1 tbs. vinegar
1/2 c. cream or milk
Nearly fill a clean frying-pan with strained water boiling hot; strain a tablespoonful of vinegar through double muslin, and add to the water with a little salt. [Break eggs one at a time into a saucer to detect any one which has spoiled.] Slip your eggs from the saucer upon the top of the water (first taking the pan from the fire). Boil three minutes and a half, drain, and lay on buttered toast in a hot dish. Turn [pour out] the water from the pan and pour in half a cupful of cream or milk. If you use the latter, thicken with a very little corn-starch. Let it heat to a boil, stirring to prevent burning, and add a great spoonful of butter, some pepper and salt. Boil up once, and pour over the eggs. A better way still is to heat the milk in a separate saucepan, that the eggs may not have to stand. A little broth improves the sauce.
From Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: What, you thought giving a recipe a semi-French name to class up an otherwise pedestrian item was something new? Mais non, ma petite chou! This is oeuf poché with an uninspired white sauce, feh. Although we suppose if the optional “broth” was of a particularly fine or spicy quality the result could be enjoyable enough.
Oh, and you can skip the step of straining your vinegar if you are using standard commercially bottled stuff. Homemade vinegar was still common in the 19th century and would sometimes get bits of the “mother” or plain mold in it, making straining a prudent if not mandatory action.
Place a broad stew-pan of clean water over the fire till it boils, and set it level before the fire. Break the eggs separately into a plate or saucer, to ascertain if they are good, dropping them as you examine them into the boiling water. They must not be too much crowded, and there must be plenty of water to cover them well. Having put them all into the pan in this manner, let them remain till the whites become set; then place the pan again on the fire, and cook them as hard as you desire; they probably will be sufficiently hard by the time the water begins to boil. Raise them carefully from the water with an egg-slice, trimming the edges smoothly, and lay them separately upon small buttered toasts or broiled ham, arranging them neatly in the dish; sprinkle on a very little salt and black pepper; put on each a spoonful of melted butter, and send them up warm. They are eaten at breakfast. When prepared for the dinner table, omit the toasts or ham; serve them in a small deep dish, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and pour over the same melted butter. They are sent as a side dish to accompany poultry and game.
From The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan, Cincinnati, 1839
Comment: Most people today find poached eggs entirely difficult enough to make in a nonstick pan on top of a range with carefully calibrated temperature controls. Picture Mrs. Bryan and other women of her era accomplishing the same task over an open fire with cast-iron cookware–while at the same time getting the bread toasted, butter melted, ham broiled and sliced, and other dishes prepared– and you will begin to appreciate the back-breaking nature of the work required of a “housewife” in this time.
Between cooking, laundry, chopping wood for the fire, hauling water from the well, and nearly continual pregnancy, it is not to be wondered at that so many simply wore out and died in what would today be considered barely middle age.
Break up some fine ripe plums, and boil them in a small quantity of water till soft, adding the kernels from half of the plum seeds, after bruising them. Strain the liquid through a cloth, and to each three quarts add two pounds and a half of the best brown sugar. Boil it up, skim it, and cool it; put in a quart of brandy to every three quarts of the syrup, and bottle it for use.
The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan, 1839
Comment: Here again we see the use of the pits of a fruit, broken up, as part of the recipe. Apparently it was felt that they strengthened the flavor or otherwise provided some sort of benefit, but the call to use only half instead of all of them just adds to the mystery.
We usually recommend ignoring this advice in the case of peaches and apricots since the pits do contain a small amount of (gulp!) cyanide. However we can find no indication that plum seeds contain this in any measurable amount, so you may add them to your heart’s content with a clear conscience.
2 qts. flour
1 lb butter
All pastry should be made of the best materials: the flour should be superfine and quite new, and the butter fresh and sweet. For fine puff or sweet paste, every particle of salt should be washed from the butter; otherwise, it will not rise well nor have a pleasant taste. For meat pies, dumplings, &c. the butter should be freely washed in cold water, to give it a sweet taste, but salt should be sprinkled in the flour, or the paste will have a flat unpleasant taste.
