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 A Taste of History

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: A Taste of History   Tue 20 Dec 2016, 13:38

In 2014 the great historical bake-off thread led to some discussion around recreating old dishes from historic recipes. As it is now the depths of winter, and so I have a bit more time to spare, I intend to have another go at trying out some old recipes. This is not just about following historic recipes and recreating old dishes and tastes, but is also to experience, experiment, and hopefully understand and maybe even master some of the practical techniques involved. That said personally I am still forced, for the most part, to rely on my modern electric cooker, as I don’t have access to a wood fired brick oven or open range fire (nor do I have the necessary experience to use them) and I am, like most of us, also limited by the modern availability of ingredients.

So here is a thread to discuss, explore and hopefully experience some historic cooking - feel free to chip in with your own comments, suggestions, advice, ideas and experience.

But what to cook first?

There is no shortage of ideas and recipe suggestions on the Dish-of-the-Day thread, but since it is that time of the year I feel first-up should be something Christmassy. Last Sunday I went up to the village shop/bar and while there got chatting to some of the local hunters as they gathered for their pre-lunch aperitifs. They showed me the morning’s ‘bag’. Five large wild boar were in the process of being butchered-up into joints in the back kitchen of the Maison de Chasse. The five heads were lined up against the wall. I asked what did they do with them and the answer was that they just dispose of them, no-one ever wants the heads, not even to give to the dogs … Why did I ask: did I want one?

And rather on a whim I said yes.

So the first trial is going to be that traditional grand festival dish - a whole wild boar’s head – prepared, cooked, dressed, and served up as for the medieval Christmas table.



I apologise in advance if this first one is rather meaty, even some might think, perhaps a bit gross and gruesome. But I’m a great advocate of nose-to-tail eating as I can’t abide waste. The heads would otherwise have been thrown away and this cookery project is certainly not about disrespectfully ‘playing with food’ … I intend to fully use every last bit of these animals. Vegans and those of a particularly sensitive, squeamish or nervous disposition may wish to avoid the following few posts. But to anyone else that habitually eats meat or even just occasionally wears leather, then I say that you really cannot ignore the reality of how animal products are produced. But these wild boar are certainly not the product of abusive, commercial, animal husbandry. They had a good, natural life foraging wild in the forest -  until it was suddenly and rapidly cut short by a high velocity rifle bullet - which I reckon is far more humane than the fate of even the most pampered of free-range medieval domestic hogs:



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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Tue 20 Dec 2016, 14:17

A Christmas boar’s head (part 1)

And so, without more ado, here is my Piggy giving his best ‘Lord of the Flies’ look.



The head is about 380mm long from snout to back of the head, and so the whole animal, I guess, was about 50kgs in weight and over a metre from nose to buttocks. He was probably born about March 2015 so he’s about 20 months old. I say ‘he’ because he is most likely a young male (and to my rather inexpert eye his teeth do seem to bear this out). Girls of his age mostly spend their first winters in all-female family groups (mums, sisters, aunties, grannies) and these groups generally stay in deeper forest well away from human habitation. Accordingly the girls don’t get hunted nearly as much as their troublesome brothers. The boys, either singly as young adult males trying to find a good territory ready for next spring, or as gangs of gormless ‘adolescent’ first years only recently abandoned by their mums, are mostly the ones invading gardens, pushing through fences, digging up vegetable plots, damaging trees, and unfortunately sometimes getting run over by cars. In the grand scheme of things they would naturally be being winnowed out by predation from wolves and bears and the winter shortage of food.

But returning to the specific animal in hand … How to deal with my bristly beast?

Unfortunately, while roast wild boar’s head fairly often appears on medieval menus, I have found no comprehensive English recipes for it before the mid 17th century. I can find instructions for the preparing, cooking, and serving of all manner of creatures, whether flesh, fish or fowl – from hares to herons; larks to lampreys; stags to sturgeons; peacocks to porpoises; swans to seals – but not wild boar. There are detailed recipes for various sauces and stuffings to accompany roast pig/boar and there are numerous recipes for making brawn (pickled/jellied meat from a pig’s head which was a very common dish), but virtually nothing for producing a whole roast head itself. This I largely suspect is because, while a boiled and split pig’s head (to make brawn) was a fairly common, even rustic dish (although it was also eaten by royalty), a whole roast boar’s head really only ever graced the noblest of tables, and any high-class cook worth his salt doubtless already knew how to do it. After all the actually cooking – roasting – is fairly straight forward. But it’s the initial preparation that I was rather seeking advice on.

I did find this 16th century German recipe (from ‘Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin’, 1553):

Wie man ain wilden schweinskopff sieden soll, auch wie man ain brie dariber machen soll

ie,
How to cook a wild boar's head, also how to prepare a sauce for it.

A wild boar's head should be boiled well in water and, when it is done, laid on a grate and basted with wine, then it will be thought to have been cooked in wine. Afterwards make a black or yellow sauce with it. First, when you would make a black sauce, you should heat up a little fat and brown a small spoonful of wheat flour in the fat and after that put good wine into it and good cherry syrup, so that it becomes black, and sugar, ginger, pepper, cloves and cinnamon, grapes, raisins and finely chopped almonds. And taste it, however it seems good to you, make it so.


….. which gives some information about the cooking but again doesn’t really say much about the preparation..

Robert May’s huge cookbook, ‘The Accomplisht Cook’ (1660) enticingly has an entire chapter entitled, The A-la-mode ways of dreʃʃing the Heads of any Beaʃts.’. But while describing various methods of dealing with the heads of oxen, calves and sheep, he has nothing to say about wild boar (or even just pigs). Nevertheless he does give plenty of sensible and practical suggestions.

Similarly Mrs Beeton in ('The Book of Household Management', 1st ed. 1861), writing at a time when boiled and roasted heads of sheep, calves and pigs were still acceptable and popular festival dishes for grand occasions, talks about the history and heraldry of the dish, but then doesn’t give any specific recipe (although again she gives useful detailed instructions for preparing calves’ and sheeps’ heads).

Finally help was to be found in Alexis Soyer’s ‘Gastronomic Regenerator’ (4th ed. 1847), which gives very full and detailed instructions. Here, in its entirety, is his very involved recipe for a boned and lavishly-stuffed, roast boar’s head, which he intended to be served cold in very thin slices (the numbers in parentheses refer to other, supplementary recipes). I apologise on Soyer’s behalf for his customary complete absence of paragraphs, sentences and full-stops! Feel free to skip it if his breathless style of writing is too overwhelming.

No. 984. Of the Boar’s Head à l' Antique.

