Hi! So as the year is rapidly drawing to a close, we are trying to figure out how to have some kind of grand finale. If you have anything you would like to hear or see from us, please let us know.
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 have been frying everything fryable. Orange fritters? Really? Not too shabby though.
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.
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.
I pounded this sirloin pretty flat. I love pounding meat. Then you marinate it in some port and fill with forcemeat and roll up.
Then the roulade is braised in a port sauce. Yum! Looks like some kind of horrible movie prop larva, doesn’t it? Ew.
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
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!
Today is the 150th Anniversary of the Melbourne Cup, the world’s richest horse race, which was run on the turf at Flemington for the first time in 1861. The Melbourne Cup Spring Racing Carnival has come down to us from the Victorian Era with many of its traditions intact. In many ways the Melbourne Cup became our equivalent of Spring (May Day) Festivals.
Almost from inception the Cup became a Melburnian institution with 100′s of 1000′s of people of all social classes attending. The Cup was a place to promenade and picnic, to see and be seen. To underscore its importance to the social life of the colony the Victorian Government made the first Tuesday of November, Melbourne Cup Day, a public holiday in 1873 closing all banks and government offices.
Today as I enjoyed my public holiday I spent some time trawling through the internet looking at historic images of the Cup. There is very little to pick between images of 1881 and 2010. Men and women still dress in their finest and promenade on the lawn. Despite the waxing and waning of fashion hats have endured as a constant feature of race day – ensuring that millinery has remained a thriving art in Australia.
A traitor to my city I have to confess that I’m not interested in horse racing. I’ve never managed to get excited about the idea of dressing up and attending but nevertheless I feel a social obligation to place at least one small bet on the Cup each year (look in Melbourne parents take their kids to place a bet from the moment we are born). I have bucked the trend in my family who on both sides have loved racing from both sides of the turf. I’ve even found an extraordinarily wealthy ancestor, William Bailey, who (apart from being a career criminal) was exceptionally fond of a flutter. His 1906 obituary is online and a good third of the text lists the horses he owned, races won and the seemingly ridiculous amounts of money he paid for yearlings (1000 Guineas – This is why we are no-longer rich, ‘Damn you Bill’, I say as I shake my fists at the heavens).
Fashion and flowers remain an important part of the carnival especially roses. Each of the major racedays at Flemington has an official flower. Victoria Derby Day is the Corn Flower, Melbourne Cup Day is the Yellow Rose, Oaks Day the Pink Rose and Stakes Day the Red Rose. There is a modern staff of 12 gardeners that tend the enormous race track rose gardens and lawns with modern equipment; in previous eras this staff would have been much larger.
By the 1860′s the vast expanses of turf at Flemington would have been mown using horse drawn mowers. Horse drawn mowers were developed in the 1830′s. Previously lawns were managed using scythes (think Grim Reaper). To protect the turf from damage from the horses’ hooves the horses were fitted with leather booties.
Mrs Beeton’s Book of Garden Management has an extensive section on the newly developed Mowing Machines. All are a hand pushed version of the mowers that horses pulled along.
Mrs Beeton gives the following advice on when to mow the lawn:
“A scythe works better in the morning when the dew is on the grass, or when it has been wetted by a slight shower of rain, so when mowing is effected by means of the scythe it is better to get the work done early in the morning. The mowing machine, which works on an entirely different principle, acts more smoothly and pleasantly when the grass is dry, and may therefore be used even at midday… to produce a soft elastic velvet-like surface of fine short, close grass, a lawn should be run over with the machine at least once a week.”
Taking up Mrs Beeton’s advice I have been mowing our front lawn with the modern equivalent of the ‘Excelsior Junior’. The hand mower is definitely a lot more work than the petrol lawn mower. If the grass gets too long or sends up flower heads it wraps around the blades and jams the mower. This is one of the reasons that you do need to mow the lawn every week when using these devices. With out a scythe (I really think that me doing the lawn with the scythe would be the very last straw for our neighbors – which has almost inspired me to find one) I use hand clippers to cut down the long pieces.
