Thursday, October 28, 2010

Borden's Meat Biscuits

******This just in from:

SciAm1869Banner.jpg picture by seshet27

New Article of Food - Meat Biscuit.

Some time since we noticed a new kind of Meat Biscuit, or “Portable Desiccated Soup Bread,” invented by Mr. Gail Borden, Jr., a highly respectable citizen of Galveston, Texas. The discovery being fully secured by a patent recently granted, we will give a brief but clear description of it, as it is an invention of the first importance, both to our own country, and it may be said, to the whole human race. The nature of this discovery consists in preserving the concentrated nutritious properties of flesh meat of any kind, combining it with flour and baking it into biscuits. One pound of this bread contains the extract of more than five pounds of the best meat—(containing its usual proportion of bone)—and one ounce of it will make a pint of rich soup. Biscuits by Mr. Borden’s process may be made of beef, veal, fowl's flesh, oysters, &c., and thus in a compact form the very essence of agricultural products, fitted for the traveller or mariner, or for the dwellers in distant cities, may be transported by sea or land, from distant rural districts, where flesh meat is comparatively cheap.

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In a letter to Dr. Ashbel Smith, Mr. Borden thus relates the way he made this discovery:

"I was endeavoring to make some portable meat glue (the common kind known) for some friends who were going to California—I had set up a large kettle and evaporating pan, and after two days labour I reduced one hundred and twenty pounds of veal to ten pounds of extract, of a consistence like melted glue and molasses; the weather was warm and rainy, it being the middle of July. I could not dry it either in or out of the house, and unwilling to lose my labour, it occured to me, after various expedients, to mix the article with good flour and bake it. To my great satisfaction, the bread was found to contain all the primary principles of meat, and with a better flavor than simple veal soup, thickened with flour in the ordinary method.


“The nutritive portions of beef or other meat, immediately on its being slaughtered, are, by long boiling, separated from the bones and fibrous and cartilaginous matters: the water holding the nutritious matters in solution, is evaporated to a considerable degree of spissitude—this is then made into a dough with firm wheaten flour, the dough rolled and cut into a form of biscuits, is then desiccated, or baked in an oven at a moderate heat. The cooking, both of the flour and the animal food, is thus complete. The meat biscuits thus prepared have the appearance and firmness of the nicest crackers or navy bread, being as dry, and breaking or pulverizing as readily as the most carefully made table crackers. It is preserved in the form of biscuit, or reduced to coarse flour or meal. It is best kept in tin cases hermetically soldered up ; the exclusion of air is not important, humidity alone is to be guarded against.

For making soup of the meat biscuit, a batter is first made of the pulverized biscuit and cold water—this is stirred into boiling water—the boiling is continued some ten or twenty minutes—salt, pepper, and other condiments are added to suit the taste, and the soup is ready for the table.
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I have eaten the soup several times,—it has the fresh, lively, clean, and thoroughly done or cooked flavor that used to form the charm of the soups of the Rocher de Cancale. It is perfectly free from that vapid unctuous stale taste which characterizes all prepared soups I have heretofore tried at sea and elsewhere. Those chemical changes in food which, in common language, we denominate cooking, have been perfectly effected in Mr. Borden’s biscuit by the long continued boiling at first, and the subsequent baking or roasting. The soup prepared of it is thus ready to be absorbed into the system without loss, and without tedious digestion in the alimentary canal, and is in the highest degree nutritious and invigorating. [March 23, 1850]*****

For those who are not culinary chronaviatrices, as I am, here's how to do it for yourself! We're basically going to make meat-flavored hardtack.

Homemade Meat Biscuits
Beef bouillon

1. Mix flour with bouillon. If it is the paste kind, which is my personal favorite, mash it together with your spoon until it is completely mixed together and looks like whole wheat flour because of all the speckles in the flour. Do not use too much flour, you are not making a bread, you are making a stabilizer for the bouillon.
2. Add just enough cold water to make a very, very stiff dough. It should hold together, but not be sticky.
3. Roll out quite thinly, and cut into pieces.
4. Bake at 300 degrees F. for 30 minutes, or until completely dry and hard.
5. To make into soup, smash it up in cold water with something heavy, like a meat tenderizer, then boil in more water.