Procure a head with as much of the neck attached to it as possible, singe it well, holding it over a charcoal fire, and keeping it moved, then wipe it with a cloth, scrape well with a knife without scratching the skin, and place it on a cloth upon its skull, open it with your knife from one end to the other, and bone it very carefully without piercing the skin, leaving no flesh whatever upon the bones, bone the two cheeks of the boar, which cut into long fillets two inched square, place the head in a salting-tub, over which put ten pounds of salt, one of brown sugar, ten bay-leaves, half an ounce of peppercorns, a quarter ditto of cloves, six blades of mace, eight minced onions, twenty sprigs of thyme, ten ditto of winter savoury, and two sliced carrots; mix all well together and leave it eight or ten days, (rubbing the head every other day,) until well salted, then take it out, dry it well upon a cloth, lay the head straight before you, skin side downwards, have ready ten pounds of forcemeat (No. 120,), (but using the flesh of the wild boar instead of veal) with which cover the interior of the head an inch in thickness at the thinnest parts, roll the fillets cut from the neck in pieces of the rind, (both salted with the head and dried upon a cloth,) place a layer of them lengthwise in the head, with a long piece of fat bacon half an inch square between each, sprinkle a little chopped eschalots, pepper, salt, and grated nutmeg over, and place here and there about a pound of the best preserved truffles, with one of very green pistachios blanched and skinned, and continue filling with force- meat and the other ingredients until you have used the whole, finishing by covering forcemeat over; join the two cheeks together with the above in the interior, sew it up with packthread giving it the shape of the head as much as possible and fold it in one or two large thin cloths leaving the ears out and upright; braise as follows: put half a pound of butter in a large braising-pan or stock-pot, over which put fifteen pounds of trimmings of pork or knuckles of veal, eight onions, two carrots, four turnips, eight bay- leaves, a tablespoonful of peppercorns, twelve cloves, ten sprigs of thyme, ten of marjoram, four blades of mace, a bottle of bucellas [?] wine, and four calves' feet, place it upon a sharp fire stirring it occasionally until the bottom is covered with a clearish glaze, then add six gallons of water and a pound of salt, when boiling draw it to the comer of the stove, skim, and put in the head the ears uppermost and let simmer seven or eight hours, perhaps more, according to the size and age of the boar, but the better plan would be to try it with a trussing-needle; if tender it is done; skim the stock, in which leave the head until half cold, when take it out, partly undo the cloths, and tie it again tighter if possible, and press it in a cover or upon a baking sheet with three flat pieces of wood, one at each side with a weight against them, and one upon the top between the ears, on which place a fourteen pounds weight, let it remain all night until quite cold, when take it out of the cloths, detach the thread it was sewn up with, cut a piece an inch in thickness from behind the ears, (from which part it must be carved in as thin slices as possible,) it will have a marbled appearance, trim the head a little, setting the ears in a proper position, glaze it with a brownish glaze, form the eyes with a little lard and round pieces of truffles, and the tusks with pate d'office (No. 1187) baking them, have some very fresh tulips and roses, which stick tastefully in the ears and some around, but leaving space to carve, garnish boldly with croutons aspic made from the stock clarified as directed (No. 1360).


Yes, well, umm … that all seems fairly straight forward!

I’ll keep you informed how I get on, although of course I’m aiming for a ceremonial whole roast head, rather than Soyer’s lavish, stuffed and carved confection.

In the meantime my pig head is hanging up overnight to let the blood drain. I’ve got him in the shower of the downstairs bathroom: being tiled throughout; situated on the north side of the house; with a tiny window covered by a fly screen; and with a shower hose available; it’s perfect.

And unlike at Frans Snyders' house, the cats can't sneak in there either:


Frans Snyders of Antwerp (1579-1657) - 'Still life with deer and wild boar head, lobster and fruit' ...... and a cat.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Wed 21 Dec 2016, 09:39

MM wrote:
...and those of a particularly sensitive, squeamish or nervous disposition may wish to avoid the following few posts.



Good Lord, could anyone particularly sensitive, squeamish or nervous have survived four years or so around here? Apart from me that is... Smile

Seriously, excellent post, MM. I like le petit moggy - he'll have that lobster if they don't move it.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Wed 21 Dec 2016, 10:44

I think Frans Snyders must have liked cats - either that or he was constantly plagued by them - as one can often play 'spot-the-cat' in his paintings ... such as in this one, 'The Fish Market' (1621):



... and you thought you had a good selection at Morrison's fish counter.

But I digress.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Wed 21 Dec 2016, 11:13

Waitrose doesn't stock boars' heads - whatever shall I use for a centrepiece?

That little puss must be of the same ilk as mine, she ignores meat or poultry but produce a lobster or some prawns and it has to be exile from the kitchen or a serious battle ensues.

'Head to tail' eating is frightfully fashionable at the minute and in principle I'm all for it but I can't help thinking that the profit margin is as much an incentive for chefs as the ethical considerations. I love ox cheeks but at £30 a portion - I think not.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Wed 21 Dec 2016, 12:52

The fish picture made me immediately think about it all going off. Did they use ice at all? Obviously no refrigeration available until when? I know game is simply hung in cool conditions, not put in fridges, but fish...

It's a wonder people didn't have continual stomachs upsets back in the very olden days.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Wed 21 Dec 2016, 13:33

The big basket at left is, I think, full of ice, also I think it looks quite wintery out the window. But yes I guess that is part of the reason why there are traditional sayings about not eating shellfish/oysters/mackerel or whatevers, when there isn't an "r" in the month. And also why people tended to shop every couple of days and why one never bought fresh fish on a Monday ... because the fishermen didn't work on Sunday.

However meat and indeed most fish will keep perfectly well for several days if kept cool, moist and covered ... I suspect the reason why modern supermarket "fresh" fish goes off so quickly is simply because it's already been hanging around for a week or so between being caught and being bought.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Wed 21 Dec 2016, 14:15

A Christmas boar’s head (part 2)

So the first job is to deal with all the bristly hair .....

Singeing and Scalding.



Dorothy Hartley in ‘Food in England’ (1st published 1954) - writing at a time when some country people still slaughtered livestock for their own use (although often illegally of course as meat rationing only ended on 4 July 1954, and since the beginning of 1941 it had been illegal to own or slaughter any ‘unlicensed’ animal, even for home consumption) - has this to say:

'The method of singeing a pig differs in each locality … Here [Yorkshire] a pile of straw is built over the dead pig like a thatch , and his hair is burnt off,  and later scraped and soused with cold water, the local opinion being that  “it does tighten the texture of the fat” (by the shrinking action of the hide?). In other districts boiling water is poured over, and then the pig is scraped with a knife. In other districts the pig is immersed bodily in a vat of boiling water.'



So I set about removing the bristles, which on a wild pig are particularly long, stiff and very dense. I tried the burning straw technique, and I tired Soyer's burning over a charcoal fire, but ended up giving him a good going over with a gas blow-torch which proved a lot more controllable with less risk of burning the skin.

Then in the sink I soused him with boiling water and tried to get most of the stubble off. Besides Dorothy Hartley’s mention of using a knife or candlestick I’ve also read somewhere that a piece of pumice or even a bit of brick is quite good. I used a bluntish knife blade, then a plastic pan-scourer, and finally I resorted to a disposable razor (… or four, as the bristles are very tough). It was surprisingly hard going. In the end I only properly did the jowls, cheeks, neck and head (all the fleshiest bits) and essentially left the muzzle alone as the skin there is very thin and I didn’t want to rub through it.

You can now see just how long, narrow and bony is the snout of a wild boar when compared to the short snout and flat face of a typical domestic pig.

   

Most sources suggest that at this point one should debone the whole thing ... or at least partially debone, leaving just the jaws to give some shape to the finished dish. The trouble with a wild boar is the extreme length of the muzzle. Since I’m not aiming for brawn and I primarily wanted everything to remain in shape I decided to keep the snout bones in place. And I then thought, why not basically leave the cranium in place too (and I note that Sabina Welserin in her 1553 recipe doesn’t make any mention of de-boning at all). I cut a deep slit under the chin back to the neck and then loosened the flesh of the cheeks and jowls from the lower jaw bone to leave a stuffable pocket either side and underneath. I removed the throat, the back of the palate and the tongue (out via the chin slit). I also removed the eyes. The tongue and all other good bits of meaty trimmings I reserved. The head I then put to soak in strong brine for a couple of days (again in the downstairs shower). Most authors suggest a much longer soak in brine – Alexis Soyer says eight to ten days - but my head is not particularly big, old nor tough, neither do I intend to keep it, un-refridgerated, to eat over many days, so I plan on greatly reducing the length of the brining process.

So having got my pig scrubbed, shaved and soaking in the brine tub, I had a stiff whiskey before washing down the blood-splattered walls of the kitchen. I’m not squeamish and have worked in a butcher’s shop, but that stage, even without attempting to de-bone the entire head, was a bit of a bloody, messy, fiddly, palaver!



