Thursday, May 11, 2017

Catharticum Imperiale Mold; or, Cranky Dude Gelatin

The Elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus' original recipes for elixirs, scented water, beauty potions and sweetmeats.  Edited by Knut Boeser.  [1552]

This recipe may look strikingly familiar, because it is just a gelatinized version of this recipe.  As written, it is a medicinal syrup for "noble lords who have authority over others but who are unable to control or master their anger, for by taking only one ounce of it, their rancour will be dissipated."  I liked the flavors together very much, but felt that what it really wanted to be was gelatin.

It's so wobbly!  Especially if you've used gelatin extracted from beef hides.

Cranky Dude Gelatin
Cinnamon stick
Unflavored gelatin

Chop rhubarb, add to pot with cinnamon stick, and simmer in water until it falls apart.  Strain, and add sugar, rosewater, and possibly more water until it tastes delicious.  Follow directions on whatever kind of gelatin you are using to thicken.

Verdict: Yum!  Two guinea pigs said it was the best gelatin they'd ever had.  Almost everyone liked it, except for two 7-year-olds who were unimpressed.  A good number of people had seconds.  My kids had seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, and I frankly lost count.  0% of the men who consumed this gelatin expressed a desire to beat serfs or kick dogs, so I declare this to be a medical success.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pilchard Pie

'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton [1822]
Though domestic occupations do not stand so high in the general esteem as they formerly did, there are none of greater importance in social life, and none when neglected that produce a larger portion of human misery. There was a time when ladies knew nothing beyond their own family concerns; but in the present day there are many who know nothing about them. If a young person has been sent to a fashionable boarding-school, it is ten to one, when she returns home, whether she can mend her own stockings, or boil a piece of meat, or do any thing more than preside over the flippant ceremonies of the tea-table.

In honor of the "Poldark" binge I have been on, I present:

Pilchard Pie!  YAYYYY.  If you have watched "Poldark," you will know that they seem to live on pilchards and pies. And look!  This has pilchards AND pie!  I have no doubt Ross would be all over this.

PILCHARD PIE. Soak two or three salted pilchards for some hours, the day before they are to be dressed. Clean and skin the white part of some large leeks, scald them in milk and water, and put them in layers into a dish, with the pilchards. Cover the whole with a good plain crust. When the pie is taken out of the oven, lift up the side crust with a knife, and empty out all the liquor: then pour in half a pint of scalded cream.

But where can one find salted pilchards?

That's because you are the worst, Elizabeth. You are good for nothing but to preside over the flippant ceremonies of the tea-table.   Pilchards are basically the same thing as sardines.  And as the last tin of salted pilchards was packed in Cornwall in 2005, we're going to hope that canned, salty sardines are near enough to rehydrated salt-preserved canned pilchards.  Anchovies would probably also be a good analogue.  This recipe looks like it may only have a top crust, but I wanted to try a raised pie.  To make a raised pie, we need to make a hot water crust.  It's the first time I've done one, and it was not hard.  I didn't make it very attractive, but it was totally functional.  

1 lb. plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces butter
4 ounces lard or 4 ounces white vegetable fat
4 ounces milk, and
4 ounces water, mixed in equal proportions

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, making a well in the centre. Place the water, butter and lard into a saucepan, when the butter and lard has melted bring it all to the boil. Take off the heat. Pour the mixture into the centre of the flour. Working very quickly, mix with a wooden spoon. Then knead with hands to produce a smooth and elastic dough. Allow to rest in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes. (This pastry must be used whilst still warm, otherwise it will become brittle and hard to mould.) Proceed with your recipe.

Cook those leeks in milk and water!

Drain those leeks, and layer with sardines! 

Bake for 2 hours at 350 F., and use a funnel (I have this cute little one!  Look how wee!) to fill with cream.  Mmmmm.  Cream.  

My first victim was a friend of my husband's to whom I offered pie.  I am a bad person.


That pretty much covers it.  My dad, who loves sardines with all his heart, loved it.  My mom, who loathes sardines with all her heart, refused to try it.  Everyone else took one or two bites and was done.  My three year old, who loves pies, kept taking bites and then looking hurt and sad, but kept eating.  She looked confused, like she couldn't understand why pie would keep betraying her.  It basically tastes like how a dock smells.  General consensus: not the worst ever.  But please don't ever make it again.

