Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Beverage for a New Year.

If you are in search of a new beverage idea for your New Year, perhaps you could take inspiration from Round the table: notes on cookery and plain recipes, with a selection of bills of fare for every month (Philadelphia, 1876) by Victor Chevalley de Rivaz. A man of French heritage living in America should surely have some good ideas on old Scottish customs, should he not?


        Keeping New Year's Eve is a Scotch custom much in vogue in France ; and as I am very fond of old customs, Scotch or otherwise, I never fail to see the old year out and the new year in in a fit and proper manner. This means, inter alia, that a festive drink or cup is elaborately prepared by the present writer, and at the orthodox moment of twelve p.m. the household, barring children in arms, partake of it and wish each other all that is
usual on such occasions.
         There are many drinks suitable for this celebration, but still their number has a limit, and besides, a change is always welcome, although there is an interval of twelve months between each potation. On the 31st of December last, therefore, I resolved to invent something new, and the company assembled were rather disgusted when they were told that the festive cup would consist of wine and jam. When, however,

I showed them the stuff and they twigged it,

they all declared, and some I dare say “swore,” as in the song, that there was nothing like my new drink. I confess I rather liked it myself, and, in common with others, wished when it was all gone, that I had made more of it. The ladies of the party were so pleased with it that encouraged by their approbation, I will describe the whole process.
         The jam I used was made of black currants in this way: Extract the juice and pulp from the fruit by passing it through a sieve — then put into a preserving pan 2 ½ lb. of crystallised sugar and a little more than half a pint of water; let the syrup boil for about half an hour, then add to it 3 lb. of the pulp and juice of the currants; let the whole boil until the jam sets firmly, which you ascertain by pouring a few drops of it on a cold plate, and then proceed to fill your pots, to be tied up, &c., when cold.

Now for the drink — into a saucepan containing rather less than one quart of water put half an ordinary-sized pot of the jam, a small handful of cloves, a stick of cinnamon a foot long, broken in small pieces, the rind of two or three oranges, and the same quantity of lemon rind, with sugar à discrétion, but not too much. Set the saucepan to boil with the lid on for an hour and a half or more. While this is going on have four bottles of claret (it need not be Chateau Lafitte), which you place inside the fender so as to warm the wine as much as possible; then pour it into a large saucepan, add the third of a bottle of Cognac, and set it on the fire to get as hot as possible without boiling. As soon as the requisite temperature is attained, pour in the liquor from the other saucepan through a fine strainer, give the whole a stir for luck, fill your glasses, put a little grated nutmeg on the top of each, and “you shall see marvels.”
I have given the proportions I used as nearly as possible; but frequent tasting during the process, and the quality of the ingredients used, must also guide those who have not sufficient experience in these matters to hit off the right quantity in each particular case.
The black currant jam of commerce would, I believe, do quite as well as that made in my way; and the nutmeg might be put in to boil with the other spices.

In conclusion, I would observe that, to the best of my belief, that this drink is new; but of one thing at least I am certain — that it is excellent, and my parting wish to my readers is that they may never have a worse drink wherewith to keep the old Scotch custom of seeing the old year out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Emergency Meals, 1899.

I am taking the easy option for the remainder of this holiday week, and staying with Dinners of the Day, (London, 1899) by ‘A Careful Cook (Mrs. Charles Praga.) I hope you enjoyed her Seaside Cookery yesterday, and that you also have fun with her ideas on Emergency Meals.


We all know the kind of husband who, though perfect in every other respect, yet has an unpleasant little habit of coming home, not unaccompanied, with a greeting like this : “Where are you, dear ? Oh, in the drawing-room ! I’ve just brought in Jones for a bit of dinner — anything you’ve got in the house, you know, dear — told him he must take pot luck.” Perhaps there doesn’t happen to be anything in the house — sufficient for three people, that is. Yet, in spite of that, the unfortunate wife has to go forward with a smiling face and pleasant greeting for the guest, who, in such a case as this, cannot be described as exactly a welcome one. It is all very well to say, “Oh, one person does not make so much difference as all that. What will feed one will feed two.” This, I believe, is generally the husband’s argument. Perhaps. But, paradoxical as it may seem, what will feed two will not always feed three. The half-pint of consomme left from yesterday’s dinner, the small slip-sole just enough for two, and the dainty mince of chicken, to be followed by a small artichoke and a couple of glasses of vanilla custard or ice-cream, though providing an ample meal for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, are yet not elastic, and absolutely no amount of taking thought will induce them to stretch so far as to do useful duty when Mr. Jones makes his entree in the unexpected manner described above. What, then, is to be done? “Send to the local restaurant,” suggests the husband, shamefacedly, producing a handful of silver, and all the while uncomfortably aware of his share in the transaction. This may hold good in certain cases; but how if there should be no local restaurant, or if its cooking should be of so greasy a nature as to render it almost, if not quite, untenable? Mary Jane, invaluable girl! suggests pancakes. Very good, but you cannot give a guest a dinner consisting exclusively of pancakes while partaking of consomme, fried sole, minced chicken, and artichoke yourselves. It is in these moments, or their like, that the true beauties of the well-stocked store cupboard, the possession of which I advocated in a former chapter, shine forth with greater splendour than usual ; and when, moreover, the stock-pot, as an institution, is for once appreciated at its true value.

