I’ve managed to knock out two computers in the last two weeks, which hasn’t made me calmer about this whole blogging business.
The flocks of geese flying overhead, those lovely Canada geese, the “grey goose with a black neck and a black and white head, strong of flight, and these be a great deal bigger than the ordinary geese of England, some very fat, and in the spring so full of feathers hat the shot can scarce pierce them.” Of William Wood’s 1634 New Englands Prospect. He goes on to mention that they can be shot both flying and sitting.
But how to cook them? There are possibilities – roasting being a good choice in 1627, what with all the wood for fuel. And roasting with oats and sage in the belly is mentioned in Markham’s English Housewife – in the section on oats, not in the cookery section on roasted meats, go figure. And then there’s a recipe in a Dutch cookbook, The Sensible Cook, of a roasted goose with chestnuts in the belly. It’s easy to forget that chestnuts were once such a prominent feature in the wooded landscape of New England.
Chestnuts also go well with turnips, which grow to prodigious size in New England in the seventeenth century. And we’ve got some really big turnips in our 1627 gardens now. Turnips don’t do well after freezing weather, although they will tolerate light frost, so they’re something that needs to be eaten up soon. Since this is the end of the turnip season, they can be a little – lets say strong. Some might say outright rank, but in defense of the humble turnip, let me say right cooking makes all the difference.
From a 14th century manuscript: “Turnips, small turnips should be cooked in water without wine for the first boiling. The throw the water away and cook slowly in water and wine, and chestnuts therin, or, if one has no chestnuts, sage.”
The secret to good turnips is to throw the first boiling water away. All the rankness goes away with it. Finishing them up in wine is very nice. A little vinegar and sugar added to water can substitute for the wine. I’d cook the chestnuts first, either boiling them or roasting them, and then add them to the wine. But considering the lack of local chestnut trees and the price of imported one, sage – just a little fresh – is also very good. Let the wine/water cook down to make a nice sauce.
How much wine? How much water? It depends on how much turnips/chestnuts. The old recipes don’t give amounts, but they assume that you know how to cook things already. As someone who almost never follows modern recipes, this has always suited me just fine.
Now turnips (which also go well with stewed ducks) got me thinking about skirrets and sops and pompion and pottages and bag puddings and black puddings….but I’ve got to go get some cheate bread out of the oven, so it will all have to wait until later.
KMWall, Colonial Foodways Manager