Thanks to Foods of England

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Oxtail Soup

Things A Lady Would Like to Know Concerning Domestic Management and Expenditure (Henry Southgate, 1875)

I love this book mostly for the improving quotes that it is so liberally sprinkled with.

Cultivate modesty, meekness, prudence, piety with all its virtuous and charitable occupations, all beautiful and useful accomplishments, suited to your rank and condition.  These are the chief ornaments of your sex, and will render you truly lovely as women and as Christians. --Rev. James Fordyce, D.D. (Yes, the same Rev. Fordyce that Mr. Collins keeps trying to read from in Pride and Prejudice.)

I have theories on why beautiful soup tureens were so popular.  Oxtail joints are not particularly attractive.

Oxtail Soup.--Make a quantity of brown soup with shin of beef; take 2 or 3 tails and cut them in pieces at the joints; put them into the soup, and stew them till tender, but not till the meat leaves the bones.  Add a little [mushroom] ketchup, and serve it with the pieces of tail in the soup.

Even less attractive raw!

Oxtail Soup, Redacted
Beef broth
Mushroom ketchup
Oxtail pieces

Put beef broth, a few tablespoons of mushroom ketchup, and some pieces of oxtail in a pot.  Either simmer for a loooooong time, or pressure cook 45 minutes (natural release).

Verdict:  Actually... great.  Really great.  Really, really great.  This made the best beef broth I think I've ever had.  That mushroom ketchup is really nice when it's diluted.  That, along with the flavor from the oxtails, made the broth so fabulous.  The oxtail meat was tender, flavorful, and succulent.  The kids adored it.  They dunked bread in the broth and had a couple bowls each.

The only problem is how to eat the gosh darn things.  It's REALLY DIFFICULT to get bites off the things!  You probably end up with six or seven bites of meat off the entire thing.  So, a great starter soup I guess, but probably don't base a whole meal off this unless you throw in some vegetables.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mushroom Ketchup for the Destitute

When you say "ketchup" in modern times, it can be assumed that you mean a tomato based condiment with vinegar and spices.  This was not always so.  Ketchup has been a popular condiment since the late 1700's, when tomatoes were still viewed with deep suspicion as being possibly poisonous.  The most common base for a ketchup sauce is most definitely mushrooms, followed by walnuts.  It features heavily as an ingredient in cookbooks all the way up through the 1800's.  

But what is the modern cook to do, when one cannot simply buy mushroom ketchup unless one goes to a specialty shop in the U.K.? Make it!  How hard can it be? 

To make Ketchup.
Take the large Flaps of Mushrooms, pick nothing
but the Straws and Dirt from it, then lay them
in a broad earthern Pan, strow a good deal of
Salt over them, let them lie till next Morning;
then with your Hand brake them, put them
into a Stew-pan, and let them boil a Minute
or two, then strain them thro’ a coarse Cloth;
and wring it hard. To take out all the Juice,
let it stand to settle, then pour it off clear,
and run it thro’ a thick Flannel Bag, (some
filter it thro’ brown Paper, but that is a very
tedious Way) then boil it, to a Quart of the
Liquor put a quarter of an Ounce of whole
Ginger, and half a quarter of an Ounce of
whole Pepper, boil it briskly a quarter
of an Hour, then strain it, and when it
is cold, put it into Pint Bottles; in each
Bottle put four or five Blades of Mace,
and six Cloves, cork it tight, and it will
keep two Years. This gives the best
Flavour of the Mushrooms to any Sauce,
if you put to a Pint of this Ketchup a Pint
of Mum, it will taste like foreign Ketchup.
-The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, by Hannah Glasse (1747)

Hold on, that's like... a LOT of mushrooms.  Like, A LOT OF MUSHROOMS.  Do you understand how many mushrooms it takes to extract a quart of juice?  And here's me without a money tree.  

There we go.  Yes.  That's what I like to call... good enough.  

Cheater Mushroom Ketchup
1 quart water
2 T. mushroom bouillon
1 T. dry ginger (preferably in chunks rather than powder, but hey, I didn't have any)
1 T. peppercorns
1 t. mace
6 cloves

Simmer together.  Strain and bottle.  Refrigerate.  

