Monday, August 04, 2014

Having a Rum Time with Marrow.

This is the final fling on ‘marrow’ folks, – at least for the time being. I have not given any space - nor do I intend to - to the use of ‘marrow’ to describe brain in a culinary context, or as a historical alternative name for avocado, although these are recorded usages of the word. I will, however, consider the vegetable marrow.

First, to the explanation of the phrase in the Oxford English Dictionary:-

 (Chiefly Brit.) any of various kinds of squash or gourd which are chiefly the fruits of varieties of Cucurbita pepo, eaten as a vegetable; esp. one of the larger round or cylindrical kinds with green, white, or striped skins and greenish-white or (occas.) yellowish pulpy flesh.

The gourd family originated in the Americas, but if last week’s source, An Encyclopaedia of Gardening (London, 1824) it reached Britain via Persia [Iran.] The author says:

The vegetable marrow (C. succado) was introduced within these few years from Persia, where it is called Cicader. "The fruit," Sabine observes (Hort. Trans, vol. ii. 255.), "is of a uniform pale-yellow, or light sulphur-color; when full grown, it is about nine inches in length, four inches in diameter, of an elliptic shape, the surface being rendered slightly uneven by irregular longitudinal ribs, the terminations of which uniting, form a projecting apex at the end of the fruit, which is very unusual in this tribe. It is useful for culinary purposes in every stage of its growth; when very young, it is good if fried with butter; when large or about half grown, it is excellent either plain, boiled, or stewed with rich sauce; for either of these purposes it should be cut in slices. The flesh has a peculiar tenderness and softness, from which circumstance it has, I suppose, received its name, much resembling the buttery quality of the Beurré pears, and this property remains with it till it is full grown, when it is used for pies. It is, however, in its intermediate state of growth that I conceive it likely to be most approved. Compared with all
the other kinds which I had growing, its superiority was decided which, in cooking, might be considered nearly as good, but these arc bad bearers, and more difficult to cultivate, so that I consider the vegetable marrow without a rival."

There is no escaping it - ‘superiority’ is a relative term in relation to the marrow. If I may speak plainly, the vegetable is usually bland and frequently watery. The vine is however, prolific, and quantity does occasionally have value in cookery, even if it does not trump quality. Should you be faced with a quantity of vegetable marrow (or one of its near relatives,) the following recipes may help.

A Fine Sauce, or Puree of Vegetable Marrow.
Pare one or two half grown marrows and cut all the seeds; take a pound of the vegetable, and slice it with one ounce of mild onion, into a pint of strong veal broth or of pale gravy; stew them very softly for nearly or quite an hour; add salt and cayenne, or white pepper, when they are nearly done; press the whole through a fine and delicately clean hair-sieve; heat it afresh, and stir to it when it boils about the third of a pint of rich cream. Serve it with boiled chickens, stewed or boiled veal, lamb cutlets, or any other delicate meat. When to be served as a puree, an additional half pound of the vegetable must be used; and it should be dished with small fried sippets round it. For a maigre dish, stew the marrow and onion quite tender in butter, and dilute them with half boiling water and half cream.
Vegetable marrow, 1 lb; mild onion, 1 oz.; strong broth or pale gravy, 1 pint: nearly or quite 1 hour. Pepper or cayenne, and salt as needed; good cream from ¼ to ⅓ of pint. For puree, ½ lb. more of marrow.
Modern Cookery in all its Branches (1845) by Eliza Acton.

Vegetable Marrow Marmalade.
Peel the marrows, and grate them. To 61bs. of fruit, put 61bs. of loaf sugar, and the juice and grated rinds of two lemons; boil it for half an hour over a moderate fire, stir it frequently, and pour it into small moulds.
Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT) 17 August 1918.

Vegetable Marrow - Preserved.
Peel the marrows, and after scraping out the seeds and fibres, cut them in pieces. To each pound of fruit allow 1 lb. of loaf sugar and the juice of a lemon. Set the whole over the fire, and after it begins to boil let it continue for half an hour, and then pour into the preserving pots
Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT) 17 August 1918.

[Vegetable Marrow Pickle]
Some people think that the nicest of all home-made pickles is the vegetable marrow, and though as a rule the cucumber or melon is preferred, it is well worth making some of it, especially as the recipe is very simple.
Two pounds of marrow cut in pieces about an inch square must be added to three or four onions cut small and thoroughly salted for twenty-four hours. Then take ½ oz. of ground ginger , ½ oz. of turmeric, ½ oz. of mustard, and ¼ lb. of loaf sugar, mix with a pint of vinegar and boil. Strain the salt water away from the marrow and onion, and add them to the vinegar, then boil for a good twenty minutes. Put the marrow into jars, boil up the vinegar again, pour over the marrow, and, when cool, cover and seal.
The Times (London, England), Saturday, Aug 12, 1922

[Vegetable Charlotte]
Among excellent and convenient dishes must be numbered vegetable charlottes. This is a good way of treating the vegetable marrow, so often dull and insipid. A dish packed with layers of parboiled marrow dotted with butter and finely sifted breadcrumbs, flavoured lightly with curry powder and browned in the oven is quite interesting. A hint of onion can be added if liked.
The Times (London, England), Monday, Aug 15, 1938;

And my personal favourite, though as yet untried:

Marrow Rum
The days of bathtub gin and American prohibition are being recalled in Britain by witnesses of a boom in home brewing. Fostered by a good soft fruit crop and the derationing of sugar, Bacchanalian enthusiasm has flowered forth in a fascinating range of equipment, potencies and "bouquets."
One of the more satisfying concoctions, it is reported, is marrow rum.
The recipe: Hollow one large marrow and fill with lump sugar. Hang in muslin bag over bowl. Marrow rots and liquid drips into bowl.  Bottle and keep for a year before drinking.
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW) 6 November, 1954.

1 comment:

Shay said...

I am currently drowning in marrows (or our version thereof, known here as summer squash). Also cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. The spousal unit has a green thumb.

I have a dish of them marinating in a vaguely Japanese dressing in the fridge for my lunch tomorrow, seven or eight of them sitting on the kitchen counter, and still more out on the vine. I'm going to have to dig out my mustard pickle recipe, I guess.