Archive for the 'dairy' Category

Taste History Today: Ray’s Candy Store Egg Creams

eggcreamsLemon-lime, mango, coffee, and strawberry egg creams.

I went on an egg cream tasting rampage with some friends from the Brooklyn Farmacy. Egg Creams are  a classic New York drink, invented somewhere on the Lower East Side  (although it’s debatable where).  The drink is made from seltzer, milk, and Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate, Vanilla or Strawberry Syrup (made in Brooklyn).  It’s best crafted at a soda fountain because the pressurized seltzer gives the drink a creamy, foamy head.  It’s sweet and refreshing and great when it’s hot (or chilly and rainy, like the day we had them).

Purists say there’s only one way to make an egg cream, but I’ve got a problem with purists.  I believe recipes are meant to change and evolve; so while an egg cream made with Fox’s Syrup is traditional, Ray’s Candy Store in the East Village changed up the old recipe by offering mango, tamarind,  lemon-lime, coffee, and strawberry egg creams, to name a few.  I liked the strawberry the best, because it reminded me of Frankenberry cereal.  I’m classy.

I’ve also made egg creams with the addition of rum or vodka, which was great.  And if you keep a careful eye on the Farmacy’s menu, you may one day see nouveau flavored egg creams pop up there, too.

UPDATE: I’ve heard many stories about where the egg cream came from, and how it got its name–what have you heard? What are you memories?  Please share in the comment below.

Cocktail Hour: Alabama Eggnog

AFAP: As Fluffy As Possible

“AN Alabama eggnog is one that caresses the palate with velvety goodness, and then once it is within the stomach, suddenly becomes the counterpart of a kicking mule.  It is a fluffy, saffron colored beverage, delicate in fragrances, daintily blended, and pungently persuasive.”

My Festivus party was last weekend and I decided to try an 1940s recipe for “Alabama Eggnog.”  It comes from The Food of a Younger Land, edited by Mark Kurlansky.  It’s a collection of essays written by the WPA’s Federal Writer’s Project that were compiled with the  intention of creating a compendium of regional American foods.  It was to be titled “America Eats,” but with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the start of WWII, the project was never completed.

Kurlansky has selected what he feels are the most interesting and most important essays.  The one about the Southern style eggnog caught my eye.  It was believed to have evolved in the antebellum south, in the “big houses,” where it was a slave who gathered “…Hundred of eggs… to be blended with choice, well-aged whiskeys that the planters had ordered from distant distilleries.”

It was still being made at lavish parties in the Depression era, despite the fact that prohibition was enforced in parts of Alabama.

The recipe, as told by an “aged Negro,” goes like this:

Take a dozen eggs, and beat the yellows and the whites separately, both very light.  Put half the sugar in the whites, and half in the yellows.  When the yellows are beaten together very light, add the whiskey, two tablespoonfuls to an egg.  The fold in the beaten whites, and at last fold in one pint whipped cream, adding more whiskey to taste.  This proportion can be used to make any amount of egg nog.

***
Alabama Eggnog
From the WPA Writer’s Project America Eats manuscript, c. 1940;
as it appears in The Food of a Younger Land edited by Mark Kurlansky

12 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whiskey
1 pint cream

Separate egg whites and yolks into two separate bowls; add half the sugar to each bowl.  With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; add to a large punch bowl.  Next, beat egg yolks until very light in color.  Fold together egg whites and yolks.  Add whiskey.  Whip cream until soft peaks form, fold into egg mixture.  Serve with a sprinkle of fresh grated nutmeg.

***

At my party, an excited crowd gathered as I mixed the nog.  I tasted the frothy egg mixture after added the recommended amount of whiskey…and then proceeded to double it, adding more whiskey 1/2 cup at a time, tasting after each addition.  I ended up adding a full three cups of whiskey before it tasted just right.

“More cream???”  Someone exclaimed as I began to fold in snowy peaks of whipped cream.  My guests were intimidated by the froth.  “But how do you drink it??”

But drinking it wasn’t a problem; despite its fluff, it was easy to serve and drink.  It was like drinking marshmallow booze.