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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Fri 23 Dec 2016, 14:34

A Christmas boar’s head (part 3)

So, two days later, it is now the day before Christmas ... or at least it is here in France when la Revillon - the Christmas Eve supper - is the big family get-together after evening mass ... although strictly this should be a fish-only supper as the 24th is a Holy Day. Hence why in France the meal is still usually of yummy things like smoked salmon, oysters, snails, prawns ... whole baked salmon or carp in some areas ... smoked eels, or salt cod in others ... or here by the Mediterranean, it's usually the full fruits de mer experience ... with langouste, crab, langoustines, gambas, oysters, razor-shells, palourdes … the whole lot (... and even sometimes a whole lotte too!).

So traditionally a meaty boar's head would only make his ceremonial entrance at the end of the meal ... to herald the start of the Christmas festivities.

But anyway (still on the 23rd) my boar's head, having been in the brine tub for the past couple of days, can now come out to continue with his preparation.

So this morning, I rinsed him off in a few changes of water (giving the inside of the nose a final really good clean with a small bottle-brush – you’d be amazed at how much mud a boar snuffles up), and put him in a big pot to parboil. My biggest pot is 25 litres but even so the muzzle was too long to go in the water, and so to protect the skin I wrapped the face in wet dish cloths and covered the exposed snout in aluminium foil loosely tied with string.



A pig's head is basically conical in shape, so it’s really only the thick bits – the back of the head, collar, jowls and cheeks - that probably need to be immersed. That said I felt that the nose forward of the eyes needed to be protected from drying out, hence the cloth. Well that was my thinking and in the absence of a larger pot there was really not much else I could do. To the water I also added plenty of bay leaves, some pepper-corns, and juniper berries. I then put it on to simmer very gently (although the pot was so big that it took more than an hour just to get to boiling) but once at simmering temperature I left it for about 1 hour – and then just left it to cool down. So roughly I parboiled for about 3 hours total.

Meanwhile I boiled, and then skinned and chopped, the tongue and added that to the trimmings, supplemented by a good quantity of pork sausage meat. With this I made the stuffing adding home-made bread-crumbs, chopped onion, crushed walnuts, plums soaked in red wine, chopped sage, thyme and a good quantity of pepper. I most definitely did not follow Soyer’s recommended stuffing recipe which includes one pound of black truffles – which would cost about 1500€ at current prices.

When cool I gently lifted the thing out but it was way over-cooked. The skin was very soft and the whole thing had shrunk and slumped away from underlying bones.

In short this wasn’t a success. But I’ll spare you any more detailed pictures.



But hey - nothing ventured - nothing gained, and certainly nothing was wasted: the remains of the head I'll make into a pie and some jars of paté.

..... And I had a plan B, a second head, processed axactly the same but always one step behind, for just such an eventuality if things didn’t go to plan.

EDIT :

So now with Piggy No.2 ..... This time I greatly reduced the parboil. I simply put it straight into already simmering water, left it for just an hour and then whipped it back out (helped this time by my wrapping it in a cloth with strings attached so I could get it out easily).

It is now on a platter cooling down (in the downstairs shower again!). And so, finally, all is ready to roast tomorrow.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Fri 23 Dec 2016, 17:52

Not just one head but two - that's dedication to your craft all right. You make me feel that I'm just not trying with only chicken stock and beef stock reducing away on the stove at the minute.

Re-reading Soyer's recipe I see he boiled it for a very long time indeed but then sort of pressed it wedged with planks and weights to 'set', will you be having yours hot or cold? And where does the stuffing go - in the brain case?

I trust however that your piggy will also have pretty flowers tucked rakishly behind his ears.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Fri 23 Dec 2016, 18:08

He looks less accusatory now. That can only aid digestion, I reckon. It would mine at least.

It explains why my granny wound them up in twine like porcine mummies when she set about the same ordeal. They came out still not only looking cross, but criss-crossed!
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sat 24 Dec 2016, 17:19

ferval wrote:
Not just one head but two - that's dedication to your craft all right.


Actually, I've got a third head hidden in the depths of the freezer... which now, touch wood and having just checked on how things are going in the oven, can probably stay there for a bit.

(And that's not a joke as I did actually take three heads ... although it wasn't really my choice as the boys rather pressed them all on me. They just seemed to want to get rid of them. But I did nevertheless manage to negociate, that if I was to take the heads, I'd take the livers too! Miam miam ... and excellent for making paté).

Meanwhile I'm still trying to find some fresh tulips for the ears ... in winter and on Christmas Eve too! Rolling Eyes


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sat 24 Dec 2016, 17:25

You are certainly hardworking Meles bis but I'm not half happy I'm a vegetarian....
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sat 24 Dec 2016, 18:15

I suppose three heads are better than one...............

I'm currently trimming kalettes, that's as adventurous as I've been. We'll see if they are any nicer than sprouts which are never a big seller in this house. There's some lovely rainbow chard there as well fortunately.
And there's monster langoustines and an impressive highland beef sirloin too, pears I've poached in red wine and I will make a chocolate tart in the morning. Plenty of wine of course and bubbly chilling.
We won't starve.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sat 24 Dec 2016, 21:21

Will you be cooking it over an open fire as per your avatar, Ferval?  Speaking of avatars, three years and counting visiting this site and I haven't 'sussed' how to get myself an avatar yet....
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sat 24 Dec 2016, 21:47

A Christmas boar’s head (part 4)



The boar's head in hand bring I,
Bedeck'd with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio


CHORUS
Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico.


CHORUS

Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio.


CHORUS


And so here we are, servire cantico et quot estis in convivio.



With the stuffing (in the chin, cheeks, jowls and neck) the whole thing before cooking weighed about 5kgs. Well larded and covered in aluminium foil (especially the rather delicate ears) I cooked it in the oven for 50mins at 200°C, and then at 170°C for a further 3hours, basting frequently (it’s basically like doing a Christmas turkey). To keep the mouth slightly open whilst roasting I inserted a small glass jar, as I guessed, correctly, that once cooked, it would be nigh on impossible to prise the jaws open to insert the obligatory whole apple.

Like the traditional Christmas ham, the boar’s head was usually served cold. It was also frequently elaborately decorated, not just with winter evergreens and fruits, but often glazed and with suitable heraldic motifs and mottos; piped icing or lard; coloured or gilded comfits and biscuits etc. Decorated or not, a boar’s head would nevertheless provide an imposing centrepiece, whether of a medieval lord’s table or a more homely 19th century buffet on the side-board. Although it wouldn’t usually be the only grand dish. A course at a medieval banquet (there were usually only two) would comprise numerous, equally lavish and spectacular dishes such as whole roast swans and peacocks, huge pies and tiny birds, baked sweet/sour tarts, and fancy custards - always a mix of meat, fish, cakes, pies, sweet and savoury - and all served at the same time. 

Here are some suggested sauces to accompany a cold boar’s head.

Sabina Welserin (1553)
First, when you would make a black sauce, you should heat up a little fat and brown a small spoonful of wheat flour in the fat and after that put good wine into it and good cherry syrup, so that it becomes black, and sugar, ginger, pepper, cloves and cinnamon, grapes, raisins and finely chopped almonds. And taste it, however it seems good to you, make it so. If you would make a yellow sauce - Then make it in the same way as the black sauce, only take saffron instead of the syrup and put no cloves therein, so you will also have a good sauce.

Alexis Soyer (1847) suggests:
The following is the German method of making a sauce to be eaten with boar's head: cut the rind (free from pith) of two Seville oranges into very thin strips half an inch in length, which blanch in boiling water, drain them upon a sieve and put them into a basin, with a spoonful of mixed English mustard, four of currant jelly, a little pepper, salt, (mix well together,) and half a pint of good port wine.

And Dorothey Hartley (1954) says:
We always made this 'mustard for brawn', in the north, and it was a direct medieval survival …. To make it, melt some lard in a panand blend with as much fine flour and dry mustard (half and half) as it will soak up. Let it cook very well before gradually adding milk till the whole has a consistency of thick cream. Let it boil well and serve cold.


