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."

Friday, January 6, 2017

Racist White Lady Mexican Chicken Soup

Foods of the Foreign Born, by Bertha M. Wood [1922]

It is the Roaring Twenties, and America is in trouble.  Immigrants are pouring in, with their foreign ways, and their foreign foods.  It was a threat to public health.  Public health workers and private concerned citizens alike labored to convince these new immigrants to abandon their native foods and homogenize into milquetoast blandness.  How?  With milk, toast, pabulum, and other pale, bland, overcooked foods.  This effort was not met with universal delight by the immigrants in question.

One woman, Bertha M. Wood, decided this approach was... not racist, but ineffective.  She studied different ethnic groups so that she could develop a set of recipes for each group.  These recipes were intended to be within spitting distance of each ethnicity's traditional foods, but stripped down of anything suspicious.  Like flavor.  And spices.  And color.

Gee, thanks Bertha.

Hey, at least she made an effort.  That's pretty forward-thinking for 1922.

With that in mind, by modern standards, this cookbook is really racist.  It seems to be written for health workers and charities, and each section has a preface outlining what each ethnicity is like. Yikes. The section on Mexicans is particularly condescending.  Let's take a look!

*They are not a people who love academic work, but they enjoy any educational training which develops the use of their hands. Their interest lies largely in music, flowers, and the arts.

*To look at their homes, one would think that they were decidedly unsanitary. This is not necessarily so, but depends almost entirely upon the water supply.

*The people are responsive to right treatment, although suspicious, but not necessarily unstable. Their suspicious nature handicaps efforts to get their cooperation. They are responsive only to the degree that they understand the motives. 

*The prevalent idea is that Mexicans are very deceitful. This may be so if their suspicions are aroused; otherwise they are no more deceitful than any other nationality. They are extremely courteous, and in their way cooperative.

*When not too highly seasoned, Mexican dishes are very tasty.

*Only lack of variety and the use of hot flavors keep their food from being superior to that of most Americans.

*Undernourished and malnourished children are frequently found in Mexican families. They are served with the same foods as the adults, foods highly spiced, with a large amount of fat added, or corn meal fried in fat. Bland foods are quite unknown in their dietary. 

*As the Mexicans come north or intermarry, it would be better for the children and adults to learn to eat the simpler foods of the American people, boiled or baked, with less spice and fat.

*Any nurse or dietitian can persuade them to use cereals or baked or boiled fish and meats and vegetables, if they gradually reduce the amount of tomato or pepper for flavor until it becomes a bland dish, easier to digest and not harmful to the kidneys.

Chicken Soup
1 chicken
4 cups water
1 green pepper
1/2 cup rice
2 tablespoons salt

Cut up chicken and boil in salted water with chopped green pepper. When chicken is done, remove and add rice to liquid. Cook until soft.

We know that the soup doesn't actually include the chicken, because this is the next recipe:
Baked Chicken and Rice
Make as Chicken Soup, adding chicken, cut in dice, to rice drained from soup. Brown in oven.

Verdict: I used white rice and one can of mild green chiles, because it seemed most appropriate.  It... it wasn't great.  Before giving it to my family, I added chicken, black beans, lime juice, a packet of taco seasoning (yes I see the irony), and sour cream.  I also added cheese on top.  Much better!


*When the Mexicans intermarry with Americans, the result of the cross dietary is that often there is double the amount of fat taken at a meal by the American. The Mexicans put their fat into the food, while the American puts his on the food. Therefore if he eats bread and butter, or potatoes with butter and green peppers fried in oil and rice, he is getting more fat than a Mexican would get. He would eat his bread without butter, and would not eat potato and butter with peppers and rice.

Well, she's not clearly not wrong on that one.  Tex-Mex is not known for being low-fat. Whatever.  Cheesy refried beans are one of the best things on the planet.

I asked a friend whose family emigrated from Mexico to look over the Mexican section, as I don't know a lot about the subject.  He said many things, including, "Is this how they invented Taco Bell?" as well as, "Peanut butter doesn't go in pork tamales." and ended with a some pointed remarks about Bertha M. Wood as a person.  He said at very least, this soup should have tomatoes and some kind of spices added.

Fun fact for Americans: Did you know that there is a stereotype in the rest of the world that Americans put cheese on absolutely everything?

Fun fact for non-Americans: It is 100% true.  If this meets with your disapproval, please refer to Prince Hal above.

