Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pearl Bailey's Chicken Fricassée

Once again, it is time to celebrate that extraordinary lady known as the "Ambassador of Love" Pearl Bailey. And today, today in order to commemorate the day she was born, I would like to share with you a recipe for Pearl Bailey's Chicken Fricassée.

Do you FRICK-a-see?

Chances are, if you have ever fried up a batch of chicken, you've come pretty darn close to fricasséeing. In essence, fricasséeing is a combination of two cooking methods, frying and stewing. Most colonial fricassee recipes do not include vegetables. However, there are a few exceptions. For instance, take Thomas Jefferson's original recipe for Chicken Fricassée. Not only does the recipe instruct stewing the chicken, it contains mushrooms and onions too! His recipe was most likely quite similar to the one show above from The White House Cookbook.

Carolina Fricassée Dinner, each ingredient available and popular in the 1700s: Eliza Pinckney's Chicken Fricassée served over hot buttered noodles. Cold Tomato Salad, Summer Squash and Onions, and Whole Steamed Artichokes. Strawberry Shortcake and fresh fruit, a fitting finale. The Southern Heritage Plain and Fancy Poultry Cookbook ©1983

Molly O'Neill is one of my favorite cookbook authors. You don't hear much about her these days, but this former New York Times food columnist has quite a list of cookbooks to her credit. My newest very best favorite is the 800+ page treasury One Big Table. Here is what chef and author Thomas Keller had to say about One Big Table; A Portrait of American Cooking.

"Part cookbook, part documentary, Molly O'Neill's One Big Table is an accurate snapshot of American and highlights the unforgettable threads that make its culinary tapestry complete. While Molly opens a window to our past, she also offers undeniable proof that our definition of "American cuisine" is constantly evolving."

"Molly O’Neill’s Epic Road Trip to Discover the Heart of America’s Food Culture" was ten years in the making. On page 353 of One Big Table, I found this "modernized" recipe for Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassée.

Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassée
St. Louis, Missouri
Charles Insler, a law clerk for a federal judge in St. Louis, brings the same mental precision to cooking that he does to his work: he compiles evidence, clues and insights into each dish he tries. While researching the food preferences of the American presidents, Mr. Insler first learned of Jefferson’s penchant for fine food. This recipe is a perfect demonstration of how Jefferson “brought America into the modern food era.” Using the traditional French technique of fricassee, the dish calls for olive oil, which the president imported from Italy, along with mustard from France...Mr. Insler revised the original recipe, which calls for a little butter to finish the dish. He prefers the richness of cream for his fricassee sauce.

One 3-1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp sweet paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs all–purpose flour
1 cup water
½ cup dry white wine
2 tbs (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 ounces white mushrooms, stemmed and halved
2 tsp minced fresh sage
½ cup half-and-half
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1. Pat the chicken pieces dry and season with the nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate.
2. Stir the flour into the fat remaining in the skillet and cook about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Whisk in the water and wine and scrape up any browned bits.
3. Return the chicken to the skillet, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 175°F in thighs and drumsticks and 165°F in the breast. Transfer the chicken to serving platter and cover to keep warm. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup.
4. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in reserved sauce, half-and-half, and sage. Bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve. Serves 4.

To fricassée was to be thrifty. It still is. In colonial times, matured game was often to tough to simply "cook and serve." The housewife soon discovered that meats could be made more tender when slow cooked or stewed, Later, they added vegetables and sometimes even dumplings to complete a whole hearty inexpensive meal. Brown Fricassée of Chicken came later:)

"In modern French usage, the word fricassée applies almost exclusively to a method of preparing poulty in a white sauce. In earlier times (and to this day in English-speaking countries), the term denoted various kinds of stew; stew made with white or brown stock and made not only from poultry but from meat, fish and vegetables. Nowadays, a fricassée of poultry is prepared in very much the same way as a blanquette (white ragout), a dish usually made with veal or lamb"Source:Larousse Gastronomique, ©1961 p.431

Pearl Bailey for Paramount Chicken circa 1973

I don't know about you, but I've about had enough of stewing around about Pearl Bailey's Fricassée. Here goes. Enjoy!!! For more recipes from this Paramount Chicken booklet featuring Pearl Bailey, here's the link to last year's post.

revised March 2013

1. Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassee (yet another)
2. Abe Lincoln liked Fricasseed Chicken
3. Fricassée of Chicken, Lobster Mushrooms and Florence Fennel with Bulgar Wheat Fontal Polenta
4. Foolproof Fricassee
5. Jamaican-style Chicken Fricassee. From"Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen,"
6. Martha Stewart Chicken Fricassee (step by step)
7. Julia Child's Chicken Fricasse(Fricassee De Poulet A L'Ancienne)
8. Fricassee of Chanterelles

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's Pecan Day!

Don't get all "nutty" on me now. I know that sliver of Nectarine Pecan Cake above looks refreshingly Pecanolicious! However, it's gleaned from a back issue of Chocolatier Magazine. It was photographed by New Jersey photographer John Paul Endress. (see all resources below) I'm not sure if you've heard or not but since publication of this issue of Chocolatier in 1989, the magazine has been blended into another publication called Dessert Professional Magazine which also just so happens to have a website; dessertprofessional.com. As for the Nectarine Pecan Cake oh my, oh my, its recipe was contributed by none other than Pastry Chef; Jim Dodge. Do you have a copy of The American Baker on your culinary bookshelf? If you do, then I'm confident you have been "properly" introduced to the New Hampshire born recipient of the 1988 James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Award; Jim Dodge.

Since opening the Pendexter Mansion, a hotel in New Hampshire, in 1794, the Dodge family has been in the hospitality business for seven generations. Jim Dodge, who cut his teeth at his parents’ resort, the Inn at Steele Hill and Squam Lakes Club, was no exception. But he took a different tack, moving from hotelier to chef after he met Swiss chef Fritz Albicker while working at Wentworth-by-the-Sea. Dodge worked in the kitchen at Albicker’s Strawberry Court in Portsmouth before moving to the West Coast, where he spent ten years as executive pastry chef at San Francisco’s Stanford Court. He set up shop in Hong Kong in the early 1990s with the American Pie, a restaurant and pastry shop, eventually developing a second location and a wholesale bakery. Back in the States, Dodge was as busy as ever: appearing on In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, acting as Senior Vice President at the New England Culinary Institute, and working as the Director of Food Services at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Among his many cookbooks are Baking with Jim Dodge, and the 1988 James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Award-winning The American Baker. Today, Dodge works for Bon Appétit, a restaurant management company committed to socially responsible practices, in Los Angeles. source

Just this morning, I was visiting Mary Ann's blog Meet Me in the Kitchen when I became "breathless" over her latest recipe post for S'mores Lava Cakes. I know I should be getting on with Pecan Day recipe post, I mean really, how much longer should I ask you to "hang on" for Nectarine Pecan Cake? Would you mind if I just asked you to wait a few more minutes while I tell you a quick story? Thanks...

You may be surprised to learn I actually baked the recipe for Nectarine Pecan Cake way back in 1989. I know, I'm always reminding and whining about how I dream about baking so many of the tempting recipes I encounter when visiting blogs such as Mary Ann's. Fact is, I have an allergic reaction when I touch flour. Not only am I allergic to flour, I have a very unusual reaction to most silky soft powdery things such as, cornstarch, baby powder, confectioners' sugar and chalk. Admittedly, it's a rather strange phenomenon. The cornstarch and baby flour backlash is barely acceptable however, the flour reception often leaves my hands burning and itching. Quite frankly, I often cringe at the thought of these ingredients in their raw form, although, I probably should reconsider more often than I do but, this hypersensitivity to fine powdery substances does not make me overenthusiastic about baking. In any case, in steps Jim Dodge.

Like most culinary magazines, Chocolatier offered commentary with many of their articles. The fine Nectarine Pecan Cake cooking class article by chocolate expert, Janice Wald Henderson, was no exception...You may want to check the local library for her book The New Cuisine of Hawaii: Recipes from the Twelve Celebrated Chefs of Hawaii Regional Cuisine which I believe is out of print. (I'm pretty sure Jim Dodge's The American Baker is also out of print) Not only did the article give step by step directions for preparing the cake, (which by the way I won't be scanning the steps today; just the recipe) it also provided a glimpse of the personal triumphs and obstacles Mr. Dodge has had to adjust to in his professional career. From the 1989 article:

...Ask Jim Dodge, one of this country's most acclaimed bakers. He can tell you all about unusual problems standing in the way of success. This famed dessert maker is, indeed, allergic to flour.

"It took me a long time to figure out my problem," he confesses over breakfast. Jim pushes aside his coffee cup and grins, "I couldn't stay in the pastry shop. I'd get chills from sneezing so much. Finally, I made the connection and went to an allergist. Now I take medication, so I can deal with it."