Sift two quarts of flour, and weigh out a pound of butter; rub half of the butter into the flour, sprinkling in a little salt. Make it into a stiff paste with cold water, and roll it out into a thin sheet; divide the half pound of butter into two equal parts, break them up into small bits, and put one half over the sheet of paste, mashing it smooth with a knife; sprinkle on a little flour, roll up the paste into a scroll, and flatten it with a rolling-pin; roll it again into a sheet, put on the last portion of butter in the same manner, and sprinkling on a little flour; fold it up, roll it again into a sheet the third time, and it will be ready for use. Plain paste is generally used for pies, dumplings, and breakfast cakes. By rolling in the butter in this manner, it makes the paste much lighter and more flaky than when the butter is all rubbed into the flour at first.
The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryan, 1839
Comment: Some portions of this recipe can be disregarded nowadays. Since butter is no longer stored in kegs of salt for future use, all that washing business can be ignored. Use regular or unsalted butter as suits your taste.
Pie crusts, known as “pastes” in the time, had their quality judged on the basis of what fat was employed in their making. Butter was considered the best for fine, flaky pastry. Lard was a second choice, sometimes recommended for a bottom crust which would not be seen while butter was called for in the top crust which was more noticeable. Lard was also considered acceptable for meat pies and the like.
At the bottom of the scale in the opinions of most authors of the day was “drippings,” the fat left over from roasted meat. This was deemed acceptable if poverty was such a factor as to make the higher quality materials impracticable, and even then was required to be carefully and repeatedly filtered to remove meat particles and pan scrapings until only pure white fat was left. This was ruled acceptable for “family” usage but not considered advisable to serve to guests, or to the employer if one was cooking as a servant.
1/2 c. gin
1 bottle sparkling Moselle wine
1/2 c. raspberry syrup
1/2 c. juice from maraschino cherries
Juice of 2 oranges (about 1/2 c.)
Peel, slice and cup up a ripe pineapple into a glass bowl; add the juice of two oranges, a gill of raspberry syrup, a gill of maraschino, a gill of old gin, a bottle of sparkling Moselle, and about a pound of pure ice in shaves; mix, ornament with berries in season, and serve in flat glasses.
From Bon-Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas, New York, 1862
Comment: A “gill” is about half a standard measuring cup, or 4 ounces. Moselle is a white wine. And yes, pineapples were readily available in Civil War times, at least in larger cities where ships carrying cargoes from tropical regions docked on a regular basis. Mr. Thomas, having mastered the bartending trade in San Francisco during the Gold Rush days of the late 1840s, probably got his from Hawaii.
In fact the only real puzzle in his otherwise masterful work is why he includes no vodka drinks. Russia still owned what is now Alaska in those days and their ships called at San Francisco on a regular basis, so it seems unlikely he did not know about the liquor. Perhaps it required improvements in the Russo-American import-export business, and Jerry did not wish to tantalize his readers with an ingredient they could not readily obtain.
Wash and then pare a pine-apple; if a good size, put the rind into about two quarts of water (in the quantity you must be guided by the size of the pine-apple); cover it for twenty-four hours; then sweeten to your taste, bottle, cork, and put it into the sun for five or six hours, cool it and it is then fit for use.
From The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutledge, 1847
Comment: This is a very frugal recipe, making use of a part of a (presumably imported, and therefore expensive) fruit which would otherwise be thrown away.
We are not sure this would be considered a “beer” by the modern definition of the term. It calls for no yeast to be added, only one day of “fermenting” time in the keg and only six hours of sun-warming time in the bottle before use. While it might muster up a bit of fermentation from wild yeast on the outside of the rind, this is probably better described as “pineappleade” or would be if there were such a word.