The Best Corned Beef

corned beef and cabbage

In Ireland, they do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage, but rather lamb or bacon, on what has long been a religious holiday there. Why therefore does the rest of the world, in particular the U.S., count this dish synonymous with this day that has become so filled with frolic?  It was through numerous developments that the Irish immigrants in America adopted this tradition, with its actual Gaelic roots.

These immigrants first arrived here when fleeing the Great Famine, which was brought about by the European potato blight that desperately hit their homeland, starting in 1845.  They disembarked knowing only “about” the corn beef of their forefathers, and that differing greatly from what they began to eat in the U.S.

This dish has a complicated history.  Beef was originally not regarded as an option in the old country, but rather pork and bacon provided the rare meat at a meal (pig is still their favored animal bred only for food).  From ancient times on, the common Irishman regarded the cow as a work animal, consuming only its milk products, not its flesh; this latter was primarily reserved only for the wealthy few, and even for them, merely on celebrations and festivals.  Salting was their typical means of preserving this meat.

When the English conquered this country in the 16th century, the cow turned into a food commodity.  Since the time of Roman invasion, the English have had a voracious appetite for beef, hence their need to outsource for this.  After their conquest of the Gaelic land, tens of thousands of live cattle were exported yearly across the Irish Sea, until the mid-17th century, when a series of Cattle Acts enacted by the English Parliament put a stop to this export; thus, providing the fuel that ignited the Irish corned beef industry.  These Cattle Acts left Ireland with an inundation of cows, bringing meat prices down, and making it affordable and abundant for their salted beef production, their means of preservation; thus, now even the peasant could consume this food.

It was around this time that the term corned beef became popular, because of the large size of the salt crystals used to cure it, as they looked like a kernel of corn.  The word kernel is derived from the Old English crynel, meaning seed or kernel, a diminutive of corn.

Subsequently Ireland became known for its abundant, high quality salted beef, now called corned beef, which tasted more like salt than beef.  In addition to the overflow of cows due to the Cattle Acts, they also had access to the highest quality of imported salt, as their salt tax was one tenth that of England.  (In good corned beef, the quality of salt is almost as important as the cut of beef.)  The demand for this best-on-the-market Irish corned beef soared in Europe and the Americas, spiking the price so high that the common Irishman could no longer afford to eat it; thus, the potato, which the English had introduced in the 1580’s, became their major food source.

This high demand for Irish salted beef continued until the end of the 18th century, when the North American colonies began producing their own; the glory days of Irish corned beef came to a close over the next 50 years; hence, the economy in Ireland was affected greatly.  This coupled with the Great Famine-brought by the European potato blight starting in 1845-resulted in great destruction in this land, as this latter completely destroyed the Irish food source.  As a result, about a million people sought refuge in America; being the land of plenty, they could now afford meat, a first in their lifetimes.  That which they chose happened to be the affordable corn beef.  Here, however, it greatly differed from that of the corned or salted beef of their ancestors 200 years prior.

These immigrants settled in the urban centers of New York and Philadelphia, next to their Jewish neighbors, who had kosher butcher shops, where the Irish bought this product.  The Jewish butchers used brisket, a kosher cut of beef, for this.  Being a tougher cut, it called for the salting and cooking processes that rendered the extremely tender corn beef, with its exceptional flavors, such as we know today.  The Irish paired this with their beloved potato and the inexpensive vegetable cabbage.  This “Jewish” corned beef then became the celebratory meal for the American Irish on their religious holiday St. Patrick’s Day.  Time transformed this hallowed feast day into its present, grand celebration of Irish heritage.

Today this beef brisket cut is generally cured or pickled by injecting seasoned brine (this brisket cut comes from the area just above the front legs; it rests on top of the shank cut, which is immediately above these legs in the forefront).  Hence today most of our savory corned briskets never actually touch any salt grains, the size of corn kernels or otherwise, like that of the famous salted beef of old.