The entire Chocolatier article is compelling enough to repeat but alas, the magazine is worth a search. As a matter of fact, you may remember the Chocolate Snowball recipe I posted about from this same edition. (the link goes straight to the recipe) So inspiring was the Jim Dodge article, it gave me the courage to attempt my hand at creating the recipe for "fellow" colleagues who were "dropping" in for a Spring Fling. Although the presentation was not as picture perfect as above, the recipe only called for 1/3 cup of cake flour for the Genoise and 2-1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar for the rum buttercream. I muddled through. I'm sure my hesitation these days, is impart "mind over matter" and my lack of complete and utter need to bake such sinful creations, though it was a nice reminder to myself that I have indeed, overcome the fear when so inclined to do more then "window shop."

Ms. Henderson describes the Nectarine Pecan Cake "Delicious, not difficult, is the operative word." (click to enlarge)

This dessert--comprised of buttery crisp wafers, moist genoise, fresh nectarines and rum buttercream--is a striking example of Jim's deep understanding of harmony among ingredients. The cake is presented with nectarine rum sauce; despite its subtlety, it clerverly accentuates the cake's star ingredients. Jim exhuberantly launches into the logic behind the dessert. He chose nectarines because few people know how to incorporate them into baked desserts. "I devised the wafers to add buttery crispness. They balance the drier crunch of the pecans. The rum contributes warmth. It awakens all the flavors of the dessert...

Sadly, I no longer have my copy of The American Baker. It was quite a few years before I picked off that book on my bookshelf and I thought it a shame for such simple straight forward recipes to not be appreciated by someone who does not have such an aversion to baking. It is now in the non-allergic hands of my daughter, Michele.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit for Pecan Day. I will be sharing more recipes for Pecan Month in April. A funny thing happened last year when I celebrated Pecan Day with Nanaimo Bars, I actually did the post in April because I had forgotten to document the reason why Pecan Day was in March. Thankfully, this year I did find quite informative documentation for why we celebrate Pecan Day in March. It comes from Vegetarians in Paradise which, quite frankly is, an awesomely informative website. Absolutely worth the trip if only to discover the medicinal properties of pecans. (trying to control cholesterol?)

In one of his horticultural endeavors, Thomas Jefferson transplanted some pecan trees from the Mississippi Valley to his home in Monticello. At that time he presented some of the trees to George Washington who planted them on March 25, 1775 at his Mount Vernon home. Washington referred to pecans as "Mississippi nuts." Three of those original trees still thrive on the property at Mount Vernon. The pecan was a favorite nut of both presidents, who frequently snacked on handfuls of them. In fact, George Washington was said to carry pecans in his pocket frequently.

One more reason to celebrate today; It's International Waffle Day! I didn't "Waffle" Around last year for International Waffle Day. I just dropped off a few quick recipes from Aunt Jemima and included a recipe for Praline Sauce. Here's the image link for the recipes if you don't have time to visit now. And, here's the link for the post which is actually really short. There's also a recipe for Nanaimo Bars and pecan links over at the Pecan Month post I did last year.

1. John Paul Endress
2. Chocolate Almond Cake (Jim Dodge)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

National Sauce Month

The Little Sabaw Book Today must be your lucky day! Why you ask? Well, I was just about to put the final touches on my post for National Sauce Month and lo and behold, IT arrived. Do you see it, it's that little gem of a book to left. What does The Little Sabaw Book have to do with National Sauce Month? Indirectly, one might think nothing. I mean after all, it isn't National Soup Month, that's in January. Oh, in case you don't know what "sabaw" translates to, like me:) sabaw according to the little gem's author, Gene Gonzalez, means sopas or soup, "the basic sustenance for body and spirit on the Philippine table." The Little Sabaw Book arrived all the way from the Philippines just in time for Sauce Month. Here's the best part, like it could get any better, it was a gift from "fellow" blogger, photo journalist, Dennis Villegas. You may remember me mentioning Dennis, once or twice, or more, you see, Dennis was the Winner of the Jell-O Rules Give-Away event I had back in, I think it was February. Wasn't it just the sweetest gesture for him to send this darling book to me? You can just imagine my excitement, me being a cookbook collector and all. I will treasure it always. Thank you so much Dennis:)

Anyway, when the book arrived, like I said, I was just getting ready to post some rather tedious information about the history of sauce making, how the ingredients in sauces are combined, structured and some samples of traditional and contemporary versions of sauces. The recipes were to come from a rather comprehensive book titled Sauces Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making by none other than former chef and cooking instructor, James Peterson. As recently as March 2008, James Peterson shared his cooking wisdom with the folks over at gastronomersguide.com. I left the link below if you want to visit later:) Now, I'll admit, this book is not one of those reference books that sits on the shelf begging to be viewed. It's huge and weighs a ton! Just the thought of raising these ol' arms of mine to retrieve it from the top shelf is enough for me to pass the sauce. However, as you may know from previous visits to this blog, I strive to be a bit comprehensive when "discussing" the food event of the day/month and March is Sauce Month. Is there a better book than Sauces? Not in my book there isn't although, we all know I'm no professional chef! There must be some weight to the claim "it is the most definitive book on sauce." After all, it won the Cookbook of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation in 1992.

Sauces Classical & Contemporary...While teaching, Jim [James Peterson] wrote his first book, Sauces. The book was much acclaimed—one reviewer called it “one of the best books in English of the [then 20th] century.” Richard Olney, Jim's mentor, compared it with Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire. The book went on to win the prestigious Cookbook of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation. Nine more books followed, virtually all award winners or nominees...bio

In September of 2008, a third revised edition of Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making was once again published by John Wiley and Sons. It appears, everyone has their favorite edition of this relished title as I discovered in the 44 reviews posted at amazon. I mention this because the edition I am sharing with you today is, the second edition.

Asian Sauces

I got to thinking. "Self" I said. Rather than getting all saucier over sauces like "The Chef of Kings and The King of Chefs," the great Auguste Escoffier why not lean toward the light side with a few Asian Sauces from the "definitive book on sauce." This way, when I do post a few recipes from my "first-class" book from Dennis, readers will have a resource. Makes sense to me. 

According to Jim, Peterson that is. The Romans cooked with a variety of fermented fish sauces. The Roman concentrated fish pickle sauce was called “garum”. I actually posted about garum and it's relationship to Worcestershire sauce on the anniversary of Lea & Perrins in 2008. I'll leave the link below if you want to explore that fishpickle of a story. Fermented fish sauces are often seen in Asian cooking recipes. You may recognize them it as nampla in this Thai adapted recipe for Thai Cucumber Salad from Kalyn's Kitchen, nuoc nam in this Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp recipe found at Closet Cooking or as patis in our "little gem" stocked with recipes from the Philippines.

In the section on ingredients, James Peterson explains the importance of using the best available ingredients. Under Asian Sauces, Condiments, and other Asian Ingredients he offers a detailed list of "must haves" for the Asian kitchen pantry. The selected sauces include, fish sauce which he explains below:

Fish Sauce: This bottled sauce is as fundamental to Southeast Asian cooking as soy sauce is to the cuisine of China. Fish sauce is made by allowing anchovies, other small fish, and occasionally squid to ferment in barrels for months at a time. The liquid released becomes fish sauce. Just as olice oil comes in different grades and potencies, so too does fish sauce (although the best quality will cost only a dollar or two more than the cheaper). Fish sauce keeps for at least a year in the refrigerator, although it may grow dark.

Mr. Peterson doesn't offer a recipe, per se, however, he does offer a few brands to consider.

Although much of the best fish sauce is from Vietnam, Thai brands are easier to find and are perfectly suitable. Golden Boy Brand, Three Crabs Brand, and Flying Lion Brand are all excellent. Tiparos Brand is also good and widely available.

I did a quick search in google and did find the Golden Boy Brand available online. I didn't check the others. Another ingredient suggestion used as a condiment in Southeast Asian cooking is Shrimp Paste. Shrimp paste is made by "baking" shrimp in the sun.

...It has a strong fishy smell that takes some getting use to. But when used discreetly it gives an essential depth of flavor to Southeast Asian sauces and stews. If used in the way most recipes recommend (by cooking in oil before liquid is added), its odor is overwhelming. An alternative is to wrap the shrimp paste in aluminum foil and then toast it in a skillet and let it cool before it is sued, or simply stir in small amounts directly into sauces and stews. Trachang brand from Thailand is excellent.

I don't want to get carried away, we all know I have a tendency to do that:) but I do want to make note of Sesame Oil and Kafeer Lime as I did see them both in a few of the recipes in The Little Sabaw Book

Sesame Oil: This intensely flavored, deep brown oil is used sparingly in many Asian sauces and, nowadays, in Western-style sauces as well. Use only dark sesame oil, made from roasted seeds, and preferably a brand from Japan. Avoid pale and clear sesame oil sold in health food stores (it has little flavor). Maruhan Brand is excellent.
Kafeer Lime: Kafeer lime rind, leaves, and juice are all used in Southeast Asian cooking. Kafeer lime is closely related to our common lime, but the flavor of kafeer lime is more subtle and more lemony. Kafeer lime leaves are simmered whole in Southeast Asian sauces and stews in much the same way as bay leaves enter into their Western equivalents.