However I wanted first to taste my head hot, and so opted for the simplest of decoration. Apart from a few branches of evergreen I simply put an apple in the mouth, faked a pair of imposing tusks from slices of turnip, and did the eyes with a flour/lard paste with a bit of shiny black olive for the pupil. I certainly didn’t follow Soyer’s direction to “have some very fresh tulips and roses, which stick tastefully in the ears, and some around, but leaving space to carve.”

With the bone still in – as mine was – it carved best longitudinally cutting slices along the jaw and including a good bit of the stuffed neck/collar. I ate it (not the whole thing - at least not in the one meal!) with the rather un-medieval accompaniments of roast spuds, sprouts (which always seem to get a bad press but I simply love 'em), chestnuts, and some French beans … and with a sauce Grand Veneur, that is, made from dark game stock and red wine, well reduced, and then boosted with the addition of berry fruits (red currants are usual but I used alcoholic sloes left over from making sloe gin). So not that far different from Sabina Welserin’s dark sauce made from spiced red wine reduced with cherry syrup.

It was very tasty, the meat being alternately firm, dark and lean, but interleaved with delicate, moist, pink, fatty layers. It was nicely gamey but not as strongly flavoured, nor as dry, as a meaty boar or venison haunch. It was like tucking into an entire pot of Rillettes de Mans (which, let’s face it, always tastes sooo good that no-one ever has just one blob on single slice of toast, and everyone always dips in with the teaspoon … for just one final taste). With the stuffing it was very filling and a little certainly goes a long way. Oh … and the crackling was superb!
 
Having eaten my fill – and given Doggy-Dog his share, he particularly liked the chewy nose – I let the head cool and then applied a traditional glaze, rustled up by melting some quince jelly mixed with some of the fabulous clear gel that was left in the pot after the parboil. This glaze can really only be applied when the meat has cooled (otherwise it just runs off), but once everything had cooled down it did make the whole thing very shiny, and of course in pre-refrigeration days it also served to seal the meat and so preserve it for the following days, when even the cooks were allowed some time off to join in the festivities.

Merry Christmas one and all.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sun 25 Dec 2016, 10:51

I hope the first head didn't go to waste, MM. Impressive and all as the second turned out (and it is indeed impressive) the first emerged with more character, I felt, or at least a character with which I could identify.

Well done all round though. I'm aware you don't take guests much this time of year, but I sincerely believe you should be inviting a paying audience!
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sun 25 Dec 2016, 11:07

A Christmas boar’s head  (part 5)

By the end of the 19th century the usual styles of service had changed, but the boar’s head was still there at grand Christmas dinners.

This is the menu for Queen Victoria’s Christmas Dinner at Windsor in 1899. It largely follows the à la Russe order of service, and as such it is essentially organised like any modern grand dinner or banquet (or pub-based carvery!). Nevertheless the traditional boar’s head still featured, although it is now served as part of the evening cold buffet. Wild boar were of course long since extinct in Britain, but Queen Victoria always got hers sent over from Germany, probably courtesy of some relation or other.

Menu

Windsor Castle – 25 December 1899


Potages.
Consommé à la Monac
Du Berry

Poissons.
Filet de Sole à la Vassant.
Eperlans frits - sauce Verneuil.

Entreé
Côtelettes de Volaille à la York.

Relevés
Dinde à la Chipolata.
Roast Beef - Chine of Pork.

Entremêts.
Asperges, sauce Hollandaise.
Mince Pies - Plum Pudding.
Gelée d’Orange à l’Anglaise.

Buffet.
Boar’s Head.
Baron of Beef - Game Pie.
Woodcock Pie - Brawn.
Roast Fowl - Tongue.

This rather faded photograph is of the 1888 Christmas buffet at Osborne House and shows the same arrangement of buffet dishes, from left to right: the boars head (looking a wee bit cross-eyed and wearing some sort of decorative crown or party hat); a collar of brawn; a baron of beef; a woodcock pie; and a raised Christmas pie.



But if you don’t want the full-on meaty version of the traditional boar’s head, Queen Victoria’s cook, Charles Elme Francatelli in ‘The Royal English and Foreign Confectionery Book’ (London: 1862), gives an intriguing and no less imposing vegetarian dessert version … in the form of a shaped and suitably decorated cake. Here’s the coloured chromolithograph which accompanies Francatelli’s extraordinary cake recipe:



It might look slightly preposterous but this is actually a fairly good imitation, in cake, of what Marie-Antoine Careme, the so-called “Chef to Kings and King of Chefs” proposed for the decoration of a real wild boar’s head. Constructed in his characteristic “architectural style” of presentation and featuring his signature hatelets – ornate dagger-like skewers – this is the illustration of a roast boar’s head (L) and a whole suckling pig (R) from Careme's influential book, ‘French Cookery, Comprising l'Art de la cuisine française; Le Pâtissier royal; Le Cuisinier parisien'. (English language version, published London, 1836).  Carame’s version of a roast boar’s head was decorated with fried coxcombs, pieces of tongue and slivers of black truffle on silver skewers, sculpted chicken breast, egg whites, and piped with Montpellier butter (herb butter enriched with hard-boiled egg yokes), and studded with medallions carved in coloured lard and croutons in aspic jelly.



Imitating this design Francatelli’s dessert recipe involves baking a number of savoy cakes in paper cases, joining them together with apricot marmalade and then carving the result into the shape of a wild boar's head. This is then covered in chocolate icing. The ears are made from pate d'office (a stiff confectioner’s paste of flour/sugar/egg white) masked with some of the same chocolate icing, while the tusks and teeth are made with an edible gum paste. The eyes, Francatelli suggests, should be moulded from white pate d'office with the pupils painted with a dark food dye, and then the whole eyeball being dipped in blown sugar to give them a scary, realistic gloss before being carefully put into place. The hollowed-out head is chilled and then filled with white and red ice cream, in alternate layers meant to resemble layers of fat and lean meat, before being mounted on an edible ornamental cake base, and then garnished with silver skewers impaled with chocolate truffles and marzipan coxcombs, and the whole surrounded by white and yellow jelly croutons.

Now that would be a challenge.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sun 25 Dec 2016, 12:19

I don't know if you will be able to face listening to this but if you can it will be on radio iplayer. It's today's 'Food Progtamme'.


Wild Boar
Food Programme

In this series of four programmes broadcast over Christmas, Sheila Dillon explores the link between tradition and food.

For Christmas Day, Sheila celebrates The Wild Boar Feast - an ancient Viking tradition which still lingers on in Britain (think of 'pigs in blankets') and inspires our love of the Christmas Ham. Historian Eleanor Barraclough introduces Sheila to a stuffed boar's head in the cellars of Queen's College, Oxford, and explains about how the boar was at the centre of mid-winter pagan fertility rituals. In Cumbria, Sheila meets a field of wild boar and talks to farmer Peter Gott about the fearsome intelligence of his huge beasts. Scandinavian chef Trine Hahnemann reveals the huge importance of the Christmas boar in Sweden, and how to make a meatball sandwich for Boxing Day. And chef Giorgio Locatelli explores the passion for wild boar across Italy.

With music from The Boar's Head Carol, the oldest printed carol in English, and recipes from Trine Hahnemann and Giorgio Locatelli.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sun 25 Dec 2016, 17:59

I'm afraid I missed that Ferval ... I was having a sherry after taking the dog for a walk, but I did copy down the Italian recipe from the bbc website, as I also have a haunch of boar in the freezer to eat sometime in the future.

But tonight it's the traditional Christmas roast ... with a capon, stuffing, pigs-in-blankets, roasties, sprouts, chestnuts, and neeps. Sorry LiR ... still not very vegetarian.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Wed 04 Jan 2017, 10:52

Mince pies (part 1)

It is I think fairly common knowledge that Christmas mince pies originally contained real minced meat (and not just beef suet): it’s the kind of fact that comes up in Christmas quizzes and the like around this time of year. The name “mincemeat”, then, is a remnant from the days when there would be meat in the filling and indeed before the latter half  of the 19th century mince pies usually contained a savoury-sweet mixture of meat, fruit, spices and sugar. It is only in fairly recent years that the usual content changed to leave us with the current meatless mincemeat.

