Monday, September 30, 2013

Having Fun Pulling Taffy.

Sometimes one post leads to another, and Thursday’s Chrystanthemum Teas led to Friday’s Mush Parties, which leads us to Taffy Pulling Parties today. I talked about taffy/toffee in a previous post (see the links below), and in summary, said of the topic:

Toffee is a word that puzzles the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, who say it is of ‘uncertain origin’, and possibly a dialect word. It is sometimes spelled tuffy or toughy, and is a later form of taffy. The first mention, according to the OED which is marvellous but not infallible, is 1817 for taffy and 1825 for toughy (the quotation says is named for its toughness.). Given that words are usually in use for some time before they are enshrined in a quotable publication, it looks like toffee as we know it might be a late seventeenth century idea.  The first references to toffee/taffy suggest it was made from treacle or molasses.

“Pulling” candy results in a change in texture, making it more chewy. It can be a laborious process if a significant quantity of candy has been made, and is best performed by two people working together (or one person with a hook or something similar to fix the other end of the candy – but that is not much fun.)  Taffy-pulling parties were – and perhaps still are, in some lucky corners of the world) – pleasant informal social events, as suggested in yesterday’s post. If you want to revive the phenomenon, there are some excellent instructions in Household discoveries: an encyclopaedia of practical recipes and processes  (New York, 1908)

To Pull Candy.
The best way to pull candy is to grease the hands thoroughly with butter to prevent sticking, or they may be covered with flour. The work should commence as soon as the candy is cool enough to bear the hands. Work with the tips of the fingers until it grows cool. Continue to pull until it is of a light golden color, or white, according to the recipe. Pull smartly, either by the help of another person or over a hook. Finally, draw out in sticks on waxed paper, or other smooth surface, which may be dusted with flour and cut with shears into sticks.

Pulled Taffy for a Taffy Pull.
Either sugar or molasses taffy may be pulled. For sugar taffy, boil together to the soft ball 3 cupfuls of granulated sugar, ½ cupful of vinegar, ½ cupful of water; now add 1 tablespoonful of butter stirred in quickly, and boil until it hardens and becomes brittle in cold water. Add any flavoring extract desired just before removing from the fire. Pour on a buttered platter to cool, turn in the edges as fast as it cools, and when cold enough to handle pull until white and brittle. Or for molasses taffy boil to the soft ball 1 quart of New Orleans molasses, 1 tablespoonful of granulated sugar. Now stir in 2 tablespoonfuls of vinegar, ¼ pound of butter, and boil until it becomes hard and brittle in cold water.  Just before removing from the fire stir in ¼ teaspoonful of soda dissolved in hot water and pull. Or boil together to the hard snap 2 cupfuls of brown sugar, 1 cupful of molasses, ½ cupful of water, 1 tablespoonful of vinegar. Just before removing from the fire stir in ½ teaspoonful of soda dissolved in hot water. Test in cold water. Add flavoring matter and pull until the color becomes a rich gold.

And now for something completely different - taffy from beans! From the book that gave us tomato marshmallows, Candy-Making Revolutionized: Confectionery from Vegetables (New York 1912):

Bean Taffy.
Bean taffy easily takes first rank among all taffies - vegetable or otherwise. The taste is good beyond words, and the consistency is pleasingly "chewy" without being tenacious to the point of teeth pulling!
Lima beans are the best to use as the basis because the skins can easily be removed, but ordinary dried beans may be substituted if care is taken. Cover the beans with cold water, let them stand overnight, and the next morning boil them until soft, and force through a fine sieve to remove all the skins.
Boil together two cupsful of granulated sugar, one-half cupful of water, a tablespoonful of butter, and one-half cupful of the beans, prepared as above. After the mixture has boiled thoroughly, add one cupful of milk. Add the cupful of milk, one-third at a time. Stir the mixture and let it boil a few minutes after each addition of milk. When the thermometer registers two hundred and forty-two degrees, pour the mass onto an oiled marble between oiled candy bars so that it will set about one-quarter inch thick. As with ordinary taffy, cut into pieces of the desired size.
Nut Bean Taffy.
Cut Brazil nuts cross-wise into shavings about one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness—about the thickness of the pieces of shaved cocoanut. Spread as many of them as are desired upon oiled marble between oiled candy bars. Pour over the nuts the mass described above. Treat as before.

