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And Fish Weren't the Only Food Found on the Bay
Oysters Weren't the Only "Fish" in the Sea
Civil War Cooks were a Step Ahead of Heinz 57 Varieties.
A Recipe for Oyster Stew.
The Oysters of Chesapeake Bay

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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

And Fish Weren't the Only Food Found on the Bay

This tough old duck is happy to announce that I have successfully completed my jury duty responsibility for the next ten years.  By the time the trial was over, I felt as if I, too, had been chopped up as if being prepared for fricassee. But like the old duck in the following recipe, a little spice, a little sugar, and a long period of being tended to will improve my mood.



STEWED DUCK

This is a good way to treat an old and tough fowl.

•                1 old duck
•                Minced ham or salt pork
•                1 large onion, chopped
•                Sage
•                Parsley
•                1 tablespoon catsup (type not specified)
•                Black pepper
•                1 teaspoon brown sugar
•                1 tablespoon browned flour
 
Clean and divide, as you would a chicken for fricassee.

Put into a saucepan, with several (minced) slices of cold ham or salt pork which is not too fat, and stew slowly for at least an hour--keeping the lid on all the while.

Stew another half-hour, or until the duck is tender, and add a teaspoon of brown sugar, and a tablespoon of browned flour, previously wet with cold water. Boil up once, and serve in a deep covered dish, with green peas and prunes as an accompaniment.

Oysters Weren't the Only "Fish" in the Sea

Jury Duty, Day 4.

Long days, hard on emotions, sympathies, conscience-searching, consensus-building, and tough decisions. On the first day,  I told my husband that it was probably good for me to crawl out of the comfort-zone of my cozy little writing nook. By today, I long to get back to it.  In the meantime, here's a recipe you might be able to duplicate.



SCALLOPED CLAMS
 
•                Clams, chopped fine
•                Pepper (black, white or red)
•                Salt
•                Cracker crumbs, finely crushed
•                Warm milk
•                Liquid from clams
•                1 or 2 eggs, beaten
•                Butter, melted
 
Chop the clams fine, and season with pepper and salt. Cayenne pepper is thought to give a finer flavor than black or white; but to some palates it is insufferable.

Mix in another dish some powdered cracker, moistened first with warm milk, then with the clam liquor, a beaten egg or two, and some melted butter. Stir in with this the chopped clams.

Wash as many clam-shells as the mixture will fill; wipe and butter them; fill, heaping up and smoothing over with a silver knife or teaspoon.

Range in rows in your baking-pan, and cook until nicely browned. Or, if you do not care to be troubled with the shells, bake in patty-pans, sending to table hot in the tins, as you would the scallop-shells.


Civil War Cooks were a Step Ahead of Heinz 57 Varieties.

Did yesterday's recipe for Oytser Stew really call for catsup? Surely not something like Heinz Ketchup! Not in 1861!

(f you like odd tidbits of history, you might enjoy knowing that the Heinz company went bankrupt  making horseradish  in 1875, and did not start manufacturing bottled ketchup until 1876. There is a Pennsylvania connection, however, as their first plant was in Sharpesburg.)

During the earlier part of the nineteenth century,  there was an all-purpose sauce called catsup that was used to add flavor to many New England suppers. Instead of coming out of a bottle, cooks stirred up a supply at the end of summer to tide them through the long tasteless winters.



CATSUP
•                Tomatoes
•                Salt
•                2 onions
•                ½ teaspoon ginger
•                2 teaspoon powdered clove
•                2 teaspoon allspice
•                1 teaspoon black pepper
 


Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle them with salt. If you intend to let them stand until you have gathered several parcels, put in plenty of salt.

After you have gathered all you intend to use, boil them gently an hour, strain them through a coarse sieve; slice two good-sized onions very thin for every gallon; add half a spoonful of ginger, two spoonfuls of powdered clove, two of allspice, and a teaspoon of black pepper.

Boil it twenty minutes after the spices are added. Keep it in a covered jar. This kind of catsup is specially designed to be used in soups, and stewed meats. 

