Archive for March, 2011
1 qt. milk
Sticks of cinnamon OR three peach leaves
6 eggs, beaten
2 tbs. white sugar
Put a quart of milk into a tin pail or a pitcher that holds two quarts; set it into a kettle of hot water. Tin is better than earthen, because it heats so much quicker. Put in a few sticks of cinnamon, or three peach leaves. When the milk foams up as if nearly boiling, stir in six eggs which have been beaten, with two spoonfuls of white sugar; stir it every instant, until it appears to thicken a little. Then take out the pail, and pour the custard immediately into a cold pitcher, because the heat of the pail will cook the part of the custard that touches it, too much, so that it will curdle. This is a very easy way of making custards, and none can be better. But in order to have them good, you must attend to nothing else until they are finished. You may make them as rich as you choose. A pint of milk, a pint of cream, and eight eggs will make them rich enough for any epicure. So, on the other hand, they are very good with three or four eggs only to a quart of milk, and no cream.
From The Young Housekeeper’s Friend by Mrs. [M.H.] Cornelius, 1863
Comment: As few of us keep tin pails around as cooking utensils these days, it will probably be easier to make this recipe in a double boiler since that is the technique in question here. Custard usually suggests nowadays a semi-solid pudding, eaten with a spoon, but this one is thin enough that it could serve as a drink. Commercially packaged “boiled custard,” indeed a drink, is found in stores in the South in the same part of the dairy case, and at the same time of year, as eggnog. The two drinks are indeed similar in many ways, although eggnog is spicier and goes better with brandy.
1 lb. coconut, grated
1 pint whole milk
6 oz. white sugar
6 eggs, whites separated from yolks
To a pound of grated cocoa-nut allow a pint of unskimmed milk, and six ounces of white sugar. Beat very light the yolks of six eggs. Stir them gradually into the milk, alternately with the cocoa-nut and sugar. Put the mixture into a pitcher; set it in a vessel of boiling water; place it on hot coals, and simmer it till it is very smooth and thick; stirring it all the time. As soon as it comes to a hard boil, take it off the fire; pour it into a large bowl, and set it out to cool. When cold, put it into glass cups. Beat to a stiff froth the white of egg that was left, and pile it on the custards.
From Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie, 1851
Comment: The advice to “put the pitcher in a vessel of boiling water” would today be phrased simply as “cook in a double boiler” which prevents the eggs from curdling or cooking before they have time to blend smoothly with the other ingredients. Those who have never made pudding from scratch are usually surprised as much by how easy it is, as by how much better the resulting dessert is than “puddings” made from powders in a little box.
Eliza Leslie was the premier cook and cookbook writer of the middle 19th century, rather as Julia Child was to the 20th. Her first book, Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats, was published in 1828 under the authorship of “A Lady of Philadelphia” since the conventions of the time did not consider book authorship a suitable profession for a “proper” woman. It sold like, you should pardon the expression, hotcakes, and Miss Leslie was soon in a position to claim the credit of authorship on her subsequent books to which she was entitled.
Her works are entirely enjoyable to the modern reader as she was one of the few of the time who did not intersperse her recipes with moralistic hectoring, lectures on the proper treatment of servants, diatribes on the evils of alcohol, tips on childrearing and husband-pleasing, or similar irrelevancies.
1 calf’s brain
Vinegar or lemon juice, about 1 pint
After removing all the large fibers and skin, soak [the brains] for four or five hours in water. Lay them in boiling water with a little salt and vinegar in it, then put them in a strong white vinegar, solution of citric acid, or lemon-juice. Dry them well, dip them in nice butter, and fry slowly in butter until done and nicely browned. Serve with drawn butter, or a sour sauce.
From The Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia by Mrs. E. F. Haskell (1861).
Comment: This may be our favorite recipe out of the hundreds that we have read and posted here over the years. Because we are fond of eating brains?
Heck no. We just enjoy the thought of our readers walking into supermarkets across the land and asking the meat managers if they sell brains, as food products. And we are sick people with disgusting senses of humor, that too.
