Friday, August 30, 2013

The English-Bulgarian Aubergine.

I cannot move on from the eggplant story which has occupied the last few days without a British episode. The British, it seems, were later in taking up the eggplant than were Americans.

The preferred name in Britain for the fruit-vegetable is the French aubergine, and interestingly, the dark purplish colour called by this name was popular long before recipes for the real thing began to appear regularly in newspapers and cookbooks.

Smatterings of recipes appear for the eggplant/aubergine in British newspapers of the 1950’s and ‘60s, but I hit the jackpot in The Times of May 04, 1959 with a feature which showed the British interpretation of Bulgarian cuisine. I am is the short introduction, a recipe for Aubergine Pie, and my choice of two more of the recipes included in the article:-

During a recent stay with a cousin from Sofia I noticed the infinite pains she took in preparing vegetables the Bulgarian way. Meat or cheese were important components in her many delicious luncheon dishes, but the subtle flavour of the vegetable was never swamped.
With essential ingredients such as aubergines and green peppers now so readily available, these recipes will be found interesting and different.

6 large aubergines
2 tablespoons corn oil
½ teaspoon chopped parsley
Good pinch black pepper
4 eggs
2 tablespoonfuls bread crumbs
1 lb raw minced beef
1 onion sliced
½ teaspoonful salt
4 tablespoonfuls flour
Char three of the aubergines under a fierce grill. When one side is tender, turn and grill again. Split the skins and scrape out the pulp with a silver spoon. Fry the onion quickly in the oil until golden, add the parsley, minced beef, grilled aubergine pulp, salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes stirring constantly.
Peel the other three aubergines, and slice. Beat two of the eggs, dip the aubergine slices into the flour, then into the beaten egg. Fry in hot oil.
Line a casserole with a layer of fried aubergine slices, cover with the meat mixture, and top with the remaining aubergine slices. Beat the remaining eggs with more salt, and pour over the whole. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, and bake in a moderate oven for one hour.

8 peppers (green)
½ lb raw minced beef
2 large tomatoes chopped
Good pinch salt
2 oz raw rice
½ teaspoonful chopped parsley
1 teaspoonful sugar
Good pinch black pepper
Cut around the stem of the peppers and remove the centre and seeds. Combine the minced beef, rice, tomatoes, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper, and half fill the green peppers.
2 onions sliced
3 tablespoonfuls corn oil
½ pint water
½ teaspoonful salt
¼ teaspoonful paprika
2 eggs
3 tomatoes chopped
½ teaspoonful chopped parsly
½ gill vinegar
Good pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
Fry the onions gently in the oil until golden; add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, water and vinegar and cook gently for 10 minutes.
Put the filled green peppers in a casserole, pour the tomato sauce over, and bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes. Lift the peppers gently out of their sauce. Beat the eggs, and pour the hot tomato sauce on to the eggs before beating vigorously.
Replace the peppers in the casserole, pour the tomato-egg sauce over them and return to the oven for the sauce to set – 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

3 lb. of leeks
1 tablespoonful corn oil.
½ teaspoonful salt
4 tablespoonfuls flour
½ lb raw minced beef
1 egg
Good pinch of black pepper
Wash the leeks and cut away most of the green leaves. Boil the leeks in a little salt water until tender. Drain, squeeze, dry and chop. Add the minced beef, oil, salt, pepper, and egg. Shape into oval cutlets, dust with flour, and fry in hot oil.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Nineteenth Century Eggplant.

The story of the eggplant which we began yesterday, seems worthy of continuing for a little longer – a hundred years longer, perhaps?

In the first half of the nineteenth century the fruit (botanically it is a fruit) was little used in England and America. A century later it had found a regular place in cookery books in America, with Britain appearing to be lagging behind.

From Directions for cookery, in its various branches, (Philadelphia, 1840) by Eliza Leslie:

Stewed Egg Plant.
The purple egg plants are better than the white ones. Put them whole into a pot with plenty of water, and simmer them till quite tender. Then take them out, drain them, and (having peeled off the skins) cut them up, and mash them smooth in a deep dish. Mix with them some grated bread, some powdered sweet marjoram, and a large piece of butter, adding a few pounded cloves. Grate a layer of bread over the top, and put the dish into the oven and brown it. You must send it to table in the same dish.
Egg plant is sometimes eaten at dinner, but generally at breakfast.