Laura Kumin in The Hamilton Cookbook, 2017, cites Richard Briggs’ 1792 recipe “To Stew a Brisket of Beef”, from The English Art of Cookery: “a pint of red wine, or strong beer, a half of pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallots, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated.”  At the end, browned, boiled turnips were added to the thickened “liquor”, or gravy.

The following is my sister’s modern recipe, which calls for braising, resulting in super tender morsels of meat.  Enjoy this effortless receipt, while wearing-the-green this year.

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-corned-beef-really-irish-2839144/

http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/complicated-irish-history-corned-beef

http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/CornedBeef.htm

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), pp. 289-291.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 175.

Laura Kumin, The Hamilton Cookbook (New York, Nashville: Post Hill Press, 2017), p. 81.

glazed meat

Corned Beef Brisket  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 7 1/4 hr for 3 1/2-lb brisket/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 7 hr (or 2 hr for each lb of meat).

3 1/2 lb corned beef brisket

1 lg yellow onion  (Organic vegetables are best.)

8 extra lg cloves garlic, or the equivalent

6-8 red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in halves

1 1/2 lb green cabbage, cut in sixths or eighths, leaving root on

1-1 1/4 lb carrots, cut in large pieces

2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for optimum health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

Yellow mustard

Brown sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s or Costco.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; take veggies out of refrigerator to warm.
  2. preparation for initial braising

    Rub spice packet on brisket.  Place in oven-proof stock pot with onions and garlic.  Barely submerge in water (see photo), cover with lid, and braise for 1 hour in oven at 375 degrees.  Then lower temperature to 325 degrees if normal size (3 1/2 to 4 lbs); if brisket is larger, only lower heat to 350.  Cook meat for 6 hours for 3 1/2 lbs-the TOTAL cooking time should be determined by figuring 2 hrs per lb (which includes the replacement of vegetables for the meat for the last hour of cooking).

  3. 1 1/3 hour before serving, spray vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes; rinse really well.  Scrape carrots with a sharp knife (this preserves vitamins, as opposed to peeling); cut in halves or large pieces; peel the potatoes; cut in halves, if large.  Cut cabbage in sixths or eighths, leaving the root on, and set this aside separately.
  4. 1 hour before serving, remove brisket from braising water, place in a baking dish, covered with tin foil, and set aside.  This should be extremely tender; if not, put a little liquid in bottom of dish, cover well with foil, and place back in oven while veggies are cooking (see photo below).
  5. preparing brisket for further cooking if needed

    Turn the heat up to 375 degrees.  Add potatoes, carrots, and salt to hot broth, cover with additional water, and return to oven to cook until tender, checking periodically.  As vegetables are done, remove to a baking dish, with small amount of broth in bottom, cover with foil, and place in oven to keep warm.

  6. Add cabbage to pot 30 minutes before serving if you like it soft; for a crisper version, add 20 minutes before dinner.  (Be sure to check vegetables to see if cooked, remove to baking dish as needed, and return to oven to keep hot.)
  7. About 30 minutes before serving, prep the glaze, by generously spreading yellow mustard over brisket, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place in oven at 375 degrees.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until it bubbles and glaze is formed (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Cut meat, cover with foil, and place back in oven, if not ready to serve yet.  When all cooking is done, turn oven down to 200 degrees for keeping meal hot.
  9. To serve, place on platter or plates and surround with vegetables (see top photo).  This dish is best accompanied with Irish Soda Bread, last week’s post.

1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies

Ozark honey-oatmeal cookies

My library holds many old cook books, some copyrighted in the 1800’s; I also have a number of facsimiles, exact reproductions of the originals.  These aren’t considered costly with collectors, but are highly valuable to me, with their precise historical evidence required for my work.

A number of these republications help me with my need for early U.S.A. food history.  For instance one illuminates the 18th century: American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons; this was the first truly U.S. cook book, with such strictly American dishes as Indian pudding, Indian slapjack (pancakes), and johnnycake (flat corn cakes).  All early cook books, that were published on our soil, prior to this 1796 publication, were actually reprints of English cook books, none of which contained American ingredients such as: cranberries, clams, cornmeal, shad (fish of the genus Alosa), terrapin (turtles), etc.  Interestingly, recipe books were not in demand in our young country, where rivaling colonial plantations jealously guarded their family’s treasured receipts, and rich city dwellers adhered to their individual Old World cooking traditions.