Kafeer lime rind, sold frozen in Asian markets, is usually ground to a paste as a component of Thai curries and kafeer lime juice (difficult to find) is used to provide acidity. The zest of the common lime can be used as a substitute for kafeer lime leaves and rind, and regular lime juice can be used to provide acidic tang.

Kafeer leaves are sold fresh or frozen in Asian markets. Both the leaves and rind will keep frozen for several months.

Before I leave you with a recipe for Vietnamese Spicy Fish Sauce (Nuoc Cham) to close out Sauce Month, I would like to list a few highlights included in chapter nineteen from Sauces.

Many classically trained cooks are perplexed when confronted with an Asian sauce recipe. Not only are the ingredients sometimes completely unrecognizable but the approach and logic are profoundly different from those used in making "Western" sauces.

In summary:

1. Unlike European sauces which are designed to concentrate the flavors of the main ingredients, Asian sauces are designed to accent or contrast with the main ingredient.
2. Many Asian sauces use the same techniques as their Western counterparts. They are often begun by "sweating" aromatic ingredients in small amounts of fat.
3. Asian sauces are usually thickened with coconut milk, cooked lentils, kuzu root (a starch much like arrowroot) or nut butters, instead of flour, butter or cream.
4. When trying to "fuse" Asian ingredients with "tried and true" recipes, tread gently.

click to enlarge

Reminder: Tomorrow is International Waffle Day. See, I told you today was your lucky day! I did a quick post for International Waffle Day last year. Here's an image of the Aunt Jemima recipes I posted just in case you rather skip the post and get right into the recipes. Enjoy!!!

1. March is National Sauce Month
2. James Peterson Shares His Cooking Wisdom
3. Sauces by James Peterson (a review)
4. Sauce Primer
5. James Peterson's Butterscotch Sauce (more recipes at bottom)
6. Chef James Peterson's Plump Poultry
7. James Peterson's Mushrooms à la Grecque
8. Oxtail Soup - A James Peterson Recipe
9. Q & A Forum With James Peterson
10. What a Fishpickle! That Lea & Perrins

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Simnel Cakes for Mothering Sunday

As a tribute to my UK visitors and Mothering Sunday, I would like to post a recipe for Simnel Cake from a cookbook titled We Gather Together A Cookbook of Menus and Recipes By the Wives of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church, (c) 1976.

Traditionally referred to as Refreshment Sunday, Laetare Sunday and Rose Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent is know as Mothering Sunday in the UK. It is on this day that those who were baptized return to their "Mother" churches and offer a gift, usually in the form of cake called a Simnel Cake. “Mid-Lent Sunday” is also a day where those who have fasted during the Advent season get a day of relaxation or a day to refresh. On Refreshment Sunday, you may notice that the church too takes a break from its traditional Advent season colors which are replaced with the color rose, hence, Rose Sunday.

We Gather Together
Mid-Lent; Mothering Sunday
When the lenten fast was more rigorous, a "break" was permitted halfway through...This break, the fourth Sunday in Lent, usually comes in March and is called by several names, the nicest being "Laetare" from the opening Latin words of the Mass, "Rejoice!" It is also called "Refreshment Sunday" and "Mothering Sunday," possibly from the Epistle which refers to Jerusalem as the "Mother of us all." So, the custom arose of visiting one's cathedral, the "mother-church," and if possible one's own early mother. To her one brought a small gift, often a simnel cake. Robert Herrick, the seventeenth century poet, refers to the day in these lines.
I'll to thee a simnel bring
'Gainst thou go'st a-mothering;
So that, when she blesseth thee
Half that blessing thou'lt give me.

Once again from the book.

There are many good rules for simnel cake. The word seems to come from the Latin simila, meaning fine flour. Simnel Bread appears in many forms on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. In some churches a large loaf of bread is blessed and eaten as part of the Communion service, or it may be blessed at the service and shared at the coffee hour. The bread-in our day it has become more cake than bread-may be baked in cake tims of any desired size and frosted and decorated in any appropriate manner. The following recipe is a variation in the form of little cakes with almond paste filling.
Simnel Cakes
3 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup currants
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup candied mixed peel, chopped fine
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add flour, currants, raisins, and peel. Make an almond paste, using:
3/4 cup almond paste
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons flour
Mix these ingredients together to a smooth, stiff paste. Using paper linings for tiny cupcake tins, place 1 teaspoon cake batter in the shell, then 1/2 teaspoon almond paste and top with a layer of cake batter. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Make 4 dozen cupcakes. (contributed by Martha Porteus)

Before I forget, tomorrow is the birth day of Fannie Farmer, often referred to as "the mother of level measurements." You may like to visit a post I did last year titled, Fannie Farmer Tales. Enjoy Mothering Sunday:)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sharing "The Good Herb"

Happy Spring!

I found an awesome book to share with you today. It's called The Good Herb and was written by the co-author of The Healing Foods Judith Benn Hurley, which I also have in PA. Have I ever told you I went to school to become a nutritionist? Probably not. Well, its a long story so I'll spare you the details. In any case, it was while attending nutritional school that my affair with herbs really got rooted. I have always been fascinated by the healing properties of herbs, and, as most of you already know, I'm equally as intrigued with culinary exploration. When I was introduced to herbal medicine as prerequisite to nutritional well-being, I was indeed hooked!

Did you know each year The International Herb Association celebrates National Herb Week? It's the week before Mother's Day. This year, they have named Bay Laurel the herb of the year. "Bay has amazing medicinal properties." However, today, I would like to introduce you to one of my very best favorite culinary herbs, the scented geranium. Scented leaf Pelargoniums, otherwise known as scented geraniums are not like your typical garden type geranium. While it shouldn't be, it sometimes gets confusing. I searched and I searched to find a basic explanation for the difference and this website is the best I could do for now. Although I'm not in the habit of leaving amazon links on this blog, I thought I would point you in the direction of an excellent book available which explains the difference between Geraniums and Pelargoniums. If you read the reviews, you will get a general idea of the difference.

After all this searching, I'm even confused. The easiest way for me to describe the scented geraniums I grow is to say, they are not hardy geraniums. In other words, I bring them in the house for the winter which, by the way, they absolutely love, almost as much as they enjoy the outdoors. The last time I went back home to PA in early March, one of the cuttings I took off my lemon scented geranium (Pelargonium crispum) was just about to bloom. Oh how I wish I could see it now:( The picture you see to the left is a picture of the mother plant when it was outside this past summer. It has grown straight and tall at least a foot since being brought inside. What I usually do when I get back home is give it a bath in the bath tub. I did buy those new glass watering bulbs a while back but, I'm not sure if they work. It doesn't seem to matter though, scented geraniums are native to South Africa (where they have been cultivated since the 17th century) and don't depend on water as much as the hardy geranium. I usually try to get back home at least every two weeks. I do believe they look forward to their baths though. Once they get in that bath tub and I turn on the hot water, the steam filters under the door and the tangy aroma wafts throughout the house. It's a GREAT way to freshen the house after I've been gone for two weeks. That's only one of the gifts scented geraniums offer. You barely brush past them and the aroma nearly knocks your smelly socks off! They say the cluster of flowers aren't much to look at but, I happen to disagree. Yes, the scent may be in the leaves however, the flower clusters are perky reminders of simplicity at its best.

There's one dilemma that you may encounter when shopping for scented leaf geraniums. Choosing. There are approximately seventy-five different scented geranium varieties. I think the easiest way to decide which foliage scented geranium will bring you the most pleasure is by selecting for purpose.

Do you dread the thought of those pesky mosquitos invading your backyard barbecues this summer? One Citronella Geranium (Mosquito Plant) is said to repel the buggers for about 10 square feet. Buy one less oil of citronella candle this year and give this lavender bearing flower little gem a try. It may not get rid of all your garden mosquitos but it sure will reduce their visits. A sort of natural mosquito repellent! Perhaps the greatest use for scented geraniums is cosmetics and perfume. Pelargonium oils are extracted for use in aromatherapy and perfumery. Rose Scented Geraniums are one such Pelargonium grown for the perfume industry. They also make a refreshing tonic for your skin as Ms. Hurly mentions in The Good Herb.

...To try it, add three drops of the essential oil to half cup of your favorite commercial cleanser, toner, or moisturizer. You can also combine three drops of essential oil of rose geranium with half cup of spring water in a spray bottle. Use it to mist your face before applying moisturizer (or after shaving) and through out the day, even over makeup.

