Wednesday, November 30, 2016

To make Penydes

Curye on Inglysch: 1300's




I am really excited about this recipe.  One of my ancestors was a confectioner about 200 years ago, and some of that tradition has been passed down through my family.  While reading a collection of 14th century recipes, I saw this one.  The method described here is almost precisely what I was taught by my mother, who was taught by her mother, who was taught by her father, who... well, anyway.  Living history types and genealogists will tell you that sometimes, very occasionally, you just get an indescribable feeling that makes history real for just a moment.  This recipe was one such experience for me.  

This recipe is unique in the sheer amount of sugar required.  In the Middle Ages, sugar was not cheap.  Sugar cane mainly came from Cyprus or Egypt.  It was used like a spice more than it was a main ingredient.  Sugar was also thought of as a health food, like how some people today feel about chia seeds, turmeric, sea salt, etc.; just the thing for the sickly and infirm.  Most really sugary stuff was found at the apothecary.  But hey, if you're rich, you can afford to indulge while yet hale and hearty, just because it's delicious! 


To make penydes. Tak a lb. suger þat is noght clarefyed but euen colde wth water wythowten þe whyte of a egge for if it were clarefyed wyth þe white of a egg it would be clammy. And þan put it in a panne and sette it on þe fyre and gar it boyle, and whan it is sothen inow asay betwyx þi fyngers and þi thombe and if it wax styfe and perte lightly fro þi fynger þan it is enow: but loke þou stere it but lityl wyth þi spatur in hys decoccioun, for it will benyme hys drawyng. And whan it is so sothen loke þou haue redy a marbyll stone. Anoynte it wyth swetemete oyle as thyne as it may be anoynted and þan pour þi suger þeron euen as it comes fro þe fyre sethyng. Cast it on þe stone wythouten any sterynge, and whan it is a litel colde medel hem togedyr wyth bothe youre handes and draw it on a hoke of eren til it be faire and white. And þan haue redy a faire clothe on a borde, and cast on þe clothe a litell floure of ryse, and þan throw owte þi penydes in þe thyknes of a thombe with þi handes as longe as þei will reche, and þan kut þem wyth a pere scherys on þe clothe, ilk a pese as mychell as a smale ynche, and þan put þem in a cofyn and put þem in a warme place, and þan þe warmnesse schall put away away þe towghnesse: but loke ye mak þem noyt in no moyste weder nor in no reyne.

Literal Translation
To make penydes: Take a pound of sugar that is not clarified but even cold with water withouten the white of an egg for if it were clarified with the white of an egg it would be clammy.  And then put it in a pan and set it on the fire, and let it boil and when it is seethen enough [?] betwixt the fingers and the thumb, and if it wax stiff and part lightly from the finger, then it is enough.  But look [?]stir it but little with the spatula in this decoction, for it will be betake his drawing, and then it is so seethen, look thou have ready a marble stone; anoint it with sweetmeat oil as soon as it may be anointed, and then pour the sugar thereon, even as it comes from the fire seething, cast it on the stone without any stirring, and when it is a little cold, meddle them together with both your hands and draw it on a hook of iron until it be fair and white; and then have ready a fair cloth on a board and cast on the cloth a little flour of rice, and then throw out the penedes in the thickness of a thumb with the hands as long as they wilt reach and the cut them, with a pair schears on the cloth, like a piece as much as a small inch, and then put them in a coffin and put them in a warm place, and then the warmness shall put away the toughness: but look ye make them not in moist weather nor in rain.  

Okay try again:
To make penydes: Take a pound of sugar that is not clarified, but even cold with water without the white of an egg.  For if it were clarified with the white of an egg it would be clammy*.  And then put it in a pan and set it on the fire, and let it boil.  And when it is boiled enough, stick and draw it out a little bit between the fingers and the thumb.**  And if it gets stiff and parts easily from your fingers, it is done.  But be sure to stir this concoction but a little, because it will muck up the pulling process.  When it is so boiled, have ready a marble candy stone smeared all over with candy oil***.  Then pour the sugar onto it, even as it comes from the fire boiling.  Pour it on the stone without any stirring, and when it has cooled just a little bit, mix it together with both your hands and pull it on an iron hook until it turns lovely and white.  Then have ready a clean cloth on a board and sprinkle it with rice flour, then pull out the penedes/candy with your hands in the thickness of a thumb as long as you can reach and then cut them with a pair of scissors onto the cloth, little pieces about an inch long.  Then put them in a box and put them in a warm place, and then the warmness shall make it not so tough, and be sure not to make these in moist weather or when it is raining****.  