In a recent cooking class, I taught Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies from one of my facsimiles: the Silver Dollar City Edition of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, by Maria Parloa, which Washburn-Crosby Co. published in Boston originally, in 1880.  Its facsimile was issued at an unknown date during the 20th century, by General Mills, the successor to Washburn-Crosby Co.  Access the fascinating history of Maria Parloa, her cook books, these two flour mills, and this period cuisine at my following entries: 1800’s Escalloped Salmon (2017/04/17), 1880’s Minced Cabbage (2017/04/24), and 1880’s Clam Chowder (2017/01/30).

These cookies call for shortening; its definition is fat used in cooking, made from animal, vegetable, or compound manufactured substances.  Examples of the latter are margarine, discovered in France in 1869, and Crisco, which is a hydrogenated vegetable oil, created in America in 1911; Crisco usually comes to mind when shortening is mentioned today.

The term shortening, however, first surfaced in the early half of 18th century; it is considered to be American.  As far as cook books are concerned, it appeared in several of Amelia Simmons’ recipes in American Cookery, 1796, such as johnnycake and “another plain cake”, though she doesn’t define the word.

In the April 6, 1892 edition, the New York Times promoted Cottolene, as a “New Shortening…a vegetable product far superior to anything else for shortening and frying purposes”.  This, the first hydrogenated vegetable oil, was primarily used as a cooking medium, in some households.

In June of 1911, Procter and Gamble began selling hydrogenated cottonseed oil, as Crisco (short for “crystallized cottonseed oil”); they discovered this shortening in their quest to generate a raw material for soap, through a technique that had its origins in 1897 France.  Because of an intense promotional campaign, it became the first popular national shortening product of its kind (this ingredient is extremely prevalent in 20th century recipes).  To this day, Crisco remains the best known brand for this item in the U.S.; there are other well-known brands in a number of other countries.

These Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies allow for a healthy means to satisfy our sweet tooth, for they are made with such powerful foods as: organic oats, semi-sweet chocolate chips, organic raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, nuts, raw honey…In place of refined sugar, I use the healthy alternative coconut sugar.  The recipe from this 1880’s cook book calls for shortening, which probably referred to either butter or lard initially, though those baking from its facsimile, in the 20th century, would have used then popular Crisco; I leave this choice up to you.

This recipe is easy to make and is extremely good!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. Facsimile of Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), pp. 57, 58.
  2. Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Minneapolis: Washburn-Crosby Co., 1880); this facsimile was reproduced by General Mills at an unknown date  in the 20th century.
  3. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 183-186.
  4. http://www.foodtimeline.org/shortening.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortening

mixing oatmeal into dough in stages

1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies  Adapted from a recipe in General Mills’ 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).  Yields: 4 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 3/4 cup flour  (May grind 1 1/3 cups organic hard red spring wheat berries-I choose this berry for its high protein content-this makes 2 cups of flour; BE SURE to remove 1/4 cup of flour, after it is ground, for the required 1 3/4 cup.)

1/2 cup butter, or shortening

1 1/4 cup sugar  (I use coconut sugar for its health benefits.)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup honey

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

2 cups oats  (Organic is only slightly more expensive; so much healthier.)

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes  (Available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup nuts, chopped

1/3 cup raisins  (Organic is important; available reasonably at Trader’s.)

1/2 cup chocolate chips  (High quality, semi-sweet chocolate chips are available at Trader Joe’s.)

Parchment paper, wax paper, and 2 cookie sheets

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with a fork; beat in eggs, one at a time; blend in honey.
  4. placing dough on parchment paper

    Stir salt and baking soda into flour in another large bowl.  (May place these ingredients in a sealed gallon-size storage bag and shake vigorously.)

