Monday, November 23, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 4: Breads, Rolls, and Biscuits

Today we discuss one of my late Mother's favorite bits of Thanksgiving dinner, the breads.
Breads, rolls, and biscuits are the place where family traditions carry on through the years. The smells remembered fondly. The burnt bemoaned for generations to come. Whether your tradition is yeast rolls, cornbread, loaf bread, rich buttermilk biscuits, or Pillsbury Crescents; chances are good you have a Thanksgiving memory of breads.

Breads in the 19th century went almost without comment in the Bills of Fare, but were a large portion of every recipe compilation.

Today, I will share three breads. First a twist for the 19th century palate, the French Twist. Then a nod to the cornbread that may have inspired the stuffing traditions of my friends on the Civil War Kitchen. Finally, yes, they really did make pumpkin bread and apple bread in the 19th century.

French Rolls by Martha Stewart 

From: Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie, 1840
French Rolls.
--Sift a pound of flour into a pan, and rub into it two ounces of butter; mix in the whites only of three eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, and a table-spoonful of strong yeast; add sufficient milk to make a stiff dough, and a salt-spoonful of salt. Cover it and set it before the fire to rise. It should be light in an hour. Then put it on a paste-board, divide it into rolls, or round cakes; lay them in a floured square pan, and bake them about ten minutes in a quick oven.

From: Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catharine Esther Beecher, 1846 pub. 1850
French Rolls, or Twists.
One quart of lukewarm milk.
One teaspoonful of salt.
A large tea-cup of home-brewed yeast, or half as much distillery yeast.
Flour enough to make a stiff batter.
Set it to rise, and when very light, work in one egg and two spoonfuls of butter, and knead in flour till stiff enough to roll.
Let it rise again, and when very light, roll out, cut in strips, and braid it. Bake thirty minutes on buttered tins.

Buttermilk Cornbread by Southern Living
From: Hotel Keepers, Head Waiters, and Housekeepers' Guide by Tunis Gulic Campbell, 1848
To Make Corn Bread.-- Four eggs to a quart of milk, a pound of butter to six pounds of meal. Stir well until it is about the thickness of good molasses. A tea-cupful of molasses to six pounds of meal--to which add a tea-spoonful of salaratus. Grease your pans well with butter. Put it in a good hot oven; bake three quarters of an hour.

From: The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, 1838
Corn Meal Bread.
Rub a piece of butter the size of an egg, into a pint of corn meal--make it a batter with two eggs, and some new milk--add a spoonful of yeast, set it by the fire an hour to rise, butter little pans, and bake it.

Awesome Apple Bread by Kathy Wetzel of Food Geeks

From: The Great Western Cookbook by Angelina Maria Collins, 1851 pub. 1857
Take two quarts of sweet pumpkin, stewed dry; two quarts of fine Indian meal, two tea-spoonsful of salt, a table-spoon heaping full of lard, and mix them up with sufficient hot water to make it of the consistence of common corn-meal dough. Set it in a warm place, two hours, to rise, and bake it in a pan, in a moderate oven. It will take an hour and a half to bake.

From: Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catharine Esther Beecher, 1846 pub. 1850
Apple Bread.
Mix stewed and strained apple, or grated apple uncooked, with an equal quantity of wheat flour; add yeast enough to raise it, and mix sugar with the apple, enough to make it quite sweet. Make it in loaves, and bake it an hour and a half, like other bread.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 5: Greens, Glorious Greens!

I will readily admit that the thought of vegetables at Thanksgiving left me cold when I was young. Green beans and brussels sprouts boiled to inedible mush, mushy broccoli and cauliflower with a salt lick of processed cheese food. Wilted salad greens with the dread White Dressing that reeked of fresh paint already applied liberally.
But then I grew up. I had vegetables prepared by gourmands, salad bars where I could use dressings I liked, and new and exciting preparations from foodies like me.
Now when the selections of Thanksgiving sides turns to vegetables, I'm inspired to try a few myself.

Many 19th century preparations for vegetables are very simplistic with a dressing of butter, salt, and pepper. We do see a few preparations that are more complex.

First we'll start with a dressing of green beans with a rich gravy and a savory topping that hints of the green bean casserole. A ragout is generally a gravy treatment meant to improve and impress.
Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
by Alton Brown of Good Eats
From: The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, 1838
Ragout Of French Beans, Snaps, String Beans.
Let them be young and fresh gathered, string them, and cut them in long thin slices; throw them in boiling water for fifteen minutes; have ready some well seasoned brown gravy, drain the water from the beans, put them in the gravy, stew them a few minutes, and serve them garnished with forcemeat balls; there must not be gravy enough to float the beans.

Next we'll tackle the brussels sprouts, with a preparation with bacon and vinegar, a modern sounding recipe indeed.
Roasted Pictsweet Brussels Sprouts by Serious Eats

From: The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan, 1839
Sprouts, And Other Young Greens,
Should be boiled in every respect like turnip sallad, served warm with bacon, and seasoned at table with salt, pepper, and vinegar. All kinds of sallad should be thouroughly washed in two waters, otherwise it will be gritty.