As for a finish that looks like “a soft elastic velvet-like surface” well … it looks more like a neatly tossed salad.
So now that Melbourne Cup Day is in its dying hours I can go to bed with the knowledge that while I didn’t back the winner again this year or solve the puzzle of where the Bailey millions went (I imagine it was all lost at the track) – a least my front lawn is almost up to scratch!
“It was so cheerful to be trotting and cantering all together that it always put us in high spirits. I had the best of it, for I always carried the mistress; her hand was so little, her voice was sweet, and her hand so light on the rein that I was guided almost without feeling it.” Black Beauty 1877
Ah yes. The lady’s horse. If you were a lady in the Victorian Era, not just any horse would do. Ladies couldn’t just throw their legs up over any ol’ mount that ambled down the trail, if you know what I’m sayin’. They had to protect their delicate sensibilities and the right horse was essential to maintaining a lady’s grace and demeanor.
The first book, Riding: on the flat and across country: A guide to practical horsemanship, was written in 1882 by Matthew Horace Hayes. Hayes devotes a whole chapter (Chapter 6 to be exact) on “Ladies Riding” and he actually surprised me by how confident he seems in the ability of women to ride effectively. This is not to say that he’s a champion of Equal Rights! On Horseback!, but for a 19th century man writing on the horsemanship of women, he’s more complimentary than I expected. In other words, he’s a little more confident in a lady’s ability to ride as well as a man without “special allowances”. He refrains from giving overall rules based solely on the rider being a woman, but instead gives instruction on the different circumstances a rider might encounter based on the talent of the equestrienne.
As the object of this book is to teach the theory and practice of riding in a “workmanlike” manner, I shall not touch on the artificial rules and varying fashions of park or school equitation, but shall devote my space to the special points of horsemanship which concern ladies, and which hold good for all time.
(Or “hold good” until women ditch the sidesaddle and start riding astride in the twentieth century, but we won’t hold this lack of premonition against poor Mr. Hayes.) The first section in his chapter on Lady’s Riding is on The Lady’s Horse , which was very convenient for the purposes of this post. Let’s read shall we?
A Lady’s Horse.—The question of man or woman being able to ride and control a horse, supposing him to be properly bitted and saddled, resolves itself into the more or less perfect possession by the rider of the following requisites : good hands; strong seat; firm nerves ; even temper, and physical strength. If a lady lack somewhat the last-mentioned gift, she amply makes up for the deficiency by a tightness of grip unobtainable in a man’s saddle; while it is but bare justice to say that in touch, courage, and patience she is at least our equal. Mere brute force has little to do with the capability of holding a puller.
See, right off the bat Hayes surprised me with this no-nonsense look at women riders. Pretty progressive for a Victorian dude, I thought. He goes on:
Ladies who have had equal opportunities, with men, of learning, ride quite as well as they. But, as a rule, they don’t get the chance of excelling, nor are they ” set right” by unpalatable home truths being told them without favour or affection, unless, indeed, they have hard-riding, and, may be, jealous brothers.
Very interesting, Hayes! I’m listening…
A fine horsewoman, therefore, may be satisfied with any horse which is fit for a man, provided he is fairly steady to mount, goes up to his bit, and does not require an unusual amount of ” collecting.” I have the pleasure of knowing several ladies who could ride anything that has ever been foaled, yet it is not desirable, even with one of them, to have a horse ” dance about” when he is being mounted, or one which ” sprawls all over the place ” and requires constant pulling together, when the rider is up.
So. Pretty complimentary I’d say. After this introduction, he goes more into detail about what kind of horse would be desirable for a Victorian lady. Just for fun, I am going to subject Cinder to Victorian scrutiny. Let’s see how she fares.
The ordinary lady rider ought to have a horse which is perfectly steady to mount; is light in hand ; goes in a natural collected manner, and is safe and easy to ride.
