Condiments of the Early 19th Century
Authors: Leisa Johnson and Audrey Marshall, Michelle Evans, Conner Prairie
Dealing with condiments in a cooking program is a good way to discuss some greater issues as well as offering the visitor a chance to see something different cooking in the kitchen. At Conner Prairie we have five kitchens we cook in on a daily basis. Introducing the preparation and use of condiments to our menus has given us a greater chance to talk about social and economic differences, seasonality of ingredients and changes in taste of the American public. What really piqued our interest was the "Magazine of Taste" found in "The Cook's Oracle" containing within its 'sauce-box' some condiments we were already familiar with along with many that surprised us. In his "friendly advice to cooks" Dr. Kitchiner says: "Be extremely cautious of seasoning high: leave it to the eaters to add the piquante condiments, according to their own palate and fancy: for this purpose, "THE MAGAZINE OF TASTE," or "Sauce-box," (No. 462,) will be found an invaluable acquisition; its contents will instantaneously produce any flavour that may be desired."
Before we went too far we decided to find some period definitions of "condiment".
"condiment—Seasoning; sauce; that which is used to give relish to meat or other food, and to gratify the taste.”
"'As for radish and the like, they are for condiments, and not for nourishment.' Bacon"
The condiment that most of us think of first is catsup so we decided to see what Webster had to say about that. "catchup - a liquor extracted from mushrooms, used for a sauce." We also checked the alternative spellings and found "ketchup - a sauce." With all of this reference to "sauce" we decided we had better find the period definition for that word as well. "sauce - to accompany meat with something to give it a higher relish."
Just to make certain that Webster didn't have a biased opinion we checked Johnson as well and this is what we found.
"condiment— seasoning; sauce"
"catchup— a poignant liquor made from boiled mushrooms"
"mustard— a plant"
"sauce— something eaten with food to improve it's taste"
We seemed to have relative agreement between the dictionaries. We found many recipes in the cookbooks of the time period. The next question was how often these were used and by whom. Here we have Baynard Rush Hall's description of the condiments found on the breakfast table at a stage-house while traveling through the Midwest in the 1830s.
"At all events we shall have a good breakfast at this fine looking stage-house. But whether we had arrived too soon, or the folks usually began preparation after counting the number of mouths, or the wood was green, or...very long was it, very long indeed, before we were summoned.
And then the breakfast!
Perhaps it was all accidental, but the coffee (?) was a libel on diluted soot, made by nurses to cure a baby's colic. ...the tea (?) was a perfect imitation of a decoction of clover hay.
Eggs, too! --it certainly was not without hazard to put them in the mouth before putting them to the nose.
Ay! but here comes a monster of a sausage coiled up like a great greasy eel!
Hot rolls came ...a composition of oak bark on the outside, and hot putty within--the true article for invalids and dyspeptics.
We had also bread and butter, and cold cabbage and potatoes, like oysters, some fried and some in the shell; and green pickles so bountifully supplied with salt as to have refused vinegar--and beets--and saltsellars in the shape of glass hats--with a mustard pot like a salve-box, with a bone spoon glued in by a potent cement of red-brown-yellow colour--and a light-green bottle of vinegar dammed up by a strong twisted wadding of brown paper.
Reader, what more could we wish?"
At Conner Prairie we have decided to use these recipes primarily at our inn and with the more educated families who would have had access to and were more likely to use the cookery books. Our less educated families do use herbs in their cooking but not in such complicated combinations.
(from The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryan, Cincinnati, 1839.)
Take an ounce of black pepper, one of white pepper, one of cinnamon, one and a half of ginger, half an ounce of red pepper, half a one of nutmegs, one dozen blades of mace and two dozen cloves. Mix them all together, and grind or pound them till they are very fine. Bottle and cork it securely. It will keep its strength, and will be found a very convenient article --nice for flavoring fresh meat gravies, &c. KH p. 161.