Verdict:  Yowsers.  This is HOT.  And salty!  I think it came out right.  It reminds me very very much of Worcestershire sauce, or steak sauce.  It isn't something you want to swipe a french fry through, but it does have a lot of flavor.  I don't think I can appropriately judge it before using it in a recipe, you know?  


Further reading:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

To make Collops like Bacon of Marchpane

To make Collops like Bacon of Marchpane.
Take some of your Marchpane paste and work it with red sanders till it be red, then roul a broad sheet of white marchpane paste, and a sheet of red paste, three of white, and four of red, lay them one upon another, dry it, cut it overthwart, and it will look like collops of bacon. [The Accomplisht Cook: OR THE ART & MYSTERY OF COOKERY.: Wherein the whole ART is revealed in a more easie and perfect Method, than hath been publisht in any language. by Robert May (1685)]

To make Collops of Bacon in Sweet-meats.
Take some Marchpane Paste, and the weight thereof in fine Sugar beaten and searsed, boil them on the fire, and keep them stirring for fear they burn, so do till you find it will come from the bottom of the Posnet, then mould it with fine Sugar like a Paste, and colour some of it with beaten Cinnamon, and put in a little Ginger, then roll it broad and thin, and lay one upon another till you think it be of a fit thickness and cut it in Collops and dry it in an Oven. [The Queene-like Closet or Rich Cabinet: Stored with all manner of RARE RECEIPTS For Preserving, Candying and Cookery, Very Pleasant and Beneficial to all Ingenious Persons of the FEMALE SEX., by Hannah Wooley (1672)]

To make all kind of Conceits with Marchpane as pies, Birds Biskets, Collops Eggs and soum to print with moldes
Take half a pound of Marchpane past being made as before written for yr marchpane make soum littel pies & fill them with Littell peices of marchpins cast Biskets & carawaies on them & so gild them & serve them you may make some of them like Collops of Bacon; so yt you Colour a pice of white & red paste one upon another; & then cutt it in slices & ye red being mingled with ye white will shew like intertarded Bacon fatt & leane, some you may print with Moldes. [Elizabeth Capell Her Same Booke Anno Domini 1699]

I guess this was the joke du jour in the latter 1600's!  Hilarious.

I cheated by not making my own marzipan.  Instead, I bought a tube from the store.  I only made a little bit of it red, because old timey bacon is a lot more fatty than modern bacon.  In fact, it should be even MORE fatty than I've gone for!  Jas. Townsend shows you how fatty in his video.

I combined recipes and kneaded red coloring, cinnamon, and ginger into the smaller portion.  "Sanders" is red sandalwood, which makes red food coloring when dissolved in alcohol.

I was able to convince some urchins to be my kitchen drudge assistants, in exchange for the promise of "bacon candy." They smooshed the stacks of marzipan flat, then banged the sides into a rectangle shape.  After I cut slices of bacon off, they were happy to dispose of the off-cuts.

Verdict: It's marzipan!  If you like marzipan, you will like this marzipan shaped like bacon.  My urchins had a great time offering "bacon" to people, especially when people pretended to totally buy that it was bacon, and then were shocked, SHOCKED to discover it wasn't.

In conclusion, it is a great, easy kid project.  Give it a try!  Teach some history!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Maslin Bread

Maslin bread was the common bread of the medieval period.  It consists of wheat mixed with rye, barley, or whatever has happened to grow in your field, lightly bolted to remove some of the bran and risen with sourdough.  While there was a clear preference for wheat-only bread, the reality is that many regions in England are not great for growing it, and farmers planted mixtures of grains as insurance that one of them would produce well in any particular year.*

I have tried, and tried, and tried to make a 100% whole wheat sourdough risen bread.  It doesn't work.   My duck flock has enjoyed the results, but no one else.  But by carefully adapting directions from Breadtopia, I finally got this!

The key is some white flour.  Sourdough works a lot better on white flour, so the bolting step is not because they preferred white bread (although they did), it's vital to getting it to rise.  I used all-purpose flour rather than bread flour, as English medieval wheat was low in gluten.

