2 oz. butter
1 tsp. cream or milk
Very convenient for invalids, or when required, a light dish for supper. Beat up three eggs with two ounces of fresh butter, or well-washed salt butter; add a teaspoonful of cream or new milk. Put all in a saucepan and keep stirring it over the fire for nearly five minutes, until it rises up like a soufflé, when it should be immediately dished on buttered toast.
From Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine, reader-submitted recipe from 1866.
Comment: While the author prefers to compare this to a soufflé, we must confess to suspecting a bit of “it sounds so much tastier in French!” classism at work here. This is not a durn thing but scrambled eggs after all, and the bit of butter and cream should make it tasty indeed.
Most cookbooks of the period had entire sections devoted to “cooking for the sick” and “invalid” was an all too common status in the years of the war, and long afterwards. Also included in the category would be those who, while otherwise healthy, had lost or damaged teeth and consequent difficulty chewing hard foods.
Parsley, fried (optional)
Bread crumbs, fried (optional)
When the pigeons are ready for roasting, if you are desired to stuff them, chop some green parsley very fine, and the liver, and a bit of butter together, with a little pepper and salt, and fill the belly of the bird with it. They will be done enough in about twenty or thirty minutes; send up parsley and butter in the dish under them, and some in a boat, and garnish with crisp parsley, or fried bread crumbs, or bread sauce.
Obs–When pigeons are fresh they have their full relish [flavor]; but it goes entirely off with a very little keeping; nor is it in any way so well preserved as by roasting them: when they are put into a pie they are generally baked to rags, and taste more of pepper and salt than of any other thing.
A little melted butter may be put into the dish with them, and the gravy that runs from them will mix with it into fine sauce. Pigeons are in the greatest perfection from mid-summer to Michaelmas [Sept. 29].
The Cook’s Oracle by William Kitchiner, MD, New York, 1829
Comment: The main ingredient called for here is the clean, carefully fed, properly raised and well tended domesticated pigeon, not some scruffy urban rat-with-wings. “Crisp Parsley,” which was inordinately favored as a garnish in this period, did not refer to a sturdy fresh sprig of the herb but to the same sprig dunked in boiling oil and fried. Why this was considered an improvement is unclear from this historical distance but we must admit to some relief that the custom appears to have died out.
1 leg of pork
1/2 c. boiling water
Juice of 1 lemon
One [leg] weighing about seven pounds is enough, even for a large family. If the pig is young, the leg will be even smaller. Score the skin in squares, or parallel lines running from side to side, for the convenience of the carver. Put it down to roast with a very little water in the pan below. Heat gradually until the fat begins to ooze from the meat, when quicken the fire to a red, steady glow. Baste only with its own gravy, and do this often, that the skin may not be hard or tough. When done take it up, skim the gravy thoroughly, put in half a cup of boiling water, thicken with brown flour, add pepper, salt, and the juice of a lemon, and serve in a boat.
Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: Whole legs of pork are rarely found in most supermarkets today, but if you have access to a custom butcher or some other method of obtaining one, this recipe calls for no modification at all. Of course it was intended to be cooked over a wood fire, which can easily be constructed in such a way as to provide higher heat to the larger upper portion of the leg so as to avoid overcooking the skinnier lower parts, but this can be achieved in a modern oven or barbeque grill with the judicious deployment of tinfoil.
2 guinea fowl, young
Stuffing of choice
Parsley or summer savory
Currant or other tart jelly
A pair of young Guinea fowls, stuffed and roasted, basting them with butter until they are half done, deserves an honorable place upon our bill of fare. Season the gravy with a chopped shallot, parsley or summer savory, not omitting the minced giblets, and thicken with browned flour. Send around currant, or other tart jelly, with the fowl. A little ham, minced fine, improves the dressing.
Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: The guinea fowl was never a terribly common breed in America, and those who keep them nowadays do so in part for their large eggs and also for their extremely noisy response to the approach of a stranger (or in many cases a person they know perfectly well.) They provide the owner with the advantages of a guard dog without the fear that they will bite somebody and run up one’s insurance rates.