Verdict: It was okay! The broth was pretty weak in the end, but more biscuits would have helped that. I thought the flour would thicken the soup, but instead it made little crumbly sediment at the bottom, which is fine. I can see how this would be a useful addition to a wagon headed west. These meat biscuits never got truly popular, but more than one wagon included a barrel of them amongst their supplies. "But Jana!" I hear you say. "Isn't it easier just to have bouillon?" Yes. Yes it is. But this is the 1850's. If you want bouillon, I will provide you with another recipe from this time:

1. Make beef stock.
2. Boil forever.
3. Pour into shallow pans and leave in the sun.
4. Leave it there until it is dry.

I had the chance to let husband think these were cookies, but did not take it. I am such a nice wife.

I feel like this product should have a jingle. Can you think of something?

Today in Science History: Borden's Meat Biscuit
Wagon Wheel Kitchens: Food on the Oregon Trail

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oatmeal Mush with Apples, Hamburg Steaks, Creamed Potatoes, White Corn Cake

Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and of Circe and of Helen and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all herbs and fruits and balms and spices, and all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves and savory in meals. It means carefulness and inventiveness and willingness and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your grandmothers and the science of the modern chemist: it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality; and, in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always ladies--loaf givers.--RUSKIN.

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Fannie Farmer once again provides us with a menu, this time from her Boston Cooking-School Cookbook [1896]. Thankfully, it does not include bread ice cream or egg sauce.

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Oatmeal Mush with Apples.
Core apples, leaving large cavities; pare, and cook until soft in syrup made by boiling sugar and water together. Fill cavities with oatmeal mush; serve with sugar and cream. The syrup should be saved and re-used.

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Hamburg Steaks.
Chop finely one pound lean raw beef; season highly with salt, pepper, and a few drops onion juice or one-half shallot finely chopped. Shape, cook, and serve as Meat Cakes. A few gratings of nutmeg and one egg slightly beaten may be added.

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I didn't want to do creamed potatoes for the third time, so this picture is of Spry oven-creamed potatoes.

Creamed Potatoes.
Reheat two cups cold boiled potatoes, cut in dice, in one and one-fourth cups White Sauce I.

White Sauce I.
2 tablespoons butter.
2 tablespoons flour.
1 cup milk.
1/4 teaspoon salt.
Few grains pepper.

Make same as Thin White Sauce.

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White Corn Cake.
1/4 cup butter.
1/2 cup sugar.
1 1/3 cups milk.
Whites 3 eggs.
1 1/4 cups white corn meal.
1 1/4 cups flour.
4 teaspoons baking powder.
1 teaspoon salt.
Cream the butter; add sugar gradually; add milk, alternating with dry ingredients, mixed and sifted. Beat thoroughly; add whites of eggs beaten stiff. Bake in buttered cake pan thirty minutes.


Oatmeal Mush with Apples: These were super tasty! Much like apple crisp with melted ice cream on top. Have I told you how much I love cream? I love cream. I filled it with microwaved homemade strawberry oatmeal. Yum. While thinking about how I could reuse the syrup as the recipe suggests, I thought you could use the syrup from canned fruit. That would be delicious! Raspberry would be fantastic, and would make the apples attractively rosy.

Hamburg Steaks: I think Fannie Farmer was afraid of onions, much like Aunt Jenny, with her "few drops onion juice." To obtain onion juice, cut the onion in half along the equator, then use your knife to scrape across the surface. I will be honest, I put more than a few drops in. I am a rebel in this way. They were a little bland, but fine.

White Corn Cake: Dryyyyy. So very dry. Apricot-nutmeg jam was helpful to fix this problem. Still not my favorite cornbread recipe.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New England: The Cradle of American Cookery

Click to embiggen

'K. New England? So much great stuff. The cradle of American cookery, it is not. Puritan recipes generally go like this:

1. Is it food? If yes, move to #2.
2. Boil it.
3. Yes, lettuce is food.

But, as ever in this particular cookbook, a fantastic job on that line drawing! Look at all those details on this couple going to a fancy dress party as Pilgrims. Bless them, they've even got buckle shoes and a buckle hat!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Vinegar and Lemon Wheys.
Pour into boiling milk as much vinegar or lemon-juice as will make a small quantity quite clear, dilute with hot water to an agreeable smart acid, and put a bit or two of sugar. This is less heating than if made of wine; and if only to excite perspiration, answers as well.
~Rundell, Maria Eliza Ketelby. A New System Of Domestic Cookery, Formed Upon Principles Of Economy, And Adapted To The Use Of Private Families. By A Lady. Boston: W. Andrews, 1807.