*When your sugar refining process is still a little crude, and has to be shipped from afar, it gets a bit mucky.  There is a procedure in "The good hus-wives jewell" [1597] to clarify sugar using an egg: 

How to purifie and prepare Honnye and Sugar for to confite citrons and all other fruites.

Take euery time ten pound of hony, the white of twelue new laid egges, and take away the froth of them, beate them wel together with a stick, and six glasses of fair fresh water, then put them into the honny, and boyle them in a pot with moderate fire the space of a quarter of an hower or lesse, then take them from the fire skimming them well.


**DO NOT DO THIS.  Unless you are within easy range of the emergency room.  Like, are you demonstrating this for the amusement of sick children in the hospital?  Then go ahead.  If your phalange gets debrided, it is probably hot enough.  Otherwise, keep your delicate flesh out of the boiling sugar and use a candy thermometer.  Or dribble with a spoon into cold water, if you want to be old-school.  

***I chose to interpret this as a flavored oil, as I saw a similar procedure in a similar recipe using rose oil.  If you're trying to be accurate to the Middle Ages, your flavored oil options include rose, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, lavender, lemon, thyme, and violet.  Good luck finding some of those.  If you are unconcerned with accuracy, hey, use root beer.  Do not use alcohol based flavorings.  It is too hot, and will evaporate them on contact.  Rosewater will not do.  You must use rose oil, or rose absolute.

My health food store had both rosewater AND rose absolute, in almost identical bottles.  I nearly bought the wrong one.  


****This is absolutely accurate.  Hard candy is traditionally made in the winter for very good reason: the lack of moisture in the air.  Make this while it is frosty, and you'll get a much better result.  We made candy one year in our tiny apartment of the time after we had been running the humidifier.  Blech.

This is how you should actually do it, though: 

Penydes
4 C. sugar
3 T. vinegar
1 1/4 C. water
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 C. white corn syrup

You can use just water and sugar, but the result looks and tastes the same.  The additives make it a little bit easier to work with, and keep it from turning grainy and weird longer.  As written, if you make these in December they will start getting weird in the spring.  Mix it all up in a pot, to give the sugar a good start at dissolving.



Turn on the heat.  Once it starts getting hot, you should stop stirring.  Bring to a rolling boil, then put the lid on for two minutes.  The steam will melt all the little sugar crystals off the side, which would otherwise cause problems.  Take the lid off, and insert a candy thermometer.  Not a meat thermometer.  In fact, before you start, you should calibrate that puppy unless you are at sea level.  At my altitude, water boils at about 203 F.  Water boils at 212 at sea level.  Hard crack is 300 F.  So I usually cook mine to 291 F.  The recipe is not very specific, so you could cook to 270 F., which will give you taffy.  If you do, you will not need a hook.  Only wusses need a hook for taffy.  I feel the original was probably cooked to hard crack.  If a dude can stick his finger in molten sugar, that dude is not a wuss.

"Call'st þu me ane cokenei?!  Ik will cutte þee sore þu bicches sone."

"Ne! Ik call þee Maister of Cokerie! COKERIE!"

When it comes to temperature, pour it immediately onto a buttered marble candy stone.  My great grandparents used the bottoms of two cast iron pots they cooled in the snow.  Wait a couple seconds, then use a metal spatula or smooth butter knife to flip the slightly cooled edges into the lava-like middle.  Keep doing that until you get a big glop of molten sugar.



 Butter your fingertips slightly, and have your kitchen drudges do the same.  If any gentles insist on participating, have them also remove any fine rings they might be wearing  Molten candy sticks to metal, and the heat transference is unpleasant.  Poke a hole in the blob with your thumb, and fill it with flavored oil, roughly 1 t. Keep bringing the sides to the middle, trying to keep the oil from running out onto the slab.  When it is just cool enough to pick up gingerly and toss up and down like a hot potato because wow that is hot, have your least favorite kitchen drudge bring it over to your buttered hook.  The drudge should put it on the hook and pull it down a foot or two, then loop it over the top and do it again until the aeration turns it from clear yellow to opaque white.

I feel I should point out that this is very very very hot, and my hands were coated in butter.  In conclusion, sorry-not-sorry for the blurriness.  