To Fry Egg Plant.
Do not pare your egg plants if they are to be fried, but slice them about half an inch thick, and lay them an hour or two in salt and water to remove their strong taste, which to most persons is very unpleasant. Then take them out, wipe them, and season them with pepper only. Beat some yolk of egg; and in another dish grate a sufficiency of bread-crumbs. Have ready in a frying-pan some lard and batter mixed, and make it boil. Then dip each slice of egg plant first in the egg, and then in the crumbs, till both sides are well covered ; and fry them brown, taking care to have them done all through, as the least rawness renders them very unpalatable.

Stuffed Egg Plants.
Parboil them to take off their bitterness. Then slit each one down the side, and extract the seeds. Have ready a stuffing made of grated breadcrumbs, butter, minced sweet herbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and beaten yolk of egg. Fill with it the cavity from whence you took the seeds, and bake the egg plants in a Dutch oven. Serve them up with a made gravy poured into the dish.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mad Apples, How to Use.

A few days ago I gave you the early eighteenth century view of Polenta from Botanologia, the English herbal, or, History of plants (1710) by William Salmon. This marvelous source is going to start off the story for today too.
Some years ago (March 2009, to be exact) I wrote a post called “Not Apples.” The title referenced “Mad Apples” and “Love Apples” but focused on the latter. It is time to add to the story. As I am sure that you all know, Love Apples are tomatoes. Let me remind you of Mad Apples. From that previous post:

As for the eggplant, the name Mad-Apple comes by way of a double mistranslation. The Italian melanzana was heard as mala insana, and this was then translated to ‘mad apple’, which is a truly wonderful true explanation. The eggplant is also sometimes called Brown-Jolly in older English texts. This is a misinterpretation of brinjal, the ‘Indian’ name for Solanum melongena, vatimgana, al-badinjan, aubergine, badingan, melongena, berenjena, alberg√≠nia, Guinea squash, …

The author of Botanologia begins with a definition of the plant, and I give you part of this below. He also includes, as was usual for the time, a great deal of information and advice on the medicinal virtues of the plant (and was particularly concerned about its “inciting to Venery.”) I refer you to the full text (Thankyou Google Books!) if you are interested in this aspect of the eggplant/aubergine, as I have not transcribed it here. The plant and its fruit were a curiosity in England at the time, and the author gives some space over to its culinary uses – which is, of course, my main interest – and the relevant paragraph is therefore given in full.

Of Mad Apples.
I. The Names. This plant has no known Greek name … but to supply the place, we may call it …. In Latin, … Pl. Mala insans ; in English, … Mad Apples.
II. The Kinds. There are three Kinds, 1. The Syrian. 2. The European. 3. The Ethiopian, of which we shall say nothing in this Work. …
X. The Apples. They are boiled in Fat Broth, or rather in Water and Vinegar, and so eaten, being served up with Oil, Vinegar, Pepper, and Salt, and this at Genoua is a great Dish. Fuchsius says, there is a superabundant coldness and moisture in them, as there is in Cucumbers and Mushrooms, but the beauty of the Fruit, and the wonderful delight they give to the Palate, also their inciting to Venery, (which most Windy things, as these are, do) are the great Motives which intice to the eating of them: Wherefore in Italy, and other hot Countries, where they come to their full Maturity, and proper Relish, they eat them with more Desire and Relish than we do Cucumbers, and therefore Prepare and Dress them in divers manners; some eat them raw, as we do Cucumbers; some Roast them under the Embers; some first Boil them, then Pare and Slice them, ans o eat them as first related; some strew Flower [flour] over them and Fry them with Oil or Butter, and serve them to the Table with Pepper and Salt; and some keep them in Pickle, to spend in Winter and next Spring.

The eggplant was still a curiosity in English gardens when The Gardeners Dictionary, by Philip Miller, was published in 1754. The author gives it the name “Melongena. Mad Apple.” He gives more insights into the names of the plant , its medicinal properties, and its method of preparation for food.