Well, Cinder’s not what I would call ‘light hearted and showy’. It just ain’t her personality; but as she’s not a total grouch, she has a touch of diva, and since she looks divine in purple (which is a decidedly showy color), we’ll give her another half a point.
In the next section, Hayes deals with the qualities necessary for a horse to carry a sidesaddle. I will deal more thoroughly in a future post about the sidesaddle itself, but we’ll read what he has to say in relation to a sidesaddle-carrying equine.
As Cinder is half Clydesdale and therefore quite large, I think she’d do fine carrying the extra weight of a sidesaddle. Another point for her. (That’s four points out of a possible five for those who are keeping track.)
So, you know how I was talking about how surprised I was that Hayes seemed pretty progressive? Well, progressive had its limits in the Victorian Era, and no chapter in any lady’s riding manual, progressive or not, would be complete without style pointers. No matter how Workmanlike! the author intends it to be.
The style of horse should, if possible, be in thorough keeping with the style of rider. A young lady with a slight pretty figure will look best on a horse which is all blood and quality; while a portly and dignified matron will be best suited with one of the weight-carrying hunter stamp.
Make sure your horse doesn’t make you look fat!
Since we’re dealing with Cinder here, and since I am Cinder’s only rider, for this section we will judge her in relation to me. That’s right ladies and germs, I shall put myself up for Victorian Scrutiny. Does Hope’s horse make her look fat? Let’s find out!
First: Am I a ‘young lady’? By Victorian standards no, that ship has sailed.
Second: Do I have a ‘slight pretty figure’? I don’t think that my figure and the word ‘slight’ have ever been used in conjunction.
Ok then, we have now determined that I am a lady neither young, nor possessing a slight figure; so that means I must fall into the second category of Portly and Dignified Matron.
Good grief, are those the only choices? I don’t really consider myself portly (and those who know me personally would certainly never call me dignified), but I suppose I fall on that side of the Victorian Lady Spectrum, so we’ll roll with it- bringing us to the horse required for such a lady: one of the weight-carrying hunter stamp. Cinder is half draft horse, and draft crosses are often used as hunters, so DING DING DING, we have a winner! Another point for Cinder. This is even funnier to me, because I have a bumper sticker that says “Ride a draft, it makes your butt look smaller”. I guess my car is partying like its 1877 and I didn’t even know it!
The next section of the chapter is especially interesting, because Hayes breaks down the method used to find the proper height ratio between lady and horse; Victorians apparently, were very thorough.
15.1 is a nice height for a horse to carry a lady five feet high. We may add an inch in height for the horse for every four inches by which the lady exceeds five feet.
Let me break that down for the non-horse people reading this. Horses are measured in ‘hands’ and a hand is four inches. So 15.1 means 15 ‘hands’ plus one inch. So, since Victorians add one inch to the horse for every four inches a woman is over 5 ft, and I am 5’4″, it means I should have a horse that’s 15.2 hands high. Cinder is 16.2. At least. So she’s a good 4 inches too tall for this portly matron. No point for you there Cinder, sorry. Horizontally you qualify, vertically not so much.
Next we have a Very Important Tip for Serious Riders. So listen up y’all.
Grey horses are objectionable for ladies, as the hair which comes off their bodies shows very much on the habit. Besides this, they are difficult to be kept clean.
Don’t want a grey horse, ladies! Their hair might come off on your clothes. Cinder is not grey, Cinder gets another point.
Last but not least, we have the last piece of advice on horse selection for Victorian Lay-deez.
Geldings are always preferable for ladies to either mares or horses. The former are especially objectionable in India, the latter in England.
Geldings are castrated males horses. Uh oh. Cinder’s a mare. Sorry Cinder. Another Victorian FAIL. It’s interesting to note that even in 2010, mares still get a bad rap for being moody and difficult- I know several modern lady riders who ‘can’t stand mares’. I however, love mares- I understand their hormonal plight and love them for their varying emotions. So, since in this case I am the lady in question, and mares are my preference, I will give Cinder half a point.