Since this is wicked hot, you will want a selection of drudges to take turns, at the beginning they can only get one or two pulls in before needing to take a break.  At a minimum, you need two drudges.  More is better, especially if they are weak and delicate.  On this occasion, I had two burly and rough handed men and one delicate flower/wuss with soft lady's fingers(me).  Bring it back to the marble slab, and pull it out to a rope.

I added a pink stripe with alchemy.  I am not prepared to explain exactly how at this time, it involves a few extra steps. Experiments with alkanet may happen in the future.

Use buttered kitchen scissors to cut off appropriately sized pieces.  Don't let the pieces touch while hot, or they will weld themselves together.  When all the pieces are cut, toss them with rice flour or powdered sugar so they won't bond.




Verdict:
I've had a loooooot of flavors of hard candy.  Rose oil is my new most favorite.  No one told me they didn't like them, and many came back for more.  My kids love them.  I did have to start warning people that the outside was rice flour.  Many people's initial impression was that they tasted of paste.  I don't mind it, I don't think anyone else did either after they knew what to expect.  However, if you have any money leftover after blowing all your household money on sugar, you might consider getting a little bit more and grinding it fine in your mortar and pestle to coat these instead of rice flour.

This knight wants to be healthy. 


Monday, November 21, 2016

Cultured butter

If your dairy has refrigeration and your people have invented pasteurization, your butter has no culture.  If not, while you let your milk sit overnight to let the cream rise to the top, all sorts of bacteria are working away on that delicious, nutritious milk.  Depending on what bacteria choose to colonize, you can get a variety of results, including the death of your family.  But if all goes well, what you skim off the top in the morning will be cultured cream, or creme fraiche.  Look at those tasty fermentation bubbles!



Churn or whip that creme fraiche, and you get cultured butter.  Here is a refresher course on how that works.  Depending on the bacteria involved, this butter will taste anywhere from very slightly tangy to very tangy, and you can now sell it at a premium to foodies, hipsters, and health food nuts.  The resulting buttermilk will be actual, real buttermilk.  The buttermilk you buy at the store is not a product of butter making anymore, it is a cultured product like yogurt.



But what if you, like me, do not have a home dairy?  What if your enthusiasm for history and your hands-on experiences milking cows have left you totally unwilling to consume raw milk? Fear not.  You can cheat.  Set up a date between your cream and the bacteria of your choice.  I used milk kefir starter.  You can also use buttermilk from the store, like these nice people.  Let sit overnight, and you now have sour cream!

Mmmmmm.  Butter.  Now let us conclude by mocking this commercial claiming that butter is evil and that butter substitute will save us all.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Good Mincemeat Without Intoxicants

The Good Housekeeping Woman's Home Cookbook [1909]

Whenever mincemeat pie appears, which is rarely, there is some amount of confusion.  Is there meat in it or not?  Nowadays, if you come across a mincemeat pie, it will almost never have meat in it.  Your modern mincemeat recipe features apples, raisins, cloves, and probably rum.  But travel back in time just a very little bit... and yes.  There's a pretty self-explanatory reason for the name.



Good Mincemeat Without Intoxicants
Five pounds of beef boiled until tender (it should be salted when partly done). Let cool in liquor, remove fat, chop very fine and measure. Use twice as much finely chopped apple, which should be tart, as meat. To the apple and meat then add the liquor in which the meat was boiled; also the fat which has been removed, and one quart of boiled cider. If there was a scant amount of fat, add also half a cup of butter. Jelly or candied fruit will improve the pies, if wanted richer. Add also three teaspoons of cloves, two of cinnamon, same of mace, and three pounds of seeded raisins. No definite rule can be given for sugar, as more or less is required, according to acidity of apples. Sweeten to taste with brown sugar. After all the ingredients have been put together, warm, and if found too thick for use, thin with cider or unfermented grape juice. When hot this can be put up as fruit and kept indefinitely.--Mrs E. M. Widdicomb.

Verdict: I cut down the recipe significantly, from five pounds of beef to one.  This made two pies, which was 1.5 more pies than we needed.  It was nice, just kind of baffling to the tongue.  Whereas the few modern mincemeat pie recipes that still contain meat use just a hint of beef (or just a little bit of beef suet or broth), this was probably fully 1/3 beef.  I finished my slice, and found it agreeable.  The husband and the kids ate a few bites and didn't finish.  The  neighbors that I convinced to take the other pie said it was fun to try, but not something they'd want again.  My mother in law loved it and ate almost half a pie.  The last slice desiccated in the fridge until I threw it out.  

