Archive for the 'Cooking with Mrs. Beeton' Category

Cookery Books and Pickled Beef

Cookery Books and Pickled Beef

Hello! I cannot believe The Queen’s Scullery closed its doors nine months ago, can you? It was nice to have a break. I thought maybe it was for good, but then something happened to awaken the kraken, as they say. I have been fortunate enough to sign a book deal for all the recipes I have reworked for The Queen’s Scullery. The book should be out next year, I hope in spring.

In the meanwhile, I will be editing the book like a mad thing,  tinkering with some of the recipes that I feel I need another pass at, and I will try to mention them here and put up some pictures. I never finished wrasslin with jaunemange, and I’m convinced there’s a way to turn it out without ISENGLASS, for the love of hoop skirts, so I need to wrap that up and make it taste not like horrible burning death.

The cookbook will be a tiny bit academic, feature discussions of techniques, ingredients, and cooking methods, and will of course contain 100+ recipes that I have pulled out of the Book of Household Management and reworked for modern cooks (imperial and metric). It will have a 23-word title, inspired by my hero, Dr. William Kitchiner. Take that, Daniel Pinkwater. (Pardon the librarian hoomor.)

What have I been doing otherwise? It’s pickling season. I did pickled eggs recently but I’m embarrassed to show you because they are so torn up from being boiled brand-new-fresh out of chicken butts. Amateur hour!

BOUNTY!

The Dill Stalks at Midnight

Pickled lemon cucumbers YUM YUM YUM YUM

Pickled Beef

This, above, lately, is the new jam of cows. The excellent cookbook and early-fall savior, The Joy of Pickling, pictured above in the bean and cucumber picture, is responsible for this pickled beef. So simple and so delicious!

So–how are you? Any food adventures to report or links to share?

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December Has Been Simply Offal

December Has Been Simply Offal

I. Pickled Lamb Tongues and Fried Kidneys

Lamb party! I have decided to mess around with the odds and ends of lambs this month. I religiously followed the directions on Dave’s Cupboard for pickling lamb tongues, with the understanding that it was at my own risk and I could poison myself horribly (I did not).

As you can see in the first picture below, I acquired Instacure #1 (sodium nitrate) and cut the recipe down for just four tongues.

Fresh Lamb Tongues

Once they were cured, they got VERY STIFF and looked like a lady’s boot.

Post-Curing

Then I boiled them as instructed and peeled the skin off the tongues, and then hot pack canned them. I pickled them using what I think of as typical Victorian pickling spices–allspice, pepper, cloves, and mustard. You also cut off the root of the tongue. I thought this might be kind of confusing, but it is easy to tell where the root and extra bits ends and the tongue begins. It makes a big mess, though, all the trimming.

Peeling Skin

Kidneys are mentioned as popular morning fare, but they scream “light supper” to me somehow.

Splitting Lamb Kidneys

Skewering them keeps them from curling up.

Frying Up

They looked good, but were not my cuppa. I did like the tongues when they came out–they were great sliced on sandwiches with some leftover turkey.

II. Bonus Offal!

Okay, so this is not real offal. But I have been enjoying the heck out of my heart mold.

Chocolate Cream

This blancmange was a great improvement over the first time I made it. I’m really good at this now. It’s kind of ridiculous. I can’t wait to tell you what I’ve learned this year.

Blancmange

If you celebrate it, are you ready for Christmas, Victorian or otherwise? What are you making? I got my duck today and it is thawing in the icebox. I have three days left in this experiment  and then I will have 100+ recipes that are completely “fixed” and translated into modern measurements, both metric and imperial. I am going to see if I can get someone to publish them, but I have no connections in the cookbook arena. I think it will be nice to have an update 150 years after the BOHM was first released. I hope someone in publishing agrees with me–wish me luck. Look for a few more posts here before New Year’s. Happy Christmas.

Whipped Cream and Other Gouty Delights

Whipped Cream and Other Gouty Delights

I am making a lot of desserts this month. And I believe I am making my last batches of stock today for the rest of this year! Wow!

I. The Hidden Mountain Redux Redux

Hey, who climbed to the top of the Hidden Mountain? WHY, it’s me. Another bizarre dessert that I can find no mention of before Beeton, which I love, and another that is faithfully reproduced (read:stolen and republished) for 50+ years after the BOHM‘s publication in 1861. But did anyone actually TRY this? She hooks me with those funny names. I am powerless.

Fluffy fluffy eggwhites!

You tell me how to flip a whipped pancake/omelet that is highly whipped and contains no flour, and I will be amazed, I tell you. The fix, in the end, was simple. I just moved the skillet to the oven and did not flip it at all, until it was time to turn it out.

Lovely surface and surprisingly delicious.

Spread with preserves and citron

The Hidden Mountain [1438.]

This recipe was meant to be flipped like a pancake. This is, theoretically, possible in a modern non-stick pan, but I have a hard time believing flipping something so delicate was easily achieved in cast iron. Baking the dish achieves an almost indistinguishable effect without the disappointment of a tear. This dish may be passed at a fancy dinner when flashy appearances and a large variety of food is desired, or it may serve as a modest dessert.

Beeton’s Note: A very pretty supper dish.

Ingredients.
6 eggs, separated
1 tbsp. candied citron
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup cream
1/4 c. any kind of jam (a red berry works well)

Mode.—Set oven to 325F. Warm a cast iron skillet in the oven in preparation and melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside. Whip cream and sugar until fluffy, but not stiff. Beat yolks until smooth. Gently fold the cream into the whites, and fold the yolks into the whipped mixture. Turn the mixture into the skillet, which is warm and has been tilted so that every inside surface is covered with butter. Smooth the top and cook for 20 minutes. When it is removed from the oven, allow to cool slightly so it will begin shrinking from the sides of the pan a bit. This can be assisted with a spatula. Be sure to very carefully ease the “cake” from the sides and bottom of the pan using your spatula, before flipping it onto a plate. Allow the “cake” to chill for at least two hours. Before serving, spread with a thin layer of jam and sprinkle with minced candied peel, and the hidden mountain may be cut like a pie for serving.

II. Mincemeat

As instructed by Beeton, I let my mincemeat sit in the fridge for two weeks. I took it out and stirred and sniffed and looked very carefully for any signs of trouble (mold or other lifeforms). I think the citrus plus sugar plus booze kept decay at bay, and it was all beautifully candied and macerated. I was going to make handpies, but decided to strike out with a big ‘un on my first go.

Glazed crust

My pie crusts are graceful like a donkey wearing a tutu. I have no real love of baking, I cannot lie. That was one of my major fears this year, was the baking recipes. Lucky for me I have an in-house baker and a lot of motivation just to strike out and take a crack at things this year. Fortunately, the short crust I adapted from the BOHM is very forgiving and delicious.

Turned out okay

If I was a real food blogger, I would have cut pieces until one was perfect.

