#397 Herb Jellies

Here’s a quickie from the Preserves part of the last chapter of English Food.

Herb jellies are apple jellies flavoured with a herb and a little vinegar for piquancy. They can be served with roast meats, cold cuts, cheese, even fish or vegetables such as peas.


You can use any herb you like. On my allotment there are vast amounts of mint, lemon thyme, chives, sage and oregano.

Here are some suggestions to give you some ideas:
Mint; lamb, duck, mushy peas, garden peas, new potatoes
Thyme; chicken and other poultry, pork, rabbit
Lemon thyme; chicken, fish
Sage; Pork
Marjoram/Oregano; pork, chicken, cheese
Chervil; game
I shan’t go on – I’m sure you get the idea!
My patch of mint needed taming so I put both the leaves and stems to good use.
It is pretty straight-forward.
First weigh, then roughly chop, some Bramley or windfall apples and place, skin core and all, in a large pan. Add 3 ½ fluid ounces of white wine vinegar to every 2 pounds of apples. Add enough water to only just cover the fruit. Amongst the apple pieces, tuck in 2 or 3 big springs of your chosen herb. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apples have become all mushy, around 20-25 minutes.


Pass the juice through a jelly bag and allow to drip overnight.

Next day, pour the juice into a preserving pan and to every pint add a pound of granulated sugar. Put on a medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Keep it on a good rolling boil until setting point is reached.
To test for setting point, bring the juice to a temperature of 104⁰C. To do this, the best thing to do is invest in a sugar thermometer, failing that place a drop or two on a freezing-cold plate and push it with your finger when the jelly is cool. If it wrinkles, it is set. I actually use both methods – the thermometer so that I know I’m there, and the wrinkle test to make doubly sure.
Pour into sterilised jars.

#397 Herb Jellies. This is a great recipe, though I found it too sweet. I adapted it by adding 50% more vinegar, and some of the herb itself, finely chopped, added once the sugar dissolved. Orginal recipe gets a 6.5/0, but it was pretty easy to make it an 8/10.

#364 Spiced Apple Sauce

Did you all have a lovely Christmas? I did – certainly when it came to the food. This one is just a quickie, the next post will be more exciting…
On the big day my family decided to go for a roast goose and #180 Roast Beef. Can you believe there is no recipe for roast goose in English Food? There is, however, a recipe for an apple sauce to go with it…
This apple recipe is the final one of four for apple sauce in English Food (for all four, click here), the others have been a little hit and miss; would it be the best? I had high hopes there’s robust spices, brown sugar and sharp Bramley apples and wine vinegar.
Aside from goose, this sauce goes well with salt pork and duck.
Start off by peeling, coring and roughly chopping a pound of Bramley apples. Melt an ounce of butter in a saucepan then add two tablespoons each of waterand white wine vinegar before tipping in the apples. Next add your spices; a quarter of a teaspoon each of grated nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. Simmer until the apples form a purée. Add more water if need be. Lastly, sweeten the sauce with about an ounce of soft dark brown sugar. Add more spices if you like (I found the amount suggested perfect).
 
#364 Spiced Apple Sauce. This was, by far, the best of all the apple sauces. The sauce was a great mix of tart and sweet and there was such an interesting mix of spices that were warming yet totally savoury. The dash of vinegar enhanced the flavours and gave it a moreish tang that really complemented the rich goose. This will be the only recipe for apple sauce I will use from now on. 9.5/10.

#360 Apple Sauce I

This is the third of four different apple sauces in English Food. I have had to wait to cook this one as it requires a quince.

Quince are an ancient fruit, related to apples and pears, that is not seen around too much these days as they have fallen out of favour somewhat and also have a very short season. They have also suffered because of the terrible wet weather we’ve had this year.

Apple sauce should not be reserved just for roast pork, by the way, use it with sausages, black pudding, chicken, turkey, goose or game. It is a surprisingly versatile condiment.

Chop up 8 ounces of Bramley’s seedling apples (those in North America, use Mackintosh apples) and slice one ‘small or moderate quince’. You don’t need to peel or core the fruit, but I would scrub off the naturally-occurring fluff from the skin of the quince, should it have some. Place in a pan along with ¼ pint of water, a heaped tablespoon of sugar (omit if using Mackintosh apples) and a pared strip of lemon peel. Cover and simmer until a puply, then pass through a sieve or mouli-legumes to remove peel &c.

Put back on the heat and stir until it thickens up; you don’t want it ‘sloppy and wet’ as Griggers says. Stir in one ounce of butter and give the finished sauce a healthy seasoning of black pepper.

#360 Apple Sauce I. I liked this one very much and ate it with some rabbit which it complemented very well. The quince mellowed the Bramley’s, making them much less tart. Tres bon. 7.5/10.
 