There are a variety of ways to extract the essential oils from the petals and leaves of plants. I have found the easiest way is with the use of almond oil, although any unscented oil can be used. I don't want to get all "scientific" today, else you may just get distracted before you even realize how simple it can be. The methods used in the making of perfume and aromatherapy are usually concerned with optimum quality while concentrating on little waste. As you may already know, essential oils can be quite costly. Here is a link which offers tips for harvesting essential oils at home. The other basic method I have used is a bit tedious but less expensive than investing in a distilling machine. In the most basic explanation, I harvest the leaves, bruise them, put them in canning jars, and pour enough Vodka to cover the leaves. I then set it in the sun for a couple of weeks. What happens is the oil from the leaves separates into the alcohol. Here's the tedious part. Using cotton balls, I soak up the oil which has separated from the alcohol and squeeze into a smaller perfume like jar. I like them with a fairy wide mouth. I've even used prescription bottle because they filter out light. I suppose this is a crude way of doing it but I have used this method successfully for years. I'm a child of the flower power movement and this is how I learned:) I have little droppers that I use to add the oils to soaps, candles potpourris and therapeutic solutions such as aromatherapy. I found a blog which offers detailed instructions for the oil based method which is probably best for beginners.

The Good Herb

All pelargoniums have a recognizable scent. Whether it be nutmeg, coconut, pineapple, (I like pineapple sage too:) apple, peppermint, peach cream, lemon or orange fizz, a brief encounter, a slight brushing or a friendly squeeze, will emit the scented aroma. Herbalist have used the dried leaves in scented pillows and in Victorian times, scented geraniums were strewn across floors during hot summer nights as a way of deodorizing the stagnant air. The undried leaves of scented geraniums are very soft and velvety. They have tiny, almost prickly undersides which are home to the essential oils. Most can be grown from seeds but they are easily propagated by cuttings. The one thing to remember though is, they will not survive outside in gardening zones above zone nine. I keep mine outside in pots filled with a standard herb soil mix in full sun in the warm weather and bring them in when the nights begin to cool. I personally like to add a handful of compost to the mixture which I find intensifies their fragrance. They also may need to be watered more often in pots but that is usually the case with most potted plants. I also find scented geraniums are better in pots anyway as they have a habit of getting a bit unruly in the garden. They like to sprawl and border on become quite pesky like mint.

Now, we get to my favorite quality of scented geraniums. Cooking! Although, you can add the delicate, organically grown flowers to salads, the leaves are the main ingredient used when cooking with scented geraniums. "As we speak" I have tubs of sugar soaking up the essential oils from my lemon scented geranium leaves at home in PA. I also have tubs of sugar doing the same with orange fizz and the nutmeg varieties. (Wonderful in Nutmeg Scented Geranium Jelly. They sit right next to my vanilla bean infused sugar:) Really now, how cool is that!!! Can you just imagine their uses just in the sugar alone. Beverages, baking, and even in sauces and soups. When I get to PA on a permanent basis, I will once again venture into the variety of ways to add scented geranium leaves to my cooking repertoire. Once again from The Good Herb

Scented geraniums, particularly rose, can uplift pallid foods such as custards, and puddings, lending a surprising floral bouquet. Try heating about three tablespoons (not packed) dried rose geranium leaves in two cups of milk. Let the mixture cool, then strain away the leaves and use the milk to make your favorite vanilla pudding. (To dry rose geranium leaves, arrange them in a single layer on a dinner plate and store, uncovered, in a cool, dry place for about a week.)

The fresh leaves can also be a grace note in jellies, vinegars, honey, and dessert syrups-or even floated in finger bowls. Use five fresh leaves for each cup of liquid. Or try an old Shaker baking trick to lend sweetness and aroma to pie crusts by pressing about a dozen fresh leaves into dough before filling and baking. Another lovely way to use the leaves is to tuck one into your sugar bowl to perfume the sugar for future uses, such as sweetening a cup of herbal tea.

The following recipe for Rose Crème Fraîche is also from the book: "Fragrant leaves add floral notes to this classic topping."

Rose Crème Fraîche
8 ounces heavy cream
1/4 cup loosely packed dried rose geranium leaves
1 tablespoon buttermilk
Combine: the cream and the leaves in a small saucepan. Heat until bubbles are just beginning to form around the edges of the pan and the cream reaches about 130 degrees (F) Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Stir: buttermilk into the cream, then pour the mixture into a glass jar and cover it tightly. Shake for about 2 minutes. Then wrap the jar in a towel and keep it in a warm place for about 8 hours, until it is almost as thick as sour cream.

Set: a coarse mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the Crème Fraîche through it. With the back of a spoon, press the leaves against the strainer as hard as you can to create pale green swirl of aromatic oil from the leaves in the white of the crème. Keep pressing until the leaves are totally macerated and the Crème is fragrant. Serve with fresh fruit salad or drizzled on a fruit tart.

Makes about 1 cup-50 calories per 1 tablespoon serving, 6 grams fat, almost 100 percent of calories from fat. Note: If this recipe is too high in fat for you, cut the fat in half by mixing the Crème Fraîche with an equal amount of nonfat vanilla yogurt before serving.

Here are two "vintage" recipes:

The Settlement Cookbook: Fresh & Stewed Fruit Strawberries au Natural:
Pick over the berries, but do not remove stems. Place carefully in colander in a pan of cold water, so the water will cover the berries; lift colander up and down, change the water and thus wash the berries. Place berries in small plate, on rose geranium leaves, if desired, and at the side put one leaf with a tablespoon of powdered sugar. Or omit the leaves, have small mound of powder sugar in center of plate and surround with the berries, or stem and wash the berries, place in sauce dish and serve with sugar or with sugar and cream.
Tried & True Recipes (1894) Rose Geranium Jelly:
Drop one large or two small leaves of rose geranium plant into a quart of apple jelly a few moments before it is done, and you will add a novel and peculiarly delightful flavor to the jelly.

Not all scented geraniums lend their fragrance to culinary use comfortably. Not to worry, besides their culinary uses, I can not stress enough their qualities as fragrant additions to dusting powders, bath oils, and both facial scrubs and creams. Their medicinal and aromatic qualities are touched upon in an article published in Herbalpedia. (I left the PDF file link below) A recipe from that article: Happy Spring!
Geranium Bath Oil
1 cup rose- or lemon-scented geranium leaves
1 /4 cups baby oil
2 drops oil of geranium
Place all the ingredients in a jar and leave to steep.
Use 1 Tbsp of this oil in bathwater as a treat for your skin.

1. Geranium Culture for Home Gardeners
2. Hardy Geraniums (un-scented variety)
3, How to Grow Scented Geraniums
4. How To Extract Essential Oil From Flowers
5. Herbalpedia
1. Rose Geranium Cream
2.. Scented Geranium Lemonade (The Splendid Table)
3. Scented Geranium Cake (Martha Stewart)
4. Rose Geranium Pound Cake
5. Meringues with Scented Geranium
6. Citrus-Scented Geranium Cookies (Taste Of Home)
7. Rosemary for Remembrance (another favorite herb of mine:) by Adelma Simmons

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Befuddled by a Muddle of Stew

This is the tale of which came first The Muddle or The Stew!

The Plot

As an utterly innocent gesture, I made plans to celebrate National Poultry Day, which just so happens to be March 19, rather than celebrate St. Joseph's Day, which also just happens to be today. My reasoning for this choice is quite simple. I just couldn't do a post for St. Joseph's Day without baking, yes I said baking, a cookie sheet flowing with chocolate glazed, creamy filled, cream puffs. You know the ones I mean. But, that's just it, how can one speak of oozing cream puffs without providing a tempting image. As you can see, words can not do it alone:) So, in my mind's eye, I decided I would save the Cream Puff post for another year and provide you with some goodies for St. Joseph's Day and be on my merry way to National Poultry Day. I can certainly get away with popping up a recipe for Chicken So and So and have a fairly easy posting day while sparing my frequent visitors another long drawn out post. Sorry ya'll not today!!!

The Muddle

Well, it looks like I've gotten myself into a fine kettle of fish. Here's how it happened. It seems that Valencia, Spain celebrates St. Joseph's Day with Sopa De Pescado which translates to Fish Soup. My thought was to "kill" two birds with one stone. I would provide a recipe for Fish Soup instead for St. Joseph's Day and Chicken Soup for National Poultry Day. Simple enough? Not for this gal. I blame it all on Bull Cook. I'm sure I've mentioned this title before by the Herters; George and Berthie. Bull Cook (1969)is one of those books you rely on to inspire the senses and test the imagination. Perfect for the day before the first day of spring. Don't you think? Not!

I had chosen the recipe for Sopa De Pescado from another book I've mentioned before; Festival Menus 'Round the World by Sue Benet. How difficult could it be to find a recipe for chicken soup? Who needs a recipe? I do believe I could make chicken soup with blinders on. But, you see, that's just it. I didn't want any ol' chicken soup for Poultry Day. This may just be the last soup of the season with spring coming and all. This has to be one mighty fine chicken soup. Perhaps, a chicken stew? In walks Church Builders Chicken. Now that I think about, I better "drop" off these two recipes because, honestly, it's getting rather late and if you want to celebrate either day with an authentic recipe you better read these recipes, see what ingredients you have or have not and Get that Pot a Boiling!

