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Authors: Nina Edwards

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There are many non-culinary uses for offal: as tallow for candles, rendered for soap, in chemical and pharmaceutical applications, in ancient and New Age medicine and so on. The Inuit use seal guts for making underwear and Arctic peoples use the intestines of bears, walruses and sea lions to construct raincoats.
They may be practical but can be strangely beautiful, intricately pleated and luminous. Grasses are sewn into the seams so that when the coat is wet the grass swells and the vulnerable seams remain watertight. Some of these coats are designed to be wide at the base so they can be tied across the opening of a kayak to keep the wearer dry during rain or rough seas. The sculptor Mary-Anne Wensley draws on this tradition by using dried pig intestines to construct her ethereal structures.

Today many beauty potions are derived from offal, such as collagen to plump up ageing skin, which leads us to the
Absolutely Fabulous
(1992), in which the teenaged Saffy is scornful when ageing model Patsy tries out a new beauty cure-all: ‘You look like a haggis with pointed toes. A tight old bladder skin holding together some rotting offal.’

Ministry of Food
exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2010 displayed a mesh-lined bucket used for preserving eggs in a solution of isinglass. During the Second World War such preserved eggs would have been a welcome alternative to the powdered kind. Dissolved in water, the resulting solution coated the eggs, stopping air from permeating their shells. Unfortunately the process affected the taste of the eggs and the shells could no longer stand up to boiling. Isinglass is made from the swim bladders of fish, and is a form of collagen that was previously used to clarify wine and beer. It is also a specialized form of glue, used in manuscript conservation to repair parchment when mixed with honey or glycerin. It can be a gelling agent in jelly, desserts, confectionery and blancmange. Originally made from Russian sturgeon and thus prohibitively expensive, in 1795 isinglass was successfully obtained from cod and began to be used more widely.

A specialist tripe shop in Nice, many of which are now permanently closed.

Goat’s bladder was used for condoms in ancient Rome and pig’s and sheep’s intestines may have been used as such in ancient Egypt. There is evidence that early Chinese condoms, covering only the head of the penis, were made from lamb’s intestines.

Offal can also be rendered for use as a fertilizer, which can in turn enrich the soil to grow animal feed to support livestock, which comes full circle to provide yet more offal.

In an age when we are encouraged not to be wasteful, with the weight of ecological breakdown bearing down upon us, it seems a pity that offal is so often disregarded by meat eaters, for reasons that can be hard to articulate. The Slow Food Movement, with its Terra Madre network of food communities, founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986, supports the idea of using locally sourced produce for food to retain its character, and safeguarding the quality of life of the animal. Since offal tastes better when fresh, this is good news for offal eaters.

Offal is traditional and fashionable, Eastern and Western, humble and refined, of religious and medical significance. It is medicine and love potion and sometimes a troubling idea. It is affordable, healthy food, delicious in all its variety.



—from Samuel Pegge,
The Forme of Cury

Take noumbles of deer other of other beest parboile hem kerf hem to dyce. tak brede and grynde with the broth. and temper it up with a gode quantite of vyneger and wyne. take the onyouns and parboyle hem. and mynce hem smale and do þer to. colour it with blode and do þer to powdour fort and salt and boyle it wele and serue it forth.

Calf’s tripe, or Charpie

The Viandier of Taillevent (c
. 1395)

Take your meat when it is completely cooked, cut it up very small, and fry it in lard. Crush ginger and saffron. Beat some raw eggs and thread them onto your meat in the lard. Crush spices and add some spice powder. However, some do not wish any spice powder in it, and eat it with green verjuice.

Blewe manger (brawn)

A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye
, mid-16th century (Cambridge, 1913), ed. Catherine Frances Frere

Take a capon and cut out the brawne of hym a lyve and perboyle the brawne till the flesshe come from the bone, and then drye hym as you canne, in a fayre clothe, then take a payre of cardes and carde hym as small as is possyble, and than take a pottell of mylke and a pottell of creame, and halfe a pounde of Rye flower, and your carded brawne of the capon and put all into a pan, and stere it al together and set it upon the fyre, and whan it begynneth to boyle put thereto halfe a pounde of beaten Suger and a sauserfull of Rose water and so let it boyle tyll it be very thicke, then put it into a charger tyll it be colde, and then ye may slyce it as ye doe lieche and so serve it in.

Blood Pudding

The Acomplish’d Lady’s Delight in Preserving, Physick, Beautifying and Cookery

Take a quart of Sheep’d blood, and a quart of Cream, ten Eggs, the yolks and the whites beaten together; stir all this Liquor very well, then thicken it with grated bread, and Oat-meal finely beaten, of each a like quantity, Beef-suet finely shred, and Marrow in little lumps, season it with a little Nutmeg, Cloves, and Mace mingled with salt, a little sweet Marjoram, Thyme, and Penny-royal shred very well together, and mingle them with the other things, some put in a few Currans: Then fill them in cleansed Guts, and boyl them very carefully.

