Historical Christmas Recipes: Turkey (inc. w. oysters, chestnuts, truffles), Oyster dishes (1838)

.  .  .  .  We commence with a turkey. Every one who can afford it has a turkey on Christmas-day; and various are the garbs in which these birds make their appearance at the festive board. Many of the inhabitants of London receive their turkeys from the country, having either sent for them, or received them as presents. Throughout the month of December, turkeys are extremely dear in London, on account of the great demand for them; and it is very advisable, at this season, when fresh meat will keep, to purchase them in due time, because, as Christmas-day approaches, the price rises to a most unreasonable extent, twenty-five and thirty shillings being often demanded for a bird which, at any other season, would be worth only seven or eight.

They who purchase their own turkeys should be careful to choose them well, and not mistake old birds for young. The latter, whether cock or hen, has always the legs smooth and black; and the young cock has a short spur. The legs being rough and red, and the spur of the cock long, are indicative of age. When a turkey is fresh, the eyes will be bright and full, and the feet supple and moist; but if the eyes are sunken and the feet dry, the bird has been killed too long for further keeping. In whatever manner this creature is dressed, the strings or sinews of the thighs should always be drawn out, and the head twisted under one wing; though it is now the fashion to cut off the heads of turkeys dressed for roasting.

Boiled Turkey.—Boiling a turkey is a very common mode of dressing it, and if nicely done makes a very agreeable dish. To boil it properly, it should be trussed with the liver and gizzard in the wings, be well dredged with flour, and sewn into a clean napkin. .But previously to doing that, fill the crop with a forcemeat, or stuffing made of crumbs of bread, parsley, pepper, salt, nutmeg, lemon-peel, an anchovy, a few oysters chopped, a few shred mushrooms, a bit of butter, and a little suet, the whole bound together with an egg. In the water in which the turkey is to be boiled, put the juice of three lemons, two ounces of butter, and a handful of salt. Let it boil very slowly.

Sauces To Eat With Boiled Turkey.

—1. Celery Sauce. Pare a dozen heads of celery, and wash them well. Put them for ten minutes into boiling salt and water, and let them boil up during that time. Then chop a little suet, and put it with a bit of fat bacon, a small lump of butter, a little salt, the juice of half a lemon, and a sufficient quantity of water, into a stewpan. Into this put the celery, and stew it until it is quite done. Then take it out, drain it, and put it into a white sauce, or into melted butter with a little cream.

2. Oyster Sauce. Put the oysters into a small stewpan with their liquor. Place tliem over a brisk fire until they are quite white and firm. Take them out with a fork, but without piercing them, and place them on a hair sieve to drain. Pour off the liquor also from the stewpan, and strain it quite clear into a basin. Now, put a moderately sized lump of fresh butter into the stewpan ; when boiling, shake in a table-spoonful of flour; stir it well and let it fry over the fire for a minute or two, but without becoming brown; then pour in the oyster liquor. Let it boil up, season it with a little salt, and add three or four spoonfuls of cream. In the mean time take the beards from the oysters, and put them in when the flour is quite done. Let it have one more boil, and it is ready. Those who like the flavour of soy may add a spoonful.

3. Hick Sauce.—Cut half a pound of fresh butter into bits, and put it into a saucepan; when it boils mix with it a table-spoonful of flour. Let this fty a couple of minutes, but not brown, stirring it all the while; then add a wine-glassful of cold water. Continue to stir it as you put in an unwashed anchovy chopped, and a quarter of a pint of thick cream. Let the whole boil up, and whilst in ebullition mix in a spoonful and half of genuine Indian soy. When in the sauce tureen, sprinkle in some salt, and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, but keep stirring it briskly all the while, otherwise it would curdle.

To Stew A Very old Turkey.—Draw, truss, and lard it all over; then put it into a large stewpan with a bit of butter, and fry it over a brisk fire until its surface is browned of a good colour. Remove it now into a pipkin, with half a dozen shalots, two onions, a good handful of mushrooms, two heads of celery, a carrot sliced, a bunch of herbs, a clove of garlic, some powder of mixed spices, and plenty of pepper and salt. Pour into the pipkin a pint of white wine—Cape wine will do—and half that quantity of good broth. Fasten on the lid with a paste made of flour and water, so as wholly to exclude the air, and place the pipkin in a rather slack oven for six hours, or else by the side of the kitchen-fire, or under the grate— anywhere, in short, where it can have sufficient heat to stew without boiling.

Roasted Turkey.—For roasting, the turkey must be trussed with the liver and gizzard in the wings as for boiling. The stuffing for the crop is made thus. Rasp some of the lean of a boiled ham, shred some of the fat very small, chop very small about double the quantity of raw veal, and beat all this in a mortar with some chopped shalots, parsley, a little lemon thyme, and the crumb of a stale roll. Season it well with pepper and salt, and bind it with an egg. Sew up the crop, and cover the breast all over with large slices of fat bacon. Over this tie a covering of letter paper. If the turkey is large, it must be roasted two hours before the paper and bacon are removed, keeping it well basted the whole time. It must then be dredged, browned, and nicely frothed up. Serve it up with a rich gravy in the dish, and bread sauce in a tureen.

