Archive for the 'Cookery and Consumables' Category

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Tonight we Celebrate like it’s 1888!

Tonight we Celebrate like it's 1888!

January is Stone Fruit season in Southern Australia. First the cherries are ready for Christmas then plums ripen, then peaches and finally apricots and nectarines. At this time of the year the Head Gardener would be busy ensuring that fruit was sent up to the kitchen for turning into jam and preserves just before ripening. This highlights that good communication between the kitchen and garden was important to ensure that the cook got a heads-up from the Head Gardener as fruit began to ripen.  It would certainly make the Cooks life easier to get on well with the Head Gardener.

As choice as the peaches but delivered in a fair quantity were dark red Morello cherries.  Harry had picked these from two fan-trained trees spread against the north wall of the garden. Old recipes spoke of having the stalk half cut, but Harry followed his training, delivering them to the kitchen minus any stalk at all.  It was a gentlemanly gesture that gardeners of the past always made to housekeepers who preserved Morellos, for leaving the ‘strings’ on the tree and removing just the cherries saved the housekeeper’s fingers from being soiled.

The Victorian Kitchen 1989

Keeping the garden watered daily would be the other major task as rainfall begins to decline and temperatures rise as we head into February.

Picking delicate fruit like peaches would have been an important task for the Head Gardener.  They are really difficult to pick without bruising once they are ripe.

Peaches and nectarines, once they gave off that certain ‘translucence’ Harry associated with ripeness, were cupped in the hand and given a slight twist.  Coming away from the stalk easily they were turned over and placed on padded trays.

The Victorian Kitchen Garden 1987

Peaches ripening in the sun.

I tried to remember this advice as I picked peaches for tonight’s dessert.  If you use your finger tips like I tend to do you end up with big bruises on your peaches; you really do need to cup them carefully.

As today the 26th of January is Australia Day we are have a fancy dinner to celebrate our day off work.  My contribution to the spread is dessert.  I’m going to make a Victorian peach dessert that is a big favourite in my family – Peach Melba.

Peach Melba

Peach Melba was invented in 1892 by the french chef Escoffier in celebration of the Australian Soprano Dame Nellie Melba’s performance of Lohengrin at Covent Garden in London.  Melba was born in Melbourne Australia and is probably our only international Victorian era celebrity (here is a link to Melba singing Sempre Libera which I recommend you listen too while simmering peaches – she sounds a little like she is being boiled herself!).

Escoffier’s original receipe for Peach Melba is really easy to make. Peach halves are boiled in water for about 2 minutes, one peach per person.

Simmering peaches

Once the peaches are removed from the water it is easy to slip off their skins and remove the stone.  They are then drained, sprinkled with caster sugar and left to cool.

Make raspberry sauce by pushing a cup full of raspberries through a fine sieve to remove their seeds. Add caster sugar to sweeten the raspberry puree to taste.

Scrunch berries through sieve.

To serve place scoops of vanilla ice cream in a dish, add two peach halves and then pour over raspberry puree.


In order to make this an authentic Escoffier dish you need to serve this in individually carved ice swans but this has never happened in my household. Escoffier recommends serving in a silver dish if your swan carver is on holiday.

There are heaps of versions of this recipe on the internet and most of them boil the peaches in sugar syrup.  This is OK if you like sweet peaches.  I prefer Escoffier’s original recipe because I like the tart peaches with the sweet ice cream and tart-ish raspberry.

It must be possible to make this dessert look really elegant but I find mine always looks like a train smash!  This is not up to Victorian standard but still tastes extremely yummy.

A Buttonhole for Australia Day

On the 26th of January 1888 all the colonies of Australia celebrated ‘Anniversary Day’ for the very first time. This date marked the 100th anniversary of the First Fleet arriving at Sydney Cove and the beginning of colonial Australia. In 1888 the colony of Victoria (the State where I live) was only 50 years old.  The separate colonies of Australia did not come together as a federation until 1 January 1901 only 21 days before the end of Victoria’s reign.

