Category Archives: recipes

A New Treasure

New Treasure 001

 

I do enjoy old books, especially cookbooks, so you can imagine how pleased I was to find The Virginia House-wife by Mary Randolph on a Friends of Library sale shelf, waiting to go home with me.  This little gem includes a facsimile of the first edition of Mary’s cookbook as published in 1824, with supplemental material from the 1825 and 1826 editions.  Historical notes and commentary by Karen Hess, a culinary historian, which is extremely useful.  Being particularly interested in English history, it is fascinating to see recipes typical to 17th and 18th century English cookbooks still in use.  Even more fascinating is seeing these recipes amended and adapted based on other culinary influences (French, African Creole, etc.) and ingredients available in the colonies as well as typically English ingredients.  An interesting note is the number of vegetables for which she has recipes.  Her recipes are organized by food type (i.e. Port, Bee, Vegetables, etc.) so her book is fairly easy to find one’s way around.  One rather confusing matter is the inclusion of grains, fruits, desserts and mixed dishes in with vegetables, but the index at the front is very clear so they are easy enough to find.  At the end is a section entitled “Dishes for Lent,” making it simple for cooks to find inspiration on what to cook during this religious season of year.  This is a delightful little book, and one I will enjoy using as a reference.  I may even attempt one or two of Mary’s recipe’s.

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Blog Hop-Mint Sauce: An EnglishTradition

The End of Dinner by Jules-Alexadre Grun, 1913 (Wikimedia Commons)

by Lauren Gilbert

Mint sauce has a long history in England, traditionally served with roast lamb. Mint sauce consists of mint leaves, finally minced, and mixed with vinegar and some sugar. This is very different to the mint jelly served with lamb when I was growing up in America. This type of “sweet and sour” sauce goes back to medieval times, and similar mint sauces were very popular in France and Italy where mint was more widely used. Traditional has it that, in an effort to slow consumption of lamb and mutton to protect the wool trade (less lamb eaten meant more sheep to shear), Elizabeth I decreed that lamb and mutton could only be eaten with bitter herbs. Mint is one of the bitter herbs, and cooks discovered quickly that it pairs well with lamb and mutton. Clarissa Dickson Wright considered mint sauce to be the last culinary link with the Crusades. At any rate, mint sauce has been a favorite condiment with lamb and mutton since the 16th century. As with any popular food product, mint sauce has been tweaked over the centuries. While regular mint sauce seems to be considered essential for lamb, other sauces have been devised for use with other meats, such as a gooseberry and mint sauce recommended for port and goose.

In 1200 ENGLISH RECIPES by Ethel Meyer, she took 2 T of finely chopped mint leaves, 1T of granulated sugar (American) or castor sugar (British), and 6 T vinegar. After mixing the mint and sugar, the mixture must sit for an hour; then the vinegar can be added added gradually, mixing well between each addition. (This quantity is recommended for 4-5 people.) This seems to be the basic recipe. Some add a squeeze of lime or lemon. Some use white wine vinegar; I found another using malt vinegar. Some specify spearmint leaves, while others go with peppermint. Several recommended that the finished sauce have the consistency of thick cream. As you can see, this is a very flexible recipe and can be easily adapted to personal taste.

Sources:

“20 Quirky Facts About British Food.” https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=interesting+british+food+facts

Love to Know. “List of Bitter Herbs.” http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/List_of_Bitter_Herbs

Meyer, Edith. 1200 ENGLISH RECIPES. Originally published 1898: Murray, London. Published 2010: Salzwasser-Verlag, Bremen, Germany. GoogleBooks: https://books.google.com/books?id=Sb5LF9ztzFgC&pg=PA199&lpg=PA199&dq=how+to+make+traditional+english+mint+sauce&source=bl&ots=xeAyxn309w&sig=0Mg9MmYR6OlWKVJHtlLrHdDrHog&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBDgoahUKEwj2j6f9xpfIAhWOuB4KHV9RA_U#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20make%20traditional%20english%20mint%20sauce&f=false

Dickson Wright, Clarissa. A HISTORY OF ENGLISH FOOD. 2011: Random House Books, London.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f1/Gr%C3%BCn_-_The_End_of_Dinner.jpg/640px-Gr%C3%BCn_-_The_End_of_Dinner.jpg

Celebrating A New Release!

