I Suggest a “Worchexit” to Keep Our Dishes American

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The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex flaunting English Lea & Perrins Sauce at the wedding.

 

We may have won the Revolution, and the War of 1812, but the English have been invading the U.S. in a very discreet but powerful way since 1839. And New York Business man John Duncan, is the Benedict Arnold responsible for this secret mutiny. He’s the man who first started importing a brown sauce made by English Chemists John Lea and William Perrins, originally for a retired English Lord, who governed India.
We’ve avoided calling our cookies “biscuits’, we’ve avoided calling cakes “Puddings”, and you won’t find mushy peas on very many U.S. menus, nor will you find Americans eating Marmite with breakfast. But the English have succeeded in getting us addicted to their ubiquitous brown Worchesteshire sauce. They’ve secretly plotted to have it put in nearly every American dish from soup to stew. It’s in some of our most beloved American cocktails and dishes. It’s in our Bloody Mary – even though invented in Paris, its name was changed from the Red Snapper in the U.S. It’s in the deviled egg, which shows up at summer picnics and family events across the country. It’s in our most American of barbeque sauces. It’s even – God forbid – in Cincinnati chili!! How could the Macedonians allowed for this English travesty!
So now that the British have brexited out of the European Union, they force another union on us with the marriage of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. OH yeah, we should all be SOOO happy that one of our most beautiful actresses has been taken out of commission now to be the Real Housewife of England’s Ginger Prince. She is no longer allowed to offer an American hug, eat shellfish, or play the Game of Monopoly! How un-American is that? If the Royal couple visits New Orleans, she won’t be allowed to participate in a crawfish boil. If they visit Maryland – Megan can’t indulge in a crab cake. If they visit Gulf Shores or Florida, they can’t even taste shrimp. But she could have a Bloody Mary, or barbeque ribs, because of the English ‘brown poison’ that’s in their formulae.

The British have been laughing behind our backs for centuries.   I mean what is even the correct pronunciation of the evil brown sauce?    They named it after one of the longest cities in Britain, and don’t even pronounce all the letters in its name!  What the heck happened to the “chest” in the middle?    And, they’ve certainly been confusing us with their fussy table settings.   What American knows the difference between a shrimp fork and an oyster fork?

They’re even trying to endear us to their culture by forcing their TV shows on us, like Shameless and the Great British Baking Show.     Paul Hollywood thinks he’s so suave with his baking prowess.
They’ve even done something terribly sinister with the American version of Lee & Perrins – they removed the Malt vinegar, replacing it with distilled white vinegar, and put three times the amount of sugar and salt in our version to clog our arteries and raise our blood pressure. Although the Lee & Perrins brand has been owned by American Heinz since 2005, I bet if you peel the onion layers far enough you’ll find a connection to British nobility.

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On 21 May 2009 Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Heinz Beanz factory in Kitt Green near Wigan to mark the 50th Anniversary of the official opening of the factory. The Queen also opened a new packing operation.
But now that Megan’s signed the register, the English can now say, “Oh you think you’re SOO American with your Barbecue sauce made with our English Worchestershire.” It’s almost as if they’ve been laying the groundwork for having their now Duke and Duchess of Sussex live in the U.S., which they’re rumored to be considering. We can’t really stage a “Worchexit”, removing all English Worchestershire from our beloved American foods. It’s really too late for that. The English probably even colluded with the Japanese to create the current buzz around Umami – the new fifth taste in addition to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Now that all brown fish sauces like Worchestershire are associated with Umami, our celebrity chefs won’t allow for it to be let go. Umami is all they can talk about on Chopped and America’s Next Top Chef.

And how fussy are the list of ingredients in Worchestershire?  It has two types of vinegar – malt and spirit, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, onions, garlic, tamarind, cloves, and probably lemon, pickles, pepper and soy (there’s the Japanese collusion right there!).
Ok I admit, I do have English ancestry on my mother’s side, but we don’t talk about it much. My Grandfather’s ancestors came from a coastal part of Suffolk, called Horsey-next-the-sea, which even is the origin of another English sauce I’m addicted to, Horsey sauce. So what is an American to do to ? Can we agree to rename Worchestershire something more American like Liberty Brown and stop this British invasion right here?

