Saturday, July 5, 2014

HFF #3: Today in History - Saturday Morning Spam

This challenge was serendipity.  Knowing I had a long weekend over the 4th of July, I thought that July 5 would be a good day for me to cook for the challenge. So I started googling historical events for July 5 and the very first site told me that on July 5, 1937, Hormel introduced Spam.  It couldn't get much better than that.

However, finding a Spam recipe was more difficult than I first anticipated.  For health reasons, we are a no gluten/grain, no processed sugar household.  And the recipe had to not make me gag when I thought about actually eating it.  (Ok, I am wimping out here, but when I say I am fascinated and horrified by 1950s recipes. Spam falls solidly on the side of "horrified")

This immediately ruled out recipes like Peachy Spam Dinner Loaf actually made this and my hat is off to them.They are a braver pair than I!

However, I found  pictures from a 1948 Spam cookbook on that included a recipe of something that met my criteria for the challenge:  Grilled Spam slices and stuffed eggs.

No processed, no gluten  -the only deal breaker was the white sauce (contains flour) or cream of mushroom (I'm allergic to mushrooms) soup they call for as a topping.  But substituting hollandaise sauce didn't feel like a deviation from the spirit of the recipe.

Shopping for Spam was an eye opening experience. Who knew there were so many kinds!

Jalapeno Spam, classic Spam, Spam lite, Low Sodium Spam...the mind boggles!

The amount of sodium in classic Spam was absolutely insane, especially since there were 6 servings in a can, so I went with low sodium.  Still more sodium than we eat in an entire day, but sacrifices must be made for the sake of historical research, eh?

Nutritional data for classic Spam

I must confess I cheated a bit on the stuffed eggs.  I bought pre-peeled, hard boiled eggs.  There are few things in cooking I dislike more than peeling hard boiled eggs (although I love eating them).  But, it was a "convenience food" and the 1950s were all about convenience foods, so it still seemed in keeping with the challenge.

The stuffed eggs part of the recipe was essentially a sort of bland deviled egg recipe and that went together easily enough.  Now that I know how easy deviled eggs are with pre-peeled eggs, I suspect there will be a lot more deviled eggs around our house.

I used Alton Brown's Hollandaise sauce which worked well.  (I used coconut sugar, since it was all we had in the house and it didn't seem to make a difference in the finished product)

Then it was time to actually open the can of Spam.  It certainly didn't win any points for appealing straight out of the can. in fact, it was rather disgusting looking.

Despite the recipe title being "Grilled Spam slices" the recipe said to broil the spam. I went with doing it in the skillet in hopes it would crisp up a bit.  Which it did nicely after about 7 minutes on each side. I also sliced it into sixths not fourths, which might have helped.

About two minutes after I put the Spam on, Jay said:  "what is that smell?  Is something burning?"  Spam cooking does not have a terribly enticing smell.  It's a little like burning rubber.  Definitely not tantalizing to the taste buds.

However, the end product was more edible than I expected , if ridiculous in the amount of fat and sodium.

The Challenge: #3 Today in History
The Recipe: Grilled Spam Slices with Stuffed Eggs
The Date/Region: 1948 
Total time: About an hour of solid work
Total cost: $2.69 for a can of Spam and $5 or so for the pre-hardboiled eggs
How successful was it?   It's not something I would make again, but it didn't have to force myself to eat it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #2, Take 2: Fig sauce

My failure at tomato mustard bothered me. And I had 2 pounds of fresh figs that I had bought at the bargain price of $2.99 for the lot at our Asian market this weekend.  The plan was to make goat cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped figs for a get together with friends last weekend, but I had made blueberry cobbler instead.

So it seemed to me I should take a second shot at Challenge #2.  Searching I found a recipe for fig sauce from the 1919 International Jewish Cookbook.

Stew figs slowly for two hours until soft; sweeten with loaf sugar, about two tablespoons to a pound of fruit.  Add a glass pf port or other wine and a little lemon juice.  Serve when cold.

It seemed easy enough and I had the ingredients on hand, so without further ado, I diced the figs and got them on the stove. Two hours seemed a much more reasonable amount of time to cook than the thirty minutes in the tomato mustard recipe, plus the fig pieces were significantly smaller to begin with, so they cooked down faster.

After thirty minutes, the figs were already well on their way to breaking down.

Trying to decide what to put the fig sauce over was a bit of a challenge, because after my last physical, I am gluten-free.  But since, technically speaking, the challenge entry was the sauce, I decided on a paleo shortcake recipe from Confessions of an Overworked Mom.  Jay was skeptical because neither of us are a fan of commercial gluten free bread, but I decided to give it a try anyway on the reasoning that shortcake is supposed to be a bit crumbly to begin with.

The dough seemed a little off to me..  both a bit moist and a bit crumbly.

But I got eight reasonably round shortcakes made and popped them in the oven.

At that point, the stewing figs were smelling pretty heavenly.  I ended up adding half the sugar to the raw figs. realized my mistake and decided to add the rest in at the end, as per the recipe.  But when I make this recipe again, I think I will keep my precedent -stewing with a little sugar was mighty tasty.  I added the port wine and the remaining sugar and it was so delicious at that point, I forgot the lemon juice.

The fig sauce might not look terribly appealing but boy was it delicious!

The shortcakes came out of the oven looking  suitably shortcake-y and I regretted not being able to make some whipped cream as a topping.

Still, even without the whipped cream, Jay approved whole-heartedly.  The shortcake absorbed the sauce deliciously and the almond flour made for a rich taste, especially combined with the figs and port.

I am going to call the fig sauce an unqualified success and put the recipe in my standard repertoire.

The Challenge: #2 Soups, Sauces and Gravies
The Recipe: Fig Sauce from International Jewish Cookbook
The Date/Region: 1919   
Total time: 3.5 hours largely unattended
Total cost: $2.99 for fresh figs.  Everything else was on hand
How successful was it?  Totally.  It was delicious!