In such a dilemma as this, then, let me advise the distracted housewife to proceed as follows: The consommé must be dispensed with. Save it for tomorrow
if you will. Any way, relegate it to the larder. Take from the stock-pot about a pint and a half or a quart of stock, made in the first instance according to directions
which have appeared in a foregoing chapter. not already flavoured, add salt and pepper to suit your own individual taste. Next take half an ounce of vermicelli and parboil it in boiling water for a minute, add it to the stock, make very hot, and when quite cooked serve immediately. Now we will suppose that the only fish available is the aforesaid slip-sole, already fried — for inconsiderate husbands like Mr. Smith never by any chance make their appearance until the last minute. To turn this into a dish capable of presenting a generous front to the world is no easy matter, perhaps, nevertheless we will essay it. Boil three eggs till very hard, then throw them into cold water for a few seconds, and take off the shells. Have ready half a pint of well-flavoured white sauce, which can be made in a few minutes by following the directions given in a former chapter; “flake ’’ the fried sole, utilising every possible scrap of skin, etc., make the eggs hot in the white sauce, then take them out and place on a hot fireproof china dish, arrange the flaked fish on top of the eggs, pour over the white sauce, scatter grated cheese on top, garnish round the base with fried croutons, and place upon each a smoked Norwegian sardine — these must have previously been made hot in the oven in a little of their own oil. Place in a very quick oven for five minutes, and serve immediately.

The mince of chicken, since it would be too insignificant to serve au naturel, we will treat as follows: If three chops are obtainable, let them form the pièce de résistance, egg, bread-crumb, fry, and serve them with tomato sauce. Fill three little paper cases with the mince of chicken, scatter fried bread-crumbs on top of each, place in a very hot oven for two or three minutes, and serve as an entree. If, however, butcher’s meat in any shape or form is not to be had for love or money, as sometimes happens, on early closing days for instance, your one hope, if you wish to present that mince to Mr. Jones in such a way as will suggest to him that a whole pullet is awaiting further orders in the kitchen, is to proceed thus: Take a bottle of green peas, drain off their liquor, and sautée them for a few minutes in a little oiled butter; add a pinch of sifted sugar, salt to taste, and a couple of drops of tabasco; mash the potatoes originally intended for serving with the mince with a little milk, a bit of butter the size of a walnut, the yolk of an egg, and a liberal dust of white pepper. Make very hot, and use to form a wall round a hot dish, pour the mince of chicken into the centre, garnish with the sautéed peas, and serve as hot as possible; should the mince seem somewhat dry, or the gravy at all reduced, if no more gravy is at hand, add a little well-salted milk.

The next dish figuring upon our menu is the boiled artichoke. Unless this should be of a very small size it can perhaps be made to do duty for three; if not,
better dispense with it altogether, and serve in its stead one of the many delicious and easily prepared vegetable entrees, made from any bottled vegetables. For a
sweet, if bananas are obtainable, banana cream takes but live minutes to prepare, and is invariably appreciated. Omelette sucrée is also quickly made, or perhaps a little more boiled custard can be prepared and added to that which is already made. If not, try fruit salad, and serve whipped cream with it, handed, of course, separately. But if none of these dishes are feasible, then the best advice I can offer you is to have resource to any of the bottled fruits you may happen to have “in stock” served à l’Italienne; if, however, you are fortunate enough to have somewhat more time at your disposal than I have here supposed, try junket, which takes but half an hour to prepare. Should it so happen that, saving the small sweet, just sufficient for two, already prepared for your own dinners, you have absolutely nothing in the store cupboard or house which can be utilised for an entremet, it will be better to dispense with the sweet course also rather than serve a skimped dish, which will tell the guest far more plainly than any mere words would do that he is not exactly welcome. You can substitute in its stead a savoury. Many of the less elaborate recipes take at the outside but four or five minutes to prepare. For instance, savoury biscuits will always find favour with most men, and they can be varied and improved upon, as I have before suggested, by the addition of any paste, such as bloater, lobster, or anchovy, or by being spread with luxette, or, if you wish to be extravagant, with pate de foie gras or caviar. All these things appeal essentially to the masculine palate, and if you have followed out the advice given in the chapter entitled “Dainty Dinner Tables” you will, in a sense, be prepared for guests. It stands to reason that a dinner perfectly served upon a table whose appointments, though not costly, are well chosen and in good taste, the flowers fresh and daintily arranged, not limp and pining for water, the silver and glass clean and well polished, will taste far better and be more enjoyed by those partaking of it, even though the courses may not be unduly plentiful, than would a more elaborate meal if served in a slovenly fashion.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Seaside Cookery, 1899.

I dedicate this post to friends and family who are enjoying a typical Aussie Christmas holiday at the beach, and to other friends and family for whom relentless sunshine is only a dream.