Hayes’ last two tips regarding the color and sex of the horse are decidedly un-Workmanlike! and I dislike the Section for Portly Matrons (like me!) but overall, Matthew Horace Hayes is pretty balanced in his evaluation of the horsemanship skills of the Victorian lady rider and I found that pretty cool. Go Team Hayes!
Oh dear, I almost forgot about poor Cinder. Let’s tally her results! Will Cinder take home the much coveted title of Lady’s Horse?! Drum roll please….
Cinder received 6.5 points out of a possible 9.
Not 100%- but since she’s the only horse playing- she wins by default! Congratulations, Cinder! You are now an honorary Lady’s Horse of the Victorian Era!
I have been reading some great stuff about the nineteenth century lately. One title was based on my interest in William Kitchiner after I made curry and started prying into his life a bit. The other book I stumbled onto at the library, entirely by chance.
The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work, & Play, James C. Wharton, Oxford University Press, 2010.
The Arsenic Century, my accidental find, is an exhaustive look at the extremely liberal use of arsenic in the nineteenth century, with a focus on England and Victorian London. The author, James C. Whorton, delves into every aspect of it: how it is produced, how it was detected, the awful “cures” people used, and he does not shy away from graphic descriptions of the sicknesses and deaths it caused. It’s (in large part) a fascinating history book that is sprinkled with science and riveting murder mysteries in the form of poisoning cases.
To this day, I think that is the association most people have with arsenic: murder by poison. In many instances it was deliberately administered to the unsuspecting with the intent of causing death, but in others, people were poisoning themselves by working with it to make artificial flowers, wallpapers, and dyes. I’d heard of “arsenic green” but was unaware that arsenical compounds were used to make a vast array of colors.
People living in this time were also poisoned by their consumer products. If making the wallpaper was making the manufacturers sick, naturally it was making the people whose homes it hung in sick as well. Candles, cloth, paper, and more contained arsenic. Arsenic was sold alongside other products in pharmacies and dry-goods stores, and was sometimes mistakenly dispensed as something innocuous like baking powder. Mislabeled arsenic at home lead to deadly meals.
One of the saddest stories Wharton tells is about adulteration of candy, which was a known problem during this period before strict food ingredient, labeling, and quality laws. Wharton tells us of a candy maker who sent his assistant off to buy a large sack of plaster of Paris so he could make a large batch of peppermint candies with a great deal of filler to extend his profits. When it was time to make the candies, someone in the shop went to fetch the filler from the back room and instead grabbed a container of arsenic (which was labeled, but only on the bottom). When the candy was distributed for sale, dozens were killed, and many more were sickened.
Another aspect of arsenic use I found shocking was that people elected to deliberately take arsenic themselves on a regular basis, and that there were commercial preparations containing arsenic that were sold and intended for use much like vitamins today, or as facial washes to eliminate skin problems. Writers and the press called these people “arsenic-eaters.” They were convinced arsenic in controlled quantities made people more energetic, plumper, and more vital, and there was a lot of anecdotal evidence from people and animals like horses working more efficiently and putting on weight (of course underweight at this time often signified poverty or sickness) in response to small doses.
Wharton includes tale after tale of death due to stupidity, carelessness, or honest mistakes from being surrounded by arsenic. The body count gets so high in some chapters, it’s almost laughable, in a morbid way. Considering how much Wharton fits into this very dense and fact-filled book, it’s a lively read.
So what does Beeton’s say about arsenic?
There is faintness, depression, and sickness, with an intense burning pain in the region of the stomach, which gets worse and worse, and is increased by pressure. There is also vomiting of dark brown matter, sometimes mixed with blood; and mostly great thirst, with a feeling of tightness round, and of burning in, the throat. Purging also takes place, the matters brought away being mixed with blood. The pulse is small and irregular, and the skin sometimes cold and clammy, and at others hot. The breathing is painful. Convulsions and spasms often occur.
