Strawberry Water–Whitehouse Cookbook

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You’ll find me loathe to buy strawberries in winter. Goodness knows you can find heaps of them in the supermarkets but who want the cottony, over-toothy rind that barely smacks of strawberry taste and  has a vastly insipid colour within, let alone without?  The heights of real strawberry season (for Canada) has peaked and is now on its downward trend but the berries are still quite nice–even shipped in from California. They even taste like strawberries. The bite feels right on the teeth.

Perhaps I tasted wonderful strawberries in the past. I must have for I have a defined idea of what a real strawberry tastes like off the plant. I just don’t recall from where this pinnacle strawberry taste hails. What I do know is that I only tasted that perfection two times in recent memory—a roadside wild strawberry of pinky-nail proportions and gigantic taste  and the carton of Plougastel strawberries during a French summer—red, thumb-sized beauties that could outshine any supermarket monstrosities.

I live in the land of those wild strawberries now but the weather has not cooperated for taste and little fingers and paws often get to them before I do. So, for now, I have to make do with the acceptable strawberries of the grocery store while they are in season.

Strawberries are far more season appropriate than split pea soup so I aimed to make a Victorian fruit juice for the summer time. I hit a snag the first time I wanted to make it because the store had already run out of strawberries by the time I got there. So I had to wait until yesterday for the next shipment.

Strawberry Water, as it is known in the Whitehouse Cookbook, is a refreshing summer’s drink. It’s fairly sweet so it would probably satisfy a child’s cravings but it doesn’t taste fake. It really tastes like strawberries. Organic, plant-ripened strawberries would be the best so I had to make do with the strawberries that still had some harder interior white bits.

This isn’t a “take it out of the freezer and have on the table in a few minutes” kind of summer drink. It will take some time. I’d probably need to do it again without the camera constantly clicking to get an accurate measure of time but it was probably closer to 15 to 20 minutes. It makes you  appreciate the time people actually spent on these kind of projects. It makes you want the very best whole food with which to make your meals. It makes you question how our society ever got convinced that “fast and cheap” became acceptable on the family table.

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Original Recipe:

STRAWBERRY WATER.

Take one cupful of ripe hulled berries; crush with a wooden spoon, mixing with the mass a quarter of a pound of pulverized sugar and half a pint of cold water. Pour the mixture into a fine sieve, rub through and filter till clear; add the strained juice, of one lemon and one and a half pints of cold water, mix thoroughly and set in ice chest till wanted.

This makes a nice, cool drink on a warm day and easily to be made in strawberry season.

STRAWBERRY WATER (Modern Interpretation)

2 cups ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half (use smaller, riper berries if you can)

1/2 lb white sugar (just over a cup)

2 cups cold water

2 lemons

6 cups cold water

Put strawberries into bowl and a bit of the sugar. Begin to mush the strawberries with a wooden spoon (pestle would be best). Gradually add in the sugar bit by bit as you mush the strawberries. Add some of the water in while you mush as well. Mash complete when most of the strawberries are fully crushed and the all the sugar and water are completely mixed in. Place a fine mesh sieve over a new large bowl. Pour in strawberry mash and press the juices through. Do not insist on the entirety of the mash to get through the sieve as the juice must be clear. If the juice is cloudy, you might dispose of the mash and run the juice through the sieve once more, or, more exactingly, line the sieve with cheese cloth to make sure the re-sieved juices run clear. Add juice to pitcher. Set aside. Juice the two lemons, running the juice through a sieve to keep out seeds and pulp. Add lemon juice to strawberry juice. Add 6 cups of cold water to strawberry juice. Mix juices and water together with a wooden spoon. Place pitcher in the refrigerator for two hours. Serve cold.

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Categories: beverages | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Split Pea Soup, No. 1 — Whitehouse Cookbook

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I made green split pea soup today. I made it on a sunny, hot day. Not exactly season appropriate, I know, but it must be something I inherited from my family. I’ve known many occasions where my mother’s kitchen was a sweltering storm of steamy meat and cake vapors on the hottest day of the year.  I put it down to stubbornness, I guess. I made a set list of things to make for my blog, now that time is on my hands, and ended up scheduling for today what should have been started three days ago on a rainy, cold day. It ended up being quite warm today.

I don’t know that all my scheduled testing will go as well as today’s. This recipe from the Whitehouse Cookbook could have gone awry but everything just seemed to feel natural and fall into place. Albeit the recipe has more measurements in it than others in the book, looks can be deceiving and guesses can go quite wrong.  It was suggested to use lean ham or bacon for the meat. I made a compromise and used Canadian bacon. It gave a nice flavour to the soup.  I suppose I can still test it with actual ham or with actual bacon because this soup is definitely a keeper.