I love mincemeat. The lamb tasted candied. When I cut it, I was hit by the wave of VICTORIAN SMELL. Suet and sugar! I was afraid that it was going to be too sweet (sugar, raisins, candied peel) or too suety, but this recipe is really well-balanced! Whew.

III. Geneva Wafers

Geneva wafers are very similar to modern tuile cookies. There are a few wafer recipes floating around in 19th-century cookbooks, but I am unsure where Beeton got this one from, or what the significance of “Geneva” is. She did this a lot. Pick up a recipe, tweak the wording slightly, and bang on a fancy word. Done! I am curious about her “Sunderland” gingerbread nuts (kind of like a gingerbread cookie, but not a snap) as well, which seem to be a copy of Kitchiner’s gingerbread nuts but with a mention that some people like cayenne added. Through my researches, I can see no apparent connection to Sunderland. I get it, though. I like Beeton’s tendency to fancify things.

And Beeton was so popular her recipes were picked up and passed on, so again the only reference I find to Geneva wafers starts in Beeton and carries on to other cookbooks for 50+ years. Her exact recipe is even reproduced (without credit) in a book called Presidential Cookies as a historic 19th- century recipe.

I am here to tell you that they are delicious, but some will fail. And some of the funky-looking ones end up making interesting little cones.

Grease Party!

Cooling

A finished one and a half-filled one

An array of cones

Astute readers who follow me elsewhere may notice that these colors are rather Halloweeny. Yes, my smallest scullery maid had a brainstorm there. I think the Victorians would have appreciated goth Geneva wafers.

The ones with minced citron were wonderful. I used lingonberries, which were sometimes referred to as the “whortleberry” by Beeton’s contemporaries. Neither term appears in the BOHM, and most references I find in English refer to the lingonberry growing in North America at this time. I’ve been using lingonberry preserves a lot this year, because the tartness offsets the extreme sweetness of many of the recipes. I alternated filling the cones with homemade Italian prune preserves, picked locally last summer.

Beeton says Geneva wafers are “easily-made” but I found them fussy and prone to breakage at first. After two or three goes and finding the right temperature, it went well.

Geneva Wafers [1431.]

These wafers are similar to modern tuiles, which are so sugary they can be coerced into various shapes and frozen that way. There are mentions of “wafer” cookies in other nineteenth-century cookbooks, but Beeton seems to be the first to call them “Geneva.”

Ingredients.
3 oz. butter, room temperature
3 oz. sugar
2 eggs
3 oz. flour
About a 1/3 cup of preserves, a variety of them if liked
Sweetened whipped cream (half-cup unwhipped should be sufficient)

Mode.—Heat oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugar. Add in one egg at a time, blending well. Add the flour gradually, and then mix all well together. Butter a baking-sheet, and drop on it a large teaspoonful of the mixture at a time, leaving a space between each. The cookies may be most easily handled if a minimal number is baked at one time, no more than 6, and if an attempt is made to round the dough on the sheet before putting it in the oven (ideally resulting in a round cookie). Bake for ten minutes; the edges should be brown and the cookies not gooey or moist in appearance. If possible, leave the oven door open and pull out one cookie at a time to curl into cone shapes. A funnel or baster tip works well for this. Allow cookies to cool on a rack, seam-side down so they do not reopen. Before serving, put a spoonful of preserve in the widest end, and fill up with whipped cream. This is a very pretty and ornamental dish for the supper-table, and is very nice and very easily made. The cream can be sprinkled with colored sanding sugar, nutmeg, minced candied peel, or chopped nuts, whatever suits the preserves.

Produces 10-15 Geneva wafers, depending on the skill and patience of the cook. Allow for breakage!

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I’ve got a nice dinner coming up on Saturday night with some guests I am looking forward to who are friendly, funny, and interested in culinary history. This will be my penultimate feast before my Dickensian Christmas I have coming up. I am splashing out on partridge and going to take another shot at aspic, which I will not tint pink this time.

An American Victorian Thanksgiving

An American Victorian Thanksgiving

I. Candied Citrus

Hello, and welcome to this week’s internet-based installment of One Woman’s Descent into Madness, Part 47. How was your Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it? I had a very nice day overall, except for the fact that I wrote and swilled coffee all morning in lieu of eating, which guarantees that I will and did have acid stomach by the afternoon. I took remedies all afternoon–NONE recommended by Beeton, however, who mentions calomel and TOMATOES (this just in, folks, gasoline is excellent for putting out fires). Lucky lucky lucky for me it subsided exactly five minutes before I got dinner on the table and I got to enjoy the feast, and so I have learned my lesson again until next time.

Chicken Foot Crown

I have been busy here with a few things. One is making vast amounts of candied citrus peel. I took apart a buddha’s hand, and you know, nothing was in it! I thought there would be some small amount of useless vestigial fruit like there is in the round citrons, but it was just pith. I also candied orange and lemon peel.  (You might be interested to learn that I have collected all my Victorian experiment pictures in a set, including ones I have not written about.)

Brigid Keely asked me about candying citrus. Really, it could not be easier. First, peel the zesty part off of your citrusy victim, trying not to skim off the pith. I like a vegetable peeler for this as pictured here. If you want fat slices then you are done, but I usually like to use a chef’s knife to slice them down into skinny strips that would make a cute pile of shavings on a cake or fancy drink. If you want to mince them later to go into a cake or pudding you can do this as well after they are done.

Then, heat a simple syrup solution until the sugar is melted (1 part sugar to 1 part water, usually for one fruit a half-cup of each is enough), then simmer the strips for 10 minutes, after which they should look slightly translucent. Strain out the syrup. I also lay the drained strips out on paper towels so they cool just slightly, then sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over them and toss them to coat. Then eat one. YUM! They store in the fridge for a long time, at least all through the holidays.

II. Thanksgiving

So, the interesting thing about American Thanksgiving, foodwise, is that it has barely changed since its official founding in 1863 by President Lincoln. It is kind of a late harvest festival, which is in keeping with what the Pilgrims supposedly ate almost 400 years ago. I decided to mix things up a bit, since the modern food I serve every year is a lot like an American Victorian-era Thanksgiving–turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, seasonal vegetables like squashes. Since it was just three of us this year, I also decided not to make 4 frillion side dishes like I usually do and just focus on experimenting with various dishes.

First, I eschewed a turkey and ordered a goose. I have never had a goose. I assumed they are a lot like turkey, but when I looked into it I was delighted to discover the flesh is, of course, a lot closer to duck, which I love. I have also heard they make a vast amount of grease while they cook, also a bonus, since I am going through grease like water right now, and I knew I wouldn’t have to fuss about the breast drying out like you do with turkeys.