Maslin Bread [Adapted from Breadtopia]

Evening of Day 1:
200 grams (7 oz. or 7/8 cup) water
120g (4 oz. or 1/2 cup) sourdough starter
236 grams (8 1/3 oz or 2 cups) whole wheat flour

Morning of Day 2:
274 grams (9 2/3 oz. or ~1 1/4 cup) water
85 grams (3 oz. or 7/8 cup) rye flour
250 grams (8 3/4 oz or 2 cups) white all-purpose
170 grams (6 oz. or a tad over 1 3/4 cups) barley flour
13 grams (scant tbs.) salt


Evening of Day 1:
Mix all ingredients together.  Ferment (let sit out at room temperature covered loosely with plastic) at 69F for 12 hours.

Morning of Day 2:
Add day 2 to day 1 ingredients.  Knead, place in plastic covered bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Morning of Day 3:
Form a boule (round loaf) and ferment (let sit out on counter) 5 hours at 69F.

Bake at 485F for 40-45 minutes.


Verdict: Fabulous.  Look at the inside!

Mmmm.  It is pretty darn dense, but not brick-like.  It had a beautiful, crispy crust and a chewy inside.  I scoffed the heels before anyone else could get them... for quality control.  It was enjoyed by all who hadn't recently had dental surgery.

*How To Be a Tudor, by Ruth Goodman

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sourdough Oatcakes

Under the Haps of his saddle, each man carries a broad plate of metal ; behind the saddle, a little bag of oatmeal: when they have eaten too much of the sodden flesh, and their stomach appears weak and empty, they place this plate over the fire, mix with water their oatmeal, and when the plate is heated, they put a little of the paste upon it, and make a thin cake, like a cracknel or biscuit, which they eat to warm their stomachs: it is therefore no wonder, that they perform a longer day's march than other soldiers." -Jean Froissart (c1337-c1400) a Frenchman, visited Scotland during the reign (1329-71) of King David II.
Early Travellers in Scotland.  edited by Peter Hume Brown. 1891

I feel pretty confident about the historicity of this recipe, but it is conjecture based on the following facts:

1. "Oatmeal" does not here mean "rolled oats" or "steel-cut oats," as these weren't invented until the 19th century.  It means oat flour.

2. When you use a wooden bowl to make dough frequently, you trap yeasts in the crannies and cracks: thus, sourdough.  Mix dough in a wooden dough bowl, wait a few hours, you now have raised dough.

3. Raised dough is yummier than flour paste, and if these Scottish soldiers could mix flour and water together, their mums at home could do the same thing and then wait a couple of hours before cooking the dough.

4. Modern oatcakes are either leavened with baking soda, yeast, or left unleavened.  Baking soda was unknown until the 19th century, and yeast requires the making of ale nearby so you can use the foam.

5. It is so friggin' easy it is inconceivable that anyone could have failed to figure this out.

Sourdough Oatcakes
active sourdough starter
oat flour

Combine oat flour and water to the consistency of pancake batter in a non-metal bowl. Add a dollop of sourdough starter and a pinch of salt.  Mix, cover, and leave until it increases in volume.  Do not stir the batter, you will smash the bubbles.  Fry in cakes.

Here is the result of a thick batter:

Here is the result of a thinner batter:

Verdict: Pretty good!  Better with butter and honey, as many things are, of course.  They are easy to undercook in the middle, so my first batch was only edible around the edges and gummy in the middle.  Surprisingly light and fluffy on the second try, though.  If you cannot find oat flour, and do not have a grain mill, put water and quick- or old-fashioned oats in the blender with enough water to make a batter, then add in quick oats or whole wheat flour to thicken to the consistency you are aiming for.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How to make a confection from pine-nut kernels

The Elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus' original recipes for elixirs, scented water, beauty potions and sweetmeats.  Edited by Knut Boeser.  [1552]

Aaaarrghhh.  I am so done with candy for a while!  I kind of went on a candymaking spree recently, and now the very sight of these, lovely as they were, makes me want to heave.

How to make a confection from pine-nut kernels
Take as many well-cleaned and carefully shelled pine-nut kernels as you will, dry them or toast them a little.  