Of late, some persons who were ignorant of the true Name of this Plant, have given it that of the Eggplant, from a Resemblance which some of these Fruit bear to Eggs, but this is confusing People.
These Plants are greatly cultivated in the Gardens of Italy, Spain, and Barbary; in which Places the Inhabitants eat the Fruit of them boil'd with fat Flesh, putting thereto some scrap'd Cheese, which they preserve in Vinegar, Honey, or salt Pickle, all Winter, to provoke a venereal Appetite : but in Summer, when the Fruit is just ripe, they usually gather them, and make them up into Puddens with several Sorts of Spices, and other Ingredients: which Dish the Italians are very fond of.
The Italians call this Fruit Melanzana, from the antient Latin Name of Mala insana; by which it is by many Authors stiled. The Turks call it Badanjan , and in some English Books it is titled Brevun Jains, probably from a Corruption of the Turkish Name. By some it has been called Brown Jolly, and Barm Jelly, from the same Corruption. …. These Plants are only preserved as Curiosities in the English Gardens, the Fruit being never us'd in this Country, except by some Italians or Spaniards, who have been accustom'd to eat of them in their own Countries.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Choosing the Right Gravy.

The first recipe I give you today caught my eye a few weeks ago, and I have been waiting for the opportunity to share it with you. Those of you who are regular readers will know that one of my passions (both historical and actual) – is gravy. I make no apologies for this.

Please enjoy a selection of my favourites. I am sure some of them will turn out to be yours.

Gravy-Bread For Invalids.
Cut deeply into a joint of beef, or leg of mutton, while roasting; fill the opening with a thick slice of crumb of bread, and leave it there for half an hour, or till completely saturated with the gravy; then sprinkle upon it a little salt, with or without pepper, as is recommended, and serve hot.
The English cookery book, receipts collected by a committee of ladies,
and ed. by J. H. Walsh (1859)

Shalot Gravy.
Peel and slice six shalots, and put them in a small stewpan with a wineglassful of vinegar, pepper, and salt, and boil this for six minutes; then add a gill of brown gravy, and boil again for other six minutes; strain through a sieve, and use this gravy for broiled cutlets and other broiled meats.
The Cook's Guide, and Housekeeper's & Butler's Assistant (1867)
by Charles Elme Francatelli, 1867

Jus des Rognons, or, Kidney Gravy.
Strip the skin and take the fat from three fresh mutton kidneys, slice and flour them; melt two ounces of butter in a deep saucepan, and put in the kidneys, with an onion cut small, and a teaspoonful of fine herbs stripped from the stalks. Keep these well shaken over a clear fire until nearly all the moisture is dried up; then pour in a pint of boiling water, add half a teaspoonful of salt, and a little cayenne or common pepper, and let the gravy boil gently for an hour and a half, or longer, if it be not thick and rich. Strain it through a fine sieve, and take off the fat. Spice or catsup may be added at pleasure.
Mutton kidneys, 3; butter, 2 oz.; onion, 1; fine herbs, 1 teaspoonful : 1 hour. Water, 1 pint; salt, 1 teaspoonful; little cayenne, or black pepper : 1 hour.
Obs. —This is an excellent cheap gravy for haricots, curries, or hashes of mutton; it may be much improved by the addition of two or three eschalots, and a small bit or two of lean meat.
Modern Cookery, for Private Families, (1860) by Eliza Acton.

Liver Gravy.
Put the neck, liver, gizzard, and heart of a turkey or fowl into rather more than an half pint of cold water, with half a slice of toast, and a little lemon thyme, and savory. When the liver is quite tender, take it out and pound it in a mortar; let the rest stew till reduced to about one half. Strain off, put in a spoonful of mushroom catsup, and the pounded liver, well mix, strain, add a bit of butter rolled in flour, and simmer for ten minutes. If too thick, add a little boiling water, and simmer a few minutes.
Take My Advice: A Window Into the Social and Domestic Life of the Victorians,
by Charles Edward Buck, circa 1875

And my personal favorite:

Gravy to make mutton eat like venison.
Pick a very stale woodcock or snipe, cut it in pieces (but first take out the bag from the entrails), and simmer with as much unseasoned meat-gravy as you will want. Strain it, and serve in the dish.

