Monday, May 8, 2017

Historic American Food & Drink Terms from A-Z: Do You Recognize Any of These?

Isleta Bread or Bear Claw 
Image Source: Wikipedia
I finally had the opportunity to visit Manhattan's phenomenal bookstore, The Strand, which contains over 18 miles of books, new and used. Of course, I drifted over to the food and cooking section and was happy to find the out-of-print book, The Dictionary of American Food & Drink by John Mariani (New York, 1983). This book contains a lot of terms inspired by American cowboys, loggers, Native Americans, or by region. Below are some of Mariani's entries for culinary terms that are unusual, out-of-use, or just plain interesting. Disclosure: Some of Mariani's history is sketchy  or incomplete but the names are fun!

How many do you recognize?  Enjoy!

Adam's Ale: Slang for water. A colloquialism based on the assumption that the only drink Adam had in the Bible was water; this term [was] often heard in soda fountains and at lunch counters.

Brush Roast: A North Carolina term for a dish of oysters cooked on a wire netting over a wood fire and served with butter, chow-chow, and corn bread.

Cackleberry:  A logger's term for an egg. The cackle refers to the sound made by chickens, and in prison lingo eggs are referred to as 'cacklers" (or 'shells').

Dusty Miller: A sundae made with powdered malted-milk topping. The term derives from a noctuid moth of the same name whose speckled wings resemble the dusty topping on the sundae. The moth's name is first mentioned in port in 1909; the sundae probably dates from the 1920s.

Eatin' Iron: Cowboy slang term for a knife, fork, or spoon.

Franconia Potatoes: Boiled potatoes baked with butter. The name refers to the Franconia range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The recipe below is from a 1944 cookbook: Boil potatoes in salted water, place in a buttered pan, pour melted butter over them, season with salt and pepper, and bake till browned at 400º.

Grape Pie: A pie made from eastern grapes of the Labrusca variety and its hybrids. This pie in some form was originally made by the Indians living along the vine-rich regions of Canandaigua Lake in New York, and it is rarely made anywhere else in the United States.

Herman: A Midwest colloquialism for a bread starter, often kept over decades.

Isleta Bread: A Pueblo Indian bread shaped like a bear's claw, hence the alternate names 'bear claw' or 'paw bread'.

Jake: An alcoholic beverage made from Jamaican ginger during the Prohibition era. The name comes from its allusion to Jamaica.

Kishka: A Jewish-American baked sausage made with meat, flour, and spices. The word, from the Russian for 'intestines,' was the first first printed circa 1936.

Larrup: Cowboy term for molasses, which was also called 'long sweetening,' The origin of the name is unknown, though the same word in dialectical English means a 'beating.'

Mountain Oyster: The testicles of the bull, pig, or lamb. Sometimes called  "Rocky Mountain oysters,' they are usually breaded ad fried in the West. The name derives from the general appearance of the final product and not a little euphemism. It is a term used both by cowboys and meat packinghouse workers.

Nioi: A Hawaiian 'chili water,' made with chili peppers, water, and salt, that serves as a seasoning for various dishes.

Ohio Pudding: A pudding of sweet potatoes, carrots, and brown sugar, popular in Ohio.

Pair of Overalls: Cowboy term for an order of two drinks served at once.

Quaking Custard: A cream custard of New England around which are garnished egg whites. The name refers to the quivering texture of the dish.

Rum Tum Tiddy: A New England blend of tomato soup and Cheddar cheese served as a main course.

Salt Hoss: Cowboy's term for corned beef.

Trapper's Butter: Trapper's term for bone-marrow of a killed animal, which was often made into a thickened broth.

Underwears: A cowboy's term for sheep.

Valley Tan: Trader's term for a whiskey made by the  Mormons of Salt Lake Valley.

Whistle Berries: A cowboy's term for beans, perhaps because of the flatulence they often cause.

Yale Boat Pie: A dish made with layers of meat, poultry, and shellfish set in a pastry crust. The name comes from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut . . . .

Zephyrina: A North Caarolina cookie baked by both the Indians and the early settlers of the territory. The name derives from the Latin, zephyrs, for 'wind,' because of their light, airy quality. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 tbs. butter, salt, and enough water to make an elastic dough. Roll thin, cut into rounds, prick with fork, and bake till browned in a 375º oven.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Catch-Up on Ketchup and a Recipe for Cucumber Catsup

1896, Annual Catalogue of Celebrated Seeds (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Recipe Provenance
This recipe come from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations.

Cucumber Catsup [by] Mrs. Morris
Cut cucumbers into dice to fill a tureen, 1/3 part of the ingredients to be onions, diced very small, salt them plentifully, and mix them well together. Let them stand 6 or 8 hours, pour them into a sieve to drain, when so done return them into the tureen & add ½ pint Madeira wine, as much best cider vinegar as will cover them, ½ teaspoonful of cayenne pepper, a table spoonful fine ground black pepper a few blades of mace, a gill of best sweet oil. Mix all well together, put it into jars or wide-mouth bottles cover them close & keep them in a cool place—use it about Christmas—the cucumbers water to be thrown away—mixture for one quart.