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, Volume 2
Edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

I am so honored to be included in this volume!

Purchase links:

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817

Castles, Customs and Kings, Volume II

Castles, Customs and Kings, Volume II

Visit these fantastic sites in the Blog Hop (they are coming live at different times so check back if you can’t find it the first time!):
1. Whisky vs Brandy http://huntersjones.com/2015/09/29/whiskey-vs-brandy/
2. Hunting the Wren in Wales and Ireland http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/hunting-wren-in-wales-and-ireland.html
3. Archery in Tudor England http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8960148
4. A Curious Variant on Wassail http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8960621
5. 17th Century Marriage Day Customs http://www.shapingthefacts.blogspot.com/
6. Harvest Moons and Customs http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962474
7. 17th Century Medicine http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961953
9. A Quirky Look at the History of Nursery Rhymes http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962600
9. Animals on Trial http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961874
10. What was it like to live as a 16th century nun? http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962444
11. Historical Custom: The Flitch of Bacon Custom http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961380
12. Michaelmas in Medieval Britain http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962619
13. The Peculiar Custom of Electing Kings http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962286
14. Queen for a Day-of Bride Crowns of Gold and Myrtle https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/queen-for-a-day-of-bridecrowns-in-gold-and-myrtle/
15. Deadly Cat Customs http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/deadly-cat-customs.html
16. “Name that Member”: Weird Parliamentary Customs https://alwayswantedtobeareiter.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/name-that-member-weird-but-wonderful-british-parliamentary-customs/
17. Sweating with the Mohocks http://www.madamegilflurt.com/2015/09/sweating-with-mohocks.html
18. The Evil Eye and Vampires: Superstition in the Ottoman World http://www.kathryngauci.com/blog-06-feb-11-2015-evil-eye-vampires-superstition-ottoman-world/
19. Megaliths in the Popular Imagination http://mark-patton.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/negotiating-with-unexplained-megaliths.html
20. Odd Medieval Celebrations http://lanawilliams.net/home.html
21. The Unusual Marriage Customs of Medieval Ireland http://empowell.blogspot.com/2015/09/polygamy-divorce-more-unusual-marriage.html

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Harvest Time

An English Harvest Home by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm 1776
(Wikimedia Commons)

I grew up in an area where apple orchards were easy to find. Late August, September and October were beautiful months where the various fruits and other crops ripened and were gathered, leaves changed and hayrides were the order of the day. I remember riding with groups of friends in wagons filled with hay that were pulled by horses or tractors. These were usually late afternoon or evening events and frequently ended with bonfires where marshmallows were roasted, apples crunched and apple cider was drunk. Although not a traditional harvest celebration, it’s easy to see these activities as a continuation of harvest celebrations in general.

The blessing of a good harvest has been celebrated for thousands of years by all cultures. Pagan rites were adapted into Christian celebrations. In England, Lammas was celebrated on August 1 to celebrate the wheat harvest. (“Lammas” comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas which means “loaf mass”.) It was also known as the Feast of First Fruits. The English Catholic Church celebrated this until Henry VIII separated the Church from Rome. The harvest festival evolved to a local tradition, celebrated with local customs, and not necessarily on an annual basis. Even the date could vary, with the traditional August 1, Michaelmas (September 29), or the harvest moon (falling in September or Oct, depending on the year) all as possibilities. Whenever the celebration fell, it was a time of feasting on foods in season, in appreciation for a time of plenty. One fairly common tradition was the Harvest Cake, which was distributed to farm workers after the harvest was done.

