘desert-island’ book would be the Oxford English Dictionary – unless that would be disallowed on account of it actually consisting of twenty large volumes (at least, I think this is the number, if anyone buys the paper version anymore.) There is everything you would ever want to think about in the OED, including a great deal of culinary information.

I came across the word ‘be-basted’ some time ago – I have no idea where, it was too long ago and I did not, or was not able at the time, to note the reference. The unreferenced word came unbidden into my mind recently, and caused me to look it up. I half expected not to find it in the OED, but there it was:

bebaste v. Obs. (with a cudgel or with gravy).
1582    R. Stanyhurst tr. Virgil First Foure Books Ǣneis iii. 52   With larding smearye bebasted.
1620    S. Rowlands Night-raven 29   Tom with his cudgell well bebasts his bones

I understand that in some kitchens there may be an occasional be-basting of the cudgel variety directed towards fumbling apprentices, or at the behest of the producers of infotainment TV cooking-shows, but it is the culinary technique that interests me here. What other colourful cooking terms with the prefix be- might have been lost to our kitchen vocabulary, I wondered?

The OED does not attempt to list all of the derivative words, which it admits are ‘practically unlimited in number’, but it does note that the original meaning was ‘about.’ A few which it does include and which do fit today’s criterion are:

becrust, begarnish, besauce, besugar, beginger, besaffron, bebrine.

Several other derivatives, which do not have a culinary use as far as the OED knows, but certainly could be appropriated for that use are:  

becurse, becut, bedamp, befinger, bemingle, bemix, bequirtle (besprinkle), bethwack, beclamour, becrushed, beflap (clap), beshake, beshrivelled, bestock, besweeten, becrave, befuddle (to fuddle with drinking), behusband (to economize to the full).

All of which put me in mind of a couple of lists in Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook (1664) which I have been looking for an excuse to give you for some time, and which will serve as our recipes for the day. Here are some ideas for bebreading (not in the OED but perhaps should be) and bebasting your meat while it is roasting:

Divers ways of breading or dredging of Meats and Fowl.
1. Grated bread and flower.
2. Grated bread, and sweet herbs minced, and dried, or beat to powder, mixed with the bread.
3. Lemon in powder, or orange peel mixt with bread and flower, minced small or in powder.
4. Cinamon, bread, flour, sugar made fine or in powder.
5. Grated bread, Fennil seed, coriander-seed, cinamon, and sugar.
6. For pigs, grated bread, flour, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, sugar; but first baste it with the jucye of lemons, or oranges, and the yolks of eggs.
7. Bread, sugar, and salt mixed together.

Divers Bastings for roast Meats.
1. Fresh butter.
2. Clarified suet.
3. Claret wine, with a bundle of sage, rosemary, tyme, and parsley, baste the mutton with these herbs and wine.
4. Water and salt.
5. Cream and melted butter, thus flay’d pigs commonly.
6. Yolks of eggs, juyce of oranges and biskets, the meat being almost rosted, comfits for some fine large fowls, as a peacock, bustard, or turkey.

Quotation for the Day.

A cook, when I dine, seems to me a divine being, who from the depths of his kitchen rules the human race. One considers him as a minister of heaven, because his kitchen is a temple, in which his ovens are the altar.
Marc-Antoine Madelaine Désaugiers (1772-1827)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wives, Herbs, and Beer.

In the days long, long, before the existence of agri-business and hyper-markets, food production and retail was often carried out by individuals on a very small and narrow scale. In those same days, employment options for women were very limited. One could sell one’s body, of course, or one could sell ... something else.

At that time also, the word ‘woman’ did not necessarily imply marital status, it simply meant an adult female, although with clear implications of lower societal rank – in other words, not a ‘lady.’ In compound form the word also came to refer to women engaged in the sale of some commodity’ (OED). Hence, one would buy the indicated product from an ale-wife, apple-wife, fish-wife, gingerbread-wife, milk-wife, oyster-wife, strawberry-wife, tripe-wife and so on.