I imagine this split pea soup, called “Split Pea Soup No. 1”, could have been a very economical dish in any time period, let alone the Victorian age.  It didn’t have a lot of ingredients and not too much of any one thing.  If you added more water to it, it could have satisfied a family for more than one sitting. I read on some web pages not to use baking soda with the split peas (causes loss of nutrients, so I understand) but I am trying to keep to as much ingredient accuracy as possible when I test so it stayed in. I guessed the quantity of celery because there was no suggestion. I tried two stalks, which equalled about a cup, because the wording said “some celery” which may have suggested more than a single stalk. In pepper, I went with a half teaspoon.  I noticed that the part about removing the meat for the blending stage never said whether to keep the meat for the soup once it had been blended or to use it elsewhere. I made the call of keeping it. I’m sure some of my Victorian counterparts may have made the same choice.

The original :

SPLIT PEA SOUP. No. 1.

Wash well a pint of split peas and cover them well with cold water, adding a third of a teaspoonful of soda; let them remain in it over night to swell. In the morning put them in a kettle with a close fitting cover. Pour over them three quarts of cold water, adding half a pound of lean ham or bacon cut into slices or pieces; also a teaspoonful of salt and a little pepper, and some celery chopped fine. When the soup begins to boil, skim the froth from the surface. Cook slowly from three to four hours, stirring occasionally till the peas are [Pg 36]all dissolved, adding a little more boiling water to keep up the quantity as it boils away. Strain through a colander, and leave out the meat. It should be quite quick. Serve with small squares of toasted bread, cut up and added. If not rich enough, add a small piece of butter.

SPLIT PEA SOUP. No. 1 (A Modern Interpretation)

2 cups green split peas

1/3 tsp. baking soda

12 cups fresh, cold water

½ lb  (~250 g) Canadian Bacon, chopped into quarters

1 cup finely chopped celery (about two stalks)

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground pepper

3 thick slices of french bread / homemade bread, cubed 1 inch square

1)      In a large ceramic or glass bowl, place peas, baking soda and enough water to cover peas by about 1 inch. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave out overnight on the counter.

2)      In the morning (if making this for lunch), dump swelled peas into a colander and rinse to clean.

3)      Place cleaned peas into a kettle or dutch oven. Cover peas with 12 cups of water. Add quarters of bacon, chopped celery, salt and pepper. Stir up contents briefly

4)      Bring mix to a boil in uncovered kettle/dutch oven. As the heat increases gradually, scum will rise to the surface. Skim as much of the white foam off of the surface as you can. It should take about 10 to 20 minutes for most of the scum to rise and begin to boil clearly.

5)      When mix comes to a boil, turn it down to a gentle boil and cook for 2 ½  hours. You can add more water to it if the peas aren’t breaking down. Make sure the water you add is boiling hot.

6)      When the soup is almost done, take the cubed bread and place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Place under a broiler on low. Keep a careful watch on the bread. Take out once it becomes golden on one side and flip each piece to toast briefly on the other side until golden.  Remove, set aside and allow to cool.

7)      Remove each piece of Canadian bacon into a dish and set aside. Allow peas to cool slightly. You can blend through a colander as suggested in the original Victorian recipe or you can go modern and use an immersion blender (as I did*) or, if much cooled, a regular blender, section by section.

8)      I took the set aside bacon and cut it into fine dice. It will be easy as it has been cooked for some time.

9)      Ladle soup into bowls, decorate with diced bacon and a handful of toasted cubes.

* Yeah, I know it isn’t era-appropriate but this IS a modern interpretation after all. I’m sure if they had it, they’d have used it. It’s the taste as much as the preparation from scratch that I consider to be the more important in the interpretation. What this really is, after all, though, is an excuse to make less dishes to wash.

* You could add salted butter at the end but I suspect that most ham and bacon adds seasoning enough. I didn’t but I suppose it might by a nice addition. I might have if I’d had salted butter but, alas, I did not.

Categories: soups | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Apple Puff Pudding: Enter the Quiche Dish

Round three has come and gone. Quickly. I’m much more adept at it now and my other half demolished it in quick march time.  Since the last two rounds rather damp in the center, I believed that the pie dish I was using–a 9-inch pyrex–was too deep yet too small for the amount of batter I made. It was precarious transferring the dish to the oven. I endeavored to buy a wider pie dish but was stopped by the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of places to go in this little valley where I live nor many options without having to drive about 500 km to the east. What to do?  I spied a wide ceramic quiche dish in a local store and bought it for my third experiment. Maybe it’s not perfectly accurate for the time period but necessity IS the mother of invention after all.It would still give me the variables I was looking for– wider and shallower.