I looked for recipes for a traditional English harvest cake that might have been available during the Georgian era. To my surprise, instead of heavy cakes loaded with apples, nuts and cinnamon, I found that seed cakes were popular. Made with caraway seeds, these seeds were symbolic of the wheat harvest. I found two recipes for seed cake in The Compleat HOUSEWIFE by Eliza Smith (my copy is a facsimile of the 16th edition which was first published in 1758). Although not specifically designated a harvest cake, it is easy to see that it would serve a large group. The recipe for “A good Seed-Cake” includes 5 pounds of flour, 4 pounds of sugar, 4 pounds of butter, a pound and a half of caraway comfits (candy-coated caraway seeds, about the size of a grain of rice), a half-pound of candied orange peel and a half-pound of citron. When mixed and put in the “hoop”, it was baked in a quick oven for 2 to 3 hours. This would yield a big cake! I can see that a few cakes like this would serve a lot of people, especially as part of a feast. (It’s interesting to note that caraway comfits were popular in Elizabethan time as a digestif, the anise-flavored seed being recognized as beneficial for indigestion and flatulence.)

As summer ends and autumn draws in, I think it is almost instinctive to think of the seasonal foods: apples, root vegetables, heartier dishes, and desserts to match. Last year at Christmas, I baked my first fruitcake and plan to do another this year. Maybe this year, for Thanksgiving, I will try a seed cake with plenty of caraway seeds. There is something so satisfying about bring old customs into my modern celebrations.

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Filed under Cooking, Eliza Smith, Georgian England, recipes, THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE

Fruitcake for Christmas

Recently, I posted about my secret fondness for fruitcake, and my intention to make one this year. Well, I did it, and it was a success! I went through several cookbooks, searched on-line for a recipe, and finally selected Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake (find it HERE: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/free-range-fruitcake-recipe/index.html). I did not follow it exactly (some differences in the fruit used, the liquid used to soak the fruit, and the nuts) but the method worked extremely well, and the fruitcake is delicious! Moist, dense, spicy, packed with fruit and nuts. My husband, who ducks and runs when fruitcake is mentioned, tasted it and liked it. (He ate the whole slice!) Here it is:

Fruitcake! 001

I’m so glad I made this cake, and plan to make it again. Not only is it delicious, but it’s part of a tradition going back hundreds of years. From Eliza Smith’s “Plumb Cake” in The Compleat Housewife and Hannah Glasses “Rich Cake” in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy to fruitcake of today, the ingredients and methods are strikingly similar. Baking from scratch is a special pleasure, one I had almost forgotten as I do it so seldom. Friends and family, who knows what may be in that Christmas gift next year? Just taste it before you make that face – I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

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Filed under Christmas, Cooking, Eliza Smith, recipes, THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE, thoughts

A confession as the festive season approaches…

I was at the grocery store today, and found myself picking up containers of raisins and currents. I looked for dried cherries, but will have to look elsewhere for those, and a few other items. With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, I have found my mind drifting toward … fruitcake.

Dare I confess? I really like fruitcake. Unfortunately, I rarely get to indulge because few people of my acquaintance will have a fruitcake anywhere in sight. If the subject comes up, it is met with either groans, laughter or (worst of all) the eyebrow lifted in disdain. Somehow, though, there is something about a cake full of dried fruits, nuts and spices that I really like (especially if a little good rum or brandy is introduced along the way).

Fruitcake of one kind or another has been around since the Romans. In my Georgian-era cook books, I’ve found a couple of recipes for different cakes with currants. However, my Fanny Farmer edition of 1896, and my great-grandmother’s 1894 copy of THE FAVORITE COOK BOOK have lots of recipes for fruitcakes of all descriptions. Apparently fruitcake was a specialty treat in the Georgian era and really came into its own in the Victorian era. They were a true special occasion cake, and were often used for wedding cakes. In fact, Fiona Cairns made a huge, tiered fruitcake for Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding cake (see it here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1381944/Royal-Wedding-cake-Kate-Middleton-requested-8-tiers-decorated-900-flowers.html). Every culture seems to have some version of a fruitcake or fruit bread. There is no clear indicator of when or why it became limited to a primarily Christmas dish, but that seems to be the tradition today.

When I was a child, I can remember fruitcake being a holiday staple, always around but more of a grown-up treat (thanks to the alcohol addition!). Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to appreciate it, it had become a mass-produced block and was considered unnecessary at best.