Mrs. Charles Praga, author of Dinners of the Day, (London, 1899) may not have shared with us her own first name, but she did share her somewhat lengthy thoughts on the trials (inflicted by Seaside Landladies) and tribulations (attributable to the Holidaying Houswife,) of Seaside Cookery:


It needs but a very brief experience of seaside lodging-house keepers and their manifold “little ways” to become speedily convinced that in one respect at least they are miles and miles behind their foreign compeers [sic]. I refer, of course, to their method of preparing and serving meals. Now I think it will be generally admitted that a holiday which results in an attack of acute dyspepsia cannot be said to have been productive of any solid and permanent good. I am not unreasonable, and when I go away for a holiday I do not, despite all alluring advertisements to the contrary, expect to find “all the comforts of a home”; and I equally do not require or expect that my landlady for the time being shall devote herself solely to the interests of myself and party, to the exclusion of every other guest in the house, and by aid of diligent study and the latest book on French cookery endeavour to send up every evening a dinner on similar lines to those I should partake of were I at home. But I do require that my joint of beef or mutton, as the case may be, shall be properly cooked and have enjoyed a sufficiency of basting, also that the potatoes bear a family likeness to potatoes, and not be indistinguishable from small tablets of “Somebody’s Complexion Soap” both in taste and appearance ; that the greens should have had an intimate acquaintance with a colander, and have known the pressure of a firm, yet kindly hand, with a plate or saucer underneath it, and not come up floating in a deep green sea of water; and if I have peas I expect them to resemble peas, rather than bullets, and object to their being basely done out of salt and a sprig of mint, and defrauded of their rightful allowance of two lumps of sugar to a peck. Then, again, I like a custard to contain eggs, and to have at least a semblance to the condiment whose name it bears. Jam roly-poly at best is but a stodgy sort of sweet wherewith to “finish up” a dinner, but its stodginess is increased, not lessened, if the jam it should contain has been allowed to “boil out.” All these be minor evils, doubtless, yet they can do much towards spoiling an otherwise pleasant and, perhaps, much-needed holiday; that they are unexaggerated, who that has ever spent any time, however brief, in seaside lodging, can deny? The writer has a very vivid, unpleasantly so, remembrance of a vacation passed at Southwold, that most charming of East Coast watering-places, during most of which time she and her very hard-working, and consequently hungry, artist-husband were forced to subsist principally upon bread and cheese and Spanish onions; for the joints cooked by the landladies — there were two of them, and in every other respect they were charming and most estimable creatures — were absolutely uneatable, and of their stews the less said the better. In desperation one day — we had been on a sketching expedition to Walberswick, and had returned very hungry — I tried to storm that stronghold the kitchen fortress, and, in the innocence of my heart, asked to be allowed to enter and compound a hasty ragoût. You know one can get tired even of a diet of Spanish onions and cheese, which are apt to grow monotonous, vary the cheese as you will; but its custodians were obdurate. “We make it a rule never to allow visitors to go into the kitchen,” was the blandly firm reply I received; so I had to return, worsted in the encounter, to my — no, not moutons — onions. I think we left for home next day. The air of the East Coast induces an appetite which needs something more than purely vegetarian fare to satisfy it.

Yet another seaside experience — this time at Eastbourne. Last year we made a sojourn to that highly fashionable resort, and in highly-priced apartments too; yet the cooking was so bad that we were forced over and over again to incur double expense by dining or supping at restaurants, of which, to its credit be it said, Eastbourne contains a variety, and mostly good, especially those under Italian or French management. The landlady of our apartments was of a strongly religious turn of mind. Texts bestrewed our walls, good books were placed about with conspicuous carelessness wherever a vacant space on table, sideboard, or whatnot afforded an opportunity. I hope I am not irreligious when I say that I could not help wishing that she would take just a little thought as to what her visitors — you must not say lodgers nowadays, we are all either visitors or “paying guests” — ate and drank. Our beef was invariably roasted to rags, and our mutton was as invariably underdone; whilst the memory of the solitary occasion upon which we indulged in Irish stew haunts me yet. Once, and once only, did we, in our rashness, ask her to make an attempt at a ragout; but when, after partaking of it with great caution and much protestation as to lack of appetite, my husband mentioned casually that he thought he must run up to town for a few days as he had to see a man on business, and that he would sleep at the club, as our studio was shut up, I gave in, and took a furnished house. The “rest” from the worry of housekeeping was too great and sudden a change to enable me to appreciate it properly, and really, once installed in our new quarters, I don’t think we ever had such a good dinner as that served up by my own cook, who had arrived in a costume of delicate white trimmed profusely with brightest green, after sundry formalities in the shape of telegrams and postal orders had been gone through. For the time being we were completely cured of apartments; but others, though they may find themselves in a like predicament, cannot rush off and take a furnished house, more especially if they happen to have a brood of children, and have perhaps “booked” their lodgings for weeks in advance. How then to remedy these discomforts which, though perhaps small in themselves, can do so much towards spoiling a holiday? Personal supervision of the cookery arrangements is, of course, out of the question. Nor, indeed, would one desire that this should be different; materfamilias, when on holiday-making thoughts intent, naturally desires to spend as much of her hardly-earned leisure out of doors as possible, but at the same time desires equally that the food for which she has paid a seaside, not to say fancy, price, should be well and properly cooked. Especially is this the case with the remains of a cold joint, which if not devoured by the far-famed cat every lodging-house, whether in town or country, seems to possess, is invariably served up in such a manner as to be almost if not quite uneatable. I annex a series of recipes so simple in themselves and so easy of achievement, that even the most ignorant girl or woman can carry them out if my instructions are carefully followed; further, they will be found to take no more time in preparing than will the ordinary stew so beloved of landladies. Take these recipes and give them to your landlady, and I am sure that if you ask her “pretty,” as the children say, you will neither meet with a refusal nor will failure result from her efforts; indeed, as I said before, failure is simply impossible if the recipes are strictly carried out.