Such gender-specific retail titles are non-existent nowadays, for pretty obvious reasons, but if there was to be a modern example -given the popularity of their product - perhaps it would be ‘cupcake-wife’?  We would of course, in these politically-correct days, also have to have cupcake-husbands too. Bring them on, I say.

Let us focus on the wares of the herb-wife today. As with ‘woman’, the usage of the word ‘herb’ has changed over time. Today, most of us, when we think of herbs, think instantly of green leafy plants used for their fragrance and flavour in cooking, or perhaps of their perceived medicinal value. Certainly in the past, in many of the references to ‘herb-wives’ there is an implied knowledge of herbal lore, and they would probably be called herbalists today.

We don’t generally refer to ‘pot-herbs’ nowadays, but these include ‘any plant having leaves that are cooked and eaten as a vegetable’ (OED). The OED is not quite inclusive enough here as pot-herbs also included many roots – which do not fit into the modern vision of herbs.

Common-usage is not the same as botanical definition however, and in botanical terms, a herb is a plant which does not have a persistent woody stem above ground, but which dies down after flowering (although it might regenerate from the root another year or few.) According to this definition, the banana is a herb, as is rhubarb.

For the recipe of the day, I give you an interesting idea from an interesting source. Cookbooks, newspaper columns, and magazines are not the only place to find recipes, you know. The recipe is for a ‘herb beer’, and it was supplied by a correspondent to The Christian Pioneer, (1856) edited  by J.F. Winks.

I Presume, Mr. Editor, that you will let us write about anything that is likely to be good for either the bodies or souls of our fellow-creatures. I noticed, with pleasure, what you told us about the roots of that troublesome weed called twitch being used to make paper, and it reminded me of another use that may be made of it. But I will tell you how I heard of this.

I was one day attending some religious meetings at a village in Nottinghamshire, and after they were ended, I called at a friend's house on my way to the station. Being thirsty, as well as weary, I asked, for he was a shop-keeper, if he had any "Ginger Beer," or "Imperial Pop." His wife replied that they had not, but she could give me some "Twitch Beer," which was quite harmless, and would do just as well or better. I tasted it and found it very agreeable, without, I believe, any intoxicating qualities. This led me to make further inquiries, and my friends told me that it was strongly recommended for its medicinal virtues, especially in healing the lungs ot young persons liable to consumption. My friend afterwards sent me directions how to make it. I copy his note:—

"As you have written to know how we make our herb beer, I send the receipt with pleasure. To make one gallon of it, take a double handful of Twitch, one handful of Cumfrey, one handful of Gill.* Wash them well in cold water, then boil altogether twenty minutes. Afterwards take them out and strain them. Then put the liquor in the pot again, with one ounce of ginger and one pound of sugar, and boil it ten minutes. Then let it stand till nearly cold, and add two table-spoonsful of barm. Let it stand about twelve hours, and then put in a quarter of an ounce of cream of tartar. Stir it up well, and put it in bottles and let it finish working. You may drink it any time of the day."

I only add, that one day, passing through a field, I examined a root of twitch to discover, if I could, its properties; and I found that inside it was glutinous or starchy, and therefore adapted to make pulp for paper, or a nourishing drink. I have said what I have with a good intent; and if these things be correct, then we shall again lind that there are many things all around us which we have regarded as curses—and this twitch was one—but which if we only knew their true properties would be found blessings. I am
*Is not this Ground Ivy?

I have done a little investigating of this plant called ‘twitch.’ The Oxford English Dictionary says it is an altered form of ‘quitch,’ or couch-grass (Triticum repens,) which is a nuisance weed, a medicine for bladder problems, or a popular lawn material, depending on your personal perspective. A cold beer being the traditional reward for the (at least) once-weekly chore of mowing your lawn on a ferociously hot summer day here in Queensland, this all suggests a rather interesting recycling idea for your lawn clippings, don’t you think?

[Please note: I do not suggest you actually make this recipe: comfrey is now known to be quite poisonous.]

Quotation for the Day.

A handsome pie was placed before him ... to illustrate the old saying ‘A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the more you beat 'em the better they be.’
Flora Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford.

Friday, February 24, 2012

More on Lunchboxes.