For the last several years, I have considered digging out a recipe and making one. Some of the recipes are quite complex and time-consuming. A few items like the candied citron and the neon-green candied cherries will definitely not be included. However, this may just be the year I go for it. I’ve already made a start on getting the ingredients together. Who knows, a home-made-from-scratch fruitcake might find a welcome this year!

(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

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Tasty Summer Blog Hop-Lucinda Brant, Guest Post

Welcome to the Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop!

It is my great pleasure to introduce the lovely and talented author Lucinda Brant, who will be posting her Tasty Summer Reads blog as my guest today. Lucinda writes Georgian historical romances with wit and adventure, and crimances (crime with lashings of romance). Her latest release SALT REDUX is the sequel to the internationally best selling SALT BRIDE, and is a 2013 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Finalist. You can read more about Lucinda on her website http://www.lucindabrant.com And now for Lucinda…

Welcome to the Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop!
New release:
SALT REDUX: Sequel to SALT BRIDE
Jane and Salt—four years of Happily Ever After
Sir Antony Templestowe—four years of Exile
Lady Caroline—four years of Heartache
Diana St. John—four years plotting Revenge

The time has come…
How does a brother cope with life knowing his sister is a murderess? How can a nobleman have the life he has always wanted when a lurking evil consumes his thoughts and haunts his dreams? What will it take for good to triumph over evil?
For readers who enjoyed Salt Bride, the story continues…
2013 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Finalist
http://lucindabrant.com/salt-redux.php

Salt-Redux-Cover-500x750

Now for the Random Tasty Questions:
1) When writing are you a snacker? If so sweet or salty?
I drink coffee; lots of it! Making a cup of coffee gets me up out from in front of the computer screen. I have a Nespresso machine. I take my coffee black with one teaspoon of raw sugar. I usually just drink the coffee but occasionally I will indulge in a snack, usually a piece of the latest cake I’ve made – some faves are Zucchini and Carrot cake, Pear, Raspberry and Pistachio bread, Orange, Almond and Coconut cake.

2) Are you an outliner or someone who writes by the seat of their pants?
I use an A5 20 ring binder full of notes for each WIP. I get dressed for work each day in my writing PJs. I buy my “writing” PJs from http://www.peteralexander.com.au which have funky designs for summer and winter. Ah, the life of the full time writer.

3) When cooking, do you follow a recipe or do you wing it?
I’ve been cooking now for a long time, so don’t follow recipes but my taste buds! But I am new to making cakes. My daughter, who has moved out of home, was the cupcake and sweets maker. So I will follow a recipe when making a cake or dessert.

4) What is next for you after this book?
I’m currently writing book 4 in my Roxton series, DAIR DEVIL, which begins on the night before book 3 ends. It’s about a minor character in book 3 Alisdair (Dair) Fitzstuart, heir to the earl of Strathsay, and Aurora (Rory) Talbot, granddaughter of England’s spymaster general. It should hit the cyber shelves before Christmas.

5) Last question…on a level of one being slightly naughty and ten being whoo hoo steamy, how would you rate your book?
My books have elements of naughty, but if you mean the mechanics of sex, then no. But there is enough sexual tension to get all hot and bothered, that’s for sure!

And now for the really tasty part: the recipe!

Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry and Almond Warm Summer Salad
(sorry, but I don’t use precise measurements – but this is easy to do!)

About 20 Brussels sprouts topped and chopped in half
a quarter of cabbage (any kind) chopped
a big handful of dried ready to eat cranberries
a big handful of slivered almonds
Rice Bran oil to mix

Steam Brussels sprouts in microwave until tender but firm (but not mushy)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat with oil
Place in an ovenproof dish and heat in a moderate oven until Brussels sprouts have caramelized

Serve as an accompaniment to lamb, chicken or beef.

I have tagged author Prue Batten to carry on the hop. Prue Batten writes Historical Fiction and Fantasy. Her fantasy novel A Thousand Glass Flowers received a silver medallion in the 2012 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. Her latest book is the second in her Gisborne saga Gisborne: Book of Knights.

