Monday, October 15, 2012

More on Fruitcake

After I made five loaves of an 1845 fruitcake recipe (see Sept 1, 2012), I ate one and stored away the rest.  My goal was to wrap them in cheesecloth and soak them with brandy to see what they were like after a few months.

And so I did.  A few layers of cheesecloth was all that was needed and any extra bits got put to the underside of the loaf to soak up extra brandy.

I wrapped the loaf,

Fruitcake Mummy!

poured enough brandy over it to soak the cloth, plus a little extra for the loaf,

Soggy Mummy.  Plate catches the drips.

encased it in plastic wrap (put all edges on the top of the loaf, to prevent leakage),

Set the loaf on a sheet of plastic, then wrap upward.

and put it into a plastic bag, labeled with the contents and the date.

Three loaves went into the bottom of the refrigerator and one went into the dark, cool cupboard to keep the container of mincemeat (August 15, 2012) company.  I was curious to see if the fruitcake with brandy really needed refrigeration to keep from getting moldy.

I wondered if the cheesecloth was really needed.  After all, plastic wrap is a modern invention -- would it be able to take over completely?  I don't think so, just from observing how the brandy quickly soaked the entire cheesecloth.  I suspect the cloth will keep the brandy distributed over the entire loaf, instead of just sitting at the bottom.

I also think it would be okay to use muslin instead of cheesecloth, or any other undyed, natural fiber cloth, as long as it was clean and had the sizing washed out of it.

After two months, I pulled the loaf out of the cupboard and gave it a try.
Looking good despite no refrigeration

While unwrapping the plastic, I looked it over carefully for any signs of mold or spoilage.  I noticed it was uniformly moist (not soggy) and smelled nice.  The brandy was barely noticeable.

The cheesecloth wrap looks and feels moist

The loaf itself was moist and smelled fresh and inviting.  The slightly scorched part on the bottom was still there (ugh!) but it wasn't dry at all.

I sliced it open in the middle and found it was moist all the way through.  The flavor was lovely -- I could taste the spices, the fruits (cranberries were a good choice) and nuts, and a very light brandy overtone.

The Verdict:  Success!  It was nice to have it out of my refrigerator and still be good later.  I like it better than the freshly-baked loaf since it was more moist.  The slightly scorched part didn't taste as strong although for my second piece, I sliced it off.

This is definitely worthwhile.  Most people complain about fruitcake, saying it is like a brick or filled with cheap, artificially-colored peels and dried fruits.  This one is fresh, flavorful, tender, moist, and most definitely has no artificial colors or additives.  Quite yummy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saumon Rosted

The title translated from the medieval English:   
"Roasted Salmon in Onion Wine Sauce"

Salmon was on sale the other day and I found a piece that looked very inviting.  Once I got it home, I knew I needed to find an historical recipe for it.  The most common recipe I found was a fruit and salmon tart -- it looked great but after the posts on mincemeat and  on fruitcake, I was surely tired of dishes with raisins, currants, dates, and figs.  I needed something different!

This recipe really sounded tasty:

6 salmon steaks for broiling
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
4 small onions, finely minced
1 Tbsp vinegar

Garnish: 6 foils of parsley, wet in vinegar

I had to guess at what a "foil of parsley" was!

This recipe came out of Fabulous Feasts, Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, by Madeleine Pelner Cosman, page 172.

Pub. 1976 by George Braziller, Inc.

1.  Broil salmon steaks, or as the fifteenth-century recipe suggests, "roast on a grid iron", about 5 minutes on each side.

2.  Slowly simmer wine with spices, onions, and vinegar, about 12 minutes.

3.  Pour the hot syrup over the salmon and serve.  Wet parsley foils in vinegar to garnish the salmon steak.

This looks pretty straightforward, yes?

I changed the order a little bit.  First I used a food processor to make short work of making the onions "finely minced".  In fact, they were so finely minced they looked like coarsely made mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes?  Or snow?

I was happy with this because I knew the sauce wasn't strained before being poured over the salmon and I really didn't want to taste somewhat-cooked onion chunks with my fish.

Then, while the oven's broiler was heating up, I assembled the sauce ingredients.

Stirred and warming up
I used a medium heat to get it to start simmering, then I dropped the heat down to low -- just enough to barely simmer and I kept watch over it, adjusting as necessary -- while I got the salmon ready to broil.

I think the recipe would consider this one steak

Five minutes on one side, three minutes on the other was sufficient to cook the salmon without drying it out.

When the sauce and salmon were both ready,

I combined and garnished them.

Voila'!  I think it is pretty

I used three "foils" on this one piece of salmon because I thought it looked nice.

The Verdict:  I liked the flavor just fine.  It was very subtle and moistened the salmon nicely.  The onion was not strong at all and blended in with the spices.  I would say the only thing that disappointed me was I expected more of a flavor "zing".  In fact, I ended up putting some salt on the whole thing, which is a big deal because I normally don't salt my food.  I think if I did this again, I would keep out the vinegar from the simmering stage and mix it in just before serving, to give the overall flavor some of that acidic "sparkle".

This actually used only a little of the "syrup" (and it really was somewhat syrupy in thickness), so when I use the leftovers, I will add some vinegar just after reheating it.  I think it might be good on roast chicken. 

So I will call this a "success" with only a slight reservation.

Silly things I learned today:  Now I know that smoke alarm in the dining room exists to tell me I'm broiling salmon.  And I thought it was just to let me know when I was cooking bacon.  I also learned that when I am cooking over a very hot oven, I should not wear a metal necklace.  It got hot quickly and felt like it was burning my neck!