Thursday, May 11, 2017

Catharticum Imperiale Mold; or, Cranky Dude Gelatin

The Elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus' original recipes for elixirs, scented water, beauty potions and sweetmeats.  Edited by Knut Boeser.  [1552]

This recipe may look strikingly familiar, because it is just a gelatinized version of this recipe.  As written, it is a medicinal syrup for "noble lords who have authority over others but who are unable to control or master their anger, for by taking only one ounce of it, their rancour will be dissipated."  I liked the flavors together very much, but felt that what it really wanted to be was gelatin.



It's so wobbly!  Especially if you've used gelatin extracted from beef hides.



Cranky Dude Gelatin
Rhubarb
Cinnamon stick
Sugar
Rosewater
Unflavored gelatin

Chop rhubarb, add to pot with cinnamon stick, and simmer in water until it falls apart.  Strain, and add sugar, rosewater, and possibly more water until it tastes delicious.  Follow directions on whatever kind of gelatin you are using to thicken.

Verdict: Yum!  Two guinea pigs said it was the best gelatin they'd ever had.  Almost everyone liked it, except for two 7-year-olds who were unimpressed.  A good number of people had seconds.  My kids had seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, and I frankly lost count.  0% of the men who consumed this gelatin expressed a desire to beat serfs or kick dogs, so I declare this to be a medical success.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pilchard Pie

'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton [1822]
Though domestic occupations do not stand so high in the general esteem as they formerly did, there are none of greater importance in social life, and none when neglected that produce a larger portion of human misery. There was a time when ladies knew nothing beyond their own family concerns; but in the present day there are many who know nothing about them. If a young person has been sent to a fashionable boarding-school, it is ten to one, when she returns home, whether she can mend her own stockings, or boil a piece of meat, or do any thing more than preside over the flippant ceremonies of the tea-table.





In honor of the "Poldark" binge I have been on, I present:



Pilchard Pie!  YAYYYY.  If you have watched "Poldark," you will know that they seem to live on pilchards and pies. And look!  This has pilchards AND pie!  I have no doubt Ross would be all over this.



PILCHARD PIE. Soak two or three salted pilchards for some hours, the day before they are to be dressed. Clean and skin the white part of some large leeks, scald them in milk and water, and put them in layers into a dish, with the pilchards. Cover the whole with a good plain crust. When the pie is taken out of the oven, lift up the side crust with a knife, and empty out all the liquor: then pour in half a pint of scalded cream.

But where can one find salted pilchards?



That's because you are the worst, Elizabeth. You are good for nothing but to preside over the flippant ceremonies of the tea-table.   Pilchards are basically the same thing as sardines.  And as the last tin of salted pilchards was packed in Cornwall in 2005, we're going to hope that canned, salty sardines are near enough to rehydrated salt-preserved canned pilchards.  Anchovies would probably also be a good analogue.  This recipe looks like it may only have a top crust, but I wanted to try a raised pie.  To make a raised pie, we need to make a hot water crust.  It's the first time I've done one, and it was not hard.  I didn't make it very attractive, but it was totally functional.  



1 lb. plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces butter
4 ounces lard or 4 ounces white vegetable fat
4 ounces milk, and
4 ounces water, mixed in equal proportions

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, making a well in the centre. Place the water, butter and lard into a saucepan, when the butter and lard has melted bring it all to the boil. Take off the heat. Pour the mixture into the centre of the flour. Working very quickly, mix with a wooden spoon. Then knead with hands to produce a smooth and elastic dough. Allow to rest in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes. (This pastry must be used whilst still warm, otherwise it will become brittle and hard to mould.) Proceed with your recipe.



Cook those leeks in milk and water!



Drain those leeks, and layer with sardines! 



Bake for 2 hours at 350 F., and use a funnel (I have this cute little one!  Look how wee!) to fill with cream.  Mmmmm.  Cream.  