Previous Posts:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Milk, Molasses, and Mush.

While I was investigating the fashionable social event of the American 1890’s – the Chrysanthemum Tea – for yesterday’s post, I came across a reference to another social event of the time. This one was rather more spontaneous and decidedly less elegant – but no doubt a great deal of fun.

The article appeared in the Humboldt County Republican (and associated newspapers) on November 29, 1894, and the event was a “Mush and Milk Surprise Party.”

Lots of Fun.
Milk and mush surprise parties are popular a hundred miles to the southward. Those who make the party swoop down upon the subject of the surprise with a box of cornmeal and a jug of molasses. The mush is set to boil, the molasses is turned into taffy and abundantly pulled, cakes are baked, apples pared, and the mush is eaten along with fresh milk and rich cream. The mush and milk surprise furnishes a maximum of fun for a minimum of expenditure.

 So far, I have not been able to find out any more about these fun-sounding events, but if you have heard of them, I would love to know.

There are many recipes for cornmeal mush in one form or another on this blog – far too many to link – but as cornmeal seems to have found its natural partners in milk and molasses, a few more recipes wont be a waste of time, methinks. From a wartime edition of the Newark Advocate (August 24, 1918) here are some choices.

Here are three good conservation puddings which take no wheat and no sugar. They are made chiefly out of milk, cornmeal, and molasses.
Indian Pudding: Five cups milk, 1/3 cup cornmeal, ½ cup molasses, 1 teaspoonful salt, 1 teaspoonful ginger.
Cook milk and meal in a double boiler 20 minutes; add molasses, salt, and ginger; pour into buttered pudding dish and bake two hours in a slow over; serve with cream.
This serves eight people.
Cornmeal and Fig Pudding: One cup cornmeal, 1 cup molasses,  6 cups milk (or 4 of milk and 2 of cream) 1 cup finely-chopped figs, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon salt.
Cook the cornmeal with four cups of the milk, add the molasses, figs, and salt. When the mixture is cool, add the eggs well-beaten. Pour into a buttered pudding dish and bake for three hours or more. When partly cooked add the remainder of the milk without stirring the pudding.
This serves eight or ten people.
Cornmeal and Apple Pudding: For the figs in the above recipe, substitute a pint of finely-sliced or chopped sweet apples.
This serves eight or ten people.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chrysanthemum Tea, Teas, and Salads.

Flowers have featured in numerous posts here over the years, but it appears that I have not so far covered the gorgeous and eminently edible chrysanthemum. I was reminded of this when I came across the following recipe in a Welsh newspaper, the Western  Mail of January 26, 1895.

Chrysanthemum Salad.
This is an adoption by the French from the artistic and saving Japanese, who use quantities of plants as foods that we reject as useless weeds. The Japanese serve the leaves and flowers after boiling them with soy; or the roots, boiled, are eaten with soy and sugar.  The French first boiled them with cloves, and mixed them with truffles when serving. Now they are served raw with mayonnaise dressing or plunged into boiling salted water and cooked for twenty minutes. Drain and at once cover them with the French dressing. Let stand until thoroughly cold: serve with French dressing and garnish with fresh blossoms. A few years ago the Duchess de la Torre, who has a Parisian celebrity as chef, gave a dinner at which the salad was said to be the greatest triumph which had been achieved by cookery in the last half of the nineteenth century. The salad displayed the colours of the rainbow, being arranged in layers of multi-coloured chrysanthemums, intermingled with dark and light violets and rose petals. In the centre a mound of delicate green mayonnaise rose above the surrounding blossoms, and was dotted with tiny orange blossoms. The salad lay on a marvelous cut-glass dish, garnished with tiny white lettuce leaves and brilliant nasturtiums. The chrysanthemum salad is a delight to the eye, but has not yet largely appealed to the English palate.

Doesn’t that sound like a wonderfully elegant dish?