March 19 Choices
Sopa De Pescado:
1/2 dozen shrimp
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 sprig parsley
1-1/2-2lbs. halibut
1 tomato, quartered
2 peppercorns
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fish head
1-1/2 lbs. whitefish
salt & toasted bread

Wash shrimp and cover with boiling salted water. Simmer 10-15 minutes or until shells turn pink. Shell, saving liquid. Brown onion in oil in a separate pan. Add tomato, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaf, and parsley. Cover with boiling water, add fish head, and cook over hot flame for several minutes. Lower flame and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add sliced halibut, whitefish, and cut-up shrimp. Add liquid in which shrimp has been boiled. Be careful to avoid sand which may have accumulated at the bottom of pot. Continue cooking 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Strain fish broth. Remove fish head. Place a few squares of toasted or fried bread, shrimp, and slices of fish in individual soup dishes. Pour broth over them. Serve.

Church Builder Chicken
1 good -sized chicken
1/2 lb. uncut bacon
2 large onions
4 lbs. potatoes
5 cans lima beans or butter beans
2 cans kernel corn
5 cans tomatoes
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1-1/2 tsps. salt

Proceed as follows: Take your chicken and cook in pressure cooker until done so that meat comes off the bones easily. Remove the meat from the bones, break up into bite size pieces and place the chicken meat back into the pressure cooker just for storage. Do not pressure cook it any further. Peel the foour pounds of potatoes and boil them until well done. Usually takes about 20 minutes. Drain the water from the potatoes and mash them. Now dice your two large onions and put them with the chicken in the pressure cooker. Add the 5 cans of beans, 2 cans of drained corn, and 5 cans of tomatoes. Leave the top off the pressure cooker and bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Then remove from stove. Take the 1/2 pound of uncut bacon and cut it up into half inch cubes. Place on a tray in the oven and leave until pretty well done. Now put the bacon cubes with the chicken mixture into the pressure cooker. Add one and one-half teaspoons of salt, one-half red pepper and black peppers. Now put in the mashed potatoes and let slowly boil over a medium heat for 45 minutes or until thick. Stir frequently to keep from burning. Serve with good bread and butter. This recipe is one of those that pleases everyone.

I see you came back. I'm glad you did. Oh, be honest, there's no way in this world, I don't care if it is the last day of winter, that you are even thinking of making either of these soups/stews. I can't blame you. Fact is, I got so off my game trying to produce a stimulating post for National Poultry Day, I was going to include these recipes come hell or high heaven!!! You want to know why? Bull Cook

Church Builder Chicken: This recipe (the one above) has done more good, I believe than any other recipe in the world. It originated in Virginia but has spread over a large part of this country. It came to Minnesota with a pretty blonde girl, Ellen, daughter of Mrs. Thomas Powell of Emporia, Virginia. Mrs. Powell's daughter married Dale Schmidt, a Minnesota soldier, and came to live in Minnesota.

In Virginia, as well as everywhere else, it has unfortunately always been hard to raise money to build churches. Selling cakes, pies, candy, etc.; has always worked fairly well to raise church money but not anything too spectacular. In Virginia, a recipe originally called Chicken Muddle, was offered at church sales and it outsold everything and soon took the name Church Builder Chicken. Church Builder Chicken has built not hundreds but thousands of churches. Today, it sells for $1.25 a quart and is the biggest bargain you ever got. It is very fine eating-be sure to not only try it at your home but have your church try it. Have them label the jars. "Church Builder Chicken" from the original Virginia Recipe.

Stirring the Pot

Does the above recipe look remotely familiar? Chances are if you have ever resided in or went to Brunswick, Georgia, Brunswick County, North Carolina, or Brunswick County, Virginia you have been introduced to the communal ritual of Brunswick Stew. Brunswick Stew is so infinitely famous that there are benevolent "wars" between the three noted states as to who actually invented it and "owns" it as their intrinsic fabric of their being. There is only one premise that the "big three" agree upon when it comes to claiming Who Cooked It Up; "the stew was originally made among country folk with wild game, most often squirrel." One state, Georgia has the cast iron pot in which the first Brunswick Stew was reportedly made. Brunswick County, Virginia has a Brunswick Stewmaster's Association which is "Home of the Original Brunswick Stew" and North Carolina is so Muddled in History they have all kinds of soups, stews and muddles! Wait there's more. Muddling has roots in the Native American dish of Succotash, essentially a Vegetarian Brunswick Stew and it also has a global history. Yes, indeed it does! First, there's a Sir Brunswick from England that had his taste of Brunswick Stew. Second, there's a city in Germany called Braunsweig which is the ancestral home of King George II. Georgia is named after King George II of England probably because it was King George II who granted the Georgia Charter of 1732. Food for thought, don't you think?

Just the other day, I shared a few recipes from Cross Creek Kitchens. While I was scanning through the pages of that book and Cross Creek Cookery, I came across another story concerning Brunswick Stew. Ms. Rawlings writes:

The origin of this dish, dear to the South, is uncertain. It is here and there believed that it came from Brunswick, Georgia, yet lifted eyebrows greet a request for the dish in inns of that small city. A correspondent who has lived much abroad wrote me that the dish was a favorite of Queen Victoria, and since that late, great Queen clung faithfully to her German origins, my correspondent believes, as do I, that its source must have been Brunswick in old Germany. The recipe varies in every section of the South. The Duchess of Windsor gives a very good recipe, using chicken, tomatoes, okra, corn, string beans, and potatoes.

At Cross Creek and in neighboring Florida backwoods, we make the dish at hog-killing time, and associate it with that autumn season of harvest and plenty. The basis is fresh pork, and is likely to consist, in humbler circles, of small pieces of lean pork that have escaped the sausage grinder, along with the liver, the lights, and the heart, cut in one-half inch cubes...Roughly, the proportions are as follows:

4 lbs. lean fresh pork, liver, lights, heart, all cut in 1/2-inch cubes
Simmer until tender, 2-3 hours, in 4 quarts of water
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 large can peas (or 2 cups cooked cow peas)
1 small can lima beans
1 large can tomatoes
1 medium can corn
Simmer until mixture is rather thick. It should be moist, but not actually wet. Cornbread should be served as a concomitant. Plain people enjoy breaking the cornbread into the stew. Serves 8 to 10

It appears that Brunswick Stew goes by almost as many names as regions. Cooked down into a delicious muddle as opposed to say, Beef Bourguignon which is never "allowed" to muddle, most agree it is the perfect meal to serve to a large crowd, much like Bull Cook's, Church Builder Chicken and most would agree it is usually cooked outdoors in a big iron kettle. If you're thinking about frugal meals for any kind of money making project, consider having a chicken muddle supper and serving Chicken Muddle for a Crowd

The End

Whether a stew of fish, for St. Joseph's Day, a mess of chicken for church building or a humble meal of Brunswick Stew, there is one more muddle which must be considered in closing. Yes, the plot thickens. However, you're really going to like this one, it's the muddling of cocktails. Now dear muddle connoisseurs, the next time I decide to celebrate National Poultry Day, I think I will skip the wild goose chase and simply make due with goulash. Any ol' goulash!!! Enjoy!

I almost forgot, in answer to the question which came first The Muddle or The Stew! If you really want to explore that answer, you will need to either read this hard to decipher html file or this PDF file, which I found easier to read by opening with preview on my Mac. The file comes from The Virginia Genealogical Society titled Brunswick Stew vs Chicken Muddle published in 1991. It is bogged down in historic notes and quite an interesting read. It ends like this...

An even older version of the colonial fast-food trade is "chicken muddle."e honor of concocting chicken muddle is claimed by the early residents of Greensville County, in and around Hicksford, which is now Emporia. It's much thicker and very rich, with a taste of hickory smoked bacon. Brunswick stew is a latecomer, easier made, much thinner, quick and easy.

Visit St. Joseph's Day @ Gherkins & Tomatoes for additional resources.

1. Chicken Tips For National Poultry Day
2. Brunswick Stew: A Tradition with Taste
3. Nathalie Dupree article Mess or Muddle
4. Who Invented Brunswick Stew? Hush Up and Eat (New York Times)
5. Carolina Fish Muddle
6. North Carolina Fish Muddle
7. East Virginia Muddle
8. Brew Ha-Ha Fish Muddle
9. Chowning's Tavern Brunswick Stew
10. Stewpots of the World: short article
11. AficioNada has a recipe for Hamburger Chateaubriand a la Bull Cook

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bottoms Up!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! While the act of drinking to one's health has been practiced since the days of the Greeks and Romans, the "toast" as we know it today didn't become fashionable until the 17th century. One of the first toasts that were usually drunk among the ancient Greeks was to the "gods." Most would agree however, that the tradition of drinking to one's health, was a token expression of safety, to insure that whatever the drink may have been composed of it was indeed not one of poison. As the practice progressed, it came to indicate a gesture of friendship and good will.

All communities in the world have drinking toasts. The Irish have been believed to start the trend of proposing toasts in gatherings, however the practice can be traced back to the earliest times when The Moguls in India and the Vikings in Scandinavia drank to the honor of fellow warriors or of women they wooed and loved. (source)

There are many theories and controversial discussions on the history of toasting. The one that follows from a German website is the one I am most familiar with from past research.

