This is the final article in February of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on February 17, 1907, and is a discussion on Lenten fare such as mushrooms.
Personally I love mushrooms but I am hesitant towards Dandelions.
Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.
Savory and Nourishing Lenten Fare
IT IS hardly thirty years since I wrote, prefatory to a chapter on mushrooms:
“Not being ambitious of martyrdom, even in the cause of gastronomical enterprise, I never eat native mushrooms; but I learned, years ago, in hillside rambles, how to distinguish the real from the spurious.”
All the mushrooms sold in our markets at that and anterior dates were gathered in such rambles. August and September were harvest months. Then, parties of young folk, baskets in hand, repaired to sunny uplands early in the summer day before the freshness of the dew was dried by the climbing sun. The younger the mushroom the more wholesome it was, provided it were fairly above-ground and fully formed. The foraging party was led and officered by one learned in the characteristics that set aside the edible fungi from his prettier and poisonous brother.
THE TIME-HONORED TESTS
“Would you mistake a peach for a potato?” demanded one to whom I lamented my ignorance and consequent dread of mushrooms. All the same, when we got our spoils home, we applied to them all the tests known to our grandmothers and to the generation following. We inspected the root for signs of the poison “cup”; the stem for trace of the ominous “hood”; we stirred the mushrooms with a silver spoon while cooking them, and dropped a silver-skinned onion into the pot. And, after the savory mess was pronounced “Not guilty,” the most wary of us declined to eat of it, “for fear all signs might have failed.”
It is not ten years since the younger member of our family went wild over a new mushroom manual just published. Quoting to the bewildered cook the lament, and failing to convert her into the belief that “whole hundredweights of rich, wholesome diet was rotting under the trees, and that a plenteous harvest of delicious feasting annually goes begging in our woods and fields,” the explorers brought home to me “specimens” they were sure were rich and wholesome, or would be when properly cooked. One dark-red fungus complied with every requisition of the “beefsteak mushroom.” lauded by the fascinating mushroom author.
TRIED IT ON THE DOG
“It cannot be poisonous, even if it is not a real steak,” argued the ringleader of the experiment party, “for it grew upon a stump, and the wrong kind never grow on wood.”
As a compromise between the elders who hesitated and the juniors who urged, it was finally decided to “try it on the dog” literally, and “Mops,” described by his small master as a “pure mongrel,” was chosen as the victim. The steak was cooked, also a fine specimen of the “oyster mushroom,” which grew on a tree trunk, and poor Mops swallowed a few inches of each. This was at breakfast time, and as he was alive and jumping at 1 o’clock, the boys ate the rest of the “rich, wholesome diet” for luncheon. It was a successful experiment, as all agreed. That is, neither dog nor boy was the worse for it. If the cook and I noted, with silent satisfaction, that beefsteaks and oysters were left to grow and perish on the logs for the rest of the season, we refrained from raillery.
A NEW ERA
The facile French tongue has a way of disposing of a dead and introducing a live era in a single phrase—“Nous avons change tout cela!”
The product of latter-day mushroom culture is absolutely safe. The edible springs from “spawn” harvested by the intelligent horticulturist. He has greenhouses, hotbeds and cellars built expressly for the work. His supply is not dependent upon summer suns and September dews. By judicious management, he has a goodly crop on hand to meet the epicure’s demand for tempting variation of Lenten fare as the penitential weeks tax the housewife’s resources.
Nor need the demand be confined to the rich and epicurean. Mushrooms are the Lenten substitute for meat. In certain portions of the city they may be bought for 50 cents per pound, while in fashionable quarters they bring 95. Study your markets. It is well known, for example, that in New York the same quality of meat, poultry and vegetables may be bought from one-quarter to one-third cheaper in the large markets near the wharves than in the upper districts where wealth and fashion dwell. The same difference is to be found in all large cities. Buy mushrooms in the lower markets. Buy them, too, from responsible dealers who will not impose those that are stale to rottenness upon you for fresh, or raise them yourself if you have a good cellar space.
They are a native and not a patrician “greens.” In the country they are highly and justly esteemed as wholesome, and the eaters who relish turnip tops the more for the bitter “tang” which sets nicer tastes against them reckon dandelions as suave by comparison.