In modern Australia we celebrate (possibly too strong a word) Australia Day with a national public holiday, a day off work and a barbeque. It is a Nationalists festival that we have become somewhat embarrassed about as our indigenous country men and women refer to the day as ‘Invasion Day’. Back in 1888 colonialism was still cool, Victoria was on her throne and all was right with the World.

I decided this morning that in order to capture some of that 1888 gusto we would have buttonholes to wear at dinner tonight and that the appropriate buttonholes for today would be made of only Australian native plants.

Australia Day Buttonhole

Slim pickings in the garden so we have two identical buttonholes for the Master and Mistress. They are made from Pittosporum and Plectranthus leaves which both last very well out of water.  The small white flowers are Lemon- scented Teatree which smells delicious.  The purple berries are the fruits from the Flax Lilly which I think would look really nice as a hair decoration; these berries are edible and a great favourite of our chickens.

The final word goes to Melba our diva long before Kylie singing an appropriately smultzy and patriotic “No place like home“.  Happy Anniversary Day folks!

The Citrus Saga Continues

The Citrus Saga Continues

This past week was spent babysitting lemons as a part of my lemon pickling experiment.  I periodically turned over a salted lemon without a peel and regularly stirred two brining lemons with peels, looking for signs of some magic alchemy taking place.  Sadly, none was immediately evident, which was not surprising but was disappointing, nonetheless.  Still, I put my faith in Beeton and dutifully tended my citrus for six days.

As soon as I had free time this weekend I sprang the lemons from their respective brines.  There was little obvious change, but I did notice that the lemons with the peels on were slightly heavier than they had been before brining, and their peels were slightly smoother.  The one without the peel on had shrunk a bit, as if it knew what awaited it.  And (spoiler alert!) what awaited it was not good.  I tackled this one first, following Mrs. Beeton’s instructions to heat the lemon to dry the salt.  Not having a fire in the same way I imagine she’s describing, I put the lemon in a heavy lidded pot over a very low flame on my gas stove.  Since the idea is, as I mentioned, to dry the salt – for what reason I’m not exactly sure, as the next step has you pouring boiling vinegar over it all – I think it would have been wiser to do this in a low oven.  But I’m apparently more of a trial and error cook and in this case that was pretty much exactly as it turned out – I tried it and it was an error.  Insert rim shot here.   The problem was that, even on a super low flame the salt on the outside burned before the rest of the salt was even remotely dry.  Eventually, the entire business got brown and stuck to the pan, and when I tried to get it up the lemon pulled apart and it all went to hell.

poor, sad lemon

I didn’t bother continuing with the process, because there was so little left to keep and it really needed to be put out of its misery.  RIP, pickled lemon without the peel.

On the plus side, the lemons with the peel on fared much better.  I boiled them, as instructed, and can recommend this as an air freshener, too.  The lovely, lemony smell almost covered the boiling vinegar smell that preceded it.  After boiling, the lemons were even heavier and smoother than before.  Who knew how much liquid a lemon could absorb?  Once they were cool I popped them in sterilized jars (Mrs. B doesn’t specify that you must sterilize the jars but the USDA canning site has scared me so deeply that I fear I will soon be sterilizing our silverware and plates and anything, basically, that comes into contact with our mouths) and watched the cloves and other spices swirl around.  It was kind of dazzling, to be honest, even if it’s not the most amazing culinary feat ever attempted.  I have just been kind of skittish about canning in any way (picking, fermenting, whatever) because of the aforementioned site o’ horrors.  It’s a great site, really, a deeply informative site, but the underlying message I pick up is that if I don’t do everything just right I will die.  The minute the jar is opened, instant death.  So you can see how spending a week with a couple of lemons and finally wrangling them into what I assume is a fairly disease-free environment for what I hope is about a year or so might bring a measure of satisfaction.

Lemons pickled (or, pickling), I decided to end the Beeton-related activities for the weekend.  I’ve got my eye on some more comfort food recipes for this week, though (bread and butter fritters, for example?), and the sawdust quest from my first post continues.   And – prepare for another rim shot – the picture I grabbed of my pickled lemon includes, I kid you not, my favorite uninvited guest…  Eggs, anyone?

Hello, my little friend in the background.