And just incase you are wondering where the english phrase "toast" comes from, it comes from the practice of floating a piece of burnt toast on top of the wine of the loving cup. The reason for this was that the toast took away some of the acidity of the wine. Back years ago wine wasn't as good as it is today, so this floating piece of burnt toast worked well to tone down the sharpness of the wine. It was an ancient custom that was popular during the roman and Greek times dating as far back as the 6th Century B.C. After the bowl was passed around and shared by all the people, the host would be the last one to drink what was left and this included eating the wine saturated piece of toast. This was always done in honor of the guests. (source)

Throughout history, the custom of men drinking through the ages as a pledge of friendship and fraternity has been banned. Louis XIV of France forbid a toast to be given in the royal residence. Thomas Jefferson found the harmful affects of toast-drinking so unappetizing that he banned them from his dinner tables.

There was, however, one practice abolished by Jefferson that was restored by neither Madison nor Monroe - the ancient and universal custom of drinking healths at the dinner table. The tradition of capping a meal with a session of toast-drinking was firmly entrenched in the early American republic. Increase Mather and other seventeenth-century Puritans had fulminated against the practice. Post-war patriots had recommended throwing out offensive English customs, including health-drinking, to complete the revolution. Yet the habit of raising a glass to drink the health of fellow guests, absent friends, and political figures and principles seems to have been almost universal at the tables of upper-class Americans. (source)

Nor in later years.

The custom of drinking toasts, and of forcing people to drink bumper after bumper of wine, until drunkenness results, is quite banished from gentlemanly society to its proper place — the tavern. It arises from a mistaken idea of making visitors welcome; the Amphitryon of the feast overlooking the fact of its being much more hospitable to allow his guests to do as they please, and to take only as much wine as they may feel convenient or agreeable. It is but a miserable boast, that a man has sufficient . strength of stomach to sit his companions "under the table." (Hints on Etiquette 1844)

The Book of Toasts

The pictured die-cut book is simple entitled Toasts. Compiled by W. M. Roads with whimsical illustrations by one of America's greatest comic strip illustrators Clare Victor Dwiggins. (Dwiggens) The original patent date is March 15, 1904. This appears to be a 1905 edition published by The Penn Publishing Company. I would say it has about fifty pages within its cover which appears to be made out of some kind of hide. It is very delicate so I haven't actually counted the pages. I have picked out some toasts to share with you today in honor of St. Patrick's Day. This was no easy task as some of them are IMHO not in good taste for these times. However, some of them are a hoot! I've tried to include those with humorous illustrations and those which you will be able to see. Some of the pages have darkened through the ages:)

Dwiggins was born in 1874 in Wilmington, Ohio; in 1890, began work as a cartoonist, drawing for the St. Louis post dispatch, New York Journal, Philadelphia inquirer, North American and telegraph, and international syndicate; became art editor for publisher M. Walter Dunne; illustrator for Lisle De Vaux Matthewman's Crankisms (1901), Brevities (1903), and Completed Proverbs (1904), also for Samuel I. Stinson's Whimlets (1903); author of Rubáiyát of an Egg (1905) and The Skull Toast Book (1904); He composed a number of nationally syndicated comic strips including, “Ophelia,” “Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer; for Mark Twain;” The Christman Carol by Dickens, and other classics. Peter Tumbledown, and the first half-page Sunday cartoon feature School Days. He also illustrated “Footprints on the Sands of Time,” and Zeke Carsie Says; he died in October 1958. (source)

revised March, 2013

1. Proper Toasting Etiquette
2. Toasting Etiquette and Tips

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cross Creek Revisited

Last August, on the birth anniversary of Pulitzer Prize winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, I not only shared some highlights of Cross Creek Cookery I also gave visitors a "taste" of a few recipes. (see resources) Today, March 16, the day Cross Creek was published in 1942, I long to revisit Miz Rawlings' bustling kitchens with a few additional recipes from Cross Creek Kitchens.

Cross Creek Kitchens

Cross Creek Kitchen
Written by then Florida State Park Ranger, Sally Morrison and illustrated by noted artist Kate Barnes, a resident of Cross Creek, Cross Creek Kitchens; Seasonal Recipes and Reflections (1983) is a collection of "delightful tales" and unique recipes beautifully illustrated from the land of orange groves, towering oaks and cabbage palms. The recipes were tested in the kitchen of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' home by Ms. Morrison who was once caretaker and curator at the historic home. Recipes include Barbecued Herb-Smoked Turkey, Oyster Pie, Grapefruit Biscuits, Sweet Potato Salad, Lemon Okra, "Soppin Shrimp", Spicy Slaw, Wild Orange Pie, Gingerbread Waffles, Banana Cornbread, Stuffed Eggplant, Okra Pickles, and Blueberry Lemon Jam, just to name a few of the more than 150 generous recipes. Nested within the pages, Sally, known regionally as "some incredible cook," and Kate bring to life the melting pot of cultures, seasons, and traditions from the halcyon days of the community memorialized by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
From the Prologue:...As a tour guide for the Florida Park Service, I once lived in the Rawlings farmhouse, and today I still cook and garden there to show visitors what rural Florida was like fifty years ago. As I tend the woodstove in the Rawlings kitchen, I listen to their response. People long for the tranquility and serenity they find here. The fragrance of wood smoke and bread baking attracts visitors to the kitchen and seems to summon up a yearning for a less hurried life and for the incomparable taste of fresh food. Many eye the garden wistfully, envious not only of its yield, but also of the self-sufficiency and independence it provides...While living at the Rawlings house, I made friends with my neighbor, watercolor artist Kate Barnes. Our friendship began appropriately enough, with an exchange of homemade breads. Before long, we were swapping garden vegetables, homemade jams, and original recipes. A friend suggested, half seriously, that we set up a roadside stand and go into business selling produce, pies, and preserves...Instead, the two of us decided to share our fondness for life at Cross Creek and of "cooking with the seasons" through a cookbook...Forty years ago, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote her own cookbook, Cross Creek Cookery, which has long influenced my southern cooking. However, Marjorie's cookbook emphasized "company fare-on the rich side and not recommended for daily consumption."...we offer this lighter, more contemporary version of Florida cooking as a companion to the earlier regional classic. Sally Morrison, September, 1983

Have you ever strolled through the pages of a cookbook relishing the journey as well as the heart-warming recipes? Cross Creek Kitchens whisks you away to a captivating time where the trees peek through the pink horizon and the sandhill cranes congregate in the hayfields. Where the celebration of spring begins in February drifting along Orange Lake in their canoe, the authors catch glimpses of the osprey as they dive for fish, while munching on Southern Pecan Granola. Here's the recipe, which by the way, I didn't find anywhere on the internet.

Southern Pecan Granola
12 cups rolled oats
1 cup unprocessed bran
3 cups chopped pecans
2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup light oil
1 cup can syrup or light molasses
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a very large bowl, mix oats, bran, pecans, and coconut. In a saucepan, mix oil, cane syrup, and honey and heat until warm and well blended. Do not boil. Stir in vanilla.
2. Pour liquid ingredients over dry and mix thoroughly. Spread mixture 1/2 inch thick on greased cookie sheet.
3. Bake 10 minutes, turn in sections and bake 5 minutes longer. Cool on waxed paper. Sore in glass jars. Makes about 18 cups.

I'm not quite sure whether it's because I know we will be celebrating another Pecan Day on March 25th or perhaps, I'm just in a pecan state of mind. (I've been snacking on all kinds of wholesome nuts these days while trying to improve my diet:) Whatever the reason, I just couldn't resist these two recipes; Gary's Butter Pecan Bread and Orange Pecan Coffee Cake.

The pecan trees in the Rawlings grove usually bear a good crop every other year. We harvest the nuts in the fall and store them in the pantry for a few weeks to improve their flavor. Then, while sitting by the fire, or on the porch during the rain, we shell the pecans. We save some for pies and freeze the rest to last through the year. (Cross Creek Kitchens)
Pecan Recipes
Pecan Recipes

1. Exploring Cross Creek Cookery (recipes for Black Bottom Pie & Mother's Almond Cake)
2. Famous Floridians: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
3. The University of South Carolina Rare Books Exhibition
4. Cross Creek Tea Blend (recipe)
5. Pecan Day (previous post)
Revised: Feb. 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Potato Chip Day!

Chipping at Potato Chip History:

Today, on National Potato Chip Day, I would like to share a recipe booklet published under the direction of Florence La Ganke Harris, one time director of The National Potato Chip Institute. It isn't dated but from the looks of it, I would say it was probably published in the the 1930s or 40s. The title of this 16 page booklet is Thank You Mrs. Chips! From the inside flap:

"Thank You, Mrs. Chips" is a companion piece to the movie, "Thank You, Mr. Chips". Mr. Chips in the film, tells the story of the firsrt potato chips, and take us through a modern potato chip plant. He helps Mrs. Whipple's morale when she entertains her husband's boss at dinner.

