Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Potatoes for Family Uses.

The discussion about the poisonousness, or otherwise, of the potato “fruit” goes on in the background, and I will keep you informed. The potato was treated with great suspicion in Britain and Europe when it was first introduced from the New World. In addition to the general suspicion of any new food, it was feared as being poisonous (probably because it is from the ‘Deadly Nightshade” family), as causing leprosy (probably because it was white,) and as being an aphrodisiac (probably because the fertile peasants used it) and also as inherently evil (because it was not mentioned in the Bible.) It was over two hundred years before it began to be taken seriously in the Old World as a useful, nutritious, and delicious food.

One of the earliest to write about the culture and day-to-day use of the potato (which he calls the Earth-Apple) was our old friend, William Ellis, who gave it a significant amount of space in The Modern Husbandman, Vol. III, (the months of July, August and September) published in 1744. Ellis’ belief in the nutritional value of the potato (and of vegetables in general) and the consequences of a diet prominent in meat is remarkably up-to-date, and his range of recipe-ideas for them is extraordinary for the time.

The different Way of Dressing and preparing Potatoes for Family Uses.
IT is now become common, even among Quality, to make Use of this Earth-apple as a Supper-food great Part of the Winter-season, by roasting them in Embers, and eating them with Butter and Salt, in the Manner a boiled Egg is; and this, because of the light Nature of its Food, and the contrary Quality it has to the Breeding of the Scurvy, which causes it to induce Repose much better than the saline, scorbutic, heavy Nature of Flesh. And so careful are many of the knowing Sort of Persons at this Time, that, out of their paternal Affection to the future Health of their Childrens Bodies, they hinder them as much as they well can from eating Flesh at any Time, and, instead thereof, encourage them to the feeding on Vegetables, and particularly and most of all on the Potatoe. Accordingly, if this Oeconomy was more observed among all Sorts of Persons, there would not be such a diseased Progeny, as are commonly brought into the World by the hereditary Distempers of their Epicurean Parents; yet so fond are some of the Ignorant of Flesh-Diet, that I have known a Person to enjoy it in its full Extent, and never eat Bread with it. Another, whose Function I ought and do conceal, would constantly spoon up the Gravy of Meat where Decency did not hinder him ; but he dearly paid for this Epicurean Fancy, for he became so afflicted with the Gout, that one of his Intimates told him he ought to be constituted President of the Gouty Fraternity. There are many other Ways of preparing Potatoes for Eating besides roasting them in Embers, or boiling them, and eating them with melted Butter, as I am going to shew. .
A Second Way of preparing and dressing Potatoes. When Potatoes are to be boiled, put them into a Pot of cold Water, and allow them enough of it, else they will crack and let in the Water to the Loss of their best Taste; and for this Purpose Spring-water exceeds all others, as performing it in the best Manner, provided the Potatoes are nor boiled too furious in it, for a quick Fire is very apt to break them, before they are boiled enough. In my travelling between Bristol and Bridgwater, I put up at a lone House, where, asking what I and my Man could have to eat, the Woman told me, she had nothing but Bacon and Potatoes. I was surprised to hear of such a Dish at that Time of the Year, being the Month of June, for, in Hertfordshire and many other Countries, they have no Notion of eating them in the Summer-time, because they have not Skill enough to preserve them good all the While; but this Woman did, and her Way of doing it was this: Near Lady Day [March 25], she said she dug up all her Potatoes, when they appeared a little sprouted; upon which she immediately washed them, dried them, and packed them up in a square Heap on a wooden Floor along the Sides of the Walls about the Room, where the Fire she usually made for her daily Purposes very much contributed to their Preservation, though they lay two Feet high and two Feet broad; here they grew a little afterwards, but not so much, but that they eat very well, according to the Woman's Character of them, who told me beforehand, they would eat the more mellow, lighter, and sweeter for being thus sprouted; and, that they might answer the better, she fell to paring them directly, before she put them into the Pot; and I must needs say the Bacon and Potatoes, as she ordered them, proved a pleasant Dinner. But what I am here farther to remark is, that in these Parts they are such Lovers of Potatoes, that they employ their greatest Care in their Propagation and Preservation; insomuch that at Stoke-Market, in Somersetshire, on the sixteenth Day of June, 1737, they were sold for three Shillings a Bushel, and, there and at Bristol, they enjoyed them till near Michaelmas. An Example, I should think, sufficient to encourage the universal Planting and Preserving of this excellent Root, since, by this Precedent and what I have wrote, it plainly appears, that Potatoes may be enjoyed as Meat or Sauce all the Year. Others say, that, if Potatoes are peeled or pared like a Turnep, before they are boiled, it will make them taste watery and insipid; but, if some Salt and beaten Spice be first put into the Water, it will give them an agreeable Relish, provided they be eaten directly.