In conclusion: thanks, immigrants!  Your culinary contributions have made my life a lot more delicious.  That said, we will steal your food, and we will melt cheese on it.  The melting pot of America is actually fondue.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Manus Christi

The treasury of commodious conceits, and hidden secrets: commonly called the good huswiues closet of prouision for the health of hir housholde.  Meete and necessarye for the profitable vse of al estates.  Gathered out of sundrye experyments, lately practised by men of greate knowledge: and now amplified and inlarged with diuers necessary and newe additions. by John Partridge, transcribed by Joanna Holloway[1573] PDF

"Manus Christ" means "hands of Christ," and this confection is called that because... uh... they are healing?  They are the shape of communion wafers?  They are sparkly?  They are supposed to prevent the plague and cure everything in the world.  Since I have made these, no one at my house has gotten bubonic plague, so they are 100% proven.  SCIENCE.  From transcribed letters I've seen, these seem to have been a popular gift from and to nobility during the reign of Henry VIII.

Take halfe a pownde of white Suger, put therto .iiii. ounces of Rosewater, seethe them vpon a softe fier of Coales, tyll the water be consumed, and the Sugre is become hard, then put therin a quarter of an ounce of the powder of Pearles, stirre them well togither, put for euery spoonfull a peece of a leafe of Golde cut of purpose: caste them vpon a leafe of white Paper, announted fyrste, with the Oyle of sweete Almonds, or sweete butter, for cleauing too.


Manus Christi Simple and Pearled.
Take of the best Sugar a pound, Damask-rose-water half a pint, boil them together according to art, to that thicknesse that it may be made into Lozenges, and if toward the latter end of the decoctiom, you ad half an ounce of Pearls prepared in pouder, together with eight or ten leaves of gold, it will be Manus Christi with pearls.

It is naturally cooling, apropriated to the heart, it restores lost strength, takes away burning feavers, and false imaginations, (I mean that with pearls, for that without Pearls is ridiculous) it hath the same vertues Pearls have.  A physicall directory, or, A translation of the London dispensatory made by the Colledge of Physicians in London ... by Nich. Culpeper, Gent. [1649]


Manus Christi
2 C. sugar
4 t. vinegar
3/4 C. water
1/8 t. cream of tartar
1/4 C. white corn syrup
Rose absolute, about 1 t.
Gold leaves

Mix the first five ingredients together carefully.  Bring to a boil, then put the lid on the pot for 2 minutes to melt the sugar off the sides.  Bring up to hard crack, then stir in rose oil and gold.  Spoon onto a buttered marble slab (or jelly roll pan) in little puddles.

If it hardens up while you are doing this, warm it up gently over low heat, just to get it liquid again.

Again, just as with the penydes, the vinegar, cream of tartar, and corn syrup aren't going to affect the texture or taste.  They just make it easier to work with and keep it from getting gritty longer.

Here are some failed attempts, from when I tried to cheap out and use edible gold spray paint, pearl luster dust, and gold luster dust.

Here is the best of the lot.  The pearl luster dust works the best, I think, and a little goes a long way.  If I make this again, I will try mixing it in.  While the gold is stunning, pearl luster dust may be the easiest way to go.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Chocolate: or, An Indian Drinke

CHOCOLATE: OR, An Indian Drinke. By the wise and Moderate use whereof, Health is preserved, Sicknesse Diverted, and Cured, especially the Plague of the Guts; vulgarly called The New Disease; Fluxes, Consumptions, & Coughs of the Lungs, with sundry other desperate Diseases. By it also, Conception is Caused, the Birth Hastened and facilitated, Beauty Gain’d and continued. Written Originally in Spanish, by Antonio Colmenero of Ledesma, Doctor in Physicke, and faithfully rendred in the English, By Capt. James Wadsworth. [1652]

Thanks to Dr. Colmenero here, I now know so many more things about the health benefits of chocolate than I did before!

The vertues thereof are no lesse various, then Admirable. For, besides that it preserves Health, and makes such as drink it often, Fat, and Corpulent, faire and Amiable, it vehemently Incites to Venus, and causeth Conception in women, hastens and facilitates their Delivery: It is an excellent help to Digestion, it cures Consumptions, and the Cough of the Lungs, the New Disease, or Plague of the Guts, and other Fluxes, the Green Sicknesse, Jaundise, and all manner of Inflamations, Opilations, and Obstructions. It quite takes away the Morphew, Cleanseth the Teeth, and sweetneth the Breath, Provokes Urine, Cures the Stone, and strangury, Expells Poison, and preserves from all infectious Diseases.

But more on that later!

I'm not good at photographing hot chocolate apparently.