The most common way of preparing mustard for the table is to add to the best flour of mustard a very little salt and a sufficient quantity of boiling water to dilute it to the proper consistence, mashing and stirring it with a spoon till it becomes quite smooth. Some people make use of vinegar instead of water, and others, preferring it very mild, substitute for the water and salt, sweet milk and sugar. KH p. 162.
Lemon Catchup or Pickle
Mix together two ounces of grated horseradish, two of mustard seed, half an ounce of nutmegs, half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of black pepper, a quarter of an ounce of cayenne pepper, and a quarter of an ounce of cloves. Beat them very fine in a mortar, and put it in a stew-pan with one dozen lemons, which have been sliced and divested of seeds, a large handful of salt, and three pints of good vinegar. Cover the pan, and boil it for fifteen or twenty minutes; then put it in a jar, cover it, and let it stand for four weeks, stirring it occasionally; after which strain it, put it in small bottles, and cork them tight. A very little of this catchup (or pickle, as it is sometimes called,) gives an agreeable flavor to fish and other sauces. KH p. 171.
Having selected the proper mushrooms, remove the stems, brush them, pack them away in an earthen or stone jar, strewing between each layer a small handful of salt; cover them, and set them by till next day. Then crush them with your hands, press them through a fin sieve, put the liquid in a pan, allowing to each quart half an ounce of whole black pepper, half an ounce of cayenne pepper, half an ounce of ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, and a quarter of an ounce of mace. Cover the pan to prevent the flavor of the spices evaporating, and boil it gently till reduced to half its original quantity; then cool it, strain it through a cloth, and put it in small bottles, securing the corks with melted rosin. To secure it against all possibility of spoiling, give it a boil up once a month. Skim it, and bottle it again, as directed. KH p. 172.
From The Frugal Housewife, Lydia Maria Child, 1833
The best sort of catsup is made from tomatoes. The vegetables should be squeezed up in the hand, salt put to them, and set by for twenty-four hours. After being passed through a sieve, cloves, allspice, pepper, mace, garlic, and whole mustard-seed should be added. It should be boiled down one third, and bottled after it is cool. No liquid is necessary, as the tomatoes are very juicy. A good deal of salt and spice is necessary to keep the catsup well. It is delicious with roast meat; and a cupful adds much to the richness of soup and chowder. The garlic should be taken out before it is bottled. TFH p. 35
From The Cook's Own Book, A Boston Housekeeper, 1832
If you love good ketchup, good reader, make it yourself, after the following directions, and you will have a delicious relish for made-dishes, ragouts, soups, sauces, or hashes.
Mushroom gravy approaches the nature and flavor of meat gravy, more than any vegetable juice, and it is the superlative substitute for it: in meagre soups and extempore gravies, the chemistry of the kitchen has yet contrived to agreeably awaken the palate, and encourage the appetite.
A couple of quarts of double ketchup, made according to the following receipt, will save you some score pounds of meat, besides a vast deal of time and trouble; as it will furnish, in a few minutes, as good sauce as can be made for either fish, flesh, or fowl.
I believe the following is the best way of extracting and preparing the essence of mushrooms, so as to procure and preserve their flavor for a considerable length of time.
Look out for mushrooms from the beginning of September.
Take care they are the right sort, and fresh gathered. Full-grown flaps are to be preferred: put a layer of these at the bottom of a deep earthen pan, and sprinkle them with salt; then another layer of mushrooms, and some more salt on them; and so on alternately, salt and mushrooms: let them remain two or three hours, by which time the salt will have penetrated the mushrooms, and rendered them easy to break; then pound them in a mortar, or mash them well with your hands, and let them remain for a couple of days, not longer, stirring them up, and mashing them well each day; then pour them into a stone jar, and to each quart add an ounce and a half of whole black pepper, and half an ounce of allspice; stop the jar very close, and set it in a saucepan of boiling water and keep it boiling for two hours at least. Take out the jar, and pour the juice clear from the settlings through a hair sieve (without squeezing the mushrooms) into a clean saucepan; let it boil very gently for half an hour: those who are for superlative ketchup, will continue the boiling till the mushroom-juice is reduced to half the quantity; it may then be called double cat-sup or dog-sup.
