Thursday, March 13, 2014

Advice on Cookery while on a Shooting Excursion.

Today’s story needs no commentary from me – it is entire and interesting in itself, even to the extent of including several recipes. Whether or not you fish, hunt, or for other reasons camp in the great outdoors, here is how to do it in nineteenth-century style, courtesy of Instructions to Young Sportsmen: In All that Relates to Guns and Shooting, by Lt. Col. Peter Hawker (London, 1830) is as much advice (for the time being) as you would want to receive in one 

The last part of the work that it would afford me any pleasure to dilate on is that of cookery. For it is an old, though a just, observation, that we should eat to live; not live to eat. But when, by adding a short paragraph or two, I can, perhaps, put some of our young sportsmen, or young "foragers," up to what, in the language of the present day, is called a "wrinkle," I may possibly be the means of saving them from unnecessarily hard fare, when quartered in a small public house, on some shooting or fishing excursion. As many of the little publicans live chiefly on fat pork and tea; or, if on the coast, red herrings; the experienced traveller well knows that, when in a retired place of this sort, where, from the very circumstance of the misery attending it, there are the fewer sportsmen, and, consequently, there is to be had the best diversion, we have often to depend a little on our wits for procuring the necessaries of life. If even a nobleman (who is, of course, by common people, thought in the greatest extreme better than a gentleman without a title) were to enter an alehouse, the most that could be procured for him would be mutton or beef, both perhaps as tough, and with as little fat, as the boots or gaiters on his legs. A chop or steak is provided. If he does not eat it, he may starve: if he does, his pleasure for the next day is possibly destroyed by his unpleasant sufferings from indigestion. He gets some sour beer, which gives him the heart-bum, and probably calls for brandy, or gin; the one execrably bad and unwholesome; the other of the worst quality, and, of course, mixed with water, by which adulteration is derived the greatest part of the publican's profit. The spirit merchants make it, what they call above proof, in order to allow for its being diluted, the doing which, so far from dishonesty, is now the common practice, not only with many respectable innkeepers, but by retail merchants themselves. Our young sportsman, at last, retires to a miserable chamber and a worse bed; where, for want of ordering it to be properly aired, he gets the rheumatism; and, from the draughts of air that penetrate the room, he is attacked with the tooth-ache. He rises to a breakfast of bad tea, without milk; and then starts for his day's sport, so (to use a fashionable term) "bedevilled" that he cannot "touch a feather:" and, in the evening, returns to his second edition of misery.

On the other hand, an old campaigner would, under such circumstances, do tolerably well, and have his complete revenge on the fish or fowl of the place.

His plan, knowing the improbability of getting any thing to eat, would be to provide himself with a hand-basket at the last country town which he had to pass through, before he reached his exile; and there stock it with whatever good things presented themselves.  He, then arrives at the pothouse, which the distance, or the badness of the roads, might oblige him to do the previous day. His first order is for his sheets and bedding to be put before a good fire. If he arrives too late at night for this, let him, rather than lie between sheets which are not properly aired, sleep with only the blankets. He then, supposing he would not be at the trouble of carrying meat, sends for his beef or mutton. Having secured this for the next day's dinner, he takes out of his basket something ready dressed, or some eggs, or a string of sausages, or a few kidneys; or a fowl to broil, a cake or two of portable soup, or a little mock turtle, ready to warm; or, in short, any other things that the town may have afforded; and with this, he makes up his dinner on the day of his arrival. If the beer is sour, and he does not choose to be troubled with carrying bottles of other beverage, he is provided with a

Little carbonate of soda, which will correct the acid; a little nutmeg or powdered ginger, to take off the unpleasant taste; and, with a spoonful of brown sugar and a toast, he will make tolerably palatable that, which, before, was scarcely good enough to quench the thirst.

He will know better than to call for brandy or gin, but will order rum, knowing that that is a spirit* which would soon be spoiled by any tricks or adulteration. He will have in his basket some lemons, or a bottle of lemon acid, and make a bowl of punch, recollecting the proportions of
One sour,
Two sweet;
Four strong,
And eight weak.

* If a sportsman likes to take a flask of spirit, as a guard against cold, a stomach-ache, &c, he will, I think, find nothing equal to the real Highland Scotch, or Irish, whisky. Or, if he cannot get this, a little extrait d’absinthe Suisse; from the celebrated Mr. Johnson, No. 2, Colonnade, Pall-mall; or Mr. Sargenson, at No. 5, who is one of the best and cheapest spirit merchants in London.

This is quite the focus for good punch, which any shallow-headed boy may remember, by learning it as a bad rhyme.

It may be necessary to observe, that, by first pounding the sugar fine, you can of course measure it to a nicety, by means of a wineglass, as well as the lemon juice, and the other liquids. Also, that half the acid of Seville orange juice is better than all of lemon juice; and further,, in making punch, the spirit should be used as the finishing ingredient; though put in another jug; AND THE SHERBERT POURED UPON IT.

But as to the improvements of pink champain, hot jellies, arrack, limes, &c., it would be out of place to talk of such luxuries here, though of course, after professing to give the focus for good punch, it becomes a necessary caution against error, to except that which is composed with all the dainties of an alderman; who, by the way, is welcome to my share of them; as well as to that of the gout after them. Here we have spoken of hot punch. Now for cold; which, being merely intended as a cool beverage, requires to be much weaker.