Sadly, in these days of Mad Cow and similar prion diseases we can no longer recommend actually eating the brains of any creature, and certainly no mammal. The disorder has turned up in sheep (where it probably originated) as well as deer, elk and even squirrels. So we must consign this one to the dustheap of history, alas.
Boneless pork cutlets, about 4
Salt and pepper
1 or 2 eggs, beaten
Dried sage, crumbled
Finely minced onion
1/4 c. lard
14 c. flour
Cut them [the cutlets] from the leg and remove the skin; trim them and beat them and sprinkle them with pepper and salt. Prepare some beaten egg in a pan and on a flat dish a mixture of bread crumbs, minced onion & sage. Put some lard or drippings into a frying pan over the fire and when it boils put in the cutlets–having dipped every one, first in the egg and then in the seasoning. Fry them 20 or 30 minutes turning them often. After you have taken them out of the frying pan, skim the [fat off] the gravy, sprinkle on a little flour, give it one boil, and then pour it in the dish round the cutlets. Eat them with apple sauce.
From the Blackford Family Cookbook, L. M. Blackford, 1852.
Comment: This dish, although messy in the extreme and extravagant in its use of lard both for frying and then for gravy, is very, very good. Possibly the trickiest part involved is getting the onion in the breading to the proper consistency. “Mincing” as is called for here will leave the edges of the onion bits sticking out of the bread-crumb coating, leading to a tendency to burn. We suggest grating the onion, then squeezing it in a paper towel to remove the large amount of moisture generated. After drying them as best you can, scatter them over the breadcrumb mixture and blend thoroughly before dipping the egged cutlets. We found the suggested “20 to 30 minutes” cooking time to be excessive and wonder if perhaps 19th century pork was of a different consistency from that which is sold today.
Salt pork, beef or ham
Vinegar or butter (see recipe)
Young beets the size of a pencil, make, with the exception of asparagus the best greens; the leaves must be examined for fear of insects, and well washed; boil with salt pork, beef or ham; the latter is preferable; drain free from water, and serve with vinegar. They may be boiled without pork, and buttered.
The Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia by Mrs. E. F. Haskell 1861
Comment: Beets are one of those double-decker vegetables treasured by many people as much for their leaves as for the root which is the beet itself. As Mrs. Haskell indicates though, the best greens are those of the very young and skinny beets, which if left alone will spend the summer getting plumped up to the size we expect of these tubers. They are often eaten in combination with their close relatives, mustard greens, collard greens or spinach.
2 tbs. homemade yeast (1 cube moist or 2 envelopes dry commercial yeast)
1/4 c. warm milk
1 lb. flour
1/2 lb. currants
1/2 lb. candied orange and lemon peel, cut small
1 oz spice (cinnamon, allspice, ginger, or nutmeg, or combination)
1/2 lb. honey
Puff paste or other pastry dough
Fine ground or confectioner’s sugar
Set a sponge with two table-spoonfuls of thick yeast, a gill of warm milk, and a pound of flour; when it has worked [foamed up and started to smell "yeasty"] a little, mix with it half a pound of currants, washed and picked, half a pound of candied orange and lemon peel cut small, one ounce of spice, such as ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and grated nutmeg: mix the whole together with half a pound of honey; roll out puff paste a quarter of an inch thick, cut it into rounds with a cutter, about four inches over, lay on each with a spoon a small quantity of the mixture; close it round with the fingers in the form of an oval; place the join [seam] underneath; press it flat with the hand; sift sugar over it, and bake them on a plate a quarter of an hour, in a moderate oven, and of a light color.
From The Cook’s Oracle by William Kitchiner, MD, New York, 1829
Comment: This is in some respects very similar to an item common in nearly every fast-food outlet in America today, the fruit-filled pastry or pie. The difference of course is that this one is not only made of considerably more elaborate fruit, but elegantly spiced, and baked rather than fried. A restaurant offering such a delicacy would be most unlikely to put it on the 99 cent or dollar menu.