Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 7: America's Bird, The Noble Turkey

Most cooks begin their menu by selecting the roast meat that will hold the place of honor during the entree. In the case of Thanksgiving, this is the Turkey.

We'll feature two recipes for the noble bird, boneless stuffed turkey and a Turducken.

First up, the one I haven't tried myself.
In 1980, a chef in Louisiana was searching for the perfect twist to the tired turkey. He deboned a chicken, filled it with stuffing and put it in a deboned duck, which in turn went into a deboned turkey. The famous Proudhomme Turducken was unleashed on the culinary world. The patent was issued in 1986 to Chef Proudhomme and the dish enjoyed some popularity. A decade later, it took the culinary world by storm and remains a popular twist on the traditional turkey.
Turducken by Peggy Trowbridge Fillipone of About Food

This dish traces it's ancestry back further than a mere 40 years. The tradition of "illusion" dishes was going strong in the Medieval era and was a perfected art by the Georgian era.
As a means of showing largesse and feeding multitudes, many traditional holiday standing pies included boned birds layered.

Here's a recipe from House and Home: Or, The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutlidge, 1849, page 74.
Christmas Pie
Make the walls of thick standing crust, to any size you lie, and ornamented as fancy directs. Lay at the bottom of the pie a beef steak. Bone a turkey, goose, fowl, duck, partridge, and place one over the other, so that, when cut, the white and brown meat may appear alternately. Put a large tongue by its side, and fill the vacancies with forcemeat balls and hard eggs, and add savory jelly. This last is better for being kept in a mould, and only taken out as required. Bacon, chopped or beat up with the forecemeat, is preferable to suet, as it is nicer when cold, and keeps better.

Mrs. Bliss includes a New Year's Pie in her Practical Cook Book: Containing Upwards of One Thousand Receipts... which gets yet closer to the bird in a bird. (1850, page 244)
New Year's Pie
Boil a neat's tongue, skin it, and put it into a boned chicken; put the boned chicken into a boned duck; put the boned duck into a boned turkey; put the boned turkey into a boned goose; season the whole with lemon and spice to your taste, and bake it in a hot oven. Make a jelly of beef's feet, as are baked, and put them into a deep dish, or into a deep-plated dish cover, with the breast of the goose downwards; the pour upon them the jelly, covering the fowls with it; set the whole away, for the jelly to harden; when it has become hard and stiff, turn the whole out carefully upon your dish, and serve, cutting through it all. The dish may be garnished with small moulds of the jelly.

For those who don't want quite that much practice boning a fowl, a simple stuffing filled boned turkey is also found in period recipe books and modern magazine pages.

 "The Lady’s Receipt Book; A Useful Companion for Large or Small Families" by Eliza Leslie, 1847, page 104.

-For this purpose you must have a fine, large, tender turkey; and after it is drawn, and washed, and wiped dry, lay it on a clean table, and take a very sharp knife, with a narrow blade and point. Begin at the neck; then go round to the shoulders and wings, and carefully separate the flesh from the bone, scraping it down as you proceed. Next loosen the flesh from the breast, and back, and body; and then from the thighs. It requires care and patience to do it nicely, and to avoid tearing or breaking the skin. The knife should always penetrate quite to the bone; scraping loose the flesh rather than cutting it. When all the flesh has been completely loosened, take the turkey by the neck, give it a pull, and the whole skeleton will come out entire from the flesh, as easily as you draw your hand out of a glove. The flesh will then fall down, a flat and shapeless mass. With a small needle and thread, carefully sew up any holes that have accidentally been torn in the skin.
Have ready a large quantity of stuffing, made as follows:--Take three sixpenny loaves of stale bread; grate the crumb; and put the crusts in water to soak. When quite soft, break them up small into the pan of grated bread-crumbs, and mix in a pound of fresh butter, cut into little pieces. Take two large bunches of sweet-marjoram; the same of sweet-basil; and one bunch of parsley. Mince the parsley very fine, and rub to a powder the leaves of the marjoram and basil. You should have two large, heaping table-spoonfuls of each. Chop, also, two very small onions or shalots, and mix them with the herbs. Pound to powder a quarter of an ounce of mace; a quarter of an ounce of cloves; and two large nutmegs. Mix the spices together, and add a tea-spoonful of salt and a teaspoonful of ground black pepper. Then mix the herbs, spice, &c., thoroughly into the bread-crumbs; and add, by degrees, four beaten eggs to bind the whole together.
Take up a handful of this filling; squeeze it hard, and proceed to stuff the turkey with it,--beginning at the wings; next do the body; and then the thighs. Stuff it very hard, and as you proceed, form the turkey into its natural shape, by filling out, properly, the wings, breast, body, &c. When all the stuffing is in, sew up the body, and skewer the turkey into the usual shape in which they are trussed; so that, if skilfully done, it will look almost as if it had not been boned. Tie it round with tape, and bake it three hours or more; basting it occasionally with fresh butter. Make a gravy of the giblets, chopped, and stewed slowly in a little water. When done, add to it the gravy that is in the dish about the turkey, (having first skimmed off the fat,) and enrich it with a glass of white wine, and two beaten yolks of eggs, stirred in just before you take it from the fire.
If the turkey is to be eaten cold at the supper-table, drop table-spoonfuls of currant or cranberry jelly all over it at small distances, and in the dish round it.

About three years ago now, I had an opportunity to feed 20 people 19th century meals for three days. One dinner meal, I used a line-up of fall classics that reads much like a Thanksgiving meal. I didn't take photos at the time because it was an immersion event and flashing photos are bad form. The food was well received, though many weren't sure they were ready to give up the modern incantations of classic dishes.

