Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #9: Mock Food

This is late, but it couldn't be prevented - we've had no internet service for over a week! I did actually do the cooking and the photography on time, just couldn't do my write up.

So what exactly is a "mock food"?

Basically, something edible intend to mimic something else edible, either in taste or appearance.

And why would you want a "mock"food?

Maybe the real thing was just too expensive; mock turtle soup was created in the mid-18th century as a cheaper imitation of green turtle soup.  It often used such as calf's head or a calf's foot to duplicate the texture and flavor of the originals turtle meat.

Substitutes in times of scarcity might be needed, for instance, during the Civil War in the southern states, coffee was seldom procurable and when it was available, was outrageously expensive. People tried a variety of "alternates", including acorn, chicory and okra coffees.

Faux food was/is often created for religious or other ethical reasons, such as the fake meat served at Lent throughout the ages.

I was able to find many, many receipts for mock foods in mid-19th century cook books; almost all had examples of mock turtle soup, but not having ready access to a calf's head (ewww!), that wasn't an option.

I also found numerous listings for mock oysters; I was very tempted by those, but again was limited by ingredient availability - no fresh corn right now. I may have to try them this summer though.

Another intriguing receipt, for mock ice cream, which sounded more like a jello mold than anything else - might have to try this one at some future point also.

I had made a "Methodist" mincemeat previously (no booze) and when I came upon a recipe for mock mincemeat, I decided that was what I would try.

The Challenge: #9 Mock Food

The Recipe: No. 108. How to make Mock Mince-Pies

600 Miscellaneous Valuable Receipts , Worth Their Weight in Gold: A Thirty Years Collection, to which is Added Two Simple Gauging Tables, to Enable Merchants to Take Inventory of Their Stock by John Marquart

Mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup molasses, 1 cup breadcrumbs, with 1 cup good cider-vinegar, 4 cups water and 3 eggs; add 1 cup raisins, 1 ounce cloves, 1 ounce soda. This quantity will be sufficient for 3 pies. Bake.

The Date/Year and Region: 1860 Philadelphia

How Did You Make It:

We have no need for three pies, so I cut the receipt down to a third, which resulted in enough filling for 1 modern sized pie; if I had used my period pie plates, it would have filled at least four, if not five.

I was a little worried by the amount of cloves (almost a tablespoon!), they have such a strong flavor, but they didn't overwhelm the finished pie surprisingly.

The filling foamed to an amazing height when I added the soda - I knew it would, but didn't expect quite so much!

Time to Complete: Mixed it together in just over 5 minutes, baked for 45 minutes.

Total Cost: As usual for this time of year, all pantry items used, so approximately $5.00

How Successful Was It?:

When I first opened the oven, I was sure I had burnt it to a crisp - it was VERY dark. But it wasn't burnt at all; that's just how the filling comes out.

The taste was rather interesting, not too heavy on cloves and not too sweet. The texture was also interesting, but not necessarily in a good way; sticky, lumpy, just off by modern standards. I've never actually tasted true mincemeat, but Robin assured me that it wasn't even close to the real thing, but again, it wasn't unpleasant.

How Accurate Is It?:

I totally cheated on the crust and used pre-made refrigerated pie crust purchased at the store. Everything else was fairly accurate, except for the modern pie dish and use of the electric oven.

The "Methodist" mincemeat I made a number of years ago was much better in both flavor and texture, much more nuanced.

I'm glad I made this, it was a great experiment, but I won't make it again - in fact, there are a number a squirrels with a sugar buzz running amuck in the neighborhood right now!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

1870's Battledore

This is a find from a recent antiquing trip downstate; I really don't like to purchase images from unbound books, but I couldn't resist adding this one to my battledore and shuttlecock research.

It appears to be from an 1870's children's book, but unfortunately, it has no title or any identifying information.

Here's information on making your own battledore and shuttlecock set, here.