I will admit to you that I am completely blanking on the name of the doctor who wrote most of the chapter in the BOHM on medicine and treatments, aptly titled “The Doctor.” There is a section devoted to arsenic, and they recommend treatment with “Emetics, Lime–Water, Soap-and-Water, Sugar and Water, Oily Drinks.” So, something that would make the patient vomit, or dilute the poison. Wharton lists several “cures” Beeton’s does not mention that could be just as deadly as arsenic, such as calomel or opiates.
Dr. William Kitchiner, Regency Eccentric, Author of the Cook’s Oracle, Tom Bridge and Colin Cooper English, Southover Press, 1992.
I have also been reading about one of my new favorite people, William Kitchiner, MD, who famously wrote The Cook’s Oracle. Tom Bridge and Colin Cooper English do Kitchiner justice in a terse volume called Dr. William Kitchiner, Regency Eccentric, Author of the Cook’s Oracle. At the outset, the authors admit that not a whole heaping ton is known about Dr. Kitchiner’s life, which makes for my favorite kind of biography, one that does not start seven generations back on a beet farm.
Kitchiner, denied the ability to practice medicine in London since he was certified in Glasgow, was most famous during his lifetime for his Committee of Taste, a small group of men who rotated based on their availability. The Committee were the taste testers for the recipes that would come to fill out The Cook’s Oracle .
The routine was invariably as follows: invitations were sent, a response was expected within a day, guests arrived at 5 p.m. sharp and the door was promptly slammed shut and locked at 5:02. Dinner was served at exactly half-past nine, and when the clock struck eleven, guests were handed their hats, the end, GET OUT.
As a writer of books and music, an inventor of a stove and a sauce (Zest) meant to fight scurvy in the Royal Navy, and an educated man of taste, Kitchiner was acquainted with renowned people and invited them to his tastings. Famous writers, actors, and poets were often in attendance, and Kitchiner even hosted George IV when he was still the Prince Regent, who was attracted by the plain, practical dinners and interesting company.
Many modern historians agree that Beeton certainly would have had a copy of The Cook’s Oracle, probably even before she began compiling the BOHM. Sarah Freeman, in Isabella and Sam , calls Kitchiner “prissy, demanding, dictatorial,” which is well-evidenced by his dinner party dictates, but also that The Cook’s Oracle was “the oldest book she definitely made use of–though perhaps the most modern in spirit.” Freeman writes:
Isabella was preceded by Kitchiner in very many essential respects: he was the first cookery writer ever to give accurate weights and measures; he included detailed marketing tables listing the seasonal prices of foodstuffs…and he emphasized economy rather than elegance, taking as his motto: ‘ORDER AND ECONOMY ARE THE BASIS OF COMFORT AND INDEPENDENCE.” [Emphasis Freeman's.]
I will personally vouch for Kitchiner here. When I get to what looks like one of his recipes, notable for their clear measurements and unambiguous instructions, I know that I have encountered something that will actually work.
Kitchiner had one bastard son from a long-term relationship he had after his brief marriage, which resulted in a separation, but not dissolution. His legitimate wife is not mentioned in his will, but his companion, Elizabeth Friend, was provided for. Sadly, speaking of poisons, it it suspected Dr. Kitchiner was poisoned by amanita mushrooms under very suspicious circumstances shortly after changing his will to make his son a majority recipient of his estate.
Another enjoyable read, and the last chapter provides an interesting selection of his recipes from his most famous book.
A million thank yous to the Under Gardener, who told me a months ago to watch The Supersizers Go Victorian. A recent comment from MadamQ nudged me toward it again, and I was ready this time! In case you do not know the Supersizers, they are two British comedians/TV presenters who immerse themselves in the culture of a time period for a week. I thought this was a scream, but in the past year I have found increasingly bizarre things relating to the nineteenth century funny, so take me as you will.
The Supersizers enjoy a Christmas feast that would make Dickens envious, a calf’s head, many jellies, fried ears, very sad, thin soup for the poor a la Soyer, and more.
I like what cohost Sue Perkins said about the Victorians–I think she nailed it: “The fascination with rare and beautiful creatures, combined with the desire to kill them and eat them.”