  5. Mix this flour mixture into the shortening/sugar/eggs; do not over beat the dough, as this makes cookies tough.
  6. Stir coconut, pumpkin seeds, nuts, chocolate chips, and raisins into this mixture, distributing evenly.
  7. Mix half the oats into this dough gently (see photo at top of recipe); add other half; stir with a large rubber spatula or spoon, just until blended.
  8. Using a teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet, shaping rounds roughly with fingers, as you go (see above photo).
  9. Place pan in preheated oven for about 9-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Meanwhile start a second pan, by shaping dough on another piece of parchment paper.
  11. When first pan is done, immediately start baking this second pan.
  12. cookies baked to perfection

    Cool baked cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes.  Remove and place them on a large piece of wax paper (see photo).

  13. Using a new piece of parchment paper, prepare the third pan of cookies, to be ready for the oven as soon as second batch is done; repeat until all the dough is used.  (Pans should be cool before spooning dough on them.)
  14. These freeze well, to have on hand for healthy snacks.

1880’s Minced Cabbage

cooked minced cabbage

Along with last week’s post on escalloped salmon, I discovered this elegant, easy minced cabbage in Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, which was originally published in 1880 by Washburn-Crosby Co.  Its successor General Mills reprinted this worthy account in the twentieth century.  This latter company, however, is better known for publishing recipe books under the pseudonym Betty Crocker, who never existed, unlike our illustrious 19th century writer Maria Parloa.

In 1921, before this transfer of title, Washburn-Crosby was first to use the name “Betty Crocker”.  At that time they were inundated with 30,000 entries in a contest promoting Gold Medal flour; many of these participants asked questions concerning baking.  Washburn-Crosby discerned that the replies would hold more influence if signed by a woman; thus, the inspiration for this sham, which was derived from the surname of a retired company director.

General Mills continued in this tradition, after it was created in 1928, when it began merging Washburn-Crosby with 26 other U.S. flour-milling companies.  This, then the world’s largest flour mill, initially portrayed this fictitious authority as a gray-haired home-maker in 1936; her image was frequently revised throughout the last century, as Betty Crocker was used as a major brand name for their various products.  (See more history on Miss Parloa, General Mills, and 19th century American cook books at 1880’s Clam Chowder-2017/01/30; 1880’s Escalloped Salmon-2017/04/17; and 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies-2017/10/30.)

It is jarring when we learn the falsehood of long accepted traditions, like the authenticity of this established person, for truth is fundamental to our stability.  We implicitly search for verity in all things, cooking included.  Rejoicing occurs when a good source for teaching the basics is found, such as those required for food preparation and the execution of life.  I hope you will discover these attributes present in my writings.

My prayer is that you will come to rely on my receipts, preparing them with the ease with which they are intended.  They may look lengthy at times; this is because I spell out shortcuts with care, for my blog is like going to cooking school.  Quickly you learn my simple, creative techniques; thus, gaining the ability to adeptly use these recipes.

This effortless minced cabbage comes with the height of freedom.  Enjoy!

References:

  1. Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Laurait, 1880); this facsimile was published at an unknown date during the 20th century.
  2. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 434, 456, 488.
  3. http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/who-was-betty-crocker/
  4. https://foodimentary.com/2012/03/24/a-history-of-betty-crocker-the-woman-who-never-was/
  5. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/general-mills-inc-history/

chopping cabbage in a food processor

1880’s Minced Cabbage  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.  This is adapted from a recipe in General Mills’ Special Silver Dollar City Edition (copyright date unknown) of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, (Boston: Estes and Laurait, 1880).

Note: this is best made ahead and reheated just before serving.

1 1/2 lb green cabbage

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is ideal for quality and flavor here; avocado oil is also good; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (I prefer a coarse salt here, such as a kosher salt or Trader Joe’s coarse sea salt. )

  1. Chop cabbage either by hand, or more quickly, by using the slicing attachment to a food processor.  If using a food processor, cut cabbage in pieces that will fit in its feeder tube (see above photo).  Set aside.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan, in which you have placed a small piece of cabbage.  When it sizzles, add rest of cabbage, and stir well to evenly distribute oil; cook until vegetable is limp, stirring frequently.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  3. cooking roux

    Make roux in a small sauté pan: melt butter over medium heat, add flour, and stir with a wire whisk.  Cook  until mixture is a light brown, about 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside (see photo).