The problem of how to carry your lunch to work or school just keeps on getting easier and better, doesn’t it? There is a more efficient, more adaptable, more environmentally friendly, more colourful set of choices than there has ever been in the past. ‘Greenies’ can have stainless steel boxes instead of plastic, or washable sandwich bags; Mums in hot climates can pack a freezer brick or frozen drink in with the kids sandwiches for a more pleasant, cooling, and safe lunchtime experience – and box itself can be decorated with the superhero or cartoon character de jour (which makes the marketing people happy too). Your lunch container may have a matching drink bottle, or neat little bits of cutlery which fit into the lid, or a tiny container for salad dressing, or separate compartments for various items – which is handy for keeping the beetroot from staining your hard-boiled egg, or the egg yolk sticking to your chocolate biscuits.

It seems that ever since man (or his wife) first wrapped his hunk of roasted mammoth in a big leaf before sending him off to hunt the next beast, we have been on the search for the perfect solution to the portable meal problem. We have featured several different sorts of lunch containers in the past; a home-made one, one for automobile trips, and the sort used for the first airline meals. Literature gives us many clues as to how the problem has been solved in the past. I give you two mentions from the nineteenth century.

At eleven o'clock, Abasis rode up with his tin lunch-box, to supply each of us
with bread, cold fowl, or a hard egg, and a precious orange. ...
Eastern Life, Harriet Martineau, 1848

Elliott had a lunch-box on his back, and Dot her reticule strapped on hers, while Hal was obliged to be content with an atlas to do duty as a knapsack.
Harper's Mag. Feb. 1862

The mid-nineteenth century seems to have been the boom-time for lunchbox inventors, and in America a number of patents were issued in the 1860’s for a variety improvements in meal containers, and the ‘all-in-one’ utensils idea was clearly already popular by this time.  

Patent No. 34,243 for an ‘Improved Lunch Box’ was granted on January 28, 1862 to Ransom Cook, of Saratoga Springs, NY. His application summarised his idea: “This invention consists of an arrangement of dishes, cups, &c., arranged within a case for the use of travellers, laborers from home, and others.”

It is no use having an efficient AND beautiful lunchbox without having something nice to put in it however, is there? I give you an idea from the New York Times, of October 23, 1944 from a selection of ‘Recipes for Home-Made Breads that Lend Interest to Any Type of Meal.’ It seems like a nice take on a staple – and could easily be adapted to be gluten-free too, by simply substituting a GF version for the small amount of flour.

Fluffy Corn Bread Loaf.
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs
½ teaspoon baking powder.
Mix together well corn meal, flour, salt, and sugar. Add shortening and boiling water, stirring until shortening is melted and the mixture is blended. Separate the eggs. Stir in the yolks that have been beaten well. Beat the whites until stiff and add the baking powder to them. Fold into corn meal mixture. Pour into well-greased loaf pan. Bake in hot oven (400 degrees F) twenty to twenty-five minutes. Makes one small loaf.

Quotation for the Day.

If God had intended a round of golf to take more than three hours, He would not have invented Sunday lunch.
Jimmy Hill.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The “Hell Sauce”?

I am fascinated by the many variations on the theme of 'devils'- that savoury, spicy-hot type of dish much beloved of Victorian Englishmen. Some years ago, on the now defunct companion site to The Old Foodie, I gave the inimitable William Kitchiner's thoughts on the topic, as revealed in his book The Cook’s Oracle, (1845). I give them to you again, as a preface to my most recent devilish find.

Every man must have experienced that – when he has got deep into his third bottle – his palate acquires a degree of torpidity, and his stomach is siezed with a certain craving, which seems to demand a stimulant to the powers of both. The provocatives used on such occasions, an ungrateful world has combined to term devils.

The diables au feu d’enfer, or dry devils, are usually composed of the broiled legs and gizzards of poultry, fish-bones, or biscuits; and if pungency alone can justify their appellation, never was the title better deserved, for they are usually prepared without any other attention than to make them “hot as their native element” and any one that can swallow them without tears in his eyes, neeed be under no apprehension of the pains of futurity. It is true, they answer the purpose of exciting thirst; but they excoriate the palate, vitiate its nicer powers of discrimination, and pall the relish for the high flavour of good wine; In short, no man should venture upon them whose throat is not paved with mosaic, unless they be seasoned by a cook who can poise the pepper-box with as even a hand as a judge should the scales of justice.