#290 Roast Pork with Crackling and Baked Apples


Man’s relationship with pigs goes back several thousand years. Acorn-eating wild boar were slowly tamed in European forests to become the slightly tamer proto-pig utilized by the Spanish, French and Greece. Swineherds had the unlucky job of attempting manage the unruly pigs. Modern pigs are not quite as wild as their forbearers, but do apparently revert to their feral behaviour quite readily. So beware.

Galen, the medical pioneer of the Roman era, enjoyed a bit of pork like his fellow Romans. What is odd is that he thought it tasted of human flesh. Whether this was a hunch or whether it was knowledge from experience, I do not know. He is correct though, the cannibals of the South Sea Islands, called the various explorers and pioneers they caught and ate longpigs due to their flavour.

The pig is famed for it versatility and pretty much all the animal can be used, and it is the pig that is the focal animal in Fergus Henderson’s wonderful nose-to-tail restaurant, St John in London (check out the blog here). I’ve never managed to get there unfortunately, but one day I shall! For any nose-to-tail fans out there, the ultimate delicacy must be Pliny’s personal favourite, the vulva of a sow who had aborted her first litter, according to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat in her amazing book A History of Food.

This dish was cooked on my recent trip to England, where Hugh somehow managed to buy a massive shoulder of pork for £1.50. Absolute bargain. He’s a good bargain-hunter; in fact, he’s known for it! I pounced upon the opportunity to roast it the Grigson way which includes baked apples as well as a glaze to go over the crackling. I imagine a sweet glaze would go down well with Texans going by this sign I spotted at the rodeo:

It’s worth mentioning that it is best to buy the largest joint you can afford, the meat will be much more moist and tender in a large joint than a small one. This particularly applies to pork that benefits from a good blast of heat and then a slower roast on a lower hear than say, beef.

As mentioned I used shoulder here, but you can use leg or loin. If the meat has a bone in it, ask the butcher to remove it but ask to keep it. Also ask him to score the rind, every centimetre or so. You can do it yourself with a razor-blade. Make sure that the rind is nice and dry and season the joint all over. You can, leave it overnight in the brine tub, but if you do this, you won’t get the crackling. Seeing that the crackling is the best bit, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have bones, pop them in a saucepan with a chopped carrot, a peeled onion studded with three cloves and a bouquet garni. Cover with water and allow it to simmer for three or four hours. Strain and reduce to ¾ of a pint. If there was no bone, use some pork or vegetable stock and simmer for just an hour.

Heat the oven to 220°C (425°F) and rub the skin of the joint with some oil and sprinkle with some salt. Cook for 35 minutes to the pound (1 ¼ hours to the kilo). Place in the oven and turn the temperature down after 20 minutes to 160°C (325°F). An hour before the end of the cooking time, prepare the apples. You need one per person, and use Cox’s Orange Pippins if in season. If not, use Braeburn or Mackintosh. Score a circle close to the tops of the apples, to prevent the skins bursting and nestle them around the joint. If you don’t want baked apples make an apple sauce.

Next prepare the glaze. Melt a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly in a pan and mix in a tablespoon of French mustard as well as half a tablespoon each of cream and soft brown sugar. Paint the glaze all over the crackling in the final half hour of cooking.

When ready, remove the joint from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. While you are waiting, make the gravy. Melt an ounce of butter in a pan and when it goes a nutty brown colour, stir in a tablespoon of flour. Whisk in the stock and add any meat juices from the roasting pan.

Voila!

#290 Roast Pork with Crackling and Baked Apples. I have eaten roast pork many times, but never actually cooked, but I can honestly say that this was the best roast pork I’ve ever had from a domestic oven. It was so tender, it took no effort to slice and the glazed crackling was half crispy, half chewy and almost toffee-like. The baked apples were a revelation. An absolutely fantastic roast dinner! 9/10.

#279 Apple Sauce II

I still had sausages left over from Harrison Hog Farm – I ate half of them with Crempog Las and wanted to the give the rest the Grigson treatment. I could have gone with toad-in-the-hole or something, but I’d done that already. Luckily I spotted this apple sauce recipe which can be served with sausages (as well as pork, salt pork, duck and goose). What made me want to do this recipe is that allows one use sausage as the meat in a Sunday dinner rather than a roast meat which can be a pain to do if there is a lot going on in the day. So it’s good old sausage and mash for dinner.
The recipe asks for Cox’s Orange Pippins, Laxtons or James Grieve apples. These are not available in America (as far as I know), and so for any Northern Americans amongst us (and I know there are several), go for Mackintosh apples instead – they have the tart mealiness of a Cox’s Pippin.
There are several apple sauce recipes in English Food and I have now hit a bit of a brick wall – the remaining recipes all use Bramley’s seedlings which can’t be found in the USA, and I haven’t been able to find an appropriate alternative. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!
Roughly chop 12 ounces of apples – no need to peel or core them. Add them to a saucepan along with a strip of lemon peel and 3 ounces of water (by weight!). Cover and simmer until soft. Pass them through a sieve into a bowl, forcing the apple flesh through to produce a smooth puree. Return to the saucepan and simmer quite briskly until the puree thickens and starts to spit and bubble a little. Stir in an ounce of butter and season with pepper and a little salt, but only if the butter was unsalted.