The only chrysanthemum product I have any familiarity with is chrysanthemum tea, but familiarity is not knowledge, so I went in search of some interesting snippets. I didn’t find any interesting anecdotes or factoids on this favourite Oriental beverage, but I did come across an idea I had never heard of before – a ladies ‘Chrysanthemum Tea’ as an American social event.
It was briefly fashionable in American cities in the first years of the 1890’s to hold a luncheon party themed around the chrysanthemum. These events were held in late summer and early autumn, and were often part of a fund-raising project.  Strangely, I did not find any reference to chrysanthemums being an ingredient in the light repasts offered at these functions, although there was one to the ice-cream being moulded in the form of the flower, which does sound rather lovely. An article in the Janesville Gazette (Wisconsin) of November 20, 1891 explained the novel form of entertainment:

Mrs Walter Helms Entertained her Friends in a Novel Way.
Pyramids and quaint shapes, grotesque fans and pretty parasols graced Mrs Walter Helms’ pretty house on the event of the chrysanthemum tea given to her friends this afternoon. The pyramids, parasols, and fans were all composed of chrysanthemums. There were all colors and all shapes. Besides these proofs of the florists skill, the “queen of the autumn” graced the tables in tastefully arranged jars and bowls.
The “chrysanthemum tea” is a new thing in Janesville, and the ladies who enjoyed Mrs. Helms’ hospitality were much pleased.  About fifty guests were present this afternoon, and tomorrow an equal number of younger married ladies will be entertained.
The display of flowers was very effective. A large number of prize blossoms had been sent from Chicago for the occasion and the finest blooms were reserved and given to the ladies as souvenirs of a most enjoyable event.

I hope, my dear readers, that at least one or two of you are now inspired to hold your own floral ‘tea’ – be it nasturtium, rose, marigold, violet, or any other flower that you love. Make sure you use them in the food or beverages too!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cooking by the Clock, 1944

Saving time in the kitchen is important for most of us, at least some of the time. The British wartime housewife shared the problem, if we are to believe the Food Ministry Food Facts leaflet No. 191 published in 1944, but she did not have the pizza delivery or Chinese take-away option that we have today. Even in a hurry, she had to do everything from scratch.

Cooking by the Clock.
Time is extra precious today, and wartime housewives must cook by the clock. Here are menus for six nourishing and appetizing meals, all of which can be prepared and cooked in one hour. Here too are some main dishes for lunch, supper, or high tea, none of which take more than half an hour to make.
One-Hour Meals.
Potato Soup
Tinned fish with home-made salad dressing.
Cabbage and potato stew with mashed potatoes.
Poor Knight’s Fritters.
Savoury omelette and salad.
Steamed sponge pudding in small moulds.
Vegetable stew with sausage meat dumplings.
Coffee custard.
Shepherd potatoes, carrots with parsley or watercress.
Chocolate rice pudding (top of stove.)
Minced Floddies, greens.
Padded pudding.
Made in Ten Minutes.

Savoury toast
Ingredients: 4 oz. cheese, 4 oz. parsnips, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon dried mustard, 3 slices of toast.
Quantity: 3 helpings
Method: Grate cheese and parsnips and mix together.
Blend vinegar and mustard, cheese and parsnips, pile on the toast, and brown under grill.

Tips for Whirlwind Meals.
An excellent vegetable soup can be made in fifteen minutes if the vegetables are greated into the soup pot. Potatoes will cook in half the time if quartered, and the modern way of cooking green vegetables – shred, cook fast in a little boiling salt water with the lid on – is twice as quick as the old fashioned way. Jars kept filled with ready-to-use breadcrumbs, cake-crumbs, and grated cheese will help you to prepare a whirlwind meal.