About Catsup
Whether spelled catsup, catchup, or ketchup, in the modern-day what comes to mind is a salty and acidic tomato-based sauce drizzled (or heavily poured, depending on your tastes) over French fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets  steak, and many other dishes. In America, ketchup is the quintessential democratized food; you can find it in home kitchens, fast food restaurants, food trucks, chain restaurants, and even in fine-dining establishments.

One of the most frustrating aspects of deciphering ketchup's
history is that there seems to be no definitive origins to the dish nor to its name. One theory speculates the recipe comes from the French escaveche which means food in sauce. Another theory suggests it comes from escabeche which is derived from an Arabic word meaning to pickle with vinegar. Other theories propose it comes from Malaysia, Japan, China, or Vietnam. Finally, it may even date back to the Ancient Roman ubiquitous condiment, garum, a fermented fish sauce.

Regardless of its origins, the emergence of ketchup really makes sense when realizing that before refrigeration, foods needed to be preserved with salt and acids such as vinegar.  As a result, people across the globe had no choice but to develop a taste for pickled foods.  It was therefore common to see salty/sour ketchups used to accompany savory pies, sauces, meats, poultry, and fish. It is not surprising then to understand that there could be so many theories as to the geographical origins of ketchup when everyone was probably preserving foods in a pickle solution.

When looking at numerous historic British and American cookbooks, it is clear that ketchup was important to the home cook. Recipes for ketchup are in almost every early cookbook. However, once mass consumption of food by the corporate world became de rigueur, home production of the condiment was abandoned for commercial products. What has been lost to modern commercial ketchup buyers is the understanding that not all ketchup was based on the tomato. Home recipes for ketchups were made with a variety of ingredients such as walnuts, oysters, mushrooms, anchovies, apricots, apples, barberries, blackberries, cherries, cranberries, currants, plums, elderberries, gooseberries, grapes, lemons, kidney beans, liver, lobster, mussels, celery, peaches, bell peppers, raspberries, Madeira wine, rum, squash, love-apples, whortleberries, red wine, and cucumber. Here are some examples of historic ketchup recipes:

John Farley (formerly principal cook at the London Tavern), The London Art of Cookery 
and Domestic Housekeeper’s Complete Assistant (London, 1811)

Maria Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery (London, 1824)    

Maria Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery (London, 1824)    

Mrs. E.F. Haskell, The Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia (NY, 1861)    

Marion Cabell Tyree, Housekeeping in Old Virginia Containing Contributions from Two Hundred and Fifty Ladies in Virginia and Her Sister States (Louisville, KY, 1878)    

What is very interesting is that ketchup started to be produced commercially in the 19th century and by the 20th century home-made ketchup became a practice relegated to the past. Ketchup recipes can often be complicated and time-consuming so it makes sense that it was abandoned as a home enterprise once it became available commercially.

The common belief is that the earliest American to produce ketchup for commercial sale was a New Englander named Jonas Yerkes who started selling his bottled ketchup in 1837. However, I found an advertisement for mushroom and walnut ketchups in the 25 October 1804 edition of Baltimore's American Commercial and Daily Advertiser:

I also found this advertisement from the 1833-34 Matchett's Baltimore City Directory:

The Heinz Company started selling tomato ketchup in 1872; clearly Heinz was very late to enter the market!

If you have a desire to make an unusual home-made ketchup try your hand at one of the above recipes or the one below for cucumber catsup.

Cucumber Catsup: Modern Recipe Adaptation

About this Recipe
This recipe is easy enough to do. The only downside is that it takes several months to be able to test it to see how it tastes. The catsup needs to cure so that the flavors can develop. Cucumbers are in season from May to early September in Maryland. According to the recipe, Morris says "keep them in a cool place--use it about Christmas . . .". Therefore, I would guess from this that the catsup needs about 3-4 months wait time before it can be used.

Step 1: Brine the Vegetables
  • In a food processor, grate 3 peeled English cucumbers and 1 large onion.
  • Place the cucumbers and onions in a large plastic container with a lid. Add 1/3 cup salt. Mix together. 
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or even overnight.
Step 2: Drain the Vegetables
  • Drain the cucumber/onion mixture. To make you get all of the water out, place the mixture in the center of a clean cotton dish cloth. Gather up all of the corners and squeeze as hard as you can.
  • You should have about 3 1/2 cups of vegetables.
Step 3:  Make the Pickle
  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the following:
    • 1/4 Cup Madeira Wine
    • 3/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
    • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
    • 3/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
    • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Mace (or Nutmeg)
    • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Heat the above mixture just to the boil and remove from heat. 
  • I recommend the water-bath canning method for preserving and aging the catsup:
    • Evenly distribute the vegetables between 4 half-pint size jars.
    • Fill the jars with the vinegar pickle (above), making sure to use a skewer or knife to work the liquid into all of the air pockets in-between the vegetables.
    • Follow the recommendations for canning in the above link.
  • Store the preserved cucumber catsup for at least 3 months before using.
  • After the curing time is over, puree the cucumber catsup until it is smooth. This recipe makes a particularly salty recipe; therefore, I would cut the salt a bit if you are trying to restrict your salt intake.

  • Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford, 2014)
  • Andrew Smith, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink (Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Andrew Smith, Pure Ketchup, A History of America's National Condiment (Smithsonian Institution, 2001)