Verdict: 
My first victim was a friend of my husband's to whom I offered pie.  I am a bad person.

video


That pretty much covers it.  My dad, who loves sardines with all his heart, loved it.  My mom, who loathes sardines with all her heart, refused to try it.  Everyone else took one or two bites and was done.  My three year old, who loves pies, kept taking bites and then looking hurt and sad, but kept eating.  She looked confused, like she couldn't understand why pie would keep betraying her.  It basically tastes like how a dock smells.  General consensus: not the worst ever.  But please don't ever make it again.

Thanks to Foods of England

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Oxtail Soup

Things A Lady Would Like to Know Concerning Domestic Management and Expenditure (Henry Southgate, 1875)

I love this book mostly for the improving quotes that it is so liberally sprinkled with.

Cultivate modesty, meekness, prudence, piety with all its virtuous and charitable occupations, all beautiful and useful accomplishments, suited to your rank and condition.  These are the chief ornaments of your sex, and will render you truly lovely as women and as Christians. --Rev. James Fordyce, D.D. (Yes, the same Rev. Fordyce that Mr. Collins keeps trying to read from in Pride and Prejudice.)


I have theories on why beautiful soup tureens were so popular.  Oxtail joints are not particularly attractive.

Oxtail Soup.--Make a quantity of brown soup with shin of beef; take 2 or 3 tails and cut them in pieces at the joints; put them into the soup, and stew them till tender, but not till the meat leaves the bones.  Add a little [mushroom] ketchup, and serve it with the pieces of tail in the soup.

Even less attractive raw!


Oxtail Soup, Redacted
Beef broth
Mushroom ketchup
Oxtail pieces

Put beef broth, a few tablespoons of mushroom ketchup, and some pieces of oxtail in a pot.  Either simmer for a loooooong time, or pressure cook 45 minutes (natural release).


Verdict:  Actually... great.  Really great.  Really, really great.  This made the best beef broth I think I've ever had.  That mushroom ketchup is really nice when it's diluted.  That, along with the flavor from the oxtails, made the broth so fabulous.  The oxtail meat was tender, flavorful, and succulent.  The kids adored it.  They dunked bread in the broth and had a couple bowls each.

The only problem is how to eat the gosh darn things.  It's REALLY DIFFICULT to get bites off the things!  You probably end up with six or seven bites of meat off the entire thing.  So, a great starter soup I guess, but probably don't base a whole meal off this unless you throw in some vegetables.



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mushroom Ketchup for the Destitute

When you say "ketchup" in modern times, it can be assumed that you mean a tomato based condiment with vinegar and spices.  This was not always so.  Ketchup has been a popular condiment since the late 1700's, when tomatoes were still viewed with deep suspicion as being possibly poisonous.  The most common base for a ketchup sauce is most definitely mushrooms, followed by walnuts.  It features heavily as an ingredient in cookbooks all the way up through the 1800's.  



But what is the modern cook to do, when one cannot simply buy mushroom ketchup unless one goes to a specialty shop in the U.K.? Make it!  How hard can it be? 



To make Ketchup.
Take the large Flaps of Mushrooms, pick nothing
but the Straws and Dirt from it, then lay them
in a broad earthern Pan, strow a good deal of
Salt over them, let them lie till next Morning;
then with your Hand brake them, put them
into a Stew-pan, and let them boil a Minute
or two, then strain them thro’ a coarse Cloth;
and wring it hard. To take out all the Juice,
let it stand to settle, then pour it off clear,
and run it thro’ a thick Flannel Bag, (some
filter it thro’ brown Paper, but that is a very
tedious Way) then boil it, to a Quart of the
Liquor put a quarter of an Ounce of whole
Ginger, and half a quarter of an Ounce of
whole Pepper, boil it briskly a quarter
of an Hour, then strain it, and when it
is cold, put it into Pint Bottles; in each
Bottle put four or five Blades of Mace,
and six Cloves, cork it tight, and it will
keep two Years. This gives the best
Flavour of the Mushrooms to any Sauce,
if you put to a Pint of this Ketchup a Pint
of Mum, it will taste like foreign Ketchup.
-The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, by Hannah Glasse (1747)

Hold on, that's like... a LOT of mushrooms.  Like, A LOT OF MUSHROOMS.  Do you understand how many mushrooms it takes to extract a quart of juice?  And here's me without a money tree.  