Here is the first part:
The rest is on the YouTubes. I am still cooking, don’t worry. I’ll be back soon with glistening piles of who knows what.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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).
I think this would be a wonderful Christmas dish.
Hot Crab [245.]
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.
Greetings gentle readers of the Queen’s Scullery!
I have signed on for the remainder of the year to discuss the ins and outs of riding and horsemanship in the Victorian Era. I am really excited to do more research on this topic- I have a degree in History and loved All Things Equine since I was small (like many little girls, I just never grew out of it), but have never tried to combine the two interests. I will attempt to do so here.
Since the methods of horsemanship, equipment, and apparel for men has changed comparatively little since the nineteenth century, I will be concentrating on women of the era. The differences between then and now are legion and I will have a lot of fun researching them. For example, consider for a moment the image below:
Now compare it to the caricature below depicting Elizabeth the Empress of Austria published in Vanity Fair in 1884:
Also, you’ll notice in my picture there’s no groom present to ‘help the lady gracefully into the saddle’- the absence of such would have been a big no no for good Victorian ladies. Not that I was riding that day, which is why I’m not wearing a helmet (another difference between then and now- Victorians did not require brain protection), but even if I was, alas, I would not have had a male hand to guide me onto my noble steed.
So as you can see, there is a lot to delve into!
Serving as the springboard for my research will be Black Beauty, the novel written 1877 by Anna Sewell. The book is largely thought of now as a book for children, but Sewell a actually wrote it to bring awareness to the conditions endured by riding and working horses in England at the time. It’s useful for my purposes, because Sewell is very thorough in her descriptions of a wide variety of horsemanship and animal husbandry practices of the era. The ideas I find interesting in this work of Victorian Era fiction will provide the basis to then find the historical documentation in non-fiction riding manuals of the same era.
When I can feasibly do so, I will be using my trusty assistant Cinder to try things out or as a model for explanation.
Head Gardeners have often kept hives to provide honey for the ‘Big House’ and bees to ensure pollination in their garden. Without pollination flowers don’t turn into fruit. In many ways bees are the real Undergardeners in any productive garden. Coming into Spring it’s time for this Undergardener to tend her bees.
A smart bee sting or two in hot, sultry weather benefits gardeners by causing them to perspire more freely, and feel much lighter afterwards. Journal of Horticulture 1871
I have always been fascinated by bees and I have a hive of my own. I’m still a beginner and very much the apprentice to a few more experienced Beekeepers who live locally. Beekeeping is my first authentic experience of the apprentice – Master relationship which was the foundation of how men learnt their trade in gardens during the Victorian era. I’ve always been very comfortable learning from books. With bees it’s different. No matter how much I read my hands and my eyes need ‘to do’ and ‘watch’ to learn this skill. Like the ancient trades this has to be passed from Master to apprentice with time, care and many stings.
After a long winter hiatus it is time for this apprentice to begin actively managing the hive towards the reward of robbing honey.
I’m reading a lot about the history of beekeeping at the moment. I have learnt that how we tend bees today has changed very little since the Victorian Era. In fact the Victorian Era saw the innovations that created the modern box bee hives.
Before the Victorian Era bees were kept in straw skeps. Skeps are essentially upturned straw baskets under which bees form their naturally curvy honey comb. In this system when the beekeeper collects honey the swarm of bees are killed or made homeless in the process. This means that each year the beekeeper needs to start again by collecting a new wild swarm.
The Victorian Era saw the rise of the amateur naturalist. Bees were cultivated by middle class gentlemen not for honey but science. The most famous of these amateur beekeepers was Charles Darwin who kept at hive in the garden at Down House. Darwin marshalled his children into an army of laboratory assistants in order to track the flight paths of Bumble Bees. It is postulated that keeping bees helped Darwin formulate his theories on evolution.
