October is “American Archives Month” and in honor of that I wanted to share with all of you one of my favorite pieces from the archival collections at the Museum of Early Trades & Crafts (METC). The archival holdings at the METC are wide ranging in date from the 16th to the 20th century. The items include land deeds, receipts, daybooks, letters and rare books. The piece I wanted to share with all of you is from the Ralston-Nesbitt Collection and is a recipe for “Fresh Calfs Feet Stock” and “Calfs Feet Jelly Cake.” Stocks or broths made from boiled meats were used to flavor other dishes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They were also commonly prescribed as a remedy for those who felt ill or were sickly; it was believed the broth would help to build up their strength. Jellies were a popular form of preserving food. While stock has a short shelf life, a jelly cake (preserved stock) can be stored for the season. What follows is the recipe for “Fresh Calfs Feet Stock” and “Calfs Feet Jelly Cake,” all the original misspellings, including calfs rather than calves, have been left as they appear in the document:
Fresh Calfs feet Stock
Scald take off the hair and wash very clean four feet put them into a sauce pan with 2 quarts water and when it comes to a boil let them simmer for 6 or 7 hours take out the feet and strain the liquor into a deep dish. The following day take the fat carefully from the top and give it a nother boil which reduce it to about a quart of stiff stock jelly.
Calfs feet Jelly cake
Scald take of the hair and clean 2 dozen calfs feet put them over the fire in cold water allowing the proportion of 2 quarts to 4 feet boil them slowly for 8 or 9 hours take out the bones and strain the liquer throu a sieve. The following day remove carefully every particle of fat and the sediment at the bottom then put the jelly into a nicely clean brass kettle let it boil over a slow fire till it becomes very thick and appear almost black in the kettle then put a little of it on a shallow plate to dry and when cold turn it the next day lay it upon tins or sheets of paper and place them a little distance from the fire that it may dry gradually when clear and hard put it up in paper bags six ounces of this jelly dissolved in 3 pints of water and boild to a point is sufficient to make what will fill 2 middling sised moulds ox feet may be substituted for calf feet the jelly made from them is equally good but not so dellicate in color.
Two items to note when reading through the recipe: first, the term “liquor” was originally used to indicate both distilled spirits and any liquid derived from cooked meats and vegetables. Second, while we might today would see several misspellings in this document the first American dictionary was not written until the early 1800s and was not widely available until the mid-1800s; as a result spelling was not standardized.