There are several advantages attending this concentration; it will keep much better, and only half the quantity be required; so you can flavor sauce, &c. without thinning it: neither is this an extravagant way of making it, for merely the aqueous part is evaporated; skim it well, and pour it into a clean jar, or jug; cover it close, and let it stand in a cool place till next day; then pour it off as gently as possible (so as not to disturb the settlings at the bottom of the jug,) through a tamis, or thick flannel bag, till it is perfectly clear; add a table-spoonful of good brandy to each pint of ketchup, and let it stand as before; a fresh sediment will be deposited, from which the ketchup is to be quietly poured off, and bottled in pints or half pints (which have been washed with brandy or spirits): it is best to keep it in such quantities as are soon used.
Take especial care that it is closely corked, and sealed down, or dipped in bottle cement.
If kept in a cool, dry place, it may be preserved for a long time; but if it be badly corked, and kept in a damp place, it will soon spoil.
Examine it from time to time, by placing a strong light behind the neck of the bottle, and if any pellicle appears about it, boil it up again with a few peppercorns.
To Choose Mushrooms
The mushrooms proper to be used in cookery grow in the open pasture land, for those that grow near or under trees are poisonous. The eatable mushrooms first appear very small, and of a round form, on a little stalk. They grow very rapidly, and the upper part and stalk are white. As they increase in size, the under part gradually opens, and shows a fringed fur of a very fine salmon color, which continues more or less till the mushroom has gained some size, and then turns to a dark brown. These marks should be attended to, and likewise whether the skin can be easily parted from the edge and middle, and whether they have a pleasant smell. Those which are poisonous have a yellow skin, and the under part has not the clear flesh color of the real mushroom; besides which, they smell rank and disagreeable, and the fur is white or yellow.
[This appears to be the Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus campestris, which in Indiana appears in early summer and mid-fall in grassy areas such as lawns and pastures.]
"The Cook's Own Book" lists 107 different recipes for sauces ranging from apple sauce to more than 12 different sauces for fish to salad sauces and white sauces.
Wow Wow Sauce
For Stewed or Bouilli Beef: Chop some parsley leaves very fine; quarter two or three pickled cucumbers, or walnuts, and divide them into small squares, and set them by ready; put into a saucepan a bit of butter as big as an egg; when it is melted, stir to it a tablespoonful of fine flour, and about half a pint of the broth in which the beef was boiled; add a table-spoonful of vinegar, the like quantity of mushroom ketchup, or Port wine, or both, and a tea-spoonful of made mustard; let it simmer together till it is thick as you wish it; put in the parsley and pickles to get warm, and pour it over the beef; or rather send it up in a sauce-tureen.
Obs.__ If you think the above not sufficiently piquante, add to it some capers, or a minced eschalot, or one or two tea-spoonfuls of eschalot wine, or essence of anchovy, or basil, elder, or tarragon, or horseradish, or burnet vinegar; or strew over the meat carrots and turnips cut into dice, minced capers, walnuts, red cabbage, pickled cucumbers, or French beans, &c. COB p. 193.
Peel ten cloves of garlic, bruise them, and put them into a quart of white wine vinegar; take a quart of white Port, put it on the fire, and when it boils, put in twelve or fourteen anchovies, washed and cut in pieces; let them simmer in the wine till they are dissolved when cold, put them to the vinegar; then take half a pint of white wine, and put into it some mace, some ginger sliced, a few cloves, a spoonful of whole pepper bruised; let them boil a little; when almost cold, slice in a whole nutmeg, and some lemon-peel, with two or three spoonfuls of horse-radish; add it to the rest, stop it close, and stir it once or twice a day. Keep it close stopped up. COB p. 105.
From The Housekeeper's Book, by a Lady, Philadelphia, 1838
To Make Soy
One pound salt, two pounds of common sugar, fried for half an hour over a slow fire; add to this three pints of boiling water, of essence of anchovies about half a pint, a few cloves, and a bunch of sweet herbs; boil together till the salt is dissolved; when cold, bottle it for use. HB p. 108.
