The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #14 (re-do) and #15 -- Sacred or Profane: Deviled Beef Bones

Deviled Beef Bones.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge -- Sacred or Profane: "In this challenge, be as divine or as devious as you like! It could be a food with connections to a religion, a dish served for sacred celebrations, or a concoction with a not-so-polite name. Whatever your choice, show us how naughty and/or nice you can be!"

In looking for recipes to fit this challenge, I thought about making a Nun's Cake, or even a "bowl of smoking Bishop" as mentioned in The Christmas Carol, but in looking for fresh marrow bones to re-do the Florentine of Marrow from the previous challenge, I found a recipe for Deviled Beef Bones that sounded interesting.  Plus, it can be a (very) late entry for both the Fear Factor and Sacred or Profane challenges!

The history of eating bone marrow goes back to prehistoric times.  Archaeologists are always finding bones and bone fragments in the kitchen refuse heaps that are dug up, and it seems that until the Medieval era, the bones were simply roasted or boiled for broth, and then broken to extract the marrow, which was then eaten as a dish by itself.  The 17th and 18th centuries seem to have been the heyday of marrow's popularity, with multiple recipes for marrow puddings, both boiled and baked, marrow tarts, pasties, fritters, and other sweet dishes.  By the 19th century, marrow seemed to be most popular as a dish of beef-bones, roasted or broiled, served with toast or potatoes, or some kind of starch.  Narrow little marrow spoons became available to make it easier to scoop the marrow out of the bones, especially since recipes often called for the bones to be served cut into fairly large pieces, more than an inch or two long.    

I found a recipe for Broiled Beef Bones from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery (1875) on the Food Timeline website, and just underneath it, there was a recipe for Deviled Bones from the same book.  The second recipe wasn't long on instructions, so I improvised with the ingredient amounts, and consulted the first recipe for cooking time.  Deviled bones, or kidneys, or anything else in a Victorian recipe, is generally called that because it is intended to be cooked or served with a spicy sauce or spice rub containing lots of pepper, or horseradish, or other "hot" spices.  This recipe called for a spice rub of mustard, cayenne, and mushroom ketchup, which has ginger, pepper, and other warm spices in it. 

Never having eaten marrow bones, I had no real idea what to expect.  I didn't know how much marrow I'd get out of each bone, or what the texture would be like.  I don't have any marrow spoons, so I just used a table knife, and it seemed to work all right.  I had all the ingredients in my pantry, even the mushroom ketchup, so I made the recipe as written, and served the marrow with toast on the side, as instructed in a third recipe from the same cookbook. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A failed Florentine of Marrow -- Historical Food Fortnightly challenge #14

ingredients for a Florentine of Marrow.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The Challenge: #14 -- Fear Factor.
What foods have you always wanted to attempt, but were afraid to attempt to make - or afraid to eat? Choose a dish that is either tricky to create or nerve-wracking to eat, and get adventurous! It’s historical Fear Factor!

I could have re-done Calf's Foot Jelly from earlier in the year, but I had trouble finding fresh calves' feet.  I could have done Beef Tongue, but a few other people chose the same thing, and while I will probably try it myself later, I preferred to work with a different ingredient, to give the challenge postings more variety.  I also thought about doing stuffed beef heart, or kidneys, but had trouble finding fresh ones, even at the local Filipino grocery store.  Then I saw beef marrow bones at my regular grocery store, and that sealed the deal.  I've heard of marrow bones being a popular dish even into modern times, but never having had them before, I didn't know what the commotion was about.  I was a bit turned off by the thought of eating blood, but the bones didn't look very bloody when I bought them, and I was intrigued.  Instead of making a modern recipe like Osso Bucco, I looked through my historic recipes and saw that marrow could be substituted for suet and butter in boiled puddings, as well as used as the filling for fritters, tarts, and other sweet dishes, mixed with spices, dried fruit and candied citrus peel. 

The history of eating bone marrow goes back to prehistoric times.  Archaeologists are always finding bones and bone fragments in the kitchen refuse heaps that are dug up, and it seems that until the Medieval era, the bones were simply roasted or boiled for broth, and then broken to extract the marrow, which was then eaten as a dish by itself.  Removing the marrow and using it as an ingredient in other recipes became very common by the 16th century, with recipes for rissoles, pies, puddings, and tarts containing marrow in the filling, with sugar, spices, and dried fruit.  The 17th and 18th centuries seem to have been the heyday of marrow's popularity, with multiple recipes for marrow puddings, both boiled and baked, marrow tarts, pasties, fritters, and other sweet dishes.  By the 19th century, marrow seemed to be most popular as a dish of beef-bones, roasted or broiled, replaced by suet and butter in puddings and other desserts, although many Victorian cookbooks still include a recipe for marrow pudding. 

Recipe books, along with other publications, record the rapid increase in knowledge and innovation characteristic of the Enlightenment, with new dishes, and new names for old dishes, abundant.  The Florentine is one such dish; a variation on a regular custard tart, Florentines are baked puddings, in a puff pastry crust, or simply in a buttered dish with an edging of puff pastry, with a filling of eggs and cream or milk, with any combination of sugar, marrow, butter, suet, fruit, sweetmeats, spices or other flavorings, and bread crumbs.  Generally sweet, Florentines could also be savory, with vegetables, herbs, marrow or suet, and gobbets of meat as the filling.  I chose to re-create a recipe from 1674 because I had all the ingredients already; the book, English and French Cook, is on Google Books.