I’ll now have you hop on over to Prue Batten’s blog! http://pruebatten.wordpress.com/

Other Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop participants are:
Christy English http://www.christyenglish.com/2013/07/17/tasty-summer-reads-blog-hop/

Anna Belfrage http://www.juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.com/ or http://www.juditharnopp.com/

Diana Russo Morin http://www.donnarussomorin.com/index.html

Nancy Goodman http://rakesroguesandromance.com/2013/07/11/welcome-to-the-tasty-summer-reads-blog-hop/

Lauren Gilbert https://laurengilbertheyerwood.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/tasty-summer-reads-blog-hop

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Filed under Blog Hop, Cooking, Guest post, recipes, Romance, Writing

The Hum of Summer

Moth by Eleazar Albin 1720

It’s summertime, and the air is full of buzzing and humming (not to mention whining and slapping noises!). I have purple porterweed blooming by my door. One early morning, I was absolutely entranced by the cloud of white butterflies that flitted from bloom to bloom. It was amazing and exquisite to watch. The same bush attracts honey bees; not so exquisite (and sometimes a little scary when they buzz up to me when I go out), but the hum of bees as they busy themselves in the flowers is still an important element of summer. I do like honey so I give the bees plenty of room.

Then, there are those other summer visitors: flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and more. Not to mention that ancient scourge, bed bugs! How to eliminate pests without affecting the pleasant and beneficial insects, or ourselves, has been a concern down through time. While some of the earlier remedies are rather off-putting, others are pleasant as well as effective.

An infallible Receipt to destroy Bugs in Eliza Smith’s THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE is a concoction of egg whites and quicksilver (mercury) at the rate of 1 ounce of quicksilver for every five or six eggs. These ingredients are mixed well, and beat together in a wooden dish with a brush until the quicksilver is barely visible. This is applied to the cleaned and disassembled bedstead (brushed clean, not washed). The mixture must be rubbed into all cracks and joints and allowed to dry. You cannot wash the bedstead afterwards. According to the recipe, the first application will destroy the bugs; if not, a second application will finish the job. This is clearly a remedy for the loathsome bedbug. However, we now know that mercury is highly toxic. The idea of leaving an emulsion of egg white and mercury on a bed is almost as distasteful at the bug itself; I was also not attracted by the idea of not washing the bedstead before or after the application. (The old fashioned remedy of burning the bed suddenly seems more reasonable!) Don’t try this at home…

It’s so much pleasanter to think of lavender and its many uses. It is a wonderful insect repellent. I had excellent results using it to deter silverfish and other fabric-loving bugs that loved to lurk in my laundry room in a previous residence. No matter how I cleaned or what I used, the little wretches would reappear, until I made lots of little lavender bags and tucked them into the backs of shelves, in corners and so forth. They never came back. Dried lavender, alone or mixed with other herbs such as rosemary, not only gives clothes or linens stored in closets, chests of drawers or other storage containers a wonderful smell; it discourages moths as well. So much more pleasant than moth balls, and not poisonous!

A few drops of lavender oil or essence in water makes a very soothing solution; it can soothe a slight burn and helps relieve an itch. A Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Receipes contains a recipe for Lavender Water, and instructions “To Make A Sweet Pot” which seems to be a potpourri which contains violets, roses, thyme, lavender and other flowers and herbs. A health food store I frequent carries a wonderful lavender witch hazel solution. Culpeper’s COMPLETE HERBAL & English Physician credits lavender with numerous healing virtues. If nothing else, a spray of lavender water on a pillow creates a lovely and soothing atmosphere for a good night’s sleep. You won’t even notice all that humming!

Take a look at:
Hickman, Peggy. A JANE AUSTEN HOUSEHOLD BOOK with Martha Lloyd’s recipes. 1977: David & Charles Inc. North Pomfreet, NY.

Culpeper, Nicholas. Culpeper’s COMPLETE HEREBAL and English Physician. 1981: Harvey Sales-reproduces from edition published in 1826.

Smith, Eliza. The Compleat HOUSEWIFE. 1994: Studio Editions Ltd., London, England. First published in 1758.

Image: Wikipedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Albin_Eleazar_Moth_1720.png

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Filed under bugs, Culpeper's Herbal, Eliza Smith, herbal, History, Jane Austen, lavender, recipes, summer, THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE, thoughts