Beeton, of course, instructs us on the removal of feet, how to snip the wings down, and says

Beat the breast-bone flat with a rolling-pin, put a skewer through the under part of each wing, and having drawn up the legs closely, put a skewer into the middle of each, and pass the same quite through the body. Insert another skewer into the small of the leg, bring it close down to the side bone, run it through, and do the same to the other side. Now cut off the end of the vent, and make a hole in the skin sufficiently large for the passage of the rump, in order to keep in the seasoning.

What the…this is way too much like math for me. Smash the breast bone? Can we not just stuff it and roast it? She goes on…

Be careful to serve the goose before the breast falls, or its appearance will be spoiled by coming flattened to table.

The breast might fall, perhaps, because you smacked it with a rolling pin? I decided to follow the modern technique of simply pricking some holes in the skin to allow the grease to drain adequately, and stuffed it with Beeton’s sage and onion stuffing. Beeton called for bread “crumb,” which might mean cubes and might actually mean crumbs. I opted for cubes, since I didn’t want the stuffing to turn into a soggy mass. I often put a LOT of  ingredients into stuffing, following modern recipes, but a nice loaf of bread, some fresh sage, a couple of sauteed onions, and salt and pepper was perfect.

Goose Out!

Cutting the Goose

While the goose was setting up after cooking, I pulled it off its drip pan so I could get access to the yummy lake of grease that had formed under it. I put a couple of generous spoonfuls onto the leftover stuffing I had in a pan waiting to go in after the goose went out.

I also used a few more large spoonfuls to fry up the rissoles. I have made potato rissoles before, but I think they reached their apex of deliciousness this time around. Fowl fat was much better than lard for cooking them in, and I sauteed the shallots they were filled with and used minced ham I had leftover from making white broth.

Rissoles Frying

Barely visible in the above picture, behind the rissoles, is the gravy, also made with some goose fat, rich stock, and a splash of gin. I have become very, very good at making gravy this year, which is one of those “simple” operations that a person can do adequately once a year on Thanksgiving, but to really get a feel for gravy, it helps to do it a couple of times a week for, you know, a year.

This little websitelet I found when doing research on making really kick-ass gravy has one of my most favorite phrases I have ever read on cooking ever: “After you have made gravy maybe 50 times, you will develop your own eye for how dark you will like the roux.” I like it when people take the long view towards perfecting simple tasks. And because it is cooking, you will still fail sometimes.

Scullery maid Jane surveys rissole-pyramid

A Simple Table This Year

The Plate

As a concession to my victims, I served a modern typical winter salad topped with cranberries, pecans, and blue cheese with a mustard vinaigrette I knocked together at the last minute. Instead of cranberry sauce, I sent a store-bought red current jelly to the table, which we have been eating a lot this year, especially with hashes and rabbit.

III. Dessert

For dessert I decided to use my delightful turkey pan my sister gave me for my birthday this year. I have been intrigued by a poundcake recipe in Beeton’s that calls for no liquid, except eggs, and no leavening agent, except whipping the eggs.

It turned out fairly dreadfully, as you might expect. The center was underdone and the outside was crispy like a biscuit. We discussed shallower pans and lower cooking temperatures, but I don’t think it’s really worth salvaging. Many of the recipes just aren’t worth it, especially when there are modern ones that are perfected already. I could take a nice pound cake recipe and add currents and candied peel, but EH.

I also decided to make a couple kinds of gingerbread, thick and white. The white gingerbread was a lot like a scone, and not very appetizing. The thick was made with treacle and turned out more like traditional gingerbread, very dense with good spice balance.

White Gingerbread

Gingerbread Batter

Gingerbread with too much egg wash!

Out of three desserts, I’d say one was a keeper, the thick gingerbread. I was pleased with Thanksgiving and despite the time an energy it takes to make things like stock from scratch, it felt a lot simpler than what I normally make.

Has Beans!

Has Beans!

Throughout this project I have been haunted by the question – what types of vegetables did people grow in Melbourne during the Victorian era (well haunted might be an overstatement … so Victorian). Discovering the answer to this question has not been straight forward. This is an update on an earlier post in which I searched through a collection of ancient seed catalogues in the National Herbarium of Victoria‘s library.  The selection of vegetable seeds available in each catalogue was surprisingly small.  There were artichoke, cabbage, carrot, turnip, onion and other basics. Mmmm…

…so I began trawling other other library collections…

My next step was to visit the State Library of Victoria, in June, a magnificent Victorian beauty, in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business district.  I went to the State Library to read an original copy of ‘The Colonial Gardener : being a guide to the routine of gardening in Australia with a catalogue of select kitchen, garden and flower seeds as sold by Smith, Adamson and Co, 1854‘. This short pamphlet, with a surprisingly long title, published twenty years after the settlement of Melbourne is now digitized and available to read on-line (and as SJ has said – the Victorians would have loved the internet. I did however enjoy the experience of handling an original copy).

Reading Room at SLV - or what the afterlife looks like!

The ‘Colonial Gardener’ provides advice to commercial and beginner gardeners in an almanac style. I love the foreword to the pamphlet – authentic 1850′s marketing spiel!

“At considerable trouble and expense, we have got the following calendar compiled, by a thorough gardener to meet a very obvious want. It has been criticised by and had the approval of some of the oldest resident gardeners in the colony and though printed principally for the guidance of our non-professional customers, professional gardeners but of short experience in the colony might do worse than be guided by it. It may not enter sufficiently into detail to satisfy all, but we flatter ourselves that the information it does give is substantially correct. Smith, Adamson and Co.”

Finally, a proper list of vegetables! The interesting thing about the ‘Colonial Gardener’ is that it shows the beginnings of working out how to grow vegetables in the new colony. The entries each month provide general growing advice, invariably refer to the unpredictability of rainfall and the extremes of temperature. One of the interesting things I’ve noted about their advice is that they are encouraging gardeners to plant ‘a little and often’ this is still great advice as it means that you have a succession of vegetables available rather than them being ready all at once. This is something that I still struggle with as a gardener because once I’m out there with the seed packet open I’m in a planting kind of mood! ‘Little and often’ also has the advantage of ensuring that in an unpredicatable climate you are more likely to get at least some of your crop. Very clever Messers Smith and Adamson!

My next challenge is to see how many of the seed varieties listed in ‘The Colonial Gardener’ still exist in modern seed catalogues. This task is likely to take longer than the life of this blog – so at the end of December 2010 I will move this research to my regular gardening blog.

Making a start on this research in June the first Victorian vegetables to go into my garden were broad beans (Yes Fava Beans! Liver and Chianti fffff). The Colonial Garden lists two bean varieties for planting in June: the Mazagan and the Long Pod. Looking in the American Heirloom Seed Companies catalogue the Mazagan are described as an early fruiting dwarfed plant.  I can’t find seeds available to Australia so far.

