Tasty Tuesday time! Today we’re talking about the kinds of fish and shellfish colonial cooks had access to and what they did with them. Let’s start with some general observations about the kinds of fish and shellfish Hannah Glasse talked about preparing. We need to keep in mind that The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, while printed in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1805 by Applewood Books of Bedford, Massachusetts, is based upon earlier cookbooks from England, so not everything we read from Mrs. Glasse will be available to the colonial cook. They had to wing it at times based on the available foods in their region.
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy includes the following fish and shellfish receipts by title, which gives us a good overview of both the kinds of fish she had access to and how she prepared them:
- To Dress Fish
- Lobster Sauce
- Shrimp Sauce
- To make Anchovy Sauce
- To dress a Brace of Carp
- To stew a Brace of Carp
- To fry Carp
- To bake Carp – I think she really likes this kind of fish…
- To fry Tench – which includes instructions on how to clean and skin the fish, but this fish is not found in America as far as I can tell
- To boil a Cod’s Head
- To bake a Cod’s Head
- To broil Crimp, Cod, Salmon, Whiting or Haddock
- Oyster Sauce is made thus
- To dress Little Fish – she notes little fish such as “smelts, roach, &c.” which are not widely available in America
- To broil Mackerel
- To boil a Turbot
- To bake a Turbot
- To broil Salmon
- Baked Salmon – I’ll share my take on this next week
- To broil Mackerel whole
- To broil Herrings
- To stew Eels with broth
- To dress a Pike
- To broil Haddocks when they are in high Season
- To broil Cods-Sounds – I had to look this one up. It’s an English dish that features the bladder of the cod fish. Yum?
- To dress Salmon au Court-Bouillon – Watch for this one on July 25
- To dress Flat Fish
The list goes on and on! Other kinds of fish dishes she includes use Lampreys, Sturgeon, Cod, Scate (i.e., Skate), Soals (i.e., soles), Lobsters, Crab, Prawns, Craw-Fish (i.e., Crayfish), Oysters, Mussels, and Scollops (i.e., scallops).
Of the kinds of fish she includes, only the following would have been readily available to an American colonial cook: Carp, cod, sole, haddock, pike, eel, mackerel, salmon, etc.
The deep sea fish would have been ordered from afar, either overseas or from the New England fishermen, as would anchovies and flat fish I’d think. I’m not an excerpt on the history and distribution of the various kinds of fish. I tried to figure out what “crimp” are but came up short, for example, so I don’t know what kind of fish it is or whether that species would have been available in the colonies and early America. Any ideas?
Methods of cooking the fish include frying, baking, broiling, and stewing. The number of recipes that call for breading or battering and then frying the fish I found curious, given the inherent risk of fire of such a cooking method. But I guess if you like your fish fried, it’s worth the risk. Also by adding a hot sauce to the fish, the dish would stay hot longer for getting the entrée to table and still being warm for serving. Surely the cooks knew this and that is why so many of the recipes include a heavy sauce? After all, I don’t think they’d want to serve cold fish after it was cooked.
The term “dress” according to the Oxford English Dictionary means the following:
- Specific and technical uses. a. To prepare for use as food, by making ready to cook, or by cooking (also intr. = passive); also, to season (food, esp. a salad).
To Mrs. Glasse this may mean frying the fish or adding a sauce. I’ve come to find that all of the sauces tend to be very rich and heavy, and thus complicated to make. I’ll try some of the sauces going forward, but hubby and I have found we’re not such big fans of them so watch for me to simplify and lighten the sauces when I do use them. Since I’m only cooking for two, I needn’t worry about how long the dish needs to stay warm. That’s one of the main advantages we have over the cooking methods and locations of the 18th century. Plus we have microwaves…
Next week I’ll share a salmon recipe with you. I’ve included two on my plan because it’s one of my favorite foods. Trying new ways of preparing an old favorite sounded like a fine idea. We shall see what we think!
Also, Evelyn’s Promise, A More Perfect Union book 4, is on sale through the end of July, so it’s the perfect time to grab your ebook copy for only 99 pennies! Blurb and links below.
What kind of fish is your favorite? How do you prepare it? Talk to me! I love to hear from you!
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Like I said, Evelyn’s Promise is on sale for the next week or so. Grab your copy today and feel free to share with your friends and family. Evelyn’s story is one of my favorite in the series!
The fourth and final story in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series follows the trials and decisions of Evelyn and Nathaniel as they try to adjust to life after the British occupation of Charleston.
Determined to make her own way in the newly independent America and live free of the dictates and demands of another husband, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son.
Militiaman Nathaniel Williams visits Charlestown, where his heart is ensnared by a smart, beautiful widow, forcing Nathaniel to make the hardest decision of his life.
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