“Eggnog!  Eggnog is the best!” cheered Roommate Jeff.  The Alabama eggnog was drunk up long before the party’s end.

The Gallery: Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream

After the revolution, Jefferson spent a number of years in France before becoming President.  In this time, he amassed an amazing culinary collection that would influence his dinner table for the rest of his life.  One of the dishes he enthused about was ice cream; not only did he buy an ice cream maker while abroad, but the Library of Congress also holds the vanilla ice cream recipes that Jefferson jotted down in his own hand.

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1780s – Thomas Jefferson’s Handwritten Recipe
ICE CREAM.
2. bottles of good cream.
6. yolks of eggs.
1/2 lb. sugar
mix the yolks & sugar. put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla. when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar. stir it well. put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole. when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel. put it in the Sabottiere then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt. put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice. leave it still half a quarter of an hour. then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere. shut it & replace it in the ice open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula. put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee. then put the mould into the same bucket of ice. leave it there to the moment of serving it. to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.
***

 

Below, an adaption of this recipe for the modern kitchen.  And if you’ve always wanted to know how to make ice cream from scratch, sign up for my class at the Brooklyn Brainery a week from today, on Sunday, September 4th.  I’ll go through the process step by step and talk about the origins and science of ice cream making.  See you there!

***
Basic Ice Cream Recipe
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s recipe, with some modern instructions pulled from “Martha Stewart’s Easy Ice Cream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 quart heavy cream (for a lighter ice cream, use 2 cups cream and 2 cups milk)
1 vanilla bean (or, other flavoring of your choice)
Additional mix-ins

1. In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended.
2. Add split and scraped vanilla bean to 1 quart of cream; bring to a boil, then pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Cook egg and cream mixture over a double boiler, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens slightly and evenly coats back of spoon (it should hold a line drawn by your finger).  Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over ice, or place in refrigerator, until chilled.
4. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding mix-ins like nuts or fruits in the last few minutes. Transfer ice cream to a resealable plastic container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

 

The Gallery: Economic, Sanitary, Attractive, Appetizing

Take a moment to read the above advertisement for “Better Butter,” c 1914.

I’m becoming convinced that the terms “Hygienic” and “Sanitary” were the “All-Natural” and “Organic” of the 19teens: buzzwords that not only reflected the culture of a time, but were also important tools for advertising.

In a way, it’s not a surprise.  For decades children had died of swill milk;  germ theory was slowly being accepted by the turn of the century; and, without antibiotics, there was still not a cure for most contagious illnesses.  There was a focus on the best preventative medicine: good hygiene.

An article on the history of Washing DC’s bread factories, Bread For The City: Shaw’s Historic Bakeries, has more to say on the topic:

“At the beginning of the twentieth century, food sanitation had become a nationwide obsession, culminating in Upton Sinclair’s famous The Jungle, about the horrors of the meatpacking industry. Bread-making was also a topic of concern. An article in the New York Times in 1896 excoriated small traditional bakeries in that city (‘The walls and floors are covered with vermin, spiders hang from the rafters, and cats, dogs, and chickens are running around in the refuse…’) and asserted that ‘the cause of this trouble is that small bakeries are owned by ignorant persons. The large bakeries are conducted in an exemplary manner.’


It seems to have been part of a campaign to get people to buy all their bread from large factories. An 1893 article in theEvening Starobserved that ‘Home-made bread is a back number. Machine-made bread takes the cake. The twentieth century bakery is a thing of beauty and the up-to-date baker is a joy forever.’ At the popular Pure Food Show at the Washington Convention Hall in 1909, D.C. bakeries put on a massive exhibit that filled the K Street end of the hall. Visitors could observe machines doing the work in a modern factory setting; dirty human hands never touched the bread. In that same vein, a 1919 advertisement for Dorsch’s in The Washington Times urged consumers to give up their old-fashioned reliance on the corner store: ‘Why buy bread at the grocer’s, fresh for each meal, when it is possible to get goodwholesome, and fresh bread that tastes as good at the last bite as it did when you first cut into the warm loaf?’”