A New System of Domestic Cookery: Formed Upon Principles of Economy and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, (1824) by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ancient and Modern Polenta.

Today’s offering is an interesting perspective on the Northern Italian staple of polenta – the yellow stuff which we all know and love, made from maize. It is made from maize, isn’t it? The story comes from an early eighteenth century text: Botanologia, the English herbal, or, History of plants (1710) by William Salmon.

XVI. Polenta. This the Ancients made variously: Pliny lib. 18. chap. 7. Says that the Greeks made it of Green Barly taken out of the Ear before it was fully ripe, steeped in Water, then beaten in a Mortar, after washed in Baskets, to free it from the Husks, so dried in the Sun, and afterwards steeped and beaten again, till it was thoroughly cleansed, which being dried was ground small: of this they took xx. pounds, and added thereto, Lin-seed, Coriander-seed of each j. pound: Salt ij. ounces: these last things well beaten together were mixed with the Barly, and so prepared for use. II. Other Grecians, says Pliny, Made it of Barly steeped for a Night in Water, and Husked by beating in a Mortar, after dried, and so parched or fried it the next day, and then ground it to Meal, to make Bread, Cakes, Puddings, or Broath of. III. The Italians Made it of Parched Barly, without any moistening, ground small; to xx. pounds of which they added Millet-seed win Pounder iij. Pounds, Salt ij ounces and a half, and them mixt them all together. IV. Galen Commends it to be Made of Fresh Barly, not full out ripe or hardned, and before the Beard was white, or quite dry, and then indifferently parched, and reduced to Flower, adding nothing else to it. Many nations used this Polenta instead of Bread, and the Cypriots, tho’ they had Wheat growing with them, yet mostly eat this. It drys and astringes more than Barly it self, binding the Belly and stopping fluxes, being drunk with Alicant, or red Wine: drunk with Water, it quenches thirst, and allays Inflamations of the Throat or Lungs. It was often eaten mixed with new Wine, or boiled up with Wine, and so eaten as every one liked best.
XVII. Maza. This is only Polenta, or the Flower of Parched Barly, moistned with some kind of Liquor, as every one liked best: some with Water, some with Water and Oil Olive, some with sweet Wine, some with Wine and Oil, and some mixed it with Honey, as Hesychius, Hippocrates and Galen declare: but Galen says that Maza, is hard of Digestion, and generates Wind: if it is well moistned with Water, sweet Wine, or Oil, and Honey also is added to it, the sooner passes off.

There are some interesting ideas for serving polenta in this piece, but it seemed like a cop-out to make them stand for the recipe of the day, so here are a couple of “real” recipes, from Murray's modern cookery book. Modern domestic cookery, by a lady (1851)

Polenta Pudding.
Mix ½ lb. of polenta (or maize flour) with  ½  pint of milk; let it boil till it thickens; put into it 1 oz. of butter, a little salt, and cayenne pepper; bake it gently for 1½ hour. Turn it out of the dish when served. This pudding is very good with meat.

Sweet Polenta Pudding.
Mix the polenta as in the foregoing receipt: when it boils, add 1 oz. of butter, 1 lb. of moist sugar, the same of sultana raisins, the grated rind of a lemon, and 1 oz. of candied orange-peel sliced very finely; mix the whole well together, and bake it 1 ½ hour. The great recommendation of this pudding is the absence of eggs, which are not required with polenta. 
A cheap pudding may be made by adding 2 tablespoonfuls of treacle to the polenta instead of the raisins, sugar, and candied peel.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Articles of Food from Celery.

Convenience for the cook, the potential to enjoy out-of season flavour,  and the opportunity for commercial exploitation of a well-known crop – powerful motivators for entrepreneurs of all persuasions, are they not?

