Sunday, January 27, 2013

To Stuff a Chine of Pork

Make a stuffing of the fat leaf of pork, parsley, thyme, sage, eggs, crumbs of bread; season with pepper, salt, shallot, and nutmeg, and stuff it thick; then roast it gently, and when it is about a quarter roasted, cut the skin in slips; and make your sauce with apples, lemon peel, two or three cloves, and a blade of mace; sweeten it with sugar, put some butter in, and have mustard in a cup.
Hannah Glasse, "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple"

Modern adaptation here.

Since the chine is the backbone, and those are hard to come by, I went with the suggestion of using a pork loin.

"Take your pork loin and unroll it with a knife as you slice it lengthwise about ½ to ¾ of an inch thick. You should end up with a long rectangular piece of meat."

Uh, this sounds suspiciously like "foodie" territory. But I gave it a shot.

"In a large mixing bowl combine the bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, sage, nutmeg, pepper, salt, shallots and bacon. Blend these well with your hands."

"In another bowl, whip the eggs, and add it into the bread crumb mixture. Mix well with your hands until it is a stiff 'stuffing' consistency. If it is too dry, add another egg."
Since I wasn't roasting this, I went ahead and pre-cooked the bacon.

"Spread this stuffing over the loin to cover the entire surface of the pork. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect."
"Gently roll up the pork from one end to the other. Tie it with cotton string in three or four bands around the meat. Place it in a greased baking pan."
Here's where things changed. The recipe says to roast at 350 degrees and baste with butter. What's not to love? Except that I'll be doing this over an open fire and I'm not sure if it's going to be raining (read: Will I have coals for a bake kettle?).
So, I wrapped it up in a linen pudding cloth, tied it up with string and boiled it in apple cider.
This worked well. Really, really well.

Add the seasoned apples or the mustard, and you have a winner!

EDITED to ADD: If you make the "sauced apples" I suggest you substitute nutmeg for the cloves, and maybe cut back on the amount. The cloves completely overpowered the pork and stuffing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stewed Spinage and Eggs

Pick and wash your spinage very clean, put it into a saucepan, with a little salt, cover it close, shake the pan often, when it is just tender, and whilst it is green, throw it into a sieve to drain, lay it into your dish. In the meantime have a stew pan of water boiling, break as many eggs into cups as you would poach. When the water boils put in the eggs, have an egg slice ready to take them out with, lay them on the spinage, and garnish the dish with orange cut into quarters, with melted butter in a cup.

Hannah Glasse, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”

Thoughts …

1.      Wow. Make this again. Fast, easy and good.

2.      I put a very little water in with the spinach and figured it was done when limp but still bright green.

3.      Spinach always cooks down more than I expect.

4.      Drain the spinach well.

5.      My egg poaching skills need work as far as pretty whites go, but even with guessing on the time (just waited for the whites to get good and opaque) it all worked out okay.

6.      Melted butter across the top is good. So is fresh orange juice.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Loaf Spanish-Fashion

Cut off the tops of six rolls, take out all the crumbs, fill them with a ready made [chocolate] cream, and cover them with the tops that were cut off, soak them in sweet Spanish wine, about a quarter of an hour; then wipe and flour them; fry of a good colour, and glaze them with sugar.
George Dalrymple, The Practice of Modern Cookery adapted to Families of Distinction as well as to those of the Middling Ranks of Life, Edinburgh, 1781

Here is the modern adaptation.

Let me just say that the chocolate custard is so fantastic by itself, I thought the wine-soaked, deep fried, sugar-strewn rolls took away from it. Yes, the chocolate is that good. Since I'm going to be making this over an open fire in as yet unknown weather conditions, I think I'm just going to stick to the custard.

Here are some of my amateur observations:

If you let the rolls sit out for a day, it's just about impossible to grate the crust off, at least with the microplane I have. Instead, I grated them and hollowed them out and then let them get good and stale.

I think soaking in wine is a bit of overkill and made them soggy. I just dipped them in a bowl of wine, and still thought they were too soggy. I would actually do this step first, and give them more time to drain, or I'd sprinkle them with wine and let it soak in slowly.

Deep frying in a saucepan (because all I'm going to have at the event is a spider) is not my strong point. Especially with cup-shaped, hollowed out rolls. And deep-frying in the rain doesn't sound like fun.

YMMV, but I think I'll just stick with the custard.

Monday, January 21, 2013

To Make an Onion Soup

To Make an Onion Soup

Take half a pound of butter, put it into a stew pan on the fire, let it all melt, and boil it till it has done making any noise; then have ready ten or a dozen middling onions peeled and cut small, throw them into the butter, and let them fry a quarter of an hour; then shake in a little flour, and stir them round; shake your pan and let them do a few minutes longer; then pour in a quart or three pints of boiling water, stir them round; take a good piece of upper crust, the stalest bread you have, about as big as the top of a penny loaf cut small, and throw it in. Season with salt to your palate. Let it boil ten minutes stirring it often; then take it off the fire, and have ready the yolks of two eggs beat fine , with half a spoonful of vinegar; mix some of the soup with them, then stir it into your soup, and mix it well, and pour it into your dish. This is a delicious dish.