For this, I cannot do better than copy a receipt that was given me, some years ago, when quartered at Glasgow, where cold punch was universally drank; and where its excellence was only to be equalled by the hospitality of the inhabitants. It is

"A wine glass nearly full of best refined lump sugar pounded
Twelve ditto of cold spring water.
A lime, and half a lemon [or, if no lime, a whole lemon, which
might yield about half a wine glass full of juice]
Two wine glasses brimfull of old Jamaica rum
Let the sugar be well melted, and the lemons thoroughly amalgamated with it, and the water, before you add the spirit."

Or, to be much more brief, I will say, for cold punch,

One sour,
Two sweet;
Four strong,
Twenty weak;

As here we have only to repeat the old rhyme, and change the eight into a twenty. If I could make it shorter, and more simple, I would.

For those worthies, who think it a good joke to metamorphose a man into what he would not like to be called, by making him drunk, this beverage, if introduced by way of a sequel to wine, is one of the most certain to answer their purpose: because it is so cooling, and grateful to the thirst, that the more he drinks the more he requires of it, instead of beginning to find it unpleasant, like wine, hot punch, or other more potent liquors. I name this, not as a lesson to the wag, but as a caution to the unwary.

… The old sportsman then retires to his well-aired bed, where he is provided with the best of counterpanes, a good box- or gunning-coat, or a cloak; and, after passing a good night, he rises to breakfast. If he has brought no tea with him, he makes palatable that of the place, by beating up the yolk of an egg (first with a little cold water to prevent its curdling) as a good substitute for milk or cream, a little powdered ginger, and a teaspoonful of rum. He then, previously to taking the field, desires a man to prepare some greaves, which he might carry for his dogs, or get, for them, some meat; and deputes a person to the cooking of that intended for himself; which, if bad in quality, as will most likely be the case, there is but one good and easy way of dressing. This I shall now translate from my French recipe: viz.—Let your servant take

Three pounds of meat, a large carrot, two onions, and two turnips. [The Frenchman adds also a cabbage: here John Bull may please himself.] Put them into two quarts of water, to simmer away till reduced to three pints. Let him season the soup to the taste, with pepper, salt, herbs, &c. &c. He must then cut off square about a pound of the fattest part of the meat, and put it aside, letting the rest boil completely to pieces. After he has well skimmed off the fat, and strained the soup, let him put it by till wanted.

On your return, while seeing your dogs fed, which every sportsman ought to do,

Let the soup be put on the fire for twenty minutes, with some fresh vegetables (if you like to have them), and, for the last ten minutes, boil again the square piece of meat which was reserved. Another necessary part of the recipe also should be prescribed, lest the dish should fall into disrepute. To prevent the deputy cook from helping himself, and filling it up with water, let him have a partnership in the concern; and when he has occasion to quit the room, he should either lock the door, or leave one of your relay dogs for a sentry.

You will then have a good wholesome gravy soup to begin with; and, afterwards, some tender meat, which if

Eat with mustard, a little raw parsley chopped fine, and a few anchovies,

you will, it is presumed, find an excellent dish. A pot of anchovies might easily be carried in a portmanteau, being, of all the luxuries from an oil shop, one of the most portable and the most useful. But nothing is worse than a mock anchovy, which is merely a salted bleak, or other inferior small fish, flavoured with a little anchovy liquor. Within these few years, however, the supply has been so good, that you will generally be served with the real Gorgona fish at any respectable oil shop. But Mr. Burgess has now, I believe, the largest and choicest importation. Signor Bassano, who was also famous for anchovies, has now set up again at No. 27, Jermyn-street.
Be careful to keep anchovies in a small stone jar; as an earthen one might break with them, and spoil your clothes.

Let me now add the simple receipt for as wholesome a mess as any one who can "rough it" would wish for—the dinner, of all others, for an invalid—and an alternative against starvation, where there is not even a piece of meat to be got.

Have a fowl skinned and quartered;
Put it over the fire in a quart of cold water;
Boil it full two hours:
Then add two ounces (or a handful) of pearl barley;
Three blades of mace; about two dozen peppercorns; and
Salt to your taste;
            Then let all boil together for one more hour:

And it may be eat immediately; or put by, to warm again whenever you want it.

The convenience of this camp cooking is, that it will serve for any kind of fowl. For instance, if you have an old barn door hen; old game that is shot all to pieces; two or three couple of gulls; coots; or even curlews,—by consigning them in this manner, to constant boiling and steam, you make those birds eatable and digestible, which, in roasting, or common cooking, would prove offensive in taste, and hard in substance.

N. B. The pearl barley (or rice, by the way, if you prefer it) does well with all poultry, and birds of white flesh. But with coarse birds (here we cease to have a dish for invalids), such as curlews, herons, gulls, or coots, it becomes necessary to omit the pearl barley; because you there require onion; fish sauce; lemon, and even a glass of madeira, if you can get it; similar to dressing a turtle, or making giblet soup. This you would, of course, make stronger, and boil, perhaps, an hour more than chicken soup. All such messes may be eat with anchovy, curry powder, or what you may fancy, to give them an additional goût.

An old sportsman, having thus far subsisted tolerably well, may, afterwards, with the help of his gun or fishing-rod, be enabled to fare decently, and enjoy good sport; while some poor helpless exotic would have spurned the very soil of the place; left it in disgust, before he had killed a bird or a fish; and, as likely as not, be laid up and fleeced at the next inn, and there saddled with some country apothecary.


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