Tag Archive for 'gelatin'

Is There Anything Sadder Than Ruined Dessert?

Is There Anything Sadder Than Ruined Dessert?

I was looking for an excuse to make a feast, and one presented itself: I was having a house guest! Not just any house guest, but my youngest’s grandfather. I planned my menu and made my shopping list, and acquired the usual metric butt-ton of meat. Then, my children came down with “the consumption” and my guest canceled. Who can blame him, really? I didn’t want to be there either. My coping technique was: cooking the mountain of food I bought!

Since I was making two cold desserts, I decided to make them the night before. I chose Lemon Custard [1446] and Apples in Red Jelly [1399]. I was especially intrigued by the apple dessert. The idea was to bake them and surround them with a lake of tinted, clove-flavored jelly that would set up around the apples. It seemed VERY uber-Victorian somehow and I was excited.

I should have probably consulted a more modern technique for baking the apples. I diligently cored the apples and I put the bottom of the cores back in the apples as a plug to keep the sugar from running out, and filled them with sugar and two cloves. Then I surrounded the apples with a rough mixture that resembled lemonade.

Bottom Plug!

Following the advice in the BOHM on apple baking resulted in surprise applesauce!

Apples asplode!

I could not waste four good Granny Smiths, so I scooped the bulk of it out of the pan and into a sieve. The lemony, clove-y juice that the apples were baked in was supposed to be mixed with gelatin and tinted red. so I moved forward with the operation. It looked like this batch of gelatin was going to set up, unlike previous experiments.  Sadly, the same could not be said of the lemon custard. I let it sit in the fridge overnight in glasses so I could at least see what the flavor was like. It tasted repellent and metallic, which was a a mystery to me. I know everything was super fresh, and there was hardly anything to it–eggs, lemon juice, sugar, a little milk. I poured it out.

The next day I moved on to preparing the giant slab of meat I was planning on stuffing with forcemeats. Our Victorian friends believed that forcemeats evolved from an OE word, “farse,” which referred to spiced, highly seasoned meats. A couple of nineteenth-century texts make reference to Libre Cure Cocorum, a medieval cookbook that provides a recipe:

Conyngus in gravé.

Sethe welle þy conyngus in water clere,
After, in water colde þou wasshe hom sere,
Take mylke of almondes, lay hit anone
With myed bred or amydone;
Fors hit with cloves or gode gyngere;
Boyle hit over þo fyre,
Hew þo conyngus, do hom þer to,
Seson hit with wyn or sugur þo.

[Translation] Coneys [Rabbit] in gravy.

Seethe well your coneys in clear water,
After, in cold water you wash them separately,
Take milk of almonds, mix it anon
With grated bread or amidon [wheat starch];
Season it with cloves or good ginger;
Boil it over the fire,
Hew the coneys, put them thereto,
Season it with wine or sugar then.


But I digress. The point is, forcemeats, if you have never used or made them, are kind of a stuffing. Beeton emphasizes that no one part should overwhelm the other. I can get behind that. She also talks about frying them and sewing them into whatever meat is to be cooked. I’ve not yet acquired a trussing needle, so I did something a little different.

First things first, though: the forcemeat. The recipe called for bread crumbs (I used gluten-free, which worked well), lemon rind, some herbs, bacon, suet, egg yolks for binding, and some stuff I am probably forgetting. Since my scullery maids were off blowing bubbles and dismembering innocent tulips, I had to call on Mechanical Millie: my food processor.


I turned around after mixing everything and turning it into a bowl, and discovered I had left the suet out. Whoops.  I formed the doughy mix into balls which I fried in some leftover bacon grease. I seem to always have some of that stuff around. My Southern grandmother would be proud.

Once the were fried, I let them cool a bit. They look like meatballs, don’t they? Beeton recommended balls, but you could make patties as well, which might fit into a cut of meat better.

Meanwhile, I opened up the lamb shoulder, which I purchased boned.

I filled the shoulder with the forcemeats and awkwardly trussed it with string. It was kind of like a big lamb sandwich. The lamb was to be boiled, which seemed odd to me since it was full of fried food. The recipe did not call for the meat to be submerged, however, just kind of poached or steamed in some stock. The recipe also called for me to toss a bunch of onions and celery in and around the lamb, after setting it on a layer of bacon.