Mrs. Chips, in this booklet, uses photographs, sketches, and chatter to help any host or hostess gain the reputation of serving delicious foods at table set with originality and charm.

For the menu planning helps, for the rules for table settings, for service, for table decorations, and for foods for serving crowds, we say, "Thank You, Mrs. Chips"

As luck would have it, I couldn't find any crumbles of the so called Mr. Chips film besides, the iconic Goodbye, Mr. Chips. However, I did find an amusing video online titled the Adventures of Chip and Dip (1968)

The short begins with two animated leprechauns, Chip and Dip, happily prattling away about the history of potato chips. We learn that they came into existence in 1853 by a series of lucky accidents credited to inn keeper George Crum, at the Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Chipping History

Now, we all know the story of George Crum the son of an African-American father and a Native American mother, and the invention of the Saratoga Chip. Legend has it that Mr. Crum invented the potato chip in 1853 at the Moon Lake Resort in Saratoga Springs, NY. As a matter of fact, the American Snack Food Association (originally The National Potato Chip Institute) celebrated its first Potato Chip Day in August of 2003 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Potato Chip in Saratoga Springs.

"Snack food history was made when a fussy customer met a chunky French fry. George Crum, a talented chef of Native American and African American ancestry, created the first potato chip in 1853 at the Moon Lake Resort in Saratoga Springs, NY. French fries were one of the specialties of the house, but one day a customer complained that the fries were too thick. When the second batch of trimmed fries didn't placate the customer, Crum made his third batch so thin that they couldn't be eaten with a fork. The customer loved them and the potato chip was born."

Okay, so now that we've chipped away at where the potato chip came from, that's if you read the history of the french fry, you understand why George Crum would automatically assume the would be gentleman was getting exactly what he ordered. No wonder he got his dander up when the man was not pleased. (according to urban legend, the "gentleman" was none other than railroad tycoon, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt) George Crum was serving the menu entry just as Thomas Jefferson had in the late 18th century.

According to the Saratoga County Historical Society, “A similar story explains that Kate (Speck) Wicks, who also worked at Moon's, accidentally dropped a chip of potato into the hot fat, and Crum fished it out and tasted it. Further research indicated that George's sister, Kate Speck Wicks, has the stronger claim.” George Crum did not take credit for or patent the invention.

Another part of the widely-referenced legend mentioned by the Saratoga County Historical Society is, “An interesting variant of the dissatisfied customer story seems to have been created in the 1970s by a potato chip industry support organization, which claimed the dissatisfied customer was none other than Cornelius Vanderbilt. This claim has been widely disproved.”

Another story, believed by most historians to be the closest to reality, claims that Crum's sister, Kate, accidentally dropped a pile of potato slices into a vat of boiling grease. Crum fished them out and decided to do a taste test. Finding them "good enough to eat," he placed them in baskets on all the tables. Crum eventually opened his own restaurant and the "Saratoga chips" were born. source

While most sources agree on the geographical location of the first potato chip, there does seem to be a sliver of chip chat when it comes to the actual "inventor." Some believe the potato chip was not an invention at all but more likely the product of a few minor mishaps. The most likely story puts Mr. Crum at the "scene of the crime" with his sister Kate. If you really want to dig into the barrel of the history of the potato chip, the most unbiased report can be found in the Atlas of Popular Culture. There's enough salt and vinegar to please the most discretionary palate:)

Saratoga at that time was the premier "watering hole" for mid 19th century society. Close to New York, it attracted the very highest strata of the society and one member of that group, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, plays a key role in some "official versions" of the story. All sources derived from the Snack Food Association of America's large, picture book volume on the history and development of the snack food industry refer to Vanderbilt as being the patron. Others who refer to Charles Panati's (1989) excellent but not well documented Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Ordinary Things speak only of an unnamed patron. It is very likely that Vanderbilt ate at the lodge and there are other stories of his appreciation of Crum's cooking, but it appears largely a matter of conjecture that he was indeed the person.

The inclusion of the Commodore in this story was the work of the Snack Food Association. In a privately published cookbook, a relative by marriage of the Vanderbilt family (Whitney 1977) says she learned of it from a clipping sent to her by a friend in August of 1976 where the Snack Food Association during its annual convention named Vanderbilt as the customer who sent the chips back. The association repeated the story in the history of snack food they published in 1987 (Snack Food Association 1987), even including a photograph of the Commodore.

Commodore Vanderbilt appears in the story in another way. Most versions mention that after the success of the chips, George Crum built his own restaurant on Saratoga Lake. Barrett (1941, 186) said that the restaurant, called Crumbs House, "had been started on its career by William Wall, old Commodore Vanderbilt and three other men."

Potato Chip Recipes

Making your own potato chips at home is incredibly easy. Check out this recipe for "Light as air Potato Chips" @ the Steamy Kitchen. On the other hand, what do you do with those leftover potato chip crumbs on the bottom of the bag? Or, what do you do if you just happen to make a huge batch of potato chips and there are leftovers? Yeah sure...Let's suppose you find the deal of the century 10 bags for $10.00, but you must buy ten. (I can't stand when they do that:) Well, first, you must learn how to crush your potato chips to size. You must put every fragmented chip to good use and the best way to do that is to crush them properly. Not only does the chip crushing chart below give you instructions for crumbling potato chips, it also give you yields for doodles, corn chips, pretzels, tortilla chips and Bravos. The Crispy Ham and Cheese Sandwich recipe and chart are courtesy of another Wise recipe booklet published in 1979.

The Cheese and Nut Loaf recipe below, included for those meatless days we are all getting reacquainted with, is courtesy of Mrs. Chips.

revised March 2013

1. Karen Hess (NYT obit)
2. The Story of America's Favorite Vegetable
3. Cabinet of curiosities: Potatoes (my post for potato month)
4. Baked Sweet Potato Chips (vegweb)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Isabella Beeton: "Wife and Fellow Worker"

Much has been written about Isabella Beeton and her "captured" style of Victorian English Cookery. It seems, everyone has an opinion. I don't choose to opine today although, I do choose to make note of Isabella's date of birth. Born Isabella Mary Mayson on March 12, 1836, in London, Isabella was the eldest of 21 children. Yes, that's twenty-one! It was a "blended" family. She was educated at Heidelberg and became an accomplished pianist before her marriage to wealthy publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton. The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton, is obviously no longer a secret. It has been devitalized, scrutinized, publicized and commercialized all in the name of plagiarism.

"Wife and Fellow Worker"

The eldest of twenty-one siblings, it appears Isabella had many responsibilities before her marriage to Samuel Beeton in 1856. (she was barely 20, some accounts state she was 19) She was in charge of the organizing of the household, she supervised the caring of the sick and participated in some of the cooking. She also took pastry lessons, piano lessons and spoke German and French.

With letters of endearment, Samuel Beeton began seeking the affection of Isabella Mary Mayson in 1855. They were eventually married on July 10, 1856 at Epsom Parish Church. The wedding celebration took place at the childhood home of Isabella; the Grandstand at Epsom. The eight bridesmaids were draped in pale green, mauve and white. Each of Isabella's sisters had contributed to her bridal costume. "Presents were laid out between flowers in the reception room, the champagne flowed," and after a few hours the couple left Epsom and boarded the train to embark on their continental honeymoon.

Samuel Beeton, was an enterprising ambitious publisher, he published popular literature beginning with the first British edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852. (There is a bit of discrepancy as to Sam's ethics concerning the "Readable Books" series. see NYT article below) He also had his hands in Beeton's Book of Garden Management(which was published after Isabella's death and later editions somehow began to include [Mrs.]) Among Sam's other "firsts" were The Sporting Life and The Boys' Own Magazine.

The Boy's Own Magazine was the first gender specific periodical published in 1855 by Samuel O Beeton, who had a vision for his magazine as moulder of empire builders. Priced at 2d monthly it was aimed at the youth of the middle classes, it was not intended for the working class. With an editorial team including Mayne Reid, W B Rands, Tom Hood and James Greenwood it was a successful and popular magazine with a circulation of 40,000. In its first publication items included: The Printers Boy, the story of Benjamin Franklin, Catching a Caymen in the Philippine Islands, The Tools of War, The Thousand and Second Tale a story by Edgar Allan Poe and Famous Places a travel series. source

As a husband and wife team; Isabella and Samuel had a productive marriage both at home and professionally. As I read through scores of online information, I was taken by the incredible organizational skills and eye for detail constantly cited about Isabella. At a time when few women worked, Isabella not only commuted to the office with Sam on a daily basis. She wrote, edited, researched and eventually assumed much of the responsibility for The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine: An Illustrated Journal Combining Practical Information, Instruction, and Amusement.