To Make Mustard
Take some of the best flour of mustard and mix it, by degrees, to a proper thickness with boiling water, rubbing it extremely smooth; add a little salt, and keep it in a small jar, closely covered, and only put as much into the mustard pot as will be used in a few days; the mustard pot should be daily wiped round the edges.
Or, Take a few spoonfuls of the flour of mustard, and carefully mix it with a little warm water, until it is of the consistence of honey; be particular that it is mixed perfectly smooth.
For immediate use; Take some mustard, and by degrees mix it quite smooth with new milk, adding a little cream. Mixed in this manner it will keep; it is very soft, and not in the least bitter. HB p. 109.
From Mrs. Mary Randolf's Virginia Housewife, 1831
Plain butter melted thick, with a spoonful of walnut pickle or catsup, is a very good sauce; but you may put as many things as you choose into sauces.
Gather a peck of tomatos, pick out the stems, and wash them; put them on the fire without water, sprinkle on a few spoonsful of salt, let them boil steadily an hour, stirring them frequently; strain them through a colander, and then through a sieve; put the liquid on the fire with half a pint of chopped onions, half a quarter of an ounce of mace broke into small pieces; and if not sufficiently salt, add a little more-- one table-spoonful of whole black pepper; boil it all together until just enough to fill two bottles; cork it tight. Make it in August, in dry weather. VH p. 162.
Take a bushel of full ripe tomatos, cut them in slices without skinning--sprinkle the bottom of a large tub with salt, strew in the tomatos, and over each layer of about two inches thick, sprinkle half a pint of salt, and three onions sliced without taking off the skins.
When the bushel of tomatos is thus prepared, let them remain for three days, them put them into a large iron pot, in which they must boil from early in the morning till night, constantly stirring to prevent their sticking and mashing them.
The next morning, pass the mixture through a sieve, pressing it to obtain all the liquor you can; and add to it one ounce of cloves, quarter of a pound of allspice, quarter of a pound of whole black pepper, and a small wine glass of Cayenne; let it boil slowly and constantly during the whole of the day-- in the evening, put it into a suitable vessel to cool; and the day after, bottle and cork it well: place it in a cool situation during warm weather, and it will keep for many years, provided it has been boiled very slowly and sufficiently in the preparation. Should it ferment it must be boiled a second time. VH p. 163.
To Make Walnut Catsup
Gather the walnuts as for pickling, and keep them in salt and water the same time (The walnuts should be gathered when the nut is so young you can run a pin into it easily; pour boiling salt and water on, and let them be covered with it nine days, changing it every third day); then pound them in a marble mortar__to every dozen walnuts, put a quart of vinegar; stir them well every day for a week, then put them in a bag, and press all the liquor through; to each quart, put a tea-spoonful of pounded cloves, and one of mace, with six cloves of garlic__boil it fifteen or twenty minutes, and bottle it. VH p. 169.
From The Cook's Oracle, Dr. Kitchner, 1829
(No. 396.): This is a very agreeable addition to soups, salad sauce (No. 455), and mix mustard (No. 370). Fill a wide-mouthed bottle with fresh-gathered tarragon-leaves, i.e. between midsummer and Michaelmas (which should be gathered on a dry day, just before it flowers), and pick the leaves off the stalks, and dry them a little before the fire; cover them with the best vinegar; let them steep fourteen days; then strain through a flannel jelly bag till it is fine; then pour it into half-pint bottles; cork them carefully, and keep them in a dry place.
Obs. You may prepare elder-flowers and herbs in the same manner; elder and tarragon are those in most general use in this country.
Our neighbours, the French, prepare vinegars flavoured with celery, cucumbers, capsicums, garlic, eschalot, onion, capers, chervil, cress-seed, burnet, truffles, Seville orange-peel, ginger, &c.; in short, they impregnate them with almost every herb, fruit, flower, and spice, separately, and in innumerable combinations.
