Thursday, July 31, 2008

Honey Toffee Pennies

Nowadays, you'd be hard-pressed to find a kids' cookbook that even considered encouraging the kids to boil sugar. Boiling sugar = danger, danger, danger. Plus, candy making is usually viewed as a highly-precise, needs-special-equipment sort of affair, ill-suited to the novice.

The Pooh Cook Book is either more ambitious or more foolhardy than you might expect.
Honey Toffee Pennies

1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter, sliced
3/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 heavy-bottomed saucepan
1 after-dinner coffee spoon
1 quarter-teaspoon measuring spoon

Choose one of these flavorings for each batch of toffee:
6-7 drops extract of mint
1/4 teasppon of one of these:
powdered cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Put the butter, honey, sugar, and vinegar in the heavy-bottomed saucepan. The saucepan must have a heavy bottom or the toffee will burn.

Keep over low heat until mixture has melted.

Stir and increase the heat.

Boil without stirring at high heat for
   10 minutes for chewy toffee;
   15 minutes for hard toffee;
   20 minutes for brittle toffee;

Add the flavoring when you remove the saucepan from the head, while candy is still boiling.

Honey toffee tastes good at every stage, so it doesn't matter whether you boil it for ten minutes or more. What matters is not to stir it.

Drip the honey toffee from a small spoon into penny shapes onto a dish or a piece of plastic or Pliofilm or wax paper. If you are very clever, you will be able to drip it from the spoon in all kinds of shapes -- clouds and snails and beetles and birds as well as Pooh shapes.

Or you can drip it from the spoon in small blobs and wait until it cools, so that you can shape it with your hands into balls or little squares or rectangles.

A good trick to keep the toffee liquid is to put the saucepan with the toffee in a larger pan of hot water. You won't have to work quite so fast if you keep the toffee hot and liquid.

The 15- and 20- minute toffee gets harder the longer it sits. When hard enough, wrap in plastic or wax paper and store in an airtight container.

And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it."
-- Winnie-the-Pooh
Pliofilm, it seems, was a brand name for a competitor of Cellophane. It played a role in the Allied invasion of Normandy. And you could use it for candy making! Except for the pesky "it contributed to leukemia" part... Let's stick with wax paper, shall we?

I've only tried to make hard candy once; I was sure that homemade lollipops would be delightful. They weren't... they tasted of the butter that I put on the molds, and not at all like sweet little nuggets of fruity delight.

Toffee, though, is supposed to be buttery. So this might well be worth a shot, especially because it seems to be completely unfussy. No thermometer. No firm amount of time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cottleston Pie

If I thought that The Pooh Cook Book was all about honey, I was wrong. It's also all about eggs. So, if you bought a dozen to make Popovers for Piglet, here's a way to work through some of the remainder.
Cottleston Pie

(Preheat oven to 375° F)
(Yield: 6 servings)

1 9-inch pie shell baked until firm but not browned
3/4 cup bite-size pieces of cooked ham
3 eggs
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grind pepper
Pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter cut in tiny dots
1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)

Bake the pie shell in a preheated oven at 425° F.

To keep the pie shell from sliding down the sides and puffing up at the bottom, prick sides and bottom well with the tines of a fork.

Line the bottom with a double thickness of cheesecloth and cover it with small clean stones, which you have gathered at the beach and washed, or with 1 inch of raw rice. Keep the rice and use it again and again.

Distribute the ham on the bottom of the baked pie shell.

Beat the eggs and cream with the seasonings in a bowl until thoroughly mixed.

Pour on top of the ham.

Scatter the butter dots and cheese, if you use it, on top.

Set on rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until Cottleston pie has puffed up and browned.

Serve immediately while piping hot.

Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly,
Ask me a riddle and I reply:
"Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie."
-- Winnie-the-Pooh

Let's start with the obvious charms here, before the defects: It's a quiche! It's a quiche, for kids! Also, it gives you something to turn to when you read Pooh to a kid who then asks, "What's Cottleston Pie?"

Now, some of the problems: We are to preheat the oven to 375° F, but then blind-bake the shell in a 425° F oven? I say: preheat to 425° F, and drop it to 375° F as soon as you're done blind-baking.

Also, the recipe neglects to suggest how long you should bake the crust for. How about "until it starts to brown slightly."

Finally, really, this must be said: Cheese is not optional. Cheese is mandatory. First, it's a quiche. Second, it's cheese. Take One Cookbook... is decidedly pro-cheese. I'd recommend using a nice Gruyere here.