Cozy Bacon Bower

Awkwardly trussed.

Here was what the mess looked like in the pot. Then it was set to simmer for a couple of hours with the lid on. Every so often I checked it to make sure it did not need more broth added. I knew that at the end the resulting liquor was to be strained and reduced for glazing the meat.

When it was done, I could see the advantage of sewing from a visual perspective. The meat had shrunk back some. But it smelled delicious. As with my last lambstravaganza, the meat looked rather grey and unappealing, unlike times when I have roasted lamb in the oven.


The meat sliced easily and made a funny little sandwich. I imagine the juices from the cooking lamb were absorbed by the forcemeat as well. Maybe I could eat this, if I didn’t look at it. Boiling the last one made it fabulously tender.

Served with bread sauce and peeled, boiled asparagus

This lamb was fork tender. Odd, but good. And came with its own stuffing.


And how was the Apples in Red Jelly?

The AppleSAUCE on Red Jelly was delicious. I was suprised how good clove-lemon jelly was. I would make this again. Spring is sproinged and there is more lamb on the horizon.

In Which We Look at Adulteration and Brain Molds

In Which We Look at Adulteration and Brain Molds

Hello kind and proper ladies and gentlemen. I have been recently subsumed by work, but that situation seems to have a lid on it for the time being. I cannot believe it has been about a month since my last meal, so I will hit the highlights, since it is starting to fade in my memory a bit, unfortunately.

Now that the first quarter of this year is passed and it is properly spring in the Northern hemisphere, I feel like I can reflect on winter. I made an attempt to choose items from Beeton’s seasonal meal lists. Winter was fairly bleak in England for most people, from all accounts. Lots of preserved food was consumed, which could be done at home, or procured at a market.

In fact, Mrs. Beeton, who was, of course, in the business of selling recipes to housewives in serial form, acknowledges the availability of canned goods:

360. 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. The only general rules, perhaps, worth stating here,—as in the recipes all necessary details will be explained, are, that the vegetables and fruits used should be sound, and not over ripe, and that the very best vinegar should be employed.

It’s interesting to me that Beeton doesn’t really give a great reason for making them at home. At the introduction of Chapter IX. Sauces, Pickles, Gravies, and Forcemeats she mentions, as she often does, of the importance of choosing quality ingredients.

So, since Beeton is not explicit, it is fun to guess at a couple of reasons behind making one’s own preserved foods. The most obvious and easy to pinpoint would be a way to save food produced by the household, like eggs or fruit. This would matter less if you were a city mouse, and had your servants do regular marketing, unless you were one of those “screaming deal, I could not pass it up” people. I am one of those people. A giant flat of blueberries seems like a great deal until you get home…then what? Jam time!

The second is an issue that Beeton probably would have been aware of in the news, which was the investigation led by Arthur Hill Hassall into the adulteration of food stuffs produced outside the home, and how food production should be regulated, from 1850 on. Isabella did not embody the stereotype of the Victorian housewife, childlike and blindered. Quite the contrary, letters between Isabella and her husband Sam paint her as a shrewd businesswoman, showing that she was the one concerned with and capable of doing figures and ordering related to their publishing house, and that she was the origin of many of their profitable ideas.

Dr. Hassall’s investigations uncovered unsafe drinking water and the contaminants within; alum, lead, strychnine, chalk and more added to food to sell less or inferior-quality food for more money; and vermin and human or animal hair that could sicken people once ingested. The Lancet picked up the gauntlet in 1873 when the Adulteration of Food Act passed, calling for even tighter regulations and definitions of allowable levels of adulteration. No doubt this investigation, legislation, and the shocking abuses it revealed trickled down through the popular media and magazines. Was it safe to eat the store-bought jam? Maybe, maybe not.