What I Did:
Butter 1 lbs
Majoram, Basil, Parsley
Onions/Shallots 2 small
Mace, Cloves, Nutmeg 1/4 oz.
Salt, Black Pepper teaspoon
Eggs 4
I needed to save time, so I bought a pre-cooked turkey. So I heated the turkey according to included directions. I made the stuffing separately according to above directions. I used crouton pieces. I soaked them in water. Drain them by hand. It’s a messy process not meant for those who don’t like to get their hands dirty.  I added the seasonings. I melted the butter and added it. I added the eggs. Bake at 350* for 20 minutes. It will have the consistency of bread pudding. Once the turkey and stuffing are both done, introduce them to each other.

Need a visual? Here's a YouTube Video.

Series: Everything Old Is New Again; Or, A countdown to Thanksgiving

One of my favorite foodie holidays is Thanksgiving. It's easy to understand. Food plays a central role in the festivities. For a few glorious weeks, the entire country goes foodie as plans are made and recipes tried.

In that quest for the new and different, many recipes turn right around to the past. In this series, I will share an historic recipe that is seeing a new popularity this season. From de-boned turkey to cauliflower macaroni to pear pie, we're looking back to look ahead.

What are the "classic" Thanksgiving dishes? I polled my friends in the Civil War Kitchen on FaceBook and they responded graciously with tid-bits from their own families and traditions. Overwhelmingly some dishes stand out as gracing just about all Thanksgiving tables. A few suggestions are classics within a particular family and those should be experienced within that tradition. (I'm coming to your house. When do we eat?)

So, tuck a napkin in your collar and enjoy the season. 
Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #10: Qu'ils mangent de la brioche

The Challenge:
The 16th is the anniversary of the beheading of Marie Antoinette. In honor of Madame Deficit, prepare your best cake from a historic recipe. And then eat it, bien sur.

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche." Reducing a volitile political situation into an out-of-context, miss-attributed sound-byte from a disliked celebrity political leader is not a new concept.  France was the leader in fashionable gastronomy at the time and this tense situation had the potential to affect great changes on European, British, and American dining as well.
The origins of the Bread Riots during the French Revolution are several-fold and read dangerously close to several other tense times in western history. A severe drought lead to a drop in wheat production. A conscription war took farmers and bakers for armed service, leaving fields fallow and production to women, children, and elderly. A turn from agriculture to industry meant less wheat produced needing to feed a more concentrated population in an industrial center. Less product available means a spike in prices. Government sponsored stock-piling of grains lead to a paranoia from the populace. Bread from a baker was priced at almost a laborer's daily wage.  The situation was dangerous indeed.
To stall the situation, the Government asked the bakers to produce common loaves of bread from mixed grains, rather than the dizzying array of wheat based breads and cakes to which the urban populace was accustomed. Alternative bread bases were considered (potato, for one) and met with suspicion and dislike.
In the midst of this dangerous situation, the men who would have the most influence on "classical" French cooking and baking were getting their start. One of the most famous is Marie-Antoine Careme.
Named for Her Highness, Marie-Antoinette, Chef Careme was working in a steakhouse at the time of the Revolution. He studied France's great pastries, including the array of desserts from brioche paste, under the pastry-chef Sylvain Bailly. Chef Careme established the classic sauce families and is credited with two famous pastries we still enjoy today.

So, in honor of the resilience of the French baking tradition... the famous cake from a recipe of it's famous makers.

The Recipe:
From: The Royal Parisian Pastrycook and Confectioner from the Original of M. A. Careme  by M.A. Careme compiled by F.J. Mason, 1834, page 16

Sect. V—Paste For Brioches.
Sift three pounds of fine flour, and in a fourth part of it make a hole, and put therein a glass of lukewarm water and one ounce of good yeast. Then mix the flour lightly with the liquid, adding, if necessary, a little more lukewarm water, in order to form the whole into a light and softish paste. Stir and work it for some minutes, so that it quits the hand and board with ease; then mould it and put it into a small stewpan, which you cover, and put in a place moderately warm.*
Afterwards prepare the remainder of the paste, putting in the middle one ounce of fine salt, one ounce of pounded sugar, and half a glass of cream; mix it, and add to it thirty eggs if small, and twenty-six if large; which you should break on a small plate, and smell each of them before poured into the paste, to prevent a musty one from spoiling it.
The eggs being broken, mix with them, by small quantities at a time, two pounds of the best butter (which should only be worked in winter), and gradually the flour. Afterwards mix and work the whole well together (in winter give it in addition three turns, by working it well with your wrists to render it rather soft). The spunge having now reached its proper degree of fermentation, pour it on the paste, and then mix and stir the whole well together in one mass. Put the paste afterwards in a large glazed earthen pan, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and having covered it with a napkin, put it in a place where there is no current of air, and where the heat is of a moderate degree.