  4. When cabbage is soft, add salt, and stir well.
  5. Blend roux into vegetable, cook until consistency of cabbage is somewhat thickened, stir frequently.
  6. When done, remove from heat.  May serve immediately, or better yet, make ahead, and reheat just before serving.  When it sits, cabbage juices form in pan; as you reheat it, stir in juices and loosened fond, which is obtained by using a wooden or plastic cooking spatula, to scrape these caramelized pan drippings and browned bits off bottom of pan.  This adds great flavor!   (See top photo for finished product.)

1880’s Escalloped Salmon

ingredients for escalloped salmon

Maria Parloa blessed us with a recipe for escalloped fish in Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, which Washburn-Crosby Co. published in 1880.  This company’s successor General Mills brought her proven receipts back to America, by republishing them in their Special Silver Dollar City Edition of this book, at an unknown date during the twentieth century.

Both these companies are known for their production of Gold Medal flour, which they successively produced; thus, this product has been on the market for nearly two and a half centuries.  (For more details on Miss Parloa, Washburn-Crosby Co., General Mills, and 19th century American cooking, see 1880’s Clam Chowder-2017/01/30, 1880’s Minced Cabbage-2017/04/24, and 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies-2017/10/30.)

This 19th century cook book was one of many written by Maria Parloa, who was an important figure in the gastronomical world of her day.  She taught an abundance of classes at her own two schools, as well as the Boston Cooking School, the home of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book, which was forerunner to the renowned Fanny Farmer Cook Book.

In Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, Parloa shared modern techniques and included 93 “essential” utensils for the kitchen, which boasted of such items as an apple corer, melon mold, and squash strainer.  Her writings catered to the affluent, for she recommended that a dinner for twelve need cost no more than $25, this at a time when an unskilled worker made about $1 per day.

In this book’s preface, the author’s desire for clear, complete, and concise directions is set forth, but these are vague compared to our present standards.  Her instructions, however, have far greater detail than those in many of the contemporary cook books of her day.

This recipe called for five pounds of fish, that which was normally required to sustain a family of six at the main, mid-day meal; by contrast, this same amount provided for twelve guests at a dinner party, as these hospitable affairs were always profuse in delectable dishes.  My directive only calls for one pound of salmon for four people, because this is a rich food for our relatively sedentary bodies; in these former days people were highly active, requiring many more calories than we do today.

As with this outmoded receipt, things call for adaptation; we must learn to adjust to the essential needs of any given time.  Our living God perpetually covers us in all instances of unforeseen change, bringing healthy modification, if we ask believing.  At times this process is slow; thus, patience is critical to success.

This is a joyful race we are running; nothing is too difficult for us!  We simply align our hearts to the “recipe” our Father is dictating at each turn, purposing to not be alarmed when our five pounds of fish becomes one pound, or with equal intention, staying calm when it reverses back to five pounds.

Recently I enjoyed escalloped salmon with friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time; our reunion was marked with excellence in both fellowship and food.  This dish is a winner for special occasions, especially when served with next week’s entry 1880’s minced cabbage.

References:

Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880); this was published by General Mills at an unknown date during the 20th century.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 310.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Parloa

https://www.lib.umich.edu/blogs/beyond-reading-room/happy-172nd-birthday-miss-parloa

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c2500.pdf

 

baked escalloped salmon

1880’s Escalloped Salmon  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 15 min/  active prep time: 45 min/  baking time: 30 min.  This is adapted from a recipe in General Mills’, 20th century Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).

Note: salmon may be prepared ahead of time following steps 1-8; when doing so, reheat this for a total of 1 hr before serving.