Hash of Cold Beef. — Reserve the underdone portion of the beef for this purpose; cut it up into small, neat pieces, and free it from an excess of fat. Place an ounce of butter or beef dripping in a clean enamelled-iron stew-pan; as soon as it oils add a sliced onion or two or three shallots and the pieces of meat, fry for five or six minutes, and then dredge in by degrees a large tablespoonful of flour, moisten with half a pint of stock made from any well-known essence of meat, such as Liebig’s or Brand’s, stir rapidly all the time until the sauce thickens, then if not quite thick enough add a little more flour; season with pepper and salt to taste, and serve with any vegetables best liked. Potatoes should always form one of these, especially where there are children to be catered for. For hash of mutton proceed as follows: Fry the pieces of mutton, with a sliced onion, as directed in the foregoing recipe, having previously freed them from skin and fat; instead of the stock, however, add a large glassful of Harvey’s sauce and the same quantity of water, then thicken with flour. Chop finely four large pickled walnuts, and as soon as the sauce has thickened add these, together with a spoonful of capers, to the hash; season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with sippets of fried bread or toast. Another equally nice, and at the same time uncommon, hash can be made from the remains of cold veal, and will be found to be appreciated when every member of the party would turn up his or her nose in scornful refusal if it made its reappearance as a cold joint. Cut up the remains of the meat into neat, rather thin slices; dust each of these separately with white pepper ; take a clean enamelled iron saucepan and rub it with a clove of garlic, then pour into it half a pint of fresh milk, add a small blade of mace, together with the slices of veal, and simmer at one side of the stove until the meat and milk are thoroughly hot;  remove the blade of mace and place the slices of meat on a very hot dish, thicken the milk with a heaped spoonful of flour, add salt to taste, boil up once, pour over and around the meat, and serve with the customary two vegetables. The garlic can be omitted if desired, but will be found to be a great improvement. Any stuffing which may have been “left over” can also be added if liked. Very often, when a couple of fowls have been indulged in for dinner, the leg pinions may have been left. These, if treated properly, will make a nice little supper dish for the mother and father of a family, when the wee ones have retired to rest wearied out with a long day on the sands. Disjoint the remains of the fowl yourself before it leaves the table, and dust each piece liberally with pepper. Then ask the landlady, or the myrmidon to whose lot it falls to prepare the various meals, to fry two rashers of back bacon, and when the bacon is sufficiently cooked to place it upon a very hot dish and fry the fillets of fowl in the fat which will remain in the pan. Five or six minutes will suffice to do this. She should then dish up the fowl upon the pieces of bacon, place a border of peas round, and serve as hot as possible. If your landlady objects to cooking hot vegetables twice a day, have an extra quarter of a peck of peas cooked for the midday meal. These can then be heated up in the bacon fat, or in a saucepan at the side of the stove. In the latter case a tablespoonful of milk should be added to them to prevent burning. Another very nice supper dish in which bacon also plays a prominent part is “Golden Eggs.” Boil half a dozen eggs hard, throw them into cold water, and take off the shells. In order to save trouble, this can be done in the morning when the breakfast eggs are being cooked. Next cook half a dozen rashers of bacon, and place them on a hot dish; egg and bread-crumb the hard-boiled eggs, and fry them in deep fat — this will only take two or three minutes ; dish up on the slices of bacon, and serve with a border of fried cabbage. The latter should have been saved from the early dinner, chopped finely, and then fried in the fat remaining from the rashers of bacon. If your landlady objects, as perhaps she will, that she doesn’t understand “frying in deep fat, and would rather not attempt it,” tell her that all she has to do is to put a pound of lard into a deep saucepan, shake it occasionally whilst it is melting, and as soon as it ceases to “bubble” and a thin blue smoke arises, to throw in the eggs, cutlets, or potatoes, whatever the article in question which she wishes to fry may be. Tell her also that she must not attempt to cook more than two or three eggs or a couple of cutlets at a time, or the fat will be chilled and her dish consequently spoiled.

A curry may seem an ambitious dish for an English landlady to essay, but in reality it is not more so than many other things she would attack without a grumble. Of course, a curry made in the following fashion would not compare very favourably with one whose sauce had been made according to the recipe given in a previous chapter. Still, it will, if my instructions are carefully carried out, prove both economical and appetising. Cut the meat — mutton for preference — into small, neat pieces; free it from skin and fat, and fry it in an ounce of butter, with two or three sliced onions; next dredge in by degrees a heaped tablespoonful of flour and a dessertspoonful of curry powder, add a tablespoonful of vinegar, a dessertspoonful of desiccated cocoanut, and a heaped teaspoonful of brown or sifted sugar; next add by degrees half a pint of stock, made according to directions given in the recipe for hashed beef, and simmer gently over a slow fire for fifteen minutes. If the curry is not thick enough, dredge in a little more flour, serve with a border of rice — to boil which, if you can persuade your landlady to follow out the recipe given in another chapter for boiling rise to perfection, so much the better, if not, why you must content yourself with her efforts, only beseeching her not to forget the salt. Now, for sweets recommend to her notice that recipe for strawberry custard, which is very quickly and simply made. Cocoanut pudding is also a sweet very easy to compound. Russian pudding takes no longer time to make than would a jam roly, and is infinitely healthier and better for both grownup people and children. If it does not seem very firm when mixed, add an extra half-ounce of bread-crumbs. The recipes for all these puddings have been given. Another delicious and most healthy sweet is the old-fashioned Devonshire dish of junket. To make it, proceed as follows : Warm a quart of new milk to just blood-heat; then sweeten with sifted sugar, and add either a tablespoonful of brandy or else a few drops of vanilla essence ; next add a level spoonful of rennet powder, and leave in a cool place. When quite cold pour some cream on top, grate a little nutmeg over the whole, and serve. Rennet powder is sold by most chemists in sixpenny bottles, with a tiny spoon attached. It is this spoon which must be used when adding the rennet. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Three Meals a Day: December 28, 1879.