Marrow Pudding

—from John Nott,
The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary

Cut 2 French rolls into Slices, and take a quarter of a Pound of coarse Bisket, put into a Saucepan a Quart of Milk, set it over the
Fire, make it Blood warm, and pour it upon your Bread; cover it close and let it soak, ’till it is cold; rub it through a Cullender, mince half a Pound of Marrow, and put to it three Eggs well beaten and strained; then mix all together; sweeten with the sugar; add a little Salt, and a Spoonful or two of Rose-water, scrape in a little Nutmeg, put in two Ounces of Almonds well pownded; mix all these well together, put them into Guts, and tie them up; but do not fill them too full; Boil them in Water for a quarter of an Hour, turning them with a Skimmer; lay them in a Cullender to cool: When you use them, put them into a Pan with a little Butter, and fry them as yellow as Gold, or you may set them in the Mouth of an Oven. These are proper to garnish a boil’d Pudding, or a fricassy of Chickens, for the first Course, or you may serve them in little Dishes or Plates for the second Course.

Battalia Pie

—from Susannah Carter,
The Frugal Housewife
(1772). ‘Battalia’ or ‘batalia’ is from the French
, from Latin
, meaning small, blessed objects.

Take 4 small chickens and squab pigeons, four sucking rabbits, cut them into pieces and season them with savoury spice, lay them in a pie with 4 sweetbreads sliced, as many sheep’s tongues and shivered palates, 2 pair of lamb’s stones, 20 or 30 cockscombs, with savoury balls and oysters; lay on butter and lose the pie with a lear [gravy].

A Fricasey of Lamb-Stones and Sweetbreads

—from Hannah Glasse,
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

Have some lamb-stones blanched, parboiled and sliced, and flour 2 or 3 sweetbreads; if very thick cut them into 2, the yolks of 6 hard eggs whole; a few pistachio nut kernels, and a few large oysters: fry them all of a fine brown, then pour out all the butter, and add a pint of drawn gravy, the lamb-stones, some asparagus tops
about an inch long, some grated nutmeg, a little pepper and salt, 2 shallots shred small, and a glass of white wine. Stew all together for 10 minutes, then add the yolks of 6 eggs beat very fine, with a little white wine, and a little beaten mace; stir altogether till it is of a fine thickness, then dish it up. Garnish with lemon.

Lamb’s Head and Pluck

—from William Kitchener,
Apicius Redivivus

Clean and wash a lamb’s head well, and boil it an hour and a half: take it up, and rub it over with a paste brush dipped in egg well beaten; strew over it a little pepper and salt, and some fine bread crumbs: lay it in a dish before the fire, or in a Dutch oven to brown: when it begins to get dry, put some melted butter on it with a paste brush: mince the heart, liver and the tongue very fine; put them into a stewpan with a little of the liquor the head was boiled in, and an ounce of butter, well mixed with a tablespoonful of flour, a little pepper and salt: set it on a slow fire for ten minutes. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a dish, lay in the mince, with the head upon it, and garnish it with relishing rashers of bacon.

Pig’s Pettitoes (trotters)

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management
(London, 1861)

Ingredients: A thin slice of bacon, 1 onion, 1 blade of mace, 6 peppercorns, 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme, 1 pint of gravy, pepper and salt to taste, thickening of butter and flour.

Mode: Put the liver, heart and pettitoes into a stewpan with the bacon, mace, peppercorns, thyme, onion and gravy, and simmer these gently for ¼ hour; then take out the heart and liver and mince them very fine. Keep stewing the feet until quite tender, which will be in 20 minutes to ½ hour, reckoning from the time that they boiled up first; then put back the minced liver, thicken the gravy with a little butter and flour, season with pepper
and salt, and over a gentle fire for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring the contents. Dish the mince, split the feet, and pour the gravy in the middle.

Turkey Giblets with Turnips

—from the Marquis de Courchamps, in Alexandre Dumas’
Dictionary of Cuisine
(Paris, 1871)

Clean the wings, gizzards, feet and neck, discarding the head; place in a large pan on the heat with a good piece of butter kneaded with flour; sauté the offal for 7 to 8 minutes; add hot stock, being careful not to blend it into your roux too quickly; add in a bouquet of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, basil and sage, together with 2 onions stuck with cloves, boil for a quarter of an hour and then add 6 Fresneuse turnips, 4 large slices of carrot, 6 purple potatoes, a Jerusalem artichoke and a whole stalk of celery; do not turn your vegetables, just keep them moving a little or the dish would soon lose its air of bourgeois simplicity and natural grace; skim away any fat carefully after about 1½ hours of slow simmer, arrange your vegetables around the giblets, with the wings in place of honour; then so that the potatoes keep your sauce unctuous, pass it through a sieve.

Pig’s Harslet

Mrs A. B. Marshall’s Cookery Book

Wash and dry some liver, sweetbreads and fat and bits of pork, beating the latter with a rolling pin to make it tender; season with pepper, salt, sage and a little onion shred fine; when mixed, put all into a caul, and fasten it up tight with a needle and thread. Roast it on a hanging-jack or by a string.