This is a timely recipe; tomorrow, I'm meeting up with some friends to bake some Pies for Peace. Nothing quite like baking pies to put a bit of concentrated good into the universe. In the past, we've not done any savory pies, but maybe it's time to change things up a bit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poll: Choose The Next Cook Book

Here's your chance to help pick the next book for Take One Cookbook.... There's a poll over in the right hand column; vote for your pick of the following:
  • Casserole Cookery: One-dish Meals for the Busy Gourmet, by Marian and Nino Tracy. First printing, © 1941; this printing, © 1949, after revisions in 1946. Promises to pleasantly combine liking to cook and liking to entertain.
  • Homemade Candy, by the food editors of the Farm Journal. © 1970. From the dust jacket: "Become a good candy cook and you'll always know what to take a hostess, what to send a serviceman, what to pass to guests who stop by for a visit."
  • Nothing Beets Borscht: Jane's Russian Cookbook, by Jane Blanksteen. © 1974. Written by a Yale sophomore with a passion for the (then) U.S.S.R.
The poll will stay up until Saturday morning (noonish, EDT); the winner will be our focus for next week.

Radish Sandwiches with Bread and Butter Prickles

I've loved radishes since I was a small kid. The only way I had them back then, though, was cut into "roses" and soaked in cold water. Spicy, crispy, wonderful. Nowadays, I'm more likely to sauté radishes in butter until they're yielding, melty, and sweet.

The Pooh Cook Book goes for a more traditional radish prep: tea sandwich style.
Radish Sandwiches with Bread and Butter Prickles

1 small bunch young red radishes, washed and dried
6-8 bread and butter pickles
Sandwich bread or crackers

Grate the radishes and moisten them with mayonnaise to a firm spreading consistency.

Spread the mixture on thin slices of sandwich bread or crackers.

Sprinkle with bread and butter pickles cut into prickle shapes.

Prickle shapes: [[blog note: line drawing here]]

Without the prickles these taste and look a little like lobster salad.

"What's the matter?" asked Pooh.
"Hot!" mumbled Tigger.
"Your friend," said Eeyore, "appears to have bitten on a bee."
Pooh's friend stopped shaking his head to get the prickles out...
-- The House At Pooh Corner

Two things I never had as a child: radish sandwiches, and lobster salad.

I like how a (presumably) spicy sandwich is tied with this quote, and the artistic direction to cut "prickles" from the pickles. There's a little line drawing in the recipe, with four randomish triangles. Long and skinny, short and squat, I think the idea is just to cut small, irregular shapes. A bit thorn-like, if you want.

This would be a quick addition to an afternoon tea, as sandwiches, or, heck, as an unusual dip if you added a bit more mayo to steer away from "firm spreading consistency."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jelly Omelet

I grew up in Oregon, but have spent half a lifetime below the Mason Dixon line. Still, I was shocked the first time I heard someone ask for jelly on an egg sandwich.

Sure, I've put pickles (sweet and otherwise) with peanut butter, but... jelly with eggs?

Yes. Jelly with eggs. Witness this offering from The Pooh Cook Book:
Jelly Omelet

(Yield: 1-2 servings)

2-3 eggs
Small skillet, 7-inch
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
2 Tablespoons jelly
Salt and pepper

Break the eggs in a bowl, add a little salt and pepper, and beat with a fork until the yolks and whites are thoroughly mixed.

Heat the skillet with the butter and pour in the beaten eggs.

Keep over low heat. When the bottom of the egg mixture is firm and the top soft but not runny, spoon in the jelly evenly over the back half of the egg surface.

Loosen the egg mixture on the unjellied front half around the edge of the pan. Tip the pan away from you and flip the front half of the egg mixture over the back half.

Let it sit for a minute before serving.

...humming to himself in a rather sticky voice, he got up, shook Rabbit lovingly by the paw, and said that he must be going on.
"Must you?" said Rabbit politely.
"Well," said Pooh, "I could stay a little longer if it -- if you --" and he tried very hard to look in the direction of the larder.
-- Winnie-the-Pooh

This, in a cookbook for children.

To this day, I've not mastered flipping an omelet in the pan (rolling/flipping it as it makes its way onto the plate is a different matter). I'm tempted to explain the "mix eggs, then heat pan" as a tailored instruction to a less-than-experienced child chef; for anyone who can crack and whip 3 eggs in quick order, I'd get the pan on the heat first thing.

It may also be my nearly unholy love for pork products, but... this would be great with crumbled bacon in it.