#279 Apple Sauce II. A slightly strange sauce this. I liked the fact it was unsweetened – bought apple sauces are far too sweet I think and they don’t always do a good job of cutting through the rich, greasy meat it’s usually served with. The butter enriched it but didn’t make the whole thing sickly like I expected. A good sauce, but nothing to write home home about! 5.5/10.

#273 Fifteenth-Century Apple Fritters (Fretoure owt of Lente)

I do so love the old, old recipes within English Food. I do so also love anything deep-fried, so I knew I’d like this one. A tricky thing about doing some of the apple receipts in this book is that most of them ask for Cox’s Orange Pippins which are not freely available here in Texas. However, I have found an excellent replacement for those sour and slightly soft little darlings; the Macintosh apple. So from now on any American Grigsoners can do the recipes almost as Jane intended. In fact they are so similar that I think they might have been selectively bred from Cox’s.
Although just a simple recipe to us now, this must have been a pretty expensive dessert to make because of the addition of black pepper and saffron. However, these old recipes don’t exactly reflect what commoners ate in the fifteenth century – the only recipes that were written down were those chefs that could read, and that meant chefs to the King and the like. Commoners couldn’t read or write and so those sorts of recipes are much more difficult to get hold of!
I imagine Richard III probably tucked into these the day before the Battle of Bosworth Field, well actually, Henry Tudor, since he was the one that won the thing…
Peel and core six Orange Pippins and slice them thickly. Place in a bowl with a liqueur glass of brandy and a good sprinkling of sugar. Let them steep for a few hours, making sure they all get turned in the sweet brandy. Meanwhile, make the batter. Start by pouring three tablespoons of nearly-boiling water over a pinch of saffron and let it steep. Measure out four ounces of flour and mix in one whole egg and the yolk of another (save the white for later on) along with a tablespoon of oil or clarified butter. Measure out half a pint of milk and mix around half of that in too. Strain the saffron liquid into the batter and add more milk if it’s too thick along with a three gratings from the black pepper mill. Lastly, whisk the egg whites and fold that into the batter. Dip the apples in the batter and fry in oil until nice and golden brown. Serve it forth with some sugar sprinkled over it. I plopped on some lightly whipped double cream too.
#273 Fifteenth-Century Apple Fritters (Fretoure owt of Lente). These were a great end to the lobster that Danny and I cooked. The dessert was very easy too –good if people are round; you don’t want anything complex. The batter was really nice and light due to the egg white, though I couldn’t really taste the spices. No matter, because it was still a great pud! 7/10.

#233 Devonshire Squab Pie

Here’s a slightly odd recipe, as a many from Devonshire appear to be. This squab pie contains no squabs (i.e. baby pigeons), but lamb instead. It is a mystery how it got its name – Griggers suggests that the meat has changed over the years, but the name has stuck. That’ll do for me. This is a simple enough pie to make, though the ingredients are odd: lamb, apples, prunes, spices all topped off with a dollop of clotted cream. Hmmm.

This is easy to make; a simple case of layering up ingredients in a deep pie dish. Start off by removing the meat from a whole best end of neck of lamb. If this seems too much of a chore, just buy about 1 ½ pounds of neck fillet from the butcher instead. Now peel, core and slice two pounds of dessert apples – Cox’s pippins are Jane’s suggestion, but russets and braeburns to well in these sorts of things too – slice two medium onions thinly and chop around 16 prunes. Next, mix a level teaspoon of ground allspice and cinnamon along with half a grated nutmeg in a ramekin or small cup. Layer up the meat, onions, apples and prunes, seasoning the layers with the spices and salt and black pepper as you go. Now pour over a quarter of a pint of lamb stock (use the bones from the best end of neck to make it, otherwise a stock cube!). Cover with a nice thick layer of shortcrust pastry, brush with egg and bake for 30 minutes at 200⁰C, and then turn down the oven to 160⁰C and bake for a further 45 minutes. Serve with clotted cream.


#233 Devonshire Squab Pie. This pie did not turn out to be as weird as expected. You could identify each ingredient in it, and they all stood out whilst complimenting each other very well. However, I think the pie would have been much improved had the lamb been coated in flour and browned a little first so that the flavour was more intense and a thick gravy produced. Several of these pies seem to have very runny sauces. Obviously tastes have changed. The big surprise was that the clotted cream went very well. Although it did make me feel like I was eating my main and pudding all at the same time. A good recipe that could be very easily improved. 6/10.