...Within a few months Isabella had taken over the household hints and cookery columns in Sam's magazine, her first articles appearing in April 1857. She added a third column on childcare - after all, she had been accustomed to looking after a new brother or sister every year, and the arrival of her own first baby did not interrupt the flow of work. Within a month of her debut she had evolved a characteristic style - brief, blunt and clear, supported by epigrams or proverbs, but rejecting the flowery diction with which Sam spun out his editorials.

Sadly their first child Samuel Orchart died of croup in August 1857 aged 3 months. Nevertheless, Isabella spent three years planning the Book of Household Management, and in September 1859, the month their second son, also named Samuel Orchart, was born, the first of 30 parts of her famous book was published issued along with the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine. Sam assured readers that every recipe had been personally tested, and offered gold and silver watches as prizes to those who could drum up more subscribers. Isabella, anxious to show some general knowledge, researched diligently into the number of sheep in England and the feasibility of making cloth out of Jerusalem artichokes... excellent source

Sam may have been Isabella's ray of encouragement however, it was the mother of three's endless patience, determination and no-nonsense approach which fueled the reality. (Before the delivery of her fourth child, Isabella worked on Beeton’s Dictionary of Cookery, an abridged version of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, up to a week before she died. She also started a magazine called The Queen (now called Harper’s & Queen).Her achievements in the book which bore her name included simplified cooking techniques, alphabetical recipe arranging, listings of estimated costs, clear, concise instructions and household management tips by which she will be eternally be remembered. She also found time to open a soup kitchen at her house in the winter of 1858 to feed poor children.

The idea for The Queen, the Ladies' Newspaper (still in print as Harpers & Queen; see below) may have indeed been initiated by Isabella, although most articles I have seen give Samuel Beeton credit as editor. She spoke French and was able to translate fashion articles and desired to include fashion plates in the magazine. It is said fashion updates were obtained by balloon during the Seige of Paris and the Beetons had made many formal contacts while visiting. Some even credit another "first" with the launching of The Queen. The "offering to readers of ready-cut paper patterns of the latest designs by post." "For every outfit illustrated in the plates, a pattern was supplied on request, ready cut and tacked."

The Queen was first published on 7 September 1861 from offices at 248 Strand, London and cost 6d. It was described as 'An Illustrated Journal and Review' and a 'Ladies Newspaper and Court Chronicle'. Jocelyn Stevens* wrote that permission was given by Queen Victoria to use the title and that the magazine was "aimed at those people who naturally attended Court functions, and those who would love to have been invited..." The first proprietor was Samuel Beeton source
The Queen Magazine was one of several English fashion magazines that were strongly influenced by French magazines. This is in part because fshion magzines primarily focused on women's fashions. One of the most important English magazines was the The Queen Magazine. It primarily focused on ladies fashions, but had some information about children's fashion as well. Quuen was founded by Samuel Beeton (1861). It was as the name suggest from the beginning a magazine for ladies, but not at first a fashion magazine. Beeton founded a a weekly society newspaper with very limited fashion information. Beeton focused on high society and covered London social events in detail. There were also articles on occupations, literature, and other inoffensive amusements considered to be suitable for proper ladies. The full original title of Beeton's magazine title was The Queen, the Ladies' Newspaper. Beeton did not run the magazine very long. He sold Queen to William Cox in 1862. (source below)
One of the longest running English female magazines was The Queen magazine that began in 1861. Samuel Beeton started the publication as a weekly newspaper containing very little about fashion. It was concerned initially about social events, occupations, literary interests and other inoffensive amusements suitable for ladies. The full title was The Queen, the Ladies' Newspaper. source

As Samuel Beeton's full partner, Isabella flourished. The Book of Household Management, first published in book form in October of 1861, represents one of the most successful books on household management ever written. (nearly 2 million copies were sold by 1868) As a representative of the British Victorian middle class, young Bella, as she was often referred to, relied on the scientific expertise of her "husband's colleagues (including Samuel's collaborator on Beeton's Dictionary of Universal Information (1858), John Sherer), John Morton's Cyclopedia of Agriculture (1851), and William Rhind's History of the Vegetable Kingdom." while compiling both the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine and The Book of Household Management. (The Book of Household Management. was originally published as a monthly supplement in the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine in September of 1859 when Isabella was twenty-three)

From the Jacket Cover of Mrs. Beeton's English Cookery (undated)

This is the standard book of English cooking, now published for the first time in the USA. Famous for many years as the one great authority on English cookery and probably the world's best seeling cookbook, it has been brought completely up to date, new tested recipes have been added and it is now hailed as the basic all-in-one volume on Cookery, Household Work and Table Service.

Special features include Vegetarian Cookery, Invalid Cookery, Pressure Cookery, Preserving, Game, Herbs, and Condiments, Bread, Biscuits, Cakes etc.

The section on Household Work includes management of servants, furnishings and equipment, choosing and buying provisions, a calendar of food seasons, household hints and recipes, organization of a storeroom, etc.

The section on Table Service includes complete information about beverages, the art of carving, how to wait at table, table decorations, menu making. Mrs. Beeton covers everything with authority, from napkin folding to full dress dinner and home laundry work, and supplies a complete glossary and alphabetical index...Mrs. Beeton's English Cookery contains charts and tables of calories, vitamins, weights and measures, equivalents, cooking times, temperatures, tests for food, loss by waste, etc.

Though Mrs. Beeton did not create the recipes in her book, she (along with her cook and kitchen maid) did test every single one, rejecting the elaborate concoctions favored by professional cooks like Charles Francatelli (chef to Queen Victoria) and selecting only those appropriate for middle-class homes. Her skills were those of an editor and teacher, lending firm but gentle guidance to the new housekeeper, a role more needed in the industrial mid-19th century than it had been in earlier centuries, when people were more likely to settle close to home. This book was designed for the woman who was separated from the advice of family, whether by the distance to the next village or of an ocean.

Mrs. Beeton's recipes are easily found online. I have provided a few resources below. From the Preface:

The aim of this new and revised edition of Mrs. Beeton's English Cookery has been to bring the book fully up to date and to meet present day conditions., but without destroying any of the unique features on which the book's permanent value rests. This is, indeed, the guiding principle on which all previous revisions have been based; and therein lies the reason why the value of the book has been undiminished throughout more than three-quarters of a century.

The Truth About Mrs. Beeton: In her biography of Mrs. Beeton entitled Mrs. Beeton and Her Husband (Collins, 1948,) Miss Nancy Spain strongly contradicts those ill-informed people who persist in deriding the Mother of English Cookery. she points out that Mrs. beeton never said "Take ten eggs" or "First Catch Your Hare," and to accuse her of extravagance is ridiculous; for Mrs. Beeton's Household Management was originally compiled to meet a demand for economy and efficiency in the kitchen, and no cookery book ever contained more recipes for the general public.

Mrs. Beeton's is the only cookery book to have survived two World Wars, and emerged at the end with its indispensability unaffected...The lasting reputation of Mrs. beeton's Cookery Books was not attained solely by the merits of the first issue. The books have been tried and tested and not found wanting, by generations of successful housewives. Mrs. Beeton brought to their origin such ability, method and conscientious care that with the exception of corrections demanded by changing times, materials, utensils and labour saving appliances, her work stands, with but little amendment, unaltered to the present day. But while little has been taken away, much has been added. The Editors

Isabella Beeton became ill after the birth of her fourth child, and died of puerperal fever at the age of twenty-eight.

Mrs Beeton died very young, a few days after the birth of her fourth son. Samuel Beeton is said to have never recovered from his loss and eventually he lost control of his publishing business. According to the food historian Clarissa Dickson-Wright, his publishing competitors bankrupted him, using a process that is now illegal of buying up all his debts and then presenting him with them to him as one bill. A bill he could never pay.

It wasn't Mrs Beeton's cookery book that they were after, but his highly profitable magazines and newspapers. However, it is Mrs Beeton's cookery book that endures as a monument to the name of Beeton...source

Ever since I got back from PA on Monday, I have been inundated with problems at my business. I will be back to regular posting, visiting and answering email on Saturday when I plan on posting for Potato Chip Day. I am thankful I managed to get this post in order, however, I must admit, this may just be the most difficult post I have ever attempted. Thanks for your patience and for visiting, Louise:)

1. "MrsBeeton.com is an ongoing project that provides free access to the complete text of Beeton's Book of Household Management."
2. A Romp through The Book of Household Management @ Gherkins & Tomatoes
3. The Book of Household Management (online edition)
4. Books for Cooks: This unique collection of cookery books will transport you back in time. It will take you to medieval banqueting tables laden with peacocks and pastry ships; to the medicine cabinets of noblewomen; and to royal picnics in the jungle. It will show you how the poor were encouraged to re-use coffee grounds in Victorian London, and how a rationed population attempted to stay healthy during World War 6. You will find recipes for puddings and roasts, for beauty treatments and bed bug repellents, for pies made with live birds and frogs, and for dishes spiced with ingredients as valuable as jewels...
5. The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton
6. Isabella Beeton @ answers.com
7. Women's Magazines Down the Ages @ The Guardian
8. The Queen (magazine images)