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Archive for July, 2011

Year number five. And it’s no easier. Yes,
it’s hard to believe another has gone by;
another year without my dearly beloved
cat-companion, Kitty-Pooh. Yes, I have
Mystery-Kitty now, and although she’s
a sweetie and we’re bonding more each
day, it’s just not the same. I guess it was
sort of like a first love with me and K-P:
he’s the one I’ll never forget.

In any event, today is the anniversary, once again, of my beloved
pet’s passing. I considered writing something new, but I think this
piece says it all; I can’t improve on it. Although minor updating has
been done, it’s essentially the same as last year’s tribute.

___________________________________

IN MEMORIAM

Nineteen years ago, when I was living in Indianapolis, Indiana,
I discovered a stray cat sleeping now and then in an unused dog
house in my back yard. As time went on, I saw him more frequently,
and I began to set out some food. Occasionally, I’d come home
from work, and there he’d be out on the patio. At first, I’d let him
in, he’d casually walk around the room, and then head back out.

sc001ab8d7

Slowly but surely, he became
a regular visitor. Eventually,
he’d come inside, eat, take
a nap on my couch, and then
go back out. Soon we became
a team. He seemed to always
know when I had just gotten
home, for he’d show up
within minutes. Other times,
if I didn’t see him right away,
I would soon hear him. There’d
be meowing coming from one
direction or another, and all
I had to do was meow back,
and he’d come running. There
were many times when I came
home, and he’d be at the patio
door, waiting patiently to come in. And if I’d just had a long hard day,
I’d lie on the floor, he’d sit sphinx-like on my chest, and we’d have
ourselves a little cat nap. Before long, I’d come home, let him in,
and he’d stay until the next morning, when I’d be awakened by his
meowing to be let out. As cats go, it was a match made in heaven.

When I moved to New York, he came with me. On the plane, in the cabin.
In fact, during the next several years, whenever I’d go back and forth
to Indianapolis, he went with me. He didn’t mind flying. I’m sure being
in that cramped carrier, “placed under the seat in front” of me per airline
regulations wasn’t the greatest, but he knew that I was right there. Several
times I took him out (unbeknownst to the flight attendants, of course),
and he quietly and calmly sat in my lap. He’d even look out the window.
Like I said, we were a team.

In any event, to make this long story short…the point of all this is that,
five years ago today (July 28) my beloved pal, this dearly loved magnificent
cat, who had essentially adopted me, passed away. He’d never been sick a day
in his life, yet suddenly he became ill and was gone in no time.
It was devastating.

Kitty-Pooh, 1992-2006

Kitty-Pooh, 1992-2006

Since those early days in Indianapolis, he
had been my constant companion. He went
from being a mostly outdoor cat to being
a completely indoor one. He went with me
from one state to another, and from one
apartment to another and then another.
There was even that short time spent
in Jersey (what I refer to as my homeless
period). He was there as I navigated
the trials and tribulations of life in
the Big Bad City. Not to mention all
the ups and downs of pursuing an acting
career. He was there, too, when my parents
passed, first one, then the other. And the
loss of my beloved dog, Casey. In short,
for nearly 14 years he was the one constant in my life.

And so, this is in honor of my beloved pal.
You were the bestest cat I could ever hope for. My handsome fella.
My gift from God. You are dearly loved and dearly missed.

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I love watching historic cooking demonstrations, whether live or
via videos. Here’s one of the latter, wherein a cook from England’s
Hampton Court Palace demonstrates the making of a Tudor-era
“Tarte owt of Lente” (aka a cheese tart). I find it both fun and
fascinating, even though it’s not my usual time period.

Note how he uses the mortar as a mixing bowl. One less dish
to wash, ay?! What a great idea. HUZZAH!

Enjoy!

