Culinary Archaeology


This was an experiment born of necessity: I was intending to make Basil Chicken with some Thai basil a coworker had given me from the garden. I forgot the basil at work, it went bad, and I was left with a pound of ground turkey I needed to do something with. Fortunately, a 19th Century Russian restaurateur had already solved my problem.

In 1827, a man named Pozharski owned an excellently located inn; my sources differ on wether it sat astride the road from Moscow to St. Petersburg, or Moscow to Novgorod, but either way it was in a prime spot to catch nobles and bureaucrats traveling from the Tsar’s court in St. Petersburg to their estates in the country. Pozharski was a dab hand with a chicken and partridge cutlet – the poet Pushkin, a man who wasn’t afraid to
be enthusiastic about food, was one of his biggest fans. By 1861, the Pozharski cutlet was an entrenched feature of Russian cuisine and Russia’s 19th Century Martha Stewart, Elena Molokhovets, included it in her magnum opus, A Gift to Young Housewives:

Turkey Or Chicken Patties:

Cut off the fillets from 1 turkey or two chickens, remove the membranes, and chop the meat fine. Add 1/8 lb butter, less than 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, salt, and 1/2 French roll, soaked with milk and squeezed out.  An egg may be added as well.  Mix everything together and pound in a mortar. Shape into small patties, dip in egg and rusk crumbs, and fry in 2 spoons butter. Arrange the patties on a platter, and pour on the following sauce: Add the juice of 1/4 lemon and 3/4 wineglass of Madeira to the pan in which the patties were fried. Add a few capers, dilute with one glass bouillon,  and bring to a boil.

Or, pour on a sauce made  of field mushrooms or truffles.

Or, arrange the patties around the edge of the platter and fill the center with fresh or dried peas.

…Or serve with mushroom sauce, or with greens or root vegetables, etc.

The advantages of this recipe to an innkeeper, particularly an innkeeper in Tsarist Russia, are obvious. Consider the following scenario:

It’s late evening at your inn, you’re cleaning up, and it’s raining or snowing outside. Suddenly, the door flies open and a noble or high official who could send you and your entire family to Siberia with a single stroke of the pen bursts in and says “Stabling for six horses, and I want dinner NOW!” You run to the kitchen, grind up some leftovers from the roasts, add some spices and enough butter to disguise the age of the meat, shape some cutlets, dip ’em in egg and breadcrumbs, pour over whatever sauce you’ve got on hand, and before you can say “I beg you sir…spare the children…at least spare the children!” you have a hot and tasty meal all ready.

That said, the usefulness for the rest of us who need something quick to eat is also obvious. Lesley Chamberlain’s excellent Food and Cooking of Russia (one of the first cookbooks I ever bought) has a handy modern version, which I have adapted slightly:

Pozharski Cutlets (from The Food and Cooking of Russia)

  • 1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter, softened
  • 2 cups white breadcrumbs
  • milk
  • salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • oil/fat for frying (traditionally butter)

Soak 1 cup breadcrumbs with milk and squeeze out. Mix with chicken and butter. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste, and mix thoroughly. Roll in flour and divide into small cutlets. Roll again in flour, dip twice in egg and breadcrumbs, and fry in fat about 3-5 minutes per side.

Chamberlain says the traditional accompaniment for Pozharsky cutlets is mushrooms in sour cream, but the original Molokhovets recipe gives some other good ideas. In particular, I think the Madeira sauce would be a nice touch. Sadly I didn’t have the time or ingredients to try any of them, and had to make do with mushroom wild rice.

I’d been hoping for opportunity and ability to come together so I could try this one out for a while. It’s an 18th Century recipe for gingerbread cookies (or biscuits…American culture hadn’t diverged far enough from that of Britain for those terms to carry the different meanings they do today) from the cookbook of one Polly Burling, a Quaker resident of Burlington County New Jersey in 1770 whose little book of recipes has been thoughtfully annotated and interpreted by Sue Huesken and Mercy Ingraham under the auspices of the Burlington County Historical Society. I picked the book up at a re-enactment at the Hancock House in the Spring – after all, Polly was using these recipes as Washington and Howe fought their “War of Posts” up and down New Jersey.

