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Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

Loin and Neck of Pork by S. J. Hale (1852) and M. Rundell (1807)

Rolled and Stuffed Loin of Pork, a Hit from 1852, and from 1807 too!

In The Culture of Food (Blackwell, 1994), historian Massimo Montanari writes that the ancient Celts and Germans did not have a "plant of civilization," (the phrase is taken from Fernand Braudel) such as the wheat that served this purpose for the Greeks and Romans, the corn for Native Americans, or the rice for Asians. Instead, these forest peoples had an "animal of civilization," the pig, "to express and embody the cultural and productive values" of their civilizations. Thus we are treated to Celtic myths, such as The Story of Mac Dathos' Pig and Germanic tales of a paradise in which the great pig Saehrimnir provides its meat to fallen heroes.

Like the Celts and Germans, the English and their New England cousins relied on pork as a dietary mainstay. Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, that is, when the spread of notions of cultural, including dietary, refinement resulted in a new squeamishness when it came to eating pork. At the same time, the environment in which most families had kept hogs was changing. For centuries, most hogs had been allowed to forage freely around towns, pastures, fields, and farms, gleaning what they could. If confined, they had been fed with household scraps or the organic matter from gardens and fields. But as urban density accompanied industrial growth, the hogs' diet often changed to things like brewery slops and commercial food waste. Some said the changed diet affected the taste of the meat. Fears grew of tainted pork. These factors contributed to the decline in pork's standing.

Happily for us, Sarah Josepha Hale's 1852 recipe for "Loin and Neck of Pork" predates these developments. In fact, it predates them by quite a bit because the American Hale took her recipe directly from Englishwoman Maria Rundell's 1807 edition of A New System of Domestic Cookery. We only discovered Mrs. Hale's plagiarism after the publication of Northern Hospitality. We pride ourselves on tracking the recipes we selected for our book to their first appearance in print, and using that version. But we missed this one. Nevertheless, it's a great recipe. So hats off to Maria Rundell for the original--and hats tipped to Sarah J. Hale for reproducing it in her book. Because we call it Hale's recipe in Northern Hospitality, that's how we'll refer to it here. Now to the pork loin.

The recipe is actually several recipes in one--for a neck or loin of pork that has been simmered, then coated with egg, seasoned with chives, sweet herbs, and bread crumbs, and roasted; for a neck or loin that has first been boned (it can also be parboiled at this stage), then cut open, stuffed with a "forcemeat" of sage, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and allspice berries; and finally for a hand of pork (cut from the front leg), that has been boned, stuffed, rolled, and roasted.

We don't have an open fire before which to roast our meat, as Hale's instructions assume. Come summer, we plan to make the stuffed loin again, with our grill used to approximate the hearth roasting technique. In the meantime, we were completely pleased with the results of our efforts using a modern electric oven for "roasting." (Mid-nineteenth century folk who were getting used to their new cast iron cookstoves would have called this baked meat. Roasting was what you did before the hearth.)

We chose to make the second of the three recipes, the one for a boneless stuffed pork loin. Following Hale's directions produced a moist, well-seasoned, rolled loin that looked and tasted fabulous. It received high praise when we served it at a special-occasion family dinner.

Our version of Hale's Loin of Pork
Serves 6 to 8

3 lbs. boned pork loin
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 oz. fresh sage, roughly chopped (or torn)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 twists of the peppermill
3 allspice berries, whole

Hale says to begin by boning the loin. Ours came already boned. Then she says to make a forcemeat (a stuffing) of chopped fresh sage, a bit of bread crumbs ("a very few crumbs of bread"), salt, pepper, and two or three whole allspice berries. The forcemeat will be used to fill the roll.

Our boned loin, obtained from a local organic producer, did not require parboiling to soften it. So we proceeded directly to the next step. We carefully cut the loin open to a thickness of about 1/2 inch, beginning with a shallow slice the length of the loin, then gently cutting as the loin unrolled onto the cutting board.

With the loin flat, we sprinkled the seasoned bread crumbs inside, leaving about a half-inch margin around the edges of the flattened piece of meat.

We rolled the loin back up and tied it with kitchen string.

We convect roasted at 325° F (about 350° F in a conventional oven). After 35 minutes, we basted the roast with a bit of salted water, then basted again every 15 minutes until done. The total roasting time: 2 hours, until a meat thermometer inserted in the center read 168° F.