I talked to someone else who had made meated mincemeat pie, who had a lot of trouble with the meat part being tough.  Note: the recipe doesn't say "boil until cooked," but "boil until tender."  That is going to take a long time.  That meat is going to go from raw to shoe leather with no stop in between. Keep going.  Stay the course.  Eventually, it will break down and get chewable again.  The lower and slower, the better.  A slow cooker would work admirably for this.  I used a pressure cooker, which was much faster.   Then, either run it through the food processor, a sausage grinder, or go crazy with your knife.  A cut of meat with lots of marbling will work best.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Peach Pudding

Aunt Babette's Cookbook: Foreign and domestic receipts for the household: A valuable collection of receipts and hints for the housewife, many of which are not to be found elsewhere, by "Aunt Babette" [1889]



PEACH PUDDING.
LINE the bottom of a pudding dish with stale sponge or cup cake and shave enough peaches to cover thickly (you may use preserves orcompote instead). Sprinkle a cupful of pulverized sugar over the fruit.Now let a pint of milk get boiling hot by setting it in a pot of boiling water. Add the yelks of three eggs, well beaten, one tablespoonful ofcornstarch, made smooth with a little cold milk, and stir it all the time. As soon as thickened, pour over the fruit. Beat the whites to a stiff froth, adding a tablespoonful of sugar, and spread over the top for frosting. Set it in the oven for a few minutes to harden. Eat cold, with or without cream.



Verdict: I had a bunch of peaches from my mother's tree, a wedge of strawberry birthday cake my mother in law brought me, and some leftover key lime poke cake my mother made for a party.  These leftovers put it in the best tradition of trifles.  The lime and strawberry was a little weird, but whatever.  I thought the lack of sugar in the custard would be weird too, but there's so much nonsense going on here that it wasn't noticeable.  I thought it was very attractive and pretty tasty.  The kids picked at it and husband had one bite.  I recommend using one flavor of a plainly flavored cake.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Epsom Grand Stand Pigeon Pie

Things A Lady Would Like to Know Concerning Domestic Management and Expenditure, by Henry Southgate [1867]

IT'S ALIVE

Epsom Grand Stand Pigeon Pie.--Line the bottom of a pie-dish with 1 1/2 lbs. of rump-steak cut into pieces about 2 inches square, seasoning it well with pepper and salt.  Clean the pigeons, rubbing them with salt and pepper inside and out, putting rather more than 1/2 oz. of butter into the body of each bird; lay them on the steak, and put a slice of ham on each.



Add the yolks of 4 eggs, and half fill the dish with stock.  Put puff paste round the edge of the dish; put on the cover; and put three of the feet, cleaned, in a hole at top of the crust.  Brush it over with the yolk of an egg, and bake in about 1 1/4 hours in a well-heated oven.  Pounded mace may be added to the seasoning, if liked, and each pigeon covered with a piece of fat bacon to keep them moist.

I feel like the pie is giving me the bird.

Properly this should be served with grilled salmon cutlets, stewed cucumber, and curate pudding. 
Verdict: Well, this certainly is a pie crust filled with meats and gravy.  The taste is about what you would expect of meat chunks and soggy crust. As I do not have access to pigeons... I tell a lie, my neighbor's pine tree has a whole colony.  Anyway, I didn't use pigeons.  These are Cornish game hens.  They have a lot more fat on them than pigeons presumably do, so I didn't stuff them with butter or lay bacon on them.  Accordingly, I did not have pigeon feet to use as garnish, so I substituted with this offensive chicken foot which made the children scream a little.  And me.  I screamed a little.  It also made the house smell like burning fingernails when it was baking, which was pretty unsettling. All agreed that this was definitely a pie filled with meats and gravy.  No one agreed to eat the chicken foot, despite all my best arguments.



Tried to give it to the cat.



Cat said no.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Curried Chicken


Today I cooked chicken by leaving it on the counter for six hours.  And no puke resulted!  That is pretty well my only standard when it comes to historical recipes.  Actually, that rule is flexible*.

Thermal cooking is the historical equivalent of the electric slow cooker.  They were particularly in vogue during WWII, as a means to save fuel.  Simply heat a pot of food up to boiling, then insulate to keep the temperature stable to finish the cooking.

This model from 1926-1930

This hay-based model from the late 19th Century


My new toy has insulating foam instead of hay, but the principle is the same.  As a bonus, it actually stays a bit warmer than a slow cooker for up to eight hours.