Long Pod have also been hard to identify as there seems to be a long list of bean types that have been called Long Pods – the Mr Smith of the vegetable world. In Mrs Beeton’s Garden Management – The Art of Gardening, Mrs B cautiously promotes both the Mazagan and Early Long Pod with the following advice

“…but whatever sort is grown, the culture is the same, and as it is not a favorite vegetable with many persons, it should be carefully considered how much ground can be devoted to it without encroaching on space required for more important crops”.

Crimson Broad Bean in flower by October (mid-spring Melbourne)

Eventually I found an ‘Early Long Pod’ Broad Bean in the Australian Yates Seed Catalogue. I love broad beans so despite Mrs B’s warning I planted a whole garden bed and added some ‘Crimson Flowered’ Broad Beans another old variety of bean rescued from extinction by seed savers in the 1970′s. One of the main themes that I keep returning to in my reading, and it is especially evident when you look at old fruit catalogues or read ‘The Victorian Kitchen Garden’ by Jennifer Davies, we have far less variety of vegetable seeds available to us now than the Victorian gardeners had.  One of the losses that I feel most keenly is that we no longer have the knowledge of what grows well in our own neighborhoods and in many cases we have lost the plants.

Now it is November (late-spring in Melbourne) and there are broad beans ready to eat. They have grown so well this year as the weather has stayed wet and humid. Our first wet spring in ten years! I harvested a big pile and turned to Mrs Beeton’s Household Management to see if she included receipies for broad beans.

Has beans!

Young beans liberated from their pods.

Here is Mrs B’s receipe

1092. INGREDIENTS – To each 1/2 gallon of water, allow 1 heaped tablespoonful of salt; beans.

Mode.—This is a favourite vegetable with many persons, but to be nice, should be young and freshly gathered. After shelling the beans, put them into boiling water, salted in the above proportion, and let them boil rapidly until tender. Drain them well in a colander; dish, and serve with them separately a tureen of parsley and butter. Boiled bacon should always accompany this vegetable, but the beans should be cooked separately. It is usually served with the beans laid round, and the parsley and butter in a tureen. Beans also make an excellent garnish to a ham, and when used for this purpose, if very old, should have their skins removed.

Time.—Very young beans, 15 minutes; when of a moderate size, 20 to 25 minutes, or longer.

Boiled Ham Beans and Swirls of Parsley Butter - Yummy!

Something to bear in mind is that if you salt and boil tender young broad beans for 15 to 25 minutes they will taste and look like grey sludge (hence Mrs B’s contradictory views on the enjoyment of beans). My advice is to get some unsalted water boiling rapidly and blanch for 3 minutes any longer and they are yuck, yuck, yucky.

Parsley butter (cut parsley up finely and mix with butter) was a revelation with the ham and beans and is really worth trying. I made little swirls with a piping bag rather than placing in ‘a tureen’ as directed – with only two to feed a tureen would be over-kill and the parsley butter doesn’t keep very well.

All in all I highly recommend growing and eating broad beans with or without cannibalism and Chianti.

Time Traveling to Tute’s Cottage, Castlemaine

There is a garden in country Victoria that I’ve been wanting to see ever since Mandy Stroebel’s fantastic new book ‘Gardens of the Goldfields – A central Victorian sojourn’ came out in July this year – Tute’s Cottage. This tiny cottage now jammed between a road reserve and the Forest Creek embankment was built in 1858 when the surrounding area was still being mined for gold. Tute’s cottage was occupied under miner’s rights – the right to fence off a small amount of land to create a productive garden, these types of gardens were amongst the first gardens of settlement, and were not owned by the occupiers but leased from the Crown.

Tute's Cottage - lived in by 'Miner's rights' from 1858 to 1997.

In Mandy’s book she describes her project to recreate an 1850′s productive garden in the bones of the remaining allotment garden at Tute’s. This garden is now looked after by a collective of neighbours who live near the cottage and is occasionally open to the public – especially on Castlemaine’s Open Garden Weekend – the weekend after the Melbourne Cup each year.

Broad Beans (Back Left) growing in Tute's Cottage Garden.

Mandy also notes the difficulty of finding nurseries and seed catalogues that still stock Victorian seed varieties and plants. You will see in the photo of Tute’s Garden that the beds are edged with local sandstone rocks. Miners had to be resourceful in creating their productive plots from materials at hand and gardens of this period were often edged with bones or bottles – these were subsistence rather than pleasure gardens.

If you feel like time traveling to the 1850′s and can’t afford a Tardis or Star Gate then a day in Castlemaine during the yearly Garden Festival is the strategy for you. Failing that boil up some broad beans and ham.

The Gift of Meat: Victorian Potted Ham and Rabbit

The Gift of Meat: Victorian Potted Ham and Rabbit

Preserving food was an important part of Victorian life, as we have demonstrated through the year with experiments in pickling, canning, and drying. If I had a domestic staff, I would be a terrible tyrant, making them save and use every scrap of food and every animal bone. The Book of Household Management lists several recipes for potted meats, including veal, anchovies, and more.

Potted Ham with Red Currant Jelly and Fig Paste

What was, 150 years ago, an exercise in thrift and practicality is now an elegant snack that brings something unique to the table for holidays and entertaining. Potted meat can be thought of as a British precursor to deviled ham or paté. This is a great host/hostess gift or something unique for a meat lover you know. The potted meat keeps a long time, but it’s not shelf-stable like a pickle, so plan accordingly. It’s wonderful on crackers or spread on bread as a sandwich. Once you get the lid on, you can fancy it up with some pretty cloth or ribbons.

"Unpacked" Rabbit Meat

Recently, I potted some rabbit. They are worth shopping around for, because I see greater discrepancies in rabbit prices than any other meat. One Seattle store carries $25 rabbit, while at one of my favorite Asian markets I can usually get one for around $6.

Preparing the Rabbit for Stewing

Potted Rabbit [1028.]

This recipe just fills a pint canning jar for me, and can be easily doubled. The liquor that the rabbit is stewed in can be strained and used for soups and gravies.

Ingredients.
1 rabbit
4 slices of raw bacon
a large bunch of savory herbs, such as thyme, oregano, and parsley
1 cup of decent sherry
4 whole cloves
Pinch of powdered mace or a finely-chopped blade [optional]*
1 teaspoonful of whole allspice
2 carrots, chunked
1 onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
A small quantity of melted butter [1-2 tablespoons]

Mode.
1. Skin, empty, and wash the rabbit, if needed; cut it down the middle, and put it into a stewpan, with a few slices of bacon under and over it; add the spices, herbs, vegetables, sherry, and sufficient water to cover the rabbit (usually about a pint). Bring the liquid to a gentle boil. Stew very gently on low, covered, for 2 hours, until the rabbit is tender, and the flesh will separate easily from the bones.