_______________

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Shrub is another alcoholic beverage that, like punch, was highly
popular in past centuries, particularly the 18th and early 19th.
It’s similar to the punches of that time, as well, for it makes
use of fruit juice and spirits. According to The Oxford English
Dictionary
(OED), a shrub is:

1. A prepared drink made with the juice
of orange or lemon (or other acid fruit),
sugar, rum (or other spirit).

Now, most of the historic shrub receipts (recipes) that I found
while doing my recent research on early American beverages
called for either brandy or rum. It seemed, though, that the
majority of them specified good ol’ rum.

Beginning in the early 19th century, however, people became
concerned that their fellow citizens were drinking too much.
Something needed to be done! So a little phenomenon known
as the Temperance Movement began. I won’t delve into the
specifics here, but one result was the replacement of spirits
in various beverages by other, non-alcoholic liquids. Thus was
born Raspberry Shrub. In fact, if we take another look at the
OED, the second definition of shrub is:

2. U.S. A cordial or syrup made from
the juice of the raspberry, with vinegar
and sugar.

So, as I mentioned previously, in addition to the rum-based
“Fine Milk Punch” that I made for Andy Smith’s class this past
June, I had to also concoct something without rum (for all
the non-drinking and underage students, you see). Naturally,
Raspberry Shrub fit the bill perfectly: a rum beverage but
without the rum! HUZZAH! So
I brewed a batch. Of course, no
rum means it’s no longer an 18th
century beverage, but rather one
from the next century. Nevertheless,
it’s a beverage I’ve made dozens
and dozens of times, and thus I
imagine the following photos will look VERY familiar! Trust me,
they are all new, and each one documents an entirely different,
and recent, pot of very red, and very delicious, Raspberry Shrub.

___________________

The raspberries:

Put in a pan and just cover with vinegar:

Cook until the berries disintegrate:

Strain out the juice:

All that remains is useless pulp:

Juice goes back in the pot, add sugar:

Cook again until thickened:

Finally, lovely, thick raspberry syrup:

Mix syrup with water and TA-DA! Yummy Raspberry Shrub!
HUZZAH!

_______________

And yes, I again used the following receipt from The American
Frugal Housewife
, by Mrs. Child (12th ed., 1833):

Raspberry Shrub.
Raspberry shrub mixed with water is a pure,
delicious drink for summer; and in a country
where raspberries are abundant, it is good
economy to make it answer instead of Port
and Catalonia wine. Put raspberries in a pan,
and scarcely cover them with strong vinegar.
Add a pint of sugar to a pint of juice; (of this
you can judge by first trying your pan to see
how much it holds;) scald it, skim it, and bottle
it when cold.

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Any special occasion was excuse enough to serve punch….

So says Richard J. Hooker, author of Food and Drink in America,
A History
(1981). Yes, bowls of punch frequently graced many
a table during the 18th and early 19th centuries in America,
particularly those of the upper class. Of course, it could be
made with just about any liquor, but the frequent, and most
preferred, choice was a fine, strong, Jamaican rum.

However, while the elite enjoyed a good punch, they were
most definitely not alone in enjoying rum itself. Far from it!
All members of society likely partook of a glass or two now
and then. In fact, rum quickly became the number one drink
of choice for members of the working class: the carpenters;
the fishermen; the soldiers ‘n sailors; the field hands; and
so on. Of course, as demand for a bottle o’ rum grew, so
did the number of distilleries. According to Hooker:

…the number of New England distilleries
multiplied, especially in Massachusetts
and Rhode Island. By 1763 there were
159 distilleries making rum in New England….

Thus, armed with this knowledge, I continued brewing my
“Fine Milk [rum] Punch” for a session of Andy Smith’s class
on early American beverages at The New School.

_______________

Okay. I’ve steeped the pared peels of nine lemons in a quart
of rum for 24 hours. On to the next step:

Then mix with it the juice of the lemons…

…a pound and a half of loaf-sugar…

…two grated nutmegs, and a quart of water.

Add a quart of rich unskimmed milk, made boiling hot…

Now, “unskimmed milk” means, essentially, straight from the cow.
It would be milk that still contains all the cream that eventually
settles out (or rather, rises up, to the top). Fortunately, there’s
a high-end grocery near me that sells non-homogenized whole
milk. Huzzah! And so I used that. I also added about a quarter
cup or so of heavy cream for good measure.

