Diverse Salads Boiled. (so far, pretty easy, right)
Parboil spinach (cook until done. If using fresh, pick out anything buggy, too limp or slimy. Pull off the tough stems. Wash in several changes of water. Put the spinach in the water, swish it around and lift it out so that the dirt remains behind in the water. If you find a bug, there’s probably another, so add a little salt to the water and let it sit for a minute. I’d give the package stuff from the store another rinse; I don’t care how many times they say they wash it. Frozen? They give you directions…), and chop it fine, with the edges of two hard trenchers upon a board, or the backs of two chopping knives: (chop it fine – it you are using frozen, just buy the chopped…. A trencher is a dish, usually made of wood, hence the ‘treen ware’, sometimes made of pewter or silver, in earlier times (earlier the 1627) sometimes made of bread….OK, that’s a whole ‘nuther post, chopping knives are, I hope, self evident) then set it upon a chafing-dish of coals with butter and vinegar. (And you thought chafing-dishes were a throwback to the 1950’s? Surprise – they’re showing up in all the fashionable 17th kitchens, too. There was a 17th century one found in a downtown Plymouth archeological dig, and we have a replica in the 1627 English Village. Lacking a chafing-dish put the spinach in a heavy bottomed pot and place it over low heat on your stove.) . Season it with cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and a few parboiled currants. (This particular combination of spice is a little reminiscent of modern pumpkin or apple pie. Ginger was considered warming and good for digestions – actually, it is! Vegetables were thought to be a little troublesome to digest, so you’d season accordingly. Sugar was also considered somewhat warming and good for the digestion. Keep in mind that most people were between 1 and 2 pounds of sugar a year. Most of us now polish that much off in less than a week! Currants are dried currants, which are little raisins, so feel free to use raisins here. Modern dried fruit isn’t as dry as it used to be, thanks to plastics and the push to eat them as hand-fruit, so no parboiling necessary.) Then cut hard (boiled) eggs into quarters to garnish it withal, and serve it upon sippets. (Sippets are slices of bread that have been toasted or fried. Use something that won’t melt at first contact to the food, like a sliced, toasted baguette or a ciabatto . Think brushetta!) So may you serve borage, bugloss, endive, chicory, cauliflower, sorrel, marigold leaves (Calendula, or pot marigolds, not French marigolds; if you don’t know which you have DON’T EAT THEM), watercress, leeks boiled, onions, Sparragus (asparagus), Rocket (our old friend arugula), alexanders ( I can’t find these anywhere- if you have some, would you share? Call me. Parboil them, and season them all alike: whether it be with oil and vinegar, or butter and vinegar, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and butter: Eggs are necessary, or at least good for all boiled salads.” (That would be hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered and placed on top)
From John Murrell’s A Newe Booke of Cookerie, London: 1615, p. 34.
So, there you have it. You got this far. In simplest terms, boiled salads are boiled veggies seasoned with ginger, cinnamon and a little sugar, dressed with either oil and vinegar or melted butter and vinegar, served over toasted bread and topped with hard boiled eggs cut into quarters.
Colonial Foodways Culinarian