In 1874, William Ziegleb and John H. Seal obtained U.S. Patent No. 146,629 for their “Improvement in Articles of Food from Celery.” Their patent application describes their idea and their method:

The object of our invention is to supply the public with an acceptable and economical preparation of celery, whereby its delicate and agreeable flavor may be preserved in a suitable and convenient form for use in food, as a flavoring or relish, which constitutes a new manufacture.
The celery-plant, in its green state, is found in ditches throughout Europe, but, in its wild condition, is rank, coarse, and even poisonous; but, by cultivation, it becomes sweet, crisp, and juicy, embodying a flavor which is almost universally approved. It is grown only in portions of the United States. Owing to its perishable nature, the vegetable is not procurable in all seasons of the year, and is, therefore, only accessible to those living in such sections of the country in which it is cultivated.
Our invention, therefore, consists in gathering this green vegetable from its best sources in seasonable portions of the year, and preparing it for commerce in a more economical, convenient, healthful, and portable form, and by which it is preserved ready for use in all seasons of the year, in all sections of the country.
Among the advantages attained by our process may be mentioned that, by utilizing all and every part of the plant, its stalks, roots, or bulbs, &c., we are enabled to produce a flavor equal in strength and quality at a much reduced cost to the consumer.
Another superior advantage possessed by this preparation consists in the fact that it has a wider adaptation for use in food than the green vegetable, and maybe used for many domestic purposes where it is impracticable to use the unprepared article. For instance, the prepared article is at all times convenient to be sprinkled upon, and the flavor at once imparted to, any kind of cooked or uncooked solid or liquid food, such as meats, cold meats, oysters, soups, gravies, &c., and, by being taken into the stomach in this form, is without any of the injurious results which often follow the use of the green vegetable on account of its indigestibility when the stalks have become too ripe or stale in the markets.
The process which we have successfully employed is as follows: The stalks, stems, seeds, roots, or bulbs of the celery-plant are first cleaned by hand or suitable machinery, removing all sand and dirt. We next desiccate by drying on the floor of a kiln, or in a drying-room heated by steam-pipes or other suitable means, at a temperature of from 140° - 160° Fahrenheit. We then grind them in a suitable mill, reducing them to a flour or fine powder. We use the stalks, stems, seeds, roots, or bulbs either separately or mixed together, as may be cheapest or best suited to the particular result desired.
We have three modes of putting it up ready for use. The first mode is to put up the clear powdered celery in suitable bottles, cans, or other packages. Our second mode is to mix it, in the proper proportions, either with salt, pepper, starch, or any other suitable wholesome substance which may serve to preserve it, and render suited to the different purposes for which it may be required. Our third mode is to make a solution by mixing the celery in the powdered form, as above described, with vinegar or other liquids, and, by the addition of pepper, salt, and other suitable substances, in such proportions as will render it palatable and suited to the different tastes of the public, to form a celery sauce, which we preserve by sealing hermetically in bottles or cans.
Having thus described our process, we desire to state that we do not confine ourselves to any positive or definite mode of putting up the celery for edible purposes.
What we claim, and desire to secure by Letters Patent, is—
Celery stalks, stems, seeds, roots, or bulbs, powdered, or in any manner disintegrated, dissolved, or prepared, either in their natural state or mixed with salt, or any other edible substance suitable for the purposes set forth, and put up in cruets, bottles, or other packages for convenience of the consumer and the trade, as a new commercial article.

Recipes for celery powder (made from the whole plant) seem to be a bit scarce, but there are plenty for celery seed powder – including this interesting version of pea soup.

Pea Soup
Soak two quarts of dried or split peas over night; in the morning, take three pounds of the lean of fresh beef, and a pound of bacon or pickled pork; cut them into pieces, and put them into a large soup pot with the peas (which must first be well drained), and a tablespoonful of dried mint rubbed to powder; add five quarts of water, and boil the soup gently for three hours, skimming it well, and then put in four heads of celery cut small, or two table-spoonfuls of powdered celery-seed. It must be boiled until the peas are dissolved. Serve with toast.

Godey's Magazine, Volumes 58-59, (1859)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stuffed Raisins and Fried Lemons.

Even in my most enthusiastic cooking moments, and in spite of how delicious they sound, I cannot imagine slicing open some good raisins, sandwiching them together with a mixture of herbs, and frying them.

