Larding needles weren’t for sewing

Nestled among my thousands of books can be found old books relating to cooking, in one phase or another. Among recipes for roasting I found a mention of “roasting needles”, which created some curiosity.

Cookbooks have history. Perhaps you have read old cookbooks or browsed through one. You may realize the amount of history and old facts inside.

From the old ways that a recipe was formulated, the old-fashioned utensils of wood, wrought iron, brass and tin, the type of food prepared and the fireplace or cook stove.

Perhaps you may have also seen an old picture of a kitchen of that era. One or two persons seated at a large table, a large fireplace behind them, the various pots, pans, kettles, and other equipment necessary for preparing food within its large opening.

There were even baskets, drying spices and vegetables hanging from the large exposed rafters and on the walls.

Old-style ingredients. As you study the old cookbook recipes, the rules for ingredients included “pounds” of butter, flour, sugar and sometimes a dozen eggs.

A reason for this quantity may have been the large families our ancestors raised, stoves, fireplaces or because bake ovens were so large.

Modern cooks would be rather lost if faced with large cook stoves where you could not reach across. Those ovens were as big as small caverns.

A few recipes on roasting mention “larding needles” – my grandparents, the Gilletts of North Benton, used them every time the ladies roasted a cut of meat.

What is “larding?” Instead of terming the method “basting” in the recipes, the name used is “larding.”

The sharp end of these needles, which were from 8 inches to around 10 inches long, had two splits, for about an inch or so.

Into this split end was placed a slice of bacon which was cut about 2 inches long. Usually the needles were thrust into the piece of meat which was about one pound – with eight needles per pound.

I remember when I was very young finding about eight holes in each slice of meat, wondering why.

The shorter needles were used in pork or beef roasts, longer ones, 8 to 10 inches long, were for poultry.

Only large breeds of chicken were used for food, Leglorns and layers were relegated to hog food when discarded, too skinny even for fryers.

A better appearance. To improve the browning of the meats and to plump up the appearance, “frothing” was recommended. This is done a few minutes just before serving the meat.

The cook would lightly, but uniformly, dredge with flour the entire surface of the meat cut, immediately baste with butter or drippings.

The heat should be turned up a bit, and in about three minutes, the meat should be served.

Poultry, veal, game or lamb should be basted with butter only, beef and mutton can be basted with drippings.

The dredgings for frothing are sometimes composed of other ingredients besides flour as a means to render a particular flavor desired.

Ingredients for frothing. Usually flour or grated bread are preferred, next is savory herbs, these can be powdered, grated or dried added to flour, then sugar, powdered cinnamon and grated bread.

Next is lemon peel, also mixed with flour, then comes fennel seed, coriander, cinnamon and sugar, also mixed with grated bread.

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