1/4 cup bread crumbs  (May purchase ready-made, or grind 2 slices of stale bread in a dry food processor; make extra, as these freeze well; for stale bread, leave pieces out for about 8 hours.)

1-1 1/2 lb salmon fillet  (A minimum of 1 lb is needed if fillet is boneless and skinless, more if there are bones and skin.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is best for optimum health; available in health section of local supermarket.)

1 cup whipping cream

1/8 cup water

1 tbsp flour

1/8 tsp white pepper, or to taste

Steamed rice, cooked according to directions on package

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If salmon fillet is large, cut in pieces that will fit in a 3-quart saucepan.  Place in pan and cover with salted water-add  1/2 tsp salt; bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook until center of thickest part of salmon is opaque, when pierced with a fork.  Remove from liquid and cool fish; reduce broth over high heat.
  3. If preparing your own bread crumbs, grind 2 pieces or more of stale bread in dry food processor, pressing pulse button repeatedly until crumbs are fine.  Set aside, freeze extras.
  4. Heat cream over medium heat in a small saucepan, only until a soft boil is formed, stirring frequently; watch carefully.  As soon as it barely boils, reduce heat to medium/low.
  5. While heating cream, dissolve flour in water.  With a wire whisk, stir flour mixture into softly boiling cream, to which you have added 2 tbsp of reduced broth; cook until sauce is thick, beating frequently.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and white pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings; set aside.
  6. Start rice, following directions on package (wait if you are preparing salmon ahead).
  7. Butter a small, 1-quart baking dish; place a light layer of sauce in bottom of dish.
  8. Skin and carefully debone fish, placing bite-size pieces in baking dish on top of layer of cream, as you go.  When all the salmon is thus prepared, press down on fish to make compact; cover the top with the remaining cream sauce.  (If you are making this ahead of time, place dish in refrigerator; in which case, an hour will be needed to bake cold fish; start rice when you place refrigerated salmon in oven.)
  9. Just before placing this in oven, spread bread crumbs on top of sauce.  If a skim has formed on top of cream, gently break apart with a spoon, making surface wet again, so crumbs can stick; then, bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven to meld all flavors.
  10. Serve with 1880’s Minced Cabbage, which is next week’s entry.

1880’s Philadelphia Clam Chowder

mincing clams

mincing fresh razor clams

My great clam chowder is adapted from a recipe in General Mills’, 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book; this reproduced cookbook was originally published in 1880, by Washburn Crosby Co., the makers of Gold Medal flour.  (This collection also includes my all-time favorite oatmeal cookie, which I will share at a later date.)

I have enlarged upon this 19th century method of making this dish, by adding such flavor/texture enhancers as garlic, onion, celery, and unpeeled potatoes.  Miss Parloa calls her receipt Philadelphia clam chowder; it introduces the technique of straining the clams, thus lending a delicate touch to the fish soup.  I am not a big fan of clam chowder, but I love this because of its mellowness, resulting from the removal of the clam juice.

There is much to be said about the distinctive flavors of shellfish and fish.  Harold McGee shares this apt science in his excellent treatise On Food and Cooking.  He teaches why ocean and freshwater creatures vary so greatly in taste, the former having a much stronger bite.

Ocean water is about 3% salt by weight, while the optimum level of all dissolved minerals inside of animal cells is less than 1%.  Consequently ocean creatures need to balance this substantial salt mineral, that they are breathing in and swallowing; they do this with amino acids, amines, and urea, which their bodies produce.

Behold, these substances have different flavors!  For example the amino acid glycine is sweet, while glutamic acid is savory; shellfish are especially rich in these and other amino acids.  Unlike shellfish, finfish rely heavily on the amine TMAO for processing salt, which is largely tasteless.  Sharks, skates, and rays make ready the salt water with a slightly salty and bitter urea.  However, this urea and the amine TMAO are converted into stinky substances, by bacteria and fish enzymes in these dead, ocean-dwelling fish; thus, after they are killed, their meat tastes and smells powerfully bad with age, while that of their freshwater relatives doesn’t.

