Are you planning to barbecue this Labor Day weekend? What will you be having?
Sure! But the calendar has nothing to do with whether or not I grill. It's a year-round thing for me.
I'll be working, as usual, this weekend. But, coincidentally, will be barbecuing---in the 18th century style. Menu at Fort Boonesborough for this Saturday is: Pumpkin Corn Cakes, Creamed Chicken Soup, Roast Pork Shoulder (actually pulled pork), Carrot Pudding, and Stewed Tomatoes.
The roast pork recipe was originally titled "To Barbecue A Leg of Pork" when Miss Hannah Glasse first wrote it in 1745.
Why the amazement, GourmetM?
Pork was the commonest protein in early America, particularly in the South. One reason being that when it comes to self-sufficiency, no other domestic animal is as good at it. Typically, pigs were turned loose in the woods, to fend for themselves. Thus the saying, "root, hog, or die."
Such is still the case. Some states, like Florida and Texas, are covered up with feral hogs. And it's getting to be a real problem here in Kentucky. Plus there's a population of true wild boar in western North Carolina.
But pork was common in the old world as well. Hannah Glasse's book---which, btw, went through 20-something editions---was actually English. In fact, all cookbooks used in British North America were either published in England, or reprinted here, until 1796, when Amelia Simmons published American Cookery, which is considered to be the first American cookbook.
What surprised me, when I first read that recipe, was the use of the word "barbecue." I somehow had it in my head that it was a relatively young term. As it turns out, the word was used as early as the 1500s. Notice, too, that she uses it as a verb, whereas in the South, today, it's mostly used as a noun. That is, grilling is what you do. Barbecue is what you eat.
As we have no such holiday in the UK - we won't be doing anything special!
The 'summer' this year has been abysmal. Two very hot weeks in may which upset the farmers as it was too much heat, too early - then sporadica fine days with not much sun. The farmers (predictably) are already predicting high prices for fruit and veggies this autumn!
My amazement is not about the pork--naturally there were then and still are pigs aplenty. Rather, my amazement is about the date of the recipe. Maybe "amazed" wasn't the best word choice; maybe 'impressed' would better express what I was trying for. And it's not being impressed that such old recipes exist in print, it's, somehow, that the mere mention of the date gives me a sense of--now I'm really clutching at word straws--delight!
Not sure just yet, plans are still fluid.
Probably smoke some spare ribs, might join KYH in pulled pork instead. Have to see what looks good at the store.
Rather, my amazement is about the date of the recipe......
Actually, GourmetM, both published cookbooks and cookery manuscripts from that time period abound.
In my own cookbook dealing with 18th century foodways (A Colonial Virginia Book of Cookery), for instance, we list 16 books in the bibliography. Eight of them date from the 18th or early 19th centuries. One of them dates from the 17th century. With two exceptions, the others are secondary sources dealing with the same subject, such as The Williamsburg Art of Cookery, first published in 1938. Many of these works have been reprinted, in both facsimile and modern-text versions, and are relatively easy to obtain.
The last two are modern books, such as Nancy Carter Crump's incredibly well done Hearthside Cooking.
BTW, the pork came out perfectly.
My chicken wouldn't stand up reliably. Kept tipping over. First time I had that problem. Still turned out pretty good.
My amazement would have been that the recipe from the 18th century is still applicable to modern pork in the 21st. I'm far more likely to be thinking of pigs of the 18th century as wild, gamy and lean, whereas modern pigs (farm raised) are pink, fatty and slovenly. That said, I've never cooked wild boar, and for a slower cooking method, the similarities are probably greater than the differences.
Mary is correct, BJ. Modern pork is much leaner than what was available back then, except, of course, the heritage breeds.
Also, do not confuse wild boar with semi-feral hogs. They have totally different taste and texture profiles, particularly when the feral ones have been penned and fattened as was often the case.
What you have to do, of course, when adapting 18th century dishes to today's ingredients is keep those changes in mind. While less of a problem with low and slow, other times it can make a big difference. F'rinstance, this weekend we made a stuffed roast pork loin. Cooking time was much faster than it would have been when the recipe originated because there wasn't enough natural fat. True, the bacon in the stuffing helps somewhat. But the cooking times still have to be monitored carefully.