Making Stock The Beeton Way

Making Stock The Beeton Way

Good stock is the basis for great meals, or so I have heard. I think I make pretty good chicken stock (thank you Zuni Café). Usually I make a double batch and make a demi out of half of it, which I freeze into ice cubes.

My original intention was to make the Beeton Strong Rich Stock and Zuni’s Beef Stock as a comparison. The downside to that is that in order to make the Zuni beef stock you first have to make chicken stock and I just couldn’t see making three stocks on a Saturday. So I stuck to just Beeton.

Now, interestingly, Beeton only has different kinds of meat stock – no chicken, veg or fish stock: Rich Strong Stock, Medium Stock, and Economical Stock. Economical comes closest to chicken stock in that she doesn’t specify a beef joint (although, I would say it is implied). Otherwise the other stocks definitely call for beef. In fact, the Rich Stock calls for beef, veal, ham, and poultry trimmings. A multi-animal broth, if you will.

Ingredients–4 lbs of shin of beef (every butcher I talked to said this was likely beef shank, which looks remarkably like lamb shank but smaller), 4 lbs of knuckle of veal (question by butcher, “Which knuckle? We just have veal bones, will that do?”), 3/4 lb of good lean ham; any poultry trimmings (the Zuni chicken stock uses extra wings for their glycerin content, therefore I looked for wings. My local store was out of chicken wings but had a honkin’ turkey wing, so I used that.); 3 small onions, 3 small carrots, 3 turnips, 1 head of celery (I just realized at this moment that I completely forgot this item – oops), a few chopped mushrooms, 1 tomato (during the winter I chose to use a tomato from some home canned tomatoes), a bunch of savoury herbs, not forgetting parsley; 1 1/2 oz of salt, 12 white peppercorns (I hate white peppercorns and used black), 6 cloves, 3 small blades of mace (everything I could find was ground and so I omitted this item), 4 quarts of water.

Mode–Line a delicately clean stewpan with the ham cut in thin, broad slices, carefully trimming off all its rusty fat; cut up the beef and veal in pieces about 3 inches square (my veal bones had no meat, so I only cut up the beef shank meat), and lay them on the ham, set it on the stove, and draw it down and stir frequently. When the meat is equally browned, put in the beef and veal bones, the poultry trimmings, and pour in the cold water. Skim well, and occasionally add a little cold water, to stop its boiling, until it becomes quite clear.

I am not a good skimmer. I hate it, which is why I tend to like the Zuni stocks because they are anti-skim. So, skimming until the broth is clear pretty much means skimming off the cooked blood until the liquid is golden and not red. A good tip, while the bones and such cook, right before skimming give a good hearty stir to the bones to get any impurities up to the top of the water. Skimming adds an extra 20 or 30 minutes to the recipe but perhaps I am just a crappy skimmer.

Then put in all the other ingredients and simmer very slowly for 5 hours. Do not let it come to a brisk boil, that the stock be not wasted, and that its colour may be preserved.

Strain through a very fine sieve, or tammy (or a regular strainer and cheesecloth), and it will be fit to use.

This is the first beef stock and one of few stocks of any variety that doesn’t call for the browning of the bones before the cooking. That was the hardest thing to resist changing. I had to buck up and really follow the recipe and have faith that all would come out fine. Then the addition of cloves (and mace – next time I will wait to get the un-ground article, it was very clear that it was blades and the ground stuff seemed like it would make too much of a profile so I avoided it) that gave me real room for pause, especially as it was cooking and I could smell the cloves. Plus, turnips? Weird. Now I wish I had double checked on the cabbage. Oh well, still not a perfect Victorian recipe.

Wings of any variety add so much glycerin I was very happy to add turkey wing to the recipe. The more glycerin, the more weight and silk your stock has, therefore the better it is.

As I first cooked it, the stock smelled so strongly of ham, I kept thinking what a mistake it was to have it. As the hours went by the more it smelled of pure beef. I wonder if the ham served as the replacement for vegetable oil, as I used none. Also, that whole non-browning of the bones! Another thing to resist, we are told over and over to brown our bones before making stock. I tasted the stock every hour, or so and at first it was so pale and weak. I was sure I messed it up by not adding that important caramelization (is that a word?). By the end it had that nice black tea color.