* The yeast should be no more than one day old; and the water, in which it is diluted not too warm. Observe also that the spunge should not be set too long before the paste is ready; and if, during the hot weather in summer (which, as it accelerates the fermentation considerably, requires cold water to be used instead of warm), you find that it rises too fast, lay it immediately on the board, which you have previously sprinkled with flour, before it has attained the proper height, to be remoulded, and then put it to rise again. This, however, should be done only when you are pressed for time; as it is detrimental to the paste, inasmuch as a second fermentation causes the spunge to lose part of its strength.
 To ascertain correctly when the spunge has risen to its proper height, young beginners should mark its exact thickness, as soon as it is put in the stewpan to rise, by a black line on a card placed upright in it, another black line should be drawn at an equal distance from the former, and then a third, so as to form three degrees of equal height. This card should be fastened to the side of the stewpan by a sufficient quantity of paste to prevent its moving while the spunge is rising. When the spunge has reached the third line, which points out the complete fermentation of the whole mass, it should immediately be mixed with the paste, which ought to be then ready to receive it. Proficient pastrycooks have no occasion to do this; as they all know that when the fermentation has reached its greatest height, the spunge should be three times its original size.This kind of paste is generally made over night; in which case the first thing to be done the next morning is to sprinkle some part of the board lightly with flour; lay the paste on it, roll it out, and fold it up again. Then put it back into the earthen pan, and, three or four hours after, repeat the operation. If, after this, you find a great number of small globules of air on the surface of the paste, and that it feels soft and elastic, it has been made well, and the brioche will be light, spungy, have an excellent taste, and above all, be easily digestible; but if on the contrary it is flabby, and sticks to the fingers, it is a sure sign that it has badly risen, and that the brioche will be heavy, close, and unwholesome.
I must further add, that this kind of paste should be put in the oven within twenty-four hours after it is made; for if it be kept longer, it will be entirely spoiled. In shops it is usual to refresh it by mixing gradually with it some new paste, made without yeast, equal to a sixth part of its size. By this process the paste will be prevented from acquiring that bitter taste which an excessive fermentation would give it, and enable you to keep it thirty-four or thirty-six hours before it is baked. This method, however, will not suit family pastrycooks, as these kinds of brioches thereby lose part of their mellowness and fine flavour.

I shall conclude by merely observing, that this paste requires a hot oven, such as is used for making les pains benis (holy bread), gateaux des rois (twelfth-cakes), and brioches with cheese, cream, dried currants, and muscadine raisins.

The Date/Year and Region: 
1813-1865, France and by imitation, Britain and United States

How Did You Make It:
1.5 pounds flour (2.5 cups)
1/2 glass of water (2 oz.or 1/4 cup) to 1/4 ounce yeast (1.75 teaspoons active dry)

1/4 ounce salt (0.5 tablespoon)
1/4 ounce sugar (0.5 tablespoon)
1/8 glass cream (1 oz.or 1/8 cup)
6 large eggs
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)

Proof 1.75 teaspoons yeast into 1/4 cup water.
Divide 2.5 cups of flour into four parts. In one divided part, make a hole. Add proofed yeast and water mixture. Blend until a paste forms. Put aside in a warm place.

Add to a bowl, 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1/8 cup cream, 6 medium eggs wisked previously.
Add slowly 2 sticks of softened butter and the remainder of the flour. Blend well.

Add the yeast paste to the cream paste and mix until blended. Place the paste in a floured bowl covered with a towel in a warm place.

Bake at 400*-425* for 30 minutes.

Time to Complete: 
Overnight to set the yeast paste, then about an hour.

Total Cost: 
Eggs and butter were the expensive parts, so maybe $6.00

How Successful Was It: 
The blended dough was rather sticky, so I think the eggs were maybe larger than historic counterparts and affected the liquid portion of the mix. A bit more flour did wonders.
It tasted like a croissant, so I probably didn't screw up too badly. :-p

How Accurate Was It: 
I tried to follow the recipe faithfully, but I made some alterations. I made the recipe in smaller quantities. I also used dry active yeast rather than fresh baker's yeast.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #9: The Frugal Housewife

The Challenge:
Throughout history, housewives and housekeepers have kept a close eye on their budgets and found creative ways to pinch pennies while providing delicious and nutritious food. Create a dish that interprets one historically-documented method of frugal cooking.

In the 19th century, the social pressure to live to the highest extant of your means was tantamount and the mode of entertaining didn't help. The recipe books and household advice manuals stepped in. Almost all include recipes that call for "cold meat or cold fish", meaning left-over from a previous meal. Cry-Fedd coins a new name, second dressing, for just such dishes. And a favorite, Mr. Kemp Philp, wrote an entire book devoted just to the topic.
With so many recipes from which to choose, I looked for recipes that included ingredients I usually have left over. This time of year, apples are in abundance and I often buy more than I can process. Oops! I enjoy pork, but in a household of one, a package will last for several meals. I'm not so fond of ale, but often have cider left over. I tweaked the recipe to include a frugal use of left over cider, rather than buying ale I wouldn't other wise drink. I had to "call a friend" for an opinion on which modern cut of meat would come closest to "fat bacon." We agreed bacon-sliced fat back would work best and the pepper crust would season nicely. It did season nicely, and she gets to use the remainder for a recipe of hers. Sharing is frugal, too.

The Recipe:
From: The Family Save-All, a system of secondary cookery by Robert Kemp Philp, 1861, page 47
A Medley Pie, of Cold Roast Meat and Apples, Leicestershire Fashion.
Cut some Apples into quarters, take out the core (preserving the pips, and sticking them into the pulp); cut thick slices of cold fat Bacon, and any sort of cold roasted meat; season with pounded ginger, pepper, and salt; put into the dish a layer of each, and pour over the top a large cupful of ale; cover the dish with a paste made with dripping or lard; bake until nicely browned.

The Date/Year and Region: 
Britain and United States, 1864

How Did You Make It:
I was brave enough to try making a paste from scratch.

I gathered the ingredients: cold roast pork, soaked fat bacon, and prepared apples.

