Sunday, January 1, 2017

HFF 2.26: Descriptively-Named Food


The Challenge: Descriptively-Named Foods We all know those recipes that come attached to interesting and imaginative names - slumps, crumbles, buckles, trifles, flummery. Pick a historic recipe that has a descriptive title.

The Receipt:  Whipped syllabub, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management
INGREDIENTS – 1/2 pint of cream, 1/4 pint of sherry, half that quantity of brandy, the juice of 1/2 lemon, a little grated nutmeg, 3 oz. of pounded sugar, whipped cream the same as for trifle No. 1489.
Mode.—Mix all the ingredients together, put the syllabub into glasses, and over the top of them heap a little whipped cream, made in the same manner as for trifle No. 1489. Solid syllabub is made by whisking or milling the mixture to a stiff froth, and putting it in the glasses, without the whipped cream at the top.

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, London

How Did You Make It:  Blended together the cream, wine, brandy, lemon juice, nutmeg (1/4 of a nutmeg, fresh grated) and powdered sugar.  Given prior misfortunes with sherry, I tried using a white wine, as per the basic syllabub receipt.  I omitted the whipped cream topping, having run out of cream.

Time to Complete: 10 minutes

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.

How Accurate Is It? Wine substitution and whipped cream omission noted above.

How Successful Is It? Not very.  This wasn't the worst dish I've tried to make, but it just didn't taste very good.  I was expecting the result would be somewhat like eggnog: creamy and nutmeg-flavored. It did have that, but the wine really struck a sour note and I gave up after two sips.  I think this has the potential to work with a different wine (maybe a moscato or other sweet dessert wine), but today was not it.  I was a little concerned that the lemon juice would curdle the cream, but that was not the case.

Whipped Syllabub, Mrs. Beeton's, 1861
Whipped Syllabub: not great, but it has potential.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lip Salve & Cold Cream, 1857

I decided to mess around with some period cosmetic recipes. For the first experiment, I looked at some 1850s recipes for tinted lip balm. There were several receipts available, mainly using either wax or lard for a base, with rose or orange flower scent and a pink tint derived from alkanet or carmine/cochineal.

The first receipt I decided to try was the "rose lip salve" from The Druggist's General Receipt Book (1857).  It calls for white wax, almond oil, otto of roses, and alkanet root.  You basically melt the wax and almond oil together with the alkanet, then strain out the alkanet and stir in a few drops of rose essence.  I used white beeswax this time.  When made, the balm set very quickly, and had a pleasing pale pink shade and rose odor.  I have not noticed that it imparts any rosiness to the lips, but it sure looks and feels nice.
Ingredients for lip balm, 1857 recipe
Ingrediants: white beeswax pellets, sweet almond
oil, rose essence, and a dram of alkanet chips.

1857 lip balm in progress
The liquid lip balm fresh off the stove.
The color lightens as it solidifies.

1857 Pink rose lip balm
The finished lip balm.
I also decided to try a receipt from Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt Book (1850).  Her red lip salve calls for a fifty-fifty mixture of lard and suet, colored with alkanet and then scented with rose water, orange flower water, or "oil of rhodium".  Since I already had the other pink lip salve, I decided to try the "cold cream" variation of this, which uses a 1:2 ratio of suet to lard and skips the coloring agent.

I melted the lard and suet (tallow--finally found some!) together on the stove, then took them off and added a tablespoon of orange flower water.  This was actually a bad idea, as it caused the previously-not-boiling fats to "bump", ie spew all over the place as it suddenly boiled.  Not to self: get boiling chips for future batches, or wait to stir in aqueous components until its started cooling down.  Flying liquid fats not withstanding, it solidified into a nice white cream which seems to do its job decently.
Cold cream is meant to soothe chapped skin, so it's a timely addition to my winter reenacting kit.

For those who prefer to buy ready-made cosmetics, Little Bits Apothecary apparently uses historical recipes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fur Cuffs

Many thanks to Nancy for teaching me how to make these (she took Maggie Koenig's class at Symposium while I was off learning beadwork).  They are a lovely addition to my winter wardrobe, and proved very helpful in battling the cold weather at Santa Train: poor planning left me in lawn under-sleeves in 30F weather, but between my velvet pagoda sleeves and these deep fur cuffs, my arms stayed perfectly comfortable.

White rabbit fur, lined in white polished cotton, over a canvas interlining.

1850s style white fur cuffs
White fur cuffs.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Snoqualmie Railroad, December 16th

Cleaning up the blog backlog, here are some pictures from a fun event at the Northwest Railway Museum: Victorian Santa Train!  Despite the frigid weather, it was a great deal of fun to ride the antique train and to entertain families with carols and period toys as they waited to visit Father Christmas in the historic Snoqualmie Depot.

Northwest Railway Museum Victorian Santa Train
Riding in the cars.

Northwest Railway Museum Victorian Santa Train Caroling
Singing at the depot.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Presents

Despite the lack of blog posts--school, work, and moving have all cut into my sewing time--I did manage to complete a few projects this month. Here are a some of the items I made for the Christmas tree at Fort Steilacoom earlier this month:

Victorian Seed Bead Greek Key Bracelets
Bracelets for Miss Franklin.  They're the same Greek key pattern
as mine, but in a different color scheme.
Rolled Doll, Eliza Leslie's American Girl's Book 1854
Brother and sister dolls for the children.  The lady is the "common linen doll"
from The American Girl's Book (1854), while the voyageur is my own
variation on that design.  Thanks to Miss Franklin for sewing the lady!

