Saturday, November 11, 2017

To Make Pears of Meat

From The Good Housewife's JEWEL, Thomas Dawson, England, 1597:

Take a piece of a leg of mutton of veal raw, being mixed with a little sheep's suet, and half a manchet grated fine, taking four raw egg yolks and al. Then take a little thyme, and parsley chopped small, a few gooseberries or barberries, or green grapes being whole. Put all these together, being seasoned with salt, saffron and cloves, beaten and wrought altogether. Then make rolls or balls like to a pear, and when you have so done, talk the stalk of the sage, and put it into the ends of your pears or balls. Then take the fresh broth of beef, mutton, or veal, being put in to an earthen pot, putting the pears or balls in the same broth with salt, cloves, mace, and saffron. When you be ready to serve him, put two or three yolks of eggs into the broth. Let them boil no more.

My Redaction:

3.5 lbs lamb leg
2 cup freshly crumbed bread
7 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbs fresh thyme, minced

About 20 stalks of sage
2 eggs beaten
10 big green grapes, chopped small
1 qt beef broth

2 generous pinches saffron
1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered clove

Trim large solid fat and connective tissue from the lamb, cut into cubes and process on medium setting of a meat grinder. Hand mix the lamb with the breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, eggs, grapes, salt, one pinch saffron, and 1/2 tsp cloves. Form balls of about 2.5", or .25 lbs, or of a size that you'll make about 18 of them. Pinch each ball at the top and flatten a bit at the bottom so that they are pear shaped. Stick a short stalk of sage into the top of each pear.

Bring beef broth to boil in a pot, with remaining cloves, nutmeg, and a pinch of saffron. Salt the broth if it is unsalted. Place batches of pears carefully into the broth with a spoon and cooked covered for 5-6 minutes, or until browned and holding together when lightly pressed. If the broth does not come all the way up the pears, you can splash some of the boiling broth onto the upper parts of the pears to help them brown better.

Remove pears to a tray and serve immediately.


Dawson's original title for this recipe is the somewhat misleading "To make pears to be boiled in meat", but they are actually a pleasing subtlety or illusion food. I left a leaf of sage on each stalk, which I find visually appealing, but the thinner leafy parts of the stalk are a little more prone to wilting in the steam of the broth, so you might achieve a better effect with a thicker part of the stalk.

Green grapes have a nice mild flavor here, but are a bit watery to be ideal; I did not have any gooseberries or barberries when making this, but if you have some kind of small tart berry it would likely be better. For a non-period version cranberries would be a good flavor contrast.

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