I began layering as the recipe instructs.

I seasoned with salt, a bit of pepper, and ginger.

I added the apple cider and covered with paste.

Into the oven it went at 350* for about 20 minutes.

Time to Complete: 
An hour at most.

Total Cost: 
Left overs!! so I only bought the fat bacon specially, roughly $4.00

How Successful Was It: 
The fat bacon was more than my modern texture palette would stand, but the rest was incredible. If I made this again, I'd likely add in some potatoes and onions as well. Oh, that paste tasted awesome. Maybe didn't look pretty enough to serve at a dinner with guests, but the taste was terrific.

How Accurate Was It: 
I consider it very much in the spirit of the challenge and close to the recipe.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #8: In a Jam, or Jelly, or Preserve

The Challenge:
It’s harvest time in the northern hemisphere, and springtime in the southern hemisphere. Make something either to preserve that produce that you’re harvesting, or replenish your supply after the winter! Fruit and vegetable jams, jellies, and preserves are the focus!

I have a favorite historical recipe and it calls for marmalade of various kinds. I have used this recipe several times at historic events. I use store-bought marmalades every time. The preserving process just seems so complicated. At an event last spring, I decided I had cowered in fear long enough and I would tackle a marmalade. The recipe sounded simple enough, oranges (or lemons), sugar, water. It was a disaster that had me heading to the grocer's for the trusted Smuckers. I consulted my trusty friends on social media. "Add more pectin powder," they sagely advised. "The recipe didn't call for pectin powder," I replied in increasingly terse terms. They agreed one didn't need pectin powder for citrus because the white membranes had the pectin naturally. Some advised leaving the colored rind sections off, some advised they added flavor. My head spun from the conflicting advice that didn't match the simple recipe I had.

Well, I will not be conquered. I will try again. I can always make modern citrus sauces if I fail again.

The Recipe:
From: Directions for Cookery, In It's Various Branches by Eliza Leslie, 1840, page 243
Orange Marmalade
 --Take fine large ripe oranges, with thin deep-coloured skins. Weigh them, and allow to each pound of oranges a pound of loaf-sugar. Pare off the yellow outside of the rind from half the oranges, as thin as possible; and putting it into a pan with plenty of cold water, cover it closely (placing a double cloth beneath the tin cover) to keep in the steam, and boil it slowly till it is so soft that the head of a pin will pierce it. In the mean time grate the rind from the remaining oranges, and put it aside; quarter the oranges, and take out all the pulp and the juice; removing the seeds and core. Put the sugar into a preserving kettle, with a half pint of clear water to each pound, and mix it with some beaten white of egg, allowing one white of egg, to every four pounds of sugar. When the sugar is all dissolved, put it on the fire, and boil and skim it till it is quite clear and thick. Next take the boiled parings, and cut them into very small pieces, not more than half an inch long; put them into the sugar, and boil them in it ten minutes. Then put in the pulp and juice of the oranges, and the grated rind, (which will much improve the colour,) and boil all together for about twenty minutes, till it is a transparent mass. When cold, put it up in glass jars, laying brandy paper on the top.

Lemon marmalade may be made in a similar manner, but you must allow a pound and a half of sugar to each pound of lemons.

The Date/Year and Region: 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1840

How Did You Make It:
Pare off the yellow outside of the rind from half the oranges, as thin as possible;
... and putting it into a pan with plenty of cold water, cover it closely to keep in the steam, and boil it slowly till it is so soft that the head of a pin will pierce it.

In the mean time grate the rind from the remaining oranges, and put it aside; ...
quarter the oranges, and take out all the pulp and the juice; removing the seeds and core.

Put the sugar into a preserving kettle, with a half pint of clear water to each pound, and mix it with some beaten white of egg, allowing one white of egg, to every four pounds of sugar.
About 2 lbs of oranges equals 2 lbs of sugar and a pint (2 cups) of water and one egg white.

When the sugar is all dissolved, put it on the fire, and boil and skim it till it is quite clear and thick.

Next take the boiled parings, and cut them into very small pieces, not more than half an inch long; put them into the sugar, and boil them in it ten minutes.

Then put in the pulp and juice of the oranges, and the grated rind, and boil all together for about twenty minutes, till it is a transparent mass.

When cold, put it up in glass jars, laying brandy paper on the top.

Time to Complete: 
About an hour, allowing for my nervous checking of the recipe every two seconds. :-p

Total Cost: 
About $5.00 in oranges and sugar.

How Successful Was It: 
Well... we have yet another batch of sweet orange syrup, but not a marmalade.

How Accurate Was It: 
I followed the directions, using modern kitchen equipment, so the accuracy level should be high.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #6: Seasonal Foods

The Challenge:
Concoct a dish based on the fruits and/or vegetables that would have been in season and available to the particular time you wish to interpret. It needn’t be the place you are in at this moment, but it should coincide with the season!

Cooling Beverages
Terminology of historic beverages often leaves history enthusiasts at a loss. Modern media seeking a new twist on an old beverage doesn't help matters.
With the abundance of summer fruits that were historically turned into beverages, this challenge was just right for providing a survey of historic summer beverages.
A recent event gave an opportunity to feature reactions as friends tried historic beverages.

Beverages at this time fall into some main categories based on the core recipe.
One basic type is still familiar and is still the summer classic. Juiced fruit sweetened with sugar and diluted with water. We still recognize Lemonade, but period recipes included Orangeade and Appleade too.
Other fruits were juiced, sweetened, and bottled for later serving as Syrups.

