Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Using the Larder

The 1930s were a time of thrift--the Depression hit hard, and people learned to make do, and do away with the wasteful habits of the Edwardians and the time of the Roaring 20s. The apple peels became apple jelly, orange and other citrus peels were turned into candy (if you had enough sugar on hand), and scraps and leftover bones from a roast ended up as soup or stock--those are just a few examples. (And yes, I've done all of those things. Very useful).

I've got a pantry (pretty well crammed with pickles, relishes, chutneys, jellies, jams, marmalades, salsa, and a few other homemade things, as well as some canned and dried goods). I also have a small chest freezer--but not a larder. The house is 1929, not 1829. Still, the freezer stands in nicely for a larder. My fridge is tiny--a 1933 GE Monitor Top. It keeps foods fresh for a very long time, more successfully than any modern one I've owned. But the freezer can only be used if the fridge temperature as a whole is turned way up, so enter the chest freezer in the cellar.

The freezer is so useful, though...for freezing leftovers so that they can be eaten when the original meal is only a faint memory, for saving garden produce, sugared flowers, meat I bought on sale, and more.

It can also get away from you. Just before Christmas, I found myself throwing out my prized Friendly's Celebration [ice cream] Roll, the first I've had in 20 years at least, because there simply wasn't room for Christmas cookies, and I bake those in quantity.

In the last month or so I have been steadily beginning to work at using up the contents of the freezer. And that's freed up space for the lamb chili (made with the frozen ground lamb I bought a couple of weeks ago) and more useful frozen veg (peas, mixed corn/peas/carrots) and similar things. 

The lamb chili was great; I had it for dinner the day I made it, and the following day, for lunch. The rest is frozen. I had some homemade chicken pot pie that had been there for a while but was still excellent. Today I've made duck leg ragu (or ragout, if you prefer). Homemade duck stock, a duck leg and fresh veg: carrots, parsnips, and onion. I'll add frozen peas at the very end.

I've noticed some beach plums...which provide me with several options: beach plum gin, beach plum jam,  or beach plum chutney.

There's some lamb sausage still waiting for inspiration...possibly I'll make potato moussaka. There might even be a small chicken in there somewhere, in which case a real Sunday lunch (English style) might be coming my way soon, including Yorkshire pudding and lashings of gravy.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

To Be HA, or not to be (HA), is that the question?

There's a new film version of Little Women. It was one of the most favored books in our house, growing up. My sister and I practically passed it back and forth; it's a wonder we didn't read it to bits.

I haven't read it in years (my sister has our childhood copy), but it exercised a great influence on me...though to this day I still can't like The Pickwick Papers or Paradise Lost.

The new movie has a spectacularly good cast. I don't know about the script, but there are lots of indicators to say that it's going to be a worthy film.

I haven't seen it, and don't think I'm going to go.

The reason will sound snarky, self-righteous, snobbish...pick your own label. But here it is: the costuming, make-up and hair are not HA (historically accurate). I am not claiming to be an expert on the (American) Civil War period costuming, but I have a better than average knowledge of the styles of the time.

All artistic endeavors have a budget limit, and it's fun to play a bit with costuming; I get that, I used to be an actor, and I dabbled in costuming as well.

This production, however--judging from the stills I've seen--has the look of a 1950s prom. Garish colors were very correct for the era (not that the March sisters could afford such things, normally, even for a dance), but the hair--down, for [adults] women? No. Not unless you're a crowned princess (or a prostitute). And the drape of polyester is apparent on screen or stage--yes, that really is snobbish of me, as natural fabrics, sadly, are far more expensive.

It's the reason that, as much as I love the films of old Hollywood, I avoid literary adaptations from that time like the plague. 1920s costumed as 1950s;  1830s and 1840s designs for productions supposed to be set in the Regency--and other changes--leave me annoyed, not enchanted.

These kinds of productions, especially in film, yank me right out of the world that is supposed to be holding me in.

I see blue eye shadow on a Regency heroine and think, "What? NO--not even on Lydia!" Unless, of course, the story has been transported to the 1970s. Then it fits.

Shakespeare didn't care, anachronism suited him and his audience. And I have liked many a theatre production transported to a more modern stage, so long as the director doesn't try to claim that it's still set in the original time period.

The Fantastic Beasts films put the muggles/no-maj characters in correct look of the period; the magical folk seem, mostly, to dress about 10 years into the future. It's a way to set them apart visually, and it works.

I probably should go to see the movie, of course. It's no bad thing, reining in snobbishness. You do miss out if you give in to it.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Violet Cream Scones

Time to get back into the swing of things...or the roar, or whatever it is that will become a catch phrase for 2020.

I woke up this morning realizing that I wanted to make scones, so here you are. Just one of my regular scone recipes--but I added a few drops of violet essence (flavoring) and sprinkled crushed candied violets over the tops after brushing them with light cream before baking.

The violet essence I was able to order online. The candied violets were purchased in England. It's getting progressively difficult to buy food from other countries, even safe items like candied flowers (sugar is a preservative), but it can be done, if you're willing to pay. These days, you'll find more French options than English.

Then again, if you're like me, and violet is one of your favorite flavors...well...I make violet flavored sugar mice at Christmas.

The scone recipe:

Cream Scones                                                                                               
Bake at 425 F for 15-20 minutes

2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
2 t. sugar
2 t. baking powder
4 T cold butter, diced
1/2 c. heavy cream + 2 T
few drops violet essence (optional)
4 candied violets, crushed (optional)

Pre-heat the oven.

Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Add the butter and toss with the flour; smear it into the flour until the mixture looks shaggy.

Add the violet essence to the cream and stir; pour most of it into the flour mixture and stir gently with a fork until just blended. Add the rest of the cream only if necessary.

Gently pat the dough into a round, slightly higher in the center. Cut into quarters and cut each quarter into thirds or halves.

Cover a no-side cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment and place the scones on top; make sure that they are spaced well apart. Brush the tops with leftover cream and sprinkle with the crushed candied violets.

Bake at 325 F for 15-20 minutes, or until well-risen and beginning to get golden around the edges.

Allow to cool for several minutes before serving. The photo at the top shows mine with clotted cream and lemon curd, but lots of other toppings (butter, jam, jelly, marmalade...or none at all) are good, too.

Don't forget a pot of tea or a few cups of good coffee!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Art Deco Diva Cooks...Still

It's been a particularly long time. Three years (one whole post in 2017), so does that count? I'm not sure.

However, I am finally back on to the cookbook. Working title: "Art Deco Diva Cooks:   20th Century Cooking and Homemaking for the 21st Century".

There's something to be said for an old fashioned paper copy, even if it is scribbled by hand and in a clunky binder. There it is, and no amount of power outages or viruses will erase it.

Right now I'm back at the very beginning; yesterday I finished typing out the chapter pages and am well into the cocktails section of Beverages.

Getting it into something I can manipulate easily is the first step. Then it's onto deciding for certain on the recipes, and then there's asking people to help me test, and working out photos, and researching agents, and--oh, lots more.

But it really is a new beginning, and that's a good thing.

If any of you have a particular fondness for something I make, please feel free to ask me to include it. Chances are that it will already be on the list, but not necessarily, as this rough draft was compiled some time ago, and I keep adding new things to my cooking repertoire.