If you please to take it in milke, to a quart, three ounces of Chocolate will be sufficient: Scrape your Chocolate very fine, put it into your milke when it boiles, work it very well with the Spanish Instrument called Molenillo between your hands: which Instrument must be of wood, with a round knob made very round, and cut ragged, that as you turne it in your hands, the milke may froth and dissolve the Chocolate the better: then set the milke on the fire againe, untill it be ready to boyle: having the yelke of two eggs well beaten with some of the hot milke; then put your eggs into the milke, and Chocolate and Sugar, as much as you like for your taste, and worke all together with the Molenillo, and thus drinke a good draught: or if you please you may slice a little Manchet into a dish, and so eate it for a breakfast: you may if you please make your Chocolate with Water and Sugar, working it after the same order with your Molenillo, which for some weake stomacks may chance to be better liked. And many there be that beat Almonds, and strayne them into the water it is boyled, and wrought with the Chocolate and Sugar: others like to put the yelkes of eggs as before in the milke, and even sweeten it with Sugar to your taste: If you drinke a good draught of this in a morning, you may travell all the day without any other thing, this is so Substantiall and Cordiall.

Dr. Colmenero's Hot Chocolate
1 qt. milk
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, pulverized in the food processor
2 egg yolks
1/2 C. sugar
White bread, preferably French bread or similar rather than Wonder.

Heat the milk in a pan.  When it begins to simmer, whisk in the chocolate.  If you want to use a molenillo, you can find them at Hispanic markets.  When the chocolate has melted, temper in the egg yolks.  Add sugar.  Drink, or pour over bread.

Verdict: DRINKABLE CHOCOLATE CUSTARD.  This tastes like what you imagined a ladleful of Willy Wonka's river to be like. I also made some Abuelita hot chocolate from my grocery store's Hispanic section for comparison, which isn't 100% fair but the best I could do.  To the surprise of no one, Dr. Colmenero's is the clear winner.  Full recommendation!  Now, let's discover the many ways chocolate can improve your life.  In rhyme!

To every Individuall Man, and Woman, Learn’d, or unlearn’d, Honest, or Dishonest: In the due Praise of Divine CHOCOLATE.

Doctors lay by your Irksome Books
And all ye Petty-Fogging Rookes
Leave Quacking; and Enucleate
The vertues of our Chocolate.

Let th’ Universall Medicine
(Made up of Dead-mens Bones and Skin,)
Be henceforth Illegitimate,
And yeild to Soveraigne-Chocolate.

Let Bawdy-Baths be us’d no more;
Nor Smoaky-Stoves but by the whore
Of Babilon: since Happy-Fate
Hath Blessed us with Chocolate.

Let old Punctæus Greaze his shooes
With his Mock-Balsome: and Abuse
No more the World: But Meditate
The Excellence of Chocolate.

Let Doctor Trigg (who so Excells)
No longer Trudge to Westwood-Wells:
For though that water Expurgate,
’Tis but the Dreggs of Chocolate.

Let all the Paracelsian Crew
Who can Extract Christian from Jew;
Or out of Monarchy, A State,
Breake àll their Stills for Chocolate.

Tell us no more of Weapon-Salve,
But rather Doome us to a Grave:
For sure our wounds will Ulcerate,
Unlesse they’re wash’d with Chocolate.

The Thriving Saint, who will not come
Within a Sack-Shop’s Bowzing-Roome
(His Spirit to Exhilerate)
Drinkes Bowles (at home) of Chocolate.

His Spouse when she (Brimfull of Sense)
Doth want her due Benevolence,
And Babes of Grace would Propagate,
Is alwayes Sipping Chocolate.

The Roaring-Crew of Gallant-Ones
Whose Marrow Rotts within their Bones:
Their Bodyes quickly Regulate,
If once but Sous’d in Chocolate.

Young Heires that have more Land then Wit,
When once they doe but Tast of it,
Will rather spend their whole Estate,
Then weaned be from Chocolate.

The Nut-Browne-Lasses of the Land
Whom Nature vayl’d in Face and Hand,
Are quickly Beauties of High-Rate,
By one small Draught of Chocolate.

Besides, it saves the Moneys lost
Each day in Patches, which did cost
Them deare, untill of Late
They found this Heavenly Chocolate.

Nor need the Women longer grieve
Who spend their Oyle, yet not conceive,
For ’tis a Helpe-Immediate,
If such but Lick of Chocolate.

Consumptions too (be well assur’d)
Are no lesse soone then soundly cur’d:
(Excepting such as doe Relate
Unto the Purse) by Chocolate.