Or serve in slices with parsley for a fry. Serve with a sauce of port-winer and water, and mustard, just boiled up and put into a dish.

Ox-tail en Hochepot

—from Prosper Montagné,
Larousse Gastronomique

Cut the ox-tail, whether skinned or not, into uniform chunks. Put into a stock-pot with 2 raw pig’s trotters, each cut into 4 or 5 pieces, and a whole raw pig’s ear. Add enough water to cover, bring to the boil, remove scum and simmer gently for 2 hours. Add a small cabbage cut into quarters and blanched, 3 carrots, 2 turnips, in quarters or cut into small uniform pieces, and 10 small onions. Simmer gently for 2 hours. Drain the pieces of ox-tail and the pig’s trotters. Arrange them on a large, deep, round dish. Put the vegetables in the middle. Surround with grilled chipolata sausages and the pig’s ear cut into strips. Serve boiled potatoes separately.

Blanquette of Calves’ Hearts

—from Sarah Tyson Rorer,
Mrs Rorer’s New Cook Book

Wash two calves’ hearts thoroughly in cold water; cut them into cubes of one inch. Put them into a saucepan; cover with boiling water, bring to a boil, skim and simmer gently for two hours. When ready to serve rub together two tablespoonfuls of butter and two of flour; add the liquor in which the hearts were cooked; stir until boiling; add a teaspoonful of salt and a saltspoonful of pepper. Take from the fire, add the yolks of two eggs. Dish the hearts and pour over the sauce. Garnish the dish with carefully boiled rice, and send it at once to the table. This makes an exceedingly nice dish for lunch. A heavy rope or garnish of nicely cooked green peas outside of the rice makes it more sightly.

Foie Gras

—from Auguste Escoffier’s
The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery
, trans. H. L. Cracknell and R. J. Kaufmann (New York, 1997)

For serving as a hot dish the goose liver should firstly be well trimmed and the nerves removed; it is then studded with quarters of small raw peeled truffles which have been seasoned with salt and pepper, quickly set and stiffened over heat with a little brandy together with a bay-leaf. Before using the truffles leave them to cool in a tightly closed terrine. After the foie gras has been studded wrap it completely in slices of pork fat or pig’s caul, and place in a tightly closed terrine for a few hours.

Brain Fritters

—from Misses A. and M. Schauer,
The Schauer Cookery Book
(Brisbane and Sydney, 1909)

Carefully wash an ox brain, and boil it for a quarter of an hour in well-seasoned stock. When the brain is cold, cut it into slices, dip each of them in batter, drop them as you do them into a pan half full of smoking fat. To make the batter, mix two large tablespoonfuls of fine flour with four of cold water, stir in a tablespoonful of dissolved butter, the yolk of an egg and a pinch of salt and pepper; when ready to use beat the white of an egg to a strong froth, and mix with it. As you take them up, throw them on paper to absorb any grease clinging to them, serve on a napkin or ornamental dish-paper.

Roasted Foie Gras with Crispy Chicken Skin,
Chicken Heart Gravy, Peppercorn Biscuit
and Spiced Honey

—Jesse Schenker, 2012

1 lb (450 g) grade
foie gras (portioned into around 15 pieces)
1 cup (250 g) chicken hearts
1 cup (250 g) cleaned, soaked chicken livers
Skin of 2 large chickens (attached as much as possible)
2 cups (470 ml) whole milk
¼ cup (60 g) all purpose flour
¼ cup (60 g) whole butter
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 clove chopped garlic
1 large shallot diced
1 cup (235 ml) clover honey
2 tablespoons Activa (meat glue)
7 sheets of silver gelatine
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt to taste
2 quarts (2 l) of grape seed oil for frying
For biscuits:
1.5 cups (375 g) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon crushed pink peppercorns
2.5 tablespoons butter cut into half-inch cubes
½ cup (118 ml) cream

For chicken skin

(Recommended 24 hours prior)

Spread chicken skin on perforated rack with drip pan and salt heavily. Place in refrigerator overnight.

For spiced honey

In saucepot, add honey, half of the shallots, garlic and thyme. Put on super low heat and let steep for 1 hour. Strain into a bowl and put aside.

For chicken-heart filling

In a large saucepot, put butter and flour on medium heat and whisk for 3–5 minutes until golden roux forms. In a separate saucepot, heat milk just below a simmer. Once roux is ready, add hot milk whisking slowly into roux to form béchamel. Lower heat and stir every couple of minutes to let the sauce thicken. In a large cast-iron pan, heat olive oil to high heat and brown chicken hearts and chicken livers. Add the remainder of the garlic, thyme and shallot and cook until everything is soft and the organs are golden brown. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Once organ mixture is cooled, rough chop contents on a cutting board into small pieces. Be careful not to over chop or leave too large. Place contents into béchamel on stove and stir thoroughly. The mixture should be a little bit thinner than wallpaper paste. Incorporate bloomed gelatine to mixture. Mix thoroughly. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Pour into a thin pan and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or until set.

BOOK: Offal: A Global History
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