Polly’s recipes make a spare little book, with recipes for various dessert items, plus a couple of medicinal cures neither the Historical Society or I was very eager to experiment with. Despite that, it’s an interesting read, and the authors have loaded it with a lot of useful contextual information about what was available in 18th Century New Jersey. 

I’ve been a gingerbread fan since I was a kid, so I naturally gravitated to this recipe, originally set down this way in 1770:

To Make Gingerbread: Nuts: Take 2 pounds of flour 1/2 Pound of Butter 1/2 Pound of Sugar a little Ginger a few seeds Orange or Lemon Peel, and wet it with Molasses

Gingerbread Nuts (from Colonial Burlington Cookery: A Book of Reciepts April 1770, Polly Burling)

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs ground ginger
  • 1 tbs caraway seeds, crushed
  • 1 tbs dried lemon or orange peel, minced
  • 1 and 1/2 cup molasses (or dark English treacle if you can find it)
  • 1/4 lb melted butter (one stick)

Mix flour, sugar, and spices. Combine molasses and melted butter. Add dry mixture to wet until you get a clay-like dough. Knead for several minutes. Roll balls of dough about 1 inch in diameter, and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes, checking for doneness when baking smell first begins – err on the side of underdone.

The most notable diversion from modern gingerbread recipes is the inclusion of caraway, which was known as “cake seed” in the 18th Century and was apparently the characteristic “dessert spice” in much the same way that nutmeg was the characteristic spice for everything else. This recipe convinced me that I’m not much of a fan, but everyone else I’ve given these cookies to (the recipe makes around 80-90 depending on how big you roll them so I was able to test them on a lot of people) really liked the flavor, so it might just be a personal preference issue. If I made them again for myself, I’d probably add a little less caraway and maybe even put a little period-incorrect frosting on top to bump up the sweetness.

One thing that’s often sadly neglected in modern studies of Colonialism is that it’s a two-way street. The influence of the colonizer is, of course, more visible: roads, architecture, clothing, and often even bureaucratic and governmental practices. Nevertheless, the colonized have their own effect on their foreign rulers and nowhere is this more evident than in food. Our own country is a textbook example of this (cornbread stuffing, clambake, or jambalaya, anyone?), as is the long British “relationship” with India.

Imagine a vegetarian shut-in and a carnivore with a gun sharing an apartment that the vegetarian owns, and you’ve got something of an idea of how the British and Indian food cultures intermingled during the Raj. Indian foodways adapted to embrace more meat and foreign ingredients (the chili and tea being the most important), and British foodways developed a certain respect for local spices. Consider the following, from Jennifer Brennan’s  excellent Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and  Cookbook of the British Raj:

Bacon and Coriander Pancakes (From Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and Cookbook of the British Raj)

  • 12 slices bacon
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 8 fl oz milk
  • 2 tbs finely chopped coriander
  • 4oz mango chutney

Dice bacon finely and set aside. Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Stir in eggs and half the milk and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in remaining milk, and stir in chopped coriander.

Fry a heaped tablespoon of bacon in a small pan until crisp. Pour enough batter for one pancake over bacon and fry until underside is light brown. Turn and fry other side, then turn out onto a clean tea towel and fold towel over to keep warm. Repeat until all pancakes are cooked.

Spoon chutney into a small saucepan. Thin with 1 tbs water and heat. Use as sauce for the pancakes. Serve warm.

I wish I could include the vignette that goes with this recipe: it’s priceless. Suffice it to say that if you can find a copy of this book it’s worth picking up even if you never intend to cook anything from it.

To go with the pancakes, I made some straight-up English Oxford Sausages. The skinless, hand-rolled Oxford Sausage dates back to the 18th Century, and it’s unclear wether the name actually refers to Oxfordshire itself or the Tavern at Oxford Gates where the dish may have originated. Either way, it’s traveled around the world wherever British people have gone, including to our own shores: it’s Recipe #25 in Martha Washington’s cookbook (I own the Karen Hess version), and was almost certainly eaten by our first President at his own breakfast:

To Make Oxford Kates Sausages: Take ye leane of porke, or veale, and 4 pound of beef suet, or butter, and shred ym together very fine. Yn season ym with 3 quarter of an ounce of pepper & halfe as much cloves and mace, a good handfull of sage shred small, and what salt fits yr pallate. Mingle these together, yn take 10 eggs, all but 3 whites,  & temper all together with yr  hands.  And  when you use ym,  roule  ym out about ye length and bigness of yr finger. You may roule ym up in flour if you like, but it is better without. When you fry ym, ye butter must boyle in ye pan before you put ym in. When they are pritty brown, take ym up. Their sauce is mustard.

