First published in 1796 by Hudson & Goodwin, American Cookery is widely recognized as the first cookbook written by an American for American kitchens, and it is an important document in culinary history.It is a facsimile edition where the left page is in modern typeset and the right page is a scan of a copy in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS). No redactions or interpretations of the recipes are included; the book is a faithful reproduction of the old version. You can read more about it here.
When I found this book for sale, I was not certain at all I should buy it. I had the strong feeling that I had read it already and didn't want to purchase a second copy. But it was beautifully done with a red cloth cover and gold foil stamping, so I decided it was worth it.
As it turned out, I had read it but didn't own a print edition. I had found a digital copy on my iPad.
The section that caught my attention the most was on custards. There were several recipes offered, the first of which was to be cooked on the stove (not baked) and did not contain eggs. I thought that was different enough that it might be worth a try. When I found the digital copy, I was amused to see that I had bookmarked the page on custards already.
|Digital page screen shot|
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 bottle Moscato sweet wine
ground cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
|More added later; see below.|
Once the cream was too hot for me to keep my finger dipped in it, I started adding the wine. It went in a few splashes at a time, stirring well with each addition. The pan was still over the very low fire.
I watched it carefully for signs of curdling and nothing happened after 1/2 of a bottle. At that point I felt the mixture was more wine than cream and that curdling wasn't going to occur. I let it sit over the heat a while longer, to the point where bubbles were forming, and then I mixed in about 1/4 teaspoon each (maybe a little less) of the cinnamon and nutmeg. At this point I turned off the heat under the saucepan.
Nope, it didn't curdle and didn't even thicken. What happened? What can I do to save it?
|Nope. Not curdled.|
I then set up a water bath (bain marie) with two nesting casserole dishes and put very hot water into the outer dish. The custard mixture went into the inner dish.
|Just before the water was added.|
Well, the idea of the eggless, no-bake custard didn't work out so that was a failure.
The baked custard with eggs, however, turned out to be quite tasty! The custard itself was very light and delicate. There was a mixture of subtle flavors: slightly spicy, somewhat acidic (it was the wine but it made us think of lemon). The texture appeared grainy but I couldn't detect it by taste and feel. It was creamy but not rich and just very lightly sweet.
One taste tester noted that it was an excellent dessert after a long and hot day. It was cool, refreshing, "mellow", and light.
I served it topped with a few fresh blackberries and two small leaves of mint. That all went well with the custard.
|Pretty good for a failure!|
Ah ha! Now I think I should have used light cream or half-and-half so the wine can curdle it. Perhaps I can try it again.
By the way, you can acquire copies of many of the AAS's cookbooks from their publisher's webpage. Some are in print, some are digital downloads, including a copy of Directions for Cooking by Troops, in Camp and Hospital by Florence Nightingale, which I find intriguing.