Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tidbits and a Few Recipes from an 1841 Cookbook

I've been reading a cookbook published in 1841*, and it is a wonderful treasure trove of information about cooking in the 1800's. This cookbook was written at a time when white flour and sugar were widely available, but long before the modern-day fat-phobia was in effect.

Gelatin: the "Most Nourishing Part"
I was excited to read that, back in the 1800's, people still realized the value of gelatin-rich broth.  The cookbook describes that:
Boiling [meat] is the dearest, as most of the gelatin is extracted by the process of boiling, which is the most nourishing part, and if not used for soup, is completely lost.
Wide Variety of Meats and Cuts
There are recipes for many types of animals, including the usual chicken, beef, and pork.  There are also recipes for animals that are uncommon on our modern day plates, such as duck, goose, pigeon, eel, and many types of fish.

And of course there are recipes for all parts of the animals, including heads, brains, tongues, and all organs.  There is even a recipe specifically for cod tongue and sounds (I wasn't even aware that cod fish had tongues), and one for making calves feet jelly.

Delicious Recipes
Some of the recipes in the cookbook sound amazing:
Chicken Salad. Boil a chicken that weighs not more than a pound and a half. When very tender, take it up, cut it in small strips, and make the following sauce, and turn over it—boil four eggs three minutes—then take them out of the shells, mash and mix them with a couple of table spoonsful of olive oil, or melted butter, two thirds of a tumbler of vinegar, a tea spoonful of mixed mustard, a tea spoonful of salt, a little pepper, and essence of celery, if you have it—if not, it can be dispensed with.
Beef Liver. Liver is very good fried, but the best way to cook it, is to broil it ten minutes, with four or five slices of salt pork. Then take it, cut it into small strips together with the pork, put it in a stew pan, with a little water, butter, and pepper. Stew it four or five minutes.
Ham. The Virginia method of curing hams, (which is considered very superior), is to dissolve two ounces of salt-petre, two tea spoonsful of saleratus, in a salt pickle, as strong as possible, for every sixteen pounds of ham, add molasses in the proportion of a gallon to a hogshead of brine, then put in the hams, and let them remain three or four weeks. Then take them out of the brine, and smoke them with the hocks downwards, to preserve the juices. They will smoke tolerably well, in the course of a month, but they will be much better, to remain in the smoke-house two or three months. Hams cured in this manner are very fine flavored, and will keep good a long time.
Bring on the Butter and Cream
Butter is used liberally in the recipes, and often used as a sauce for meats and vegetables.  I have wondered if we are overdoing the butter in our house, as we eat quite a lot of it, so I was very interested to see that the recipe for an omelet calls for one dozen eggs and a whole stick of butter.  That is the same ratio I use for scrambled eggs, and they taste so delicious that way!

There is also liberal use of cream in recipes.  The only use of skim milk in the book is to restore rusty fabric!

Recipes for Home Remedies
A couple of the home remedies really stood out to me.
Beef Tea. Broil a pound of fresh lean beef ten minutes—then cut it into small bits, turn a pint of boiling water on it, and let it steep in a warm place half an hour—then strain it, and season the tea with salt and pepper to the taste. This is a quick way of making the tea, but it is not so good, when the stomach will bear but a little liquid on it, as the following method: Cut the beef into small bits, which should be perfectly free from fat—fill a junk bottle with them, cork it up tight, and immerse it in a kettle of lukewarm water, and boil it four or five hours. This way is superior to the first, on account of obtaining the juices of the meat, unalloyed with water, a table-spoonful of it being as nourishing as a tea-cup full of the other.

Cough Tea. Make a strong tea of everlasting—strain, and put to a quart of it two ounces of figs or raisins, two of liquorice, cut in bits. Boil them in the tea for twenty minutes, then take the tea from the fire, and add to it the juice of a lemon. This is an excellent remedy for a tight cough—it should be drank freely, being perfectly innocent. It is the most effectual when hot.
Recipes for Preservation
Of course, this book was written before the days of refrigeration, so there are also many recipes for preservation of food, such as "to keep insects from cheese", "to extract rancidity from butter", "to keep eggs several months", and "to keep various kinds of fruit through the winter".  One recipe sounds particularly interesting to me:
Portable Soup. Take beef or veal soup, and let it get perfectly cold, then skim off every particle of the grease. Set it on the fire, and let it boil till of a thick glutinous consistence. Care should be taken that it does not burn. Season it highly with salt, pepper, cloves and mace—add a little wine or brandy, and then turn it on to earthen platters. It should not be more than a quarter of an inch in thickness. Let it remain until cold, then cut it in pieces three inches square, set them in the sun to dry, turning them frequently. When perfectly dry, put them in an earthen or tin vessel, having a layer of white paper between each layer. These, if the directions are strictly attended to, will keep good a long time. Whenever you wish to make a soup of them, nothing more is necessary, than to put a quart of water to one of the cakes, and heat it very hot.
Do you have a favorite old cookbook?  