Half-Hour Dishes.
Quick Potato and Leek Stew.
Ingredients: 1 lb.potatoes, 1 leek, 1 teaspoonful sage, salt and pepper, water, small piece of dripping.
Quantity: 2 helpings
Method: Slice the potatoes very thinly, wash and slice the leek. Brease the frying pan and put in the leek and potatoes in layers with sage and seasoning sprinkled between. Cover with hot water. Cover with saucepan lid or tin plate. Cook for 15 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.
Cheese and Potato Lunch   
(One of the prize-winning village recipes collected by the Women’s Institute.)
Ingredients: 1 lb. potatoes, ¼ teacup rolled oats, 1 teaspoonful dried mustard, 1 oz. margarine, ¼ teacup grated cheese, pepper and salt.
Quantity: 4 helpings.
Method: Boil the potatoes and mash with a little milk. Season with pepper and salt, and spread evenly in a sandwich tin.
While the potatoes are cooking, mix in a bowl the oats, cheese, pepper, salt, and mustard. Pour over this the margarine melted and mix to a stiff paste. Spread on top of the potatoes and cook in a hot oven for 10 minutes until a nice golden brown. Decorate with parsley.
Chinese Omelette.
Ingredients: 3 oz. finely chopped American luncheon meat or sausage meat, 2 oz. raw grated carrot or parsnip, 2 reconstituted dried eggs, 2 oz. finely chopped celery. 1 small minced onion, salt and pepper to taste.
Quantity: 4 helpings.

Method. Mix the ingredients and drop spoonfuls into hot fat. Fry till golden brown on both sides. Serve with boiled rice and thick brown gravy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Things to do with Horseradish.

Some years ago I briefly discussed horseradish, and included a little discussion on how it got its name, and a recipe for sauce made from it. Horseradish belongs to the Brassica family, so is related to cabbage. Its well-known pungency derives from the mustard oil contained within the cells of the plant, especially the root. It seems that the plant is native to Central Europe, and has been cultivated and enjoyed since ancient times. It was known in England by the late sixteenth century, and by the mid-seventeenth century it was popular there as an accompaniment to beef and oysters. It was also popular as a restorative for those who were fatigued - especially in the form of horseradish ale, which our old friend Samuel Pepys refers to in his diary.

Horseradish is almost exclusively used in sauces or condiments:

Horse-Radish with Cream.
Grate some horse-radish, and stew it in some fat bouillon. Mix up, separately, three eggs with one gallon of fresh cream, a pinch of flour, and some salt; put the whole with the horse-radish; set the stewpan again on the fire, let it rise without boiling, and serve this sauce in a boat, or tureen, with roast meat. Chopped horse-radish, cooked in bouillon, and served with a small hors d'ceuvre, is more generally relished with the bouillie.
French Domestic Cookery (1846) , by Louis Eustache Audot [Section on German Cookery]

Horseradish Vinegar
Horseradish is in highest perfection about November.
Pour a quart of best vinegar on three ounces of scraped horseradish, an ounce of minced eschalot, and one drachm of Cayenne; let it stand a week, and you will have an excellent relish for cold beef, salads, &c, costing scarcely any thing.
N.B. A portion of black pepper and mustard, celery or cress-seed, may be added to the above. 06s
The Cook’s Oracle (1827) by William Kitchiner

But, for those who are not faint-hearted, it can in fact be a top-billed player:

Duck or Teal with Horseradish.
You must truss them to boil, if two, lard one, and so pass them off in brown Butter; then put to them a Pint of clear Broth and two Plates full of Horse-radish; season with Salt, and stove these together till tender; then strain off your Horse-radish from your Ducks, and put in a good Piece of Butter; you may scrape your Horse-radish very fine, which is the best way then lay your Ducks in your Dish, and your Horse-radish all over, and garnish with scrap'd Horseradish and slic'd Lemon, and serve away hot.

The Compleat City and Country Cook (1732) by Charles Carter.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Washday Dinner Problem.

In times not so long past, Monday was the traditional washing day and Tuesday the day for ironing and mending. Every other day of the week also had a major task allotted – cleaning a particular set of rooms, shopping and re-stocking the pantry, baking etc. Further back in time, washday was not a weekly activity. The time between washdays in a particular household to some extent indicated the level of affluence – the more household linen one had, the less frequent washdays were necessary. In Samuel Pepys’ diary, written in London in the 1660’s, laundering took place every five weeks or so. It was a full day’s occupation for his wife and the maid, and Sam disliked the disruption intensely, and kept well and truly out of the way.