So far, rennet is not working out for me in the cheese department. Maybe it makes you nervous too, but you want to make cheese. This is the cheese for you!

This kind of cheese does not melt or act like normal cheese, so I like to crumble it up with salt (LOTS of salt) and chives and eat it on crackers. You can also use it as a meat substitute. This is also the kind of cheese Indians call Panir and Mexicans call Queso Blanco. Or you can use it like ricotta.

1. Heat 1 gallon of milk to 185 F.

Stir pretty much constantly. Milk tends to burn on the bottom, which will make your cheese taste like burning. That is bad. It also forms a skin on top, under which pressure builds until it suddenly boils right over the top of your pot and burns onto your stove. If doing this over a fire, it helps to have a friggin' huge spoon.

2. Take off the heat and add 1/4 C. vinegar or lemon juice. Stir until the curds separate from the whey. It should take about 10 seconds. The whey will be almost clear. You can throw it away or use it to make breads and things, as the whey has lots of vitamins and whatnot.

3. Pour into a dish towel. Cheesecloth will not work here because the curds are very small, unless you have several layers. If you squeeze it, it will turn into a sliceable ball, as I did. If you just pour it in and then let it hang naturally, it will be like little crumbles. Hang it up to drip dry for a while. At home, I find the faucet over the sink works well for this.

4. Ta da! A cheese! You can either mash it up into crumbles, or refrigerate and slice.

If you add herbs, it is even more tasty! My favorite is sage.

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SAGE CHEESE. --Take some of the young top leaves of the sage plant, and pound them in a mortar till you have extracted the juice. Put the juice into a bowl, wipe out the mortar, put in some spinach leaves, and pound them till you have an equal quantity of spinach juice. Mix the two juices together, and stir them into the warm milk immediately after you have put in the rennet. You may use sage juice alone; but the spinach will greatly improve the colour; besides correcting the bitterness of the sage.
~Leslie, Eliza. Directions for Cookery, in its Various Branches. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & Hart, 1840.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Devonshire Junket

From A New System of Domestic Cookery, Formed Upon Principles of Economy, and Adapted to the Use of Private Families [1807].

Devonshire Junket.
Put warm milk into a bowl; turn it with rennet; then put some scalded cream, sugar, and cinnamon, on the top, without breaking the curd.

Verdict: You may notice that there is no picture. This is because I failed utterly. Four days in the fridge, aaaaaand... nothing. Hints, anyone?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hotpoint lady goes out on the town

The world is your oyster, Hotpoint Lady! No one can hold you back, now you've figured out how to operate your stove.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween Party: Bouillon de Jolly Boys, Celery, Crackers, Turtle Sandwiches, Orange Jelly, Olives a la Natural History, Lemonade

Are there not many cooks who act upon the supposition that the greater the number of ingredients crowded into one dish, the more remarkable the achievement and the more creditable the ingenuity displayed? This is plainly an error, for all right-thinking persons must admit that the cook deserving the highest praise is the one who can prepare the most appetizing, and at the same time, the most wholesome and nourishing dishes from the scantiest and plainest material.

Now that is a woman. Beefy biceps, fluttery apron, no-nonsense expression, and a jaunty bow tie. Bow ties are cool.

My friends, Halloween is coming up! It is one of my most favorite holidays, because there is the opportunity for dressing up. If you are lucky, you may see our costumes for this year.

Click to enbiggen

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The cookbook guarantees that if one makes these foods, boys will not carry off the clothes-posts, unhinge the gates, and make night hideous upon Halloween. Consequently, you should give due consideration to the menu, so you may prevent these occurrences. As a bonus, it will apparently please your African-American hired help . . . less said about that, the better.

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Jolly Boys [served with bouillon, I guess?]
Mix together thoroughly while dry one and one-half pints of rye-meal, one-half of a pint of flour, one-half of a teacupful of corn-meal, two pinches of cinnamon, a little salt and two teaspoonfuls of baking-powder. Add one egg, well beaten; two tablespoonfuls each of molasses and sugar, and cold water enough to make a thick batter. Fry in hot lard a heaping tablespoonful at a time and cook until well browned. -Anna Bigsby.

