Tuesday, June 21, 2016

HFF 2.13: Pie

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The Challenge: Make a pie.

The Recipe: Apple Pie from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (different receipt from last time).
1233. INGREDIENTS – Puff-paste No. 1205 or 1206, apples; to every lb. of unpared apples allow 2 oz. of moist sugar, 1/2 teaspoonful of finely-minced lemon-peel, 1 tablespoonful of lemon-juice. 
Mode.—Make 1/2 lb. of puff-paste by either of the above-named recipes, place a border of it round the edge of a pie-dish, and fill it with apples pared, cored, and cut into slices; sweeten with moist sugar, add the lemon-peel and juice, and 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of water; cover with crust, cut it evenly round close to the edge of the pie-dish, and bake in a hot oven from 1/2 to 3/4 hour, or rather longer, should the pie be very large. When it is three-parts done, take it out of the oven, put the white of an egg on a plate, and, with the blade of a knife, whisk it to a froth; brush the pie over with this, then sprinkle upon it some sifted sugar, and then a few drops of water. Put the pie back into the oven, and finish baking, and be particularly careful that it does not catch or burn, which it is very liable to do after the crust is iced. If made with a plain crust, the icing may be omitted. 
Note.—Many things are suggested for the flavouring of apple pie; some say 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of beer, others the same quantity of sherry, which very much improve the taste; whilst the old-fashioned addition of a few cloves is, by many persons, preferred to anything else, as also a few slices of quince.

The Date/Year and Region: British, 1861

How Did You Make It: I used the #1206 puff paste receipt (as in the turn-overs two challenge past): made a paste of 1/2 lb of flour and 1/2 cup water, and rolled it out 3 times with 2 oz lard and 4 oz butter.  For the filling, I sliced (but did not peel) 2 lbs of apples, then added 4 oz sugar, 1 tsp lemon peel, 2 tablespoons lemon-juice, and a dozen cloves.  I understood the instructions to not call for a bottom crust; instead I lined the sides of the pan with paste, added the filling, and then covered the top.  Baked 40 min at 350F, opted not to brush with egg white.

Time to Complete: Just over an hour.

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?:  Good, if unlovely.  It was spicier than the last apple pie I made for HFF, with the cloves and lemon peel adding a bit of excitement.  I'd be interested to experiment with the optional sherry as well.  I meant to bake it at 400F, but forgot to change the oven temperature. Nonetheless, I found it sufficiently cooked, and the soldiers seemed to like it.  

How Accurate Is It?: As before, I didn't use heirloom baking apples, and so likely got a sweeter pie; the egg-white-and-sugar finish would have been a nice touch, but the receipt suggests it is not mandatory. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

HFF 2.12: In a Jam

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The Challenge: Make jam, jelly, pickles, or other preserved food.

The Recipe: Cherry Bounce from The Cook's Own Book. Which is definitely about preserving cherries.
Take a peck of morella cherries and a peck of black hearts. Stone the morellas and crack the stones. Put all the cherries and the cracked stones into a demi-john wtth three pounds of loaf-sugar slightly pounded or beaten. Pour in two gallons of double-rectified whisky. Cork the demi-john and in six months the cherry bounce will be fit to pour off and bottle for use; but the older it is the better. 

The Date/Year and Region: 1854, American (Boston)

How Did You Make It:  I scaled down the recipe to approximately 1/8 it's original amount. One peck is two dry gallons, or approximately 6-7 lbs of cherries; so, the receipt requires approximately 3 pounds of cherries (1.5 lb of each type) for 1 liter of whiskey (1 liter ~ 1 fluid quart).  I also substituted local cherries for the named varieties: Washington sweet, dark cherries for the black hearts and Rainier for the morellas. The former seems to be a fair substitution (black hearts are sweet, dark, and hard to find today). Rainier cherries aren't as sweet as the dark ones, but they also aren't sour like the morella cherries called for in the receipt--unfortunately, they were the only other variety available just now.

To make it, I washed the cherries, and cut each in half to remove the pits.  Half of the pits were briefly chopped in the blender.  I then filled two quart-sized jars with the cherries, adding the cracked pits and  approximately 6 oz of sugar to each.  I poured whiskey into the jars until the fruit was covered, and then sealed them and set them aside.

Time to Complete: About 30 minutes to prepare (mostly pitting cherries); 6 months to mature.

Total Cost: Varies with price of cherries and quality of whiskey.

How Successful Was It?:  I won't know for some months yet.  