Mince pies, or shred pies as they tended to be known in the 16th century (although the two terms were basically interchangeable at least until well into the 18th century), were not just eaten at Christmas and were common fare at banquets on festive occasions. Nevertheless special pies: big or small; plain or elaborately decorated; bite-sized or the truly enormous had certainly become well-established on the traditional Christmas table by the reign of Elizabeth I. And while most contained meat that was minced, shredded or hashed, not all simply contained minced beef or mutton.

Recipes for minced, or minc’t, or minst, pies occur in nearly all cookbooks published from the beginning of the 17th century onwards, as well as in the numerous private, handwritten commonplace books that have survived. Between them all I have found recipes for mince pies based on beef, mutton, veal, pork, capon, chicken, turkey, venison, partridge, tongues, brains, udders, palates, kidneys,  eggs, cheese, herrings, cod, eels, crabs, salmon, sturgeon and lampreys,  … and there are certainly many others that I’ve missed.

Huge often elaborately decorated pies were regular banquet fare for religious festivals, weddings, guild dinners, coronations, or just convivial parties but smaller individual pies seem to have gradually gained a particular association with the Christmas season.

Samuel Pepys in his diary for 6 January 1661/2 (ie the day after Twelfth Night, and the eve of Epiphany) wrote:
"Thence to dinner to Sir W. Pen’s, it being a solemn feast day with him, his wedding day, and we had, besides a good chine of beef and other good cheer, eighteen mince pies in a dish, the number of the years that he hath been married, where Sir W. Batten and his Lady, and daughter was, and Colonel Treswell and Major Holmes …"

Which, although shared between nine people, and bearing in mind all the “other good cheer”, still rather suggests that the pies were quite small.

Small minced pies, resembling the sort of individual-sized pies that are familiar today, were often called “Chewits”. The name was not, as one might have guessed, because they were little, bite-sized chewy morsels, but rather seems to derive from the French, chouette, meaning little cabbage. This derivation might be thought to imply the pastry was layered like the leaves around a cabbage, and indeed that is how choux pastry seems to have got its name, but I can find no suggestion that this was so, at least not in any English ‘chewit’ recipes.

Pies of course can be made in a variety of shapes but there is a persistent myth that Christmas pies were traditionally rectangular rather than being round. The idea is that they were made this shape so that, as the pie crust sank along the middle during baking - as it is rather wont to do - it came to resemble the infant Christ’s manger. It’s a nice idea but there are actually very few contemporary written references to these supposed “crib” pies.

John Selden (1584-1654) in ‘Table Talk’ (London, 1689) says that he “… supposed the coffin of our Christmas-Pies, in shape long, is in Imitation of the Cratch”. (A coffin just means a pie case - from the French, coffre, a box or case - while a cratch also comes from the French, crèche, meaning a crib). But note Selden’s cautious use of “supposed” without any supporting evidence and also note that ‘Table Talk’ was published posthumously and heavily edited by his friend Richard Milward, so it may not be entirely reliable.

Another, rather obtuse, reference to four-cornered (ie square or rectangular) mince pies can be found in a marvellous satire on puritanism entitled 'The Exaltation of Christmas Pye', which was penned by a certain P.C. in 1659 (ie when the Commonwealth’s end was either very imminent or had already just occurred). He proclaims himself on the title page as a 'Dr. in Divinity and Midwifery', … so I don't suppose he can be taken too seriously either.



Anyway, Dr P.C. tells us that Christmas pies were made in the shape of a narrow boat in order that they could easily be swallowed whole! In his own words, ".... my Advice, my Beloved, to you is, that you eat them cold. For I have heard of a Bridegroom that was killed before he could lie with his Bride, for adventuring to shovel hot minc’d Pye down his Throat for a Wager…..But Dr. Mariot, a notable Causuist in these disputes, and a Man of a sharp Stomach, is of Opinion, that a Man ought to swallow them whole. And therefore he was the first in the World that caused them to be made after the Fashion of Boats, that they might swim down the Gullet the easier: And indeed, he was a mighty enemy to four corner’d Pyes, for he said they were used to stick in his Throat."

There are also quite a few illustrations of oblong minced pies in 17th century cookbooks but all these occur alongside other shapes: square, round, oval, ovoid, … as stars, crosses, hearts, fleur-de-lys, … and a multitude of other fancy shapes. There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about rectangular pies.

For example, from Robert May's 'The Accomplisht Cook' (4th ed. London, 1685):



and from T. Hall's 'The Queen's Royal Cookery' (London, 1710):



Anyway, as the festive season is still with us, at least until tomorrow (Twelfth Night), I thought I have a go at making some proper period minced pies to an old recipe.


PS : I do feel a bit guilty, self-indulgently wittering on about mince pies while Nordmann is working hard feeding those in need and when many others struggle simply to get enough to eat. All I can say is that I too need to eat: this may be historic food but it's all still food and I certainly don't intend to waste anything.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 11:26

Mince Pies – part 2

As a change from meat-based mincemeat pies I though I’d try fish-based mince pies. Here’s the relevant page from Robert May’s ('The Accomplisht Cook', 4th ed. 1685):



Like most 17th century professional cooks publishing manuals for other professionals (books were expensive so few individuals could justify the expense), Robert May doesn’t give much in the way of detailed quantities in the majority of his recipes. I presume he assumed that other trained cooks would know what was about right, or were experienced enough to vary the amounts as they saw fit. But that doesn’t help in trying to replicate his recipes to try and work out what they were intended to taste like. Did his fish mince-pies taste really fishy? or spicy? or sweet? However there exist some recipes, mostly hand-written by competent housewives, dilletante epicures and other non-professional cooks, which were written down principally for the author's own practical use.

Here are three such recipes for mince pies, from late 16th to late 17th century. They are all for meaty mince pies but they do give sufficient details that I think they can be used as a general guide to typical relative proportions. In particular they can be used to establish the all important ratios of meat to dried fruit to sugar to spices. I find them fascinating in their own right with all their quirky spellings and expressions, but if reading old recipes isn’t your thing then feel free to skip them and go straight to the summary.

First, from ‘The good hous-wiues treasurie Beeing a verye necessarie booke instructing to the dressing of meates’, (Anon. 1588). This is a thin printed book which had, it would appear, a very small print run, and so it was probably intended just as a collection of the anonymous author’s favourite recipes to be given as presents to friends.

To make minst Pyes.
Take your Veale and perboyle it a little, or mutton, then set it a cooling; and when it is colde, take three pound of suit [suet] to a leg of mutton [typically say 4lbs weight], or fower [four] pound to a fillet of Veale, and then mince them small by themselves, or together whether you will, then take to season them halfe an once [ounce] of Nutmegs, half an once of cloves and Mace, halfe an once of Sinamon, a little Pepper, as much Salt as you think will season them, either to the mutton or to the Veale, take viii [8] yolkes of Egges when they be hard, half a pinte of rosewater full measure, halfe an pund of Suger, then straine the Yolkes with the rosewayer and the Suger and mingle it with your meate, if ye have any Orenges or Lemmans you must take two of them, and take the pilles [peels] very thin and mince them very smalle, and put them in a pound of currans, six dates, half a pound of prunes laye Currans and Dates upon the top of your meate, you must taek tow or three Pomewaters or Wardens and mince with your meate, you maye make them woorsse [?] if you will, if you will make good crust put in three or foure yolkes of egges a litle Rosewater, and a good deale of suger.


