This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
She is indeed almost too transcendent; a delight, if not sinful, yet so like to sinning that really a tender-conscienced person would do well to pause; too ravishing for mortal taste, she woundeth, and excoriateth the lips that approach her; like lovers' kisses, she biteth; she is a pleasure bordering on pain, from the fierceness and insanity of her relish; but she stoppeth at the palate; she meddleth not with the appetite, and the coarsest hunger might barter her complacently for a mutton-chop. Pig - let me speak his praise - is no less provocative of the appetite - than he is satisfactory to the criticalness of the censorious palate. Behold him while he is doing! it seemeth rather a refreshing warmth than a scorching heat that he is so passive to. How equably he twirleth round the string! Now he is just done. To see the extreme sensibility of that tender age, he hath wept out his pretty eyes; radiant jellies, shooting stars! Then see him in the dish, his second cradle, how meek he lieth! The strong man may fatten on him, and weakling refuseth not his mild juices. So much for the sucking-pig; then his sauce is to be considered. Decidedly a few bread-crumbs done up with his liver and brains, and a dash of mild sage.
But banish, dear Mrs. Cook, I beseech you, the whole Onion tribe! Barbecue your whole hogs to your palate, if you will; steep them in shalots; stuff them out with plantations of the rank, and guilty garlic; you cannot poison them, or make them stronger than they are; but consider he (the childish porker) is a weakling - a flower!"
In classic Roman times the Emperor Claudius entered the Senate one day, and called out, "Conscript Fathers! is it possible to live without pickled pork in slices?' 'And the venerable Fathers replied straightway, "Oh, Sire, it is better to die than to have to live without salt pork."A leg of pork. when skinned, and roasted, is called by many persons mock goose. Some cooks, when pork is about to be served, score the skin in diamonds, and take out every second square. The fat of pork consists almost entirely of palmitic, and oleic glycerides.
Fried bacon fat, and its liquid part, serve usefully to correct constipation. And a curious old remedy to stay nose-bleeding is vouched-for again recently by Dr. Atkinson - to "take a piece of fat bacon, about 2 or 3 inches long, and of sufficient size; cut it into a proper shape, and as large as can be easily forced into the nostril; apply it by pressing into the bleeding nostril, and let it remain in place several hours. It controls the haemorrhage, and is not uncomfortable to the patient".
By the processes of salting, and smoking, the flesh of the hog is made more digestible. Like all fat meats, it is deficient in water. The Romans discovered fifty different flavours in pork; and under the hands of their skilled cooks, swine's flesh was often transformed into delicate fish, ducks, turtle-doves, or capons. With them the Trojan Hog was a favourite dish, which was a gastronomic imitation of the Horse of Troy, its inside being stuffed with asafoetida, and myriads of small game. In Lincolnshire, a pig when first put up to fatten, has garlands hung round its neck to avert the spell of malicious witches, these garlands being made from branches of the Mountain Ash, or Wicken-tree, or Witchen Wicken. Truly may it be said that without pork there would have been no bacon, and without bacon no accomplished cookery.
"Chowder"is a dish of American origin; it consists of boiled pickled pork, cut in slices, with fried onions, slices of turbot, or other fish, and mashed potatoes, all placed alternately in a stewpan, and seasoned with spices and herbs, Claret, also ketchup, and then simmered together.
When Benjamin D'Israeli first went as a young man down to High Wycombe (1832) on a political canvass among the Buckingham farmers, after the week's end, when writing to his sister, he said: "I have been to Marathon; we have lived for a week on the Honey of Hymettus, and the Boar of Pentelicus; we found one at a little village - just killed - and purchased half of it, but this was not so good as Bradenham pork."It is remarkable that the cry of a raven resembles the words "Pork! Pork!"
"From the mountains high The ravens begin with their ' pork, porking' cry."- Sylvester.
A pork pie with raisins has for many years held its own at farmhouses in the Midlands; this is a raised pie, in which some stoned, and halved raisins are interspersed with the pork; about a quarter of a pound of the fruit to each pound of meat is sufficient. So that the full flavour of the pie may be appreciated, no sage is to be included, and only a moderate seasoning of salt, and pepper is to be used.
At St. Stephen's, Westminster, in former days, the presiding genius over the kitchen arrangements was one Bellamy, famous for his pork pies, which have gained immortality, since the elder Pitt in his last dying words expressed a wish for one of these Bellamy dainties. Sam Weller, expostulating with Mr. Winkle for his escapade from Mr. Pickwick, exclaimed: "Come, Sir! this is too rich. as the young lady said when she remonstrated with the pastrycook arter he'd sold her a pork pie as had got nothin' but fat inside." In 1666 Pepys bought some pork from a butcher, who "by the same token commended it as the best in England for cloath and colour."The Due de Richelieu's cook became noted by boiling down forty hams to make stock for a single soup. Sydney Smith, when writing to Lady Holland in January, 1809, said: "Many thanks for two fine Gallicia hams; but as for boiling them in wine, I am not as yet high enough in the Church for that, so they must do the best they can in water." But the day of getting good old-fashioned country-cured ham, and bacon, is practically a thing of the past, particularly in our large cities.
Instead of its taking three months to cure the meat after the patient, old-time, wholesome way, the modern hog walks into the packing-house yard in the morning, and within two or three days is shipped as cured hams. The beautiful brown colour that once was the result of smoking with wood, is now procured in a few hours by logwood, or other dyes. The smoky flavour is produced by pyrolignic acid; and, instead of the old-fashioned sweet pickle, a composition is used of borax, boracic acid, sulphites, salicylic, and benzoic acids. But to paint a ham with the acid (pyroligneous) of wood vinegar, is an ineffective substitute for smoking in a Hampshire chimney where wood fires are burnt, so that the hams treated therein are invariably alkaline, with their albumin coagulated by the continued heat, and their flesh interpenetrated by creosote fumes, whereby microbic engendure therein is prevented. At the Zaduska, or Russian luncheon, one dish which is sometimes seen is raw sucking-pig, which, though not sounding nice, is distinctly good, being served in very small cubes, highly seasoned, and laid on toast.
Other fanciful condimentary substances have been employed with pig-meat, by this, or that "chef": -
Art of Cookery.
A "pig's whisper" is proverbial as of rapid utterance. "You'll find yourself in bed in something less than a pig's whisper," said Sam Weller.