Friday, August 31, 2012

Full of Hodge-Podge bastardy

 There is a dish known to many people in Nova Scotia, Canada (and apparently in parts of New England) but it might not be what some people expect when they hear the name "Hodge Podge". A fairly good representative recipe can be found on allrecipes.

But... what about finding a recipe for creamed vegetables under the name Hodge Podge that is so familiar and loved by so many generations of Nova Scotia families? A historic dish I could only find references going back to the 1950's talking about old Lunenburg, NS... of course modern descriptions of the dish abound most commonly described as a combination of young, or baby, vegetables cooked in cream.

 My big question is how and when did Creamed Vegetables get to be known as Hodge Podge in some parts of Canada and the U.S.? and... What exactly is Hodge Podge?

Hodge Podge by another name...

Hodge Podge was not always known by that name alone and could be found under other titles for the same dish. The "General English Dictionary", from 1671 describes Hodge-podge as "Hotch-pot, or Hachee, or flesh cut to pieces, and sodden together with Herbs". A similar description of Hodge-Podge found in the "universal etymological English dictionary" carries the definition as being "a Dish of Meat cut to Peices, and stewed with several Sorts of Things together" from the 17th century through into the 18th century.

Other names include: hogepotte, hodgpotch, hutspot, Hot Pot, Hoteh pot (though I only found one example of the last)

It wasn't until the 18th century where I would find some more generalized descriptions of the dish

A General Dictionary of the English Language (publications from mid to late 18th century) defines the dish as being "a medley of ingredients boiled together" and much later in 1839, the new dictionary of the English language also defines it as being "a mixture of various things shaken together in the same pot".

Early Hodge Podge (the medieval years)

Straight off, I found two dishes for a Goose hogepotte, one from the 15th century (two 15th century cook books): "A goos in hogepotte.—Take a Goos, & make hure clene, & hacke hyre to gobettys, & put yn a potte, & Water to, & sethe to-gederys; þan take Pepir & Brennyd brede, or Blode y-boylyd, & grynd y-fere Gyngere & Galyngale & Comyn, & temper vppe with Ale, & putte it þer-to; & mynce Oynonys, & frye hem in freysshe grece, & do þer-to a porcyon of Wyne."

A goose in hodgepotte. __Take a Goose and make her clean, and chop her into pieces, and put in a pot (with) water and cook. (note: sethe can be any kind of cooking in liquid, this does not necessarily mean to boil. To-gederys = together); Then take pepper and brown bread, or boiled blood and grind it well with ginger and galingale and cumin and temper it up with ale and put into it (thereto); and mince onions and fry them in fresh grease and do thereto a portion of wine.

The 14th century version was found in Form of Cury where the instructions are similar. The goose is chopped and cooked in a liquid of half wine and half water (not an uncommon cooking practice through the middle ages) and cooked with a good quantity of onions and herbs. This is then thickened with blood and bread and seasoned with strong spices.

The basic description, it seams, for this, is a thickened soup of meat, onions and spices (which may also include herbs).

Hodge Podge, a Dish of it's own

By the last decade of the 16th century, Hodgepodge is listed as it's own dish in A.W.'s "A Book of Cookrye" as a dish consisting of well boiled mutton or beef, onions, marigolds and parsley which is then thickened with strained bread and seasoned with pepper and vinegar. Though the meat and the rest is cooked separately (though in the meat's broth), they are served together.

Translations from the 1604 Ouverture de Cuisine also lists a few dishes of hodgepodge, all of which have either veal, venison or mutton stewed or boiled in some sort of liquid with other ingredients.

The 1651 Jane Parker manuscript also includes a recipe for hodge podge
"Take the thin part of the brisket of  beefe cut it in square peces the breadth of an hande put it into a pott with water and a good deale of parsley and a litell time, winter savory, a good many of oynions slices, turnips, parsnips, carrots, pared and put in whole, let them a boyling bedtimes in the morning, boyle them till the meate and roots be all to peices, and in the boyling put in a litell peper and salte, then serve it on sippits."

This last on certainly appears to be an evolution of the simpler English Hodge Podge into what many of us familiar with the meat based dish would recognise.

From this point on, it seems the two most popular main ingredients are either mutton or beef which is even given mention in the first volume of Don Quixote (from an English translation/publication) "Three fourths of his income were scarce sufficient to afford a dish of hodge-podge, in which the mutton bore no proportion to the beef, for dinner"

An 18th century Hodge Podge

I found a lot of recipes for Hodge Podge in 18th century publications, lots!
Hannah Glasse, 1784, gives a recipe out for one that has beef, veal and mutton all in the same dish along with barley, onion, sweet herbs, celery, spices, turnips, a carrot and lettuce (the spices, sweet herbs and onion being later removed). Her recipes also suggests peas being good when in season.
She also provides a recipe that just has mutton, as well as onions, celery, turnips, a carrot, and savoys/small cabbage which is later served with toasted sippits... again, not entirely different from the above 1651 recipe, while her recipe for just veal is very similar to the veal recipe provided by Woolams (below).