Turkey Poults Roasted.—The tender flesh and delicate juices of these young birds require not the aid of stuffing or forcemeat of any kind. When used, which it often is, it spoils them. They require to be roasted only twenty minutes, and are treated in all respects like pheasants. Serve them up with rich gravy in the dish, and bread sauce in a tureen.

Turkey And Chestnuts.—Roast a sufficient quantity of the finest Spanish chesnuts, but without turning them, until the husk and skin come off easily. When peeled boil them for ten minutes in a little thick brown gravy. Mix them whole with an ordinary forcemeat, which the gravy will help to bind, and fill the inside of the turkey with them. It must then be roasted conformably to the above directions, and served up with a rich gravy in a tureen, and some in the dish ; but no bread sauce.

Turkey And Sausages.—The crop of the turkey being filled with sausage meat, the bird is roasted in the usual way. On being taken from the spit, it is encircled with links of fried sausages, and served up with gravy. In this state it is termed ” a turkey hung in chains.” It used to be a favourite roast at civic feasts, hut has been exploded of late as something too vulgar for an aldermanic stomach of the nineteenth century.

Turkey And Oysters.—Truss and prepare the turkey as for roasting. Then put two hundred of oysters, with their liquor, into a stewpan. When they are quite white and firm, lay them on a hair sieve to drain, and when drained beard them. Put the beards into a mortar, and pound them with a little powdered mixed spice from the box, and some pepper and salt. Then mix well with them the crumb of a roll, and a few chopped bleached mushrooms. Bind this with three or four or five spoonfuls of thick cream, and a little of the oyster liquor. Let the seasoning be sufficient, that none need be added to the oysters. Mix the latter whole with the forcemeat, and fill the turkey with the mixture, putting in, when the bird is about half full, a lump of butter about the size of a hen’s egg. Now roast the turkey according to the directions already given, and serve it up with some gravy in the dish; also a tureen of gravy, and one of melted butter.

” Now comes the tug of war.” There is no one, of the least pretensions to education in this country, who has not heard of the truffled turkeys of Perigueux. Such turkeys, prepared either at Perigueux or at Paris, are sold in the latter city for from two to three pounds sterling each; and one of them certainly forms an exquisitely delicious roast, that would throw even a modern Heliogabalus into ecstacies.

What the truffle is, no one has yet satisfactorily explained. It is found underground. As it leaves no indication whereby we can know where to look for it, we are indebted for its discovery either to the truffle hound, a dog trained to find it, or to hogs trained and kept for the same purpose. It is a vegetable substance, and one of the cryptogamia or mushroom tribe; it exists also in the vicinity of iron ore.

Truffle has been found in different parts of the continent; but the finest and most fragrant exists in the vicinity of the iron mines of Perigord, where they are taken to all parts of the continent and to this country. The supply seems inexhaustible; yet, from the trouble of finding and cleaning them, they fetch a very high price.

The truffle is so little known in this country, out of London and other large cities, that it has never been looked for, except by hogs, which now perhaps, at the expense of their masters, regale themselves with these delicacies, in the forest of Dean, at Merthyr Tydfill, and in the north, where iron mines exist. May-be we have abundance of truffles in England as good as those of Perigord; let us only look for them.

Truffles are considered a food worthy of princes and kings; an ambrosia which even old Jupiter in the fulness of his glory would not have disdained. The truffle is a powerful stimulant, but without any injury to the constitution. It warms, supports, and nourishes the whole body; and if more be not taken than the stomach can digest, it is very beneficial, as well as of delicious savor.

Under these circumstances, an immense trade in truffles is carried on with the capital of Perigord. Truffled turkeys, capons, pullets, chickens, pheasants, and partridges,—also truffled pies, containing every description of game and poultry—pies that will keep good during a whole year, and will bear a voyage round the world—are exported in immense cargoes from Perigueux to all parts of the civilized world.

These pies are all made in tureens, and may be seen at the windows of the Italian warehouses, in London, labelled ” Pate de perdreaux aux truffles/ or ” Pate de becasses aux truffes,” or ” Pate de faisan aux truffes,” and so forth. This trade has enriched the naturally poor city of Perigueux, and indeed the whole province of Perigord.

The truffle will not only impart its own delicate flavour and fragrance to the meat, but will preserve it sweet for a considerable time; so that the turkeys, and other poultry and game filled with truffles, are sent to almost all parts of Europe without being tainted. We have ourselves partaken of a truffled turkey that had been kept a whole month, and was as sweet as if it had been recently killed; its flesh being at the same time impregnated with the flavour of the truffles.

We now proceed to describe how a turkey may be prepared with truffles, in London, quite as well, and be in all respects as good, as any prepared at Perigueux or in its neighbourhood.

Truffled Turkey.—Kill a large fat turkey, and, whilst it is yet warm, draw it, and put plenty of salt inside the body, to draw out the blood. Then let it cool. In the mean time, get four, or five, or even six pounds of truffles.