I’d pretty much perfected my concept of the ingredient list for Apple Puff Pudding by the second round. The wider, shallower dish did allow for a little more cooking on the sides but the center remains obstinately damp. This, excitingly, was the only round that resulted in some actual, brief puffing of the pudding. It quickly collapse upon exit of the oven but I figure I’m on the right path. I may yet endeavor to try other temperatures or a proper 12-inch glass pie dish, but I am told the result is most edible. Even cold. It disappeared completely into tummies the last two rounds. It is somewhat like a Far Breton–custardy and dense. It really is good hot, as specified in the original recipe, especially with vanilla ice cream. Without further ado, my notes and the resulting recipe.

Okay. First, the original:

The instructions are pretty straight forward but need to be translated in modern recipe parlance.

APPLE-PUFF PUDDING

butter for greasing

3 medium-sized apples — about 375 g (3/4 lb)

225 g (1/2 lb) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups milk

3 eggs

1/4 cup cold, diced butter

2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter 12 inch pie dish or 12 inch ceramic quiche dish completely. Set dish aside.

Core and peel apples. Slice all three apples into 1/4 inch thick (1/2 centimeter) slices. This should equal about 3 cups of sliced apple. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, add flour and salt. Mix to incorporate. Gradually add milk to flour mixture, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Add three whole eggs and continue to whisk mixture until eggs are fully incorporated and batter is smooth.

Pour batter into buttered quiche dish. Carefully lay apple pieces on top of the batter in a pattern. The three cups of apple slices should cover the entire surface of the batter. Slices will need to be placed closely together.

Scatter diced butter randomly over the top of the apple slices. Put dish in oven and bake for about 50 minutes or when the edges become a deep golden brown and slightly pulling away from the edges.

Take pudding out of oven and immediately sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the apple puff. Serve immediately.

Serves 8 generously

Notes:

– I used Royal Gala apples. They stayed firm and slightly sweet but I don’t know how accurate they would be for Victorian authenticity

– I used 2 percent Dairyland milk. I never tried skim and I don’t know if that would make a difference. That could be a future test in the kitchen. Wonder if organic would make a difference. 

– I used all-purpose Robin Hood flour

– The hot pudding tastes very good with Breyer’s French Vanilla ice cream.

– I might still play around with the temperature, maybe at 385 instead, since the combo of higher temperature and a shallower dish seemed to result in some momentary puffing of the batter.

If you try it out, let me know and tell me what your results were. Enjoy!

Categories: dumplings and puddings | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

The Trouble with Apple-Puff Pudding

Maybe I’m overly-ambitious. I intend, in this blog, to translate old, pre- Fannie Farmer recipes into standardized recipe form– or as close to it as I can get. One tiny problem is that you don’t realize just how many things need to be fiddled with until you are right in the middle of  the test-kitchen stage. There are obvious helps like “half pound of…” and “three eggs” but directions saying just “sprinkle sugar over the top” leaves much to the imagination for quantity.

I’ll soon head on to Round Three of Apple-Puff Pudding in the well-known White House Cookbook.  Round one was edible but damp because I think the temperature was too low. I chickened out on heat because I wasn’t sure what temperature you’d get in a cooking range, most likely the oven of the time. Lesson one learned–go for heat and just keep an eye on it. Round two, with a higher heat,  produced a somewhat puffier and less heavy version but still dense and wet in the center. I added more salt to the batter (another unknown quantity). I also was more generous with the sugar topping at the end.  I also noted the first round that since the pied dish required didn’t offer the size, I might have one that is too small. A larger 9 inch might spread out the batter and make it cook more evenly.Lesson two–don’t skimp on sugar… or salt for that matter.

I’ve eaten both versions. The first was tasting somewhat like sugarless Far Breton. It quickly became stodgy and less impressive as it got cold. Round two’s was better cooked, more sugary and, I admit, served with French Vanilla ice cream.  It tasted rather nice right out of the oven and the vanilla was a good match although maybe not so authentic. Round two was still dampish but, with the Far Breton texture in the middle, it wasn’t foreign to my tastebuds.

Round three will be tested very soon with bigger dish, I hope, and maybe a slightly higher heat.

The pictures of the results of the first two rounds:

 

Round 1 results

Round 2 results

The trouble with Apple Puff Pudding is that it is just good enough to keep me trying again and again until I get close to what I think my great-great grandmothers would have been proud to put on their table.I suspect many recipes may be like that in this book.  Hope you’ll join me on my adventures and, for goodness sake, please advise and compare notes with me.

Categories: dumplings and puddings | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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