2. When done enough, remove the rabbit from the broth, separate the tender flesh from the bones, and pound the meat, with the bacon, in a mortar, until reduced to a perfectly smooth paste. [The Victorians were very fond of pounding everything, but for this step I pulse the mixture gently in a food processor. You could also chop the meat very finely.] Should it not be sufficiently seasoned, add a little cayenne, salt, and pounded mace, but be careful that these are well mixed with the other ingredients.

3. Press the meat compactly into potting-pots (I like clear glass canning jars for this), pour over melted butter, and keep covered refrigerated.

* Mace, especially whole blades, can be challenging to source. It is possible to substitute ground nutmeg in much smaller quantities (usually half). I recommend mace for an authentic Victorian flavor, and also to blow people’s minds trying to figure out what it is, since many people are unfamiliar with it now.

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

This recipe is great for using up leftover baked ham.

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.
1. 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.

2. Grind to a smooth paste in a food processor, or chop very finely if needed.

3. Press the mixture firmly into potting-pots or a jar to prevent air pockets, pour over clarified butter, and keep it refrigerated. This recipe produces about 3 pints. If well-seasoned, it will keep a long time in winter, and will be found very convenient for sandwiches, &c.

Related: The first post where I mention potted ham.

Frittering the Time Away

Frittering the Time Away

What have I been up to? A lot! I will give you the briefest of recaps (well, brief for me). I have eight weeks of cooking left, and I am really excited about that. It’s fun to look back on this year. Truly, I am a different person now than when I started. I look at food and history very differently now. More about that some other time, though, because there are FRIED THINGS.

I. Fritters

I have been frying everything fryable. Orange fritters? Really? Not too shabby though.

Sectioned Oranges

Orange Fritters with Pounded Sugar

My favorite was this Indian fritter, which has a very light batter that “blooms” beautifully when you put a scoop of it into the hot oil. I also made beef fritters [not pictured], which is more of Beeton’s cold meat cookery. Battered beef is insanely delicious with Worcestershire sauce.

Indian Fritter

II.Rolled Beef, to Eat Like Hare

From the BOHM:

ORIGIN OF THE WORD “SIRLOIN.”—The loin of beef is said to have been knighted by King Charles II., at Friday Hall, Chingford. The “Merry Monarch” returned to this hospitable mansion for Epping Forest literally “as hungry as a hunter,” and beheld, with delight, a huge loin of beef steaming upon the table. “A noble joint!” exclaimed the king. “By St. George, it shall have a title!” Then drawing his sword, he raised it above the meat, and cried, with mock dignity, “Loin, we dub thee knight; henceforward be Sir Loin!” This anecdote is doubtless apocryphal, although the oak table upon which the joint was supposed to hare received its knighthood, might have been seen by any one who visited Friday–Hill House, a few years ago. It is, perhaps, a pity to spoil so noble a story; but the interests of truth demand that we declare that sirloin is probably a corruption of surloin, which signifies the upper part of a loin, the prefix sur being equivalent to over or above. In French we find this joint called surlonge, which so closely resembles our sirloin, that we may safely refer the two words to a common origin.

ARISE SIR LOIN!

I pounded this sirloin pretty flat. I love pounding meat. Then you marinate it in some port and fill with forcemeat and roll up.

Post-marination

Then the roulade is braised in a port sauce. Yum! Looks like some kind of horrible movie prop larva, doesn’t it? Ew.

Sliced rolls, full of forcemeat

Here they are cut. The beef looks extra swirly and lollypoppy because the port colored the outside of the beef. I had forcemeat in the freezer from a previous batch I had made and shaped into patties, but not fried. All I had to do is pull it out and fry it up in a skillet. I am now a person who has frozen forcemeat, suet, stock, heavy cream, sherry, port, and brandy on hand pretty much all the time.

You serve the rolls on a nice puddle of gravy and with red current jelly.

As an aside, the name of the recipe references hare (to eat like hare), but there is no similar recipe made with hare in the BOHM. I did find rolled hare in other, older cookbooks, so perhaps the reference was simply that people knew the dish.

II. WHY GOD WHY: Oyster Catsup

:(

Oysters blanched in sherry with cayenne added, then blended. GREY DEATH.

IV. Long Pepper

Long Pepper

I saw these referred to several times and I could not find them locally. I finally got curious enough and ordered these off Amazon. The BOHM calls for long pepper in a lot of pickle-type recipes. Here’s what Beeton said:

LONG PEPPER.—This is the produce of a different plant from that which produces the black, it consisting of the half-ripe flower-heads of what naturalists call Piper longum and chaba. It is the growth, however, of the same countries; indeed, all the spices are the produce of tropical climates only. Originally, the most valuable of these were found in the Spice Islands, or Moluccas, of the Indian Ocean, and were highly prized by the nations of antiquity. The Romans indulged in them to a most extravagant degree. The long pepper is less aromatic than the black, but its oil is more pungent.

I absolutely love them! They have a smell that makes me think of incense or opium, which is cool. I’ve been dropping them into stock and sauces, and they are easy to pull out again. If you want to try something new, I think they are totally delicious.

I ordered my goose today for Thanksgiving. I know, I know, Victorian England did not have American Thanksgiving, but it was made a holiday in 1863 in the U.S., which is perfect timing. According to some preliminary research I’ve been doing on early American Thanksgivings, it has not changed much between then and now–cranberries, stuffing, etc., in keeping with the story of the first Thanksgiving. So I will put together a large spread where every element is Victorian, but it will probably be more like an English dinner party that an 1860s than an American Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!

Mid-Fall Munching

Mid-Fall Munching

Well, hello October. I’ve been busy cooking, reading, and mushroom hunting. Lately I am enjoying breaking food into “categories” by type or ingredient and having a spree with them all at once, much like my Pickling Extravaganza. I’ve got an Almond Day coming up, including “cheesecakes” that in no way resembles the modern New York style.

I. Toad in the Hole and a Digression

Sometimes I think I find aspects of Victorian food so appealing because I grew up with Southern U.S. cuisine. I am completely talking out of my hat here, because I am an observer rather than an expert, but I see correlations between Southern food and Victorian food in the desire to use every part of an animal, like pickled pigs feet or watermelon rinds (U.S.); the existence of more than one type of dumpling or fried bread product, like hushpuppies or soup dumplings (U.S.) and forcemeat, savory puddings, and fritters (Victorian); and the liberal use of economical gravies, which is basically fat, flour, and some kind of flavorful broth or liquid.

Of course, most cultures have some version of the sandwich or dumpling, a starch or bread, and sauces to go with it, but I feel there is a closer connection between Southern cuisine and the Victorians than a lot of other food types. Part of that, obviously, is the fact that the British and Irish brought their food to the U.S. with them during colonization and immigration, and it became part of the mix along with American Indian, African, and French foods. It’s kind of a remix of what was happening in nineteenth-century England, but with MUCH LESS nutmeg and mace.