They, too, have their bitter stage. It does not begin until the flower forms. The greens should be gathered in advance of the appearance of the “harmless gold.”
Mushroom and Dandelion Recipes
Wash and strip off the skins. If large, cut each in half; if small, leave them whole. Lay upon a buttered broiler, and cook over a clear fire, turning at the end of three minutes, to broil the other side. Have arranged on a hot-water dish rounds of thin bread, delicately toasted. Butter, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; lay a mushroom on each and serve.
Wash and peel, cutting off the stems. Lay all in a platter and cover with melted butter, with which you have mixed the juice of half a lemon.
Leave the mushrooms in this for fifteen minutes before transferring them to a buttered broiler. Brown lightly on both sides. Lay upon buttered toast (cut very thin), cover, and keep hot while you broil the stems, and when they are done garnish the dish with them.
Peel and cut off the stems. Put a layer of the mushrooms in the bottom of a well buttered bakedish, the gills downward. Pour upon them a few spoonfuls of melted butter, mixed with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper. Next, put in a layer of the stems and treat in the same way. Cover with mushrooms and set in a brisk oven, fit on a close top and bake, covered, for ten minutes: remove the top, pour hot butter over the mushrooms; leave in the oven for ten minutes more and serve.
Peel, scraping the stems, without cutting them off. Turn into a saucepan, cover deep with hot water, slightly salted, and simmer for ten minutes. Meanwhile, heat in another vessel a cupful of milk, adding a tiny pinch of soda; rub a heaping tablespoonful of flour into a heaping tablespoonful of butter; stir in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring all the while. Drain the salted water from the mushrooms, season with pepper and add the hot, thickened milk. Set the saucepan in a pan of boiling water over the fire for five minutes and turn the contents into a heated dish.
Mushrooms and Lobster.
To two cupfuls of picked lobster meat allow half a pound of mushrooms. Peel, skin them, and cut into dice of uniform size. Heat two tablespoonfuls of butter in a saucepan, and stir into it one of flour. With a silver fork ??? and mix the lobster and mushrooms together, add to the hot “roux”; set over the fire and simmer for five minutes; take from the range, add half a cupful of cream, which has been scalded (with a bit of soda). Now return to the fire, setting the saucepan in an outer boiler of hot water. Simmer for three minutes more; stir in a glass of sherry and serve.
Mushrooms Stewed With Oysters.
Select twenty-five fine oysters; drain off the liquor and dry them between two towels. Put two tablespoonfuls of butter into a saucepan, and when it hisses add the oysters and stir until they “ruffle” and are smoking hot. In another vessel heat the oyster liquor; season with salt and pepper. Turn into this a cupful of milk heated and thickened with a tablespoonful of flour wet up with cold milk. Heat these together for three minutes. Have ready a cupful of mushrooms, peeled and cut small, stems and all. Turn these into the white sauce you have just made and simmer five minutes. Cook slowly and steadily, stirring often; season with salt, pepper and a tablespoonful of butter. Heat again, stir in the hot oysters, cook for one minute, and add the beaten yolks of two eggs. As soon as they are fairly mixed with the other ingredients turn out and serve.
If properly made, this is a delicious dish.
Pick the leaves from the stems, wash and drop into cold water. Boil as I have directed you to cook spinach—in the inner vessel of a double kettle—adding no water to the vegetable except what clings to the leaves. Fill the outer saucepan with boiling water and cook, covered until the greens are soft. Rub then through the vegetable press into a saucepan; beat into them a teaspoonful of sugar and one of lemon juice, salt and pepper, a tablespoonful of butter and one of cream. Don’t forget a pinch of soda in the cream. Beat light and smooth. bring to the final boil and serve.
Cook the leaves as directed in last recipe. While they are boiling make a good drawn butter with two cupfuls of milk, two tablespoonfuls of butter, one of flour, a little salt and pepper. Add the pinch of soda to the milk. Drain the dandelions, pressing out all the water; mince finely, stir into the sauce, cook for a minute after the boil is reached, and, just before serving, beat in slowly a well-whipped egg. Take immediately from the fire and pour into a deep, covered dish.
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