It would be an insult to the understanding of our readers, to suppose them ignorant of the usual mode of treating common devils; but we shall make no apology for not giving the most minute instructions for the preparation of a gentler stimulant, which, besides, possesses this advantage – that it may be all done at the table, either by yourself, or at least under your own immediate inspection.

Mix equal parts of fine salt, Cayenne pepper, and curry-powder, with double the quantity of powder of truffles; dissect, secundum arlem, a brace of wood-cocks rather under-roasted, split the heads, sub-divide the winges, &c. &c., and powder the whole gently over with the mixture; crush the trail and brains along with the yolk of a hard-boiled egg, a small portion of pounded mace, the grated peel of half a lemon, and half a spoonful of soy, until the ingredients be brought to the consistence of a fine paste; then add a table-spoonful of catchup, a full wine-glass of Madeira, and the juice of two Seville oranges; throw this sauce, along with the birds, into a silver stew-dish, to be heated with spirits of wine, stirring, until the flesh has imbibed the greater part of the liquid. When you have reason to suppose it is completely saturated, pour in a small quantity of salad oil stir all once more well together, put out the light, and then ! – serve it round instantly; for it is scarcely necessary to say, that a devil should not only be hot in itself, but eaten hot.

There is however, one precaution to be used in eating it, to which we most earnestly recommend the most particular attention, and for want of which, more than one accident has occurred. It is not, as some people might suppose – to avoid eating too much of it – for that your neighbours will take good care to prevent; but it is this: - in order to pick the bones, you must necessarily take some portion of it with your fingers; and as they thereby become impregnated with its flavour, if you afterwards chance to let them touch your tongue – you will infallibly lick them to the bone, if you do not swallow them entire.

Now to my 'find of the week'.
Sauce d’Enfer, or Hell-sauce.
Boil Hogs feet in good Broth, and when they are boiled take them out and broil them upon the Gridiron; this done, cut your Hogs feet into good handsom pieces, and lay them in a Dish, and put green Sauce over them. Or if you will, after they are broiled, take Onions minced very small, put them into a Dish, and set them a stewing with some Verjuice; and when they are stewed put some Mustard to it, then take Sheeps feet cut in pieces into a Dish, but very hot, put in at the same instant some burning Charcoal a top of the Sheep’s feet, and then put the Hogs feet on top of that, with their sharp Sauce with them: And serve this at the entry of the Table, or as an Entermesse.
A Perfect School of Instructions for The Officers Of The Mouth (1682)

I am much intrigued by this recipe, which seems to be in the style of modern, twenty-first century celebrity chefs wishing to give their guests a total sensory and symbolic experience. It appears that the sheeps' feet (are they raw, and it is the dish which is hot?) are part of the fuel for the dish, as the burning charcoal is placed directly on top of them. It seems to be understood that the hogs' feet and sauce remain in their dish and this is then placed on the charcoal. This would presumably provide the hot, smoky, burning, hellish appearance and smell, while avoiding charring the carefully cooked and sauced hogs'feet beyond the point of edibility.

Quotation of the Day.

I have trouble with toast. Toast is very difficult. You have to watch it all the time or it burns up.
Julia Child.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Variations on a Theme of Stuffed Apples.

Today I offer you a small collection of recipes for stuffed and baked apples. No commentary, except to suggest, as I have done in the past, that every ‘new’ recipe is merely a small or large spin on a pre-existing idea.

Firstly, a sweet version of the baked apple which is almost a confection, hailing from early in the nineteenth century:

Compote de Pommes farcies.
Stuffed Apples.
Are done as the white compote, if you chuse to stuff them with the same marmalade; otherwise boil apples pretty much gored, with a little water, sugar clarified, and bits of lemon peel: when done tender, stuff the apples with apricot marmalade, or any other sort; sift and reduce the syrup to a jelly, let it cool on a plate, and just warm it when you want to garnish the apples with it.
The Professed Cook (1812), by B. Clermont.