Finally we reach the promised Cauliflower Macaroni. Many modern cooks are looking for alternatives to pasta. Imagine my surprise to find a 19th century recipe that does too.

Cauliflower "Mac" and Cheese by George Stella,  Food Network
From: The Lady's Receipt Book by Eliza Leslie, 1848
Cauliflower Maccaroni
--Having removed the outside leaves, and cut off the stalk, wash the cauliflower, and examine it thoroughly to see if there are any insects about it. Next lay it for an hour in a pan of cold water. Then put it into a pot of boiling milk and water that has had a little fresh butter melted in it. Whatever scum may float on the top of the water must be removed before the cauliflower goes in. Boil it, steadily, half an hour, or till it is quite tender. Then take it out, drain it, and cut it into short sprigs. Have ready three ounces of rich, but not strong cheese, grated fine. Put into a stew-pan a quarter of a pound of fresh butter; nearly half of the grated cheese; two large table-spoonfuls of cream or rich milk; and a very little salt and cayenne. Toss or shake it over the fire, till it is well mixed, and has come to a boil. Then add the tufts of cauliflower; and let the whole stew together about five minutes. When done, put it into a deep dish; strew over the top the remaining half of the grated cheese, and brown it with a salamander or a red hot shovel held above the surface.
This will be found very superior to real maccaroni.

So no need to skip the veggies at Thanksgiving this year. Spice, sauce, and cooking times mean the mush is a thing of the past. Dig in! Delicious!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 6: Spuds- the Mighty Meal Maker

The 19th century dinner was incomplete without potatoes. They enjoyed their rice heartily and every housewife and chef had a noodle recipe, but a meal without potatoes was just... well, it just isn't done, Dear!

Miss Leslie advises, in her 1848 work The Lady's Receipt Book,
*There is no necessity for repeating the mention of potatoes. It will of course be understood that potatoes should constitute a portion of every dinner.
 A look at the options for potatoes include so many of our classic preparations: baked, roasted, sliced and fried, grated and fried (recommended for breakfast), and mashed with butter and cream. The usual spices include butter, salt, and pepper.
They also include a few preparations that take the modern reader by surprise.

From: The Presbyterian Cookbook by First Presbyterian Church of Dayton Ohio, 1877
Potato Pie.
Mrs. Lucy Green.
Scald one quart of milk; grate in four large potatoes, and four ounces of butter, while the milk is hot. When cold, add four eggs well beaten; spice and sweeten to your taste; bake with under crust.

Chantilly Potatoes with Parmesan Crust by Maria Guarnaschelli 

If you prefer a savory pudding...
From: The Housekeeper's Assistant by Ann Allen, 1845
Baked Potato Pudding.
12 oz. of boiled potato skinned and mashed,
1 oz. of suet,
1 oz. of cheese grated fine,
1 gill of milk.
Mix the potatoes, suet, milk, cheese, and all together; if not of a proper consistence, add a little water. Bake it in an earthen pan.

...or if you prefer a sweet pudding...
From: Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie, 1840
Potato Pudding.
 --Boil a pound of fine potatoes, peel them, mash them, and rub them through a cullender. Stir together to a cream, three quarters of a pound of sugar and the same quantity of butter. Add to them gradually, a wine glass of rose water, a glass of wine, and a glass of brandy; a tea-spoonful of powdered mace and cinnamon, a grated nutmeg, and the juice and grated peel of a large lemon. Then beat six eggs very light, and add them by degrees to the mixture, alternately with the potato. Bake it three quarters of an hour in a buttered dish.

In one of the earliest cookbooks featuring uniquely American foods, the recipe for Potato Pudding will work equally well for Yams, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, Crookneck Squash, and Winter Squash.

From: American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, 1798
A Crookneck, or Winter Squash Pudding.
Core, boil and skin a good squash, and bruize it well; take 6 large apples, pared, cored, and stewed tender, mix together; add 6 or 7 spoonsful of dry bread or biscuit, rendered fine as meal, half pint milk or cream, 2 spoons of rose-water, 2 do. wine, 5 or 6 eggs, beaten and strained, nutmeg, salt and sugar to your taste, one spoon flour, beat all smartly together, bake.
The above is a good receipt for Pompkins, Potatoes or Yams, adding more moistening or milk and rose water, and to the two latter a few black or Lisbon currants, or dry whortleberries scattered in, will make it better.

Potato's sweeter cousin, sweet potatoes and yams are returning to the historic preparations in the modern search for lighter preparations. Sweet Potatoes truly embody the "everything old is new again."

From: Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catherine Esther Beecher, 1850
Sweet Potatoes.
The best way to cook sweet potatoes is to bake them with their skins on. When boiled, the largest should be put in first, so as to have all cook alike. Drain them and dry them, then peel them. They are excellent sliced and fried for breakfast next day; much better than at first.
Sweet Potato "Fries" by Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa

Friday, November 20, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 7: ...and Sauced

Our Noble Bird is almost complete. In the 19th century, a bird without sauce was lonely... and we never serve anything lonely.

We'll look today into the new twists on turkey gravy and cranberry sauce.