A Third Way. Others, when they are boiled, have a Sauce ready to put over them, made with Butter, Salt, and Pepperothers use Gravy Sauce, others Ketchup, some eat them boiled with only Pepper and Salt, others cut the large ones in Slices, and fry them with Onions, or stew them with Salt, Pepper, and Ale, or Water.
A Fourth Way: It is also a very common Way to boil them first, then peel them and lay them in the Dripping-pan under roasting Meat.
A Fifth Way, as I remember, the Welch follow very much, in Caermarthenshire in particular; they bake them with Herrings mixed with Layers of Salt, Pepper, Vinegar, sweet Herbs, and Water. Also they cut Mutton in Slices, and lay them in a Pan, and on them Potatoes and Spice, then another Layer of all the fame with half a Pint of Water; this they stew, covering all in the Time with Cloths round the Cover of the Stew-pan, and account it excellent Victuals.
A Sixth Way. The Irish have several Ways of eating them. The poorer Sort are often glad to eat them with only Salt, after they are boiled, others with Butter and Salt, but most of all with Milk and Sugar as the most delicious and most common Way of all others; and so when they can get a Piece of Pork, Bacon, or salt Beef, they account it an excellent Dish with their boiled Potatoes.
A Seventh Way, is to mash boiled Potatoes and then put them into Bacon or Pork-Broth, with Pepper, Spice, and sweet Herbs, and they will make a Soup like Pease-soup.
An Eighth Way, is to mash boiled Potatoes as fine as can be done; this with Spice, sweet Herbs dried, and beaten small, and mixed with Butter and Salt, makes a delicate Pudding for Rabbits, Hires, Fawns, Jacks, or Mullets, in the cheapest Manner that can well be; I mean, by putting and sowing it up in their Bellies, for being roasted in them.
A Ninth Way, is to mash them after the Potatoes are boiled, and then with a Mixture of other Ingredients, they will make a Composition for. Skin
A Tenth Way. Potatoes, boiled, pulped, and mixed with Milk and Salt into a Dough, will make Cakes, if baked.
Potatoe Bread. This Root has often been employed, like the Turnep, towards making Loaves of Bread in the scarce Times of Corn. Take as much boiled Pulp of Potatoes, as Wheaten Flour, Weight for Weight, and knead them together as common Dough is done for Bread.
Potatoe Pudding. Boil, peel, and beat them to a Mash in a Mortar. Take three Pounds of this Pulp, and add to it one Pound of Butter, whole Oatmeal, Currants, six Eggs, and Pepper, and Salt, and grated Nutmeg, and beat all well together in the Mortar for Boiling or Baking; when it is done, make a Hole in the Middle at Top, and pour in melted Butter. Another says, Add to the Pulp of Potatoes a fourth Part Weight of Marrow [bone marrow, not the vegetable marrow], and season all with Orange-juice, and Orange-flour Water, beaten Spice, and Rose-water; lay this in a prepared Paste in a Dish, and bake it in a gentle Oven; when ready, pour some sweetened Cream over it—Or, mix Potatoe-pulp with Apples chopped small, Cream, and Loafsugar, Powder of Cinnamon and Cloves; put all into a Paste and bake it in a slow Oven. Or, mix Potatoe-pulp with fat Bacon, finely cut, Oatmeal whole, Currants, Pepper, and Salt, which bake in a Pan. To fry Potatoes. When they are boiled and sliced, have Yolks of Eggs ready beaten up with a grated Nutmeg or two. When the Pan is hot you must dip them into the Yolks of Eggs and charge your Pan; when they are fried on both Sides, pour over your Layer of Butter, Vinegar, Sugar, and Rose-water.
Potato Fritters. Boil and then mix the Pulp with Milk, Clover, Cinnamon, and Loaf-sugar powdered. To this Batter add shredded Apples, and fry them like others, in Hogs-lard.—Or, to make them in a seasoned Way,- put to the Pulp Cream, and mix Pepper and Salt and Currants with them for a Batter, or, if you think fit, chopped Beef sewet may be added.
Potatoe Pye. Boil Potatoes (not too much) cut them forth in Slices as thick as your Thumb, season them with Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ginger, and Sugaryour Coffin being ready, put them in over the Bottom; add to them the Marrow of two or three Bones, seasoned as aforesaid, a Handful of stoned Raisins of the Sun, Dates, Orangado, Citron, with Ringo-roots [Eringo-roots] sliced, put Butter over it, and bake them; Let their Layer [Lear] be a little Vinegar, Sack, and Sugar, beaten up with the Yolk of an Egg, and a little drawn Butter; when your Pye is enough, pour it in, shake it together, scrape on Sugar, garnish it, and serve it up.
The Farmers Way of Dressing them. Our common Way of dressing Potatoes is, to boil them, peel them, and slice them; when this is done, we put them into a Dish with boiled Salt-fish, or with a Piece of Bacon, or with pickled Pork, or with powdered Beef, or under a Shoulder or Leg of Mutton; in short, this is the best Root in the World for supplying the Place of Bread and Meat, because it is nourishing, pleasant, and cloying, and thus they will very much lessen the Charge of Flesh; so that the Farmer who does not furnish himself every Year by a Plantation of Potatoes, I am sure, is not his own Friend.

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