Second, from the time of Charles I, circa 1624 (from National Archives, Catalogue Reference: SP 14/189 f7). I’m much intrigued as to how a carefully written out recipe for mince pies ended up in State Papers. That particular file was compiled by Charles I’s Secretary of State, Sir Edward Conway, and while the recipe itself is not written in his hand, he was nevertheless responsible for compiling and archiving that batch of documents, which, with the exception of the sheet in question, are all confidential memos, council minutes, royal warrants and receipts, and other official government correspondence. Here’s the transcription. Note that li’s means li[bra]s, or libras, that is pounds weight.

For six Minst Pyes of an Indifferent bignesse. [from the stated quantity of flour – half a peck or 8 pints dry measure - I reckon this would make six pies each of about 10 inches in diameter].
Take halfe a peck of the finest Flower, 2 li[bra]s of Suger, 2 li[bra]s of Butter, a Loyne of fatt Mutton, w'th a little of a Legg of Veale to mince w'th it, 2 li[bra]s of Reasons of the Sunn, as many Currons , of Cloves, Mace, and Nuttmeggs one ownce. 
For the Paist mingle 1 pound and a halfe of Suger w'th the Flower and breake in the Yolkes of six Eggs, then worke it together w'th 3 parts of the two pounde of Butt[e]r. Set of a little water, and let it Seethe, then scym it and put in the 4th Parte of the Butt[e]r, and when it is melted, Scym it cleane from the Water, and work it w'th the Paist.
For the Meate. Let it be seasoned w'th Pepper, and mingled with halfe a pound of Suger, the other Frute and Spyce, the Raisons must be stoned, & some of them minced amongst the meate, the others put in hole, put in the Joyce of two Orringes and one Leamond, and the Ryne of them smale minced.
When the Pyes are filled slice Dates and stick in the top, and when you sett them into the oven Wassh them over w'th the yolkes of Eggs, and pynn them upp in Papers.

Third, from the commonplace book of Elizabeth Birkett, an ordinary farmer’s wife from Townsend, near Carlisle, dated 1699.

Shred Pyes
Take 4 pound of a legg of veal parboiled, 4 pound of Beefe suet, 6 pared Aples. Shred altogether, put it through a sieve, season it with 4 pound of Currans, and ounce of beaten Mace, halfe a pound of sugar, 6 dated, Lemon Pills candyed, a Gill of Rose Watter, as much sack; make them up; a quarter of an hour will bake them.
[From the cooking time of 15mins, these pies would appear to be about the same size as a modern individual mince pie]

In summary then, the basic proportions for the filling mix are very consistent over the century:

Weight of meat, including any suet and/or fat, equals the weight of dried fruit.
Weight of sugar is one eighth weight of dried fruit.
Total weight of spices is at most a quarter of the weight of sugar.

..... and so these are the basic proportions I used for Robert May’s recipes.

Referring back to Rober May’s two recipes for salmon minced pies and salmon chewits, he doesn’t specify whether the herbs and spices etc. should be fresh or dried and so I used whatever I could get, but fortunately nearly all these ingredients were readily obtainable. A rand of salmon means a side of salmon and I’m sure 17th century salmon were of a goodly size – far bigger than the four small salmon steaks that I used, and instead of a whole eel I used a few fillets of coley. I then reduced the quantities of all the other ingredients to match this smaller amount of ‘meat’. Unlike eel, which is quite fatty, coley and salmon are usually quite lean, although the farmed salmon I used was relatively fatty compared to wild fish. Nevertheless in comparison to veal or mutton, fish is  ‘moist’ flesh, so I added no additional fat, suet or butter, and so used a simple 1:1 ratio by weight of wet fish to dried fruit.

Sage and thyme I have fresh in the garden and I had some frozen parsley left from the summer. Marjoram and all the spices I had dry in the larder, as I did “Orangado”, which is simply candied orange peel. I scoured the garden and managed to find some violet leaves – not a particularly easy task in the depths of winter when the foliage has largely died down and the plants aren’t yet in flower to aid identification. Sweet violet (Viola odorata) is perfectly edible: there is in fact a small specialised industry based around Toulouse producing candied violets for suckets/sweets (they are supposedly good for coughs) and for use as cake decorations, and there’s also a violet-flavoured liquor produced somewhere else in France. Personally I found that the fresh violet leaves had virtually no taste but maybe that’s because it’s winter. Wild strawberry does grow in the bank at the bottom of the garden but I failed to find more than a few green leaves at this time of year. Sorrel is a common culinary herb in France (usually in a white sauce to accompany fish) and is sometimes available in bigger supermarkets, but it also grows prolifically as a weed and I got mine fresh from the garden. Robert May doesn’t distinguish between summer savoury (an annual plant) or the closely-related winter savoury (a perennial) but as I couldn’t get either I just omitted it. For verjuice I substituted unsweetened apple juice sharpened with an equal quantity of cider vinegar, and for rosewater I used a little bit of orange-water which is still made locally as a flavouring for drinks and confectionary.

These were my final quantities (for about a dozen mince pies - six of each recipe)
600g fish (salmon and coley – skinned and chopped fine)
600g dried fruit (currants, orange peel etc.)
75g sugar
Heaped tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped
Heaped tablespoon fresh sorrel chopped
Heaped teaspoon fresh thyme
Heaped teaspoon dry marjoram
Heaped teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, cinnamon, caraway seed, (ginger, 2nd recipe only)
Pinch salt
A wine glass of verjuice (50% mix of apple-cider vinagre and apple juice)
A dash of orange-water
Short-crust pastry (which I bought ready-made and pre-rolled)

Robert May’s woodcut illustrations show both minced pies and chewits to be relatively deep compared to their diameter. All my flexible silicone moulds are much too shallow so I made my pies in small ceramic ramekins, which I lined with buttered aluminium foil to make it easier to get the baked pies out.



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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 13:25

At Christmas there was a programme on the Beeb about Victorian Christmas baking throughout her reign. It was a follow up to a series about the development of bakeries over the same period with a group of professional bakers, from a high end pâtissier to the manager of an industrial bakery. In the programme they prepared mince pies using a basic cookbook and also one written by the Queen's head chef, Charles Elme Francatelli. Here is his take on the filling


Mincemeat à la Royale
To equal proportions of roast-beef:, raisins, currants, suet, candied citron, orange, lemon, spices and sugar, add a proportionate weight of stewed pears and preserved ginger, the grated rind of three dozen oranges and lemons, and also their juice, one bottle of old rum, one bottle of brandy, and two of old port.



This is the recipe they used, adapted for a modern kitchen and somewhat less alcoholic than the original.

Ingredients
For the mincemeat
450g/1lb sirloin steak, finely chopped
450g/1lb suet, grated
4 large apples, peeled, core removed, flesh chopped
1.35kg/3lb currants
½ small loaf day-old bread, grated
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Ground cloves, to taste
Ground ginger, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
450g/1lb sugar
2 lemons, zest and juice
3 large oranges, juice only
Candied peel, diced (optional)
250ml/9fl oz brandy
250ml/9fl oz ruby port
For the shortcrust pastry
225g/8oz flour, plus extra for dusting
115g/4oz butter or margarine, cut into cubes
Water, as necessary
4-6 tsp milk
1 tsp sugar


Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
For the mincemeat, mix all of the mincemeat ingredients together in a large bowl, using your hands, until well combined.
Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat over a very low heat for 3-5 hours, stirring occasionally, or until it has reduced to a thick, dark paste.
Meanwhile, for the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter or margarine cubes, then rub them into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring well until the mixture comes together as a stiff dough.
Turn out the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well until smooth and elastic.
Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface to a 1cm/½in thickness. Using an upturned bowl, cut 8-10 discs from the pastry. Reserve the remaining pastry.
Place a coffee mug into the centre of each pastry disc and draw the sides of the pastry up against the mug, overlapping the edges, to form free-standing pastry cases.
Divide the mincemeat evenly among the pastry cases.
Roll out the remaining pastry onto a lightly floured work surface. Using the same mug as before, cut 8-10 discs from the pastry to create 'lids'.
Place one pastry 'lid' on top of each pie, tucking the edges into the pastry case. Pinch the pastry together well to prevent the filling from leaking out during baking. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of each pastry lid to allow the steam to escape.
In a bowl, mix together the milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Brush the top of each pie with this mixture.
Place the mince pies onto a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown.
Remove the mince pies from the oven and cool on a wire rack.