Messrs. Maille et Aclocque, Vinaigriers a` Paris, sell sixty-five sorts of variously flavoured vinegar, and twenty-eight different sorts of mustard. TCO p. 268.
(No. 446.): Half a pint of brandy, "essence of punch" (No. 479), or "Curcaoa" (No. 474), or "Noyeau," a pint of sherry, an ounce of thin-pared lemon-peel, half an ounce of mace, and steep them for fourteen days, then strain it, and add a quarter of a pint of capillaire, or No. 476. This will keep for years, and, mixed with melted butter, is a delicious relish to puddings and sweet dishes. See Pudding Sauce, No. 269, and the Justice's Orange Syrup, No. 392. TCO p. 285.
Savoury ragout Powder.__(No. 457.):Salt, an ounce, Mustard, half an ounce, Allspice, a quarter of an ounce, Black pepper ground, and lemon-peel grated, or of No. 407 (Artificial Lemon-juice), pounded and sifted fine, half an ounce each, Ginger, and Nutmeg grated, a quarter of an ounce each, Cayenne pepper, two drachms,
Pound them patiently, and pass them through a fine hair-sieve; bottle them for use. The above articles will pound easier and finer, if they are dried first in a Dutch oven before a very gentle fire, at a good distance from it; if you give them much heat, the fine flavour of them will be presently evaporated, and they will soon get a strong, rank, empyreumatic taste.
N.B. Infused in a quart of vinegar or wine, they make a savoury relish for soups, sauces, &c.
Obs. The spices in a ragout are indispensable to give it a flavour, but not a predominant one; their presence should be rather supposed than perceived; they are the invisible spirit of good cookery: indeed, a cook without spice would be as much at a loss as a confectioner without sugar: a happy mixture of them, and proportion to each other and the other ingredients, is the "chef-d'oeuvre" of a first-rate cook.
The art of combining spices, &c., which may be termed the "harmony of flavours," no one hitherto has attempted to teach: and "the rule of thumb" is the only guide that experienced cooks have heretofore given for the assistance of the novice in the (till now, in these pages explained, and rendered, we hope, perfectly, intelligible to the humblest capacity) occult art of cookery. This is the first time receipts in cookery have been given accurately by weight or measure!!! TCO p. 288-289.
Pease Powder.--(No. 458.): Pound together in a marble mortar half an ounce each of dried mint and sage, a drachm of celery-seed, and a quarter of a drachm of Cayenne pepper; rub them through a fine sieve. This gives a very savoury relish to pease soup, and to water gruel, which, by its help, if the eater of it has not the most lively imagination, he may fancy he is sipping good pease soup.
Obs.--A drachm of allspice, or black pepper, may be pounded with the above as an addition, or instead of the Cayenne. TCO p. 289.
Adding condiments to your cooking program can literally add a new spice to things. It piques the interest of not only the visitor but the interpreter as well, giving them something new and different to discuss. On the hottest days of summer, receipts like the kitchen pepper and pease powder give us a chance to still be active in the kitchen without heating things up too much. These receipts are found in most of the cookbooks, but are many times overlooked in favor of main dishes and desserts.
Mrs. Lettice Bryan, The Kentucky Housewife, Cincinnati, 1839, (Collector Books, Paducah, KY), 161-162, 171-172.
Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, Boston, 1833, (Applewood Books), 35.
Baynard Rush Hall (Robert Carlton, pseud.), The New Purchase, 1843 (Princeton University Press, 1916), 27.
Johnson's and Walker's English Dictionaries Combined, Perkins and Marvin, and Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins, Boston, 1830.
Dr. Kitchiner, The Cook's Oracle, New York, 1829, 50, 268-269, 289, 292-293.
Mrs. N.K.M. Lee, The Cook's Own Book, Boston, 1832, (Arno Press, New York, 1972), 117.
Noah Webster, Noah Webster's First Edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828, (Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco, 1980).
(Originally presented at ALHFAM 1998 - Kitchner-Waterloo, Ontario)