Celery Sauce23.10.15

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
lemon juice

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.

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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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