After straining, I split it evenly into containers for the fridge. It still came out to 4 quarts – so the 5 hours of slow simmer paid off, all I boiled out was the liquid from the meat, herbs, and veg. One trick I stole from Zuni Café was to swirl a little cold water in the empty pot at the end and then pour over the strained bones to get any last glycerin or good stock.

At the end of the evening, I tasted the stock. It left my mouth feeling coated with silk and there was a definite beefiness to it. In fact, the clove added a subtle, elegant EXTRA to it. I know that I have to add clove to my stock from now on. It doesn’t take over, it adds that undefinable quality. The best thing? The next morning in the fridge, the stock when jiggled acted like jello. A very firm set. I am super excited about what to make with this luxury item. Any ideas?

Kidnapping chickens and pickling lemons

Kidnapping chickens and pickling lemons

Week two, for me, of all things Beeton and the going is best described as… slow.  Both in terms of what I wanted to have done by now and in terms of what I’m actually tackling this time around.

First off, the egg experiment promised in my last post has come to a stand still.  The first problem is that it requires really fresh eggs, and every time I acquire really fresh eggs I eat most of them immediately.  It’s like eating a different food altogether when you compare them to grocery store eggs.  People rave about the incredible yolks of fresh eggs and I get it, but for me the biggest difference is in the whites.  They set up better, they taste better, they look better… The whole thing is just a big improvement on mass marketed eggs.  My neighbor keeps chickens but uses all the eggs for his family (or perhaps they have them packed away in sawdust).  I have been showing some restraint and getting them from a lovely woman at work instead of sneaking over and raiding the neighbor’s coop.  Their chickens, however, keep getting into my yard.  I may start holding them ransom, and offer them back in exchange for a dozen eggs per bird.  Or maybe two dozen… We’ll see.

Returned without a ransom note. This time.

That’s not really the biggest issue, though; I’ve been known to not eat delicious things I shouldn’t eat.  No, the biggest problem is the sawdust.  I live in a fairly urban area, admittedly, but I’m surrounded by vast stretches of deeply rural land.  Like, unincorporated,  no local government, rural-type country.  And yet sawdust seems to be a rare commodity.  I enlisted a little help from someone who is married to a carpenter for heaven’s sake, and the best he could do for me was wood chips.  Wood chips?  Not the best thing, I imagine, in which to preserve an egg.  So I’m going to go begging at a lumber yard, I think.  Or I might just do a little scavenging behind a big box hardware store.  We’ll see.  I’ve found that a lot of people are interested in how this thing is going to work – and so am I – so I’ll find a way to put this together soon.

In the meantime, I’m tackling a much slower project – pickling lemons.  Mrs. Beeton offers two recipes (numbers 455 and 456); one with the peel on and one without.  I’m trying both.  The one with the peel on takes about a year or “rather sooner” (what a tease); the one without the peel takes about nine months.  I know, there are many recipes out there, in books and online, that are much quicker (including this one for an Indian pickled lemon I might also try – it only takes two months and looks really flavorful), but I am throwing in my lot with this Victorian-inspired ultra-slow food madness.  And I’m looking forward to it, honestly.  I like the idea of some lemons pickling over here, eggs in saw dust over there, and so on.  Sure, my kitchen is best described as microscopic, but it will be nice to have some long-term food-related projects going, especially during these months when the garden is on hold.

The first steps for both are fairly simple.  The lemons with the peel just have to be brined for about a week; the lemons without the peel have to be packed in salt for about the same length of time.

The peeled lemon in salt.

After that (and you’ll get pictures of this next week), it’s the pretty standard process of packing them in a jar and adding vinegar and assorted spices.  Then the waiting… If it works and I can resist I’ll crack open the peeled lemons in the fall, and the unpeeled ones around Christmas.  In the meantime, I’ll keep you updated periodically and will pick a slightly less long term project for next week.

