As I’m sure you know, if you’ve read much of this blog,
I’m thoroughly fascinated with the preparation and
then the cooking of dishes over an open fire, be it
indoors at a hearth or outdoors at a fire pit. I enjoy
the entire process, from mixing historically-appropriate
ingredients to using antique or reproduction equipment
and tools to following each and every step of receipts
found in various historic cookbooks. I particularly like
the ingredients, tools, procedures, even receipt titles,
that prompt those “Say, what?!” exclamations. Things
like treacle or mace, a spider or a coffin, syllabubs or
Naples biscuits, forcemeat or a jugged hare…the list
seems endless! And I’m always eager to try them all.
So I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to use
one specific and unique cooking method: collaring.
Everybody, now: “Say, what?!?”
Collaring is a method of cooking meat and fish that’s
been around for centuries. Receipts can be found
in many historic cookbooks, both published and
handwritten, for preparing beef, mutton, pork,
and yes, even fish (eel?!?), in this manner. The
meat is laid out flat (cut, if necessary, to do so),
herbs and spices are spread on top, it’s then rolled,
tied, wrapped in a cloth, and boiled. As to the term
“collar,” it’s believed to refer to its resemblance
to the real thing when coiled up in a cooking pot.
Maybe. Maybe not! I suppose no one really knows,
but it makes for a great story, yes?!
In any event, when I was informed late last year
that another “private” hearth cooking class* was
to be held this winter at The Israel Crane House,
I was VERY eager to include the collaring of a meat,
specifically pork, on the menu. So I had the House
staff check to make sure there were no objections
of any kind. There weren’t, so it was a go! And so,
our menu featured not only receipts for assorted
side dishes, but also one for “collaring” pork.
And now a few photos of our menu preparations…
54. To coller Pigg or Eals
from the manuscript cookbook of the Ashfield Family
of New York and New Jersey (c 1720s to 1780s):
does it look like a collar? you decide!
here it goes, happily boiling away in a mixture of half
water and half vinegar with a few herbs and spices…
The half vinegar/half water “Liquor” that it was boiled
in made a great sauce.
Potatoes Fried in Slices or Ribbons,
from The Cook’s Own Book (1832),
by a Boston Housekeeper (Mrs. N.K.M. Lee):
…and A Cheese Pudding,
both from Mrs. Lettice Bryan’s
The Kentucky Housewife (1839):
and last, but not least, Portugal Cakes
from The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy,
by Hannah Glasse (1747):
This dish is supposed to be baked in individual tins.
However, not having any (dagnabit), we made one
large cake instead. I’ve been searching for a set
of small individual baking pans for quite some time,
but have yet to find any. I do have a few ceramic
ones, but not enough. So I’ll continue my search.
Or perhaps have some made? We’ll see!
It was a fantastic meal! HUZZAH! The ladies did
a terrific job. Each dish was absolutely delicious.
I tell you, there’s really nothing like food cooked
over an open fire! And everyone pitched in whenever
and wherever needed. In fact, things went so well,
that we ended early. Whodathunk?! I may have
to add extra dishes next time. Either that, or
a few that’re more difficult. All in all, everyone
had a marvelous time. I look forward to next year’s
*So-called because a woman who attended
one of the hearth cooking classes two or three
years ago at The Israel Crane House had such
a great time that she gathered several friends
together and made arrangements for the group
to participate in another. We’ve since dubbed
it the “private” hearth cooking class.