Washing was an incredibly labour-intensive process in the past: water had to be carted to the tubs, heated in big pans or a ‘copper’, the clothes and bed and table-linen washed (often with home-made soap) and rinsed by hand - and perhaps starched too - then wrung out or put through the mangle, hung or spread to dry, and finally the dirty water all had to be carted out and disposed of. It was not a job for the weak. As the author of The Homekeeper: Containing Numerous Recipes for Cooking and Preparing Food in a Manner Most Conducive to Health ; Directions for Preserving Health and Beauty and for Nursing the Sick ; the Making and the Care of Home ; the Care of Children and Hired Persons ; Concluding with a Few Hints Concerning the Wants of the Market (Boston, 1872) noted:

Wash-day has an unpleasant reputation, and is a dreaded day in man homes. Where the women of the house are sufficiently numerous, have strength equal to the task, and choose to wash, it may be made as agreeable as any other day; but few American women have any strength beyond the requirements of fashionable life. Those who are obliged to depend on the uncertain visits of professional washers have one vexation which Job did not; and when they do arrive at the appointed time, they require almost constant attention, as most of them wash the cleanest and finest clothing last. A luncheon must be provided; also dinner: and, towards night, the washing is done.

Washday was an ordeal for the poor man of the house too, of course. Husbands over the centuries traditionally hated washday for one major reason - the cold, hastily-scratched together washday dinners that were imposed upon them. It was not only that the women of the household were too busy to cook (although that was certainly the case) but also that the stove and fuel were commandeered to heat water for the laundry.  

Nineteenth century household manuals devoted a significant amount of space to the problem of washday labour and washday meals. The author of The Ladies’ Repository (1852) was surprisingly optimistic in her advice to the new young wife in suggesting she ask her husband for assistance. I cannot imaging too many men of the era agreeing readily to the request:

Sermon for Young Wives.
By an Old Housekeeper.
Take care of your health. Do not do every thing on wash-day yourself, if your husband is about and has a kind heart. Ask him to help you in filling the tubs, and procuring rinsing water, and in hanging out the clothes-line, and fixing on the clothes. He will do it, if you will only ask him in a kind tone.

A few more snippets from the time demonstrate the pre-occupation with the problem, and the impact on the poor neglected, ill-fed man of the house.

1882: … consisted of a man who would accept a cold dinner on washday, but if washday is properly managed, where is the need of cold dinners? 

1892: The wise man avoids home on wash-day

1895: Let us first consider wash-day. ... consideration of washday as it yet holds its place in domestic arrangements, and these are, first : that too often the men of the family spend for their wash-day dinner down town, away from the hubbub at home

Cookery books attempted to help with the dreaded decisions about washday meals, and I have touched on these in previous posts (here and here.) Today I give you another suggestion, proving that a cold meal did not have to be inevitable, if a one-pot dinner could be prepared in advance from the bits and pieces in the larder.

A Pepper Pot.
This is understood to be a sort of clear larder, or washday's family dinner-dish, composed of all sorts of shreds and patches. It ought properly, if fine cookery is sought, to be an Olio, composed of a due admixture of meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, and roots. To three quarts of water put a couple of pounds, cut, of whatever vegetables are plentiful (a good proportion being onions), and a couple of pounds of mutton-scrag cut into three or four pieces; or a fowl, or a piece of veal, or lean bacon, and a little rice. Skim it; and, when nearly finished, add the meat of a lobster or crab, cut in bits, or the soft part of a few oysters, or yolk of hard-boiled eggs. Take off all the fat that rises, and season highly with pepper and cayenne. Serve in a deep dish.

The Cook and Housewife's Manual, by Margaret Dods. [&c.]

By Christian Isobel Johnstone (1862)

And, just for fun, because it fits the theme of the day, I also give you:

Washboard Cookies.
2 ¼ cups sifted enriched flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
½ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg slightly beaten
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons hot water
1 ¼ cup shredded coconut, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Cream shortening, add sugar gradually; then egg and beat until smooth. Mix baking soda with water; add with coconut. Add sifted dryin ingredients gradually and mix until smooth and blended. Add vanilla. Drop by teaspoonfuls on baking sheet and press down with a fork to make washboard pattern. Bake in very hot oven (400 deg) 8 minutes or until very lightly browned. 50 small cookies.