When the sweetened juiced fruit was served frozen, it was called Water Ice. These came in many of the fruit flavors that are popular for sno-cones and slushies today. Ices and ice cream fill a course in classic formal dinning, a tradition that shows up in the 1850s.

The next twist on the fruit based core was to add spices and infused waters. Classic recipes for Sherbet start with making an infused water, adding sugar to create a syrup, combining the syrup with juiced fruit and serving over iced water.

Today the idea of drinking vinegar puts a frown on the face, but the medical benefits are hard to argue with. From a survey of over 200 recipes titled shrub and fruit vinegar, I have traced the history of what contemporaries called these two beverages.
This recipe from 1803 is representative of a classic Shrub recipe of the 18th century.
From: The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook by Susannah Carter, 1803, page 202
To make Shrub.
Take two quarts of brandy, and put it in a large bottle, adding to it the juice of five lemons, the peels of two, and half a nutmeg; stop it up, let it stand three days, and add to it three pints of white wine, and a pound and a half of sugar; mix it, strain it twice through a flannel, and bottle it up. It is a pretty wine, and a cordial.
As you see, it was considered a party beverage and filled with alcohol... LOTS of alcohol. Vinegar was a common preservative and fruit vinegars are listed in the "home brewing" sections. At this point, the demarcation between the two beverages is clear- Shrub is an alcohol based party beverage and Fruit Vinegar is a good means of preserving fruit and refreshing beverage.
The earliest recipe I have found that is titled Shrub but uses the fruit preserved in vinegar base is in 1830.
From that time on, the over-all number of shrubs decrease while the over-all number of fruit vinegars increase. There is also an increase in the number of recipes titled Shrub that are fruit vinegar based. Clearly, the core recipe of fruit preserved in vinegar, sweetened into a syrup, served diluted in cool water was quite popular by mid 19th century while alcohol based shrubs were surpassed by punch and cocktails.
I posted the results of my survey of fruit vinegar and shrub terms on my blog, "History Hallway Heartburn".

The final drink I will touch on is Switchel. This popular re-enactment beverage shows up in period periodicals of the 1830s and 1840s as a healthful drink for agriculture workers. Many of the references were from New York state, though modern researchers consider Switchel to be of New England origin. Like it's cousin Shrub, early recipes for Switchel included alcohol, in this case rum, which was replaced by vinegar as the Temperance Movement gained ground.This vinegar based summer beverage includes molasses and sometimes ginger, diluted in water. The most common titles are "Haymaker's Punch", "Harvest Drink", and "Haymaker's Drink" when looking through recipe books.

So, to summarize:
Fruit-ade: juiced fruit, sugar, water
Fruit Syrup: juiced fruit, sugar, water
Fruit Water Ice: juiced fruit, sugar, water, served frozen
Sherbet: infused water, sugar, juiced fruit, spices, served chilled
Shrub: alcohol, juiced fruit, sugar, (sometimes spices and milk), water
Fruit Vinegar Water: juiced fruit steeped in vinegar, sugar, water
Haymaker's Punch: vinegar, molasses, (sometimes ginger), water

The Recipe(s) and Modes:
Lemonade with Raspberry Syrup (for Janita and Noah)
From: How to Mix Drinks, or, The Bon Vivant’s Companion by Thomas, 1864, page 83
222. Lemonade* (Use large bar glass.)
The juice of half a lemon.
1 table-spoonful of sugar.
2 or three pieces of orange.
1 table-spoonful of raspberry or strawberry syrup.
Fill the tumbler one-half full with shaved ice, the balance with water; dash with port wine, and
ornament with fruits in season.

422. Raspberry Syrup.
2 pints of filtered raspberry juice. 
41⁄4 lbs. of sugar. 

Select the fruit, either white or red. Having picked them over, mash them in a pan, which put in a warm place until fermentation has commenced. Let it stand for about three days. All mucilaginous fruits require this, or else they would jelly when bottled. Now filter the juice through a close flannel bag, or blotting-paper, and add sugar in the proportion mentioned above; this had better be powdered. Place the syrup on the fire, and as it heats skim it carefully, but don't let it boil; or you may mix in a glass vessel or earthenware jar, and place in a pan of water on the fire. This is a very clean way, and prevents the sides crusting and burning. When dissolved to the "little pearl" (see No. 12) take it off; strain through a cloth; bottle when cold; cover with tissue-paper dipped in brandy, and tie down with a bladder.

Mode: I prepared the raspberry syrup first by juicing the raspberries and straining them through a cloth. Then pouring the juice into a pan, I added sugar and brought the whole to a soft boil. When cool, I bottled the syrup. For the lemonade, I brought sugar and water to a soft boil to create (in bar-tending terms) a Simple Syrup. I added the juiced lemons and orange. When cool, I bottled the mixture. To serve I used 3/4 glass of lemonade mix and 1/4 raspberry syrup.

Janita says, "Delicious! Very Refreshing!"

Noah says, "You are gonna bring lemonade, right?"

Watermelon Ice (for Mandy)
From: The Sunny Side Dessert Book by S.T. Stone, 1893, page 22
Select a ripe and very red melon, scrape some of the pulp and use all the water. A few of the seeds interspersed will add to the appearance. Sweeten to taste, and freeze as you would any other ice. If you wish it very light, add the whites of three eggs thoroughly whipped, to one gallon of ice, just as it begins to congeal. Beat frequently with a very large iron spoon. Freeze hard.