It is my birthday today, and I am certain that amongst the good things that are planned, some good food will be there. Just for fun, I am going to check out what was suggested for the day by Phillis Browne, the author of A Year's Cookery: giving dishes for breakfast, luncheon, and dinner for every day in the year, with practical instructions for their preparation (London, 1879) whose target readership was “people of moderate income, with moderate domestic help, and ordinary kitchen utensils”.

This is what she suggests – a menu entirely unsuitable for the sweltering December heat in Queensland, and not at all to my personal taste:

Collared tongue
Eggs in Brown Butter
Dry Toast
Brown and White Bread and Butter
Biscuits and Milk.
Scalloped Oysters
Cake Pudding
Hare Soup
Boiled Leg of Mutton
Caper Sauce
Mashed Turnips
Guest’s Pudding

Every day was a two-pudding day at the time, it seems. Phillis included recipes for every dish (all of them appearing several times over the year of course.)  As the dish of the day I cannot resist the concept of ‘Cake Pudding’, and I must also share with you the recipe for ‘Guest Pudding’ as I am sure some of you will share my birthday.

Cake Pudding.
This pudding is both economical and wholesome, and is generally a favourite with the children. To make it, gather together a number of pieces of broken bread and put them into a bowl. Pour upon them as much boiling water as will cover them, put a plate upon the bowl, and let them soak until soft, then drain away the water. Beat them up with a fork until smooth, and take out any pieces that still remain doughy. Stir into the mass a good lump of dripping, a pinch of salt, a little grated nutmeg, moist sugar to taste, and a few picked and dried currants, or, if these are objected to, sultana raisins may be used.
Grease a pie-dish, turn the mixture into it, and bake in a well -heated oven till the pudding is brightly browned on the top. A little jam is a great improvement to this pudding, and wine sauce makes it seem very much better than it really is. It must not be drained too dry.

Two bonus recipes come from the section on Invalid Cookery:

Cake Pudding.
An invalid tired of milk puddings might like cake pudding for a change. Chop a little suet till it is as fine as sand, and be most careful that no skin or fibre is left therein. Mix thoroughly three dessertspoonfuls of the suet with three of flour, three of fine breadcrumbs, three of sugar. Beat an egg, and mix it with three dessertspoonfuls of milk, and stir into the pudding. Turn into a small greased basin, put a round of paper on the top, set in a saucepan containing boiling water to come half-way up the basin, and steam for an hour.

Sponge Cake Pudding.
Take a penny sponge cake, or a slice of stale sponge cake that will be equivalent thereto, and crumble over a wire sieve. Pour on a quarter of a pint of boiling milk, and beat with a fork. Sweeten, and, when cool, add a whole egg which has been whisked to a froth. Butter a cup, pour in the batter, lay a greased paper on the top, and steam till the pudding is firm in the centre. Turn out, sift white sugar over, and serve with a little wine.

It turns out that Guest’s Pudding is also based on bread:

Guest's Pudding.

Take eight ounces of bread-crumbs that have been passed through a wire sieve. Put half of these into a bowl, and pour upon them half a pint of boiling milk. Lay a plate on the top, and let them soak for a while ; then add the remainder of the bread-crumbs, three ounces of crushed ratafias, four ounces of moist sugar, four ounces of chopped candied-peel, four ounces of chopped suet, the grated rind of a fresh lemon, a pinch of salt, and a tea-spoonful of baking powder. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, then add four eggs, one at a time, and stir the mixture well. Pour the preparation into a buttered mould, lay a buttered paper on the top, and steam for two hours. (See Treacle Pudding, March 28th.) Let the pudding stand a minute or two, turn it out carefully, and serve with sweet sauce. If liked, half a pound of stale bread can be used instead of fresh bread-crumbs; but if this were done, the bread would need to be beaten well with a fork after soaking, and any lumps there might be would have to be taken away. Also, for economy's sake, two eggs and a little more milk might be used instead of four eggs

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in the Arctic (c. 1850)

On the 4th of May, 1850, an expedition under the command of Captain Austin, C.B., sailed from the Thames in search of Sir John Franklin and his missing companions. As is well known, the search was unsuccessful. The memoirs and letters from members of the expedition which are contained in today’s book are, however, a fascinating story in themselves.

The book is Arctic Miscellanies: A Souvenir of the Late Polar Search by Officers and Seamen of the Expedition, edited by Sir John Ross (London, 1852), and one of the contributors provides your virtual Christmas dinner today.

Christmas Day, 1850

My subject, "Christmas fare," so long a matter of curiosity, has now become of considerable interest to us all. I therefore offer to the Arctic public a bill of fare of one of the former Expeditions, with some comments thereon.
H.M.S.' ------------- ,' DECEMBER 25TH, 18—

Mock-turtle Soup.
Quarter of Mutton.
Potatoes.        Green Peas.
Mutton Pie.               Ham.
Green Peas.               Potatoes.
Hamburgh Beef.
Cranberry Tart.        Mince Pies.