My early lack of exposure to this delight just goes to show I came by my love of cookbooks late; Fannie Farmer's famous tome has recipes for jelly omelets going way back.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Very Nearly Tea

One of the things I love about The Pooh Cook Book is the variations -- several recipes will be done two or more ways, to suit particular (or even picky) kids' tastes. Case in point, a warm and soothing beverage, kid-friendly because there's not a speck of caffeine:
A Very Nearly Tea

One 4-cup earthenware teapot

5-6 carrot tops, feathery leaves
Orange honey
Honey with a few drops of orange juice
Honey and a small piece of fresh or dried orange peel

5-6 sprigs of parsley
Lemon honey
Honey and a slice of lemon
Honey and a piece of lemon peel

Fill a 4-cup earthenware teapot with hot water and set it on an asbestos pad to warm.

Fill the tea kettle with cold water and bring to a boil.

Wash the carrot tops or parsley.

When the teapot is warm, spill out the water and fill the teapot with carrot tops or parsley. Twist them so that they are thickest at the bottom of the teapot.

Pour boiling water onto the carrot tops or parsley and fill the teapot.

Let it steep for at least 20 minutes.

For carrot-top tea, put orange honey in a teacup before pouring in the carrot-top tea.

For parsley tea, put lemon honey in the teacup.

Serve with lightly buttered curls of Fairy Toast.

Christopher Robin was at home by this time ... and he was so glad to see them that they stayed there until very nearly tea-time, and then they had a Very Nearly tea, which is one you forget about afterwards ...
-- The House at Pooh Corner

It just sounds... homey. I like thinking of this tea, though, especially for young gardeners. I never used my carrot tops for anything -- the Lawrie family let me plant a row or two of vegetables. The only tops I was fond of were beet tops -- loved the greens, hated the roots. Ah, youth.

Fairy Toast is the recipe on the next page, and basically involves shaving thin parings of bread off a stale loaf and toasting them in the oven on a baking sheet until brown and lovely.

The mention of an asbestos pad tickles me -- I can't imagine recommending someone use asbestos, and doubt that the asbestos content was actually necessary here. So, let's recommend an equipment switch here, and use a trivet, or a hot pad, or something protective.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Pooh Cook Book, by Virginia H. Ellison; Popovers for Piglet

When I was a very little girl, I loved the library more than almost anything else. I fought to get my library card (I could read early, but didn't bother to learn to write my name until forced), and remember churning through the downstairs collection. One day, I checked out The Pooh Cook Book, by Virginia H. Ellison.

Oh. OH! I loved this book. I loved it so much...I forgot to return it. More than once. I think I must have paid to have it replaced at least three times. I remember finding one lost copy shoved deep down in the couch months later. Finally, my mother bouht me my own copy. I loved it. Even the foreword pulls me in:
The Pooh Cook Book is particularly useful for special occasions, real or invented, and meant to make what might be an ordinary day into a festive one -- almost as good as a birthday or a holiday. A small amount of imagination can turn the simplest dish into a party dish to celebrate the first day of school or the last, losing a first tooth, a rainy day in summer, the first snow of winter, or the first snowdrop or crocus or violet of spring.

All the recipes have been tested more than once. Most of them are simpler to do if you have a sister or a brother or a friend who can measure out ingredients; butter muffin tins and cookie sheets; help lick spoons and bowls; be a tester and taster of samples of everything.
Every recipe is somehow related to Winnie the Pooh (usually through a prodigious use of honey), and has a quote and illustration from Winnie-The-Pooh or The House at Pooh Corner. It's just a charming book.

I don't remember making many recipes from it, but I do remember making one recipe, over and over.
Popovers for Piglet

(Preheat oven to 425°F)
(Yield: 8-12 popovers)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon melted butter or margarine
2 large eggs

Grease the muffin tins.

Sift the flour and salt together.

Add the milk, honey, and melted butter, and stir to blend.

Beat in the eggs.

Fill each muffin tin just under half full.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until sides are rigid and the top and sides of the popovers are brown.

Do not open the oven for 25 minutes to peek or the popovers will fall and not rise again.

If you like popovers dry inside, slit each with a sharp knife and bake 5 minutes longer.

Serve with honey butter or plain butter.

"I wish Pooh were here. It's so much more friendly with two."
-- Winnie-the-Pooh

I've never slit the popovers to dry them out. Never saw the point. And, as it was the 70s in Oregon, I never used butter; we were a margarine kind of people. This recipe has never, ever failed me; not once has a popover failed to pop. When my mom would have one of her friends over from college (so, this would have been 3rd grade for me), the grown ups would make soup (usually a chilled fruit soup), and I'd get to bake the popovers.