Mode: I bought watermelon pieces for convenience. I juiced the watermelon through a clean cloth. I added sugar to the juice. I froze the mixture hard and then let it gently melt before serving.

Mandy says, "Heaven! Absolute Heaven!"

Turkish Sherbet (for Sherri and Katie)

Turkish Sherbets.
--Extract by pressure or infusion the rich juice and fine perfume of any of the odoriferous flowers or fruits; mix them in any number and quantity to taste.
When these essences, extracts, or infusions are prepared, they may be immediately used, by mixing in proper proportions of sugar; or syrup and water, some acid fruit, such as lemon, pomegranate, tamarind, &c., are added to raise the flavor, but not to overpower the perfume, or taste of what the sherbet is made.
These sherbets are very healthy, having all that is exhilarating, with the additional refreshing and cooling qualities so requisite in hot countries, and free from fermentation, which is destructive in certain degrees to health, however satisfying for the moment.

Mode: I made an infusion of aromatic citrus by steeping lemon and orange peels in boiling water overnight. I added sugar, the juice of fresh red currants, and ginger.

Sherri says, "Oh, this is SO good. Katie, you must come try this!"
Katie says, "It's tart, but I could grow to like this."

Raspberry Vinegar Syrup (for Kim and Janine)
From: The Lady's Receipt Book, A Useful companion for large and small families by Eliza Leslie, 1847, page 141
French Raspberry Vinegar.
--Take a sufficiency of fine ripe raspberries. Put them into a deep pan, and mash them with a wooden beetle. Then pour them, with all their juice, into a large linen bag, and squeeze and press out the liquid into a vessel beneath. Measure it; and to each quart of the raspberry-juice allow a pound of powdered white sugar, and a pint of the best cider vinegar. First mix together the juice and the vinegar, and give them a boil in a preserving-kettle. When they have boiled well, add gradually the sugar, with a beaten white of egg to every two pounds; and boil and skim it till the scum ceases to rise. When done, put it into clean bottles, and cork them tightly. It is a very pleasant and cooling beverage in warm weather, and for invalids who are feverish. To use it, pour out half a tumbler of raspberry vinegar, and fill it up with ice-water.

It is a good palliative for a cold, mixed with hot water, and taken as hot as possible immediately on going to bed, so as to produce perspiration.

Mode: I juiced the raspberries through a clean cloth into a pan. I added vinegar and gave it a boil. I added sugar continued to a soft boil. When cool it was bottled. To serve, I added a dollop of concentrate and diluted with water.
I also made Blackberry Vinegar and Strawberry Vinegar (or Acid).
Mode: I put the berries in a jar and covered them with vinegar. I let them sit for two days. I juiced the berries and vinegar into a jar of fresh berries. (discard the previous berry pulp.) I let them sit for two days. I juiced the berries and vinegar into a pan, added sugar, and brought the mix to a soft boil. When cooled, I bottled the concentrate.

Kim says, "Oh, yes please. I LOVE vinegar!"
Janine says, "I encourage all our guys to try vinegar. Some of them even like it."

Harvest Drink (for Doug)
From: The Skillful Housewife’s Book; or Complete Domestic Cookery, Taste, Comfort,Economy by Mrs. L. G. Abell,  1852, page 117
Harvest Drink
Mix with five gallons of good water, half a gallon of molasses, one quart of vinegar, and two ounces of powdered ginger. This will make not only a very pleasant beverage, but one highly invigorating and healthful.

Mode: Add half cup of molasses, two cups vinegar, and a dash of ginger to a pan. Bring to a soft boil, when well mixed. When cool, bottle it. To serve, dilute liberally with cool water.

Doug says, "It's growing on me, but I still like Strawberry Vinegar better."

The Date/Year and Region: 
The mid-Atlantic US from 1803-1893

Time to Complete: 
It took well over a week to make everything. Steeping the berries took longest.

Total Cost: 
About $35.00, buying the fruit fresh got expensive.

How Successful Was It: 

How Accurate Was It: 
I tried to follow the recipes to the letter in a modern kitchen. I'd say they got a fair taste of summer beverages.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #5: Pies!

The Challenge:
Make a pie! Meat, fruit, sweet, savory- but make sure it's documented!

English Curd Pie
I love pies. Loved ones comment often on my fondness for meat pies and await the annual apple dumplings with quivering noses. With this challenge, I wanted a challenge.
Curds was definitely a challenge, a challenge not to take modern short-cuts. Microwave? Lemon juice? Cottage cheese?
"Documented" to me means we start with the basic questions of historical interpretation. How would people of the era meet that challenge? Can I do that with relative safety? If not, how close can I come?
The closest I could come was powdered rennet tablets and pasturized milk. It took longer to set than anticipated, but eventually it did work.
Now I can stop being intimidated by the cheesecake recipes and give one a go. I just might even try some of the modern suggestions and come up with cheese.

The Recipe:
From: Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catherine Esther Beecher, 1846 page 106

One quart of milk.
A bit of rennet to curdle it.
Press out the whey, and put into the curds three eggs, a nutmeg, and a tablespoonful of brandy. Bake it in paste, like custard.

The Date/Year and Region: 
America of the mid 19th century.

How Did You Make It:
I used rennet tablets by Junket. Here's their instructions for use.
1/4 tablet to 2 cups milk.