Now a savoury version which uses up leftover cold meat, and proves (if it needs proving) that the apple is an amazingly adaptable culinary ingredient.

Pommes Farcies.
Take some large apples, pare them, and from the stalk end cut out a good deal of the insides without cutting the fruit through; fill the orifice of each apple with a mince-meat of cold roast goose, duck, or even pork, well seasoned with the best white pepper and a little sage; put the stuffed apples into a baking dish, with a bit of butter under each, and bake for half an hour in a gay oven, basting them as they require it. Grate a little toasted bread over them before serving.
How to cook apples: shown in a hundred different ways of dressing that fruit (1865), by Georgiana Hill

A very simple version - but with a glamorous presentation:

Stuffed Apples.
A more showy dish is made by coring (with a corer) the whole pared apples, stuffing them with sugar and stewed raisins, and baking them quickly in the same way [in a hot oven, as per the previous recipe]. Pile them up before serving, en pyramide, and they will be an ornament fit for any table.
The Rural Carolinian, Volume 1 (1870)

And here is an interesting idea for ginger-lovers and peanut butter addicts:

Peanut Butter Stuffed Apples.
6 cooking apples
1 dozen gingersnaps, crumbled
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Wash and core apples and peel two thirds of the way down. Blend the gingersnap crumbs with the peanut butter and stuff the centres of the apples. Simmer the sugar and water together for five minutes and pour over the apples which have been placed in a 2-quart glass baking dish. Bake covered in a moderate oven (300 degrees F) until tender. Uncover till brown.
Washington Post; September 3 1935

Finally, a dish with a misleading name but which turns out to be stuffed apples nonetheless. Another savoury side-dish idea with a rather unusual combination of flavours.

Curried Apples.
Take medium sized tart apples - or any good baking apples - and prepare as you would for baking, peeling about one third of the way down, leaving enough of the skin at the bottom to keep the apples from falling apart when cooked. Mix together 1 cup breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup grated American cheese, 1/2 teaspoonful curry powder, a pinch of salt and enough cream to moisten. Fill the apples with the mixture and cover the top with grated cheese and bake until the apples are done, but not too soft. Brown under the flame and serve with turkey, duck, or any kind of meat.
Washington Post Nov 20 1925 

Quotation for the Day.

All millionaires love a baked apple.
                       Ronald Fairbank, Vainglory

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pith Puddings.

There is an old saying about the Chinese that they eat every part of the duck except the quack. This is laudable, I think, in all the ways we are told it matters. It means no waste, for starters. Once upon a time the Western world had the same attitude to waste – especially in the case of expensive animal protein. There are recipes in old cookery books for roast udder, for blood pie, calves’ feet, pigs face and cock’s combs – amongst other delicacies – but they would be hard to find in a modern book.

On re-thinking, we probably still eat all those things, as well as meat mechanically removed from carcasses (much more efficient than the boning knife) - but they are nicely disguised in sausages and luncheon meats and so on. I guess the difference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ is an aesthetic one.
It may be that we don’t eat the pith of animals now, on account of mad-cow disease. The pith is the spinal cord. Assume it is disease free. Fancy a little pith pudding?

To make a Pith Pudding.
Take a quantity of the pith of an ox, and let it lie all night in water to soak out the blood; the next morning strip it out of the skin, and beat it with the back of a spoon in orange-water till it is as fine as pap; then take three pints of thick cream, and boil in it two or three blades of mace, a nutmeg quartered, a stick of cinnamon; then take half a pound of the best Jordan almonds, blanched in cold water, then beat them with a little of the cream, and as it dries put in more cream; and when they are all beaten, strain the cream from them to the pith; then take the yolks of ten eggs, the white of but two, beat them very well, and put them to the ingredients: take a spoonful of grated bread, or Naples biscuit, mingle all these together, with half a pound of fine sugar, and the marrow of four large bones, and a little salt; fill them in a small ox or hog's guts, or bake in a dish, with a puff-pafte under it, and round the edges.
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Hannah Glasse (1784)

Quotation for the Day.