...I need to go buy some eggs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bonus Post: Handy Tips, And Biscuits

As we finish the first week of Take One Cookbook..., there's still a host of fun things from The Savannah Cook Book that I want to get in to and share. So...a bonus post!

Lots of cookbooks have handy hints and tips. Conversions. Substitutions. Ms. Colquitt doesn't disappoint -- she has a Potpourri section smack dab in the middle of the book. It wraps up this way:
Did You Know That

The secret of good seasoning is garlic -- but that you will be sorry if you take that too seriously?

That aspic made from the juice of pickled peaches or other fruit is an excellent accompaniment for cold meats? One pint of juice to one tablespoon (or one-half package) of gelatine is the proportion?

That the juice from pickled fruits also makes a delicious spiced French dressing?

That the juice from brandied peaches makes a perfect cocktail sauce for any kind of fruit?

That mushroom sauce turns warmed-over lamb or veal into something to write home about?

That if you put a little salt in the whipped cream which you serve on creamed soups, and add a little cut-up parsley, it will make it additionally attractive?

That a little baking powder in your meringues will keep them from falling?

That brown sugar is better than white for all kinds of punch stock, since it makes a thicker syrup, and that some people go so far as to say you should always use it for strawberry sauce?

That cole slaw is a fine accompaniment for fish, if you have no cucumbers?

That shredded lettuce makes a delightful garnish?

Why, no. I didn't know. I don't think I'd ever even considered taking garlic too seriously. Nor considered putting whipped cream on a cream soup. I've never felt the lack of cucumbers when having fish, nor thought of most shredded lettuce as delightful outside of a drive-through taco. And even most times, not then.

But I know things now, many marvelous things...

Doctor Science asked for the recipe for biscuits I mentioned. There are measurements in dry pints. Heck, it even ties in nicely with the discussion on scarcity, and baking powder from yesterday, too. So, a good close to the week, I think.
What? No Baking Powder?
Biscuits To Eat With Terrapin Stew

1 pint flour
1/2 spoonful lard
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk or water
pinch salt

Dissolve sugar in milk. Sift flour and salt, and rub butter and lard into flour and mix with hands very quickly on kneading board. Roll out very thin, almost like paper, and cut with sharp knife. Bake in moderate oven.
If you make some to go with your Terrapin Stew, do let me know. Until then, it's time to put The Savannah Cook Book back on the shelf.

Patriotic Duty Combined With Kitchen Magic: Peach Leather

I've been a fan of fruit leather since I was a little girl -- it helps to have been a kid in the crunchy 1970s in Oregon. One thing Oregon rarely lacked for was rain. Georgia, it seems, is not so lucky. Take this recipe from The Savannah Cook Book:
Let 'er Rain

If crops are suffering from lack of rain, and you feel constrained to do your bit by your country, plan to make peach leather, and you will bring down rain on the just as well as the unjust. It is as good as a garden party or a county fair to ensure a downpour, since the sun is the essence of the contract for making.

Peach Leather

One peck of peaches peeled and mashed through colander. To each gallon of peach pulp, add three-quarters pound of sugar, and let come to boil. Remove from fire and spread on tin pie plats, and put in the sun to dry. Old receipts say it should stay in the sun three or four days, being brought in at night. When dry enough to peel away from the plate, it is done. Sprinkle the top with sugar, cut in strips, and roll into wafer-like pieces, of any length preferred. It will keep indefinitely in tin.

This recipe charms me completely. I like the idea that committing to make this is tantamount to doing a rain dance. I grin over the phrase "to do your bit by your country" and think both the just and unjust would prefer peach leather to rain, regardless of circumstances.

I assume most modern cooks would use a dehydrating mechanism a bit more controlled than pie tins left in the sun, but if you have a good screen porch or a lack of neighborhood cats, rats, etc., you could do it the 1930s Savannah way.

Peaches are in season in the mid-Atlantic region right now. If you're in the DC/Baltimore area, I recommend getting yourself out to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD. Both yellow and white peaches are "picking good" this weekend, as are the thornless blackberries. Get enough to make some pies and fruit leather, and use the rest to put up some easy freezer jam, or cordials to give away at the holidays! Make sure you try the peach shortcake at the snack stand -- it's amazing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sponge Cake: It's Time For Sweets

As we start to wrap up the 1930s treasure, The Savannah Cook Book, I wanted to learn more about the cookery of the time, as a lot of recipes -- especially the baked goods -- make reference to ingredient scarcity. I started wondering when certain things came into use. Baking powder, for one (1859, it seems, for commercial stuff).