There we go.  Yes.  That's what I like to call... good enough.  



Cheater Mushroom Ketchup
1 quart water
2 T. mushroom bouillon
1 T. dry ginger (preferably in chunks rather than powder, but hey, I didn't have any)
1 T. peppercorns
1 t. mace
6 cloves

Simmer together.  Strain and bottle.  Refrigerate.  

Verdict:  Yowsers.  This is HOT.  And salty!  I think it came out right.  It reminds me very very much of Worcestershire sauce, or steak sauce.  It isn't something you want to swipe a french fry through, but it does have a lot of flavor.  I don't think I can appropriately judge it before using it in a recipe, you know?  

...

Further reading:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

To make Collops like Bacon of Marchpane

To make Collops like Bacon of Marchpane.
Take some of your Marchpane paste and work it with red sanders till it be red, then roul a broad sheet of white marchpane paste, and a sheet of red paste, three of white, and four of red, lay them one upon another, dry it, cut it overthwart, and it will look like collops of bacon. [The Accomplisht Cook: OR THE ART & MYSTERY OF COOKERY.: Wherein the whole ART is revealed in a more easie and perfect Method, than hath been publisht in any language. by Robert May (1685)]

To make Collops of Bacon in Sweet-meats.
Take some Marchpane Paste, and the weight thereof in fine Sugar beaten and searsed, boil them on the fire, and keep them stirring for fear they burn, so do till you find it will come from the bottom of the Posnet, then mould it with fine Sugar like a Paste, and colour some of it with beaten Cinnamon, and put in a little Ginger, then roll it broad and thin, and lay one upon another till you think it be of a fit thickness and cut it in Collops and dry it in an Oven. [The Queene-like Closet or Rich Cabinet: Stored with all manner of RARE RECEIPTS For Preserving, Candying and Cookery, Very Pleasant and Beneficial to all Ingenious Persons of the FEMALE SEX., by Hannah Wooley (1672)]

To make all kind of Conceits with Marchpane as pies, Birds Biskets, Collops Eggs and soum to print with moldes
Take half a pound of Marchpane past being made as before written for yr marchpane make soum littel pies & fill them with Littell peices of marchpins cast Biskets & carawaies on them & so gild them & serve them you may make some of them like Collops of Bacon; so yt you Colour a pice of white & red paste one upon another; & then cutt it in slices & ye red being mingled with ye white will shew like intertarded Bacon fatt & leane, some you may print with Moldes. [Elizabeth Capell Her Same Booke Anno Domini 1699]



I guess this was the joke du jour in the latter 1600's!  Hilarious.



I cheated by not making my own marzipan.  Instead, I bought a tube from the store.  I only made a little bit of it red, because old timey bacon is a lot more fatty than modern bacon.  In fact, it should be even MORE fatty than I've gone for!  Jas. Townsend shows you how fatty in his video.



I combined recipes and kneaded red coloring, cinnamon, and ginger into the smaller portion.  "Sanders" is red sandalwood, which makes red food coloring when dissolved in alcohol.



I was able to convince some urchins to be my kitchen drudge assistants, in exchange for the promise of "bacon candy." They smooshed the stacks of marzipan flat, then banged the sides into a rectangle shape.  After I cut slices of bacon off, they were happy to dispose of the off-cuts.

Verdict: It's marzipan!  If you like marzipan, you will like this marzipan shaped like bacon.  My urchins had a great time offering "bacon" to people, especially when people pretended to totally buy that it was bacon, and then were shocked, SHOCKED to discover it wasn't.

In conclusion, it is a great, easy kid project.  Give it a try!  Teach some history!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Maslin Bread

Maslin bread was the common bread of the medieval period.  It consists of wheat mixed with rye, barley, or whatever has happened to grow in your field, lightly bolted to remove some of the bran and risen with sourdough.  While there was a clear preference for wheat-only bread, the reality is that many regions in England are not great for growing it, and farmers planted mixtures of grains as insurance that one of them would produce well in any particular year.*

I have tried, and tried, and tried to make a 100% whole wheat sourdough risen bread.  It doesn't work.   My duck flock has enjoyed the results, but no one else.  But by carefully adapting directions from Breadtopia, I finally got this!