Hannah Glasse, “The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy”

Color me skeptical, but I thought this looked awfully … bland. The modern commentary on it claimed that “the English recipe uses an egg yolk liaison and a splash of vinegar to add richness and depth.” I’m no foodie, but I figured what the heck. I’d give it a try, but I decided to just make a half batch.

This turned out to be a good decision.

Melted butter? Good. Onions (BTW, a “middling onion” was probably about an inch and half or so across) frying in the butter? Better. It was all good until I added the water and the bread crumbs. “Season with salt to your palate.” Okay. Now I am 1/16th (I think it is) Norwegian, which seems to have manifested itself in my cheekbones and tastebuds. My mother was from the upper Midwest where “whitening agents” were regularly added to food to make sure they were bland enough. My palate is calibrated to where I find Taco Bell with NO added sauce quite festive, thank-you-very-much. I tell you this so you understand when I say this was bland, I know what I’m talking about. Even with salt, it was tasteless, so I added a period pepper blend. Now it was simply insipid. I thought that maybe the vinegar was the magic bullet it needed, so I added the egg yolk/vinegar “liaison”. The improved it to a point where I’d be comfortable calling it “weak”.

Good enough for a cooking competition? Eh. I’m sure a foodie could find some way to put a positive spin on this and sell it to the judges, but I can’t do it. My commentary would have something to do with the fact that every bad British cooking joke can trace its origins to this dish.

BTW, I added chicken bullion, kielbasa, brown rice and some leftover black beans. It may not be great, but at least it will have some taste. And I’ll have lunch for the week.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pears Stewed Purple

Time for a test run of the first receipt (recipe)! I was at the store and grabbed a couple of winter pears. Aren’t they pretty? Too bad I didn’t research them until I got home. Red pears have only been around for 20 years.

Good enough for a test run, anyway …

Pears Stewed Purple

Pare six large winter pears, and either quarter them or do them whole: they make a pretty dish with one whole, the rest cut in quarters, and the cores taken out; lay them in a deep earthern pot, with a few cloves, a piece of lemon-peel, a gill of red wine, and a quarter of a pound of fine sugar; if the pears are very large, they will take half a pound of sugar, and half a pint of red wine; cover them close with brown paper, and bake them till they are enough.
Serve them hot or cold (just as you like them), and they will be very good with water in the place of wine.To Stew Pears in a Sauce pan put them into a sauce-pan with the ingredients as before; cover them and do them over a slow fire; when they are enough take them off, add a pennyworth of cochineal, bruised very fine.

- Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

I pared them, sliced them into eighths, put them in a saucepan and covered them with a sweet red table wine, cloves and lemon peel. Since the wine was sweet, I went a little easy on the sugar.

I tried a slice of pear and … meh. Not much flavor at all. So I set them to stew. Still meh. And stew. And after two hours, they were most certainly “enough” and I had very flavorful pear slices. They were also most definitely purple. (I didn’t even need to use the cochineal.)

This one looks like it will be a keeper.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Getting ready for another season

It’s that time of year again. Time to start hauling out the reenacting gear and see what needs to be updated, repaired, or replaced. It’s time to find everything and put it back where it belongs so I can find it when again when I need it. And it’s time to start planning for MTA.

We’re going to have a small group this year, and while I want to compete in the cooking competition, I have no illusions that we’ll place in the ribbons without our cook. That, however, is beside the point as the purpose of this event (in my mind, anyway) is to get us to improve our impression.

Plus, I have a secret weapon. American Heritage Chocolate. This stuff ain’t cheap. It runs about $12 for a little over 5 ounces. But who can resist the idea of chocolate seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, annatto, red pepper, orange, salt and vanilla mixed with port, heated until it melts and then whipped into a froth?

Or a chocolate custard of sorts that is poured into a stale roll that has been hollowed out, soaked in wine, fried and sprinkled with sugar?

Looks I’ll be doing some “research” this weekend. I guess the diet will have to wait a while longer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Christmas Mouse

This post over at my Blogfather’s reminded me of the time I found a mouse in the feed bin. It was Christmas morning, over 30 years ago, and I’d gone out to feed and water the horse. There, at the bottom of the trash can that I used to store the sweet feed, sat a mouse. Being Christmas morning and all, I was feeling inclined to let the little guy go, so I picked him up with the coffee can that was used as a feed scoop.

I carefully took him (her?) out of the barn, across the paddock and into the back yard. I gently put the can down and tipped it so the mouse could scamper off, when out of nowhere a furry black and white bullet came screaming past. That would have been Ponda, my dad’s border collie. I don’t know where that dog was when it heard four little mouse paws hit the snow, but she materialized out of thin air. At great speed.
The mouse screeched, flew into the air like a tiny little Harrier jet and … disappeared. Although I swore I could feel little mouse feet scurrying about my person.

He came out of the house and I explained what happened. Being the understanding sort, he laughed at me, and then we started peeling away layers of clothes all the while searching for the mouse. Did I mention that this was in Minnesota and there were lots of layers?