William Verral, in the 1759 publication "A complete system of cookery" also suggests a similar dish of brisket beef, though somewhat more refined. While it is made with onions, carrots, turnips, leeks and celery as well as parsley, they are there to season the broth which is thickened with a roux. This soup is meant to be served with savoys or nicely chopped carrots or turnips and "sprinkled genteely" with a little parsley.

John Woollams, in a 1792 publication, even includes a recipe for a mutton based hodge-podge where the stew is jugged rather than being a soup. In this case, the ingredients, mutton steaks with some lettuce, turnips, carrots, two cucumbers quartered, four or five onions, and a little pepper and salt, are placed in a pitcher which is set in a pan of water and cooked.  and yes, he does also have a recipe on how to hodge-podge a hare which is also jugged!
These may be more unusual in regards to hodge podge, however the same author does provide one more traditionally set as the other above in instruction with mostly only a slight variation on ingredients where his includes: veal cut in small pieces, a roux thickener, a pint of green pease, a fine whole lettuce clean washed, two or three blades of mace, a little whole pepper tied in a muflin rag, a small bundle of sweet herbs, a small onion stuck with a sew cloves, a and and a little salt. The spice, onion and herbs are then removed. Peas can be substituted with cucumber flesh. Also included are celery and lettuce or savoys.

Hodge Podge reaches the Victorian era

Come the Victorian era, hodge podge seems to still be going strong, and for the most part, still familiar.

Charles Elmé Francatelli, in the 1846 publication of "The Modern Cook" has a Hodge-Podge with a mutton broth base, marrowfat or prussian-blue peas and parsley and spinach purée. Certainly different but still with the familiar mutton base. However, from around the same time in the American cookbook, (1845) "The Housekeepers' Assistant", suggest one can use either brisket of beef, mutton steaks, whole pigeon, quartered rabbits, veal or poultry. This is then boiled with the addition of thick sausages in a thin broth (or water) with some onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips, celery, a faggot of parsley, green shallots, one clove of garlic, spices, a laurel leaf, thyme and a little sweet basil. To serve, the meat and roots are mixed together with gravy from the juices.

It actually sounds like it would work well in today's modern household, though this book also brings to light a lesser known hodge podge... the salad. This was the first non-meat hodge podge that I could find and variations seems to show up here and there through the 19th century.
This is the salad style hodge podge:
"Tomato Hodge-Podge
2qts. of green tomatoes, 2 qts. of green peppers, 2 qts. of onions, 1 cup salt, 1 pint of mustard-seed
Cut all up fine, mix all well together, cut like mince-meat, then have a nice jar, and cover two inches thick, then strew salt and mustart-seed, then mince until through, set it away, and let it stand until it works a trifle, then put one quart of the best of vinegar over. It is excellent with meats."

another example of a hodge podge listed under salads can be found in "Jennie June's American Cookery Book", 1870, under Hotch Potch:
"Green tomatoes, cabbage, and cucumbers, one pint of each, half-a-pint of onions; chop all very fine, salt well, let them stand one night, after which strain through a sieve, and add pepper, horseradish, white mustard seed, and half pint sugar; mic well, lightly, fill your jar, and cover with good vinegar."
Under the exact same title, she has another Hotch Potch listed that is a soup of mutton, pulped peas, carrots, turnips, onion, celery, salt and pepper.

The mid to late 1800 continued to serve up dishes of mutton, lamb and beef style hodge podges, some thickened with peas, some made with gravy, some with particular vegetables while others suggest any would do depending on season. The number of recipes growing too numerous to detail here.

Where I could not find Hodge Podge

I found it just as interesting, or possibly more-so, is where I did not find recipes for Hodge Podge, of any sort. While I don't have a massive collection of Canadian cook books, I do own a few and some of them specifically from the maritime region. I did not find any in my Canadian recipe pamphlets which range from 1900 and up, nor did I find any in these books: "Home Cook Book" (1877), "The Modern Cook Book for New Brunswick" (1920), 100 recipes from Domestic Science School Halifax, NS (facsimile) (1906), Musquodoboit "Favourite Recipe Cook Book" (1952), Purity Cookbook (1967), Home Economics Food Manual, Saint John, NB (1961), Mrs. Flynn's CookBook (PEI, reprint, 1930's) or the Dominion Cook Book (1899)

This is a curious thing for a dish that has been known in maritime families for generations, particularly in Nova Scotia. One guess is that the dish was just too simple to write down, however many simple dishes are indeed recorded.