Take a peek at; if you've ever wondered why anyone would bother with beaten biscuits, this quickly shows that they were being made before the advent of commercial baking powder. A lot of things I thought of as entirely modern (margarine, the mainstay of my 1970s childhood) are from the 1800s... (Also fun for a look-see: Duke's Emergence of Advertising in America collection. Promotional cookbooks, yay!)

We've done savory and side dishes from The Savannah Cook Book; let's move on to sweet treats.
Sponge Cake

This sponge cake is famous in Savannah, and the proportions given here make two large cakes. it seem enormous, so, if you think your family will be satisfied with one, divide the proportions in half -- and then have it all to do over again a few days later!

10 eggs
1/2 pound Swansdown flour
1 pound granulated sugar
juice and rind of 2 lemons

The art is in the making, so follow the directions verbatim.

Separate eggs and put the yolks in a large bowl, and the whites on a large platter.

Grate the rind of the lemons and set aside in the strained juice to "steep."

Sift the flour three times.

Grease two large "stove-pipe" pins, and then proceed.

Beat the egg yolks until very light, adding sugar gradually, then the lemon juice and peel.

Beat the whites until stiff and dry. The old-fashioned flat egg beater is highly recommended instead of the Doyer beater or the more new-fangled electric life savers, as they make the eggs dryer. You'll get stiff and dry before they do, but no matter ....

Stir the beaten whites into the beaten yolks, and into this custard-like mixture sift again the already thrice-sifted flour, folding it in very lightly.

Divide the batter in half, and bake in two pans in a slow oven for about forty-five minutes.

Extravagant? Perhaps ... but think of the butter and baking powder you save by making it!

Just think!

I'm nearly positive there's a typo in the original -- a Doyer beater is probably a Dover beater, and what most people think of as an old-fashioned beater these days. For the recommended flat beater, picture the flat plastic blade for a KitchenAid stand mixer, scale it down for hand use, and put a handle on it.


I think I'll stick with my new-fangled conveniences when it comes to cake making.

And I might just start calling the stand mixer a "life saver."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Foundation In Fact, and Sweet Potato Pone

I've just finished up a plate of leftover Mulatto Rice, which tastes great, cold, right from the fridge. So far, out of The Savannah Cook Book, we've had a punch, a stew, a meat dish, and a side dish (though Mulatto Rice could stand as a main course). Must be time for a vegetable dish or two.
A newcomer to our shores is often a little surprised at the names to which some of our old vegetables answer. For instance, when we say "Guinea squash," egg plant makes its appearance, and squashes are apt to be listed at "Cimlins." When we say artichokes, we mean, of course, the Jerusalem variety -- unless it be a party -- then we have "Burr artichokes," meaning the other and more stylish branch of the family, though I have never seen that name in any of the cook books. The colored people are apt to call butter beans "see-wee" or "civvy" beans, but this seems to have a foundation in fact, since the dictionary opines that a lima bean (which is a large variety of our butter bean) is also known as the Siveau or Civet Bean.

Aaaah, Ms. Colquitt! We share a love of language, it seems. (Some might say we both also take too much pleasure in the describing "naive" and "quaint" lives and thoughts of our subjects.) I wonder if eggplant (now one word) is still called Guinea squash in regular use; any readers have it in their normal lexicon? I also wonder if Georgians today would still consider a sunchoke the default when hearing "artichoke."

The "foundation in fact" bit gets me all cranky again -- seems I can dish out the superior cultured tone, but rankle at the same in the text. Something to work on another day. Back to the fun stuff.

There's a large collection of potato and sweet potato recipes in The Savannah Cook Book. You have to be careful and read closely, though, because there are several sweet potato recipes that are really sweet recipes using potatoes.
Sweet Potato Pone

1 quart grated potato
3/4 pound butter
3/4 pound sugar
1/2 pint milk
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
grated peel of one sweet orange

Rub ingredients well together and bake in a shallow plate in a slow over. A little molasses may be added.

In the northern part of the state, where the frost sweetens the persimmons in the fall, a delicious touch is given the potato pone by adding a cup or more of persimmons before cooking.

I've never used white potatoes in a sweet dish, and I'll admit, it intrigues me. Another recipe in the book calls for wrapping marshmallows in mashed potatoes, rolling the resulting balls in coconut ("cocoanut," if you want to be book-accurate), and then baking them to get Sweet Potato Snow Balls. I'm entranced!