These intriguing treats are called ‘dropt razins’ –I have yet to develop a theory about the name (they are ‘dropped’ into the pan?) -  and instructions for making them appears in John Murrell’s New Booke of Cookerie published in 1617. The recipe references the ‘foresaid stuff’ in the previous recipe, which also sounds most deliciously interesting, so I give you both:

To make French puffes with greene Hearbes.
Take Spinage, Parsley, Endive, a sprigge or two of Savory: mince them very fine: season them with Nutmeg, Ginger, and Sugar. Wet them with Egges, according to the quantitie of the Hearbes, more or lesse.
Then take the coare of a Lemmon, cut it in round slices very thinne: put to every slice of your Lemmon one spoonful of this stuffe. Then frye it with sweet Lard in a frying-panne as you fry Egges, and serve them with sippets, or without, sprinkle them eyther with White-wine or Sacke, or any other Wine, saving Rennish-wine. Serve them eyther at Dinner or Supper.

Dropt Razins.

Take the fairest Razins of the Sun, slit them on one side: lay them open, as round and broad as you can. Then take the aforesaid hearbs mint and seasoned, and lay betwixt two razins as many as you can close between them. Take half a spoonful of the foresaid stuffe that you fryed your Lemons with: frye them browne.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Seconds Bread.

The prisoners whose diet was the subject of yesterday’s post were supplied with “seconds bread.”  I was most intrigued by the term, which comes up fairly regularly in the dietaries of prisons, lunatic asylums and other institutions of the nineteenth century – and it seems that some of you also wanted more information about it.

An interesting summary of various types of flour and bread was given in an American magazine called The Monthly Journal of Agriculture , published in 1848.

I have had occasion during the course of many years to pay strict attention to the processes of bread-making, and therefore am prepared to enter upon a subject which the existing state of the country renders of peculiar interest. The title of this article has been adopted in order to embody the leading points of a masterly paper that has lately appeared from the pen of Professor Johnston, of the Edinburgh Society, than whom we do possess an analytic chemist of higher and more trustworthy qualifications. The orders of Queen Victoria in reference to what is styled "second bread," and the laudable zeal with which several noblemen of high rank have adopted similar resolutions, require particular notice, inasmuch as the term "second bread " is of doubtful meaning, and likely to be misunderstood, especially in country districts, where it conveys a definite unfavorable meaning.
The flour of wheat is in England of three or four varieties. The first, by way of distinction called "whites," is used in families for the best pastry, or by the bakers to prepare the finest fancy and cottage loaves. The second variety is the "household" flour used in the ordinary baker's household loaf. The third is employed to make seconds bread, which is generally sold at 1d. per loaf of 4 lbs. less than the prime household. There is inferiority of some description in this second flour of the mill; but it does not consist in the retention of the pollard, or fine portion of the skin. The country miller, and the families who there bake their own bread upon economical principles, are well advised as to the true meaning of these distinctions. And here, therefore (though the terms of the North may in some slight degree differ from those employed in our agricultural counties), I may appeal to the authority of Professor Johnston, as I practically know that all be says on the subject is strictly correct—thus:
"The grain of wheat consists of two parts, with which the miller is familiar—the inner grain, and the skin that covers it. The inner grain gives the pure wheat flour, the skin when separated forms the bran. The miller cannot entirely peel off the skin from his grain, and thus some of it is unavoidably ground up with his flour. By sifting be separates it more or less completely; his seconds, middlings, &c., owing their color to the proportion of brown bran that has passed through the sieve along with the flour. The 'whole meal,' as it is called, of which the so-named brown household bread is made, consists of the entire grain ground up together, used as it comes from the mill-stones, unsifted, and therefore containing all the bran.''
A fourth sort is used in Berkshire, and indeed in all country districts where families purchase or grow their own wheat and send it to the mill: it is called "farmers' grist," or "one-way flour," and contains all the finer portions of the pollard or middlings, after the separation of the coarse bran only; this true wheat flour makes the best bread that can be produced—wholesome, nutritious, of a beautiful clear yellowish white, and of surpassing flavor. It is very economical to the family, especially if the dough be made up with water in which the bran has been infused. But as every sack of the best white wheat, weighing 240 lbs., yields somewhere about 40 lbs. of excellent bran, abounding with meal, so much is abstracted from the corn, and barely 200 lbs. —say rather 196 lbs.—remain to the baker. Now we safely infer that the orders of Her Majesty refer to the best farmers' grist, in contradistinction from the extravagant products of the mill, called "whites " and household flour, from which the miller's cloth has removed all the pollard. But in times of real scarcity the entire meal claims our attention, excepting in particular cases where coarse bran is found insalubrious to individuals.