Friday, December 23, 2016

HFF 2.25: "Foreign Food"

Another tardy post, I fear.  The pudding was originally made within the challenge fortnight (December 13), but scheduling complications delayed it's debut by a week, and I've procrastinated writing this post since then.


The Challenge: "Foreign" Foods Make a dish that reflects the historical idea of “foreign” - either foods with a loose connection to foreign lands, named after faraway places, or attributed to foreigners. Real connections to actual foreign countries not necessary (or recommended) - the more tenuous the connection, the better.

Making a Christmas pudding is definitely a British practice, and thus foreign to this American.  After all, it's not like I use Mrs. Beeton's for most of my other challenges anyway.

The Recipe: Christmas Plum-Pudding from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management
1328. INGREDIENTS – 1–1/2 lb. of raisins, 1/2 lb. of currants, 1/2 lb. of mixed peel, 3/4 lb. of bread crumbs, 3/4 lb. of suet, 8 eggs, 1 wineglassful of brandy. 
Stone and cut the raisins in halves, but do not chop them; wash, pick, and dry the currants, and mince the suet finely; cut the candied peel into thin slices, and grate down the bread into fine crumbs. When all these dry ingredients are prepared, mix them well together; then moisten the mixture with the eggs, which should be well beaten, and the brandy; stir well, that everything may be very thoroughly blended, and press the pudding into a buttered mould; tie it down tightly with a floured cloth, and boil for 5 or 6 hours. It may be boiled in a cloth without a mould, and will require the same time allowed for cooking. As Christmas puddings are usually made a few days before they are required for table, when the pudding is taken out of the pot, hang it up immediately, and put a plate or saucer underneath to catch the water that may drain from it. The day it is to be eaten, plunge it into boiling water, and keep it boiling for at least 2 hours; then turn it out of the mould, and serve with brandy-sauce. On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wineglassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, London

How Did You Make It: I grated all the stale bread in my stash, until 12 oz. were obtained.  I then chopped up all the candied peel I had on hand (mostly orange with some lemon), which came in just under 8 oz.  I mixed these up with 24 oz of raisins, 8 oz of zante currants (actually a raisin variety, but the closest I could find to actual currants in my area), 0.78 lb rendered pork fat (lard, as five trips to butcher shops and meat counters could not procure suet), 8 eggs, and 1.5 oz of brandy (= 1 wineglass, says this 1842 book).  

After mixing this thoroughly, I piled it all up on a clean square of cotton, and tied it into a round bundle.  I then attempted to rig up a system to hold the pudding suspended in a large stock pot of boiling water for six hours--said device included part of a bookshelf, string, and a dumbbell; it also proved ineffective as 1) the pudding appeared to be floating anyway, and 2) it somehow still got scorched on the bottom.  C'est la vie.

I then let the pudding drip dry for three days.  Boiled it a further two hours before intending to serve it, but the pudding had gone completely soft and mushy by that point, so I ended up hanging it up again for three more days.  I then attempted to serve it cold, but unwrapping the pudding caused it to fall apart.

Time to Complete: An eternity.  Preparation took about an hour and a half, including grating crumbs; boiling took six hours, drying took several days, and the final boiling should have taken two hours.

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand, except for the fresh lard, which was about $6 at the fancy butcher shop (which totally said they would have suet after the weekend, and then didn't. Grah.)  It was actually a good receipt for the moment, in that it allowed me to use up some of my weird ingredients before moving--ie the bread crumbs, candied orange peel and raisins that were filling my fridge.

How Successful Was It? Not at all.  This is the worst cooking experiment since the Cherry Pie of  '14, and honestly might be the worst of all.  Though initially solid, the re-boiling attempt softened it up a great deal, and no amount of drying thereafter restored its structural integrity.  I also managed to burn the top of the pudding where it came in contact with the bottom of the pot (my rigging apparently was less successful than I thought it was).  I couldn't serve it properly with flaming brandy, on account of the aforementioned instability, as well as the fact that it was too large to fit easily on a plate.  

In its favor, the pudding was nice and moist, the bread crumbs incorporated well, and the raisins and peel tasted nice.  That being said, there was no other sweetener, and the main flavor was raisin and brandy. 

If I try this again, I will: 1) half the recipe, 2) use real suet, 3) let the pudding dry for weeks or months instead of days, 4) properly suspend the pudding while boiling, and 5) ideally use a mold rather than attempting to tie the pudding up in a cloth.  I'm also likely to try another recipe, as this was a great deal of work for not even a qualified successul.

How Accurate Is It? Hard to say. The main liberty was substituting lard for suet, but that's still a period ingredient, so... fairly accurate?

Mrs. Beeton Christmas Plum Pudding illustration
What it should look like.
(Color plate from a later edition of the BoHM)

Christmas Plum Pudding from Mrs. Beeton, 1861
Plum pudding: not a success.