1. Heat the milk in a stainless steel saucepan and, stirring often, warm it to the required temperature (each recipe varies slightly).
2. Still stirring, add the rennet (or citric acid), as for ricotta. Cover; let curds form without stirring, keeping the temperature steady.
3. Using a rubber spatula, break up the curd. This will allow the whey to separate from the curd. A resting period usually follows this step.
4. Place a sturdy cheesecloth over a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curd to a cheesecloth.
5. Grab the cheesecloth and pull it tight, allowing the whey to drain off into the bowl underneath. 

At this point, I proceed with the historic recipe.

Into the curds, 3 medium eggs, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, and a generous tablespoon of brandy.
Mix well and pour into a pie crust.
Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Time to Complete: 
curds: 10 minutes cooking, 12 hours draining
filling: 5 minutes prepare
bake: 30 minutes

Total Cost: 
Total: $16.50

How Successful Was It: 
It was successful in that it set up and came out properly. I'm not sure I care for the flavor. I would likely add some sugar and go without a paste if making it to please myself alone.

How Accurate Was It: 
Confession time, Folks, I bought the pie crust. I wanted to focus on one new technique at a time and this time was curds. Otherwise, mostly accurate.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #3- Today In History

The Challenge:
Make a dish based on or inspired by a momentous occasion that took place on the day you made it.

Election Cake for the Equality State

In 1869 William Bright sponsored a bill to the territorial legislature of Wyoming. "That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this Territory, may at every election to be holden under the law thereof, cast her vote."
The women of Wyoming kept a vigil outside the office of Gov. John A. Campbell.
The bill was signed into law.

The eastern cousins of these women fought on with newspaper articles, convention banners, and fund-raising cook-books like today's feature.

In 1890, when statehood was impending, the suffrage question was again brought to the forefront of public debate.
Congress suggested they would withhold statehood if the suffrage clause were not removed.
Wyoming replied they would remain out of the United States for 100 years rather than join without the suffrage clause.

On July 10, 1890 Wyoming was admitted to the United States, suffrage clause intact, as the 44th state. Their history forever in their motto, "Equal Rights."

During the American Civil War, women proved to themselves and the country that they could be more than mere decoration. The time was right for suffrage.
Many leaders of the movement remembered the success of the fund-raising fairs put on by the US Sanitary Commission during the war.
They used this model for their own fund-raising fairs as early as 1870.

In 1886, a group in Massachusetts hit on a means of spreading the message without panicking the Public. Women bought cookbooks full of recipes and household tips and few men thought twice about it. The Author, Mrs. Burr,  would compile recipes from women who held influential positions or pioneered professions, publish these recipes interspersed with supportive messages about suffrage, and charge a premium for the books at the fairs.
Thus, the Woman Suffrage Cookbook was created.
It went on to inspire many others before the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified.

The Recipe:
From: The Woman's Suffrage Cookbook by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr, 1886, pub. 1890

Mother's Election Cake
Five pounds flour
Two pounds sugar
One pint Yeast
Three-Fourths pound Butter
One quart Sweet Milk
Three-Fourths pound Lard
Six Nutmegs
Take about three pounds of the flour, and about one-third of the sugar, and stir up with the yeast and two-thirds of the milk, to rise overnight, or until it begins to fall on the top; then add the rest of the ingredients and bake in loaves about the same as you would bread.
~Miss M. A. Hill

The Date/Year and Region: 
Haverhill, Massachusetts about 1886

How Did You Make It:
To start, I needed to halve the quantity and convert into modern baking measurements. Traditional Oven has several handy calculators to help with that. The recipe then looked more like:
2 1/2 pounds flour (9 cups)
1 pounds sugar (2+ cups)
1/2 pint yeast (2 packets active dry)
3/8 pound butter (1.5 sticks)
1/2 quart milk (2 cups)
3/8 pound lard (3/4 cup)
3 nutmegs (6 teaspoons, ah NO... using 1 teaspoon)

Notice, too, that I've switched to active dry yeast and only a teaspoon of nutmeg. Recent studies have shown nutmeg in larger quantities to be poisonous and hallucinogenic. Yep, we don't want anyone getting sick or arrested by food goodness.

I collected the flour, sugar, yeast, and milk.
I measured out the flour and sugar into a bowl and the milk into a measure.
I activated the yeast. Two packets to 1/2 cup lukewarm water, until bubbly and doubled in size.
I added the activated yeast and milk to the dry ingredients and stir until blended.
I left in a happy place overnight.

The next morning, I added the remainder of the ingredients.
I stirred and then kneaded to mix the ingredients well

I formed the dough into loaves on a greased baking sheet.
Set oven to 375*
Bake 30 minutes, then check.

Time to Complete:
10 minutes to compile the first mix, 12 hours to rise, 10 minutes to compile the second mix, 75 minutes to bake; for a total of 13 hours, 35 minutes. Wow... no wonder they saved this for special occasions.

Total Cost: 
Most ingredients were staples, so fairly cheap. Lard was the most expensive and there are cheaper substitutes.

How Successful Was It: 
I think it tastes terrific, yeasty and sweet, like a very fine beer bread.

How Accurate Was It:
Again, I have only a gas stove rather than a wood-burning one or hearth. I used dry yeast and significantly less nutmeg. Otherwise, I think fairly accurate.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge: #2 Soups and Sauces

The Challenge:
Soups, stews, sauces, and gravies! Make a soup or sauce from an historic recipe.

Well, I had intended to compare soup recipes from different regions of the U.S. and then the newly ripe peaches made their siren call.

And then I had the fun of figuring out what this wonderful sauce would complement.