How Accurate Is It?: The cherry substitutions were noted above.  I have seen period references to using other cherry varieties (such as wild cherries, particularly Virginian ones), and to using rum or brandy as the liquor, so a certain amount of improvisation seems acceptable.  Another receipt only has the cherries infuse for 8-10 weeks, so I may be justified in sampling it before January (though, according to Mr. Irving, cherry bounce is a traditional New Year's refreshment).  Using the blender to crack the stones was not period, but I couldn't think of another way to do it without making a mess of my hammer and cutting board.  The receipts suggest that the cracked stones are optional and I've omitted them in the past--I will note, however, that the blender smelled very strongly of cherries, so I have hopes that this will result in an especially flavorful batch.
Rainier and Washington Dark Cherries

Cherries and stones for "Cherry Bounce" (1854 recipe)

Edit: I have since learned that cherry stones contain small quantities of cyanide/cyanogens; while my calculations indicate that the amount of pits present should not be dangerous, I decided to remove the pits from the liquor as a precaution, and will not include them in future batches.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

1850s Wide Collar

I'm still working on some larger projects, but meanwhile I completed a basic white collar for the mid-1850s. Since that's where I'm spending most of my time, it seemed necessary; narrow 1860s collars don't quite fit the aesthetic of c. 1855.

1850s Reproduction Basic White Collar

This collar is a single layer of pimatex broadcloth, which is slightly heavier than the pima lawn I'm using in the never-ending-broderie-anglaise-collar.   It's fitted to the neckline of my yellow dress, measures 2.75" wide, and is finished with narrow hand-sewn hems.

Friday, May 27, 2016

HFF 2.11: Picnic Food

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The Challenge: Make a dish meant for a picnic.
1278. INGREDIENTS – Puff-paste No. 1206, any kind of fruit, sugar to taste. 
Mode.—Make some puff-paste by recipe No. 1206; roll it out to the thickness of about 1/4 inch, and cut it out in pieces of a circular form; pile the fruit on half of the paste, sprinkle over some sugar, wet the edges and turn the paste over. Press the edges together, ornament them, and brush the turnovers over with the white of an egg; sprinkle over sifted sugar, and bake on tins, in a brisk oven, for about 20 minutes. Instead of putting the fruit in raw, it may be boiled down with a little sugar first, and then inclosed in the crust; or jam, of any kind, may be substituted for fresh fruit. 
Time.—20 minutes. 
Sufficient—1/2 lb. of puff-paste will make a dozen turnovers. 
1206. INGREDIENTS – To every lb. of flour allow 8 oz. of butter, 4 oz. of lard, not quite 1/2 pint of water. 
Mode.—This paste may be made by the directions in the preceding recipe, only using less butter and substituting lard for a portion of it. Mix the flour to a smooth paste with not quite 1/2 pint of water; then roll it out 3 times, the first time covering the paste with butter, the second with lard, and the third with butter. Keep the rolling-pin and paste slightly dredged with flour, to prevent them from sticking, and it will be ready for use. 
The Date/Year and Region: 1861, British

How Did You Make It: Made a paste of 1 lb (3 1/3 cups) flour and a scant cup of water, as directed. Rolled out paste with 4 oz of butter, 4 oz of lard, and another 4 oz of butter.  Rolled out a fourth time, cutting the paste into circles with a knife and wide-mouth glass; folded each paste circle over a spoonful of jam, then topped with egg white and sugar as directed. I took "decorate" to mean "prick the crust such that it looks pretty and doesn't explode." Baked at 350F for approximately 20 min. I also made two turnovers using fresh strawberries with a pinch of sugar rather than the raspberry jam--about half of a very large strawberry (cut fine) was sufficient for each.
Time to Complete: About 1 hour.

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.  Takes 1 lb flour, 1/2 lb butter, 4 oz. lard, and an 18-oz jar of jam, as made up here.

How Successful Was It?:  Tasty.  The pastry is palatable, thought perhaps less rich than the all-butter puff paste I've used before (in chicken puffs, vegetable pie, jam tart, and cherry pie).  The jam is, well, jam.  Would make again, especially for period pic-nic-ing.

How Accurate Is It?: Cooked in an electric oven, but otherwise didn't tamper with the receipt.  I ended up with 3 dozen turnovers rather than 2, so I suspect they're meant to be made a bit larger.
Rolling out and assembling fruit turnovers, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861).

Fruit turnovers, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861).

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Two Pairs of Socks

Made in the usual fashion (for me, that is).  Each stocking is cut in two pieces: a main piece, seamed up the back, which covers the lower leg and the top of the foot, and a welt which fits under the foot.