The third reason may be similar to why people in wealthy nations produce handicrafts today: domestic pride, hobbyism, and a sense of satisfaction. Beeton knew that many women collecting her serialized Book of Household Management were leaning heavily on one servant, or (gasp) could not afford even one, and were doing a lot of work themselves, and were expected to adhere to that Cult of True Womanhood bullshit. In Barbara Welter’s famous article “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860″ (1966), Welter discusses one of the “virtues,” domesticity:

In the home women were not only the highest adornment of civilization, but they were supposed to keep busy at morally uplifting tasks. Fortunately most of housework, if looked at in true womanly fashion, could be regarded as uplifting.

Changing tack a bit, I will also say winter is also about citrus, loads of it, thanks to the Victorians’ wide reach with trade routes.

I decided to make Orange Cream [1463], which is a creamy gelatin, for dessert. Since my children are gluten-intolerant, and Victorians loved jellies, I decided to finally invest in a mold. The recipe calls for regular oranges, but I found some blood oranges on special and could not resist.

Blood orange

It was fun to make the jelly. I love juicing oranges, though I usually have little nicks on my hands in the winter due to hangnails and dryness.

Blood orange juice

The result was delicious, but I was amused to see that it separated out in the end.

Brane Jelly

The entree was not much to write home about. I was in the mood for fish, which usually means fried or smothered, as far as the Victorians are concerned. I chose smothering in the form of Soles [328] with Brown Mushroom Sauce [474]. I gently simmered the sole in milk until it was cooked, and then covered it in a mushroom gravy.

Yep, that is smothered.

Probably the most successful part of the meal was the Potato Rissoles [1147]. This involved boiling and mashing potatoes, combining them with fried onions and chopped ham…

Mashed potatoes with ham and onion

…forming them into balls…

…breading them, and frying the balls.

They were absolutely delicious with gravy. One thing that cracks me up about Beeton’s is that she was always describing things as “much improved” or “much increased” by adding mushrooms, some kind of sauce, or other flavor booster. In the case of this recipe, the “flavor of these rissoles may be much increased by adding inley-minced[sic] tongue or ham…” It is usually worth taking her advice, though.

I will reproduce the recipe for the rissoles. It was my first experience ever with lard, and if I made these again, I would probably use vegetable oil. I am not punk rock enough for lard. It will sit in my cupboard and menace me, I reckon.

Potato Rissoles [1147]


Mashed potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
when liked, a very little minced parsley
bread crumbs

Mode.—Boil and mash the potatoes by recipe No. 1145; add a seasoning of pepper and salt, and, when liked, a little minced parsley. Roll the potatoes into small balls, cover them with egg and bread crumbs, and fry in hot lard for about 10 minutes; let them drain before the fire, dish them on a napkin, and serve.

New Year’s Eve: White and Jiggly Food

New Year's Eve: White and Jiggly Food

How was your New Year’s Eve? Mine was rained out, sadly. I did not make it to my roof to watch fireworks. However, that did not stop me from cooking like it was 1869!!

For Christmas I did courses and made things a little more formal and fancy, especially since we were having company. I always feel a little run down by NYE, so I decided to go with a family style dinner that could be served all at once.

I crave seafood around the holidays, so I decided to go nuts. We started with a small handful of oysters–a few kusshi and a few kumamoto. As far as I can tell, Beeton’s only provides comments about cooked oyster recipes, and how to keep oysters fresh for a few days by cycling them in and out of salty water.

Sweet and salty deliciousness.

Raw oysters have a long history in England, and the Victorians gobbled them up. I would love to get my hands on an oyster plate because of how lovely they are, but we usually just shuck as we go and eat them out of hand. Cracking them this way, squeezing on a little lemon juice, and slurping them down is such an awesome sensual experience that I can hardly bring myself to order them in restaurants anymore, where they arrive preshucked, limp, and way too expensive.

For the meal itself, I settled on an entrée interestingly named Cod a L’italienne [241]. I think that this dish is quite suitable for the modern palette, as it is cod in a ham-flavored sauce! Hello, bacon fiends. I love things that are distilled with the essence of something, but do not actually contain it. There is something appallingly wasteful and whimsical about it all at once. I’m certain that the Victorians would have done something with the leftover ham. I gave mine to my chickens, who deigned to pick at about half of it.