I can't find the frugal version on line but I do remember that it included a lot of tripe which the baker involved described as 'chopping up slime'.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 13:57

ferval wrote:

I can't find the frugal version on line but I do remember that it included a lot of tripe which the baker involved described as 'chopping up slime'.

Was it perhaps something like these three recipes? ... from 'A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes', by Charles Elmé Francatelli (1846):

No. 100. A CHEAP KIND OF MINCE-MEAT.
Ingredients, eight ounces of stoned raisins, eight ounces of washed and dried currants, one pound of tripe, one pound of apples, one pound of chopped suet, four ounces of shred candied peel, one pound of moist sugar, one ounce of allspice, the juice and the chopped rind of three lemons, half a gill of rum. First chop the raisins, currants, apples, and the tripe all together, or separately, until well mixed; then place these in a pan, add the remainder of the ingredients, mix them thoroughly until well incorporated with each other; put the mince-meat into a clean dry stone jar, tie some thick paper, or a piece of bladder over the top, and keep it in a cool place till wanted for use.

No. 101. MINCE-PIE PASTE.
Ingredients, one pound of flour, eight ounces of butter or lard, three gills of water, half an ounce of salt, a tea-spoonful of baking-powder. Place the flour on the table, hollow out a hole or well in the centre with your fist, place the salt and baking-powder in this, add the water and the butter, work all together lightly with the fingers, without positively absorbing or entirely uniting the butter with the flour, but, on the contrary, keeping the butter in distinct pieces here and there; then roll up the paste in the form of a ball of dough, spread it out on the floured table, and, with a rolling-pin, roll it out to the extent of eighteen inches in length, by eight inches wide; then fold the paste in three equal folds, roll it out the reverse way, fold it up again as before, and after repeating the rolling out and folding up a third time, the paste will be ready for use.

No. 102. TO MAKE A MINCE-PIE.
Having prepared the paste according to the directions given in the foregoing Number, divide it in two equal parts, roll these out either round or square, place one of the flats on a tin baking-dish, wet all round the edge of the paste, spread some of the mince-meat about half an inch thick all over the paste to within an inch of its edge, then cover all in by laying the other flat of paste evenly upon the whole, press all round the edge of the pie with your thumb to secure the mince-meat from running out at the sides, score the pie neatly over the surface, in the form of reversed strokes, and bake it for an hour.



..... It is interesting that Francatelli's versions - and especially his economy one - seem to have a far higher proportion of sugar to meat/suet and fruit, than do the 17th century recipes I've been using. By the mid 19th century sugar had clearly come down a lot in price and far from being a showy expensive ingredient of the better-off was now just used as cheap easy calories for the lower classes.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 14:15

ferval wrote:
...

Mincemeat à la Royale
To equal proportions of roast-beef:, raisins, currants, suet, candied citron, orange, lemon, spices and sugar, add a proportionate weight of stewed pears and preserved ginger, the grated rind of three dozen oranges and lemons, and also their juice, one bottle of old rum, one bottle of brandy, and two of old port.


...

While generally a grateful reader of the contributions of the learned members to this thread, I sincerely must thank you MM for your modernisation of the recipe, this suggested abuse of old port had me sitting straight up, shouting, 'Heresy - heresy!'

Had I the ability - and the knowledge of his whereabouts - I'd be getting ready to hang, draw and quarter the Queen's (Victoria) head chef, Charles Elme Francatelli for putting such words on paper.


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 14:28

Well, as they say: "what comes around goes around" .... You might be interested to know that Monsieur Charles Elme Francatelli, once, having sampled a little too much of the port, brandy and rum, got a bit belligerent and hit a maid ... and was promptly dismissed from royal service.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 14:50

Methinks it may have depended on with what he hit her?

I am reminded of 'the barmaid, who pulled the wrong knob and got stout'.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 17:47

Mince Pies – (part 3)

Continuing in the same spirit as Nielson's culinary punning, I'd like to present a short, dramatic, gastronomic interlude by way of the traditional Twelfth Night's entertainment. It's taken from a festive little pamphlet entitled 'Mother Shipton’s Christmas Carols with her Merry Neighbours' (Anon, London, 1668). Roast-Beef, Mince-Pie, and Plumb-Pottage debate which one of them should be hailed as the most esteemed, the best known, and the tastiest Christmas dish - complete with some really terrible food-based puns - as well as trotting out that old trope about the king (no-one is ever sure exactly which one) knighting the roast joint of beef as 'Sir Loin', ie surloin.

And so while I just go and finish doing my pies, I'll leave you with your host for this evening: Mr Mince-Pie 'the MP for Christmas', according to this Punch cartoon from 30 December 1893.

 

..... grand though he appears here, I personally think he looks rather like Potato-Pete from the 1940s Ministry of Food posters. But anyway back to 1686 ... 


Here followeth a Dialogue Between Roast-Beef, Mince-pie, and Plumb-pottage, contending for superiority with the verdict of Strong beer, their moderator thereon.

Strong B. Now Gentlemen this is the time and this the place you have appointed for your disputation : and having chosen me for your Moderator. I advise you (and good counsel too I hold it) to do nothing rashly, but first lets drink.
All. We relish it.

- They All drink -

Strong B
. And now having liquored your lips, pipe on and spare not.

Plumb-pot. Why then Mr. Beer craving your good attention, I declare and hope to prove it is my property to preceed, Mr. Mince-pie and Roast beef, and ought in any sound opinion to be the first dish on the Table, and my plea for it is Ancient Custome, which I hope may suffice without any further reasons.
Mince-pie. Pish, never tell me of your Reasons: your Reasons are not in Date and therefore starj nought, and as for Custome, I say ’tis more Customary to prefer Pye before Pottage, ergo your Custome is not worth a Cucumber.
Roast B. Nay then Gentlemen room for Horns, though I have been silent all this while, don’t you think to rule the Roast. Consider I am Beef, a good substantial food: a dish for a Prince, and indeed (as ’tis Recorded) the King of meats.
Plumb-P. Gravely spoken.
Strong B. In truth so it is, and I think it fit to exalt the Horn R.B. And not without cause considering the Dignity his Royal Majesty King James was pleased to confer on me, when one day coming down into his Kitchin, I gave him such satisfaction that he daign’d me with the Honour of Knighthood, with the title of Sir Loine, and therefore claim precedency before these mincing Mimicks.
P.P. But pray Beef, was you ever in this jovial time of Christmas prefer’d before me.
Mince P. Or even gave that pleasing satisfaction or delight to Ladies, or any sort of Persons as I have done.
R.B. Mr Sweet tooth hold you your prating I always had the upper hand of you.
M.P. Tell not me of upper hand nor underhand I say I am a dish full of dainty.
Roast B. Yes for old women that have no teeth: besides you come but once a yea, but I am in season at all times. You but please Children and Fools, but I am in repute with all sots of what quality soever.
Plumb P. Pray Gentlemen let me speak.
Roast B. Prethee what can’st say? nothing: but mutter as if you had plums in your mouth, why thou art nothing of thy self, whence art though deriv’d or what’s thy pedegree? nothing by a little water, and fitting for nothing but to cleanse the dishes after me, were it not for the goodness of Beef that gives the being by its favor.
Strong B. Mince pie, me thinks thou should’st bear up man, slid for all their talking thou makst their teeth water sometimes at thee.
Roast B. And we are much obliged.
Mince P. You are a stinking peice of Beef to abuse me so, I make you rotten?
Roast B. Yes sweet Sir, that you do.
Mince P. Tough Sir but I do not.
Strong B. Nay lets have no quarrelling good, Mr Beef, pray Mr Pye.
Roast B. Slid tempt me a little more, I shall fall foul on you.
Mince P. If you doe, I’m sure you, you’ll shew foul play and bite me, but Ile maintain my honour in spight of they teeth.
Roast B. Let me come at him Ile crumble him Ile warrant you
Strong B. Nay good Beef be not so hot, Let him alone a little till he is colder then you may fasten on him at more advantage.
Mince P. I shall pull down his fat sides no doubt.
Strong B. Come Gentlemen i’m sorry to see you at violence, pray let me moderate the business between you, why should friends fall our? Come what say ye will you all stand to my award.
All. With all our hearts? Eloquent Strong-Beer!
Strong B. Then first for you Mr Plumb Pottage: Since it hath been so long a Custome for you to be first ushered to the Table, we shall continue it still to you during the time of Christmas, so that you do not take it ill, that some at other times make use of you last of all, as is sometime necessary to fill up the chinks, And for you Mr Mince-pye, for the time of Christmas also are to be the Senior in all mens mouths, but ever after to disappear and vanish. As the Prince at Lincolns Inn was cominus factoreum for twelve days but afterwards shrunk into his former peasantry for ever after So must you yeild the preheminence to Mr Roast Beef as royal for all the year after. What say ye, are ye all satisfied!
All. O very well, very well! Rhetorical Strong Beer!
Strong B. Come on then, then lets end all differences in a cup of Strong Bub, and spend the time in singing and carouzing a health to all that love Plumb-Pottage, Mince pye, Roast Beef and Strong Beer.