Victorian Boat Drinks

Victorian Boat Drinks

Ah yachting in the Caribbean.  Blue sky, sun-drenched ocean, warm breeze through the sails, and something lovely in a coconut with an umbrella.  This is the life…or it will be this decade next century.  For now we’re in the British Navy of Queen Victoria (god bless her) sailing in a tall ship and our boat drinks are a bit more utilitarian.  Now get up those rat lines and reef the top gallants; there’s a blow coming.  Or you now, something like that.  Moving on.

Navy sailors generally had enough to eat and drink and it wasn’t all ship’s biscuits and salt pork, either.  Most ships spent from a third to a half of their time close enough to land to get fresh food and drink.  Everything from loading to maintenance to docking was done by hand and took a good deal longer than today’s landing of a container ship with the aid of a couple of diesel tugs, emptying out the holds with giant cranes, and warehousing the containers by computer management.  During the times they were close to shore, they made every effort to get fresh food, even carrying live cattle for eating en route to avoid dipping into preserved food a bit longer.

But when ships did put to sea, they could be out of touch with shore supplies for quite awhile.  By the Victorian era, marine chronometers were routine equipment aboard Royal Navy ships.  This meant navigation improved to the point that getting lost was unlikely.  Even so, 2 months sailing to cross the Atlantic wasn’t out of the ordinary.  In addition to sailing time, we’re talking about warships, which means when they get to their destination, there still may not be fresh food.  If they’re going to blockade a port or if the captain gets into a diplomatic tiff with the locals, re-supply from shore may be cut off, and they might still be eating salt pork.

While at sea, food could be stored without too much trouble.  Here’s a list of supplies Loaded onto the frigate Doris in the early 1800s:  “…the Doris was loaded with beef, pork, bread, flour, tobacco, butter, raisins, sugar, cocoa, peas, oatmeal, lime juice, lemon juice, red wine, brandy, and rum.” But water was a different matter.  After two months in a barrel, algae and slime will grow.  Might as well drink out of the fetid pond.  But mix in rum and lime juice and you’ll hardly notice the horror you’re consuming.  At least that’s the theory.

Grog was a combination of lemon or lime juice, water, rum, and cinammon.  It was served at noon every day as a 1/2 pint of rum mixed with a quart of water, for a 1:4 ratio.  Lauchlin Rose (of Rose’s mixers) had patented preserving citrus juice in 1867, and the vitamin C in the juice was added to the grog to prevent scurvy.  I imagine it helped with the whole tastes-like-drinking-out-of-the-pond-problem, as well.


19th Century Gator Aid

Grog was for ordinary sailors and ratings, though if I was an officer, I imagine I’d have had some.  But the midshipman and officers had at least one drink peculiar to themselves.  Pink gin was a mixture of Angostura bitters and gin.  The bitters was a cure for seasickness.  However the taste was, well, bitter.  Mixing with gin makes an interesting pinky-orange drink with the bitter taste mostly submerged underneath the feeling that you just bit a Christmas tree which is what drinking gin always reminds me of.

pink gin

Close-up of Pink Gin

After trying the pink gin and the grog, I definitely prefer the grog.  The gin was like a bitter martini, but the grog was a lightly alchoholic, mildly spicy thirst quencher.  Sort of a gator aid for 19th century.  Of course, I didn’t make it with pond water.

Braised Leg of Mutton (ie lamb since it is difficult to source Mutton)

Braised Leg of Mutton (ie lamb since it is difficult to source Mutton)

Instructions for Braised Leg of Mut..err…Lamb, are very easy. One of the reasons I chose this lovely recipe, the other is my deep fondness for lamb. Of all varieties.

Mrs. Beeton says:

Ingredients.–1 small leg of mutton, 4 carrots, 3 onions, 1 faggot of savoury herbs, a bunch of parsley, seasonings to taste of pepper and salt, a few slices of bacon, a few veal trimmings, 1/2 pint of gravy or water.
Mode.–Line the bottom of the braising pan with a few slices of bacon, put in the carrots, onions, herbs, parsley, and seasoning, and over these place the mutton. Cover the whole with a few more slices of bacon and veal trimmings, pour in the gravy or water, and stew gently for 4 hours. Strain the gravy, reduce it to a glaze over a sharp fire, glaze the mutton with it, and send it to the table, places on a dish of white haricort beans boiled tender, or garnished with glazed onions.