Writers of the period even comment on their rarity but also speak highly of their taste. Lettice Bryan compares them favorably to the turkey and Dr. Kitchiner says they can be substituted for pheasants if those birds have been promised for dinner and the cook runs short of supply.
1 roast of beef, sirloin or rib
Paste of flour and water (optional)
The best pieces for roasting are the sirloin and rib pieces. The latter are oftenest used by small families. Make your butcher remove most of the bone, and skewer the meat into the shape of a round. If you roast in an oven, it is a good plan to dash a small cup of boiling water over the meat in first putting it down, letting it trickle into the pan. This, for a season, checks the escape of the juices, and allows the meat to get warmed through before the top dries by said escape.
If there is much fat upon the upper surface, cover with a paste of flour and water until it is nearly done. Baste frequently, at first with salt and water, afterward with the drippings. Allow about a quarter of an hour to a pound, if you like your meat rare; more, if you prefer to have it well done. Some, when the meat is almost done, dredge with flour and baste with butter–only once.
Remove the beef, when quite ready, to a heated dish; skim the drippings; add a teacupful of boiling water, boil up once, and send to table in a gravy-boat. Many reject made gravy altogether, and only serve the red liquor that runs from the meat into the dish as it is cut. This is the practice with some–indeed most of our best housekeepers. If you have made gravy in a sauce-boat, give your guest his choice between that and the juice in the dish. Serve with mustard, or scraped horse-radish and vinegar.
From Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: Note the fact that Mrs. Harland lists “an oven” as a possible device which her readers might be using for beef roasting. This marks her as a very progressive and up-to-date cookbook author, as stoves with ovens suitable for roasting (as opposed to bake ovens) were just coming into widespread use during the Civil War era. (Culinary historian Karen Hess has a rule of thumb that new cooking techniques, recipes, etc., have usually been in fairly widespread use for at least ten years before they are ever mentioned in a published cookbook.)
The default was still the open hearth, with roasting done on a spit before the fire with a pan underneath to catch drippings. This is still regarded by many as the ideal way to roast meats of any sort, considering oven “roasted” meats to be better named as either baked (if an open pan is used) or boiled (if cooked in a lidded vessel.)
Cod skull, sole, carp, trout, perch, eel or flounder
1/2 pint claret or port wine
1 qt beef broth, stock or consommé
1 large onion
12 black peppercorns
12 allspice, whole
Whole cloves or blades of mace
Essence of anchovy
When the fish has been properly washed, lay it in a stew-pan, with half a pint of claret or port wine, and a quart of good gravy; a large onion, a dozen berries of black pepper, the same of all spice, and a few cloves, or a bit of mace; cover the fish-kettle close, and let it stew gently for ten or twenty minutes, according to the thickness of the fish; take the fish up, lay it on a hot dish, cover it up, and thicken the liquor it was stewed in with a little flour, and season it with pepper, salt, essence of anchovy, mushroom catchup, and a little Chili vinegar; when it has boiled ten minutes, strain it through a tamis, and pour it over the fish; if there is more sauce than the dish will hold, send the rest up in a boat. .
From The Cook’s Oracle by William Kitchiner, MD, New York, 1829
Comment: This is a straightforward fish soup, and misses being a chowder only for lack of a thickening/stretching ingredient like potatoes or crushed crackers. The complication comes in the flavoring agents: “essence of anchovy” is rather complicated but one can substitute anchovy paste, often available in convenient squeeze tubes in better supermarkets or gourmet shops. Chili vinegar is easily made by depositing a whole or split chili pepper in a bottle of cheap vinegar and letting it soak for hours, days or such time as needed to extract the desired level of chili-ness.
Mushroom catchup is the tricky one of the lot, virtually unobtainable today unless you make your own which is a lengthy job indeed. As Dr. Kitchiner gives us no indication as to how much to use, the modern cook may substitute as seems proper or omit the item altogether.
A tamis is a very fine strainer. If one is not available a doubled piece of cheesecloth or muslin should serve the purpose admirably.
We should probably point out that this was originally titled by Dr. Kitchiner as “To stew a Cod’s Skull, Sole, Carp, Trout, Perch, Eel or Flounder” but that was both a tad lengthy and also seemed likely to put off potential readers due to the “ick” factor involved.