Fair warning: the part of me that thinks that mashed potatoes, marshmallows, and coconut all together sounds like a good idea is the same part of me that will be bringing you gelatin salads of all varieties.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cooking the Books: Mulatto Rice

For all my thoughts of The Savannah Cook Book's Mulatto Rice as "pantry food," I must confess I had no bacon in the house, no onions, and no rice.

The last one isn't quite true. I've heaps of arborio, and piles of sushi rice, and various bits of basmati and jasmine. That said, I had no long grain white rice.

I hopped over to my local Safeway and got my supplies, and headed home to make a mess of food.

I cooked the rice separately, because I wanted to save time, and also because I was highly suspicious of the recipe -- I didn't think there'd be enough liquid in a pint of tomatoes to cook a pint of rice, and frankly, I didn't want to stand over it, fretting and fussing and wondering if I should add water or stock until it was done.

I recommend this method, also recommend that you use stewed tomatoes if you do the "I'm in a hurry" method. Diced tomatoes hold on to their acidity if they're just warmed through, and the acidity is not a welcome companion here.

I used a whole 12 oz. package of bacon, and removed just a touch of the rendered fat. After I removed the bacon (to drain crisp on a paper towel lined plate), I chucked in the diced onion and saw the white white onion take up the little black specks, and thought again about the "touched by a tarbrush" idiom -- such things one can learn in one day.

You don't need to add salt or pepper -- the bacon and bacon fat bring all the seasoning to the dish.

It's simple. It's homey. It's tasty. It's definitely worth cooking up, and makes me curious about cooking more recipes from The Savannah Cook Book (even if the descriptions and recipe titles are cringingly racist).

Mulatto Rice

One of the recipes The Savannah Cook Book is known for is Mulatto Rice. Evidently, it plays a big part in "Their Eyes Were Watching God," and people who want to know more about the dish end up finding Ms. Colquitt's tome. If the dish name makes you a little uncomfortable, well, wait 'til you read the introductory sentence.
Mulatto Rice

This is the very chic name given to rice with a touch of the tarbrush.

Fry squares of breakfast bacon and remove from the pan. Then brown some minced onion (one small one) in this grease, and add one pint can of tomatoes. When thoroughly hot, add a pint of rice to this mixture, and cook very slowly until the rice is done. Or, if you are in a hurry, cold rice may be substituted, and all warmed thoroughly together.
Originally when I decided on posting this recipe, I thought I'd lead into it with a bit of an excerpt about Pilaus, because it, again, speaks indulgently and patronizingly about "the old cooks" and "our admiring imitators," but I think there's plenty to wrestle with with Mulatto Rice.

Before reading this recipe, I don't think I'd ever heard or read the phrase "a touch of the tarbrush." It sent off alarms -- there's something going on here, surely. But it couldn't mean what I think it means...right? Perhaps it just means that the onions and the rice get dark from the frying...?

Yeah, no. It's as unappealing as can be. Really, the lead in to the next recipe, Mexican Rice," should have made it clear without me doing more web research. ("This seems to be a sort of first cousin to the dark horse above.")

And I still can't get past the idea that "Mulatto Rice" is somehow a "chic" name; what the hell were they calling it before they called it this? No, wait; don't tell me. I doubt I'll like it.

Stepping away from the socio-linguistic meltdown going on in my head, let's look at the recipe itself...

...this looks good. It looks easy. It looks like a pantry dinner -- using staples to quickly feed the household. And, really, bacon fat is always a good thing.

My husband, Nick, and friend, Mab, both asked if I was going to cook anything to go along with these blog posts; I've decided to cook one of the recipes a week. This week, I'm going to make Mulatto Rice (only in part because I don't really have a social occasion on the books that would call for gallons of Chatham Artillery Punch). I'll share the results here.

Is it wrong that I want to throw shrimp in this?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Baked Ham, or Who Needs An Ingredients List First Thing?

I mentioned yesterday the abundance of recipes in The Savannah Cook Book without ingredients lists at the start. The following recipe subverts modern recipe readers' expectations a little more -- the ingredients list, such as it is, comes at the very end.
Baked Ham

(Fortunately this is not quite as complicated as it sounds)

Take any good ham, not necessarily a very expensive one, wash it well and put it in a large boiler, skin side up. Pour over it one can of black molasses and four quarts of weak tea! -- pouring the tea in the empty syrup can to see that no sweetness lingers behind -- and let it soak in this sweet bath overnight.

Next morning, put ham in steamer -- fat side up this time -- and pour over it about two quarts of water, and bake in covered steamer three or four hours.