This article indicates an interesting technique which I have not come across before: the use of water in which the bran has been infused to make up the dough. I cannot see how this method serves an economical purpose as the writer suggests, although it would presumably improve the nutritional value of an already sturdy loaf.

Recipe for the Day.

Bread made of Oatmeal and Wheat.
The following has been recommended as a good and economical bread: Add a peck of oatmeal to the same quantity of seconds flour, and half a peck of potatoes skinned and washed; knead it up into a dough with yeast, salt, and warm milk; make it up into loaves, and bake. Oatmeal and reice may also be made together into bread.

An Encyclopædia of Domestic Economy (1845)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Prisoners’ Dumplings.

The prisoners in Bedfordshire County Gaol (England) in the early 1840’s were not a happy bunch. There was a high rate of illness, and constant complaints about the food. The incidence of illness (especially diarrhea and typhus) was of concern to the authorities, and an investigation was held and the results summarised in the Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 20, 1842.

It was determined that :

“The causes were, insufficiency of diet, cold, defective ventilatoni, locality low and damp, the previous season wet and cold.”

At the time, the diet consisted of:

“Two pounds of bread per day, best seconds; two ounces of cheese on four days of the week and three small onions on the remaining three days; and for prisoners before trial, and for convicted prisoners after three months’ imprisonment, twelve ounces of meat dumpling on three days in the week instead of the onions. The mode in which the diet was issued was very injudicious. The provisions were served out to the prisoners in two meals each day; viz.: at quarter before eight in the morning, and quarter before one in the forenoon. So that  from midday until the following morning, the prisoners had no meal. The cheese was served on four successive days, and the dumplings on three successive days, to as to occasion as little change and variety as possible.”

The Secretary of State called the attention of the visiting Justices to the situation, and recommended that they remedy it immediately by improving the diet of prisoners. A new diet was ordered on February 28, 1842, but was altered again on May 23 (the report does not specify these changes.)  On July 18, the following diet was ordered for all classes of prisoners both in the Gaol and House of Correction.

Breakfast.                    1 pint oatmeal gruel.
8 oz. bread.
Dinner, 3 days.            8 oz. suet dumpling
                                    8 oz. bread.
Dinner, 4 days.            2 oz. cheese
                                    2 oz. onion
                                    8 oz. bread.
Supper.                        1 pint oatmeal gruel
                                    8 oz. bread.
The bread is the best seconds bread.
The gruel contains 1 oz. of oatmeal per pint.
The suet dumpling contains about 6 oz. flour and 1 oz. suet.
We think this diet insufficient, and it is also greatly deficient in vegetables. Potatoes form no part of it. The prisoners complain that they have not enough food, and the Governor states he has heard them use strong expressions in speaking to the justices of its insufficiency.

How the breach of authority, and the insufficient diet were subsequently addressed, this volume does not say, but it is to be hoped that the prisoners did receive more and better food, and significantly less stodge. It is likely however that any improvements in the prisoners’ diet did not extend to including currants and spice in the prisoners’ dumplings.

Suet Dumplings, with Currants.
Take a pint of milk, four eggs, a pound of suet shred fine, and a pound of currants well cleaned, two teaspoonfuls of salt, and three teaspoonfuls of ginger; first take half the milk, and mix it to the consistence of a thick batter, then put in the eggs, the salt, and ginger, then the remainder of the milk by degrees, with the suet and currants, and flour enough to make it into light paste. Make the dumplings of about the size of an apple, flatten them a little, put them into boiling water, move them softly to prevent them sticking together, keep the water boiling, and, in rather more than half an hour, they will be done.
Milk, 1 pint; eggs, 4; suet, 1 lb.; currants, 1 lb.; salt, 2 teaspoonfuls; ginger, 3 teaspoonfuls; flour, sufficient.

