Sunday, March 22, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly #21

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #21: 

"Rare/Scarce Ingredients"

The Challenge: Rare/Scarce Ingredients
The rare ingredient I chose was Maple Sugar. Maple sap flows from trees in late winter and the early spring as the days start to warm up, usually February and March but this year in mid-late March. The sap flows clear and barely sweet. After the sap is collected from maple trees in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Quebec, Canada; the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire (and to a lesser degree, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, Canada; the states of New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan), it is boiled and filtered to make syrup. [1] See the process at Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, New Hampshire. Maple sugar is made by boiling the sap longer than needed to make syrup. Native Americans discovered the process and placed a high value on maple sugar. Maple sugar was known as ziinzibaakwad or Sinibuckwud in the Algonquin language. [2]

European colonists called this type of sugar "Indian Sugar." They copied the techniques and began exporting maple sugar in the 17th century. [3] In the 18th century, as cane sugar became a valuable, expensive commodity and a hot political topic (Revolutionary War, slavery), maple sugar was a happy alternative.  However, by the early 19th century, white sugar became favored by Europeans and Americans of European descent, though maple sugar was still cheaper.[4] In 1890, U.S. President William McKinley imposed a tariff on high quality white sugar, in hope of stimulating the production of local sugar. Despite the attempt, white sugar remained the favorite of the American public. [5] During the World Wars, when sugar was rationed, maple syrup and maple sugar replaced cane sugar as a sweetener. Today maple sugar is rare and can usually be found at New England farms and probably at winter farmer's markets and farm stands.  (Please note that the stuff in the plastic jug by well-known brands is not true maple syrup).

[1]Helen and Scott Nearing, The Maple Sugar Book, New York, 1950.
[2]"maple sugar," Wikipedia; Nearing, 23.
[3] Wikipedia.
[4] Nearing, 42, 63.
[5]Nearing, 64.

The Recipe: 
Maple Nuggets
Nearing, 249
1950, America

Boil 1 c. maple syrup or 1 c. maple sugar with a few tablespoons of water until 325 degrees. Remove from fire and add 2 T. butter and beat until begins to thicken. Add 3 cups puffed rice or wheat which have been crisped over heat. Mix thoroughly. Drop on wax paper. Needs no cooking.

How Did You Make It:
Unfortunately I lost my photos.
I measured out 1/4 c. of maple sugar and a Tablespoon of water and boiled. My mixture was too watery so I added some maple syrup and boiled longer. My candy thermometer wouldn't work in my small pan so I had to guess. When the mixture boiled and thickened a bit, I poured in some Rice Krispies and made into lumps. I don't think I did it right and I only had about 3 pieces of candy.

I then tried Maple Creams from Aunt Babette's Cookbook published in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1889.
I boiled about 1/4 cup sugar with a little water until the soft ball stage. I managed one ball before my sugar hardened. 

Time to Complete: A couple hours probably. I wasn't very patient and didn't see how long it took.

Total Cost:
Maple sugar cost $3.99 for 3 oz. at the maple barn

How Successful Was It?: Failure!

How Accurate Is It?:  The recipe was accurate but my chemistry was all wrong!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #20

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #20: 

"Descriptive Foods"

The ChallengeFoods served at notable events in history 
What kind of food was served at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth? What did Benjamin Franklin eat at the Constitutional Convention? Find a food item that was served at a notable event in history, research the recipe, and recreate the dish.

The event I initially chose was Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. Marking 50 years on the throne, the empire-wide celebration lasted all day on June 20, 1887. It began with an outdoor breakfast at Frogmore where Prince Albert was buried and ended with an elegant banquet for foreign kings and princes, along with the governing heads of Britain's overseas colonies and dominions. (Wikipedia)

Regular people celebrated with recipes they could make at home. Recipes like Jubilee Cakes, Jubilee Tea Cakes, Jubilee Buns, and Jubilee puddings appeared in cookbooks. 
Ivan Day, "Jubilee Food Revisited", Food History Jottings

Ivan Day found this recipe for Jubilee Cakes
Robert Wells, The Bread & Biscuit Baker's and Sugar Boiler's Assistant. 2nd Edition (London: 1890).

Not having a kitchen scale or possessing math skills, I opted for the easier to make Queen Elizabeth II's Homemade Drop Scones recipe sent to President Dwight Eisenhower after his informal visit to Balmoral in 1959. President Eisenhower was greeted with enthusiasm by the British people for his heroics during the war. The President traveled around Europe to before his visit to Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev. Eisenhower met with a pregnant Queen Elizabeth, despite her plan to avoid public appearances until the birth of her child, and spent a night at Balmoral.
Life Magazine, Vol. 40, no. 7, Sept. 7, 1959.
Reading Eagle, August 28, 1959

The Recipe: 
Apparently, Eisenhower was so taken with the drop scones served for tea, he request the recipe. On January 24, 1960, the Queen sent a handwritten reply to his request along with the recipe.

Click Americana Queen Elizabeth II, via the National Archives American Bicentennial exhibit, 200 Years of Collections at the National Archives

How Did You Make It:
First I made my own castor sugar by grinding granulated sugar in my Rocket Blender. 

I halved the recipe and then stupidly blindly followed directions, forgetting to proof the baking soda in milk and cream of tartar.

The mixture did bubble and start to rise. I had to add more flour because the dough was very very wet.

I scooped out the batter onto greased baking sheets.

 The recipe did not include baking temperature/time so I consulted Mary Berry's scone recipe and baked my scones at 425 for 13 minutes.

Time to Complete: Half an hour.

Total Cost:
I don't know. We had all the ingredients on hand. 

How Successful Was It?:

So-so. Not something I'd serve to Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry on the Great British Bake Off/British Baking Show but decent. The bottoms came out a bit too brown. They taste like biscuits rather than the Scottish scones I'm used to. I'm still waiting for my clotted cream to come in the mail so I made do with margarine and blueberry preserves. 

How Accurate Is It?: 
100% for Queen Elizabeth II, moderately for Queen Victoria.