Oakland Tribune, January 13, 1942

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Pie Cure: or, Power in Domestic Relations.

Ah! The Good Old Days! Today I give you a story that may provide you with nice counterpoint to help put your own domestic power struggles into perspective – or, alternatively, may give you some century-old hints on how better to resolve them.

The story appeared in The Washington Post of July 16, 1911. Sadly, I do not know the identity of the Mrs. Franklin who is chief protagonist but presumably she is a New Yorker. If you have any ideas about who she might be, please do let us know via the comments.

(New York Press.)
Few husbands were better managed than Mr. Franklin. All his friends knew that, and he was not wholly unconscious himself of sundry delicate mental manipulations that were performed from time to time by the charming Mrs. Franklin, but as the results were eminently gratifying to him, he saw no reason to protest against them.
“Give us your receipt,” implored a party of college girls whom Mrs. Franklin was chaperoning, “for keeping a contented husband.”
Mrs. Franklin smiled, hesitated, and finally replied: “Well, yes, I suppose I owe it to the world. I should prefer to keep my method a secret. It is not wise even to admit that one has a method, but since you have discovered that fact, I will reveal all. Mr. Franklin is of New English parentage on one side, and Western on the other. Before I was married to him I – you remember I was a widow, so I had already learned some discretion – I went to his mother and asked her to teach me exactly how to make pies – all kinds of pies. I followed her instructions, too – practiced faithfully under here directions – until she said I was perfect in the pie-making art. I thus not only endeared myself to her, but always have been able to keep a steady balance of power in my domestic relations. If Mr Franklin comes home in a state of mind I do not greet him with a smile. In fact, I hasten to the kitchen and give orders, just loud enough for him to hear: “Serve the cream pie for dinner this evening, Jane.” Soon I hear him whistling softly in his room while he is dressing, and I know that all is well. I have studied the pie question so carefully that I know just what mood will be best ameliorated by rhubarb pie, what by lemon meringue , &c. You’re perfect welcome, girls. Don’t tell everybody, but be sure to practice my rule yourselves, if you with the coming man, to eat out of your hand.

Today’s recipe is from an English newspaper, but would clearly be an excellent addition to the powerful domestic goddess’ armamentarium.

Pie of Bliss.
Prepare pastry case as usual. Mash two ripe bananas and add to them a cupful of granulated sugar, a pinch of salt, and two unbeaten whites of egg. Whisk all together until stiff and frothy. Add a few drips of almond essence and fill the pie shell with this mixture. Bake in a rather slow oven for twenty minutes. When the pie is cold cover it with half a pint of whipped and flavoured cream and decorate with dabs of red currant jelly and chopped nuts.

The Manchester Guardian June 15, 1922.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brain Balls and other Clever Ideas.

Posts on offal often elicit strong comments and emails, and I don’t think it is any surprise to say that the subject polarises cooks and diners. In times past, folk were not so squeamish, and there was no question of discarding any form of good animal protein when a beast was butchered.

From the mid-eighteenth century, virtually every significant cookery book had several recipes for brains. The earliest recipe I have found so far is:

To make Brain-cakes.
Take a handful of bread - crumbs, a little shred lemon - peel, pepper, salt, nutmeg, sweet-marjorum, parsley shred fine, and the yolks of three eggs; take the brains and skin them, boil and chop them small, so mix them all together; take a little butter in your pan when you fry them, and drop them in as you do fritters, and if they run in your pan put in a handful more of bread-crumbs.
English Housewifry, exemplified in above four hundred and fifty receipts,
giving directions in most parts of cookery (1764) by Elizabeth Moxon.