I did this in my usual unplanned way and ran into a a couple small roadblocks. I decided on Sunday morning to make this dish for Sunday dinner and then went out in search of the appropriate ingredients. So that left real mutton a non-choice. According to the internets, you can special order real mutton from some farm in Ellensburg. I made my trek to A&J Meats on Queen Anne and let them help me. Veal trimmings? Nope, but they had a pound of frozen, ground veal that they thought would add good flavor to the broth and was supposed to melt right into the liquid. Leg of lamb? Sure! Which side did I want, shank or leg? Looking at the whole leg (which I really wanted) I chose the shank side. I still regret not getting the whole leg, but it wouldn’t have fit into any pot I own.

I admit now to being at a real disadvantage to not reading more of BOHM before starting this recipe. Gravy in a braised dish? Faggot of herb? Only 1/2 cup of liquid for 4 pounds of meat? Huh?

So I kinda punted a little on this dish. Faggot of herb I assumed was some sort of bouquet garni so I went with my standard empty tea bag and herbs that go with red meat (thyme, rosemary, marjoram). I get those empty tea bags from Uwajimaya and they are great for loose leaf teas AND stocks and soups – amazing for infusing flavor with no flecks of herbs in soup.

As for the gravy, I used a reduced, un-thickened stock from a different beef braise. Still 1/2 a pint is only 1 cup, or if you use the British pint it is still only 10 ounces. Most braises have the meat immersed in liquid. So, I also added a cup of red wine and a cup of beef stock (still not very much liquid for that much food).

Another thing I have never done, line the pan with bacon. Crazy! So I did all that, covered the lamb with bacon and ground veal (which did NOT melt into the sauce as the man at A&J Meats said it would) and added vegetables, liquids, herbs, parsley and covered.

That is one seriously ugly dish

Alright, cook gently for 4 hours? I don’t cook next to a fire, so I used my usual braising temperature of 325 degrees. (Perfect temperature)

Still not very pretty.

After cooking, I took the lamb out, strained the sauce, de-greased, and reduced by more than half. Meanwhile I did a quick roast of the meat to get a nice carmelization and served with broccoli tossed in butter and leeks (not white haricot unfortunately, but butter and leeks cover a lot of mistakes).

Much prettier.

The meat was very tender, close to fork tender and the sauce was divine. It was a perfect Sunday evening meal. We both had seconds. I used the sauce and leftover meat the next day to make a quick soup (hi, lamb soup is so much more flavorful than beef soup). The fat didn’t render on either the lamb or the bacon so the sauce didn’t have that much grease to skim off. I think that kept the meat nice and tender throughout the cooking process. Although, I like when all the fat renders, biting into soft, fatty pieces isn’t that much fun. Perhaps a nice browning of the meat beforehand?

Covering the meat with bacon kept everything moist so perhaps I didn’t need to add the extra broth – I didn’t have the courage to follow the recipe to the letter in case it turned into dust. We really enjoyed it and it was a good early foray. I am considering making stock this next weekend but it depends on my ability to source beef shin and veal knuckle.


I have a penchant for starting tasks at the last minute. I also made this cake on Sunday, with just about as much forethought.

Scotch Woodcock

Scotch Woodcock

I’ve mentioned this new blog to a few people and they almost invariably ask, “Why?”  It looks to me like the reasons people are writing here are as varied at they themselves are, but for me it’s part of a trend of doing for myself.  It’s very simply that the idea of going back to some of the old ways of doing things around the house to find out what’s been forgotten appeals to me.

So what has been forgotten?  Something inherently missing in today’s world?  Absolutely not.  I am infuriated by “the good old days” syndrome in which the past is fine and wonderful and today is somehow weaker and wrong.  And believe me when I say that Mrs. Beeton and I have some fundamental differences of opinion.  For example, she says of the tomato plant that it “has a most disagreeable odor” whereas I’ve been known to stick my face in one and swoon.  And I won’t be taking up her suggestion of beef tea when I’m ill (the whole “Invalid Cookery” section really kills).  But there are things we have forgotten how to do that are described here; ways of preserving food and ways of working with vegetables we don’t find in the grocery store or at the nearest chain restaurant are two that interest me most.  That’s primarily what I’ll be talking about in my posts, in addition to exploring whatever random Victorian-era comfort food tickles my fancy.  And gravy, good lord, Mrs. Beeton’s world is all about gravy, and I am right behind her on that.

