The Good Housewife’s Jewel page 24

Dawson, Thomas. The Good Houswife’s Jewel. 2002. Lewes, East Sussex: Southover, 1996. Print. 1870962125

take a pint of white wine and a small quantity of water and small raisins and whole mace. Boil them together in a lttle verjuice, yolks of eggs mingled with them, and a peice of sweet butter. So serve them upon bread, sliced.


two thick slices of bakery bread on a plate, with a layer of chopped stewed meat, and liberally sauced with a yellow egg based sauce showing specks of raisin

definitely not finger food

While there are no instructions for the actual cooking of the feet in question, I have my preferred methods (slow braise, a lid, no salt or acid until the meat is tender, as it can be toughened by either).  Then again, I have no feet right now. I do have an oxtail, which is something of a scarce item in our freezer.   Though the tail cannot be sliced for an elegant service as the meat of a foot could, it has similar enough textural qualities as to be a fine substitution.

a plate with a packet of ox tail, surrounded by the spices, bottles, and butter needed for the dish. Not shown are the eggs.

Eggs are off camera

I set the tail to simmering on the lowest heat, and in a smaller pot, made the sauce separately.

While the meat was somewhat unappealing to look upon, the longer it cooked, the more unctuous it got. It smells lovely.

When the meat was completely cooked and soft, I removed it from the bone and minced it, knowing I could not get elegant slices.

I then placed it on the toasts to wait for the sauce and held it in a warming oven.

The only quantity given for this recipe is that pint of white wine. This leads to all of the other decisions for balance.


Recipe: To Boil Calve’s Feet


  • 1 calf’s foot or oxtail, simmered in water til tender, and sliced or otherwise prepared for service
  • slices of bread on which to serve the meat and sauce
  • 1 pint white wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 oz raisins
  • 1 teaspoon whole blade mace, intact (to be removed later)
  • up to ½ cup of verjus (taste as you go, it can go too sharp quickly)
  • allow to cool, then in a pan, blend
  • 3 egg yolks and 3 oz warmed butter
  • salt to taste


  1. when the butter and egg yolks are gently warmed, stir in the wine mixture, off the heat. Be gentle, or the eggs will curdle.
  2. Folding the butter and eggs into the liquid creates an oily mass, and cooling the liquid then slowly beating the yolk in then adding the butter does similarly.
  3. Use your best judgement.


– a less well regarded food

– the sauce is unlikely to work in bulk, and is challenging even in small quantities

– the acid balance can be difficult, wine depending

+ sumptuous without being greasy

+ deep flavor

+ gives a side product of a lovely beef broth

+ Sophisticated enough for a nice appetiser.


Remember this is not a hollandaise… but all of the requirements for a hollandaise are there. The techniques required to make the creamy velvety sauce were not delineated until much later. There’s a fair amount of history available online and in books for emulsified sauces should you wish to find more information.

Because I did not wish to have a grease slick, I did stir the wine blend in to the butter, rather than pouring the butter overtop of the wine. I then folded in the egg yolks and warmed the sauce while stirring, It sure looks like a hollandaise.

a sautee pan filled with egg-yellow sauce with specks of raisin showing, and a little froth on top.

Runnier than a custard, the sauce uses wine and verjus where modern cooks would think to use lemon.

This also permitted me to taste the sauce as I built it to prevent adding too much acid and damaging the balance of flavors.

Now I had to decide whether I was going to follow the implication in the instructions and simmer the meat in the blended sauce, or read it the other way as an overlaid sauce.

Being that the meat I chose is quite unctuous and tender, and that the bread is rather stiff, I opted to pour the completed sauce overtop and serve the dish as sops.

It cannot be stressed enough that the success of this dish relies on a lower acid white wine, as too much acid will unbalance the dish. A highly gelatinous meat is also helpful to the quality and enjoyment of it, as fatty meat would lend a greasiness which cannot balance the egg-yolk sauce.

If you don’t wish to fuss about with wine specifics, go easy on the verjus and taste critically as you add the eggs and butter to the sauce, in order to bring the flavors into a bright, creamy balance.



Uncooked Sauce for a Chicken


Put dill seed, dried mint and laser root into a mortar, pour on vinegar, add date, pour on liquamen, a little mustard and oil, flavor with defrutum, and use it as it is

(intended for a plain poached chicken)


Apicius 6.8.2 , a variant, adds honey and liquamen.

Intended as a finishing baste for a par-poached chicken, which is to be roasted.


all of the listed ingredients in small individual bowls, ready to be remeasured in to the recipe

It's a habit.

It’s hot, we want simple food that won’t heat up the kitchen, and which can be varied by using interesting sauces or amendments. This sauce looked slightly atypical of Roman food in that it does not call for lovage, but otherwise had many of the representative flavors.


The most important takeaway from this is when putting dates into a mortar and pestle, make sure they are moist! Soak them in advance, steam them, do something. Be sure they will not fight back. Think of them as potential superballs =) Then again, it could be dates so dry as to be a sugar; almost to a powder or crystalline. Pick your direction. I went for moist.


a pharmaceutical mortar and pestle with a single date and a small amount of vinegar being meaured in

I work in increments, an eighth of a teaspoon at a time. It takes a while.

The balance of seasoning is challenging, and is the heart of Roman food. Too much or too little of any one spice is going to be the death of the dish. Of course, we have no clue what Latin speaking cooks were after in terms of flavor detail, and have a lot of guesswork, but based on the types of seasonings, the order in which they are listed, and the stated uses of them, my best guess turned out pretty tasty and easily adjusted.


Defrutum is concentrated grape juice. Sometimes it can be gotten at a health food store. I simmered (non-concord) grape juice down to obtain it. It’s sweet and intensely grapey. If you have raisins, you can hydrate them and blender them to get a sugary grapey syrup as well, which could work.


I made a tiny amount, but with care, the service can adjust up. The mint is least likely to scale up well.


Our first reaction was ! A1 ! (with mint!)


the mortar and pestle with a dark, slick, homogeneous sauce

yes, it is earthy!

We plan to make a rather larger batch and see if it holds, and to try to honey/liquamen variant another day. This batch went with a plain roast chicken, and was just exactly not enough for two people.

Recipe: Uncooked Sauce for a Chicken


  • ¼ tsp asafoetida (sub for laser)
  • ½ tsp dried mint (adjust down as you make more, it will overwhelm)
  • ½ tsp dill seed
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 date
  • 1 tsp liquamen (fish sauce)
  • ½ tsp mustard powder (might be prepared, might be dry. I chose dry)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp defrutum (raisin sauce)


  1. Turn the asafoetida, mint, and dill seed into powder.
  2. Add the vinegar, stir some, and then add the date.
  3. Grind the date in until it is homogeneous, then add the liquamen, mustard, and oil.
  4. Fold together, then add just enough raisin syrup to sweeten and add a round grapiness.


Ratings; Some less common ingredients Hard to do in a blender or processor Very reliant on exact strength of your spices’ freshness for balance Uncooked Ages nicely over several days Is somewhat assertively familiar to our palates.

Number of servings (yield): 1