I’ve got several modern recipes for these, all of them good. For the casual enquirer, I’d suggest this one, from a Konemann Step-By-Step cookbook I picked up at Milwaukee’s beloved Half-Price Books in my college days. It has the advantage of not requiring suet, which isn’t always easy to come by in the urban US.

Oxford Sausages (from Step-By-Step English Cooking)

  • 8 slices white bread, in small crumbs
  • 3/4 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground veal (turkey works, if you have ethical or budgetary issues with veal)
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, kneading with your hands until throughly combined. Divide into 8 portions and roll into sausage shapes. Place sausages on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until browned.

If you’re unconcerned about cholesterol, you can also brown them in butter or some other fat, as per the 18th Century.

The toasted cheese sandwich is a staple long beloved by moms everywhere: quick and cheap to make, tasty, and generally acceptable to even the pickiest kid. Back in the halcyon ’80s, my grandma used to make me a toasted cheese and a cup of Mrs. Grass chicken soup and then send me outside to play with my GI Joes.

The tastiness and utility of toasted cheese did not pass unnoticed in the 18th Century, though back then the sandwich was open-faced. It still survives in the modern era under its 18th century name: Welsh Rabbit, the origin of which is uncertain. It’s possible that it might have come from “rare-bit”, since only an extremely imaginative Welshman would mistake the flavor for that of a rabbit. 

Like roast beef and plum pudding, the Rabbit was also something of a British cultural feature as well as a tasty meal. Regional variations existed for each of the three kingdoms of Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales). I decided to try all three and see which would prove supreme. Hannah Glasse’s 1745 recipes don’t need much modification; all you need to do is use your broiler or toaster instead of an open hearth.

You’ll need:

  • Crusty bread, sliced. Whole wheat is both more accurate and better for you.
  • Good firm English cheese, such as Cheddar, Stilton, or Lincolnshire Poacher. Parmesan, while not English, is also acceptable; it traveled and kept well, and sometimes even showed up in military stores.
  • unsalted butter
  • English mustard (the powdered kind)
  • Red wine
  • White wine 

To Make a Welch Rabbit: Toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.

Easier modern version: toast your slice of bread, top with cheese and sprinkle with mustard. Pass under broiler till cheese is browned and bubbly.

Verdict:The toasted cheese baseline. The main attraction of the Welch Rabbit is the sharpness of the mustard. Good if you like strong flavors.

To Make a Scotch Rabbit: Toast a piece of bread very nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.

Easier Modern Version: As per Welch Rabbit, but butter your bread prior to adding the cheese for the final toast and omit the mustard.

Verdict: Even in the 18th Century, “Scotch” is synonymous with “Lots of Cooking Fat”. This one tastes the most like the toasted cheese I remember from my childhood.

To Make an English Rabbit: Toast a slice of bread on both sides, then lay it on a plate before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up; then cut some cheese very thin, and lay it thick over the bread, and put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and browned presently. Serve it away hot.      

Easier Modern Version:As Welch Rabbit, but soak the bread in 1/4 cup red wine before toasting the final time.

Verdict: Man, this one is good. The wine gives the bread a nice chewy texture, and the flavors are a natural match. If you want a simple but period recipe to impress people with, this is the one.

Or, do it thus: Toast the bread and soak it in wine, set it before the fire, cut your cheese in very thin slices, rub butter over the bottom of a plate, lay the cheese on, pour in two or three spoonfuls of white wine, cover it with another plate, set it over a chafing-dish of hot coals for two or three minutes; then stir till it is well done and well mixed: you may stir in a little mustard; when it is enough, lay it on the bread, just brown it with a hot shovel. Serve it away hot.