For the gravies, the recipes are fairly traditional. Meat drippings, flour, butter, and "sweet herbs."
For a twist today red wine is recommended.
Little Italy Gravy from Rachel Ray Everyday

 Here's an 1803 gravy recipe that calls for red wine.

From: The Frugal Housewife; or, complete woman cook by Susannah Carter, 1803
No. 6. Gravy for a Fowl, when you have no Meat ready.
Take the neck, liver, and gizzard, boil them in half a pint of water, with a little piece of bread toasted brown, a little pepper and salt and a little bit of thyme. Let them boil till there is about a quarter of a pint: then pour in a glass of red wine, boil it and strain it; then bruise the liver well in, and strain it again; thicken it with a little piece of butter rolled in flour, and it will be very good.


While few recipes added the twists to cranberry sauce we've come to love, many gave options beyond cranberries to serve with turkey. We're seeing that too.
Roasted Turkey with Rosemary Peach Glaze by Sunny Anderson of the Food Network

Domestic Cookery by Elizabeth Lea, 1803
Cranberry and damson sauce are suitable to eat with roast poultry.

The New England Economical Cookbook by Esther Allen Howland, 1845
Serve up with cranberry or apple sauce, turnip sauce, squash, and a small Indian pudding; or dumplings boiled hard is a good substitute for bread.

Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving by Mary Newton Foote Henderson 1877
Besides the gravy, always serve cranberry, currant, or plum jelly with turkey. The currant or plum jelly is melted and remolded in a pretty form.

Directions for cookery, In it's various branches by Eliza Leslie, 1840
Cranberry sauce is eaten with roast turkey, roast fowls, and roast ducks.
PEACH SAUCE. --Take a quart of dried peaches, (those are richest and best that are dried with the skins on,) and soak them in cold water till they are tender. Then drain them, and put them into a covered pan with a very little water. Set them on coals, and simmer them till they are entirely dissolved. Then mash them with brown sugar, and send them to table cold to eat with roast meat, game or poultry.

For the traditionalists, here's a typical 19th century cranberry sauce recipe.
From: The New England Economical Cookbook by Esther Allen Howland, 1845
Cranberry Sauce. --Wash and stew your cranberries in water; add almost their weight in clean sugar, just before you take them from the fire.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 8: Stuffed...

Roomie: They can keep the turkey, but it's not Thanksgiving without stuffing!
Poll: Your Thanksgiving table would be incomplete without...
Comment: ..."prefer cornbread stuffing with sweet basil..."
Comment: ..."my mom's sausage stuffing,..."
Comment: ..."I may try oyster stuffing..."
Comment: ..."my grandmother's cornbread dressing with apples, pecans, pimientos, spring onions, boiled eggs...can't go without!"
Comment: ..."cornbread dressing... I remember my mama saving bread scraps for weeks and drying it out to make dressing."
Comment: ..."oysters rockefeller stuffing..."
Comment: ..."bread stuffing..."
Comment: ..."my mom does the cornbread stuffing..."

Today we delve into the stuffing (or dressing) for a Thanksgiving favorite. 
To start, most folks taking the poll were commenting on cornbread stuffing. I went looking through the historic cookbooks and didn't find a recipe calling specifically for cornbread or any of the not politically correct titles used in the 19th century. Lest anyone think Great-Granny's recipe was slighted, the type of bread to be used was often not specified. We'll all of us with a family tradition of cornbread stuffing assume Great-Granny had an excess of stale cornbread. ;-p

The trend for stuffing this year seems to be herbs, apples, sausage, and different breads as a base.
Apple Walnut Stuffing from

In The Presbyterian Cookbook, the Presbyterian ladies of Dayton Ohio shared stuffing recipes with apples, potatoes, herbs along side traditional chestnuts and oysters.

From: The Presbyterian Cookbook, by the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton Ohio, 1873
Potato Stuffing.
Mrs. J. Harris.
Take two-thirds bread and one-third boiled potatoes grated, butter the size of an egg, pepper, salt, one egg and a little ground sage. Mix thoroughly.

Apple Stuffing.
Take half a pound of the pulp of tart apples, which have been baked or scalded; add two ounces of bread crumbs, some powdered sage, a finely shred onion; and season well with cayenne pepper. This is a delicious stuffing for roast geese, ducks, &c.

Chestnut Stuffing.
Boil the chestnuts and shell them; then blanch them and boil until soft; mash them fine and mix with a little sweet cream, some bread crumbs, pepper and salt. Excellent for roast turkey.

Turkey Dressed with Oysters.
Mrs. W. A. B.
For a ten-pound turkey, take two pints of bread crumbs; half a teacupful of butter cut in bits (not melted); one teaspoonful of sweet basil, pepper and salt, and mix thoroughly. Rub the turkey well, inside and out, with salt and pepper; then fill with first a spoonful of crumbs, then a few well drained oysters, using half a can for the turkey. Strain the oyster liquor and use to baste the turkey. Cook the giblets in the pan and chop fine in the gravy. A fowl of this size will require three hours cooking in a moderate oven.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 9: 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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Everything Old is New Again, being a Countdown to the quintessential foodie holiday, 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! :-)