The Dictionary of Daily Wants, by Robert Kemp Philp (1861)

Monday, August 19, 2013

The “Pioneer Meal Move,” 1932.

The Great Depression was biting hard in Chicago in 1932, and “Society” took up the cause of the hungry. The Border Cities Star of February 4, 1932 reported on a new campaign:

“Pioneer Meal” Move Is Started in Chicago To Aid Poor
Society Takes Lead
Money Saved by Cheaper Food to Go to Relief Fund.

Housewives of Chicago are helping to defeat the depression by organizing to share food from their kitchens with their 400,000 hungry neighbors. As in World War days,  the movement is the result of a campaign and has its slogan. The slogan  is “One pioneer meal a week for 10 weeks in 250,000 homes. 
A “Pioneer Meal” is one ample and  nourishing, but low in cost. The saving effected by serving a meal that costs about 35 cents instead of one costing $2.50 or so is to be turned in by each housewife to the joint emergency relief fund for distribution to the 125,000 destitute families in Chicago.
Society matrons, club women, wives of millionaires are joining with the host of women who do their own cooking in a revival of pioneer thrift for the benefit of the unfortunate. Husbands are helping, they are eating food they haven’t tasted since boyhood on the farm – and liking it.
The campaign is endorsed by the joint emergency relief committee and is directed by Mrs Joseph M. Cudahy. Emblems are worn by those who have pledged themselves to the plan. The associated milk dealers of the city agreed to distribute a specially tabbed bottle to each of the 250,000 homes as savings banks to receive the money saved by housewives who serve cheaper meals.

 “I grew up eating pioneer meals. I remember what we used to eat in Chicago’s younger days, and I am going back to those menus” said Mrs. J.F. Ales, one of the housewives sponsoring the plan. She has been married 54 years.
Thousands of women exchanged recipes today. Brokers, salesmen, street car conductors, laborers in the streets were intermediaries in hundreds of cases.
“Here is a recipe my wife said to give you for your wife,” was the password between men in street cars, office and lunchroom.
Sample recipes, showing what can be accomplished, have been prepared by leaders in the campaign. Two typical ones follow:
Usual Meal – cost $2.50
Shrimp cocktail, lamb chops, rissole potatoes, broccoli, Hollandaise sauce, light rolls, butter, mint, celery and carrot salad, chocolate cream pie, whipped cream, coffee.
Pioneer Meal – cost 35 cents.
Spanish rice, apple and carrot salad, butterscotch pudding, coffee.
Another pioneer meal – cost 36 cents.
Salt meat, boiled kale, escalloped potatoes, bread, one-egg cup cakes, coffee.

One of the several things I found fascinating about this story was the quite clear description of the gender roles. And do we still have “society matrons”, and if so, how do I get to be one? The role sounds terribly important and interesting, does it not?
The Border Cities Star did not include any of the submitted recipes in its article, but I am sure the following versions from other contemporary newspapers will be more than adequate for your own “pioneer meal.”

Spanish Rice. Serving 6.
4 slices bacon, 4 tablespoons onions, 2 tablespoons parsley, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon paprika, 2 cups tomatoes, 3 cups cooked rice.
Cut bacon into small pieces. Heat in frying pan until brown. Add and brown onions, parsley and rice. Add rest of ingredients and cook 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
The Deseret News, January 30, 1932

Butterscotch Pudding.
Two tablespoons cornstarch, one cup water, one cup evaporated milk, one tablespoon butter, one cup brown sugar, one-eighth teaspoon salt, one teaspoon vanilla. Mix cornstarch with one-fourth cup water, scald remaining milk and water. Melt butter, add sugar and cook until sugar melts, stirring constantly. Add slowly to hot milk, stirring until well blended. Add cornstarch, stir until thickened.
Cook 20 minutes. Cool and add the flavoring.

Pulaski Southwest Times, October 28, 1932