Or take them whole with their skins and shells and put them in a basket.  Hang this over the hearth near the fire and leave it there for three days.  Thus the heat from the fire wills lowly penetrate them and dry them.  Then take them out and clean them thoroughly.  Next take two and a half pounds of nuts, being careful to keep them close at hand.  Then take some of the most beautiful and best Madeira sugar, dissolve sufficient of it in rose-water and boil it until it attains the consistency of a jelly.  If it is winter or a time when there is a lot of moisture in the air, boil it a bit longer, but if it is summer, then let is just simmer.  This is when it does not boil over or bubble when it boils, which is a sign that the moisture had been evaporated; but to be brief, when it has boiled to the consistency of a jelly, as I have said, take the preserving pan off the fire and put it somewhere where the liquid can dry off and become firm.  Then give it a good stir with a piece of wood and beat it continuously until it turns white. When it begins to cool down a little, add the white of a whole or half an egg and beat it well again.  Next place it over the coals, in order to allow the moisture from the egg-white to stiffen, and when you see that it is properly white and like the first lot you boiled, take the dried, well-cleaned pine-nut kernels and put them into the sugar.  Stir them with the wood so that they are thoroughly mixed with the sugar--this should still be done over the coal fire, so that the mixture does not cool too quickly.  Then take a wide wooden knife, like the ones used by shoemakers, and cut the mixture into pieces, each weighing an ounce and a half, but not more than two, which would not be good, and spread them carefully on to some paper until they have properly cooled, at which stage put a little gold leaf on to them and your confection is ready.  If, however, it is not possible to obtain pine-nut kernels anywhere, use peeled almonds instead, dividing them either into two parts or three and mixing them with the sugar to make this confection.  And if there are too few pine-nut kernels, you can replace them with pieces of almonds, for the latter are not dissimilar to the former in taste and potency.  You can also use fennel which is flowering or in seed, which is kept in houses and used during the wine harvest.  When your sugar has almost completely boiled and is hot and white with everything mixed in it or scattered over it, it looks  like manna or snow and is so beautiful and lovely.  

This recipe took two tries.  The important parts are the ratio of the egg white and sugar, and the temperature it is cooked to.  My first attempt resulted in something like horribly sweet Italian meringue, kind of the consistency of marshmallow cream.  

Dang it, pine nuts aren't cheap!  Grrrr!  I baked them into macarons, which worked okay.  The flavor was good enough to make another attempt, but teeth-achingly sweet.  So very sweet.

For attempt #2, I used almonds, which are much cheaper than pine nuts, and modified a divinity recipe.  Which worked lovely!

Pine-Nut Confection
3 C. sugar
3/4 C. water
2 egg whites
1-2 t. rosewater
1 C. almonds or pinenuts
3 T. fennel seeds

Line a 9x13 pan with oiled parchment paper.  Toast your nuts lightly, and then toast the fennel seeds.  It doesn't take long, especially the fennel, don't let them burn!  Stir together the sugar and water in a pan, then turn on the heat to medium.  Do not stir once it is heating. When it comes to a boil, put the lid on for two minutes.  Take off the lid, and insert a candy thermometer.  Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks in your stand mixer, and then drop the rosewater in.

When the sugar syrup reaches hard ball (250-265 F.), start up your mixer again and slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites, trying to hit the side of the bowl on the way down instead of the egg whites directly.  Don't try and scrape out the last bit of syrup with a spoon, just put that pan down and get back to the mixer.  The mixture will look glossy.

Keep running the mixture until it loses the glossy look and looks a little thicker, around 5 minutes.  Fold in the nuts and seeds gently, and spread into the papered 9x13 pan.  You could also make little dollops on a flat papered pan or silicone.

Let cool and dry, and cut into squares.

Verdict:  Delightful!  They are light and fluffy.  I actually loathe divinity because of the sickly sweetness, but the fennel and nuts take the edge off just enough to make it enjoyable to me in small doses.  Divinity usually has corn syrup added for a smoother texture, so this is just a little gritty.  Similar recipes include honey or brown sugar, which would have the same effect as corn syrup.

If you just sub rosewater for vanilla and add pinenuts and fennel seed to a standard divinity recipe, I don't think there would be a big enough difference to be noticeable to most people.

And not a single crumblet was wasted.

Now I'm going to go eat some protein.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to make an attractive candied sugar (Rock Candy)

The Elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus' original recipes for elixirs, scented water, beauty potions and sweetmeats.  Edited by Knut Boeser.  [1552]

It is rock candy.  Half of you have already done this in an elementary school science lesson.  But look how old the recipe is!  Amazing!  There are also a few minor details involving poop that have not survived the years.  