 

The Inventor of the Pringle’s Can and My Role in Abdominal Cramping and Loose Stools


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A recent article in Gastro Obscura hailed the inventor of the Pringles can, Cincinnatian Fredric John Bauer. He happens to be buried in Arlington Memorial Gardens in Mt. Healthy, near where my paternal grandparents and several aunts and uncles also lie in rest. Bauer invented the iconic snack tube in 1966, and was so proud of his invention, that he had his ashes interred in one of those tubes – I’m not sure which flavor, though.
The article made me think of an early career connection I had to Pringles and their tube. One of my favorite career gigs was as a mixing design engineer for Chemineer in Vandalia, Ohio. It was my first gig, as a fresh graduate of UC’s Chemical Engineering Program. It was great experience and exposure to a variety of industries. I was young, green and hungry to see the world of chemicals. I developed mixing systems that mixed together the ingredients in products like Campbell’s Tomato Soup, and Baxter Health latex ‘finger cots’ – use your imagination on what those are used for.
One of the most interesting mixing designs that I completed was for the tank farm that mixed the Olestra products at P & G in St. Bernard, Ohio. I designed several mixers from our newly acquired ProChem line for these tanks. The product line started as a rugged line for the mining industry. The mixers I designed for P & G were to be mounted on the side of the large several thousand gallon tanks.
After I left that first job, I went to a work as a process engineer at a chemicals plant right across from the Olestra Plant. I had the opportunity to see that plant being built and my designs installed. And I passed them every morning on my way into work.
Olestra was the fruits of an accidental discovery by P & G engineers in 1968 of a fat that didn’t absorb into the body. It was derived from sucrose and could bond with six, seven or eight fatty acids, greater than the three fatty acids on the Triglyceride molecule of the dietary fat used in snack foods. What that meant was that the large Olestra molecule was too big and irregular to move through the wall of the intestine and be absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result it became a fat substitute for high-fat snack foods like potato chips and Pringles, after its FDA approval in 1996, which was right at the time I designed the mixing systems. The only problem, everyone found out, was the side effects on the gastrointestinal system. You see Olestra caused at the very least abdominal cramping, and at its full effect – caused loose stools or ‘anal leakage.’ The FDA required all snacks like Pringles and Frito Lay Wow! Chips with Olestra to head this warning visibly on the outside of their packaging. And, as you might imagine, this didn’t make the product very popular, especially since most folks felt the full side effects. I tried the Olestra products myself and I was a full-side effects consumer. Why would anyone in their right mind sacrifice incontinence for a high-fat snack food?    No delicious snack food is worth these side effects.   I guess they do taste better than Metamucil.   Olestra also inhibited the absorption of some vitamins – notably A, D, E, and K.

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So, its popularity as a fat substitute dropped it off the snack food scene. But P & G had spent so much money on its research that they searched for other uses. It was investigated as a cosmetic additive, but now it’s used as an industrial lubricant.
So no offense, Mr. Bauer, you may have invented the Pringles can, but I enabled uncomfortable anal leakage for millions of snack brand consumers. I however, will not be buried in a Pringles can.

The Ohio Shredded Chicken Sandwich

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I am in love with summer regional festivals. It’s where we truly get to celebrate our regional American foods, some of which are getting harder and harder to find. One regional food native to the farmlands of Ohio is the Ohio Shredded Chicken sandwich – also called the sloppy chicken or hot pressed chicken sandwich. Chic-fil-A has spoiled us into thinking that all chicken sandwiches are perfectly shaped, tender patties, marinated in pickle juice, and served with a heaping side of deep fried waffle fries. But come with me back to the days when chickens were free range in Ohio, back before the turn of the last century.
Back then, chickens on the farm were only butchered when they stopped laying eggs. The Mega Poultry farms and fried chicken chains were not everywhere like they are today. Fried chicken was a Sunday dinner type of thing, expensive and a treat that wasn’t had during the week. By the time of infertility, the chickens were older and their meat tough. So, the only thing to do with the tough meat was to cook until tender and make basically, creamed chicken. Ingenious farm cooks, shredded the cooked meat, marinated them in cream, chicken bouillon or cream of chicken soup, and thickened with flour, Ritz crackers, or saltines and served on a hamburger bun.
Some hyper local recipes call for thickening the shredded chicken with local Ohio potato chips like Ballreich’s (Tiffin, Ohio) or Jones’ (Mansfield, Ohio). Others combine both cream of chicken with cream of celery soups.
They became the standard of church potlucks, school lunch menus, graduation parties, football and basketball concession stands, and drive-ins in central and northern Ohio – specifically the counties of Licking and adjoining Franklin counties. There is one official site, created by Tom and Donna Thorpe, which lists all the restaurants, root beer stands, creamy whips and drive-ins in central Ohio that serve this old delicacy – chickensandwich.info. They have been researching this regional food for over 16 years and say it’s available nowhere else outside Ohio. They moved to southern California and could not find their beloved shredded chicken sandwich.
Some meat markets serve their own take-home shredded chicken sandwich mixes – Roots Poultry in Fremont, Ohio, has the most version available, and Brinkman’s Turkey Farms in Findlay’s canned products can be found here in Cincinnati.