Nor ought we to marvel if all the contrivances in nature be not, as far as we can judge, absolutely perfect, as in the case even of the human eye; or if some of them be abhorrent to our ideas of fitness. We need not marvel at the sting of the bee, when used against an enemy, causing the bee’s own death; at drones being produced in such great numbers for one single act, and being then slaughtered by their sterile sisters; at the astonishing waste of pollen by our fir-trees; at the instinctive hatred of the queen-bee for her own fertile daughters. Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species 1859.
In 1860 another amateur naturalist the American Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth patented his design for a box hive. With only slight regional adjustments the Langstroth hive is the standard box hive still used by 75% of the world’s beekeepers. The Rev Langstroth designed a hive that provides bees with frames in which to build their comb and store their honey. The advantage of this design is that beekeepers can remove the frames to check for disease, control swarming by removing cells that will lead to the birth of Queen Bees and rob honey with out destroying the hive. This potentially allows beekeepers to increase the yield of honey they can rob each year as the hive builds its numbers.
The clever thing that the Rev had realised is that bees build their natural burr comb in sheets separated by a standard distance, the width of a bee, now called the ‘bee space’. By designing frames a ‘bee space’ apart the bees don’t glue the frames together or to the hive box with comb. This is what makes the frames ‘removable’.
The second clever thing about the Langstroth hive is that by placing a grille (the Queen Excluder) between the box containing the Queen Bee and the boxes from which you wish to collect honey (called the Supers) you can stop the Queen from laying brood in the honey. The grille is also based on the ‘bee space’ – worker bees can fit through to stock honey, Queeny can’t get into to lay eggs – genius.
Here in Australia there are more than 1500 species of native bees. Most of these are solitary bees that don’t form large combs or colonies this makes them mostly unsuitable for hiving. There is a native sting-less bee that can potentially be hived but not in the cool south were I live. In order to ensure the pollination of the crops that European settlers brought to Australia eight hives of the European Honeybee (Apis mellifera) were first brought to Australia in 1822. Unfortunately they don’t record how they managed to bring hives of bees safely to Australia across rolling, boiling seas for six-months. I imagine that they feed the bees on honey or sugar-water and lashed the hives down tightly in the hold. Possibly the boxes were marked with a big ‘Don’t unpack mid-voyage’ sign.
I enjoy the fact that in keeping bees and learning from other more experienced keepers I am participating in an authentically Victorian gardening activity – this is the most steampunk gardening gets!
Mr. White, the naturalist, says, that both horse-beans and peas sprang up in his field-walks in the autumn; and he attributes the sowing of them to birds. Bees, he also observes, are much the best setters of cucumbers. If they do not happen to take kindly to the frames, the best way is to tempt them by a little honey put on the male and female bloom. When they are once induced to haunt the frames, they set all the fruit, and will hover with impatience round the lights in a morning till the glasses are opened. Mrs Beeton HM
I. Aspic, or Ornamental Savory Jelly
Have you ever had aspic? At one time it was a handy way to coat and preserve foods. Also, it is just fancy as heck. If you’ve never had one or read about them, a quick image search will give you the idea of what it is–savory gelatin with just about anything you can imagine suspended in it–veggies, hard-boiled eggs, meat bits. A creamy aspic is a chaud-froid. Modern recipes often call for packet gelatin, rather than boiling down cow bits for hours, I can’t imagine why. Mine turned out rather ridiculously, you’ll see.
Aspic starts with feet and flavoring. Beeton’s calls for calf heel, but this was labeled as cow foot, which should do, I suppose.
As an aside, I love ripping open packages of feet, marrowbones, and soup bones–there is this lovely buttery cow-y perfume that comes rising up that completely makes my mouth water.
After making the stock and clarifying it using egg whites, I decided to add celery, hard boiled eggs, olives, chicken cubes, and rinsed cubes of the beets I had pickled a couple of weeks ago. This is where things went from a lovely light tea color to, well. Pink.
What was I thinking? I will tell you: Pickled beets, yum yum.
At first I was dismayed to lose the pale color, and then I realized I liked it a lot! The beet juice did not seem to affect the flavor at all, which was subtle and savory. We had some spread on crackers.