…and strain the whole through a jelly-bag.

(I used a finely-woven cheesecloth)

I made sure to squeeze out every last drop, leaving behind nothing
but scrunched-up lemon peels:

And it’s ready to go! First though, I grated a little nutmeg on top
and conducted a taste-test:

Pretty tasty. I think Andy and company enjoyed it that Monday
night, as well. HUZZAH!

____________

Here’s the receipt I used, in its entirety, from Eliza Leslie’s Directions
for Cookery, in its Various Branches
(10th edition, 1840):

FINE MILK PUNCH.

Pare off the yellow rind of nine
large lemons, and steep it for
twenty-four hours in a quart
of brandy or rum. Then mix
with it the juice of the lemons,
a pound and a half of loaf-sugar,
two grated nutmegs, and a quart
of water. Add a quart of rich
unskimmed milk, made boiling
hot, and strain the whole
through a jelly-bag. You may
either use it as soon as it is
cold, or make a larger quantity,
(in the above proportions,) and
bottle it. It will keep several months.

For comparison, here is the punch receipt that Benjamin Franklin
wrote in a letter to his friend James Bowdoin, on October 11, 1763.
Note the similarities and differences between this and the above:

To make Milk Punch.
Take 6 quarts of Brandy, and the Rinds
of 44 Lemons pared very thin; Steep
the Rinds in Brandy 24 Hours, then
strain it off. Put to it 4 Quarts
of Water, 4 Large Nutmegs grated,
2 Quarts of Lemon Juice, 2 pounds
of double refined Sugar. When the
Sugar is dissolv’d boil 3 Quarts
of Milk and put to the rest hot
as you take it off the Fire, and
stir it about. Let it stand 2 Hours;
then run it thro’ a Jelly-bag till
it is clear; then bottle it off.

__________

Opening illustration from the cover of Early American Taverns: For
the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers
, by Kym S. Rice (1983).

____________________

NEXT: the beverage made without rum

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Soon after the Big Ice Cream gig last month, I was asked by Andy
Smith
, noted food historian and prolific book writer, to brew up
a couple of beverages for his continuing ed class at The New School.
Specifically, he wanted two American colonial-era drinks, one made
with rum and one without. Oddly enough, at the time I was reading
the highly-informative book by Kym S. Rice, Early American Taverns:
For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers
(1983). Of course,
Rice discusses the drinking of rum, as it was widely popular in this
country throughout the 18th and into the 19th centuries. Straight
rum was the beverage of choice for the working classes, while those
of more refined tastes preferred it in a punch, wherein it was mixed
with a few “luxurious” ingredients such as sugar, lemons, limes, etc.

Now, Benjamin Franklin particularly enjoyed a good punch, and
he even recorded a receipt (recipe) for a “Milk Punch.” However,
it calls for brandy and not rum. So I did some digging amongst
my historic cookbooks, and before long, I’d found several that
not only used rum, but were also almost identical to Franklin’s.
I definitely think rum punches were fairly popular, for I also
found two or three in manuscript cookbooks. And what was
most interesting was my discovery of receipts for “Norfolk
Punch” in both a northern AND a southern handwritten book.
Pretty amazing!

So I chose “Fine Milk Punch” from Directions for Cookery, in its
Various Branches
, by Eliza Leslie (1837). And thus, off I went
to make rum punch for Andy and his students.

____________________

Pare off the yellow rind of nine large lemons…

…and steep it for twenty-four hours in a quart of brandy or rum.

So while the rinds steeped in the rum, I squeezed the juice out
of all those lemons. I knew the eventual next step was “Then
mix with it the juice of the lemons….”

____________________

NEXT: the rum punch-making process continues

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Awhile back, I added a link to a collection of my favorite
videos (you’ll find it on my Home Page). Of course, some
are historic food related, some are not. Here is one of my
favorite “nots.”

Hope everyone has a fantastic Independence Day!
HUZZAH!

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