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The closest places to Cincinnati listed on the Thorpe’s list are Springfield and Gahanna, Ohio. One place the chicken sandwich can be had that is not on the Thorpe’s list is at the Shandon Strawberry Festival, happening Saturday, June 9, hosted by the Shandon Congregational Church in Butler County, Ohio. Shandon is an old Welsh farming community about 5 miles west of Ross, Ohio, filled with historic buildings and antiques shops. An antique tractor show accompanies the event, as well as an open house at the Shandon Historical Society and Museum. Don’t miss the event for the best local homemade strawberry ice cream and shortcake, and of course the beloved Ohio shredded chicken sandwich.

Mexican Chelas – My New Favorite Summer Beer Drinks

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A chela cubana before adding the beer.

I thought the Dutch and the Germans had the monopoly on ‘shandifying’ or adding weird things to their beers. They even have a name for it – “biermischgetranke” (beer mixed drinks). They like to add things like carbonated lemon soda, peach flavored lemonade, raspberry syrup, or woodruff syrup to typically light wheat beers.
But a recent trip to Mexico City has me thinking the Mexicans might have a leg up on their ‘chelas’ or beer drinks.

 
The Michelada is a typical beer mixed drink had all throughout Latin America. I had my first exposure to this on a business trip to Guatemala several years ago. It’s basically a bloody mary with beer and it’s really good!


But Mexico City has its own version that removes the clamato or tomato juice of the bloody mary mix and just uses the brown sauces. It’s called the Chela Cubana. It uses equal parts Maggi soy sauce, an “English Sauce” like the most popular Crosses and Blackwell English Sauce (like Worcestershire or A1), a few squirts of tabasco and Mexican lime juice (more similar to a key lime) in a tall salt rimmed glass. You can use any beer – dark or light. We tried it with Indio and Victoria.

 
The Chela Cubana may sound disgusting, but is actually very refreshing it has the umami of the soy/English sauce, a bit of tart and acid from the lime, and a bit of sweet, and just a little bit of spice from the tabasco.

 
I tried it at three places, but the best was at a local bodega called Hosteria La Bota – Café of the Boot, where we paired it with the local favorite dish, octopus in its own ink and a mushroom soup – all super-umami-y. We also had it paired with grilled fish and chorizo topped pizza.

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The refreshing chela la guanabana.
In addition to the savory chelas, the Mexicans also have fruity versions. These mix beer with fruits like guava and an interesting one called guanabana, that result in more of a mildly beer flavored fruit smoothy. I tried the one with guanabana for lunch and loved it. The guanabana is often called the soursop, a type of custard apple. When mixed with a beer it has a banana, custardy flavor that is super-refreshing.
I’ve already made my own and substituted the English sauce with Worcestershire, the tobasco with chipotle powder, and didn’t have any Mexican lime, and it was good, but nothing compared to what I had in Mexico City. I plan to experiment with formulations this summer.

Brazil’s German Immigrant Community and their Catharina Sour Beers – Coming to Cincy?

 

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In the southern part of Brazil, there is a strong German influence from colonial times. You’ll find as many German surnames there as you will in Cincinnati. German dialects – like Brazilian Hunsruckisch and East Pomeranian – are the second most spoken first languages in Brazil, after Portuguese. German immigrants made about 50% of the immigrants in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.

 
Traditional German beer styles are well recognized and popular. A rising craft brew scene is blossoming – causing the fusion of traditional German styles with the wide availability of tropical fruits, many of which are too fragile to be imported to the U.S.
This has created a local style known as the Catharina Sour recognized and described by the BJCP. They describe the style as a standard strength wheat ale that has been kettle soured and has fresh tropical fruit added. It is similar but not equal to a Berliner Weisse and used both what and Pilsner malts. It’s meant to be light and refreshing for warm weather, and is highly carbonated. The sour level is moderate but shouldn’t be so sharp as to overshadow the fruit. The recipes use a lactobacillus souring agent like Yakult 40 brand probiotic drink for the souring, in addition to an ale yeast.

 
Florida craft brewers have a similar style called the Florida Weisse, which is type of fruit beer, but fits the Berliner Weisse style more than the Catharina Sour.

 
There are several breweries in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina (after whom the sour category is named). Daerneys combines passionfruit and dragonfruit. Armada Cervejeira in Sao Jose has a tangerine sour. But the homebrewers also use guava and tamarind, wild raspberry, butia (a rainforest fruit), pineapple, and other local wild berries.

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So far none of the Cincinnati area breweries making sours like Streetside in Columbia-Tusculum, or Urban Artifact in Northside are making Catharina Sours. The only American-made Catharina Sour I know of is the Guava Sour by Adelbert’s Brewery in Austin, Texas, but I am on the lookout at Jungle Jim’s, The Party Source, and Market Wines for others.