Easier Modern Version: Toast your bread as per Welch Rabbit. Melt your cheese in a double boiler with about 1 tbs butter and 2 tbs white wine per 8 oz of cheese. Add mustard to taste. Pour over bread and then toast until just browned.

Verdict: The most work for the best taste. Don’t try this one without a double-boiler or you’ll be scraping burned cheese off your pot for a long time.

One nice thing about this recipe is that we have an existing modern version to demonstrate how tastes have changed or stayed the same:

Welsh Rarebit With Beer (courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook)

  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 lb grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup beer, divided
  • dash Tabasco
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • Toast

Melt butter in double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir in cheese and all but 1 tbs beer. Stir until cheese melts. Add remaining beer, mustard, salt, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce.

Beat egg in small bowl with cornstarch and stir into cheese mixture. Cook, stirring often, till thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately over toast. 

Rabbit at its Welch-est. 

My return from Detroit happily coincided with the arrival of my long-awaited verjuice from Deborah Peterson’s Pantry. Verjuice is the sour juice pressed from unripe green grapes; in a time when lemons and their juice were crazy tales brought home by Crusaders returning from Outremer and wine was too expensive to let turn to vinegar, verjuice provided the sour/acid taste to Medieval cooking. It continued to see use in this way right up to the 18th Century, but in the end verjuice was replaced by readily available supplies of lemons and cheap wine vinegar in much the same way that sugar replaced honey as the primary sweetener of the Northern European diet. 

It’s tough to find an 18th Century British recipe that actually uses verjuice. By the time Hannah Glasse wrote her book in 1745, Britain was at the center of global trade. I would not, however, be a gamer/librarian/history buff if I didn’t have a few medieval cookbooks lying around, so I dusted them off and invited some friends.

There’s no better way to try verjuice than by using a recipe where it figures in the title. This one originates from an unsigned 14th Century Tuscan manuscript, and is reprinted with its modern version in The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy.

Gratonata of Chickens: Cut up your chickens, fry them with pork fat and with onions; and while they are frying add a little water so that they cook nicely in the pan; and stir them often with a large spoon; add spices, saffron, and verjuice and then boil; and for each chicken take four egg yolks, mix them with verjuice and then boil them separately; and beat everything together in the pan, and boil everything together with the pieces of chicken; and when it boils remove it from the fire and eat it. 

Chicken with Verjuice:

  • 1 chicken
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 oz pork fatback
  • 10 tbs water
  • 10 tbs verjuice
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • salt and pepper

Cut chicken into serving pieces, season with salt and pepper, and slice onion thinly. Cut fatback into small dice and render the fat in a heavy bottomed casserole or dutch oven. Add chicken and onion and brown on all sides. Add water and bring to the boil, then add 3 tbs verjuice and the spices. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat.

When chicken is done, beat remaining 7 tbs of verjuice into the egg yolks in a small saucepan. Bring nearly to the boil over low heat and then add to the casserole with the chicken. Mix well until sauce is thick.

This recipe reminded me a lot of chicken adobo, but with a slight fruitiness due to the presence of verjuice rather than vinegar. It’s really worth the trouble to get ahold of actual verjuice (you can use it instead of vinegar or lemon juice just about anywhere, and unlike them it doesn’t combine poorly with wine on the palate), but if you really want to try this recipe without it the book suggests using the juice of one lemon combined with 3 tbs water as a substitute. 

To go with the chicken, we made some gnocchi. The gnocchi here are the original gangstas of the pasta clan, dating from a time before either semolina or potato flour for starch. This recipe is also from The Medieval Kitchen, and is from another unsigned 14th Century Tuscan manuscript.

If You Want Some Gnocchi, take fresh cheese and mash it, then take some flour and mix with egg yolks as in making migliacci. Put a pot full of water on the fire and, when it begins to boil, put the mixture on a dish and drop it into the pot with a ladle. And when they are cooked, place them on dishes and sprinkle with plenty of grated cheese.

Gnocchi

  • 1 and 1/4 lbs cream cheese
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 6 egg yolks
  • salt
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mash cream cheese into paste. Mix in flour by hand and add salt to taste. Blend in egg yolks, continuing to knead until a smooth mixture forms. Boil water in a large pot, then reduce to simmer. Drop half-teaspoonfuls of mixture into simmering water and wait until they rise to the top on their own. Drain and serve, topped with parmesan cheese.

