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Compiled, and with Notes, by Dave DeWitt
Most people believe that barbecue originated in America relatively recently in the history of food. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we can observe in the print above from medieval Italy. If that isn't barbecue in its purest form, than I just don't know what barbecue is but meat cooked over fire and smoke. And take the first recipe below. It's not from early America, but from Surrey, England, in 1732. It's certainly true that barbecue became extremely popular in this country, but take a look at this postcard from Tijuana in the 1920s:
Now, see if you can use the following historical recipes to prepare your own versions of BBQ history.
An Hog Barbecued, or Broil'd Whole. From Vaux-Hall, Surrey.
TAKE an Hog of five or fix Months old, kill it, and take out the Inwards, so that the Hog is clear of the Harslet [heart and liver]; then turn the Hog upon its Back, and from three Inches below the place where it was stuck, to kill it, cut the Belly in a strait Line down to the Bottom, near the joining of the Gammons, but not so far, but that the whole Body of the Hog may hold any Liquor we would put into it.
Then stretch out the Ribs, and open the Belly, as wide as may be; then strew into it what Pepper and Salt you please.
After this, take a large Grid-Iron, with two or three Ribs in it, and set it upon a stand of Iron, about three Foot and a half high, and upon that, lay your Hog, open'd as above, with the Belly-side downwards, and with a good clear Fire of Charcoal under it. Broil that side till it is enough, flouring the Back at the same time often. Memorandum, This should be done in a Yard, or Garden, with a Covering like a Tent over it.
When the Belly-part of the Hog is enough and turned upwards, and well fix'd to be steady upon the Grid-Iron, or Barbacue, pour into the Belly of the Hog, three or four Quarts of Water, and half as much White-Wine, and as much Salt as you will, with some Sage cut small, adding the Peels of six or eight Lemons, and an Ounce of fresh Cloves whole.
Then let it broil till it is enough, which will be, from the beginning to the end, about seven or eight Hours.; and when you serve it, pour out the Sauce, and lay it in a Dish, with the Back upwards. Memorandum, The Skin must not be cut before you lay it on the Gridiron, to keep in the Gravey ; neither should any of the Skin be cut, when you have any Pork roasted for the fame Reason.
From The Country Housewife, by Richard Bradley, 1732.
To Barbecue Shote
This is the name given in the southern states to a fat young hog, which, when the head and feet are taken off and it is cut into four quarters, will weigh six pounds per quarter. Take a forequarter, make several incisions between the ribs, and stuff it with rich forcemeat; put it in a pan with a pint of water, two cloves of garlic, pepper, salt, and two gills of red wine, and two of mushroom ketchup, bake it, and thicken the gravy with butter and brown flour; it must be jointed, and the ribs cut across before it is cooked, or it cannot be carved well; lay it in the dish with the ribs uppermost; if it be not sufficiently brown, add a little burnt sugar to the gravy, garnish with balls.
From: The Virginia Housewife, by Mary Randolph. Plaskitt & Cugle, 1831.
Often in post-Colonial Virginia, for the sake of room and the safety of the main house from fire, meat was roasted or baked in an outdoor oven that resembled today's home wood-burning pits. For a large barbecue, pits were built or dug into the ground. Forcemeat is a mixture of meat or vegetables chopped and seasoned for use as a stuffing or garnish. A gill is one-half cup. Balls are eyeballs. Mary Randolph, the best early cookbook author, was related to Thomas Jefferson by marriage.
Barbecued Rabbit or Squirrel
Clean and wash the rabbit, which must be plump and young, and having opened it all the way on the under side, lay it flat, with a small plate or saucer to keep it down, in salted water for half an hour. Wipe dry and broil whole, with the exception of the head, when you have gashed across the backbone in eight or ten places, that the heat may penetrate this, the thickest part. Your fire should be hot and clear, the rabbit turned often. When browned and tender, lay upon a very hot dish, pepper and salt and butter profusely, turning the rabbit over and over to soak up the melted butter. Cover and set in the oven for five minutes, and heat in a tin cup two tablespoonfuls of vinegar, seasoned with one of made mustard. Anoint the hot rabbit well with this, cover, and send to table garnished with crisped parsley.
The odor of this barbecue is most appetizing, and the taste not a whit inferior. Squirrels may be barbecued in the same manner.
From: Home Comforts: or, Things worth knowing in every household: being a digest of facts established by science, observation and practical experience, respecting the important art of living well and cheaply, preserving health and prolonging life, by Edwin Troxell Freedley. Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1879.