Take out, skin, and plaster it with a paste made of tomato catsup and mustard. Return it to the oven in this new dress and let it cook about half an hour, basting it frequently with a bottle of beer! Then sprinkle with brown sugar, bake until a little browner, and serve while hot.

Good? Well, you'd be surprised.

The strange ingredients for this proceeding include, besides the ham: one large can black molasses, one cup of tomato catsup, several tablespoons of mustard, four quarts of weak tea, one bottle of beer and one cup of brown sugar.

This recipe charms me for its exuberance (as well as for its entire lack of racist language, which I know was authentic for the period and region, but still screams out from the pages of the book). The exclamation points after the tea and beer mentions slay me. Imagine, one might use tea in something other than a bathtub punch! And beer, as a basting liquid!

All this, and I don't know how many ounces in a jar of molasses, let alone a big jar. I assume it's something we can fudge a bit on... get the biggest jar available in your local grocery store, and call it macaroni.

Though it doesn't state the kind of ham (other than clearly one with a skin), I'm betting with the 24 hour soak we're looking at a country ham.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On Buying "Sea Food" From Hucksters, and Mrs. Habersham's Terrapin Stew

The Savannah Cook Book aims to make its readers feel like they could be locals. As we saw yesterday, one of the techniques for that is "get 'em drunk, hard and fast," which will actually be quite a theme in the upcoming weeks. (Where there are punch recipes, I will bring them to you.) Other tips come in methods of service, and in sourcing ingredients. Our excerpt today comes from the start of the "Sea Food" section (linguistic squee: it's two separate words at this point, not "seafood" as we'd see it today):
Although the fish stalls in the City market are filled with crabs and shrimp brought in fresh daily, the majority of Savannah housekeepers prefer to buy their see foods from the negro hucksters who come in from the neighboring watering places, and peddle their wares from door to door--carrying on their heads great baskets of shrimp and crabs and oysters, and filling the morning air with their familiar cry:

"Craby by'er! Yeh Swimps! Yeh Oshta!"

Many efforts have been made by the City fathers to put an end to this street peddling, and many righteous and sanitary-minded officials have stepped in and enfolded the poor hucksters in such a maze of up-to-date methods for icing and standardizing their wares, that the poor things have not known what it was all about. But the plea of the housewife has carried the day, and the presence of the gayly dressed vendors with their buckets of oysters, their baskets of bright shrimp and crabs, and in the spring with swamp lilies, wild honeysuckle and bay flowers, still lends a picturesque touch to streets that are fast losing their charm in the march of progress.

When you plan a crab or shrimp menu for your party, however, it is always just as well to have a reserve dish or two up your sleeve, since the weather man has to be reckoned with, and crabs and shrimp and hucksters are all rather temperamental, and may be conspicuous by their absence on the great day, if the wind comes out from the wrong direction or nature has frowned in some other unforeseen fashion.

Golly. So much to mull over there. I think I'll stick with pondering over the phrase "neighboring watering places." From my perspective, a "watering place" is not a place one fishes, but rather, where one drinks. Is there a meaning shift going on, over time and distance, or... well, was Ms. Colquitt making a not-so-sly reference to the "negro hucksters" coming only when they were done drinking? It's not for nothing that she lists the hucksters after the crab and shrimp when talking about how temperamental (and hence, unreliable) they are.

And I'll admit having a secondary squee to seeing "sea foods." Also, ongoing problems accurately transcribing the placement of commas from the original.

I thought after that excerpt, I should include a shrimp, crab, or oyster recipe, but those included in this book are... basic? They assume that you already know what you're doing, so don't go into detail. There aren't even ingredient lists, which can be interesting in and of itself, but isn't as fun as this little gem:

Mrs. Habersham's Terrapin Stew

3 large terrapin, boiled and picked
6 hard boiled eggs
3 heaping tablespoons flour
1/2 grated nutmeg
1 onion
1/2 pound best butter
juice and rind 1 lemon
1 pint sweet cream
1 tumbler good wine, or 1/2 pint sherry
red pepper -- salt -- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Rub yolks of eggs and butter and flour together. Put on jelly or stock to cook, and as soon as it boils, add egg mixture, also lemon and nutmeg. Then put in terrapin eggs and meat, and last of all, the cream and wine, and be careful not to let curdle or burn. Add chopped whites of eggs. Always have enough hot milk to thin out if it is too thick.