The shift from stuff made at home = bad and stuff from a factory = economic, sanitary, attractive, appetizing is interesting to think about.  I understand why it happened: to be able to buy a gallon of milk, a pat of butter, or a loaf of bread in the grocery store that is clean and consistent is a beautiful thing.  But, I think society’s shift back to a love of the homemade has provided a much needed balance.

The History Dish: Buttermilk Soup or “Pop”

Baked pears, thickened buttermilk, and fried bread.

On Sunday, I appeared on the Heritage Radio Network, chatting with Carmen Devito & Alice Marcus Krieg of We Dig Plants. We talked all about PEARS!  If you haven’t heard the show yet, go here and listen for free.   I dug up some pear recipes from the annals of history with the idea that we would pick one to try.  Well, we had a difficult time agreeing, so this week I’m going to cook up three very different 19th century pear recipes.

The first was Alice’s pick:  Buttermilk soup or “Pop.”   This recipe is odd. I’ve never seen a precedent for it: buttermilk is heated, mixed with pears, and poured over fried bread.  Check it out:

I needed some buttermilk education, so I naturally turned to that font of knowledge, Wikipedia.  I knew buttermilk as the bi-product of butter making: when cream is churned, the result is a solid (butter) and a liquid (buttermilk).  I knew that before seperation, fresh milk was often set in a cellar to seperate into milk and cream; what I didn’t realize is that this milk would also ferment because of naturally occuring bacteria.  This fermentation is what gives buttermilk its sour taste, although in modern production facilities we artificially inseminate pastuerized milk with a squirt of lactic acid bacteria.

Although the recipe doesn’t explicitly say to make a roux, I think it implies it.  The roux will thicken the buttermilk.

****
Buttermilk Soup or Pop

From Practical Sanitary and Economic Cooking by Mary Hinman Abel, 1890.

2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoon butter
pinch salt
2 large pears (I used Bosc)
1/4 cup sugar (brown sugar would be good; maple syrup if you’re feeling adventurous)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or spice of your choice)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pare, core, and dice pears, then arrange in a baking tray (cake pan, etc).  Sprinkle with sugar and spice.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until tender.

2. In a large saucepan over a medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour to make a roux.  Cook until flour begins to brown.  Add buttermilk and salt, turn heat to medium-high.  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly, then turn heat off.  Add baked pears to buttermilk mix, stir to combine.

3.  Melt remaining butter in a small skillet and fry two slices of bread.  Remove to a plate and top with pear/buttermilk mixture.

***

The original author of the recipe warns that cooking buttermilk “brings out the acid,” but I found the taste of the finished product to be surprisingly mild, either as a result of being cut by the fat of the butter or the sweetness of the pears.  And frankly, I was skeptical of this recipe, and it was not my first pick to make.  But I was delightfully wrong: this is the perfect snack.  It’s like a delicious warm yogurt treat (tastes better than it sounds): the dairy was filling, the pears sweet, and when poured over hot, buttery bread, it’s just the right amount of food.  Highly recommended, four stars, etc. etc.  Try it.

On a completely  unrelated note, I wrote this post jamming to my friend Gregg Gillis’ (Girl Talk) new album All Day, available for download for FREE.  It is really, REALLY good.

In the News: Bring Back Butter!

Through my experiments in historic gastronomy, I have come to appreciate the beauties of butter, particularly when it’s fresh from the churn.

Apparently, I share this dairy fetish with installation artist Tim Eads, who “…Aims to reinvigorate our appetite for the long-standing table staple by crafting a pedal-operated machine that churns butter while simultaneously operating a toaster…”

“About a year ago I was thumbing through a 1905 Sears catalog I found in a used book store. It was humorous to see how everything was so bulky and strange looking and only performed simple tasks. It occurred to me that in 100 years our machines will look silly and inefficient.

…The reason I chose butter was it seemed like one of the most basic ways to connect to people. Because much of our brain activity is dedicated to finding and eating food we all connect with it on some level.”

If you’d like to support Eads in his butter dreams, then stop by his Kickstarter page, where he’s raising funds to make the butter bike a reality.  I wish him all the best.

And on a similar note, a novel gift idea: handmade butter, presented in a decked-out mason jar.  Visit slowchristmas.org  for the recipe.