Somehow, this brings me to toad in the hole, a classic British dish. I told a few friends I was making toad in the hole, and I was asked more than once, “Oh, the thing with egg cooked in toast?” Apparently there is enough confusion about this among Americans that Wikipedia’s Egg in the Basket page offers clarification between the two dishes first thing.

One digression I will skip is how the recipe earned its name. There’s several theories about this one–it was named after a pitching-disc game, the meat/offal chunks look like hibernating toads (many people don’t know the dish did not originate as sausages and spend a lot of time shouting “The sausages don’t look like toads at all!” on message boards. Duh.), and some internet wags say the dish was charmingly called “turd in the hole.”

Beeton’s
, like other recipes of the time, calls for bits of meat to be added rather than the modern dish of Yorkshire pudding poured into a hot dish around sausages, and is billed as “Cold-Meat Cookery,” which is Beeton-speak for “How to Use Up Leftovers from That Ridiculous 12-Course Dinner Party You Threw to Impress Your Bougie Friends.”

Of course I went with Beeton, but I used fresh lamb bits rather than the cold mutton she calls for. At her suggestion, I decided to substitute mushrooms and oysters for the kidneys. I browned the lamb without cooking it through and cooked the mushrooms down so they would not release their liquid into the pudding while it was trying to rise. I shucked the oysters and drained the liquor (which I am saving in the freezer for the next time I make fish stock), and decided to put the oysters into the batter raw.

Toad in the Hole

We liked the results a lot, and agreed it made a really tasty meal, especially with the addition of onion gravy, which was recommended by British friend. In the scheme of things, not so hard to make, either. This is yet another dish that I will add to my normal repertoire once this year is over.

Served with pickles, of course.

II. A Most Bizarre Luncheon

As I’ve mentioned, for the most part I am making batches of food, like “pickle day” or am making one component per meal, and then plainer, more modern food to go with. I cannot completely tread upon the patience and tastebuds of my erstwhile guinea pigs. A couple of weekends ago, however, I decided to make a whole meal on a Saturday afternoon.

There was lots of boiling. First I boiled Spanish onions for an hour, followed by baking them in foil for almost another hour. You then peel, score, and smother them in gravy. I burned myself taking them out of the oven–boiling water dripped out of the foil on onto my foot, which now has a little brown mark on it, I think in part from the dark color the onion water turned from the skins.

Boiled Spanish Onions

In the meantime, I pounded a tenderloin and made it into a roulade filled with garlic bits and grease. As Beeton recommended, I basted it frequently while it cooked, with more delicious grease I had laying around. Then I boiled celery, to be covered in a cream sauce. It takes longer than I would have thought, even though it has all the cellulose and…what have you. I try not to think about celery. It’s goat food, I tell you.

Waiting for Luncheon

Two Kinds of Applesauce

Probably my favorite part, though, was the two kinds of applesauce I made. Applesauce is delicious with pork and poultry, isn’t it? It’s easy to make a quick one with a little water and sugar, but Beeton has one I really liked–the gravy and spice makes it a great mix of sweet, spicy, and savory, which as I have mentioned, is my crack.

Brown Apple Sauce [364.]

Ingredients.

2 good-sized apples
1/3 cup brown gravy
cayenne to taste

Mode. — Put the gravy in a stewpan, and add the apples, after having pared, cored, and quartered them. Let them simmer gently till tender; beat them to a pulp, and season with cayenne.

III. Crab with Jane

Finally, here is something I liked a LOT. I am a crab person anyway, so this was an easy win. I knew I was going to be home alone with one my scullery maids, Jane, so I invited her to come upstairs and dine with me. I picked up a couple of iced crabs (I was not in the mood to go all Circle of Life and cook them in front of little Jane, who was eyeballing them dubiously as it was), cleaned them, and pulled all the meat out, saving the shell.

Looks like someone's got a case of the Mondays!

Jane enjoyed clicking their little claws and stealing nips of leftover meat as they fell on the counter. I taught her about exoskeletons as we worked. Educating the lower serving classes at every reasonable opportunity is one of the duties of the mistress of the house, after all. If Jane can get her tendency to blaspheme at every opportunity under control, she may someday make a fine lady’s maid.

Once I had extracted all the meat, I blended it with nutmeg, cayenne, melted butter, and salt and pepper. The reserved shell gets stuffed with the meat, and you cover the exposed meat with seasoned breadcrumbs, and it gets warmed and toasted in the oven.

Stuffed and ready to cook

About crab “fur”–you can see on the underside of the shell there are “hairs” that I decided to leave in place, though I cleaned all the “crab butter” and other liquid or grit out. Do people remove these or leave these on? I suppose it’s somewhat moot most of the time, since most crab I see is served in the shell or in a dish ready to eat, like in pasta.

Scullery Maid Jane enjoys a simple meal of hot crab, apple slices, and bread. She will catch Hell when the other servants discover what they have missed.

Beeton suggests that one crab can be shared among three people, making it just another side dish that you can take morsels from during the fish course. I decided to focus on the crab, since it is a rare treat for us. Jane could not finish hers, so I turned it into crab salad for sandwiches the next day (Beeton would approve of this economy).

The crab disappeared very quickly.

I think this would be a wonderful Christmas dish.

Hot Crab [245.]

Ingredients.

1 crab
1/8th teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoonfuls of vinegar

Mode.—After having boiled the crab, pick the meat out from the shells, and mix with it the nutmeg, vinegar, seasoning, and melted butter. Put the whole in the large shell, cover the visible crab meat with bread crumbs, and cook at 375 for 20 minutes.

Fall a la Mode

Fall a la Mode

I. Beef a la Mode with a Brief Digression Into Salad

It is rapidly becoming springier in Australia, but here we are entering fall, and my life and my calendar is getting meatier again as I shove the last of the harvestables into pickle jars or smush them into jellies and chutneys. Tomorrow is Aspic Day, a whole day of encasing whatever turns up in the fridge in hoofy goo like bugs in amber. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I decided to tackle the crème de la crème of beef dishes, Beef a la Mode. I have always heard of it, and wondered what made people talk about it in the context of old-fashioned, swanky restaurants our grandparents might have patronized. Beef a la mode can be fairly compared to pot roast, which it greatly resembles, due to the fact that both are giant chunk-o-meat, braised slowly in some kind of liquid. The difference I can see is that beef a la mode is browned or cooked with some kind of bacon or ham product for flavoring as well.

As usual, I tweaked Beeton’s a bit to be more logical and suitable for modern techniques without losing the spirit of the original. There are probably not too many extant recipes for beef a la mode that call for mace and port. Mace! How I missed you.

Beeton calls for slitting up the roast a bit to let the flavors permeate, giving it a spice rub, and then wrapping it up in bacon with meat tape. My kitchen is like a day spa for cow parts.

I am not going to lie to you; I have no idea what meat tape is. It sounds awesome, though. I decided to ensure the bacon would stay on with a couple of pieces of kitchen string.

