To ragoo Cucumbers

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In 19th century and earlier cook books, it is not unusual to see cooked dishes of cucumber as well as cold. This recipe comes from a late 18th century cook book “The Universal Cook”[1]

The flavor of this dish is unusual to modern tastes, so my first taste was “this is odd, good, but odd.” By the end of the meal, the opinion was a firm “I would definitely do this again.”

A few items of note here:

  • You may notice that the instructions are a bit vague, and the measurements more so. The farther back in time you go, the less detail you find in recipes. As the wise man once said “it’s more like guidelines.”
  • The original recipe just says to slice the cucumbers, no additional description. I chose to prepare them as I have seen in 19th century cookbooks. After making it, I realized that he probably did just slice them crosswise, and that’s why he drains them, because the center is mostly water. After considering it a while, I would continue to do it the way I did it this time.
  • The original recipe also does not mention peeling the cucumbers. But it’s hard to know if he really didn’t, or if this is one of those assumptions so prevalent in early recipes. For me the decision was easy, the peels are bitter, and not pleasant, so away they go.
  • Modern onions are a lot larger than their 18th and 19th century counterparts. This is why in my adaptation, it seems like I have decreased them. This is actually common for a lot of vegetables then vs. now.
  • The original recipe calls for “gravy” in the ingredients. Gravy at that time was just the liquid left after cooking meat, not the thickened sauce made from it. So typically, this would have been made with whatever broth was available at the moment. In our case, chicken stock or a good vegetable stock works just fine.
  • Blade mace is something that is uncommon today. High end spice dealers have it, but you’re very unlikely to find it in the grocery store. My links page has a couple sellers. Mace is an outer covering of the nutmeg. It has a similar, but much more “peppery” flavor. It was very common in early cooking. You can leave it out, but add black pepper if you do.
  • The original recipe calls for “Chyan.” I really don’t want to admit how long it took me to realize that was just an earlier spelling of Cayenne. The author of this particular book used it a lot.

Who knew you could brown cucumbers?

Browning the cucumbers

J. W. Francis Collingwood, The Universal Cook. R. Noble, 1797.

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