Happy New Year 2015!

AntiqueClipArt.com 
Happy New Year!

I was going to post a new challenge for the Historical Food Fortnightly series, but the beef marrow I was going to use to make a Florentine of Marrow, went bad before I could use it so I had to throw it out!  I went ahead and tried to make the Florentine without the marrow, but I'm not sure that it's that accurate to the recipe, so I may or may not post about it until I can get some fresh marrow.

Anyway, I did get to use my grandma's food grinder to make the filling for some cuccidati, and I was able to make 3 dozen gluten-free cuccidati for my aunt and cousin, so I wasn't totally useless while waiting for the New Year!  The plan for this morning (if I have time) is to make a Devil's Food cake from scratch to bring to my sister's house this afternoon.

I hope you all have a great year in 2015!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #13 -- Ethnic Foodways: my great-grandmother's biscotti.

Soft Biscotti.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge: #13 – Ethnic Foodways. Foodways and cuisine are at the heart of every ethnic group around the world and throughout time. Choose one ethnic group, research their traditional dishes or food, and prepare one as it is traditionally made.

My family is half Sicilian and a quarter Calabrese (from Calabria in southern Italy), and traditional (for us) Italian holiday food includes a few types of cookies.  When my grandmothers were alive, we usually bought our cookies at the Italian bakery, or from the supermarket (Stella D'oro brand used to carry some of our favorites), but now, purchased cookies are less available to us, so in the last several years I've started researching and making some.  This has also helped me enjoy all our Italian cookie favorites, since my nut allergies have made most traditional Italian cookies not an option for me (lots of almonds and hazelnuts). 

The issue with re-creating historic Italian cookies is the fact that literacy has not been a common skill in Italy and Sicily for many years – really only since World War 2.  My own grandparents were the first literate generation in their families; their parents were illiterate, and so was the rest of that generation, so their recipes have been passed down by mouth and by example, rather than being written down.  With that oral tradition comes the tradition of each person making the recipe slightly differently, according to their own tastes, which makes it hard to trace it back to the "original" version! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #12: If They'd Had It -- the Quince Marmalade version!

ingredients for Quince Marmalade.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge: #12 -- If They’d Had It -- November 2 - November 15

I had a hard time deciding which recipe to do for this challenge.  Should I choose mushroom ketchup, quince marmalade, macrows (macaroni), or something else?  I wanted to do them all.  I ended up wavering between the ketchup and the marmalade, and when I found the ingredients for both recipes in the farmer's market and in my pantry, I decided to do them both.  The quinces for this recipe came from the heritage apple vendor at the farmer's market. 

Quinces are a very old type of fruit.  Similar to apples and pears, they have a very hard flesh that doesn't soften until it's over-ripe, a delicious apple-y fragrance, but a very bitter and astringent taste that doesn't mellow out until it's very over-ripe.  They also have a lot of pectin in them.  They are mentioned as far back as ancient Rome, when they were recommended to newlyweds on their wedding day; nibbling on a slice of quince was supposed to perfume their breath!  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #12: If They'd Had It -- Mushroom Ketchup.

ingredients for Mushroom Ketchup.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Challenge: #12 -- If They’d Had It -- November 2 - November 15 "Have you ever looked through a cookbook from another era and been surprised at the modern dishes you find? Have you ever been surprised at just how much they differ from their modern counterparts? Recreate a dish which is still around today, even if it may look a little - or a lot - different!" 

Not exactly a dish, but ketchup is a common condiment on American tables.  Tomato ketchup is what we know today, but tomatoes only entered the recipe in the mid 19th century.  Earlier ketchups were made from fruits, walnuts, mushrooms, oysters, or anchovies, and were said to have been inspired by a salty, savory, spicy condiment that some 18th century English sea captain or government official tasted in the Far East.  The first recipe for ketchup was published in E. Smith's The Compleat Housewife in 1727 in London, and again in 1767 in North America. Originally more like Asian fish sauce, "ketchup" or "catsup" recipes in Europe used European ingredients, and used the Anglicized version of the original Asian name.  The idea, however, is even older.  In Apicus' recipes from ancient Rome, there is one for "Tree Mushrooms", which calls for boiling them and serving them with liquamen – a sour fish sauce – and pepper. 

Several of my food history acquaintances online have made mushroom ketchup in the past year or so, and I've been wondering about it, too.  I've seen recipes for walnut ketchup, grape ketchup, and anchovy ketchup, but since I'm allergic to walnuts, I don't care for anchovies, I didn't have any grapes, and I love the fresh mushrooms from one of the vendors at my local farmer's market, I decided to make some mushroom ketchup.  Most 18th and 19th century recipe books include at least one recipe for one of the kinds of ketchup, and according to James Townsend & Sons' cooking videos, mushroom ketchup was so common that it may have been what people meant when they wrote about serving certain foods with "sauce." 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

image from Hubpages.
The baking marathon is complete.  There will be 27 people at dinner today.  Hope your holiday is full of fun and family and you remember all that you have to be thankful for! 
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)