I was looking for an excuse to make a feast, and one presented itself: I was having a house guest! Not just any house guest, but my youngest’s grandfather. I planned my menu and made my shopping list, and acquired the usual metric butt-ton of meat. Then, my children came down with “the consumption” and my guest canceled. Who can blame him, really? I didn’t want to be there either. My coping technique was: cooking the mountain of food I bought!
Since I was making two cold desserts, I decided to make them the night before. I chose Lemon Custard  and Apples in Red Jelly . I was especially intrigued by the apple dessert. The idea was to bake them and surround them with a lake of tinted, clove-flavored jelly that would set up around the apples. It seemed VERY uber-Victorian somehow and I was excited.
I should have probably consulted a more modern technique for baking the apples. I diligently cored the apples and I put the bottom of the cores back in the apples as a plug to keep the sugar from running out, and filled them with sugar and two cloves. Then I surrounded the apples with a rough mixture that resembled lemonade.
Following the advice in the BOHM on apple baking resulted in surprise applesauce!
I could not waste four good Granny Smiths, so I scooped the bulk of it out of the pan and into a sieve. The lemony, clove-y juice that the apples were baked in was supposed to be mixed with gelatin and tinted red. so I moved forward with the operation. It looked like this batch of gelatin was going to set up, unlike previous experiments. Sadly, the same could not be said of the lemon custard. I let it sit in the fridge overnight in glasses so I could at least see what the flavor was like. It tasted repellent and metallic, which was a a mystery to me. I know everything was super fresh, and there was hardly anything to it–eggs, lemon juice, sugar, a little milk. I poured it out.
The next day I moved on to preparing the giant slab of meat I was planning on stuffing with forcemeats. Our Victorian friends believed that forcemeats evolved from an OE word, “farse,” which referred to spiced, highly seasoned meats. A couple of nineteenth-century texts make reference to Libre Cure Cocorum, a medieval cookbook that provides a recipe:
Conyngus in gravé.
Sethe welle þy conyngus in water clere,
After, in water colde þou wasshe hom sere,
Take mylke of almondes, lay hit anone
With myed bred or amydone;
Fors hit with cloves or gode gyngere;
Boyle hit over þo fyre,
Hew þo conyngus, do hom þer to,
Seson hit with wyn or sugur þo.
[Translation] Coneys [Rabbit] in gravy.
Seethe well your coneys in clear water,
After, in cold water you wash them separately,
Take milk of almonds, mix it anon
With grated bread or amidon [wheat starch];
Season it with cloves or good ginger;
Boil it over the fire,
Hew the coneys, put them thereto,
Season it with wine or sugar then.
But I digress. The point is, forcemeats, if you have never used or made them, are kind of a stuffing. Beeton emphasizes that no one part should overwhelm the other. I can get behind that. She also talks about frying them and sewing them into whatever meat is to be cooked. I’ve not yet acquired a trussing needle, so I did something a little different.
First things first, though: the forcemeat. The recipe called for bread crumbs (I used gluten-free, which worked well), lemon rind, some herbs, bacon, suet, egg yolks for binding, and some stuff I am probably forgetting. Since my scullery maids were off blowing bubbles and dismembering innocent tulips, I had to call on Mechanical Millie: my food processor.
I turned around after mixing everything and turning it into a bowl, and discovered I had left the suet out. Whoops. I formed the doughy mix into balls which I fried in some leftover bacon grease. I seem to always have some of that stuff around. My Southern grandmother would be proud.
Once the were fried, I let them cool a bit. They look like meatballs, don’t they? Beeton recommended balls, but you could make patties as well, which might fit into a cut of meat better.
Meanwhile, I opened up the lamb shoulder, which I purchased boned.
I filled the shoulder with the forcemeats and awkwardly trussed it with string. It was kind of like a big lamb sandwich. The lamb was to be boiled, which seemed odd to me since it was full of fried food. The recipe did not call for the meat to be submerged, however, just kind of poached or steamed in some stock. The recipe also called for me to toss a bunch of onions and celery in and around the lamb, after setting it on a layer of bacon.
Here was what the mess looked like in the pot. Then it was set to simmer for a couple of hours with the lid on. Every so often I checked it to make sure it did not need more broth added. I knew that at the end the resulting liquor was to be strained and reduced for glazing the meat.
When it was done, I could see the advantage of sewing from a visual perspective. The meat had shrunk back some. But it smelled delicious. As with my last lambstravaganza, the meat looked rather grey and unappealing, unlike times when I have roasted lamb in the oven.
The meat sliced easily and made a funny little sandwich. I imagine the juices from the cooking lamb were absorbed by the forcemeat as well. Maybe I could eat this, if I didn’t look at it. Boiling the last one made it fabulously tender.
This lamb was fork tender. Odd, but good. And came with its own stuffing.
And how was the Apples in Red Jelly?
The AppleSAUCE on Red Jelly was delicious. I was suprised how good clove-lemon jelly was. I would make this again. Spring is sproinged and there is more lamb on the horizon.