This recipe didn’t specify the flour type, but you can’t go wrong by doing what I did and using spelt flour. It’s still historically accurate and it gives the gnocchi a slight nutty flavor. This recipe makes a lot of dough, which is not a bad thing because it stores pretty well and the gnocchi themselves are easy to make.   

But, you ask me, what’s with two Italian recipes ? Aren’t you all about British food? Fear not, gentle readers. The vegetable recipe I used is 100% English. It’s from The Forme of Cury, compiled in 1390 by Richard II’s master cooks (before all that Tragedy Of unpleasantness). The modern version here is from Lorna J. Sass’s To The King’s Taste. Since H.M.’s kitchen staff wrote in English (albeit Medieval English) the original here has a little more “flavor”:

Funges:Take funges and pare hem clene and dyce hem. Take leke, and shred hym small and do hym to seeth it in gode broth. Color it with safron, and do there-inne powder-fort.

Mushrooms and Leeks

  • 8 small leeks
  • 1 and 1/2 lbs large mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar (before 1492 this would have come from traders in the Levant)
  • 1/8 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • beurre manie (3 tbs flour mixed with 3 tbs soft butter)
  • salt and pepper

 Wash leeks and discard tops and roots. Slice white part into rings. Saute in 3 tbs butter until soft, then add mushrooms and stir to coat. Combine stock, sugar, and spices and pour over vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 minutes, and then add beurre manie, stirring rapidly until thickened. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Chicken with Verjuice, Gnocchi, and Leeks and Mushrooms...better together!

English food culture has been beef-based for a long time; at least as long as horses were able to replace oxen as draft animals. When English people came to America as colonists, they brought with them several culinary expectations, one of which was that beef would continue to be the center of their dietary experience.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way. The cattle the settlers brought over with them had a lot of trouble adapting to the new climate and new sources of food (cows can be pickier than people when it comes to that kind of thing), and maintaining a stable cow population was rough going for a while. Instead, the settlers turned to a heretofore undervalued resource: the pig. Unlike cows, pigs really don’t care what they eat, breed quickly, and are smart and clean enough not to require a whole lot of attention. Pigs took to the New World so well, in fact, that they became something of a local nuisance with half-feral  hogs breaking down fences, digging up crops, and attacking people in the street (needless to say, early Colonial promotional literature stays diplomatically silent on the subject of vicious gangs of rogue pigs, though court documents paint a horrifying picture of the porcine criminal class).

Wether because of their reputation as violent walking garbage disposals, or simple Anglo-Norman culinary preference (food snobbery is a universal human trait, but it’s worth noting that hog is one of only eight wholly Celtic words remaining in the modern English language), Pigs were traditionally a “lower class” meat source in Britain. Fortunately, self-preservation is also a universal human trait, and pork became a staple source of meat and fat for all classes in America until beef could reliably be acquired. By the 18th Century, Americans and American foodways were undergoing a very conscious process of Anglicization as colonists tried to demonstrate their cultural solidarity with the Mother Country by buying and eating British (and as Chris Onstad says, there’s nothing more British than a man sick on beef), but pork remained a staple element of the American diet to a degree that set it apart, especially in the Chesapeake and Deep South.

As to what you’d actually be eating if you stopped for a bite back then, Hannah Glasse suggests this method of roasting:

Pork must be well done, or it is apt to surfeit. To every pound allow a quarter of an hour…When you roast a loin, take a sharp pen-knife and cut the skin across, to make the crackling eat the better…. Roast a leg of pork thus: take a knife, as above, and score it; stuff the knuckle part with sage and onion, chopped fine with pepper and salt: or cut a hole under the twist and put the sage &c. there and skewer it up with a skewer. Roast it crisp, because most people like the rind crisp, which they call crackling.

For modern purposes this version of Hannah Glasse’s original, from Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, is excellent:

Roast Pork

  • 1 half leg of pork with skin, about 8 lbs
  • 1 tbs fresh sage
  • 1 recipe Sage and Onion Stuffing
  • Flour for dredging

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bone the pork (if necessary) and sew or skewer one end together to make a pocket for the stuffing. Spoon stuffing into the cavity and sew or skewer opening. Using twine or string, tie roast into a an oblong package. Dredge with flour and place in oven. Immediately reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast for about an hour.

