Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Many Ways of Mush, Part II.

I was delighted to find, during my reading on ‘mush’ that there is a special kitchen tool for the purpose. According to Miss Leslie, the author of the cookery book quoted from yesterday, a mush-stick is “a round stick about half a yard long, flattened at the lower end, as, if not well stirred, the mush will be lumpy.”

I am pretty minimalist myself as far as kitchen implements go – a wooden spoon and a good knife manage most things, but nonetheless, I love the idea of a mush-stick as much as I love a good porridge spurtle.  I do own in fact own a spurtle, which I admit to never using (although I do regularly make porridge,) but I keep it because it has sentimental value. My spurtle is a rounded stick - it does not have a flattened end, as in the description of the mush-stick. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of a spurtle however is:

a.       A flat implement used for turning oatcakes.
b.      b. A wooden stick for stirring porridge, etc.; a potstick or ‘thivel’.

So, it seems that they are the same device after all. Is there a specially-named implement for stirring polenta, I wonder?

But I digress. The story today was intended to look at what can be done with extra or leftover mush. I made a serious omission yesterday in not giving you a recipe for the ‘original’ mush – that is, the sort made with cornmeal. And who more qualified to give us that than Miss Eliza Leslie?

Indian Mush.
Have ready on a clear fire a pot of boiling water. Stir into it, by degrees (a handful at a time, sufficient indian meal to make a very thick porridge, and then add a very small portion of salt, allowing not more than a level teaspoonful to a quart of meal. You must keep the pot boiling all the time you are stirring in the meal and between every handful stir hard with the mush-stick, (a round stick about half a yard long, flattened at the lower end,) as, if not well stirred, the mush will be lumpy. After it is sufficiently thick and smooth, keep it boiling an hour longer, stirring it occasionally. Then cover the pot closely, and hang it higher up the chimney, or set it on hot coals on the hearth, so as to simmer it slowly for another hour. The goodness and wholesomeness of mush depends greatly on its being long and thoroughly boiled. It should also be made very thick. If well made, and well cooked, it is wholesome and nutritious; but the contrary, if thin, and not sufficiently boiled. It is not too long to have it three or four hours over the fire, first boiling, then simmering. On the contrary, it will be better for it. The coarser the corn meal the less cooking it requires. Send it to table hot, and in a deep dish. Eat it with sweet milk, buttermilk, or cream, or with butter and sugar, or with butter and molasses; making a hole in the middle of your plate of mush, putting some butter into the hole, and then adding the sugar or molasses.
Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book (1857)

Now for some ideas that may prove that leftovers are better than the original.

Fried Mush.
Cut cold mush into squares, cubes, or oblong pieces a suitable size for serving, cover with flour and meal sifted together, dip in batter, roll in crumbs, fry in a basket in hot fat, until a rich brown color, drain on cheese-cloth, and serve in a napkin; or use to garnish broiled or fried chicken or fish.
The art of cookery, a manual for homes and schools (Indianapolis, 1899) by Emma Pike Ewing.

To Saute Mush.
Cut cold mush in slices a quarter of an inch thick, brown on a griddle well greased with clarified butter, and serve on a warm platter.
The art of cookery, a manual for homes and schools (Indianapolis, 1899) by Emma Pike Ewing.

Mush Muffins.
Make a quart of mush, put into it a lump of butter or lard, the size of two eggs, and a little salt; previously to making the mush, have ready a pint of light rising, stir into it a pintof new milk, and the mush, with as much wheat flour as will make it a very thick batter; let it rise four or five hours, and when light, set it in a cold place, till you are ready to bake; dip a spoon in water each time, and put the batter on the griddle in small cakes, or bake in rings. You may make it a little stiffer, and roll it out to bake in large cakes. If it should sour, put in a little salaeratus. If you have no milk, water will do instead. They will be nice toasted.
Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers (1859) by Elizabeth E. Lea.

Mush Rolls, without Milk or Eggs.
When milk is scarce, (or for a change,) you can make good rolls with mush. Take a pint of corn meal, pour on it three pints of boiling water—stirring it as you pour; put in three ounces of lard, a tablespoonful of salt, and when milk warm, put in two table-spoonsful of yeast, then mix in wheat flour, and make it a soft dough; cover the pan close, set it in a warm place till it begins to rise; as soon as light, set it in a cold place; mould them out an hour before you bake them, and allow them to rise in the dripping-pan. It will do to bake in a large cake rolled out.
Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers (1859) by Elizabeth E. Lea.

As a post-script, some long time ago I described Nine Things to do with Porridge too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The mush muffins look marvelous, but I'd be leery of trying to substitute for the "light rising" (I assume it refers to barm or perhaps sourdough).