Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Must Not Think This Soup is Poor or Useless

I know you have been wondering what to do with the veal bones that you very carefully removed from your breast of veal whilst making your rolled veal (see previous post). I hope you didn't give them to the dog, because Mrs. Black was an early adopter of "snout to tail" cooking. Nothing is wasted. Also, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, without further ado, Mrs. Blacks helpful hints for Veal Soup:

"Put the veal bones on in the soup pot with 10 breakfast-cupfuls of water (2 1/2 quarts) and let it boil Then add an onion, a piece of turnip, and a small parsnip, and let the whole boil for two hours at least. Afterwards put it through a strainer and return it to the pot, and when it boils up again add a teacupful of rice well washed, and let that boil for twenty minutes; then put in a good large table-spoonful of chopped parsley, and a teacupful of milk, enough salt to season the soup, and a little white pepper; boil for five minutes longer, and pour it into the tureen.

"It is obvious this soup must be put on before the veal, as it takes longer in the process of cooking. Take the parsley and wash it well, and put it in the corner of a towel, wring it quite dry and the chopping afterwards will be a very easy process. You must not think this soup is poor or useless, because there is not much meat or even bone in it. Vegetables are in many ways much better than meat, and soup made with them alone is both nice and very nourishing."

Certainly you cannot argue that Mrs. Black is anything but frugal. And she was ahead of her time in extolling the virtues of vegetables. One cannot help but wonder, however, if the soup might be made better by adding additional fresh chopped vegetables to the parsley in the final moments. (Though I do appreciate that she only boils the parsley for five minutes.)  Carrots might be nice, and maybe a fresh parsnip or two. I'm sure the broth is delicious, but a piece of turnip, a small parsnip and an onion all boiled for two hours and then removed cannot be leaving very much behind in the way of nutrition. The extended description of chopping the parsley is fabulous don't you think? I wonder how many Glaswegian housekeepers struggled with chopping parsley before Mrs. Black's helpful hint...And I do wonder about the overall availability of rice in Glasgow in the 1880s. A very quick internet search shows lots of potatoes at that time, but not so much in the way of rice. More research needed here, I think.

I certainly do not think this soup poor or useless, but instead, I am sure it is a delicious first course to whet the appetite for more delicious nibbles to come. Salt not included.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Very Nice and Profitable Piece of Meat

Apparently March in Glasgow "is the season when veal is getting to be plentiful and good." Mrs. Black is clearly a fan. The first two recipes in her little booklet are for a nice rolled veal and the accompanying veal soup.  Yum.

In her words: "Purchase a piece of the breast of veal, about 6 inches broad and rather longer, 3 or 4 lbs. weight, and take out the bones. Place it on a table with the skin downwards, and make the following stuffing:-2 oz. of fat bacon ham chopped up, a thick slice of bread grated, a little pepper and salt, and either a very little milk or an egg. Mix this altogether, moistening it with the egg beaten up or the milk, spread it on the veal, which roll up rather tightly, and tie the roll securely with a piece of string. Then rub a little flour all over the outside. Put into a sauce-pan a good teaspoonful of dripping, and make it quite hot; fry and onion in it till it becomes brown; afterwards fry the roll of veal all over the outside. When this is done, put in 1 breakfast-cupful of water, put on the lid, and stew slowly for one hour and a half. Then take off the strings, dish the meat, and pour the gravy over it. This is really a very nice and profitable piece of meat, as it can be used either hot or cold, and the bones can also be used to make soup with." 

Disregarding the fact that I have a major problem with veal for ethical reasons, I could probably ask the butchers at Whole Foods (or preferably an independent butcher shop that can offer a little more moral support) for 4 pounds of bone-in veal. I'm sure it is no longer the bargain it was in 1884. I also hope that the veal calves of the 1880s were more family farm raised and not subjected to the stress torture of a modern American factory farm. As for boning the veal - don't you love how there are no instructions for how to manage that process? Eeek! The stuffing seems a little bland, but nothing wrong with bacon. I might add some celery, an onion and a handful of parsley. A little fry up and braise isn't all bad, right? But I missed how a breakfast cupful of water and some meat drippings qualify as "gravy." Ah well. Times have changed. 

Here's a link to a more modern recipe for stuffed veal from the lovely folks at Epicurious. This one suggests roasting for 2 1/2 hours in a 350 degree oven with a stuffing that includes chicken livers. I'm not sure I'm up for trying out either version, but you  might keep it in mind for a special occasion. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In the Beginning...Hints for Young Housekeepers

When my mother-in-law recently passed away, we packed up her extensive book collection along with the rest of her lovely collections. Among the many larger tomes was one very small book. It was old with a ragged spine and a faded navy cover. As I have always had a soft spot for the underdog, I took a closer look. And thank goodness I did. For I was holding in my hand the most amazing little book, with my great-great grand-mother-in-law's name inside the cover and a date - 25 Aug 1884. Published by William Collins, Sons & Co, Limited of Glasgow and London, Hints for Young Housekeepers was compiled by Mrs. Black, "of the West End School of Cookery, Glasgow. Holder of a First-Class Diploma from the National Training School of Cookery, South Kensington." It appears that Mrs. Black had written a column in the Glasgow Weekly Mail full of helpful hints, and had been encouraged to put this treasure trove into a booklet "in the hope that they may benefit a still larger circle."  

Reading through this booklet elicits hoots of laughter and more than one stomach curdling thought, but at its core, Mrs. Black's mission was to help the ordinary housewife stretch a dollar in a time when she might not have running water, her stove was made of cast iron and she stoked it with wood to keep the water boiling and the house warm. Butter, herbs and spices were expensive luxuries, refrigeration was complicated, asparagus wasn't flown in in January to the local mega-mart and people didn't own fancy measuring cups and spoons. And as everything old is new again, the column was written with an eye to "the fruits and products in season at that particular time." Local, seasonal food, made at home. 

While Mrs. Black often encourages you to boil your parsnips and peas for 45 minutes (shudder!), she is a big believer in bacon fat, and appreciates the ease of one pot meals as much as I do. The copyright ran out on Mrs. Black a long time ago, but it is my hope that we can celebrate her, and the trials and tribulations of the everyday Victorian era housewife, perhaps creating some new classics as we go. Won't you join me?