Choose them yourself, and, smelling each, reject every one that has a musky smell. Wash them one by one in cold water, and brush out the dirt with a nail brush. As each is washed, put it into a napkin to dry. Now peel them very thin, and take three or four of the smaller ones and chop them as small as possible.

Chop also the parings, and put the two together into a mortar, with some rasped fat bacon, of which there must be such a quantity that when the truffles are in the turkey the body of the latter may be quite full. The bacon must be rasped in order to obtain the fat quite free from sinews. Pound the chopped truffles and truffle parings and the bacon together into a paste, seasoning well with salt, if necessary, pepper, and powdered mixed spice. Mix this with the whole truffles, fill the turkey, and sew up the vent and crop. Hang up the bird for a week, at least—a fortnight would be still better. Roast it, when wanted, in the manner already indicated, and serve it up with the following sauce.

Put some slices of ham and veal, with a few chopped mushrooms, a bunch of parsley, and one shalot, into a stewpan, with a small piece of butter. Let them stew gently until they stick to the pan; then moisten with a few spoonfuls of broth. Let the whole simmer for half an hour, then remove the fat and strain it through a tammy. Put it again on the fire, season it well, and thicken it with a good lump of butter rolled in flour. Put none in the dish, but serve the whole in a sauce tureen.

All parts of a truffled turkey that are left may be eaten cold; it would be a pity to hash them. The legs, however, might be scored, highly seasoned, and broiled. The white fragments of any cold roasted turkey, not truffled, might be tossed up with some white gravy thickened with cream and seasoned with pepper, salt, and a little grated nutmeg; but the legs, and the back, divided lengthwise into three parts, should be scored and broiled, and placed in the dish round the white meat.

Devilled Gizzard. —Take the gizzard from the wing of a roasted turkey, rub it well with cayenne pepper, salt, and ground white pepper. Put it on the gridiron; when done, send it up hot, with a lemon cut in two on another plate. This is a good relish in the morning, or at night, after an early dinner; but only a small portion should be taken, except where the health is perfect, and the powers of digestion unimpaired. Not that the gizzard of a turkey, previously boiled or roasted, and then devilled, could be considered very digestible; but a bit of it is always useful, as a mixture with other food.

It resembles the liver pies in France, certainly delicious and very wholesome when only a little bit is eaten as a relish after or between other food; but when our English monophagists “stick to their dish,” and gorge themselves with this costly, rich, and certainly delicious dainty, making it the sole substance of a hearty meal, they too often hasten the consummation of human existence—death.

As oysters are now in high season, we shall conclude this paper with indicating several of the best modes of dressing them.

Oyster Atlbts(?).—Put five or six dozen of oysters into a stewpan with their liquor. When the fire, which must be brisk, has rendered them white and firm, which is soon done, take them out, drain and beard them. Then season them with pepper and salt and a little nutmeg. Dip them into yolk of egg, and cover them with fine bread crumbs passed through a hair sieve. Season them again, then dip them again into the yolk of egg, and cover them once more with bread crumbs. Dip them now into clarified butter, and when sufficiently drained from it, broil them carefully upon a gridiron which has been brushed over with melted butter. They must be done over a very slow and clear fire. When of a rich colour serve them up on the skewers.

Oyster Sausages.—Put a pint and a half of opened oysters into a stewpan with their liquor; let them stew on a brisk fire until they are firm and white, then lay them upon a hair sieve to drain. Now shred very small a pound of lean mutton cut from the leg, two pounds of beef suet, and a handful of sage leaves. Next chop the oysters, but in much larger bits. Mix all this with the liquor of the oysters, which must be ready strained. Season with pepper and salt, grated nutmeg, with a little powdered allspice and mace.

Break into the mixture three eggs, and work up the whole with bread crumbs to a proper. consistency. Make up the sausages in skins as wanted, using in preference the chitterlings of lambs or sheep. The sausages should be fried in butter. The meat without the skins also makes delicious sausage rolls.

Oyster Rolls.—This is a very common preparation of oysters at French tables, and is one of the good modes of dressing this delicate specimen of the mollusca tribe. Put any quantity of oysters with their strained liquor into a stewpan over the fire, adding a little salt, pepper, pounded mace, and grated nutmeg. When they are firm, thicken the sauce with plenty of fresh butter and a little flour.

Meanwhile, cut off the tops of some French rolls, and take out the crumb so as to leave a large hole. Into these rolls, as they stand over a hot stove, pour in the boiling hot oysters and sauce with a spoon, filling the rolls as the gravy is absorbed. When quite full and hot through, put on the tops, which must also be heated, and serve them up in a vertical position, which may be done by means either of a napkin, or of a mould, with holes for the ends of the rolls, made of flour and water and baked hard. This latter may be ornamented according to the taste of the cook, and before it is baked should be anointed with beaten yolk of egg in order to give it a rich colour.


Source: The Magazine of Domestic Economy, 1838

Index: Historic Christmas Recipes

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