Post by Amy Guttman, The Salt at NPR Food (8/12/2013)
Cooking with calf's head and cow heel may not seem like the most palatable way to spend an afternoon, but it's all in day's work for librarian Judith Finnamore of London's Westminster Archive Centre.
With help from food historian Annie Gray, Finnamore's been cooking – and blogging — her way through The Unknown Ladies Cookbook, a 300-year-old British compendium of family recipes. Jotted down by hand by several different women between 1690 and 1830, the recipes provide insights into the cooking habits of the Georgian and Regency periods. They also tell quite a bit about how much culinary craft has changed over the centuries.
To Make a Veal Kidney Florentine (from the above photo): Shred the kidney small fat & all, half a handfull of young spinage, 2 sprigs of parsley, a lettice all shread small, 3 pippins par'd & shread, half the peel of a sivil orange boyled & shread small, some pounded mace & cinnimon, nutmeg, sugar, salt to yr taste, an handfull of currants, a large handfull of greated bread, 3 spoonfulls of sack, 3 of rose water, 3 eggs. Mix all well together & put them in a dish with puff paste at bottom & cross bar it at top. Bake it in a slow oven. This is for first course side dish.
Inventive Cooking With Carrots: These garden vegetables feature heavily in the cookbook, and were popular for lots of things beyond salad and carrot cake. Women of the Georgian period used carrots frequently because, like potatoes, carrots have a longer harvest and less spoilage. Cooks of the era also used them inventively, with recipes like carrots mashed with sugar, or carrots boiled, scooped out and filled with dried fruit and sugar, both typically served as a second course. "What we think of today as dessert, they would have served as a second course," Gray tells The Salt. "Their third course, or dessert, would be ice cream, biscuits or fruit. But today, we tend to serve those things at the same time to end a meal."
Brits Of Old Were Dead Serious About Eating the Whole Animal: When people kept their own animals, they were much more conscientious about using as much of it as possible, because they had intimate, first-hand knowledge of what it takes to raise and slaughter their meat source. That ethos is reflected in many recipes that call for offal prepared using slow-cooking techniques to make the tougher cuts tender. (There's even a recipe for mince pie made with cow's tongue.)