Kindergarten Crackers
I have no idea what these are. There was no recipe for them. Frustrating. We ate saltines.

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Turtle Sandwiches (For Halloween and Children's parties).
Cut as many thin slices of brown and white bread as are desired for sandwiches, trim off the crust and shape into three and one-half inch squares. Butter lightly and spread carefully between two slices any filling desired--meat, cheese, nut or fruit. Now slice lengthwise into halfs some small cucumber pickles (sweet or sour), and stick one of these in each cormer of the sandwich for the feet of the turtle, and a tiny one for the tail. Run a toothpick through a narrow and short piece of bread and stick it on the opposite end of the sandwich from the tail. On the end of the toothpick put a thin piece of a small carrot cut crosswise. Behold! you have the turtle. Serve singly on individual plates with olives made after the fashion of Natural History Objects. -Mrs. A.E. Fowler.

Little Pigs in Blankets
(Try them.) [It actually says this, this isn't an insert of mine. I didn't make these because I don't like whole oysters.]
Take one quart of good-sized oysters, wash and drain. Now beat up an egg, add to it a little milk and salt. Dip each oyster separately into the egg and roll in cracker or bread crumbs, then roll up in a thin slice of bacon. Hold in shape by sticking a toothpick through it. Drop in hot pan and fry brown. (Fine for special suppers.) -Mrs. A. E. Fowler

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Orange Jelly
No recipe. But when they say jelly, they mean gelatin. I got some Knox gelatin and followed the directions using orange juice.

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This is an ant-eater. ???

Olives a la Natural History
Take the desired number of olives and into one side stick four cloves and at the end another and you have a partially constructed animal representing an ant-eater. Now add another clove for the head, and on the end put a bit of another olive, and you have the animal complete and standing on his feet. The back can be decorated as fancy dictates. According to the arrangement and length of the feet, head and tail, other animals, and even birds, can be made. (Fine for children's parties.) -Mrs. A.E. Fowler

Sugar-off, with Maple Syrup
This is making maple syrup out of sap. I have no sugar maple trees, alas.

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These are not mine. I did not make these cute Nut Cartoons. There were no nuts. And also I didn't want to.

Nut Cartoons
Take the desired number of English walnuts, Brazilian nuts, hickory nuts and peanuts and with gold and colored paints decorate the shells in fantastic styles. With a little color they can be converted into all sorts of men and women--white, black and mongolian, wearing all sorts of costumes, from gold lace, beads and jewels, to silks, feathers, furs, etc. (Very pretty for parties. -Mrs. D.Z. Brooks

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Lemonade should be made in the proportion of one lemon to each large goblet. Squeeze the lemons and take out any seeds. If you do not like the pulp strain the juice. Sweeten the drink well though that is a matter of taste. The pleasant tart taste should be preserved. Add water to the juice and when serving put cracked ice and a think slice of lemon into each glass. -E.J.C.



Bouillon de Jolly Boys: There was no recipe for Bouillon de Jolly Boys, just for Jolly Boys. They came out like tasty small donuts. Husband ate most of the entire batch, and seemed jolly. He remarked that if I made these every day, he would be as jolly as Santa. They were really good! For an imprecise recipe, these were pretty easy to figure out. As for eating them with bouillon...? No idea what is going on there.

Turtle Sandwiches: Ha ha, you thought it'd be made of turtles, didn't you? I took a stab at following the directions but... read those directions again. Can you get a solid handle on what it is supposed to look like? I only figured out the carrot bit (I hope) by looking at the fairly inaccurate little illustration on the page. I also did not trim the crusts, nor did I cut the bread to a precise 3.5" square. Also, more evidence that sandwich recipes until fairly recently were made with pastes instead of chunks of stuff in the middle. "Spread carefully between two slices any filling desired--meat, cheese, nut or fruit." See?

Do you have an idea of how this sandwich is supposed to work?

Orange Jelly: It tasted just like solidified orange juice. Not in a bad way. Or a good way. It was fine.

Olives a la Natural History: Okay, so, olives made "after the manner of Natural History objects." What... what is a natural history object? What does that mean? And why on earth did she choose an ant-eater? Again, some slightly shaky directions. I did my best, but my Natural History Object remains looking rather markedly not like an ant-eater. Failure! Can you think of a way this would be more ant-eatery?