During the last hour, we put in the oven to bake along with the roast a pan of potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks, and baby bella mushrooms, some left whole, others halved, all of which had been lightly coated with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt before baking. They were ready to serve when the pork was done.

We rested the meat for about 10 minutes. We used the time to simmer some beans to serve as a side dish.

Then we carved and served our lovely roast, an early nineteenth-century classic.

The original recipe for "Loin and Neck of Pork" by Sarah Josepha Hale, with commentary, can be found in Northern Hospitality, p. 226.
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Marlborough Pudding (Pie) by Amelia Simmons

Marlborough Pudding, a custard apple pie from Amelia Simmons (1796)

In Amelia Simmons's day, "pudding in paste" was a common term for custard pie. Her "Marlborough Pudding" is just that, a custardized apple filling in a crust. For this pie, she recommends using her own paste No. 3, lining a deep dish, and filling it with a rich apple custard. Her paste no. 3 is a superb puff paste (we give it in Northern Hospitality, p. 247). But any good homemade pie crust will do nicely. The essence of this apple pie is the filling: luscious fresh apples, cooked down to a thick sauce, mixed with eggs, wine, butter, cream, spices, and sugar. It's a pity that Marlborough Pie is seldom seen on restaurant menus or in cookbooks today.

Marlborough Pie was a New England favorite throughout the nineteenth century. Jane Nylander, in Our Own Snug Fireside (pp. 274-75), describes a Thanksgiving feast enjoyed by the nineteenth-century literary luminary Edward Everett Hale and his wife. The meal featured "mince pie, squash pie, Marlborough pie, cranberry tart, and plum pudding" along with chicken pie and roast turkey.

Our Version of Amelia Simmons's Marlborough Pudding
Makes 2 9-inch pies

8 medium-sized apples
4 large eggs
12 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup Madeira (sherry)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 partially-baked 9-inch pie crusts

To make Simmons's "Marlborough Pudding," we used eight Liberty apples (a relative of the Macoun) obtained from an orchard near us in Rhode Island. The Liberty is sweet with firm flesh, perfect for this recipe, but any good, fresh apple can be used.

We peeled, cored, and cut each Liberty into about sixteen pieces.

Then we cooked the pieces down until soft (about 20 minutes). We lightly mashed the cooked apples. This made enough applesauce to fill two 9-inch pie crusts.

We interpreted Simmons's "spoons" as tablespoons, and used 12 tablespoons of beaten egg (4 large eggs). We used 12 tablespoons of sugar dissolved in the same amount of melted butter. We then mixed 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) of Madeira into the butter and sugar. We added spices (¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and mace) to the apple, added the butter-sugar-wine mixture to the apple-spice mixture, then added ¼ cup heavy cream to the beaten eggs.

Finally, we mixed all the ingredients together and poured the custard into the two pie crusts that had been blind-baked at convect 375° F. (roughly 400° F. in a conventional oven) for 15 minutes. We baked the two pies at convect 375° F. for 30 min., then at convect 350° F. for 20 min., then at convect 325° F. for 25 min. (Add about 25° F. to each oven temperature for a conventional oven.)

We cooled the pies on racks for about 30 minutes to allow the custard to set before serving.

What's in a Name?
The name Marlborough might lead us to think that this pie is an English import, perhaps something from the 1st Duke of Marlborough's own kitchen. Indeed, there are similar recipes in English sources. For instance, E. Smith in The Compleat Housewife (1739) gives "An Apple Pudding" that calls for boiling down into apple sauce eight peeled and quartered golden runnets (more often called rennets) or twelve golden pippins. (About pippins, see the blog post on "Beef or Veal Stewed with Apples.") Smith then sweetens her apple sauce with loaf sugar, flavors it with the juice and grated peel of two lemons, and adds eight beaten eggs before covering it with puff paste and baking. We give this recipe in Northern Hospitality, p. 310. Hannah Glasse also has an apple pudding recipe. It's similar to Smith's, but Glasse adds butter and omits the egg whites. (If you're of a mind to pursue apple pudding recipes, this one is also cited in Northern Hospitality, p. 310.)

But the first time the name "Marlborough" is associated with the dish is, as far as we can determine, in an American source, namely Simmons's American Cookery. In other words, the invented name is a nod to the dish's English pedigree. It's also an indication that the American fondness for British aristocracy didn't begin with the first season of Downton Abbey.

