“The cider might have alcohol in it”, I said, as I giggled a bit. Just a bit, mind you. The experiment was a success, and not just because I was a bit tipsy.
The picnic power of the medieval(-ish) Ploughman’s Lunch.
Part of the purpose of this blog is to bring a bit of history into our daily lives. We don’t live divorced of the past, it is part of us. We need to know where we come from so we know where we are going. So this inaugural post about our past food lives starts from a basic place. A meal that is as basic or as complex as you want to make it. So here, I give you the Ploughman’s lunch.
Never underestimate the power of the Ploughman’s Lunch.
At its most basic, the Ploughman’s lunch consists of bread, cheese, and pickles. This meal is as English as Hogwart’s, meaning that whole the essential pieces delve far back into the mists of time, the actual thing is a fairly modern creation.
As English as Hogwart’s!
The Oxford English Dictionary records the first use of the term, “ploughman’s lunch” in 1837, from the book Memoirs of the life of Sir Walter Scott by John G. Lockhart. While this may have simply been referring to the meal taken at midday by a farm laborer, this term has been adopted and adapted to modern palate while still maintaining its rustic simplicity.
The term came into wider use due to the marketing efforts in the 1950s to get people to eat more cheese. (Like you have to ask ME twice.) It grew in popularity through the 1970s due to a nostalgic view of the past that spawned cultural idealization of history. This same nostalgia in the 1960s Berkeley led to the creation of the historical recreation group called the Society for Creative Anachronism and also seen the many Civil and Revolutionary War units.
I love the homey simplicity and filling nature of the meal. Everything can be prepared ahead of time making this perfect for picnics atop grassy hills overlooking your demesne or on the porch watching the sunset. Served on a wooden board, eaten with the fingers, it is a meal that lends itself to sharing with others gathered around. Add in a good beer or wine, and you have a party.
Start with the bread.
Make it a thick, rich, chewy, tear-a-partable bread proud to be called rustic or artisanal if you want to be all hip and twee. Add a selection of cheddar, stilton, or semi-hard cheese. Throw on some gherkins, pickled carrots, or pickled onions. Place a pot of chutney on the side with some knives, and presumably, napkins.
Other things you can add to the lunch are hand pies, hard-boiled eggs, or a honey smoked ham. Condiments could include mustards, coleslaws, salad of radishes and apples, or any other bright and sprightly sides.
Something to drink
When you are putting together a great meal, even on as simple as the Ploughman’s lunch, there are many drink pairings that would add to the enjoyment of the meal. For this spread, we choose the Wandering Aengus, Wanderlust cider from its varietal selection. Created from heritage varieties of apples grown in Hood River, Oregon, this crisp and clean cider brings to mind lovely sunny autumn days and the smell of apples orchards. Give them try, you won’t be sorry.
Check out the free download at the end of this post. You can can download the labels used in this post on the canning jars.
Honey and Beer Mustard Glazed Ham
- 1 (10-pound) smoked, bone-in ham (We used a locally grown Carlton’s ham)
- 1 cup honey
- 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard (We used the mustard we made from the recipe below)
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the lower third. Remove any plastic packaging or netting from the ham. Trim away any excess fat, leaving about a 1/4-inch layer all over. Set the ham aside to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with several sheets of aluminum foil (it will make cleanup a lot easier). Place the ham, cut side down, on the baking sheet and cover it with a piece of parchment paper. Tightly cover the ham and parchment paper with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the brown sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Set aside and let cool to lukewarm (the glaze should be the consistency of room-temperature honey).
When the ham is ready, remove it from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425°F. Discard the foil and parchment paper and, using a sharp knife, score a 1-inch-wide diamond pattern (don’t cut more than 1/4 inch deep) over the entire ham.
Brush the ham with a quarter of the glaze (about a generous 1/3 cup), return it to the oven, and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with another quarter of the glaze, and repeat every 15 minutes until all of the glaze has been used and a dark golden-brown crust has formed, about 55 to 60 minutes total.
Let the ham rest 20 to 30 minutes before slicing. Holy cow, that was tasty! (source: Chowhound)
Caramelized Onion Chutney with Beer Mustard
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 10 ounces dark brown sugar
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoons wholegrain mustard (use the beer mustard that you made)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- pinch paprika
- pinch crushed chilies
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onions over a low heat for 25-30 minutes until softened but not browned. Stir in 3 Tablespoons sugar, increase the heat and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are browned, then add the remaining sugar and all the other ingredients.
Simmer gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour minutes until the liquid has reduced and the mixture has thickened and become a dark caramel colour.