Sad ham leftovers

The method is to combine chopped shallots and a slice of ham “minced very fine” in a broth and boil the hell out of it for about fifteen minutes. At the same time, you boil your innocent fillet of cod that would probably be much happier drizzled in olive oil and broiled or pan seared. JUST SAYING. You remove your cod from the water, and of course mine broke. Drain the sauce, and add some cream “if the color should not be good” (it was NOT). So you pour this plain-looking white sauce over this white fish and you get…hrm.

I think this is what they mean by classic English cooking.

However! The flavor was deelishus! If I was going to modernize this somehow, I would indeed gently broil the cod and add something to make the sauce look less dire. Even dressing it up with a ton of snipped chives and a drizzle of chili sauce would be better, visually. Ah, well.

For a side dish, I made everyone a Lobster Patty [277], except, surprise, crab filling instead. The crab was tossed with a little béchamel (hooray, an excuse to make the awesome béchamel again), anchovy sauce (I used a little fish sauce for the power of umami), lemon juice, and a little cayenne.

With bread placeholder

For this dish you create little cooked shells out of puff pastry in a patty-pan dish. I could not figure out what that was, or what it looks like, though I do have an association with patty-pans and Beatrix Potter somehow. If someone could tell me what one is, that would be fabulous.

Instead I improvised little forms out of foil and filled the center with bread as advised to make sure the shells were hollow. After they come out, you pop out the now-soggy bread and add the crab filling and you’re done. I thought it was very funny to fill it after they were done cooking. Every other dumplingy thing I know of involves cooking everything all at once. They were pretty tasty, though, with the crunch of the puff pastry and the creamy filling.

To round out the meal, I cooked some raw shrimp and chilled them for quick munching and as contrast to the hot seafood. I also made a modern potato roast that turned out very well and pretty, which was really the point. Any opportunity to take my fail excuse for a mandoline (grocery store; ten dollars; plastic; HORRORS) out for a spin.

Normally I would do a meal like this with a salad, but when in sooty-ass Victorian England in late December…potatoes it is.

The Spread

Now onto what was the absolute HIT of the meal: Moulded Pears [1471]. This dish is basically pears poached in wine, which is then turned into gelatin. AWESOMES. I thought this was going to be a sad fridge albatross, but we ate every bite, and this is after our full meal. I think this would be seriously easy and cool to do with a winter meal, and then you can smugly announce that it is a Victorian dessert, eh?

Moulded Pears, with my notes

4 large pears or 6 small ones [4 Comice, I know, I know, these are not baking pears]
8 cloves
a small piece of cinnamon
Sugar to taste [I think I used about a 1/3 cup of powdered sugar]
¼ pint of raisin wine [I used a petit syrah, fuck it]
A strip of lemon peel
the juice of half a lemon
½ oz of gelatin

Peel and cut the pears into quarters; put them into a jar with ¾ pint of water, cloves, sugar, and cinnamon [I put the lot in my dutch oven and was not paying the best attention...I also added the wine at this point]; cover down the top of the jar, and bake the pears in a gentle oven until perfectly tender [Thanks for nothing. Lady. I did 350F for 45 minutes and that was perf.], but do not allow them to break.

When done, lay the pears in a plain mould [glass bowl], which should be well wetted, and boil ½ pint of the liquor the pears were baked in with the wine, lemon juice, peel, and gelatin [I added more wine at this point for color. Yes, that’s it.]. Let these ingredients boil quickly for five minutes, then strain the liquid warm over the pears [I needed all the original poaching liquid to cover them]; put the mould in a cool place, and when the jelly is firm, turn it out on a glass dish.

Mine broke a bit on removal, but oh well. Sliced, it was very cool looking anyway.

Also, I have to correct myself from my previous post where I said that pineapples were only a luxury for the rich with greenhouses, etc. Near my Moulded Pears there was a recipe for Pineapple Fritters [1472] with a note within the recipe: “We receive them [pineapples] now in such large quantities from the West Indies, that at times they may be purchased at an exceedingly low rate…” Well, I stand corrected.

I have EVEN MORE poorly-shot food in my NYE flickr set.