When it comes to Chinese food I have always operated under the policy that the less known about the preparation the better. ...  A wise diner who is invited to visit the kitchen replies by saying, as politely as possible, that he has a pressing engagement elsewhere.
Calvin Trillin.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cinnamon Day.

If I were forced to choose only one spice, I would find the decision almost impossible. I might change my choice later today, or tomorrow, but right this minute my choice would be cinnamon. I think I would choose it on the basis of its fragrance alone. Or maybe on account of its incredible versatility.

Cinnamon is the inner bark of an evergreen tree from the Laurel family, Cinnamomum zeylanicum. It has been known to humans for millennia, and is one of the spices mentioned in the Old Testament. Details of the early history are lost in those famous Mists of Antiquity, but experts seem to agree that it is native to Sri Lanka. Many millennia of use by humans, and the universal appeal of its flavour and aroma, have resulted in a generous legacy of recipes - both sweet and savoury - for cinnamon.

Perhaps I would choose cinnamon on account of cinnamon toast, which is ‘buttered toast spread with a mix of sugar and cinnamon.’ This is the definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary, and with which I agree. I am a little surprised however, that the earliest date of reference to ‘cinnamon toast’ given in the OED is in 1927.

Pushing his plate of cinnamon toast to one side, he jotted them down on the back of an envelope.
M. de la Roche Jalna ix. 103  (1927)

I feel sure that cinnamon toast must have been around long before the 1920’s, given the great creativity which the British in particular give to variations on the theme of toast (a number of which have featured in previous blog posts), and the universal popularity of the sweet spice. I am adding to my list of mini-projects a search for earlier mentions of the little treat, and hope you will join me in this little research adventure.

Now for the recipe for the day. I am one whom, when it comes to spices, does not believe in a minimalist approach. I am prone to doubling the quantity of my favourites, and to hell with the instructions of the original recipe writer. I have chosen for you today two recipes in which the spice of the day is unequivocally the star.
Cinnamon Bread.
On a bread- baking day (having made more than your usual quantity of wheat bread,) when the dough has risen quite light, and is cracked all over the surface, take out as much as will weigh two pounds. Mix into it a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, that has been cut up and melted in half a pint of milk; and also three beaten eggs. Incorporate the butter milk, and eggs thoroughly with the dough, and then add ( dissolved in a little tepid water) a salt- spoonful (not more) of soda. Have ready mixed in a bowl a pint of brown sugar, moistened with fresh butter, so as to make a stiff paste, and flavor it with
two heaped table-spoonfuls of powdered cinnamon. Form the cake into the shape of a round loaf, and make deep incisions or cuts all over its surface; filling them with the cinnamon mixture pressed hard into thee cuts, pinching and closing the dough over them with your thumb and finger to prevent the seasoning running out. Put the loaf into a round pan, and set it into the oven to bake with the other bread. When cool, glaze it over with white of egg, in which some powdered sugar has been dissolved. Send it to table whole in form, but cut in loose slices. Eat it fresh, all yeast cakes become dry and hard the next day.
Miss Leslie's New Cookbook (1857)

Cinnamon Pie.
One pound of brown sugar, two ounces of cinnamon, a half cupful butter; divide in three parts; mix two eggs and one and a half cupfuls milk together; for the crust take four cupfuls flour, one and half cupfuls lard or butter, two heaping teaspoonfuls baking powder, and salt to taste; mix with milk sufficient to make a soft dough; divide in three parts and roll thin. Put one layer of crust in a deep pie dish and cover it with sugar, then cinnamon, and small pieces of butter, then wet with the mixture of milk and egg, saving enough for the other two parts; lay the second and third crusts on and do the same as with the first; there should be no crust on top. Bake in a quick oven.
New York Times, December 31, 1876
Quotation for the Day.

While he forth from his closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon.
John Keats.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quince Time.

In one of the cookery books referred to earlier in the week - Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide (Boston, 1908) – I spotted a recipe for quince sauce, and was immediately reminded of an absolutely delicious-sounding medieval sauce which also contains quinces. The two sauces could not be more different, but such is the way the mind works when it is in random mode. I would like to honour the quince today by sharing those recipes with you.