The key is some white flour.  Sourdough works a lot better on white flour, so the bolting step is not because they preferred white bread (although they did), it's vital to getting it to rise.  I used all-purpose flour rather than bread flour, as English medieval wheat was low in gluten.


Maslin Bread [Adapted from Breadtopia]

Evening of Day 1:
200 grams (7 oz. or 7/8 cup) water
120g (4 oz. or 1/2 cup) sourdough starter
236 grams (8 1/3 oz or 2 cups) whole wheat flour

Morning of Day 2:
274 grams (9 2/3 oz. or ~1 1/4 cup) water
85 grams (3 oz. or 7/8 cup) rye flour
250 grams (8 3/4 oz or 2 cups) white all-purpose
170 grams (6 oz. or a tad over 1 3/4 cups) barley flour
13 grams (scant tbs.) salt

Instructions

Evening of Day 1:
Mix all ingredients together.  Ferment (let sit out at room temperature covered loosely with plastic) at 69F for 12 hours.

Morning of Day 2:
Add day 2 to day 1 ingredients.  Knead, place in plastic covered bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Morning of Day 3:
Form a boule (round loaf) and ferment (let sit out on counter) 5 hours at 69F.

Bake at 485F for 40-45 minutes.

...

Verdict: Fabulous.  Look at the inside!



Mmmm.  It is pretty darn dense, but not brick-like.  It had a beautiful, crispy crust and a chewy inside.  I scoffed the heels before anyone else could get them... for quality control.  It was enjoyed by all who hadn't recently had dental surgery.


*How To Be a Tudor, by Ruth Goodman

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sourdough Oatcakes

Under the Haps of his saddle, each man carries a broad plate of metal ; behind the saddle, a little bag of oatmeal: when they have eaten too much of the sodden flesh, and their stomach appears weak and empty, they place this plate over the fire, mix with water their oatmeal, and when the plate is heated, they put a little of the paste upon it, and make a thin cake, like a cracknel or biscuit, which they eat to warm their stomachs: it is therefore no wonder, that they perform a longer day's march than other soldiers." -Jean Froissart (c1337-c1400) a Frenchman, visited Scotland during the reign (1329-71) of King David II.
Early Travellers in Scotland.  edited by Peter Hume Brown. 1891



I feel pretty confident about the historicity of this recipe, but it is conjecture based on the following facts:

1. "Oatmeal" does not here mean "rolled oats" or "steel-cut oats," as these weren't invented until the 19th century.  It means oat flour.



2. When you use a wooden bowl to make dough frequently, you trap yeasts in the crannies and cracks: thus, sourdough.  Mix dough in a wooden dough bowl, wait a few hours, you now have raised dough.

3. Raised dough is yummier than flour paste, and if these Scottish soldiers could mix flour and water together, their mums at home could do the same thing and then wait a couple of hours before cooking the dough.

4. Modern oatcakes are either leavened with baking soda, yeast, or left unleavened.  Baking soda was unknown until the 19th century, and yeast requires the making of ale nearby so you can use the foam.

5. It is so friggin' easy it is inconceivable that anyone could have failed to figure this out.

Sourdough Oatcakes
active sourdough starter
oat flour
water
salt

Combine oat flour and water to the consistency of pancake batter in a non-metal bowl. Add a dollop of sourdough starter and a pinch of salt.  Mix, cover, and leave until it increases in volume.  Do not stir the batter, you will smash the bubbles.  Fry in cakes.




Here is the result of a thick batter:




Here is the result of a thinner batter:




Verdict: Pretty good!  Better with butter and honey, as many things are, of course.  They are easy to undercook in the middle, so my first batch was only edible around the edges and gummy in the middle.  Surprisingly light and fluffy on the second try, though.  If you cannot find oat flour, and do not have a grain mill, put water and quick- or old-fashioned oats in the blender with enough water to make a batter, then add in quick oats or whole wheat flour to thicken to the consistency you are aiming for.