Spoon the hot chutney into cooled, sterilised jars, then seal and label. Store for up to 6-12 months. (source: Tesco Real Food)
Duchess of Cambridge’s Chutney Recipe
- 4 pounds zucchini, peeled, deseeded and chopped into small chunks
- 4 medium onions, peeled and chopped into small chunks
- 3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks
- 1 ½ cup raisins
- 1 ½ cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
- 2 ½ cup malt vinegar
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons mixed pickling spices, secured in a piece of muslin or cheesecloth
Put the chopped zucchini, onions and apples into a large preserving pan, add the rest of the ingredients and the bag of spices and stir together, then place over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer gently from 1 ½-2 hours or until well blended and thick.
Take the pan off the heat, cool and remove the muslin, squeezing the liquid form from the bag. Spoon it into sterilized jars with vinegar-proof lids, filling them to within 1cm of the top.
- 3/4 cup brown mustard seeds
- 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
- 1 cup dark beer, or as needed (We used Elysian Dragonstooth Stout)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Soak the brown and yellow mustard seeds in the dark beer in a large bowl set in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. If the seeds soak up the beer too quickly, add more beer. (a little for the mustard, a little for you. A little for the mustard, a little for you)
The next day, put the beer soaked, and thoroughly drunk, mustard seeds in a food processor along with the rest of the ingrediants. Pulse until desired consistency is reached. If you want to be more historical, you can hand grind in a mortar.
Pack the mustard into the hot, sterilized jars.
Refrigerate the jars of mustard for 2 weeks before using.
Balsamic pickled onions
- 3 ½ pounds small shallots
- 2 1/3 cups distilled or white wine vinegar
- 1 ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup extra fine sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2 tablespoon of salt for the brine
- Boiling water enough to cover the shallots
Place the shallots into a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir in the 1 tablespoon of salt. Cover with a clean cloth and leave overnight in the refrigerator.
Drain the water and peel the shallots. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, put the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Put the shallots into the boiling mixture and simmer for an additional 10 minutes until tender.
Remove the shallots and put into your sterilized jars. Cover with the salt and vinegar brine that you boiled them in.
Seal the jars. You can process them in a water bath for 10 minutes. They are ready to eat in a few days, but get better over time.
English pickled onions
Check out the recipe at Culinary Ginger. Because dang, they are amazing!
How to preserve chutneys
Chutney comes from traditional East Indian food. It is like a relish that can include cilantro or mint, or flavored with coconut, ginger, simmered with onions or many other variations.
Chutney is used as a condiment and its uses are limited only by your palate and imagination. It can be used a counterpoint to savory foods like sharp cheeses or as a side to meat dishes.
The low pH (acidity) of the chutney helps to prevent spoilage. As you cook the chutney, it concentrates the chutney leaving less moisture for microbial growth and kills the microbes that could cause spoilage. Vinegars are added to chutney to increase the acidity.
If you are careful while canning the chutney, a heated water bath is sufficient to ensure food safety. These acidic foods are pretty easy to preserve and make excellent gifts, if you can bear to part with the yumminess that you make. And you should know, that learning how to make these exotic foods and preserve them could be addictive.
Some tips: Fill the canning jars because too much oxygen in the canning jar can cause unpleasant changes in color, taste, or texture.
How to preserve foods using the water bath method.
Get familiar with the recipe you will be using and the steps in canning and preserving your yummy foods. Lay out your tools, the ingredients and cooking implements of destruction. You will want to look over your jars, rings and lids to make sure there are no defects. Wash them all in hot soapy water then layout to dry.
You will need:
• A large canning pot or a deep sauce pot with a lid, with a rack.
• Glass preserving jars, lids and band. Glass jars and rings can be re-used, but always start with new lids.
• Common kitchen tools such as ladle, wooden spoon, and funnel
• A jar lifter is nice. Those jars get HOT!
Put your pan on the heat source. The water should be deep enough to cover the jars. Put the empty jars into the pan making sure they are filled with water. Heat the water to nearly boiling and keep it at this temperature until you are ready to fill the jars with your yumminess.
Cook the recipe for chutney. Remove the jar from the pan using the jar lifter or tongs. Empty the water out and fill with the chutney. Leave about a half (1/2) of an inch air space at the top of the jar. Remove any air pockets with a clean spatula. Clean the edge of the jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove food residue. Center the lid on the jar and screw on the ring band. And tighten. Place in the water bath and put the lid on the pan. Bring the water to a rolling boil and begin the 20-minute processing time.
Processing time for altitude:
Altitude Increase processing time
1,001-3,000 5 minutes
3,001-6,000 10 minutes
6,001-8,000 15 minutes
8,001-10,000 20 minutes
Get the labels used in this article!
As a thank you for reading our blog post, we would like to give you the labels used on the canning jars. Just click here.
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