First, let us remember that the quince is ‘The fruit of the tree Cydonia oblonga,  a golden yellow, typically pear-shaped pome with many-seeded cells, which is hard-fleshed and astringent when raw but aromatic and deep orange in colour when cooked’ (OED). It is native to the Caucasus region – the place where Europe and Asia meet – and has been known, loved, and cultivated since ancient times. Some scholars believe that it was the quince, not the apple, which tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden – a theory that makes sense, the apple being a temperate climate fruit, and all the biblical action presumably taking place in the Middle East or thereabouts.

It may well have been the ancient Greeks who discovered the magic that ensues when the hard, astringent fruit is cooked in honey and becomes transformed into something utterly delicious, sweet and fragrant. To the Greeks, the quince symbolised fertility and was dedicated to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The reputation of the quince as an aphrodisiac persisted for centuries, and one of my favourite historical recipes containing quinces is for a sixteenth century Tarte To Provoke Courage In A Man Or Woman – ‘courage’ at the time meaning ‘lust’.

The most enduring way of using quinces however is as a conserve. Indeed, the original marmalade was made with quinces, not citrus. Samuel Pepys, the seventeenth century diarist noted his wife’s efforts to make Marmalett of Quinces.

It would be tedious to list all of the recipes here on the blog which contain quinces, but I will give you of a few of my favourites:

A seventeenth century pippin (apple) pie which also included quince and orengado.
A QuinceSyrup from the 1870s
A fourteenth century German recipe for chicken with pears or quinces.
Apple butter– a wonderful variation which includes a proportion of quinces.
And the recipe which wins the prize for the most appealing name – a Quidinia of Quinces.

Now, to the sauces.

First, a recipe from the Forme of Cury (1390s). It is one of the earliest ‘named’ sauces, but sadly I don’t think we will ever know if it is named for a particular ‘madam’ or in honour of the generic Lady of the House. I would be delighted to hear from any medieval scholars who have ideas. The sauce contains spices, various herbs, several different fruits, and garlic, and was intended to be served with goose.

Sawse Madame.
 Take sawge. persel. ysope. and saueray. quinces. and peeres, garlek and Grapes. and fylle the gees þerwith. and sowe the hole þat no grece come out. and roost hem wel. and kepe the grece þat fallith þerof. take galytyne and grece and do in a possynet, whan the gees buth rosted ynowh; take an smyte hem on pecys. and þat tat is withinne and do it in a possynet and put þerinne wyne if it be to thyk. do þerto powdour of galyngale. powdour douce and salt and boyle the sawse and dresse þe Gees in disshes and lay þe sowe onoward.

Which means, more or less:

Take sage, parsley, hyssop and savory, quinces and pears, garlic and grapes, and stuff the geese with it and sew the hole [so] that no grease comes out. Roast [the geese] well and save the grease that drips from it. Take galentine and grease and do it [cook it] in a small pot. When the geese are roasted enough, take them off [the spit] and cut them in pieces, and take what is in it [the stuffing] and put this in a small pot. Add wine if it is too thick. Add powder of galingale, sweet spices, and salt. Boil the sauce, and dress the geese in dishes and lay the sauce on it.
And now for something completely different – an unequivocally sweet pudding sauce from six hundred years later.

Quince Sauce.
One cupful of quince preserve, one of milk, one tablespoonful of corn-starch, half a cupful of sugar. Mix the corn-starch with a little of the cold milk, and put the remainder in the double boiler. When it boils, stir in the corn-starch, and cook ten minutes; then add the sugar and the preserve, mashed fine. Cook ten minutes longer and rub through a strainer. This sauce is usually served cold, but when used with hot pudding, it too should be hot.
Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide (Boston, 1908)

Enjoy your next batch of quinces!

Quotation for the Day.

Each tree
  Laden with fairest fruit, that hung to th' eye
    Tempting, stirr'd in me sudden appetite
      To pluck and eat.
John Milton, Paradise Lost
         (bk. VIII, l. 30)