The first thing I was planning to do here was chronicle my attempts to keep eggs without refrigeration.  Mrs. Beeton offers several suggestions, and I’d figured that by now I’d have been able to get my hands on a big box of saw dust and some extremely fresh local eggs.  It is, however, harder to find saw dust than you might think.  Still, the call has gone out and by this time next week I should have something to show you.  In the meantime, let me introduce you to my friend, Scotch Woodcock.  This falls under the “random comfort food” category.  I was thinking about doing Welsh Rare-bit but was, honestly, seduced by the name “Scotch Woodcock.”  The recipe is quick, so I include a slightly abbreviated version below.

Scotch Woodcock

1653. Ingredients – A few slices of hot buttered toast; allow 1 anchovy to each slice.  For the sauce – ¼ pint of cream, the yolks of 3 eggs.

Mode. – Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs; beat the former, stir to them the cream, and bring the sauce to the boiling point, but do not allow it to boil, or it will curdle.  Have ready some hot buttered toast, spread with anchovies pounded to a paste; pour a little of the hot sauce on the top, and server it very hot and very quickly.

Ok, so, I first went out to get some good bread with a little heft.  This is the only part of the recipe that worked for me.

Damn fine bread.

The recipe appears super simple, but it’s that “to the boiling point, but do not allow it to boil” part that killed me.  I curdled the damn sauce every time.  This is partly due to my being a generally impatient person, and partly due to the difficulty of not boiling such a small amount of cream mixed with egg yolks.  Eventually I put some sauce on the bread, even though it was essentially like really runny scrambled eggs.  It tasted fine, but looked frightening.  Feel free to turn away.

Scotch Woodcock FAIL.

Would I make it again?  Possibly, but I would skip the anchovies and tart the whole thing up with some fresh dill or maybe even curry powder.  Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them.

Christmas Punch

Christmas Punch

For Christmas dinner this year, I wanted to make a traditional Victorian punch.  My first step was Mrs. Beeton’s to get an idea for what was expected.  Her recipe is pretty standard.  (paragraph 1839)

  • 1/2 pint of rum
  • 1/2 pint of brandy
  • 1/4 lb. of sugar
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of nutmeg
  • 1 pint  of boiling water

OK, fair enough.  Half spirits and the other half water served hot with sugar, spice, and lemon.  That’s pretty-much a modern toddy recipe.  But after the punch recipe, Mrs.  Beeton goes on to list other ways of making punch.  She’s got everything from the same recipe except chilled, to punches based on wine, substituting 19th century lemon flavoring for the lemon, and even a recipe for mint juleps.  Hmmm, it sounds like I can I make whichever one I want and not go far wrong.

Punch recipes were brought to England from India early in the 1600s.  The basic recipe called for some type of booze, sweetener, citrus, water, and tea or spice.  Most punch in England was based on wines or on spirits native to Europe like brandy or whiskey.  But Jamaican rum was incorporated after it became available around 1655.  And punch recipes had traveled to the New World, returning as cocktails like the mint juleps Beeton mentions.

Hmm, so by Victorian times, punch could be hot or cold, based on wine or spirits, and incorporate a wide variety of mixers.  It could even have referred to a classic cocktail like a flip or the almost direct descendant of punch, the sour.  In that case, I believe I’ll have to make them all.  For the holidays, I decided to start with a classic Planter’s Punch, because I wanted something cold.  And all of the ingredients would have been available in a Victorian kitchen.

  • 6 parts rum
  • 3 parts lemon
  • 1 part grenadine ← This ingredient might be a stretch as the history of grenadine is a bit murky, but raspberry syrup would have been available which is pretty close in flavor and appearance.
  • dash bitters

And here’s the finished drink in all its glory.  It was delicious.

Planter's Punch

Here’s a flaming version of punch, which I need to try.  Everything’s better when it’s on fire.