Remove roast from oven and carefully score skin in one-inch squares. Tear sage into small pieces and stuff into cuts. Return to oven and roast for two more hours, or until it reaches an inside temperature of 160 degrees. Let rest at least 15 minutes before carving.

Sage and Onion Stuffing

  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • small handful fresh sage
  • 1/4 lb stale French bread, crumbled
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper

Blanch onion in boiling water for five minutes. Add sage and cook 30 seconds more. Strain and chop coarsely. Add bread, mustard, egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Makes enough for an 8 lb roast.

The roast...complete!

The mustard adds a definite bite to this one. For authentic tavern fare, serve it with some applesauce or brown onion sauce, and perhaps some Carolina rice. Or cheat and use wild rice.

Pork with wild rice

I would venture to say that the single greatest British contribution to the world’s cuisine apart from Chicken Tikka Masala is the suet pudding. The traditional pudding uses beef kidney suet in place of shortening or baking powder (neither of which had been invented yet) as leavening. This works because the chopped suet melts at a relatively low temperature, leaving little holes where it had been and simultaneously enriching the final product. Puddings were usually boiled rather than baked because most 18th Century houses lacked ovens, which needed both space and skill to erect and maintain.

Puddings were and still are a major feature of British cuisine (they don’t call dessert over there “pudding” for nothing), so it was a pretty obvious choice for the sweet remove. I went with an apple-and-currant pudding, which seems to have been a pretty popular choice given that I found a version of it in almost all of my sources, several with celebrity connections.

The highest “Star Factor” appears to be that of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, whom several sources (Hannah Glasse, John Farley, and an unknown recipe collector of 1818 whose version appears in Michael Barry’s Old English Recipes) appear to have named this pudding in honor of. The Duke was a major fixture in the British military for quite a while despite a notable failure at Fontenoy against the French in 1745. This is probably because his next big performance was against the Jacobites at Culloden the following year, where he ended real hopes of a Stuart restoration forever and ensured that kings named George would be around for two more generations.

Perhaps more recognizably for Americans, Robert W. Pelton’s Early American Cookbook attributes this pudding to John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun. Loudoun is also a fixture in Scottish Jacobite lore as the luckless commander whose Hanoverian loyalist regiment was thrown into total panic by a local blacksmith and four other guys firing off muskets randomly in the night: the famous (if not exactly illustrious) Rout of Moy. Due in part to the Duke of Cumberland’s influence. he went on to become commander-in-chief of British forces in America from 1756 until his famously poor people skills forced his recall in late 1757. A mediocre commander, at best, but a fine judge of a tasty pudding.

I normally have issues with Pelton’s recipe interpretations (too many tomatoes, too much baking powder), but the original recipe he uses is in nifty poetical form; presumably Loudoun was filling some spare minutes between arguing with locals over housing for the troops and denying George Washington a commission in the British Army.    

If you would have a good pudding, observe what you’re taught:

Six pennyworth of eggs, when twelve for the groat

And of the same fruit that Eve had once chosen,

Well pared and chopp’d at least half a dozen;

Six ounces of bread, let your maid eat the crust,

The crumbs must be grated as small as the dust;

Six ounces of currants from stones you must sort,

Lest they brake your teeth, and spoil all your sport;

Five ounces of sugar won’t make it too sweet;

Some salt and some nutmegg will make it compleat,

Three hours let it boyle, without hurry or flutter,

And then serve it up without sugar or butter.

Apple pudding just out of the basin

This makes a really good and rich pudding with a nice apple flavor. If I made it again, I’d probably use Farley’s version, in which the apples are grated rather than chopped.

Taken as a whole, my 18th Century Valentine’s Day meal was a great success. I probably would not do an entire four removes again without some other guests, but I really wanted to go all out for our first V-day meal together. The guy from Crazy Town wrote “Butterfly” and purchased cocaine to pay tribute to the one most important to him. I cooked.

And fish, by the way, worked exactly the way Brillat-Savarin says it’s supposed to. 

The End

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