The Recipe:
From: The New England Economical Housekeeper by Esther Allen Howland, 1845
 Peach Sauce
Take one pint of water, one cup of sugar, wipe your peaches clean and boil them in the water and sugar; boil an hour. This is a delicious sauce or preserve, but will not keep good more than two or three days.

The Date/Year and Region: 
1845 New England or Mid-Atlantic United States

How Did You Make It:
Peel the peaches and cut into small cubes.
Add the peaches to a saucepan with a cup of brown sugar and enough water to cover.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and boil on low for 30 minutes.

Time to Complete:
10 minutes preparation, 30 minutes cooking, 40-50 minutes total

Total Cost:
$4.00 Peaches, $1.00 Sugar for a total of about $5.00

How Successful Was It: 

How Accurate Was It:
I used a modern gas stove because I don't have access to a hearth or cook-stove. There's no reason the recipe wouldn't work as directed if one had a period wood-burning stove or hearth.

Bonus Recipe:
Here's a recipe for "griddle cake" from Mrs. Howland's book too.
Griddle Cake
Rub three ounces of butter into a pound of flour with a little salt, moisten it with sweet buttermilk to make it into a paste, roll it out, and cut the cakes with the cover of your dredging-box and put them upon a griddle to bake.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge: Literary Foods

The Challenge: 
1. Literary Foods  June 1 - June 14
Food is described in great detail in much of the literature of the past. Make a dish that has been mentioned in a work of literature, based on historical documentation about that food item.
When presented with the first challenge of the Historical Food Fortnightly, I wanted to feature a favorite book and encourage myself to step outside my comfort zone.

The favorite book was easy enough, "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis.
In the future, when time-travel is the purview of specially trained historians at Oxford University (in England). A domineering patroness of the history college has a dream to recreate the Blitz bombed Coventry Cathedral in exacting detail and sends the historians back in time to collect the details of every facet of the cathedral. One particular item, a figural urn known as the "Bishop's Idea of a Bird Stump" is of especial interest; as the patroness' ancestor claims a viewing changed her life, which in turn changed hers. While in 1889 to nose into the patroness' ancestor's diary, our heroine makes the mistake of bringing a cat forward in time. To correct the error before time unravels entirely, our hero is sent back with the cat... without realizing he has it. (Several trips back in a short period muddles the brain a bit.) After a hilarious trip down the Themes to the ancestoress' home, our hero faces his first breakfast in 1889. Like many British servicemen returning from service in India, the ancestoress' father is fond of an Anglo-Indian dish called "kedgeree" and this dish makes quite the impression on our hero.

From: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

The Recipe & How Did You Make It:  
Stepping outside my comfort zone in cooking was another matter. I enjoy fish very much, but don't fix it very often because I don't really have much experience with it.

The first step toward cooking fish safely for most folks is thawing the frozen pieces. The FDA gives advice to consumers here. 

I thawed the frozen cod pieces in the fridge overnight, then in a bowl of cold water for an hour before cooking.

Then I proceeded to our recipe. Kedgeree is a "second dressing" for fish, meaning a way to use up left-overs. I searched out a simple recipe for baked white-fish.

No. 3. Baked Halibut. --Three or four pounds of halibut. Dip the dark skin in boiling water, and scrape clean. Rub well with salt and pepper. Put it into a clean pan, and pour milk over it till half an inch deep. Bake about an hour, basting with the milk. Remove the bone and skin, and arrange on the platter in the original form. Serve with plain drawn butter, egg sauce, or cream sauce, and garnish with slices of boiled eggs. The milk keeps the fish moist, is a good substitute for pork, and makes the fish brown better. Use just enough milk to baste, and let it cook away toward the last. Or sprinkle buttered crumbs over the top, when the fish is nearly done, and serve with tomato sauce.
I greased a baking dish with butter.
I buttered, salted, and peppered the fish and laid them in the dish.
I covered the fish with milk.
I baked the fish for 45 minutes in a gas oven set to 350*.
Every 15 minutes I checked the dish, flipped the fish over and spooned the milk over the pieces.
When the pieces began to flake easily and the fish lost the "translucent" color, I considered it done.

Then I set the fish in the fridge to cool over-night.

Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book by Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln, 1884
Kedgeree. --Warm cold flaked fish slightly over hot water; and just before serving stir in one egg, beaten with one or two tablespoonfuls of hot milk and a bit of butter, and serve in a rice border. Steam the rice, one cupful, in two cupfuls of highly seasoned stock, in a double boiler thirty minutes, or till tender and dry.

The next step is to flake the fish into a pot.

Add milk, butter, and cayenne pepper.
Warm slowly to avoid burning.

Break two eggs into a bowl and whisk.
Add egg to the pot. Heat until the egg is "soft cooked."

Meanwhile, I made rice in a rice cooker using basmati rice and chicken stock.

Voila! Anglo-Indian Goodness.

 The Date/Year and Region:  I found mentions of kedgeree in various spelling combinations in the 1850s, my recipes come from 1882 when the book takes place. As previously mentioned, British Colonials tweaked an Indian dish and brought it home to England with them.

Time to Complete: Provided the fish is prepared ahead, about 10 minutes.

Total Cost: $8.00 for four portions. The fish was most expensive.

How Successful Was It?: A fish loving friend declared it "heaven on a plate!" To me, that suggests success. I expected a firmer consistency, but that was based on modern recipe photos.

How Accurate Is It?: I used modern gas stove, gas oven, and electric rice cooker; but tried to be faithful to the recipes otherwise. I think it would pass easily.

Next up, Sauces, Soups, and Gravies!
Cheers! ~Wolfie