Some colonial era foods that were popular in Maine and New England — like baked beans and fruit pies — remain popular today, even if we may not commonly prepare them the same ways our ancestors did.
But over the years, people’s tastes and available foods have changed, and regional recipes have changed with them.
While it may be hard to imagine Maine mealtimes evolving that dramatically over history, keep in mind Americans weren’t widely exposed to hamburgers until the early 20th century and sliced bread wasn’t produced until about 1930.
Most Mainers wouldn’t recognize some of the meals being served in this state during the first half of the 19th century — and in fairness, many of the snacks we consume today would be totally alien to anyone living back then.
The website FoodTimeline.org has collected some recipe excerpts from 1832’s “The Cook’s Own Book, Being a Complete Culinary Encyclopedia,” a historical tome the site describes as “an excellent reflection of early American New England fare.”
Some look quite tasty and may be worth resurrecting. Others? Not so much.
Some of the recipes even feature words that are no longer commonly used, making then even more difficult to understand. I tried modernizing these blurbs below to the best of my ability to make them slightly more digestible, but without losing their early 19th century flavor.
For instance, I left in references to “drachms,” an old apothecary unit of measure roughly equivalent to an eighth of an ounce, and “mouse buttock” — which is not the rear end of a rodent, but a certain cut of beef.
“Isinglass” is apparently a gelling agent extracted from dried fish bladders, which can also be used as a preservative for parchment and a kind of glue.
And “beef alamode” has nothing to do with ice cream. I don’t think.
Here are 10 recipes people throughout Maine and New England were preparing nearly 200 years ago that you may have never heard of before:
10. Mock ice
“Of preserved strawberries, raspberries, and red currant jelly, a tables-spoonful each; rub it through a sieve, with as much cream as will fill a shape; dissolve three-quarters of an ounce of isinglass in half a pint of water; when almost cold, mix it well with the cream, put it into a shape, and set it in a cool place, and turn it out the following day.”
“Take a quarter of a pound of Cheshire cheese, scraped, the same quantity of Gloucester cheese, and beat them in a mortar, with a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, the yolks of four eggs, and the inside of a French roll, boiled in cream till soft; when all is beaten to a paste, mix it [with the] whites of the eggs, previously beaten, and put the paste into small paper cases, made rather long than square, and put them to bake in a Dutch oven, till of a fine brown. They should be served quite hot. You may, if you think proper, add a glass of white wine.”
“Boil the feet, the liver, and the heart, of a suckling pig, in a little water, very gently, then split the feet, and cut the meat very small, and simmer it with a little of the water till the feet are perfectly tender; thicken with a bit of butter, a little flour, a spoonful of cream, and a little pepper and salt; give it a boil up, pour it over a few sippets of bread, put the feet on the mince.”
7. Jugged hare
“Having skinned a hare, cut of the shoulders and legs, and divide the back into three pieces; rub them well with fat bacon, and put them into a stewpan with the trimmings, allspice, mace, whole pepper, a small clove of garlic, two bay-leaves, three onions, parsley, thyme, sweet marjoram, a quart of veal stock, and three gills of Port wine; simmer the whole till three parts done; then take out the shoulders, legs, and back; put them into another stewpan, strain the liquor to them, add a little flour and butter, stew them till quite done; take off the fat, season with cayenne, salt, and lemon-juice, and serve the whole in a deep dish.”
6. Beef alamode
“Take about eleven pounds of the mouse buttock, or clod of beef, or a blade-bone, or the sticking piece, or the like weight of the breast of veal; cut it into pieces of three or four ounces each; put three or four ounces of beef drippings, and mince of a couple of large onions, and put them into a large deep stewpan; as soon as it is quite hot, flour the meat, put it into the stewpan, keep stirring it with a wooden spoon; when it has been on about ten minutes, dredge it with flour, and keep doing so till you have stirred in as much as you think will thicken it; then cover it with boiling water (it will take about a gallon), adding it by degrees, and stirring it together; skim it when it boils and then put in one drachm of ground black pepper, two of allspice, and two bay leaves; set the pan by the side of the fire, or at a distance over it and let it stew very slowly for about three hours; when you find the meat sufficiently tender, put it into a tureen, and it is ready for table.”
“Two gallons of gin, two pounds of bitter almonds, one pound of sweet almonds, both beaten to a fine paste; six pounds of lump sugar, pounded (some of it with the almonds.) Let these stand ten days in the gin, then filter it through blotting paper, and bottle it.”
“Wash very clean two pounds of rice, stew it till perfectly tender with a little water, half a pound of butter, some salt, whole pepper, cloves and mace, and keep the stewpan closely covered; boil two fowls and one pound and half of bacon, put the bacon in the middle, and the fowls on each side, cover them all over with the rice, and garnish with hard-boiled eggs and fried whole onions.”
3. Batter pudding
“Break three eggs in a basin with as much salt as will like on a sixpence; beat them well together, and then add four ounces of flour; beat it into a smooth patter, add by degrees add half a pint of milk; have your saucepan ready boiling, and butter an earthen mould well, put the pudding in, and tie it tight over with a pudding cloth, and boil it one hour and a quarter. Or, put it in a dish that you have well buttered and bake it three-quarters of an hour. Currants washed and picked clean, or raisins, stoned, are good in this pudding, and it is then called a black cap; or, add loaf sugar, and a little nutmeg and ginger without the fruit — it is very good that way; serve it with wine sauce.”
2. Whim wham
“Sweeten a quart of cream, and mix it with a tea-cupful of white wine, and the grated peel of a lemon; whisk it to a froth, which drain upon the back of a sieve, and put part into a deep glass dish; cut some Naples biscuit as thin as possible, and put a layer lightly over the froth, and one of red currant jelly, then a layer of the froth, and one of the biscuit and jelly; finish with the froth, and pour the remainder of the cream into the dish, and garnish with citron and candied orange-peel, cut into straws.”
“[Place some pieces] of stale bread in a sufficient quantity of cold water to cover them, with a little cinnamon, lemon-peel, and caraways; when the bread is quite soft, press out all the water, beat up the bread with a small piece of butter, a little milk, and sugar to the taste; a little spice may be added.”