Five! Hours! Later! Bam, there was a fork-tender roast. Really, I should have sliced it thinner but I was feeling impatient. Then I strained the cooking broth and reduced it by half in a skillet while the meat rested in a just-warm oven. I hate letting meat sit out all naked in the cold air to rest.

See the crust? That is herbs and spices and YUM.

I made a dressing to go with the salad that my sister, Morgan, helped me whisk together. I did not realize I was making a type of mayonnaise until it got rich and creamy and turned a lovely shade of green from the olive oil. No eggs, though. My reference book to keep me on track is The Joy of Cooking–I see it as a baseline sanity check for modern techniques, and when I looked later I did not see a dressing recipe quite like it.

Om nom nom

Morgan thought it needed more sugar, but I said, “Just wait until you taste it on the salad.” She agreed it complemented the greens, tomatoes, and croutons I made that morning really well. I had a feeling it might. Overall, I’d say the recipes like sauces and dressings call for less sugar than modern ones catering to current tastes. I like the interplay and enhancing properties of sugar, salt, and spice that you see in in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, for instance, so sometimes I throw a little extra sugar into dishes that call for salt and cayenne.

Beef a la mode is awesome cold as sandwiches the next day as well–something else it has in common with pot roast.

Beef a la Mode [602.]

Ingredients.
2.5-3 lbs of chuck, round, or top blade roast
a few slices of fat bacon
1/2 cup red wine, cider, or sherry vinegar
black pepper
bunch of savory herbs, chopped
Crush together: 1 tsp allspice, 3 cloves, and 1 tsp peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced
1 turnip, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 cup port

Mode.— Prepare the beef for stewing in the following manner:—Choose a fine piece of beef and with a sharp knife make a few slits deep enough to let in the bacon and other flavorings. Rub beef over with seasonings and minced herbs. Lay 2-3 slices of bacon in your stewpot, which should be heavy and not too much larger than the roast, and turn on the burner to let the bacon warm and begin to brown. Lay the remaining bacon in strips over the herbed roast and tie down with string if necessary.

Set the roast into the pan on the browned bacon, pour the vinegar and 1/2 cup water around the roast, and add the bay leaves to the liquid.  Let it simmer covered very gently for 4 hours, or rather longer, should the meat not be extremely tender. Slice and fry the onions of a pale brown, and in the last hour add the onions and other vegetables, which should add flavor but not disintegrate into the liquid. When ready to serve, take out the beef, remove the string and bacon, and hold in a warm oven to rest. Strain the vegetables and other pieces out, skim off every particle of fat from the gravy, add the port wine, and reduce sauce by about half, using a skillet to speed the process if desired. When the sauce is ready, salt to taste and send it to the table in a tureen; it should be of a lovely garnet color. Send the beef to table on a hot plate, thinly sliced and attractively arranged.

Great care must be taken that this does not boil fast, or the meat will be tough and tasteless; it should only just bubble.

Additionally: A discussion of beef a la mode from Lincoln to Pepys to Beeton.

II. Bunny Gravy Goodness

Preparing to make stock. I need more practice with the saddle.

Originally, this recipe called for some leftover roast hare that was just laying around the hunting lodge or whatever, but most people don’t have rabbit just taking up space in the icebox, so I modified this to use a whole uncooked one. It also called for mushroom catsup, something else we modern pantries don’t feature often. It a delicious jointed rabbit stewed in gravy that is made from stock using the carcass. Amazing. As with most cold-weather Beeton, scratch stock makes all the difference. The red current jelly you serve it with acts a bit like cranberry sauce with turkey.

I did not know until this year that a rabbit’s front legs are not attached to their skeleton. You just slice straight through the muscles.

Hashed Hare [1030.]

Ingredients.
A whole rabbit, skinned and prepared for cooking
1 blade of pounded mace
2 or 3 allspice
pepper and salt to taste
1 onion, sliced
a bunch of savoury herbs (thyme, oregano, bay, parsley &c)
3 tablespoonfuls of port wine
2 tablespoons drippings or butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoonfuls of mushroom ketchup or Worcestershire sauce

Mode.—Joint the rabbit, slicing the saddle into bite-sized pieces. Put the bones, trimmings, and organs, if any, into a stewpan, with a cup and a half of water; add the mace, allspice, seasoning, onion, and herbs, and stew for an hour, covered. Strain the resultant stock allowing any herb leaves to remain if liked. Whisk together the drippings and flour at the bottom of the stewpan, and add the strained stock gradually, whisking to keep the gravy smooth. Add the wine and Worcestershire, season with salt and pepper, and bring the gravy to a gentle boil to thicken it. It should not be terrifically thick. Lay in the pieces of rabbit so they are mostly covered by the gravy. Allow the rabbit to simmer for 20 minutes, turning once and serve on the bones, or allow to simmer for an hour and shred the meat into the gravy. Excellent over mashed potatoes. Garnish the dish with sippets of toasted bread. Send red-currant jelly to table with it.

III. Picklesplosion

Last weekend was Pickle Weekend. Why not learn how to can, right?

I decided to make Indian Pickle (Very Superior), and it is superior, and gorgeous. You prep the veg for a couple of days in salt, and then you have carte blanche to throw anything seasonal in as it ripens. This made John Smythe, my canning consultant, very nervous. “You don’t want it to ferment, or worse,” he warned me.

Salting the pickle mix

A small child performs the traditional dance in the background to placate the pickle gods.

I promised I would get it all together and can it sooner, rather than later. I included napa cabbage (Beeton called for “lettuces’), green and wax beans, pickling onions, cauliflower, garlic, chile peppers, and probably something I am forgetting.

Pickle packing.

As a bonus, my sink is a lovely turmeric color for the time being.

I also made Bengal Mango Chetney, which charmingly contains NO MANGOS. It is fricking delicious and spicy as hell, in part because I found some fresh and evil ginger powder at a halal store, rather than relying on that milquetoast baloney you find at Large Gringo Chain Grocery. This stuff is going to be the bomb with mulligatawny.

Apples, raisins, and SPICE.

Finally, here is the fruit of my efforts (green pickles belong to John Smythe):

And this is not even including all the Very Superior Indian Pickle. This is going to be a spicy winter, and [SPOILER ALERT] I know what some people are getting for Christmas.

Curry in a Non-Hurry

Curry in a Non-Hurry

“If Leekes you like, but do their smell dis-like, Eat Onyons, and you shall not smell the Leeke; If you of Onyons would the scent expel, Eat Garlicke, that shall drowne the Onyons’ smell.”  –Dr. William Kitchiner

Isabella Beeton includes fourteen recipes for curries in the Book of Household Management, including lobster curry, which I tried earlier this year, and Indian Curry-Powder [449.], from a Dr. Kitchiner’s Receipt. Here again I have struck gold with regards to one of Beeton’s sources.