II. Three Things to Do with Pork
I decided to try something simple for the weekend–How to Boil a Ham to Give it an Excellent Flavor. You sort of create a stock around it as you simmer it, by filling the pot with vegetables and spices. Beeton says that if your ham is dried out, you must soak it in vinegar and split it open to see if it’s bad-stinky and whatnot. Modern hams, at least ones I have access to, are pretty much ready to go and injected with various flavor enhancers already, but I thought I would give it a try.
Still, it was nice in the end and kind of falling apart. I thought I would be game and give it the 3 hours it called for, but next time, less.
Of course there was leftover ham, since this one was massive. I minced it up and POTTED it, which results in a creamy pink paste very much like modern deviled ham, but with more of a mace overtone, of course, and it about a fifth lard. It’s incredible on sandwiches or with cream cheese and a little berry jam or fig paste on crackers.
If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be going through buckets of lard like water and hoarding every scrap of grease I could, I would have laughed my head off at you. I thought maybe I could fudge things and use butter, or, GASP, olive oil. I was a vegetarian in college and I was gifted a copy of White Trash Cooking, (a thoughtful present that was a nod to the trailer park parts of my upbringing) to which I made hundreds of lame edits so I could have a spinach onion pie without lard in the crust. I SUBMIT TO YOU, LARD.
You know what the really crazy part is? I eat like this all the time now, weird meaty thingies and pickled eggs with a glass of whiskey and so forth and I am losing weight. Probably unrelated, but I was quite certain I was going to transition to muumuus doing this this year. Is this a diet? NO. I assume I will have a coronary and drop dead in January. But by Trollope will I be an attractive corpse with shiny hair and nails.
There’s just something so sexy about how luridly real grease glistens at you. Do I want to eat this food or rub it on myself? I can’t decide. I think my children are the only ones on the block who eat nutmeg and mace almost every night of the week and go “MMMM” when that smell fills the kitchen.
Potted Ham, That Will Keep Good for Some Time [814.]
To 2 lbs. of lean ham allow
1/2 lb. of fat (bacon grease, duck fat, or other drippings)
1 teaspoonful of pounded mace
1/2 teaspoonful of pounded allspice
1/2 teaspoonful of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoonful of cayenne
pepper to taste
clarified butter or lard
Mode.—Mince the ham and stir together the softened or melted fat in the above proportion, seasoning it with cayenne pepper, allspice, pepper, pounded mace, and nutmeg. Grind to a smooth paste in a food processor. Press the mixture firmly into potting-pots or a jar to prevent air pockets, pour over clarified butter, and keep it refrigerated. This receipt produces about 3 pints. If well seasoned, it will keep a long time in winter, and will be found very convenient for sandwiches, &c.
Seasonable at any time.
III. Fowl and Rice Coquettes
I like fried food a lot, and I like how Beeton’s offers recipes that are both elegant and at the same time, fried grease wads. I made Croquettes of Fowl last Christmas, but I was curious to see what the rice option was like. It was pretty simple–stuff minced fowl mixture into rice balls, coat with crumb, and fry. Kind of like onigiri but much worse for you. I am working on browning them uniformly, but I like them. I did not make any sauce to go with them this time, but served them with “Carrots in the German Way” and pickled eggs.
The rice is cooked in stock, which produces extra yum. I made a note to add more salt next time, but it is easy to sprinkle it on.
Speaking of pickled eggs:
They are WONDERFUL, absolutely my most favorite pickled thing so far. I am loving them with an icy glass of whiskey or scotch and the promised intestinal distress has not come to pass, so I guess they are not weapons for me. Next time I will eat two and report back.
Next on the docket: steak frites a la Beeton, and homemade Devonshire cream, made with unpasteurized milk. GASP AGAIN!
* Hey, I almost called this post Apsic: Bold As Love. Maybe I should write terrible greeting cards for a living or something.
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.
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.
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.]
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
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.
II. Bunny Gravy Goodness
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.