But to prepare the terrapin before making the soup is another story. In case you have to do it yourself -- here is the approved method. Cut off heads, dip in boiling water for a short time, and carefully pull of outer skin from feet, and all that will come off the back. With a sharp hatchet cut open the terrapin, and take out the eggs, and put aside in cold water. Throw away entrails and gall bags, saving the livers which are very much liked. Leave all the legs on the back and put on to boil. Put into about three pints of water, with salt and onion, and let simmer and steam (not boil) about forty-five minutes. When tender take meat from back, and remove bones. Cook meat a little more if not tender enough. Cut up meat -- across the grain to prevent stringing -- and set stock aside to jelly. Then forget it for a few hours (if you can) and when the party is imminent, proceed as above.
I've never considered a hatchet a vital kitchen implement. Heck, I've never eaten terrapin, green turtle, or any other such creature. I've never had turtle soup, mock or otherwise. But this gives me heaps of respect for how it comes about.

Note that it is, in fact, half of a nutmeg, not 1/2 of some measure of nutmeg. Half a nutmeg. Go to town.

A tumbler is a measure used often throughout The Savannah Cook Book. I think we're safe in seeing it as 8 oz., though I'm not quite sure why the wine is measured in tumblerfuls and the sherry in pints.

Later on in the book, it will be assumed that you will have "colored men" around to assist guests in opening their roasted oysters. Here? The reader is expected to be able to dispatch terrapin -- I think the first is nostalgic longing and class pretension showing through, and the second is more aware of the then-current times (Great Depression, whee).

Also later in the book, Ms. Colquitt strenuously points out that there is a difference between terrapin stew and stewed terrapin. If anyone finds herself with a surfeit of terrapin, and wants to have the recipe for stewed terrapin to go along with this one, drop a comment and I'll oblige. There's also a recipe for Biscuits To Go With Terrapin Stew, which is frightfully proud for containing no baking powder whatsoever.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Savannah Cook Book, by Harriet Ross Colquitt: Chatham Artillery Punch

The New Georgia Encyclopedia says this about The Savannah Cook Book, by Harriet Ross Colquitt:
Harriet Ross Colquitt was the author of The Savannah Cookbook, a more colorful and quirky collection of recipes, chock full of such coastal standards as mulatto rice (a composed rice dish with tomatoes) and Chatham Artillery Punch (a kitchen-sink conglomeration of, among other liquors, brandy, gin, rye, and rum). Published in 1933, the book boasts a foreword by poet Ogden Nash wherein he proclaims, "Everybody has the right to think whose food is the most gorgeous / And I nominate Georgia's."
This is accurate. It misses some of what I find to be the defining characteristics of this book, however. It's, well, a product of its time -- 1933 -- and the yearnings of the time, as well. So, here's a glimpse back to the good ol' days, and those who were, in turn, glimpsing back to the good ol' days.

From the Foreword:
But we have had so many requests for receipts for rice dishes, and for shrimp and crab concoctions which are peculiar to our locality, that I have concentrated on those indigenous to our soil, as it were, begging them from housekeepers, and trying to tack our elusive cooks down to some definite idea of what goes into the making of the good dishes they turn out.

But getting directions from colored cooks is rather like trying to write down the music to the spirituals which they sing -- for all good old-timers (and new-timers, too, for that matter) cook "by ear", and it is hard to bring them down to earth when they begin to improvise. They are not only very bad on detail,1 with their vague suggestions of "a little of dis and a little of dat", but they are extremely modest about their accomplishments...

1 "How long do you cook your okra?" I asked a colored cook, to which she replied that she put it on when she did the rice. Knowing that the rice should cook about twenty minutes before steaming, I thought I would find out by this devious method, so inquired "How long do you steam your rice?" "'Til dinner's ready," responded this wizard of the kitchen, and left me just where I was when I started.
...yeah. Let it be said that at least one of the things I find disturbing in that is the placement of the commas after the quotation marks... I am many things, but a grammar girl is one of 'em.

But, let's get back to the more pleasant things in this cookbook... the aforementioned Chatham Artillery punch.
Chatham Artillery Punch

1 1/2 gallons Catawba
1/2 gallon St. Croix rum
1 quart Gordon gin
1 quart Hennessy brandy
1/2 pint Benedictine
1 1/2 quarts rye whiskey
1 1/2 gallons strong tea
2 1/2 pounds brown sugar
juice 1 1/2 dozen oranges
juice 1 1/2 dozen lemons
1 bottle maraschino cherries

Make stock with above from thirty-six to forty-eight hours before time for using. Add one case of champagne when ready to serve.
I assume they mean wine made from Catawba, but they might mean juice... either way, Concord grape wine/juice can stand in.