Take about nine pounds of the most beautiful and whitest sugar (for a beautiful work is created from something beautiful, just as something bad comes from something bad or ugly) and dissolve it in an appropriate amount of water.  If you do not consider that the sugar is sufficiently beautiful, clarify it until it has no more sediment.  When you have done that, dissolve it completely and boil it again until it acquires the consistency of a syrup.  It is better to overboil, rather than underboil it, for then it would candy to a salt.  As soon as it is boiled, take an unglazed earthenware pot which has been specially made for the purpose and put a small pine twig, a reed or a small rod into it, so that the sugar may candy in the middle.  


When you have inserted your chosen rod, then pour the hot sugar into the pot, put the lid on it and seal it roughly with lime, merely in order to keep the heat inside for longer, and immediately bury it under some warm manure, be it in a public or private place.  If you think that the manure is not hot enough, pour some hot water over it and see that there is a good pile of it, so that the pot may stand in the middle - so cover it up well and leave it for nine days and nights.  At the end of that time take it out of the dung heap, open the pot and pour out the syrup which has not yet candied and you will see that of the nine pounds of sugar, about five or six pounds will have candied.  When you have properly drained the syrup out of the pot, get some good hot water and wash it out two or three times, so that it does not become affected by the syrup adhering to it.  Add this water to the syrup and if you want to make this confection you must do it this way and not another way.  You can make it another way, but that will cost at least as much.  You should also know that if the sugar stays under the manure for longer than nine days and the manure were hot, it would not candy, for the steam from the manure contains moisture, which penetrates everything, so the sugar would need an even longer time to candy. 

Verdict: Unfortunately, I am fresh out of manure.  What a shame.  Instead, I just stuck my jar in a cupboard.  And... it's rock candy!  Super easy!  It tastes terrible, actually, because I tried using lavender oil to flavor it.  I was all, how much should I put in?  Couple drops?  More?  *chug chug chug*  I got carried away.  Maybe when I can scrub the taste out of my mouth in a few months, I'll try flavoring something else with lavender.  It lingers.  

For rock candy instructions, please google "rock candy."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rendered Suet II: or, An Attempt to Mend the Horrible Fiasco Which Traumatized Everyone

First, review Rendered Suet I.  Here are the main points, if you don't want to click: 1.) suet is kidney fat from cattle and is used for steamed puddings and candle making 2.) it was a horrible fiasco which left my house smelling of rotting fish and made me dry heave intermittently for over 24 hours.  I vowed to never ever ever NEVER EVER do it again.


While poking around another butcher shop recently, I discovered this!

Unlike the first time, it was labelled!  They knew what it was without me explaining!  It is PRE-GROUND.  I was so excited I freaked out the cashier.  Especially after she told me they only carry it during the holidays, and I grabbed another sack.

When I got home, I just knew my husband would be as excited as I was.  He was so delighted, he stared at me like a startled deer for several minutes before telling me, "I love you and support your hobbies and trust you with the health of my body."  He was even more excited when he found out that the slow cooker would be rendering the suet in the garage while he worked on the car brakes, so he could enjoy the aroma.

I tossed both bags in the slow cooker, along with a couple cups of water, the set it on low.  About two hours later, it was all melted.  Much faster than the first time.  And unlike last time, it just smelled vaguely beefy.  Not offensive at all.

I poured another couple cups of water in a large bowl for good measure, hoping the gunkies would settle down into the water and leave the fat nice and clean, then strained the hot fat into the bowl.

These are all the gunkies that were strained out.

After cooling, it is nice and white and clean.  It slid nicely out of the bowl in a disc because of the water.

Ready for the freezer.  This is theoretically self stable, but... ehhhhhh.

In conclusion: this was totally fine and not scary or gross.  I revise my opinion about rendering suet being the worst thing ever.  So if you want to try it, I suggest you get it from a butcher who knows what it is without you explaining, and get it pre-ground.

For a better overview, please do check out Jas. Townsend & Sons video about suet.  It is excellent.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making Purging Rose-Water, or: Catharticum Imperiale

The Elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus' original recipes for elixirs, scented water, beauty potions and sweetmeats.  Edited by Knut Boeser.  [1552]

While Nostradamus is most famous for vague prophecies, he made his living as a physician.  And, as we know, that means he has candy recipes!  Because sugar is a health food.