*The American Housewife: Containing the Most Valuable and Original Recipes in All the Various Branches of Cookery and Written in a Minute and Methodical Manner. Together with a Collection of Miscellaneous Recipes and Directions Relative to Housewifery. The Kindle version of this cook book is free on Amazon, and you can also download a free Kindle for PC application to read it on your computer.

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!


Laryssa Herbert said...

How cool!

The Lindell Family said...

Old cookbooks are so much fun! I have the Belgian cookbook on the Kindle (also free). Often they call for a pat of butter "about the size of an egg." And I love that everything is measuring required. That's my kind of cooking. :)

Laura said...

This is awesome! I adore old cookbooks. Thanks for the links to download the book. I can't wait to read some of the recipes!

Soli said...

Old cookbooks are a glorious thing. I've been on the lookout for physical ones, but it's awesome to know they can be found online. Have you seen Feeding America? I haven't had time to really go through the site but the little I have seen has me swooning.


Anonymous said...

Here's a site to buy old cookbooks. I've bought a few from them over the past two years. Some are quite expensive, others aren't too bad.

Back in the early 1980's I bought a book called The American Heritage Cookbook, because I am very interested in the history of the time the recipes were used, as well as how they were made and eaten at the time. So it's like a history lesson/cookbook all in one. Then I later discovered there is a companion book to it (with the same title) which is a wire-bound book of just the recipes. Awesome! Also, through a cooking forum where I belong, another lady told me there wass also an earlier version of this called the Heritage Cookbook. Sure enough, there is! I ordered it and love it. The recipes are still very useable.

Since I've changed the way my family eats to a more WAPF friendly version (although I always ate very much that way anyhow, because that's how I ate when was growing up on a cattle ranch) I do change some of the ingredients for healthier versions, but the recipes are still quite good. I get some fabulous ideas if nothing else, and make up my own recipes.

I've taken all of my old church cookbooks, etc., and changed out things, such as changing "margarine" to "butter" and such.

Just some food for thought for you younger gals.

WordVixen said...

Those are fantastic! I'm thinking that the beef liver recipe might be ideal for me to try. I love liver with mashed potatoes and gravy, or with a dippy egg served on it, but sometimes it's hard to make the effort to eat it. But anything that says "with salt pork" is a "sign me up for that!". :-)

@Lindell Family- "a pat of butter about the size of an egg". Love that!

Jen said...

I have "White House CookBook: Revised & Updated Centennial Edition". Here is the blurb on the front: "Original 1890's recipes complete with low-fat, no-fat, quick, & great-tasting modern versions". I kid you not. I think I'll stick to the 1890's versions myself. :) There are so many great recipes.

The original egg nog recipe involves 12 eggs and "rich milk". The modern version: liquid egg substitute and skim milk. The Hollandaise Sauce original: butter, egg yolks. Modern version: liquid Butter Buds, liquid egg substitute, and yellow food coloring!!! YUCK!

Sorry this is long, but the recipes in this book show the stark contrast between a truly nourishing diet and the standard American, chronic disease ridden diet. So sad.

Anonymous said...

Love this post as I have only recently developed an interest in old cookbooks and how things were prepared "way back when." Thank you so much for sharing!


Maryanne MA said...

Soli - what have you done? I've been on the Feeding America site for HOURS now. I've never even thought about old cookbooks before until I saw this I can't get enough! =)

kimom said...

LOVE old cookbooks! My 1940s Joy of Cooking is my current favorite. Where else can you find dozens of recipes to prepare obscure meat parts? =)

Anonymous said...

Sooooo interesting. Love it! Thanks for posting!

Laurie S said...

So glad you posted this in your recipe section, where I happened to be browsing. Can't wait to download the cookbook, and check out links mentioned in the comments. It's great to find others who read cookbooks for fun (and cooking, of course). My husband thinks it's weird that I often have cookbooks on my bedside table.

Mrs. Mac said...

Here's a link to many of the old cookbooks. You can download them PDF free. Great to read your post here. I've got 'The Original White House Cookbook, 1887 edition (reprint) .. lot's of great information on health and home keeping included. I'm really enjoying your index and recipes that are Grain Free and GAPS friendly. Thanks.