For reference, here is an ant-eater.
Giant-anteater-40591.jpg picture by seshet27

Aaaaaaaand here is my olive ant-eater.
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Lemonade: Lemonade is tasty!

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Happy Halloween, everybody!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hotpoint stoves! Yay!

This picture is also from the Hotpoint book. Look how nice! High heels, spotless kitchen, flowers on the oddly tiny table. Mmmmm. How much food could you fit on that table?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peaches and Cream

Ah, a timeless recipe. A simple thing, with simple ingredients. When done right, it is very, very right. When done wrong, it is merely fine. Follow these directions precisely, and you will be filled with happiness. Stray, and you will say to yourself, "What's the big deal?"

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Peaches and Cream
-Peaches: Tree-ripened. Not picked green and ripened in a warehouse. This is important.
-Nutmeg: Freshly ground. Find yourself a whole nutmeg and grate it. Its fragrance will make your bottle of it seem like dust. For baking, fine. But this deserves better.
-Cream: No backtalk!

Peel and slice the peaches. Sprinkle with sugar and grate nutmeg on top. Pour milk over the top, much like you are about to eat the peaches like cereal. Which you are. Drizzle with cream. Heavy cream. Yes. Do it. It is a drizzle. You will be fine. Eat without regret or guilt, but with joy and thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oven Breakfast: Baked Apples, Country Sausage, Pop-Overs

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Dear readers, gentle and otherwise, I am filled with sorrow for my recent poor updating. Forgive me! I was ill, and also it is the time of harvest, when many things must be canned. But more about that another day!
I have a special treat for you today. It is this picture.

I'll let that sink in for a moment.
Yup. Please, click on it to see its full glory. It is produced by Hotpoint, makers of electric stoves of the future. Moreover, the back cover reads:

Sorry, non-Americans, guys, and members of the workforce. These recipes are not for you. I wish they could be, I really do, but I don't make the rules. The cookbook has spoken. I wouldn't try out these recipes on the sly if I were you, either. Those demon things will come and get you. While you sleep.

Now, on to our menu! Menus that could be put in the oven all at the same time were particularly trendy during the 40's and 50's. The food in this book, however, while garnished a little oddly at times, does not have the almost militantly symmetrical arrangement so popular in food photography of the 50's. Therefore, I am going to guess it is from the 40's.

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Baked Apples
Apples [baking apples. Do not try Red Delicious.]

1. Wash and core [do not cut all the way through, or the filling will run out!] desired number of large apples for baking.
2. Slash the sides in two or three places. [Not really necessary.]
3. Fill the cavity of each apple with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cutter and 2 tablespoons water.
4. Bake in a cold or preheated oven. Serve warm with cream.

Temperature: 350-400 degrees F.
Time: 1 hour or 1 hour and 15 minutes with oven meal

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(6 pop-overs)
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Sift flour and salt together.
2. Beat eggs slightly and combine with milk and melted butter.
3. Add the liquid mixture to the flour, stirring well to make a smooth batter.
4. Fill cold, well greased custard cups about half full of batter.
5. Place cups on cookie sheet.
6. Bake in cold or preheated oven.

Temperature: 425 degrees F.
Time: 1 hour


Baked Apples:
Mmm. Baked apples. Baked apples are good. Especially with cream drizzled over. Have I ever told you how much I love cream? I do. I do love cream. You may, however, notice that the picture here is really unattractive. This is because I only had one apple left when I thought I had two, so Husband and I shared one. Husband was also gone during dinner, and took the camera with him. Therefore, the picture you see here is half a baked apple. If you've never had one before, do not let this picture dissuade you. They are good! Try some ice cream on top. I've also had them stuffed with candy bar pieces before, so there's a use for your Halloween candy.

Country Sausage: The cookbook had a recipe for this. It was on page 8. The cookbook goes from page 6 to page 9. I just bought some and chucked it in the oven.

Pop-Overs: Our good friends milk, eggs, butter, and flour are back together again! Is there anything they can't do? Having never had a popover before, I took a guess, poked a hole in the middle, and put butter and apricot jam inside. It was delicious. Delicious, but DANG was it ever hard to chip out! The outside of the pop-overs bonded to the inside of the ramekins like super glue. If I try this again, and I may, it will be with a different recipe.