Making Purging Rose-Water
which, if you take an ounce of it, will produce a wonderful effect without any other ingredient.  Pregnant omen may be given it during their first and last months and it may be taken at any age and at any time without the slightest danger. 

Take 900 or almost 1,000 of the most beautiful flesh-colored roses, the buds of which are half-open and which still have leaves.  When you have carefully plucked off the leaves and cleaned the buds in the best possible manner, rub the buds between your hands, so that in case one were still whole, it would open and the hot water would be able to penetrate it all the better.  Then put the roses into a large glazed earthenware pitcher and boil them sufficiently in well water.  Add additional boiling water and stir the roses well with a pieces of wood or a stirring spoon, so that they are well mixed up and covered with water.  Leave them to steep for twenty-four hours.  At the end of that time, pour everything into a kettle and boil it up two or three times.  Strain off the broth and compress the roses as hard as you can in a press or between two pieces of wood until nothing remains except dry white roses.  The broth will look like red wine and will smell like rose-water.  Pour everything into a Venetian glass container suitable for the purpose.  Next take a further 500 stripped roses and, as before, put them into the pitcher.  Then take the said broth and heat it until it is almost boiling.  At that stage pour it over the roses and, if there is not enough, add a little boiling water.  Leave the mixture to steep again for a further twenty-four hours.  At the end of that time strain everything, compress the roses as hard as possible and, when that has all been done, take about eighteen ounces of sugar (without cleaning it first) and put that into the broth.  Boil it until it acquires the consistency of a syrup, but has not boiled as hard, since the roses have a sticky slime which will thicken the syrup.  As soon as the syrup boils, pour it into a glass or glazed earthenware container.  If you take an ounce o this in the morning it will be exceptionally wonderful and have a very good effect.  Some people enrich this with rhubarb and then it works even better.  As such it is known as catharticum imperiale, that is a purging or cathartic juice, suitable for noble lords, kings, and emperors.  That is what happens if you add rhubarb to it.  

Take Four ounces of the best and most exquisite rhubarb and a drachm of good strong cinnamon.  Pound everything and, when the syrup has almost boiled, take the rhubarb, wrap it up in a clean felt cloth and suspend it from a string into the syrup while it is boiling.  Squeeze it out and when the syrup has boiled, pour it into its container and hang the rhubarb in it, covering the container carefully.  This juice should be used by noble lords who have authority over others but who are unable to control or master their anger, for by taking only one ounce of it, their rancour will be dissipated.  Also it is extremely good for getting rid of the three-day fever and for protecting people against it and is numbered among the royal purgatives which may be taken without any ill-effects.  It can equally well be prepared another way, so that it is just as good, potent and suitable for purging.  

Collect and extract 1500 half-open flesh-colored rose buds?  Sure, Nostradamus, let me get right on that.

As the wind is southerly and I know a hawk from a handsaw, I decided to instead use pre-made rosewater.

Big Fat Lazy Cheater Catharticum Imperiale
1. Put a bunch of chopped up rhubarb and a cinnamon stick in a pot
2. Add some water
3. Simmer until the rhubarb falls apart
4. Strain
5. Add sugar and simmer until it is a syrup
6. Add rosewater until it tastes nice

Verdict: This is excellent.  Rosewater, cinnamon, and rhubarb are great together.  It would make a really fabulous gelatin, and I'm totally going to try it sometime.  I told my kids that it was a medicine from a long time ago when they thought sugar was really good for you, and it was supposed to help cranky people be nice.  A spoonful was inserted in each mouth, and it met with general approval.  Soon after, both of them claimed to be feeling REALLY CRANKY and needed some special medicine to help them feel nice again.  The poor dears obviously sensed this medicine's effectiveness.  They have very sensitive natures.  So it works!  SCIENCE.

In my head I like to imagine some noble lady reading this book and being all, hmmmm! "'This juice should be used by noble lords who have authority over others but who are unable to control or master their anger, for by taking only one ounce of it, their rancour will be dissipated.'  Excellent!"  Then next time her husband is on a rampage, beating serfs or kicking dogs or murdering French P.O.W.s

"Here honey, try some of this drink I made for you for no reason, certainly not because you are a giant tool who threatens to put babies on pikes and smash in the skulls of the elderly.  Love you, lambkin!"

"Mua ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa."