November 17, 2010

Cranberry Sauce and an Unusual Cocktail Recipe

Thanksgiving will be here soon, and most people will be eating turkey with cranberry sauce. This now classic combination was first mentioned in American Cookery, our nation's first cookbook.

Published in Hartford, Connecticut in 1798 the book's full title is: American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. That's a mouthful!

Of the author Amelia Simmons nothing is known except she was an orphan. We know this because on the title page of American Cookery etc. it bluntly says "By Amelia Simmons, an American orphan." Prior to Amelia's book, Americans had to make do with cookbooks from England. Her innovation was to write a book with recipes using local ingredients like cornmeal, pumpkins and cranberries.

Some recipes in American Cookery are of interest more for historic purposes than practical. After all, how many of us are making mince pies out of calf's feet or need to dress a turtle?

Similarly, here's a cocktail recipe it's unlikely you'll be trying this holiday season:

To make a fine Syllabub from the Cow.
Sweeten a quart of cyder with double refined sugar, grate nutmeg into it, then milk your cow into your liquor, when you have thus added what quantity of milk you think proper, pour half a pint or more, in proportion to the quantity of syllabub you make, of the sweetest cream you can get all over it.

On the other hand, her recipe for cooking a turkey is one that my carnivorous readers might actually use:

To stuff and roast a Turkey, or Fowl.

One pound soft wheat bread, 3 ounces beef suet, 3 eggs, a little sweet thyme, sweet majoram, pepper and salt, and some add a gill of wine; fill the bird therewith and sew up, hand down to a steady solid fire, basting frequently with salt and water, and roast until a steam emits from the breast, put one third of a pound of butter into the gravy, dust flour over the bird and baste with the gravy; serve up with boiled onions and cramberry-sauce, mangoes, pickles or celery.

And there in the last sentence is the first mention of cranberry cranberry sauce (or cramberry sauce, as she spells it) as a side dish with turkey. It's exciting to know people have been eating this combination for at least two hundred years! I guess the mangoes didn't catch on with the public, though.

You can find the full text of American Cookery online at this great site.


Rhea said...

This is great! For a number of years I would cook old-style recipes from Colonial America for dinner parties. Can't wait to check out this cookbook online.

Peter Muise said...

Rhea - If you make syllabub following these directions please send photos! Do you bring the liquor out into the barn or bring the cow into the dining room?