Fruit Pie.
Cheese, Ale and Porter.
English Plum-cake.
Almonds. Raisins.

Arctic fare affords so little variety, that I do not expect even our ingenious caterers can add much to this simple list: they may, however, replace the "spiced Hamburgh" by good English roast beef; but the mutton we must retain — it is so nutritious, so well suited to the present delicate state of our stomachs.
With appetites sharpened by old zero, we shall quickly demolish the ordinary routine of hams, potatoes, peas, &c., and thus clear away for the second course. Plum-pudding and mince pies are powerful stimulants to memory, and are therefore indispensable at this festive season. The imagination, thus excited, pictures home as it was, is, or is to be, and dwells on ties too tender to be touched on here; and thus we enjoy a delicious mental repast. But mark! fruit pie, cranberry tart; observe the admirable tact and profound knowledge of human necessities in this rigorous climate, displayed by tempting with such invaluable antiscorbutics!
…. In these Arctic regions, where we are keeping our Christmas, the weather outside is twice as cold, and we are surrounded by fifty times the quantity of ice and snow that there is in England; and for that very reason should we make the inside as comfortable as possible, not only by eating fish, fresh beef and mutton, preserved chickens, green peas, mince-pies, plum-pudding, fruit pie, double Gloucester, with the royal standard on the top, and plum-cake; but also by keeping up the other good old Christmas custom of awakening our imagination by relating all the jolly stories about ghosts and robbers that we ever heard —bearing in mind that a good story is never told too often—and bringing to our minds again the times when, years ago, we used to listen to similar stories around our own happy firesides; and thus shall we make each other as comfortable in the spirit, by recalling the by-gone associations of our childhood, as we do in the gastric receptacles of our economy, by enjoying the best cheer that the season will afford.
I remain, Mr. Editor,
Yours very sincerely,


Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Bizarre Christmas Menu, Paris, 1870.

Today’s Christmas menu is most unusual. It is given in The Chicago Herald Cooking School: A Professional Cook's Book for Household Use (1883), by Jessup Whitehead, and needs some explanation, which I attempt after you have had your vicarious eating pleasure.

Genius in the Kitchen.
Hartford Times.
Another branch of the subject which comes up yearly at the cooks’ ball for discussion by the gourmands is the degree of ingenuity displayed by different famous cooks in devising new dishes and menus wherewith to tickle jaded palates. It is considered that for originality the palm should go to the chef of the French Rothschilds, whose patron in Christmas week, 1870, invited a select party of friends to the following dinner.

Hors D’oeuvres.
Butter Radishes        Sardines         Ass’s head, stuffed.
Puree of beans aux croutons          Elephant consommé
Fried gudgeons                     Roast Camel a la Anglaise
Civet of kangaroo     Roast ribs of bear
Haunch of wolf, venison sauce      Cat with rats
Water-cress salad
Antelope pie, truffled                      Petit pois au beurre
Rice-bakes with preserves
Gruyere cheese
Xeres  Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Latour blanche, 1861                       Rornancee Contil, 1858
Chateu Palmer, 1860                       Bollinger frappe
orti, 1827
Café et liqueurs

This dinner cost the Rothschild’s chef three months’ preparation, besides writing and telegraphing to the different parts of the world, and in money $400 a cover.

The menu is certainly interesting, but - if indeed it is genuine - the explanation of the planning and sourcing of the ingredients given by the author of the book is not correct. From 19 September 1870 to 28 January 1871, Paris was under siege by Prussia. By late December, the inhabitants of the city had resorted to eating their way through the Paris Zoo.

In a previous post I mentioned the siege, and included the following note from Le Mars Globe (Iowa) of April 28 1909, we have a story about Paris in 1871:

“Amid the horrors of the siege of Paris in 1871, one Cadol found time to issue a book of recipes for the preparation of the strange fare to which the city was reduced. “Our stomachs are turned into natural history museums” he wrote, “but we must make the best of circumstances and render our food as palatable as we can.” So housewives were instructed how to disguise the flesh of dogs, horses, asses, rats and mice, and were shown that, despite the old adage, one can make an omelette without breaking eggs. The recipe for an eggless omelette was as follows: “Soak an army biscuit in sugared water flavoured with orange flower, chop finely and spread on a hot dish, powder well with sugar, and then pour over and set alight to a liberal helping of rum.” With eggs at $6 a dozen, and rum at little more than its normal price, this palatable imitation of an “omelette au rhum” became a most popular dish.”

There is a little more on food during the siege in the post ‘Not your usual Parisianfare.

There are a number of similar menus flitting around the Interwebs which supposedly represent Paris Zoo dinners around Christmas 1870. They are difficult to research without the necessary time, language skills, and  access to contemporary newspapers, so I make no comment about the authenticity of this particular menu – please just enjoy it as a curiosity!

As far as the individual dishes on this menu go, I am intrigued by the Rice-bakes with Preserves. I assume this is some sort of rice pudding, but so far have been unable to clarify my theory. I do think we need something simple after our virtual feed of elephant and antelope, so how about a nice, simple, and most ethical watercress salad?

Watercress Salad.
Pick out a quantity of nice sprigs of watercress, turn them over in a mixture of three parts of olive oil and two parts tarragon vinegar, with salt; and serve in a bowl.