For its maiden voyage, I chose a recipe from Margaret Mitchell's classic work that so perfectly and nostalgically captures a bygone era of grace, abundance, and perserverence: The Fireless Cookbook.  She also wrote some book about the American Civil War that did quite well, I believe.




Stewed Chicken 
Draw and cut up a fowl. Put it, with the 
giblets, in enough boiling salted water (one 
teaspoonful of salt to each quart of water) to 
cover it. Let it boil for ten minutes and put 
it into a cooker for ten hours or more. If not 
quite tender, bring it again to a boil and cook 
it for from six to eight hours, depending upon 
its toughness. Skim off as much as possible of 
the fat from the liquor, pour off some of the 
liquor and save it to use as soup or stock, and 
thicken the remainder with two tablespoonfuls 
of flour for each cup of liquid, mixed to a paste 
with an equal quantity of water. A beaten 
egg or two, stirred into the gravy just before 
serving, improves it. Add pepper and salt 
to, taste, and serve the chicken on a hot platter 
with the gravy poured around it. The platter 
may be garnished with boiled rice piled about 
the chicken. 

Curried Chicken 

Prepare and cook one fowl as for stewed chick- 
en, adding two onions, pared and cut into slices. 
Add one tablespoonful of curry powder to the flour 
when thickening the gravy. Or the chicken may 
be rolled in flour and browned in butter, and the 
curry powder added before putting it into the 
cooker. It is served with a border of boiled rice. 



Verdict: Not terribly photogenic.  I did try.  Chicken is kind of tricky to get just right; it is tricky to hit that sweet spot between chewy and dropping off the bones so you look like an idiot when you eat it.  This had the most perfect, tender texture.  The seasoning was reminiscent of the hospital, but what do you expect for 1909?  I ended up dumping a... generous amount of extra curry powder in after tasting, and it was much improved.  

I love my new toy forever and ever and next time we go camping it will be my bosom friend.  But probably with a different recipe.  


*There is a rule about mayonnaise not being used with Jello, though.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Duck Stewed With Green Peas and Marmalade Pudding

Things A Lady Would Like To Know  [1867]

The thought for today's menu from the above cookbook is: 
 Education is not that which smothers woman with accomplishments, but that which tends to consolidate firm and regular system of characterthat which tends to form friend, companion, and wife.'—HANNAH MORE.

Very true. Which is why I am am just literate enough to puzzle out a cookbook. Without that skill, I wouldn't be able to provide my husband with horrifyingly overcooked peas. 



 Duck Stewed with Green Peas
Prepare a duck as for roasting, but do not stuff it. Put a small piece of butter in a stewpan, and nicely brown the duck, take it out, and brown a table-spoonful of flour in the remaining butter, and add to it half a pint of beef stock; let it boil, return the duck, put in also 1 quart of peas, with a bunch of sweet herbs, including a little mint and sage, cover close, and stew till done; remove the herbs, dish the duck, cover, and surround with the peas.



Marmalade Pudding
—Mix 1/4 lb. suet, finely chopped, with do. bread-crumbs in a basin, 1/4 lb. marmalade, and do. sugar; stir well together; beat 4 eggs to a froth, and gradually mix well with the ingredients; put in a mould or buttered basin; tie down with floured cloth, and boil for two hours. When turned out, strew fine sifted sugar over the top. This pudding will look very pretty if stoned raisins are tastefully arranged before the mixture is poured in.


Verdict: 

Duck: It is the first time the mister or myself has had duck. I've been keeping my eye out for one for years, and finally a deeply discounted one turned up in my grocer's freezer.  Browning it was a challenge, because it was slightly to big for the pot. After slopping raw duck juice on myself and my stove a few times, I got angry and broke its tail bone with a mallet. Which sprayed more raw duck juice. For all that, the taste was totally unexceptional and bland. The peas were a touch away from dissolving into baby food. Consequently, the baby adored them. The rest of us did not. 

Marmalade Pudding: I cheated and got pre-shredded vegetable suet at a British import store. And it was lovely!  Still very solid. And still a bit of "mouth-hug" (thanks to a British reader for that word), but nice. Better warm, as when it got cold the fat got all gritty.  Having the quantities by weight is a great help, because most similar recipes call for things like "a pennysworth of bread."  This is extremely unhelpful.  

*"do."= "ditto"