- They All sing -

Of lusty brown Beer I joy for to hear
But a pox of your White-wine and Claret
I hate for to hear
Of such pittiful geer
For a barrel-ful’s not worth a Carret
Then bub with good courage
‘Tis season’d with Burrage
Their’s nothing more wholesome and merry
Though our cloathes be but thin
It warms me within
And makes us sing he down a derry
There’s nothing above it
He’s a food does not love it
At Christmas it maketh good cheer
Nay more to invite you
And still to delight you
‘Tis as plentiful all the whole year!


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Fri 06 Jan 2017, 09:42

Et voila,



My mince pies straight from the oven as yet un-iced - the square ones are the minced pies of salmon, and the round ones are the chewits of salmon. The style of the time was for these to be iced, once cool, but as I'm not keen on icing I only did a few. I don't have a sweet tooth so frankly I don't think they were improved by being iced, but of course originally that was done as much for show as for the taste:



They all tasted very nice, though I say it myself. They were not particularly fishy nor sweet, and were aromatic rather than excessively spicy: all in all a well-rounded, balanced combination of flavours, somewhat reminiscent of North African or Middle Eastern cookery. The chewits were more like modern sweet-spicy mince pies, while the pies had a more pronounced sweet-sour flavour (due to the parsely and sorrel), but neither had the cloying sweetness and raw spice punch of typical modern shop-bought mince pies. But then, when compared to even Victorian recipes, the sugar content is much lower. In the 17th century sugar was expensive, was used rather sparingly in the actual filling, and was reserved for where it could clearly be seen - the icing. By the 19th century sugar was no longer a status symbol but a source of cheap calories for the poor ... a situation which still largely exists today to the detriment of people's teeth and overall health!


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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Fri 06 Jan 2017, 10:25

They all tasted very nice, though I say it myself. They were not particularly fishy nor sweet, and were aromatic rather than excessively spicy: all in all a well-rounded, balanced combination of flavours, somewhat reminiscent of North African or Middle Eastern cookery.


These sound very similar to fish pastillas made with salmon rather than the sea fish or shellfish which is more usual in Morocco. Does your recipe specify 'icing' as opposed to dusting with powdered sugar?

By coincidence Paul's thread mentioing Rodger's Sicily is next to this one: how apt since there's a few well known dishes from there with that same sweet-sour combination of fish and dried fruit, the most commonly encountered being pasta con sarde. I've made that a few times, it's delicious as are so many dishes that come from places where cultures hybridise to produce something that that exceeds the sum of its parts. And not just in food but across the spectrum of human achievement.

I've made something very like this before, it's based on a medieval recipe as well, and it's also very good indeed but I can't remember which of my many books it came from. I must find it again.  

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/recipes/salmon-en-cro-te-with-stem-ginger-and-currants-8427933.html
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Fri 06 Jan 2017, 10:51

ferval wrote:

Does your recipe specify 'icing' as opposed to dusting with powdered sugar?

Robert May says to do both: "... and being baked ice them, and scrape on sugar."

Icing of course also serves to seal the top and so means they'll keep longer and not dry out. But you can't heat them up if they're iced and the couple I ate hot from the oven were even more yummy than the cold ones.

I've got a bit of the filling mix left over so I'm thinking of using that to stuff a sweet pepper and then bake it, probably to go with rice or couscous.
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Sun 09 Jul 2017, 21:25

Meles meles wrote:
So the first job is to deal with all the bristly hair .....

Singeing and Scalding.



Dorothy Hartley in ‘Food in England’ (1st published 1954) - writing at a time when some country people still slaughtered livestock for their own use (although often illegally of course as meat rationing only ended on 4 July 1954, and since the beginning of 1941 it had been illegal to own or slaughter any ‘unlicensed’ animal, even for home consumption) - has this to say:

'The method of singeing a pig differs in each locality … Here [Yorkshire] a pile of straw is built over the dead pig like a thatch , and his hair is burnt off,  and later scraped and soused with cold water, the local opinion being that  “it does tighten the texture of the fat” (by the shrinking action of the hide?). In other districts boiling water is poured over, and then the pig is scraped with a knife. In other districts the pig is immersed bodily in a vat of boiling water.'



So I set about removing the bristles, which on a wild pig are particularly long, stiff and very dense. I tried the burning straw technique, and I tired Soyer's burning over a charcoal fire, but ended up giving him a good going over with a gas blow-torch which proved a lot more controllable with less risk of burning the skin.

Then in the sink I soused him with boiling water and tried to get most of the stubble off. Besides Dorothy Hartley’s mention of using a knife or candlestick I’ve also read somewhere that a piece of pumice or even a bit of brick is quite good. I used a bluntish knife blade, then a plastic pan-scourer, and finally I resorted to a disposable razor (… or four, as the bristles are very tough). It was surprisingly hard going.


There were echoes of this in this week's Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 which was adapted from Big Pig, Little Pig – A Tale of Two Pigs in France by Jacqueline Yallop:

'We get on with taking off the bristles. How hard can it be? In 1911 Beatrix Potter reminisced with pleasure about her early experiences of scraping "the smiling countenance of my own grandmother’s deceased pig with scalding water and the sharp edged bottom of a brass candlestick". We set big pans of water to simmer on the cooker in the kitchen and organise a rudimentary shuttle system. One of us brings the water across while the other scrapes. We do this for hours. It’s not quick or efficient or pleasant. Each bristle is coarse and wiry and before long they lacerate my hands. It’s slow, painful, exhausting.'

Big Pig, Little Pig

BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week
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PostSubject: Re: A Taste of History   Fri 14 Jul 2017, 15:11

There is a fairly obvious 14th of July 1789 anniversary. Yes, Alexander MacKenzie reached the mouth of the river later named after him. MacKenzie thought it flowed to the Pacific, when, instead, it exited into the Arctic Ocean, he named it "Disappointment River".

This salmon recipe is given a Canadian twist by including Maple Syrup;

Ingredients
Serves: 4  
60g maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
450g salmon fillets

Method
Prep:10min  ›  Cook:20min  ›  Extra time:30min marinating  ›  Ready in:1hr  
1.Preheat oven to 200 C / Gas 6.
2.In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper.
3.Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish, and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate salmon in the fridge for 30 minutes, turning once.
4.Bake salmon uncovered for 20 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork. Remove from the oven and serve.
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