To Make sassages​

On a windy Friday in February, I travelled to the Folger Shakespeare Library with brilliant Penn State Abington students who have been transcribing the Carlyon manuscript all year as part of my “What’s in a recipe?” research project. (PSU wrote a great story about our trip here.) I also asked the wonderful Folger librarians and staff to display a range of recipe books for my students to look at. We were all excited to see Mrs. Carlyon’s book of medicines, but  I was particularly excited to meet Mary Baumfylde’s manuscript recipe book in person for the first time.

I’d already transcribed a lot of the book, made this bisket recipe, and chosen a few more recipes to test this spring. Despite having carefully read the description of the manuscript, it’s small size surprised me. Seeing things in person is always best.

Of course, tasting recipes is always best, too. This time, I decided to try Baumfylde’s recipe for sassages (or sausages). I was intrigued that this recipe provided instructions for both cased and uncased sausages. It’s also one of the rare recipes that comes with a specific date: 24 July 1702. Baumfylde’s sassages are delightfully flavored with sage, mace, cloves, and black pepper.

The Recipe
The 24 of july } 1702​​
To Make sassages
Take the lean of a legg of porke
& mince it Very small with​ 4 pou​nd of beef
suet & a good handfull of sage finely
minc​ed this done take Clous mace and
peper of Each a good quantity & as much
 salt as you shall think fitt to season the
meat with 9 or 10 eggs mix all these
together very well then put your meat in
to a stone morter & beat it very well till
you cant per​seve the suet from the meat
you may put the meate into to skins or rowl
them up which​ you please & soe fry them if you
put them into skins parr boyle them​ a very little

The original recipe makes A LOT of sausages. With a whole leg of pork and four pounds of beef suet, it’s a mighty big batch of seasoned meat. Working from the idea that a leg of pork is between 10-14 pounds, I made 1/10 the original recipe and still had loads of sausage mix to eat. I started with a pound of Stryker Farm ground pork and leftover beef suet from making these mince pies. The ground pork likely has a higher fat content than the lean meat called for in the original recipe. If you don’t have beef suet to hand, you can absolutely use bacon or lard in its place and adjust the amount to your taste.

Our Recipe
(makes more than a dozen small sausage patties)
1 lb ground pork
6.4 oz (1 1/2 c) beef suet (either in pellet form or pulverized in a food processor)
1 egg
sage, one small handful chopped (about 1 T chopped)
1/4 t cloves, pre-ground or ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 t mace
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 t salt
Mix all ingredients well in a big bowl.
When you’re ready to cook the sausage, heat a cast-iron or heavy frying pan over a high heat. Add sausage patties and cook for at least five minutes until brown on the outside and cooked through. I did not need to add butter or oil for frying because of the fat content of the sausages themselves. Flip or rotate the sausages so that all sides brown evenly.
Rest a minute before eating.
The Results
My British spouse, Joseph, loved these sausages. They reminded him of classic British pork sausages and other dishes like pork pie that are flavored with mace and clove. My parents thought they were delicious, too. But, alas, they weren’t my favorite. I think something about the mace, cloves, and beef fat tricked my tastebuds and made me anticipate sweetness, not savory flavors.
That said, they were a big hit. I bet they’d be good encased, too.
Advertisements

to make a Brown Frickasey

As the end of November approaches each year, I get increasingly excited about two things: Thanksgiving turkey and the annual re-run of the “Poultry Slam” episode of This American Life. Like it or not, November and December are the very height of poultry season. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of recipes for cooking poultry in Penn manuscripts from making chicken pot pie and fried chicken (two ways) to numerous instructions for roasting.

When I cooked this recipe last Tuesday it was raining in southern California. It was a major news event out here. It was also one of the first dark, chilly, and damp days I’ve seen in ages. I decided to try a recipe “to make a Brown Frickasey” from MS Codex 252 and it was a perfect dish to warm the house and the belly.

The Recipe

frickasy

to make a Brown Frickasey

tak the Rabbits ore Chickens and cut them into littill pesses then set it
ouer the fire with a Littill butter and burne brown then flowre the meat
before you put it to the butter then put it in to fry it Brown and when it
tis brown put in some strong broth A couple of anchoves season it
with salt and pepper, mince some oynion and strowe it with some
parseley cut smalle you may put in some oyesters sweet breeads
Lamb sones and sausage meat let this stew well together better then
a quarter of an howre if it be not thick enough you may thicken it
with the yolks of too ore three Eggs then squese in the Juice of
Lemon and sarue it up

This is a simple and delicious recipe with lots of room for variation: Brown a delicious mix of meats in butter then add more meat, stock, and flavors. Ken Albala’s Cooking in Early Modern Europe, 1250-1650 describes a fricassee as a method for frying meat and adding a flavorful sauce. As this recipe demonstrates, it is a very flexible method that works well with poultry and other meats. I decided to use chicken breasts, pork sausage, and chicken stock, but I also could have faithfully followed this recipe using rabbit, oysters, sweet breads, or other offal.

Our Recipe

3-4 T butter
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 2-inch strips
4 T flour (for coating chicken)
1/2 lb. pork sausage meat (either sausage removed from its casing or sausage meat sold uncased)
1  onion, medium sized, chopped
4 anchovies, chopped
1 1/2 -2 c chicken broth
salt and pepper (to taste)
the juice of half a lemon
2 T chopped parsley

Lightly flour the chicken strips by rolling them in a plate or bowl of flour. Finish chopping the onion and anchovies and readying the sausage meat . Make sure your stock is also ready to go if you’re defrosting it or using a concentrated boullion preparation.

In a dutch oven or large pot, heat the butter until it melts, smells nutty, and starts to darken in color. Add the strips of floured chicken slowly. Don’t worry if all the chicken doesn’t fit at the beginning because the strips will shrink as they cook. Turn the meat over so that it cooks on both sides. When the outside of the chicken starts to brown, add the sausage meat and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped onion and anchovies and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the broth and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. When the gravy is thick and everything is well cooked, squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the stew. Sprinkle parsley on top. Serve hot.

Results

My spouse and I devoured this delicious stew with some roast butternut squash, kale salad, and a bottle of fine, west-coast IPA. It was warming and satisfying meal. We both picked additional mouthfuls of sausage-y chicken out of the pot after we’d cleaned our plates.

I started by browning 2 T butter and added about 2 more as the chicken cooked. The sauce thickened into beautiful gravy on its own. I used homemade chicken stock that I (try to) always keep in my freezer. Homemade stock from pork bones would also be a delicious addition. Store-bought or concentrated stocks will work well here, too. But be sure to taste the mix before adding additional salt.

I can see how this method of preparation would work well for a variety of poultry and other meat. The strips of chicken stayed tender and flavorful, but this would be great with dark meat chicken. I used peppery pork breakfast sausage meat from a local farm. I think a pork and sage or even a pork and apple sausage would work well here. Finally, the anchovies added an unexpected note that was more umami than fishy. I suggest that you give them a try if you’re an anchovy skeptic, but not if you absolutely despise these small, flavorful fish. The lemon adds an essential bright note that complements the fat and savory flavors of the dish.