Saturday, March 12, 2011

Preparations - 18th century gravy

So, I’ve been trying to get ready for this event next weekend, and I’ve been failing miserably. The riding habit? Not even cut out. I think I’ve lost about 15 pounds since my fitting, and I’m not putting that much time, effort and money into something that’s not going to fit. The cooking competition? I couldn't get my head wrapped around the amount of research I needed to do, and that's usually my favorite part.

Albemarle Soundings managed to get my food planning kick started, thank heavens, and I’m testing recipes (or “receipts” as they were called) this weekend.

Last weekend, I made gravy. Lot's of "made" dishes require gravy which isn't the thickened stuff we're used to today. Samuel Johnson defined it as "The serous juice that runs from flesh not much dried by the fire." This receipt is neither, but more like a broth.

Gravy for turkey or fowl or ragoo.*

TAKE a pound of lean beef, cut and hack it well, then flour it well, put a piece of butter as big as a hen's egg in a stewpan; when it is melted, put in your beef, fry it on all sides a little brown, then pour in three pints of boiling water, and a bundle of sweet-herbs**, two or three blades of mace, three or four cloves, twelve whole pepper corns, a little bit of carrot, a little piece of crust of bread toasted brown; cover it close, and let it boil till there is about a pint or less ; then season it with salt, and strain it off.

The description of the beef sounded a lot like cube steak to me, and being pressed for time, that's what I used.

Here it's been floured well, and is browning in butter.

Here are the herbs and spices I used - rosemary, sage, oregano, pepper, cloves and blades of mace.

Here's the pot before the water got added, including the toasted English Muffin I used.

Here's the pot after everything's been stewed to rags.
I covered the pot for a while, and then took the lid off so the liquid could reduce. It doesn't look very appetizing, but we'll see how it works out.

* Hannah Glasse, the Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, 1774, page 121

** Sweet Herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme. I didn't have parsely, and my thyme was dead so I threw in a little oregano that I found peeking out of the ground. I'd use the parsely and thyme if it was an option.


  1. ooohhhh...

    Hey, will you talk about fricassees sometime? 'Cause like, I only know of 'em from Bugs Bunny, and they sound suspiciously like a stir fry.

    Also, just make more gravy, and you won't need to refit the riding habit. See how easy that is? :)

  2. Jenny,

    Samuel Johnson defines a fricassee as "A dish made by cutting chickens or other small things in pieces, and dressing them with a strong sauce.

    Oh, how would Homer praise their dancing dogs,
    Their stinking cheese, and fricasy of frog!
    He'd raise no fables, sing no flagrant lye,
    Of boys with custard choak'd at Newberry. King."

    But then Johnson also defined "gravy" as something completely differnt that what Hannah Glasse describes.