Last week I mentioned my trip to Philadelphia for a family reunion and having dinner at The City Tavern. Everyone (19 of us) had a great time as we had over 4 hours to catch up with each other and what better way than over food. Even though the dishes were as accurate as could be to the originals they did not reflect 18th century tables. Healthier alternatives were used such as less sugar, salt and fat due to the increased health awareness of modern times – it was all good though!
I’ve posted the Basil Shrimp appetizer (this was part of the First Plate – colonial Americans were not familiar with the word “appetizers”). Now I am going to give you another First Plate; a green salad made with a vinaigrette from a Raspberry Shrub and adorned with edible flowers.
First of all the only “shrub” I have known are what you use as foundation plants around your home or as accent plants. In this case shrubs are a means of preserving fruit before it spoils. You know those fresh berries that are no longer good to pop in your mouth or make a dessert – they can even be a little mushy. Prior to the invention of refrigeration, a shrub syrup was one method of preserving fruit long past its picking.
So when I saw a recipe for a vinaigrette in the cookbook I just bought I decided to make it using my own homemade raspberry shrub syrup. When fruit is on sale I always buy way too much so this was a perfect way for me to use raspberries especially!
Today raspberry vinegar is often used as a salad condiment but in colonial times it was used as a beverage. In addition to all of the wine that was consumed that night at the City Tavern we were served a Raspberry Shrub beverage (non-alcoholic). This was very popular in Colonial America and mixed with cold water it was a very refreshing drink. The syrup is basically fruit juice, sugar and some type of acid (vinegar). They can also be made adding alcohol such as brandy or rum.
In the future I plan to do a post on just shrubs as there are differences from the vinegar based shrubs and more modern day shrubs. Whether they were made out of desire or necessity they have been an important part since Roman times. The more I read about shrubs (yes, I bought a cookbook on just shrubs) and raspberry vinegar the more my interest is tweaked.
Back in 2010 Amanda Hesser, one of the founders of Food 52, was a reporter for the New York Times. She wrote an article about raspberry vinegar which appeared in her Recipe Redux column and provided a recipe dating back to 1900. Apparently, Amanda loved it and throughout the summer added it to sparkling water and prosecco. This is the recipe I am working on now and will post later. The information I come across when I start investigating is so interesting.
I will often pick up a cookbook as a souvenir from my travels and this time it was a cookbook of recipes from this famous tavern. After visiting the Liberty Bell – the symbol of freedom, we headed over to the Independence Hall Visitor Center. Lots of mementos to choose from but as usual I went straight for the books and found this cookbook on early American cuisine. By the way I was so surprised with the size of the Liberty Bell – I always imagined it to be bigger.
Each recipe in the City Tavern cookbook includes a little history about the ingredients and their significance in colonial times. That’s why I love my cookbooks as you do not get this kind of information through the internet or Pinterest.
For this salad Thomas Jefferson was mentioned as he loved his salads. This is evidenced by the many vegetables he grew in his 1,000 foot long veggie garden at Monticello located in Charlottesville, Virginia. He also imported olive oil from France to dress his salads so you can imagine how important salads were in his diet.
By the way, Gene and I toured this beautiful mountaintop home of one of our Founding Fathers some years ago. There have been many improvements and restorations done since we were there. I highly recommend you as a gardener/ home cook/chef or just because you like to learn about this country in its early days to find time to tour Monticello, Jefferson’s home.
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson grew cornflowers (or bachelor’s buttons) and nasturtiums for just the purpose of putting them on his salads? He had a love for gardening and really enjoyed the peppery, watercress-like taste of nasturtiums. By 1824 his nasturtium bed increased to 1,800 square feet. I thought I liked nasturtiums but good ole Thomas beat me by a long shot.
Every part of nasturtiums were used in salads; leaves were harvested for the greens, flowers picked for salads and did you know the seeds are what is called “the poor man’s capers”.
Cornflowers have a beautiful blue/purple color to them and add some great contrast in a salad. Both of these flowers are annuals and can be easily grown in the home garden. They do well in containers too! You can use the whole flower or just pick off the petals.
Having recently moved from a house on an acre to a condo (they call it downsizing) I lost all of my beautiful gardens filled with edible flowers. So, my selection for “edibles” was limited but I did have nasturtiums and two of my herbs; basil and thyme, were starting to bloom from my container garden on my deck.
There is a huge selection of edible flowers that you can grow and enjoy with your food – just be sure not to spray or use the ones grown in a nursery! They add such a burst of color and flavor too!
Raspberry Shrub Vinaigrette Over Butterhead Lettuce
First you need to make the Raspberry Shrub Syrup – Cold Process:
- 2 (6 oz.) clamshells of raspberries (plastic containers with snap on lids)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
Combine the two ingredients and refrigerate for 2-5 days or longer. Use a fine mesh sieve and strain out all raspberry solids and discard. I smoosh down the mixture with the back of a spoon to get every last drop out and also allow it to drain for about an hour.
- 2 cups white vinegar, cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (use either apple or red wine cider as the white was too plain)
Add the raspberry mixture to 2 cups vinegar and stir well. Store in a container in the refrigerator.
You could use the cooked process to save time but from what I have read you lose some of the fruit flavor and the bright color of the berries
Raspberry Shrub Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 cup raspberry shrub (make your own or you can buy it already made)
- 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1-1/2 cups olive oil
- salt and white pepper to taste
Whisk together the shrub, balsamic vinegar, sugar and mustard. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking continuously. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
- butterhead (Boston or Bibb) lettuce or any greens of your choice
- edible flowers (see comment about nasturtiums) for garnish
Tear up the lettuce and dress the greens lightly; garnish with edible flowers of your choice; personally I like the vivid colors of nasturtiums and I am sure the blue cornflowers added some more contrast to this salad.
Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com
Linking to Fiesta Friday.
Thyme flower on the left and basil flower on the right – I added these to my salad, along with some calendula petals and of course bright nasturtiums. Now if only I had some blue edible flowers this salad would have been even more stunning!