Nay more: It’s vertue is so much,
That if a Lady get a Touch,
Her griefe it will Extenuate,
If she but smell of Chocolate.

The Feeble-Man, whom Nature Tyes
To doe his Mistresse’s Drudgeries;
O how it will his minde Elate,
If shee allow him Chocolate!

’Twill make Old women Young and Fresh;
Create New-Motions of the Flesh,
And cause them long for you know what,
If they but Tast of Chocolate.

There’s ne’re a Common Counsell-Man,
Whose Life would Reach unto a Span,
Should he not Well-Affect the State,
And First and Last Drinke Chocolate.

Nor e’re a Citizen’s Chast wife,
That ever shall prolong her Life,
(Whilst open stands Her Posterne-Gate)
Unlesse she drinke of Chocolate.

Nor dost the Levite any Harme,
It keepeth his Devotion warme,
And eke the Hayre upon his Pate,
So long as he drinkes Chocolate.

Both High and Low, both Rich and Poore
My Lord, my Lady, and his ——
With all the Folkes at Billingsgate,
Bow, Bow your Hamms to Chocolate.

-Don Diego de Vadesforte.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Virgin Hippocras

Forme of Cury [1390]

Hippocras is wine that has been spiced with "warm" spices, sweetened with honey or sugar, and strained.  It's medicinal, since all the spices correspond to warm, dry, choleric qualities.  So if you are feeling sanguine, melancholic, or phlegmatic, this will cure what ails you.  Since I am a teetotaler and have small children, I used the traditional teetotaler's substitute: Welch's grape juice.  Not the most authentic substitute, but one must work with what one has.  Don't judge me on this one, I bought long pepper, didn't I?  

These spices take some amount of work to find.  Luckily, I have a relative who lives near Savory Spice, This is my mix.  The only change is no spikenard or cinnamon flowers, but I did add cubebs. It smelled magnificent.  I warmed it overnight in my crockpot, then strained and chilled.

For more information on hippocras, please visit Ivan Day and OldCook.  Ivan Day even has a full list of all the spices you can use, so you make make your very own personal blend.

UR FAIT YPOCRAS Treys Unces de canett. & iii unces de gyngeuer. spykenard de Spayn le pays dun denerer, garyngale. clowes, gylofre. poeurer long, noiez mugadez. maziozame cardemonij de chescun i. quart' douce grayne & de paradys stour de queynel de chescun dim unce de toutes, soit fait powdour &c.

To make hippocras. Three ounces of cinnamon and three ounces of ginger. Spikenard of Spain the price of a denier, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg. Marjoram cardamom, a quarter ounce for each. Grains of paradise and cinnamon flower, a tenth ounce for each. So make the powder and use it.

Verdict: My five-year-old woke up and said, "What is that amazing smell?"  Both her and the two-year-old are chugging it like winos.  It's pretty spicy!  Anyone who said that medieval types had no conception of "hot food" has never had a good swig of this stuff.  Whew.  With alcohol, it would probably warm you right down to your bones.

Seeing as this is supposed to make a person feel choleric, I watched the children carefully to see if they were excitable, impulsive, restless, energetic, strong-willed, and full of a love of being charge.

They were.  It works!  SCIENCE.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

For to make Comyn

Forme of Cury [1300's]

Tak god Almaunde mylk and lat yt boyle and do ther'in amydoun wyth flowr of Rys and colowr yt wyth safroun and after dresse yt wyth graynis of Poungarnetts other wyth reysens zyf thow hast non other and tak sugur and do theryn and serve it forthe.

To make Comyn
Take good almond milk and let it boil and do therin almond with flour of rice and color it with saffron and after dress it with grains of pomegranates or with raisins if thou hast none other and take sugar and do therin and serve it forth.

Look it's a duck!

I decided to try and mold this, so I added quite a lot of rice flour to the almond milk and chilled it. I also didn't add almonds to the mix.

Verdict: One taster spit it out.  One taster dry-heaved.  The only person that took a second bite was me.  It tastes like paste, both hot and cold.  Maybe it would be salvageable with flavor added.  If you are into eating baby rice cereal.  You could probably just buy baby rice cereal to replicate this more easily.  Or... you could imagine it is polenta, serve it hot, and put really saucy meat on top.  That's up to you though, I'm not making this again ever.

About 15 minutes after unmolding, it started looking nasty.  The pomegranate seeds were enjoyed, though! And it was beautiful for several minutes!  So it was totally worth all the work carefully brushing the mold with almond oil, and making almond milk from scratch, and using saffron!  Right?  Right.

"I yike dese.  I not yike the lello.  It not yummy."