The Met has a pair of original wool stockings built along the same lines (two pieces of knit material sewn together), though I've made mine of cotton.  They're quite comfortable, and sew up quickly.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

HFF #2.10: Breakfast

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The Challenge: Make a breakfast food. To quote again from Mrs. Beeton:
2144. It will not be necessary to give here a long bill of fare of cold joints, &c., which may be placed on the side-board, and do duty at the breakfast-table. Suffice it to say, that any cold meat the larder may furnish, should be nicely garnished, and be placed on the buffet. Collared and potted meats or fish, cold game or poultry, veal-and-ham pies, game-and-Rump-steak pies, are all suitable dishes for the breakfast-table; as also cold ham, tongue, &c. &c.
2145. The following list of hot dishes may perhaps assist our readers in knowing what to provide for the comfortable meal called breakfast. Broiled fish, such as mackerel, whiting, herrings, dried haddocks, &c.; mutton chops and rump-steaks, broiled sheep’s kidneys, kidneys la matre d’hotel, sausages, plain rashers of bacon, bacon and poached eggs, ham and poached eggs, omelets, plain boiled eggs, oeufs-au-plat, poached eggs on toast, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, &c. &c.

The Recipe: Fried Rashers of Bacon and Poached Eggs, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

Fried Rashers of Bacon and Poached Eggs:Cut the bacon into thin slices, trim away the rusty parts, and cut off the rind. Put it into a cold frying-pan, that is to say, do not place the pan on the fire before the bacon is in it. Turn it 2 or 3 times, and dish it on a very hot dish. Poach the eggs and slip them on to the bacon, without breaking the yolks, and serve quickly.
To Poach Eggs:
Eggs for poaching should be perfectly fresh, but not quite new-laid; those that are about 36 hours old are the best for the purpose. If quite new-laid, the white is so milky it is almost impossible to set it; and, on the other hand, if the egg be at all stale, it is equally difficult to poach it nicely. Strain some boiling water into a deep clean frying-pan; break the egg into a cup without damaging the yolk, and, when the water boils, remove the pan to the side of the fire, and gently slip the egg into it. Place the pan over a gentle fire, and keep the water simmering until the white looks nicely set, when the egg is ready. Take it up gently with a slice, cut away the ragged edges of the white, and serve either on toasted bread or on slices of ham or bacon, or on spinach, &c. A poached egg should not be overdone, as its appearance and taste will be quite spoiled if the yolk be allowed to harden. When the egg is slipped into the water, the white should be gathered together, to keep it a little in form, or the cup should be turned over it for 1 minute. To poach an egg to perfection is rather a difficult operation; so, for inexperienced cooks, a tin egg-poacher may be purchased, which greatly facilitates this manner of dressing ecgs. Our illustration clearly shows what it is: it consists of a tin plate with a handle, with a space for three perforated cups. An egg should be broken into each cup, and the machine then placed in a stewpan of boiling water, which has been previously strained. When the whites of the eggs appear set, they are done, and should then be carefully slipped on to the toast or spinach, or with whatever they are served. In poaching eggs in a frying-pan, never do more than four at a time; and, when a little vinegar is liked mixed with the water in which the eggs are done, use the above proportion.

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, British

How Did You Make It: Fried bacon until crisp (the way I prefer it).  Boiled water on the stove, placed eggs in water, and simmered until the whites were solid. 

Time to Complete: 20 minutes

Total Cost: About $2 for a small quantity of good bacon; eggs on hand.

How Successful Was It?: One of the eggs broke, but I managed to get the other out whole, and they did cook through. I feel that this dish was successfully prepared.  That being said, I prefer eggs cooked hard, so I probably won't be making this again.  The bacon was tasty.  

How Accurate Is It?: Very, save that I used the stove instead of fire.
Poaching eggs.
Poaching eggs.  They didn't fully stay together, but it seemed to work.

Fried bacon and poached eggs, from Mrs. Beeton's, 1861.
Fried bacon, one poached egg, and one slightly-exploded egg.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

First Foray into Straw Plaiting

Working on some more large projects, which will hopefully be post-worthy in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, here's my first attempt at straw plaiting.
Three strand plaited/braided straw.

It's just a basic 3-strand, using 1/2 split straw (the red things are straw splitters: 2, 3, 4, and 6-way). I've already learned a lot about working the straw wet and folding--rather than bending--it.  The next objective is to split it finer while keeping the pieces even; after that, I hope to make the edges smoother and the ends neater when I work in a new length of straw.  After that, it's fancier braids, and eventually producing something like this:
1858 plaited straw from Hawaii, in the Smithsonian accession #66A00050.
Straw plait for bonnets, made in Hawaii, 1858.
Currently in the Smithsonian.
It's 1cm wide, and appears to be a 6-strand plait.