I was down to my thermal underwear top, bottoms and jeans and we still hadn’t found it. I was shivering. My dad was thinking I’d imagined the whole thing, except for Ponda, who sat a respectful distance, literally vibrating in place. Suddenly, I felt something twitch on my upper thigh. The mouse, sandwiched between my long underwear and jeans, had decided it was time to make a break for it. I admit it, I screamed like a girl. And proceeded to perform my own Saint Vitus dance. The mouse went flying out the end of my pants legs in a graceful arc, and the dog intercepted her in mid-air like a heat seeking missile.
Ponda then put the mouse down, and played with it for a while. I don’t know if the mouse succumbed to its injuries or fear, but I swear that dog picked up the little mouse corpse, dropped it at my feet, and gave me a look that asked if I would please put new batteries in it because the ones that came with it on Christmas morning sure didn’t last very long.

Yeah. It was sort of like this. But with a mouse instead of squirrels.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Girl Whirl

Shortly before I left for the NE Blogmeet, Sweet Daughter got a little … wistful. She didn’t want me to be so far away. (For two and a half whole days, even!) So I promised that I’d have a surprise planned the weekend planned after I returned. This incident being seared into my memory, I enlisted the aid of The Miller who was kind enough to aid and abet me in my plot.

So, Saturday morning I told SD to hurry up and get dressed because we were going to her favorite restaurant for breakfast (all-you-can-eat bacon, doncha know) and then … to the range. To say that she was excited was a bit of an understatement. I did a quick gear check and noticed that the batteries were dead on her “ears”, so we stopped and got new batteries. Then, as we were walking into the restaurant, we noticed she’d forgotten her coat in all the excitement. No problem, I’d grab one the multitude of sweatshirts we leave in there for just this kind of occasion … but I’d cleaned out the car before my trip. A quick stop in the Wal-Mart parking lot followed, and after digging in the wheel well, I found the ultra emergency back-up parka that had been there for 3 years. And still (barely) fit.
Next stop … THE RANGE. And we got there on time, with only one other car in the lot, so we used our time reciting the Four Rules. Not long afterwards, The Miller came rolling in and we got in line. It was a mixed crowd with a lot broader demographic than I was used to seeing. And of course, this:


We went in, got a lane and geared up. The Miller unpacked his arsenal of .22’s he’d brought for SD as she’d been dying to shoot a “real”pistol. We started with her Cricket rifle as it was familiar, but she really wanted to shoot a pistol. The Miller gave her some excellent advice, and she went to town.

While my goal for this trip was simply to keep her safe and have fun, most of her rounds ended up on paper, including several in the 10 ring. She was THRILLED.

No, I did not jiggle the camera. SD was just doing her best impression of a hummingbird. On crack.
While shooting, she was all business. Even when she got a little too close to the slide and it bonked her in the nose, she carefully put the pistol down, and stepped away from the lane before requesting hugs and sympathy. And, as it was one of those instances where she “just needed to get the tears out”, she had the presence of mind to ask to be taken back into the lobby so she could safely remove her safety glasses before wiping her eyes.
She then went back and did one last mag dump. Just because.
"Also, I can kill you with my brain."

I guess I need to look at buying a .22 pistol. Any suggestions?

Monday, January 7, 2013

NE Blogmeet AAR

Last Friday, I flew from Richmond to Boston via Philadelphia in order to be driven to New Hampshire for North Carolina barbecue. Yes, I went to the NE Blogmeet!
My Blogfather was kind enough to brave Boston rush hour traffic in order to pick me up. In the Dodge Earthf***er.  The same one that ferried New York Times best-selling author, Larry Corriea. ( I may have had a slight fangirl moment.) It had been a long day involving a rather extensive and redundant tour of the Philly airport, but all’s well that ends well. Dinner at Polcari’s made up for it, even if I did have a rather shell-shocked look on my face.

 [There should be a photo here, but Blogger is not cooperating. Maybe later.]
Contrary to rumor, the look on my face had nothing to do with JayG’s driving. All four wheels stayed on the road at all times, swearing was minimal (and deserved) and at no time did I “scream like a little girl*”.
You can read JayG’s write up of the meet here, but I have to say that first of all, it was really weird to be billed as the “super secret mystery guest”. And then actually have people seem excited to meet me. I, on the other hand, tried to keep my cool as I met a whole lot of new people attached to familiar names. I think the Pig’s Ear Brown Ale helped. And thanks to Breda’s long-distance fashion help, I cleaned up okay for the event. I had a marvelous time  -- an evening spent with interesting people and good food (and brown ale!) usually turns out well -- even if Weer’d did accuse me of having a fake ID. The obligatory throwdown of ECD knives and flashlights occurred, conversation went on long past when we’d been kicked out, and I remembered why I live south of the sweet tea line. (I HATE the cold.)
Next on my list of things to do is update my blogroll with those I’ve met. Well, that and install my new toilet seat, and pick up my new acquisition at the Fun Store, and do laundry once the water situation up the street is resolved and I have water pressure again, and … a bunch of stuff.  
* JayG claims that Mike W. does, however.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013