* * * * *

Addendum: Yes, I'm still on jury duty, with the end not in sight, thanks to one long-winded lawyer, who is also given to long thoughtful pauses, during which he raises his eyebrows, wrinkles his brow, rolls his eyes, tries to catch the eyes of every juror, and cocks his head inquisitively in the direction of the judge before jutting his chin defiantly in the direction of the other lawyer. What fun!  Still, I'm trying to make the most of the experience. I'm spending hours penned into a tiny room with 13 other jurors, each one of whom represents a character type.  We're a very mixed bunch. I wonder what they would think to know that they may someday appear in a novel? It's certainly fertile ground for a vivid imagination to run rampant.

A Recipe for Oyster Stew.


STEWED OYSTERS



Here's the recipe Nellie taught to the army cooks: 

•                2 dozen oysters
•                1 ounce butter
•                Flour
•                3 tablespoons milk or cream
•                white pepper
•                salt
•                Catsup (optional)
•                Parsley, chopped fine (optional)
•                Grated lemon peel (optional)
•                Lemon juice (optional)
•                Thin cut strips of bread
 
Large oysters will do for stewing, and by some are preferred; but New Englanders love the plump, juicy natives. Stew a couple of dozen of these in their own liquor; when they are coming to a boil, skim well, take them up and beard them; strain the liquor through a tamis-sieve, and lay the oysters on a dish.

Put an ounce of butter into a stew-pan; when it is melted, add to it as much flour as will dry it up, the liquor of the oysters, and three tablespoons of milk or cream, and a little white pepper and salt.

To this some cooks add a little catsup, or finely-chopped parsley, grated lemon-peel, and juice; let it boil up for a couple of minutes, till it is smooth, then take it off the fire, put in the oysters, and let them get warm. They must not themselves be boiled, or they will become hard.

Line the bottom and sides of a hash-dish with bread-sippets, and pour your oysters and sauce into it.

This recipe needs a few explanatory additions. I've been questioned about the addition of "catsup" which sounds terrible modern.  This variety was a homemade sauce, not something one pounded out of a bottle.  The recipe follows tomorrow. A tamis-sleeve is an old-fashioned round, flat flour-sifter, looking like a round cake layer pan. As for "bread-sippets," they are simply thin strips or triangles of toast, usually prepared on a griddle or in an iron skillet, not a toaster. And last, the comment about bearding the oysters. Female oysters have a black hair-like structure that can simply be lifted off and discarded. (Now aren't you sorry you asked?)

The Oysters of Chesapeake Bay

In Chapter 6 of Beyond All  Price, Nellie and the Roundheads moved to Annapolis, where their proximity to the seashore led Nellie to remember the New England recipes she had grown up with in Maine.



CHAPTER 2: NEW ENGLAND HERITAGE

In October 1861 the Roundhead Regiment moved to Annapolis in preparation for an as-yet-undefined mission. The men were anxious to get into the war, but at the same time they were anxious about what was to come. They needed distraction.

If there was one attraction that outweighed all the others, it was the taste of oysters taken fresh from Chesapeake Bay. Most had never sampled this common seafood, but it took only once to make dedicated oyster connoisseurs out of landlocked farm boys. Shucked oysters were available all over town for six cents a pint, and hungry soldiers could down a quart or two without spoiling their appetites a bit. Once in a while, someone sold them a bad oyster, leading Nellie, who had grown up among oyster-rakers, to encourage the men to go out and gather their own. When she could escape her sick call duties, she walked with her volunteers down to the shoreline and showed the men how and where to gather them.

“Just don’t ever eat an oyster whose shell is already opened,” she cautioned. “It may look like you’re taking the easy way out, but chances are the little creature inside is sick enough—or dead enough—to make you wish you’d never met him.” When several of her pupils became skilled enough to rake in a real harvest, Nellie took them all back to the mess kitchen and gave the cooks a lesson in how to make an oyster stew. The respite from the sick room and the appreciation of the diners did much to bolster Nellie’s mood.

[I'll be on Jury Duty next week, but I'll try to keep the recipes coming.]