Freshwater fish have a gentler effect on our taste buds, because the water they live in is actually less salty, than that of their cells; therefore, they do not need to accumulate these pungent amino acids, amines, or urea, which their ocean-dwelling cousins require to process the dissolved mineral salt.

You can see that different shellfish and fish supply our mouths with unique experiences.  Seawater varieties use a diversity of amino acids, amines, and urea to balance the salt in their cellular systems; these differing substances boast of a wide variety of powerful tastes.  Their freshwater counterparts, which don’t require these salt equalizers, are bland by comparison.

Miss Parloa counters the strong flavor of clam chowder by straining the clams, removing their excess liquid, which has an abundance of the above mentioned amino acids.  (For more history on Miss Parloa and 19th century American cuisine, see 1880’s Escalloped Salmon-2017/04/17, 1880’s Minced Cabbage-2017/04/24, and 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies-2017/10/30.)  I take this illustrious chef’s simple inspiration and provide an even richer experience, with additional textures and mouth-watering thrills.  You will like this delicious, yet mild, chowder!

References:

General Mills’ Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s , Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).  This reproduction was published at an unknown date during the 20th century.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984, 2004), pp. 188-189.

Philadelphia Clam Chowder  Adapted from a recipe in General Mill’s, 20th century Special Silver Dollar City Edition of Maria Parloa’s  Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880).  Yields: 8 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 30 min/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 1 hr.

Note: if you don’t have large enough pots for the makeshift double boiler-see step 1 for photo and directions-just cook the soup over direct heat; this, however, may cause it to separate some, but this last option will reduce the cooking time.

1 1/2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic at high temperatures.)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

6 ounce drained weight minced clams, or 3 strained 6.5 ounce cans  (May use 6 ounces fresh razor clams, chopped fine, see top photo.)

2 stalks celery, cut in 1/4 inch dice

3 tbsp parsley, minced

1 lb potatoes, unpeeled, chopped in small 1/2 inch pieces

5 large cloves garlic, minced  (May use 3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s for easy prep.)

1 1/2 quarts milk  (Whole milk is preferable.)

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is best; available in health section at local supermarkets.)

1/2 tsp white pepper, or to taste

  1. make-shift double boiler

    make-shift double boiler

    Heat coconut oil in a 4-quart pot that will sit inside a slightly larger pot to make a double boiler, see photo.  (If you don’t have two large pots, cook the chowder over direct heat; cooking will be faster with this last option, however, the cream soup may separate some.)

  2. When a small piece of onion sizzles in oil, add the rest of the onions and sweat, cook until translucent.  Remove from heat when done.
  3. Fill larger pot 2/5’s full of hot tap water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Meantime make roux, by melting butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  Add flour and stir constantly with a wire whisk; cook until light brown in color, about 2 minutes; set aside.
  5. Spray celery, parsley, and potatoes with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray: fill a spray bottle with a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide.  After spraying vegetables, let sit for 3 minutes, rinse really well.
  6. Drain canned clams in a colander.  If using fresh razor clams, drain and chop fine (see top photo).
  7. Chop all vegetables and garlic; add to pot of cooked onions.
  8. Add milk, clams, salt, and pepper to the pan of vegetables.  Fit this smaller pan into the larger pot, so it sits above the boiling water (see photo).  Watch water level while cooking to make sure water doesn’t boil dry.  Cook chowder until potatoes are soft, about 50 minutes.  Note: if preparing over direct heat, bring soup to a gentle boil; lower heat; and simmer until potatoes are soft-this option will lessen the cooking time.
  9. When vegetables are soft, beat in roux with a big spoon; cook 5 more minutes, or until soup is thickened.  Stir constantly.
  10. Adjust seasonings and serve.  May freeze leftovers; when you heat thawed chowder, however, it will be of a thinner consistency.  If desired, you may thicken with a small amount of roux-about 1 tbsp of melted butter cooked with an equal amount of flour-this amount will be adequate to thicken 4 leftover servings.
  11. I am passionate about this soup!