Pierceton Independent (Indiana) August 25, 1880

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas dinner at a Coffee house in Philadelphia (1833.)

I have another Christmas bill of fare for you today. I found it in Letters to a Gentleman in Germany: Written After a Trip from Philadelphia to Niagara (1834,) where it appears as a footnote to a discussion of European food.

That readers in Europe may not suppose we are altogether starving in this country, in good things, as they might be led to do from the accounts of some travellers, we here insert the following, cut at random out of a Philadelphia newspaper. It is the bill of fare of the American coffee house, of December 25th, 1833.

“2 saddles Bears’ Meat; 2 saddles Fine Mountain Venison; 2 saddles Albany Mutton; 500 Terrapins – large size, very fine; 40 pair Canvass Back Ducks; Pheasants, Snipe, Woodcock, Red Necks, Black Duck, Broad Bills, Mallard, Dried Salmon, Young Ducks, Vermicelli Soup; Chickens – Barbecued and Fricasseed; Squabs – Stewed and Barbecued; Sweetbreads; Sweetbreads Larded; Rabbits; Potatoes – Boiled or Roasted; Spanish Olives; Pickles of various kinds; Sardines, Dutch Herring; Tripe and Oysters; Oysters – plain, stewed, roasted, boiled and fried; Mutton Chops, with shallots; Lamb Chops – French and English style; Anchovy Toast; Welch Rabbit; Pork Steaks, Beef Steaks, with tomato sauce or onions; Veal Cutlets; Ham and Eggs; Omelet; Chocolate; Cocoa; Coffee; Tea.
“A regular supply of Sauces, received direct from London.
“In addition to the above list of dishes, such arrangements have bee made, as will render it possible to serve up all descriptions of Game in their proper seasons, together with every luxury the epicure can desire.
N.B. Relishes always ready.”

As the recipe for the day, I give you the instructions for drying salmon, and how to use the end product, from A new system of domestic cookery, by a Lady [M.E.Rundell] 66th edition (London, 1842.)

To Dry Salmon.
Cut the fish down, take out the inside and roe, rub the whole with common salt after scaling it; let it hang twenty-four hours to drain. Pound three or four ounces of saltpetre, according to the size of the fish, two ounces of bay salt, and two ounces of coarse sugar; rub these, when mixed well, into the salmon, and lay it on a large dish or tray two days; then rub it well with common salt, and in twenty-four hours more it will be fit to dry: wipe it well after draining. Hang it either in a wood chimney, or in a dry place, keeping it open with two small sticks.
Dried salmon is eaten broiled in paper, and only just warmed through; egg-sauce and mashed potatoes with it; or it may be boiled, especially the bit next the head.

To Dress Dried Salmon.
Cut in slices, and broil in buttered paper. Egg-sauce. If served at breakfast, omit the sauce. Some like it broiled without paper; if so, a very few minutes will do it.

An Excellent Dish of Dried Salmon.

Pull some into flakes; have ready some eggs boiled hard and chopped large; put both into half a pint of thin cream, and two or three ounces of butter rubbed with a tea-spoonful of flour; skim it, and stir till boiling-hot; make a wall of mashed potatoes round the inner edge of a dish, and pour the above into it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Colorful Christmas Dinner, 1931.

I understand that some of you like to keep to a specific colour theme for your Christmas table. I try, but fail, to understand why for some of you, the colour theme must be forced upon the food. I dedicate this post to those of you who maybe struggling with blue and silver or orange and purple food this year, and respectfully suggest you consider changing to Turkey Brown and Creamy Potato White (I apologise for not being able to quote the Pantone numbers for these colours off the top of my head.)

Green and red are the colours most commonly associated with Christmas, and are perhaps do-able colours for a meal. If these happen to be your chosen colours this year, the following advice from the script of one of the radio programs of the United States Department of Agriculture in 1931 might be interesting.

Subject: "A Colorful Christmas Dinner."
Information from the Bureau of Home Economics, U.S. 3. A.

So many things to think about this week, one right after another. But one of the most important considerations for the housekeeper and hostess is the Christmas dinner.

"Shop early and mail early", urges the Post Office Department.

"Make menus early," say I. It's such a big relief to have the dinner for December 25 planned well in advance and the market order all made. Once the menu is settled, you can go about the other business of this busy week without that annoying question forever popping up from the back of your our mind — "What shall I give my guests to eat?"

Uncle Ebeneezer says that one of the greatest Christmas tragedies is the harassed woman who left all her plans until the last minute and had to work so hard over the dinner that she lost her appetite and her disposition doing it.

So, first thing today, let's get out our pencils and consider the bill of fare for Christmas. The Menu Specialist has been extra thoughtful and given me two fine Christmas day menus — each featuring a red and green color scheme in every course.

Why two Christmas dinners? Because, Arabella, most housekeepers of my acquaintance like to be able to make a choice in menus for a big occasion like this.
And they used different menus to suit different sized purses.

The first menu is a typical Christmas turkey dinner. A dinner beginning with a fruit appetizer and ending with good, old-fashioned plum pudding.

Did I say a turkey dinner? Let me qualify that statement. This menu will be quite suitable with any sort of roast fowl you please — goose, duck, chicken or turkey. Yes, any sort of fowl — or even rabbit, if you like.

If you serve turkey we're suggesting chestnut stuffing for it. If you serve goose or duck, however, apple stuffing is especially good. So is mashed potato stuffing with raisins.

