Friday, January 09, 2015

Sauces for Fish (1508)

Yesterday we looked at the carving terms given in Wynkyn de Worde’s Boke of Kervynge  published in 1508, and I want to return to it briefly before I move on. There were other snippets of early sixteenth century food lore in this book, and today I want to give you the author’s advice on the traditional sauces used on various types of fish.

Sauces for fish
And here begins sauces for all manner of fish.

Mustard is good for salt herring, salt fish, salt conger, salmon, sparlyng, salt eel and ling.
vinegar is good with salt porpoise, turrentyne, salt sturgeon, salt threpole, salt whale.
lamprey with galantine.
Verjuice to roach, dace, bream, mullet, bass, flounder, sole, crab and chub with powdered cinnamon.
to thornback, herring, houndfish, haddock, whiting and cod, vinegar, powdered cinnamon and ginger.
Green sauce is good with green fish and halibut, cuttlefish and fresh turbot.
Put not your green sauce away for it is good with mustard.
Here ends for all manner of sauces for fish according to their appetite.

Note the suggestion of mustard for a number of varieties of fish in 1508. Now let us fast forward to 1861, the year that Isabella Beeton published her amazing Household Manual. Mrs. Beeton was clearly several centuries in the wrong when she said of mustard “before the year 1729, mustard was not known at English tables.” She then goes on to repeat the already hoary old myth of Mrs Clements of Durham and her mustard manufacturing business.
Nevertheless, her recipe for ‘Indian Mustard’ would certainly have fitted the early-sixteenth century bill of fare, had there been bottled ketchup and bottled anchovy sauce available at that time:
INDIAN MUSTARD, an excellent relish to
Bread and Butter, or any cold Meat.
Ingredients.-  ¼ lb. of the best mustard, ¼ lb. of flour, ½ oz. of salt, 4 shallots, 4 tablespoonfuls of vinegar, 4 tablespoonfuls of ketchup, ¼ bottle of anchovy sauce.

Mode.- Put the mustard, flour, and salt into a basin, and make them into a stiff paste with boiling water. Boil the shalots with the vinegar, ketchup, and anchovy sauce, for 10 minutes, and pour the whole, boiling, over the mixture in the basin; stir well, and reduce it to a proper thickness; put it into a bottle, with a bruised shalot at the bottom, and store away for use. This makes an excellent relish, and if properly prepared will keep for years.

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