A Victorian-era Celery Sauce for pasta, poultry, etc.
Source: Mrs. Beeton’s Dictionary of every-day cookery, 1865
Ingredients (transposed to modern times):
1 head of celery
1/2 cup of white (chicken) stock
2 blades of mace
1 small bunch of savoury herbs
thickening of butter and flour or arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
Mode: Boil the celery in salt and water until tender and cut it into pieces 2 inches long. Put the stock into a stewpan with the mace and herbs and let it simmer for hour to extract their flavour. [Modern edit: Puree celery in blender] Then strain the liquor add the celery and a thickening of butter kneaded with flour or what is still better with arrowroot. Just before serving put in the cream boil it up and squeeze in a little lemon juice. If necessary add a seasoning of salt and white pepper [Modern edit: Yes, it was necessary to fit the palette!]
Time: 25 minutes to boil the celery
Average cost Is 3d Sufficient this quantity for a boiled turkey Note This sauce may be made brown by using gravy instead of white stock and flavouring it with mushroom ketchup [Modern edit: eeh?] or Harvey’s sauce
Modern recap: Very tasty! We cooked & served it with a subtle ravioli, and a side of fresh, quartered beefsteak tomatoes salted lightly with fleur de sel. The sauce was excellent atop both the ravioli and tomatoes.
Back in the day, as per the recipe, the cost for cooking this sauce (3 pence) would have required the equivalent of about an hour of work for a farmhand, or 20 minutes of work for an artisan. I wonder about the cost of a spice like nutmeg given that it was surely imported to Europe and must have been a precious commodity.
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