Monday, 31 August 2015

Not Trying This

I'm still dipping into the Compleat Housewife.  One recipe I am not trying is Steeple Cream.  You start by taking five ounces of hartshorn (yes, antler) and two ounces of ivory (dogs' teeth are ivory, so I wonder if it came from them rather than an elephant).  'put into a stone bottle, fill it up with fair-water to the neck, then put in a small quantity of gum-arabic and gum-dragant; then tie up the bottle very close and set it in a pot of water with hay in the bottom, let it boil for six hours; then take it out and let it stand an hour before you open it lest it fly in your face; then strain it and it will be a strong jelly.'  The result is sweetened then flavoured with pounded almonds, cream and amber.  I suppose we could get a similar result by using a strong mix of unflavoured gelatine and mixing it with ground almonds, thick cream and sugar.  I'm not sure about the amber.

Years ago I tried a recipe from Mrs Beeton that involved gelatine.  The first step was to make some strong coffee.  I don't drink coffee but my mother used to take two heaped spoons of Nescafe instant in a very small cup of hot water so my idea of how strong coffee should be may have been a bit skewed.  It was the sort of coffee that would etch a teaspoon.  It was strong.  Any stronger and it may have eaten through the bowl.  I used brown sugar as a sweetener and once it was cold I added rum, so it kept its alcohol content.  I set it with gelatine, following the directions on the packet and served with cream.  It was very pleasant.

Back to the Steeple Cream.  I like the detail of putting hay in the bottom of a pot.  It would protect the bottle being cooked in there, so it wouldn't bounce against the sides of a pan.  It would be a lot quieter than the usual trick of putting an upturned saucer in the bottom if you were boiling a pudding in a basin.

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