Aspects of Aspic*

Aspects of Aspic*

I. Aspic, or Ornamental Savory Jelly

Have you ever had aspic? At one time it was a handy way to coat and preserve foods. Also, it is just fancy as heck. If you’ve never had one or read about them, a quick image search will give you the idea of what it is–savory gelatin with just about anything you can imagine suspended in it–veggies, hard-boiled eggs, meat bits. A creamy aspic is a chaud-froid. Modern recipes often call for packet gelatin, rather than boiling down cow bits for hours, I can’t imagine why. Mine turned out rather ridiculously, you’ll see.

Aspic starts with feet and flavoring. Beeton’s calls for calf heel, but this was labeled as cow foot, which should do, I suppose.

Cow Foot

As an aside, I love ripping open packages of feet, marrowbones, and soup bones–there is this lovely buttery cow-y perfume that comes rising up that completely makes my mouth water.

After making the stock and clarifying it using egg whites, I decided to add celery, hard boiled eggs, olives, chicken cubes, and rinsed cubes of the beets I had pickled a couple of weeks ago. This is where things went from a lovely light tea color to, well. Pink.

Getting ready to unmold

What was I thinking? I will tell you: Pickled beets, yum yum.

Aspic Turned out of the Brain Mold

At first I was dismayed to lose the pale color, and then I realized I liked it a lot! The beet juice did not seem to affect the flavor at all, which was subtle and savory. We had some spread on crackers.

II. Three Things to Do with Pork

I decided to try something simple for the weekend–How to Boil a Ham to Give it an Excellent Flavor. You sort of create a stock around it as you simmer it, by filling the pot with vegetables and spices. Beeton says that if your ham is dried out, you must soak it in vinegar and split it open to see if it’s bad-stinky and whatnot. Modern hams, at least ones I have access to, are pretty much ready to go and injected with various flavor enhancers already, but I thought I would give it a try.

Pre-simmer

Still, it was nice in the end and kind of falling apart. I thought I would be game and give it the 3 hours it called for, but next time, less.

Of course there was leftover ham, since this one was massive. I minced it up and POTTED it, which results in a creamy pink paste very much like modern deviled ham, but with more of a mace overtone, of course, and it about a fifth lard. It’s incredible on sandwiches or with cream cheese and a little berry jam or fig paste on crackers.

The Way We Live Now

If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be going through buckets of lard like water and hoarding every scrap of grease I could, I would have laughed my head off at you. I thought maybe I could fudge things and use butter, or, GASP, olive oil. I was a vegetarian in college and I was gifted a copy of White Trash Cooking, (a thoughtful present that was a nod to the trailer park parts of my upbringing) to which I made hundreds of lame edits so I could have a spinach onion pie without lard in the crust. I SUBMIT TO YOU, LARD.

You know what the really crazy part is? I eat like this all the time now, weird meaty thingies and pickled eggs with a glass of whiskey and so forth and I am losing weight. Probably unrelated, but I was quite certain I was going to transition to muumuus doing this this year. Is this a diet? NO. I assume I will have a coronary and drop dead in January. But by Trollope will I be an attractive corpse with shiny hair and nails.

Jarring the ham, pre-lard seal

There’s just something so sexy about how luridly real grease glistens at you. Do I want to eat this food or rub it on myself? I can’t decide. I think my children are the only ones on the block who eat nutmeg and mace almost every night of the week and go “MMMM” when that smell fills the kitchen.

Potted Ham, That Will Keep Good for Some Time [814.]

INGREDIENTS.
To 2 lbs. of lean ham allow
1/2 lb. of fat (bacon grease, duck fat, or other drippings)
1 teaspoonful of pounded mace
1/2 teaspoonful of pounded allspice
1/2 teaspoonful of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoonful of cayenne
pepper to taste
clarified butter or lard

Mode.—Mince the ham and stir together the softened or melted fat in the above proportion, seasoning it with cayenne pepper, allspice, pepper, pounded mace, and nutmeg. Grind to a smooth paste in a food processor. Press the mixture firmly into potting-pots or a jar to prevent air pockets, pour over clarified butter, and keep it refrigerated. This receipt produces about 3 pints. If well seasoned, it will keep a long time in winter, and will be found very convenient for sandwiches, &c.

Time.—1/2 hour.
Seasonable at any time.

III. Fowl and Rice Coquettes

I like fried food a lot, and I like how Beeton’s offers recipes that are both elegant and at the same time, fried grease wads. I made Croquettes of Fowl last Christmas, but I was curious to see what the rice option was like. It was pretty simple–stuff minced fowl mixture into rice balls, coat with crumb, and fry. Kind of like onigiri but much worse for you. I am working on browning them uniformly, but I like them. I did not make any sauce to go with them this time, but served them with “Carrots in the German Way” and pickled eggs.

One ball asplode due to being mishandled.

The innards

The rice is cooked in stock, which produces extra yum. I made a note to add more salt next time, but it is easy to sprinkle it on.

Speaking of pickled eggs:

Note brown outside

They are WONDERFUL, absolutely my most favorite pickled thing so far. I am loving them with an icy glass of whiskey or scotch and the promised intestinal distress has not come to pass, so I guess they are not weapons for me. Next time I will eat two and report back.

Next on the docket: steak frites a la Beeton, and homemade Devonshire cream, made with unpasteurized milk. GASP AGAIN!

* Hey, I almost called this post Apsic: Bold As Love. Maybe I should write terrible greeting cards for a living or something.

38 Responses to “Aspects of Aspic*”


  • I can’t help it. Every time I hear “aspic” I think of this comic: http://achewood.com/index.php?date=05262003

    I’ve forwarded this post to some people for the potted meat recipe.

  • Thanks Brigid! I think Achewood was my very first webcomic love. :) I forget about it now, I confess.

  • This is some tasty stuff. I can’t decide if the aspic being all subtle it’s better to put in something strong or weak flavored. The olives were pretty good, but so was the mild chicken. Perhaps everything is good in aspic?

  • When I say everything, I do not include things like licorice and twinkies. Just to be clear.

  • I can’t thank you enough for introducing me to Aspic! It’s great!

  • Have you seen The Supersizers Go Victorian? It’s available on YouTube in five parts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aKwYECKxVw THERE IS A LOT OF ASPIC AND LARD.

  • YAY NO THANKS!!

    Saemann, the aspic pic on your site is gorgeous. Glad that worked out for you.

  • Wow, this comment could have used some punctuation. “Yay,” I forgot the Under Gardener told me to watch that; “No,” I have not seen it; “thanks,” for the reminder.

    Sheesh to me.

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