The Ladies' Tea Guild

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Some warm-weather recipes from Godey's, 1854.

California beach, ca. 1905.  Wikimedia Commons.
 Despite the weather forecasts of rain and showers in the next few days, it's only been sunny and humid around here, warming up the house quickly and not cooling down until late in the afternoon.  Those of us in older houses with no air conditioning try to get by with doing as much as possible in the morning and evening when it's a bit cooler, but sometimes you have picnics or barbecues to go to, where you're expected to bring some of the food.  Who wants to heat up the house even more by cooking something?  Luckily, there are tons of ideas in Victorian cookbooks and women's magazines for dealing with warm weather; even if you have to bring a dessert somewhere, you're not limited to fruit salad or ice cream if you use a recipe like one of those below:

              "STONE CREAM.—Put in the dish you mean to send to table three spoonfuls of the lemon-juice with a little of the peel grated, to apricot jam; boil together a pint of cream, half an ounce of isinglass, and some sugar; when nearly cold, pour it on the sweetmeat.  A few macaroons at the bottom of the dish is an improvement.  To be made a few hours before using. 

                APPLE TRIFLE.—Scald as many as will make, when pulped, a thick layer at the bottom of your dish; mix the rind of half a lemon, grated fine, and as much sugar as will sweeten to taste.  Mix half a pint of milk, half a pint of cream, and the yolk of one egg; give it a scald over the fire, and stir it all the time—do not let it boil; add a little sugar if required, and let it stand to cool.  Lay it over the apples with a spoon; and then put on a whip made the day before, as for other trifles.

                LEMON SALAD.—Grate the peel of two or three lemons into a dish; squeeze the juice of three upon it; sweeten it well.  Dissolve a quarter of an ounce of isinglass in a very little water, and strain into a quart of cream, which you will boil.  Put it into a jug, and pour it, as slowly as possible, into the dish containing the lemon-juice and peel.  Whilst pouring, hold the jug at as great a height as possible, that the mixture may froth.  Do not move the dish until the contents are quite cold.  The cream should be poured in as hot as the safety of the dish will permit. 

                LEMON SPONGE.—Pare off the rind of one large lemon, and boil it in a pint of water with one ounce of isinglass.  As soon as the isinglass is dissolved, strain through muslin, and let it stand until cool, but not until it is set.  Grate very finely the rind of another lemon, and let it stand in a basin with the juice of both until the stock is cold.  Then add half a pound of loaf-sugar; strain all the ingredients together into a bowl, and whisk them till they begin to stiffen.  Then pour the mixture, as quietly as possible, into a flat dish, and when cold, cut into squares.  N. B.—It is to be made the night before it is intended to be eaten."

-- Godey's _Lady's Book_, August 1854.   
Summer pudding.  Wikimedia Commons.

These are all variations and predecessors of Jello-type desserts; isinglass is a 19th century gelatine-type product, and apples contain a lot of pectin, which is a natural vegetable thickener.

Summer pudding is another warm-weather dish that includes little cooking and no baking; if you use frozen berries instead of fresh ones, you can make it without even turning on the stove!  You'll also need some dry, sliced bread or cake and some cream to serve it with.  Ingredient amounts are governed by the size of the container you'll be using as a mold.

To make summer pudding: take a quantity of juicy, colorful fruit (traditionally, raspberries and currants, but you can use any kind of berry, cherries, plums or other stone fruit), remove any pits or large seeds, cut large fruits into chunks, and put the fruit in a bowl with enough sugar to coat each piece.  Add a squeeze or two of lemon juice if you're using apricots or peaches, to help prevent browning.  Let it sit overnight at room temperature to draw out the juices, then put in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes to soften the fruit and bring out even more juice (or, use frozen fruit and let it thaw, then stir in some sugar and let it come to room temperature).  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Take a glass or non-reactive metal or plastic container (a Pyrex glass bowl is good) that will hold at least 1 pint of liquid, and line it with food-safe plastic wrap (a single piece, if possible, to minimize juice leakage).  Make sure to cut the plastic wrap long enough to overhang the edges of the bowl by several inches.  Then, take the bread slices, cut off the crusts, and use the slices to line the container, overlapping the edges to cover all gaps and holes.  Pour the fruit mixture and any juices into the bowl, filling it to the very top, reserving any extra that doesn't fit. Cover the top of the fruit with more sliced bread, again overlapping the edges.  Fold the excess plastic wrap over the top of the bread on all sides, sealing everything inside the plastic-lined container.  Press down on the bread and fruit with your hand to start the juices soaking into the bread.  Place the bowl inside a larger bowl or pan with a rim to catch any juice overflow, then get a saucer or small plate that will just fit inside the rim of the bowl and place it on top of the bread and fruit to hold it down.  Place a weight (like a couple 8 oz. cans of fruit or vegetables) on top of the saucer to press the bread and fruit down further, and put the whole thing into the refrigerator.  Leave it overnight.

The next day, remove the pudding from the fridge, remove the weight and saucer from the bowl, and open the plastic wrap covering the pudding.  Turn the pudding out onto a rimmed serving plate -- the plastic wrap should make it very easy to get the pudding out of the bowl -- and remove the plastic wrap.  Serve the pudding with any extra fruit and juice that wasn't used in the pudding itself, as well as heavy cream poured over the top.  Enjoy!

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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)