Simmons differs from Smith in giving her pie a bottom crust, and omitting Smith's top crust, basically flipping the location of the crust from top to bottom. But this does not settle the matter once and for all, as New Englander Mrs. A. L. Mrs. Webster in The Improved Housewife (1844) gives a recipe for "Marlborough Pudding" with no crust (mentioned in Northern Hospitality, p. 318). Mrs. Webster also has a recipe for "Marlborough Tarts" (NH, p. 318) made with a plain bottom crust and a rim of puff paste around the edge. The filling is stewed tart apples, sugar, wine, melted butter, lemon juice and grated rind, eggs, and nutmeg. Can't get much better than that.

The original recipe for "Marlborough Pudding" by Amelia Simmons, with commentary, can be found in Northern Hospitality, p. 314. Read More 
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Beef, or Veal Stewed with Apples (Very Good) by Catharine Beecher

Beef Stewed with Apples--indeed very good! A dish from 1846.

Despite its title, this dish isn't much like a modern stew of pieces of meat, fowl, or fish simmered along with vegetables in a rich broth or gravy. It's more like a seventeenth- or eighteen-century hash, which, as we explain in Northern Hospitality, was an elegant preparation of thinly sliced meat. Beecher's recipe calls for beef or veal, cut "in thin slices," and apple "sliced fine."

We confess that we thought this might be a rather bland dish. It was a popular preparation right into the nineteenth century, which is why we included it in our book. But there is so little to it--just sliced beef or veal, apples, a bit of onion, salt, pepper, and some butter to coat the pan.

The ingredients

Our fears were unfounded. Cooked slowly together, these unassuming ingredients achieve unexpected flavor and complexity. The juices released by the apple slices as they cook (we used Granny Smiths) soften the beef perfectly while giving it character; the onion, salt, and pepper bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients. With the addition of some cooked white rice and steamed winter vegetables, we had a pleasing supper.

Our Version of Miss Beecher's Beef, or Veal Stewed with Apples (Very Good)
Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
3.5 lbs. top round of beef, thinly sliced
6 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

To make our stewed beef and apples, we used a 10.5-inch (3 quart) stainless steel sauté pan with a lid. We began by coating the cold pan with two tablespoons of butter. We put in the slices of beef, apples, and onions in alternating layers. We sprinkled a bit of sea salt between each layer, along with some freshly ground black pepper.

We covered the pan and stewed the beef and apples on low heat. After the mixture had cooked for about 45 minutes, we uncovered it and stirred it once, then turned the burner up just a little to low medium. (Our electric stove offers minute gradations in burner temperature, such as low-medium. If yours does not, you can cook the entire dish slowly on low heat. The slower the better, actually.) We covered it again and simmered it for another hour and fifteen minutes. Keeping the dish covered and stirring only occasionally helps to retain the moisture that softens the beef. This long, slow, moist form of cooking is also called braising. After two hours, we uncovered the pan to find a mellow, appetizing blend of cooked apples and beef.

Total cooking time was two hours.

Slicing the beef

Slicing the apples and onions

Buttering the pan

Beef and apples in the pan

Adding a layer of onions

A full pan

After cooking on low heat for 45 minutes

After cooking on low to medium for the full 2 hours

In the serving dish

Served with simple accompaniments--rice, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and a piece of whole wheat bread (actually a bit of 17th century manchet, for which see the Oct. 21 blog post on "Of Baking Manchets")

Note: Any firm apple can be used in this dish.

(Recently, we deployed to great success a locally grown Pippin in another dish we were making. Pippins are slightly tart, firm apples that ripen in late fall in New England. They're still easy to find in the UK, but harder to find here. We hope they'll become popular again here as they're delicious to eat and great to cook with. Look for them at farmers' markets and local orchards. Ask your local orchard to consider growing them.)

The Pippin would have held up perfectly in this beef and apple dish too. But a softer eating apple, such as the MacIntosh, would not have worked so well--the meat must stew gently for a long time, and the apple must be able to hold up to this length of cooking without becoming pure liquid.

As for choosing the piece of beef or veal, we recommend using a relatively inexpensive cut, such as the top round. It is perfectly suited to being cooked slowly with moist heat.

Finally, be sure your pan is large enough to hold all of the raw ingredients easily. It should have a thick, sturdy bottom so that hot spots don't develop during the long cooking process.

The original recipe, with commentary, can be found in Northern Hospitality, p. 237.  Read More 
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