William Kitchiner, MD (1775–1827) seemed to have been somewhat of a Renaissance man and an eccentric, who was known for his sauces and spice concoctions. His most famous cookbook was called The Cook’s Oracle (thrillingly subtitled “Containing Receipts for Plain Cookery, On the Most Economical Plan for Private Families; Containing Also a Complete System of Cookery for Catholic Families. Being the Result of Actual Experiments Instituted in the Kitchen of William Kitchiner, MD”). Well, now you don’t have to see the movie to know how it comes out, do you? I love the nineteenth century.

Let’s look at the important part of that gargantuan title: “Result of Actual Experiments.” (!!) Beeton went to the sauce source, it seems. Originally published in 1817, Dr. Kitchiner’s book was an attempt at precision in measurements and timing, rather than instructing the cook to add a bit of this-and-that until it was done. However, Kitchiner acknowledges in his preface to the seventh edition that many of the newly-added recipes had not been tested, though curry powder was not on that list of later recipes.

The book was published through and enhanced through at least the 1840s (William Crescent, the editor for the 1931 edition, released posthumously, notes in his introduction that “many receipts for pastry, preserves, &c, &c have been added to the present edition…”,  making it more of a well-rounded cookbook in keeping with others from that era). I assume Beeton got her hands on a later edition, which presumably means that some of the recipes she lifted for the BOHM were tested, and some were not. Many of Dr. Kitchiner’s recipes are very familiar, textually, such as Portable Soup; of course Beeton’s edit is to extract the  ingredients and lay them out for the reader at the outset like most modern recipes, and to make the language clearer, something she excelled at as an editor.

It is interesting to note that in his preface to the third edition (1819-20?) Kitchiner includes curry powder on a list of sauces, with a little disclaimer:

Store Sauces and many items of Domestic Comfort, which are extravagantly expensive to purchase, and can very seldom be procured genuine, he has given plain directions to prepare at Home–of infinitely finer flavour, and considerable cheaper than they can be obtained ready made…

While 44 years later in her introduction to her chapter on Sauces, Beeton declares that

ALTHOUGH PICKLES MAY BE PURCHASED at shops at as low a rate as they can usually be made for at home, or perhaps even for less, yet we would advise all housewives, who have sufficient time and convenience, to prepare their own.

…Demonstrating that times had changed.

So I decided to try out Dr. Kitchiner’s recipe for curry powder. My old neighbor was from India and he was always exhorting me to make my own. “It’s so much BETTER!” he would say, as he foisted some of his on me as proof.

First, I had to assemble all the spices and let them heat overnight in a cool-ish oven. I did not track down cinnamon seed, but instead used sticks. I didn’t think the powdered and dried ingredients like turmeric and ginger really needed a go in the oven overnight, but I thought I would keep to the spirit of it. Modern curry recipes usually call for toasting the spices in a skillet on the stove top.

Then it was time to grind up the spices. A friend of mine once told me not to monkey around with a mortar and pestle, but to instead use a coffee grinder, so I did. As I ground the spice pile in small batches, I began to sneeze uncontrollably. I think I lost half the contents of my head and the tissues were beginning to turn yellow. My nose burned all day afterward from all the cayenne. Next time I will be smart and wear a handkerchief like a cowboy.

As I ground the spices, I saw that the coriander seeds were losing their outer shells, and that there were a few chunks left behind. I sifted the mixture when it was done to get rid of the excess debris.

It made about two-and-a-half cups, certainly more curry than I have ever purchased in one go.

I decided to use it almost immediately in Curried Fowl [941.]. The base of the curry was meant to be veal gravy, which is not something I keep on hand, so I made some quick gravy with bacon drippings and chicken broth out of the carton. It went over very well and was a nice mixture of hot and flavorful. The dish did not at all resemble what you get in modern Indian restaurants I have eaten in, but was in line with other Victorian Indian dishes I’ve made–the focus is on the curry, a simple gravy, and loads of onions. This one also called for diced apple, which was nice. I will be using the powder for all of the rest of the curry dishes I make this fall.

Visually unexciting, as usual.

I can’t think of anything duller than a long essay on the etymology of the word curry, but I admit I got a little curious about it after stumbling on some writing by Richard Sainthill, an art patron and coin collector who compiled a book of reminiscences and other hodge podge appropriately named An Olla Podrita: or, Scraps, Numismatic, Antiquarian, and Literary, Volume Two [1853]. In this second volume, which features riveting chapter titles such as “The Use of the Samaritan Language By the Jews Until the Reign of Hadrian Deduced from the Coins of Judea” and “Objections to a Laurel Wreath for the Bust of Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the Coinage,” is proof of what can happen when you sarcastically tell someone incredibly dull to “get a hobby already” and they DO, and then they write all about it and expect you to read it.

(Ironic Pause.)

Anyway, Sainthill reproduced some correspondence between himself and a friend whom he only refers to as “Madam Soyers” in regards to Kitchiner and what “real” curry is. Even in the nineteenth century there were obnoxious foodies arguing about authenticity, isn’t that grand? I got all excited because I thought maybe his correspondent was Emma Soyer, Alexis Soyer‘s wife, but I think she was dead by this time and did not travel to India besides. I thought it was worth looking into in spite of the typo, as Sainthill misspelled Kitchiner’s name in the article as well. Sainthill asked Madam Soyers what she thought about Kitchiner’s recipe.

She replied:

Now, both as an eater and maker of curries, I affirm that during nine years’ residence in India I never saw or tasted a curry like Dr. Kitchener’s [sic].

However, she does go on to say that every chef has his own recipe for curry, and surmises that Kitchiner’s recipe may be more similar to concoctions that were created to be imported to London (too turmeric-heavy, suiting English tastes) and not for use in India. I felt that Kitchiner’s was missing garlic, and the “authentic” recipe Madam Soyer includes in her letter from a “most capital cook, Haji Ali” includes it.

Very briefly I will say that while the OED claims the word “curry” comes from a Tamil word, “kari,” meaning sauce/relish for rice, I was interested to see that there is some debate about it. Of course the British appeared in India in the early seventeenth century, but the word “curry” or “cury” was already in the English lexicon. I was interested to find another discussion about the literal meaning of the Tamil word “kari” as well.

As a final aside, Dr. Kitchiner invented something he called “wow-wow sauce,” which does not seem to appear in any form in Beeton’s. There are similar sauces, but no real match. Perhaps it had fallen out of fashion by that time. When I stumbled across this tidbit, I knew the name sounded familiar, and then I got it. Wow-wow sauce is referenced in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as an ingredient for a hangover cure. I could be wrong, but based on Kitchiner’s love affair with flash and the exclamation point, I bet the name is pure nonsense. I love it. I am going to order his biography Regency Eccentric as soon as my library reopens from furlough.