A similar recipe from a few decades later is a little more graphic in its description of the sourcing and preparation of the brains:

To Make Brain Cakes.
When the head is cloven, take out the brains; take out any strings that may be amongst them, and cast them well with a knife; then put in a little raw egg, a scrape of nutmeg, and a little salt, and mix them with flour to make them stick together; cast them smooth; then drop them like biscuits into a pan of boiling butter, and fry them on both sides a fine brown.
Lambs brains are done in the same manner.
Cookery and Pastry (1789) by Susan MacIver

Brain balls or cakes were a common accompaniment and side-dish:

Brain Balls, or cakes, are a very elegant addition, [to Mock Turtle Soup] and are made by boiling the brains for ten minutes, then putting them in cold water, and cutting them into pieces about as big as a large nutmeg; take Savory, or Lemon-thyme dried and finely powdered, nutmeg grated, and pepper and salt ,and pound them all together; beat up an egg, dip the brains in it, and then roll them in this mixture, and make as much of it as possible stick to them, and dip them in the egg again, and then in finely grated and sifted bread crumbs, fry them in hot fat, and send them up as a side dish.
The Cook’s Oracle (1827) by Dr.William Kitchiner

Brain-Balls and Cakes for Made-Dishes.
These may be made either for lamb’s or calf’s-head by the same process. Clear the brains of all the fibres and skins that hang about them, and having scalded them, beat them up in a basin with the yolks of two eggs, a spoonful of bread-crumbs, another of flour, a little grated lemon-peel, and a small dessert-spoonful of finely-shred parsley, and if for calf’s-head, a little shred sage and thyme. Put seasonings to the mixture, and a large spoonful of melted butter , and dropping the batter in small cakes, fry them in lard of an amber colour. They may either be served as a garnishing, or as a small side dish to accompany a dressed calf ’s-head or lamb’s-head.
The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1829) by Margaret Dods (pseud.)

The final recipe in my little series on brains provides a little mystery …

Brain Balls.
When soup is served, they are very delicate in it; make them with equal quantities of bread or vegetables and suet, and season a little higher than the soup; test as other farces. Any chitterlings of meat or fish, particularly skate, may be served in these turtles [i.e mock turtle soups], prepared as for the real.
If there is more farce than what is necessary, roll it in large quenelles, and served dobbed fried potatoes with them in a brown ragout; or a little of the turtle sauce, with coriander powder.
The cook ought always to think of saving herself trouble, by making nice dishes of every little thing, and at all times double the quantity of farce may be made, without any additional trouble.
Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for Rich and Poor (1827) by Maria Eliza Rundell

I had not previously heard or read of ‘dobbed’ fried potatoes. Searching the usual sources and references for the word only turns up examples from Mrs Rundell’s book:

“the beef being dobbed with bacon”
“dobbed with large seasoned lard”
“[tongue] … the lesser ones slit, and a wedge of nice white bacon put into them, or dobbed.”
“the tongue dobbed through”
“the rump, after being pickled, may be boned, farced, and dobbed through and through, with lard an inch thick”
 “tongues dobbed through with bacon”
“lamb sweetbreads dobbed with ham”

The Oxford English Dictionary gives ‘dob’ as a variant of ‘dab’ (and presumably ‘daub’) and gives several meanings, including this one:

“To smear with fat or grease (Now spec. to do this to leather.)”

Mrs Rundell is clearly using ‘to dob’ as meaning ‘to lard’ – but I do not know how one could lard a potato as one can lard a large piece of beef or tongue. Perhaps she is indicating potatoes cooked with bacon? Or stuffed with bacon?  I also cannot understand what is meant by “dobbed” in conjunction with “fried,” and as usual, welcome your comments.

As an aside, the OED also gives two other uses of the verb ‘to dob’ which could be applied in a culinary sense, although they do not fit the recipe above:

“To cut off the comb and wattles of (a cock).”

“To place good wares in the upper part of a basket and inferior beneath” [an ancient usage of the word]

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Oath of the Ale-Conner.

I touched upon the role of an ale-conner in a post several years ago, and today I want to add a little something interesting to the story. First, to re-cap: a ‘conner ‘ is ‘one who tries, tests, or examines,’ and an ale-conner is (or rather, was) ‘an officer appointed by a court leet or other local authority to test for the assize the ale brewed (and sometimes the bread baked) in his or her jurisdiction.’  