The second menu is for a thrifty dinner — less expensive than the first, but just as Christmassy. You can take your pick from these two. I'll give you the thrifty dinner tomorrow. Today it will take all our time to discuss Menu Number One.

Everybody ready to write down these dinner please?

First course: Chilled fruit appetizer. Fruit appetizers are very popular today and are of many different kinds. There’s fruit cup or, for one kind. A mixture of chilled tart fruit is cut in pieces and usually served in frosty fruit juice, served in cocktail glasses. Or, finally, there’s fruit served in a large section or piece on a small plate. Every good fruit appetizer has a three characteristics – it’s chilled, its tart, and it’s dainty and tempting in appearance. The Menu Specialist suggests for today's fruit appetizer a slice of white honeydew melon, chilled, of course, flavored with a bit of lemon juice and decorated with a red and green garnish. For this garnish a red cherry and a sprig of mint would be attractive, or a few thin slices of red and green cherries. If you find it difficult to buy the melon, or would rather have something else, why not use half a grapefruit or canned pear, also decorated with red and green? If you use the pear, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over it, to make it pleasantly tart, as an appetizer should be.

So much for the first course.

The second course is: Roast turkey with chestnut stuffing, or anv other roast fowl; Buttered cauliflower; Harvard beets; Mixed savory greens of some other green Vegetable; and tiny crisp rolls.

"That, no potatoes for Christmas dinner?" I hear somebody exclaim.

Potatoes aren’t necessary with this meal, but of course you can serve them if Uncle Peter and Aunt Polly insist on having them. With the stuffing, and rolls and the plum pudding for dessert, potatoes just add unnecessary starchy food. The Menu Specialist has planned this first course especially light to accommodate the rich plum pudding coming for dessert. That’s and idea worth considering always, if you’re interested in perfect menus. Whenever you’re serving a rich pudding, be sure to plan the first course accordingly. Otherwise, your guests will over-eat and fee stuffy all Christmas afternoon. The chance are that they’ll have unhappy dreams all Christmas night also.

Have you a picture of that main course as it will look served on your best dinner plates? I have. At one side of the plate will be a piece of roast fowl done just to a turn. Next to it will be some delicate stuffing with brown gravy over it. The cubes or slices of those delicious Harvard beets. Next, some delicate white pieces of buttered cauliflower, with perhaps a dash of red paprika over the top. The, mixed savory greens or other pleasant green vegetable. See the color scheme of red, white and green?

Of course, half of the attractive appearance of that plate will depend on the way the vegetables are treated. If the green vegetable, for example, is to keep it’s bright, natural color, and if the cauliflower is to be white and not greyish or brownish in tone, correct cooking is necessary. Drop the vegetables in boiling salted water, keep the lid off the green vegetables while they’re cooking, cook rapidly until just tender, but not a moment longer, drain thoroughly, add butter, and serve immediately. Vegetables lose their attractive looks and taste if they are allowed to stand in the warming oven while your’re waiting for other things to get done. If you treat your vegetables well, they will reward you by keeping their color, flavor and food value.

Let's sec. where was I on the menu? Oh, yes. We’ve finished writing down.

How, let's discuss the salad. There's a choice of salads for this meal. Either one will give that crisp, tart, fresh green that is needed between the main course and dessert.  Naturally, with a big meal like this, we don't want a rich or elaborate salad. So, serve either plain lettuce, cut in slices or quarters, or watercress with novelty dressing over it, or tomato and green pepper slices on lettuce. For the plain lettuce or cress salad, make French dressing and add red chili sauce and finely chopped parsley or chopped green peppers. The dressing, you see, helps carry out the Christmas color scheme. The other colorful salad suggestion is simply slices of fresh red tomatoes and thin rings of green pepper with French dressing.

That bring us to dessert, which is good, old-fashioned hot plum pudding to remind us of Tiny Tim and all the other old friends who carried on the Yule tide customs of Merrie England. I hope you made your plum pudding some time ago, so will only have to warm it up on Christmas day. If not, any day this week before Christmas will do for making it.

Have I a good recipe for plum pudding? Indeed I have, and so have you, if you own a green cookbook. Right on page 99 is a pudding recipe that calls for suet and raisins and citron and nutmeats and every other good thing that belongs in a plum pudding.

Whipped cream is good with plum pudding. So is hard sauce, made of butter and sugar creamed together. If you want a hard sauce that is a little different, use brown instead of white sugar, and grate in the rind of an orange for flavoring, Any one of the liquid or foamy sauces is also suitable for plum pudding. And some people like best of all to serve a spoonful of vanilla ice cream or mousse, on the plate with the hot pudding.

Lets go over the menu once again, now, to see that we have everything that belongs to this meal.

First course: Fruit appetizer
Second course: Roast turkey or other fowl with stuffing, Giblet gray; Buttered cauliflower; Harvard beets; Mixed savory greens, or other green
vegetable; and small small crisp rolls.
Salad course: Either lettuce with novelty French dressing : Or, Sliced
tomatoes and green peppers on lettuce. You can serve tiny, crisp,
salty crackers with this salad, if you prefer.
Dessert course: Hot plum pudding with whipped cream or other sauce; Coffee; Red and green candies; and Nuts.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss the menu for the less expensive dinner. Also we’ll have a recipe for jellied plum pudding – something different in the plum pudding line. And, if we have time then, we’ll take up that matter of table decorations.