I did decide to branch out a little and see what the 20th century had to offer... outside of Canada that is

So, I thought, why not venture into one of my English cook books to see what was going on back in England.

Into the 20th century!

Looking through my Daily Mail Cookery Book (1927), it seemed all I could find was a Lancashire Hot Pot and a Hot-pot of Cabbage. The bad news is that Lancashire Hot Pots are a slight venture away from the earlier Hodge Podge where the Hot Pot is more structured where the food is constructed in layers in a casserole. Both the Lancashire and the Cabbage Hot Pots were like this, finishing in sliced potatoes. This does not seem to be the case with the average North American Hodge Podge.

This is not to say that all British Hodge Podge dishes turned into Hot Pots, though some sources could have led me to believe they were the same, of course, in some instances, they are. From "The illustrated London news" in 1953, Hodge Podge, or Hot Pot, was described as thus "there's no more agreement on the name than on the ingredients. But countrymen, from Sussex to Lancashire, agree that no dish is tastier, or stays a man better. Oysters are sometimes included in Lancashire Hot Pot." It does seem, however, that today most but not all dishes that use the name "hot pot" are more casserole than soup... again though, there always seem to be exceptions. In the 1952 "Concise Encyclopaedia of Gastronomy", a Hodge-Podge is described as being a stew of meat, usually mutton, and vegetables, chiefly favoured in the North of England, where it takes the place of, and resembles, Irish Stew."

The 1933 British book "Lady Hindlip's Cookery Book" has a recipe for Hodge Podge of Partridge which is, again, the typical thickened meat and vegetable soup. Of course, notice it still used the term "hodge podge" Also heading back to the continent, a 1925 issue of "American Cookery" includes another hodge podge that should have at least four different types of meat (they list lamb, beef, smoked ham and chicken as an example) along with an assortment of green vegetables. A 1930 issue of "The Homestead" shares a hodge podge of stewing beef and vegetables, all cut very small, not unlike a common beef soup. Of course, now I'm wondering if it is nothing more than a simple meat and vegetable soup before I come across this recipe published in 1952 in "The special diet cook book": "This is one of those rainy day, or lazy Sunday, dishes. Cooking time is over 6 hours, but if you expect to be around the house anyhow, why not try it?"...."1 lb lean beef, 1 lb lean mutton, 1 lb veal, 1 ounce barley, 2 parsnips, 3 leaves lettuce, 1 large carrot, salt and pepper"
That is 3 pounds of meat with very little for vegetables! Of course it was in a special diet book which leads me to realize that I have been rather unaware of what people during the 50's considered diet food.

Creamed Vegetable style Hodge Podge... At last....

Well, not quite, I had a near impossible time trying to find an earlier source but I did stumble though many recipes for creamed vegetables on my search for the same sorts of recipes but under the name "Hodge Podge" as it is now known by in Nova Scotia.

This recipe from an old Metropolitan Cook Book, sadly undated (probably early to mid 20th century) has a wonderful recipe
Creamed Vegetables
for freshly cooked vegetables follow the directions given above (chop vegetable, boil, drain and return to stove, add butter and shake pan to make sure the vegetables are well coated. If additional salt is needed, add it and a dash of pepper) add a dusting of flour, pour in milk to cover partly. Allow to come to a boil. 

There is also further instructions on how to use a thin white sauce to make the same dish but with leftover vegetables, allowing 1/2 cup of sauce to each cup of vegetables.

This is, in every essence, a Nova Scotian style Hodge Podge.

This is basically what is described in the 1950 publication "Folklore of Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia" as a "vegetable chowder with cream and butter, unthickened" which is a "delicious summer dish made with new vegetables and no meat." It also quite nicely fits in with many modern recipes given for the dish.

But is it all Nova Scotian? I did manage to dig up a dish for Hodge Podge in "Our Michigan: ethnic tales & recipes" (1979) for a remarkably familiar sounding dish where carrots, onions and potatoes are boiled (though separately) and then are drained and combined with pepper and salt are added along with a good sized piece of butter and then they are stewed together with sweet milk.

Interestingly, in 1972, "Yankee magazine's favorite New England recipes" has a more traditional recipe for Hodge Podge with mutton and vegetables but with some newer additions such as tomato ketchup. Apparently the old style of hodge podge was not quite ready to leave us.

So, did I solve the mystery?
Not really, but it was fun exploring the origins of Hodge Podge

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