With an important role goes a great deal of responsibility of course, and officers such as ale-conners, bedels, brokers, sheriffs and so on were required to swear an oath before taking up their positions. The oaths of various officials of the City of London were recorded in the first book of English common law – the Liber Albus: the White Book of the City of London, published in 1419 by John Carpenter.  

Oath of the Ale-Conners.
You shall swear, that you shall know of no brewer or brewster, cook, or pie-baker, in your Ward, who sells the gallon of best ale for more than one penny halfpenny, or the gallon of second for more than one penny, or otherwise than by measure sealed and full of clear ale; or who brews less than he used to do before this cry, by reason hereof, or withdraws himself from following his trade the rather by reason of this cry; or if any persons shall do contrary to any one of these points, you shall certify the Alderman of your Ward [thereof] and of their names. And that you, so soon as you shall be required to taste any ale of a brewer or brewster, shall be ready to do the same; and in case that it be less good than it used to be before this cry, you, by assent of your Alderman, shall set a reasonable price thereon, according to your discretion; and if any one shall afterwards sell the same above the said price, unto your said Alderman you shall certify the same. And that for gift, promise, knowledge, hate, or other cause whatsoever, no brewer, brewster, huckster, cook, or pie-baker, who acts against any one of the points aforesaid, you shall conceal, spare, or tortiously aggrieve; nor when you are required to taste ale, shall absent yourself without reasonable cause and true; but all things which unto your office pertain to do, you shall well and lawfully do.—So God you help, and the Saints.

And as the recipe for the day, another version of beer soup:

Beer Soup
Fry brown half a pound of bread crumbs in fresh butter; add a quart of strong beer, as much good red wine, some chopped lemon-peel, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar; make it into a light bouillon, and pour the whole over some slices of bread fried in butter.
 (French Domestic Cookery 1846 , by Louis Eustache Audot

[From the section on German Cookery]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pigs, Pork, and Apples.

Lamb with mint, turkeys with cranberries, beef with mustard, and pork with apples – there are some combinations whose origins are mysterious, but of such long-standing that we hardly question them at all. There are various theories of how these particular associations developed, and one strong possibility is that simple proximity explains them: lamb thrives in the same places as mint, turkeys and cranberries both originate in the New World, and pigs are often turned out to forage in orchards to enjoy the dropped apples. A corollary to the theory is that the flavour of the flesh is improved by the mint or cranberries or apples – and the flesh then also has a natural affinity with the mint or cranberries or apples.

The Genessee Farmer in 1859 explored the relationship between pigs and apples and pork and apples in an article which asked the question “Would it be profitable to raise sweet apples for feeding to cattle or swine?”

For Swine, nothing equals and apple-pie, either for relish or for fattening power. The pig is not very dainty about his pie, however. If you merely cook the apples and stir in a little bran, he wont refuse the dish; substitute shorts, or corn-and-cob-meal, or ground oats or buckwheat, and it will suit his palate and pile on the fat amazingly. And, for finishing up a piece of pork, an apple-pudding, thickened with good corn-meal, is as far ahead of hard corn as the corn is of raw pumpkins.
Pork made with apples is sweeter, and quite as free from shrinking, as the “corn-fed.”

There is more to the culinary association than simply serving apple sauce with roast pork.

Pork and Apple Fritters.
Prepare a light batter as for pancakes. Take cold pork, boiled or roast, the latter being preferable, mince it rather fine. Take apples peeled and cored, chop them small, and mix them and the minced pork with the batter. Then fry them as you would apple fritters, stirring up the batter every time you take any. Fritters can be made in like manner with cold minced pork, and any approved chopped vegetable (previously cooked), as potato, parsnip, salsify &c.,instead of apple: but unless used in moderate quantity, the fritters will not hold together.
Cassell’s Household Guide (London, 1859)

Fried salt pork and apples is a favorite dish in the country; but it is seldom seen in the city. After the pork is fried, some of the fat should be taken out, lest the apples should be oily. Acid apples should be chosen, because they cook more easily; they should be cut in slices, across the whole apple, about twice or three times as thick as a new dollar. Fried till tender, and brown on both sides—laid around the pork. If you have cold potatoes, slice them and brown them in the same way.
The American Frugal Housewife, (1838) by Lydia Maria Child.