 

Bacher Rye: A Rye to Rival Rubel

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For a city like Cincinnati, with such a large German-American population, it’s hard these days to find a good rye bread.  Thankfully, there are still a few family owned bakeries, like Wyoming,  North College Hill and the new Allez in Over-the-Rhine who make good rye breads.   When you talk about Cincinnati rye breads to older locals, Rubel’s always comes up as the best.   People who grew up eating Rubel’s Heidelburg Rye lament the day the factory closed its doors in 1978.

But the oldest, continually baked rye bread in Cincinnati is an underknown one called Bacher’s Rye.   It’s still being baked by the Wyoming Pastry Shop, which obtained rights to the bread, patented “Cincinnati’s Original Bacher Rye,” in 1980, with help from Simon Lazarus, a native of Wyoming, and a super-fan of Bacher Rye.  With the closing of the bakery, he wanted to be able to still eat his favorite rye bread.  So he bought the recipe and gave it to the owner of Wyoming Pastry.     That was German immigrant, Erich Reschke, who passed the bakery on to his son and daughter-in-law, Phil and Kim Reschke.

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Bacher Bakery was a Clifton Bakery, started in the early 1920s by Alsatian immigrant George Bacher at 277 West McMicken.    He had immigrated to Cincinnati in 1877 after the devastating Franco-Prussian Wars.    He  then moved the bakery to 24 East University, and then 2033 Vine Street.      The bread became famous as a sponsor of the Ruth Lyons show in the 1950s, when she invented the talk show format that made Oprah Winfrey a multi-millionaire.

Bacher’s rye has a deep rye flavor, with seedy caraway notes in each bite.  Originally it was called Bacher’s Kummel Rye – kummel being the German word for caraway.    Rye is hard to make today at home because it requires ingredients really only available to the commercial baker – caraway emulsion (a concentrated caraway flavor) and powdered rye sour.

My father, who is the equivalent of a sommelier of  Cincinnati Rye Bread, has always said a good rye bread MUST have caraway seed inside, even better if encrusted on the outside.    My mother, who grew up in her father’s bakery, adds that a good rye bread must have a crisp outer crust, and a soft, chewy inside.   Growing up in a post-Rubel and post-Grandpa’s bakery rye world, our family’s conciliatory go-to rye was the commercially made Klosterman Cincinnati Rye.   It does have a good rye and caraway flavor, but it’s not my Grandpa’s rye bread by any means.   It was our vehicle for braunschweiger, pickled herring (matjes), limburger cheese, and goetta.

The recipe for Bacher’s rye bread goes back even further than the 1920s to an even older Cincinnati Bakery.      The 1941 Cincinnati Directory notes that the Bacher Bakery were makers of “Schneider Rye”.     That’s because,  in 1922, George Bacher was the foreman baker at Schneider Bakery, living next to the owner, Charles Schneider at 1428 Walnut Street.     In the next few years, he took his knowledge and opened his own bakery.

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The Schneider Milling and Baking Company was founded in Cincinnati on Walnut Street in 1856 by German immigrant John Schneider.    He moved to larger quarters in 1858 at Vine and Elder, and then back to Walnut to a large factory.    They were one of the only bakeries in the country that milled their own flour on site with the bakery.     In 1870, Schneider installed the first continuous baking oven in Cincinnati, adding three others.   After returning from a visit to his German homeland, he installed Cincinnati’s first drawplate oven with a fire-brick bottom, of which he installed eight more over the next several years.   The first dough mixer was installed in 1884, and four more were added, making them the region’s largest commercial producer of bread and pastries.    They became known even outside Cincinnati for their wonderful rye bread.

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So as foreman baker at John Schneider, George brought the rye recipe he learned there to his bakery, renamed it after himself, and passed on the recipe to his son Emil, then to his grandson George, and great grandson, George Jr.

So, when eating Wyoming Pastry’s Bacher Rye bread, know that you are biting into an over 160 year old rye recipe, Cincinnati’s oldest.

 

 

 

 

Lammes – The Old Texas Candy Company Lost in Poker Game

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The Habanero Texas Chewie by Lammes Candies in Austin, Texas.
While waiting for a weather-delayed flight in Houston, Texas, I saw a unique regional candy at the newsstand. That seems to be a running theme with me – it’s how I found the Cherry Mash earlier in the year. When I saw the phrase ‘since 1885’ on the wrapper I had to buy one to try. A candy historian like me couldn’t resist. The candy was the “Texas Chewy Pecan Praline.” I had written about the famous Texas peanut clusters in a past blog, so I had to research and report on this historic candy company. A praline is like a peanut cluster with the chocolate replaced by caramel. Typically, at least in the U.S., and New Orleans, pralines utilize the pecan as the nut, but they can utilize any nut and still be called a praline.

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The Texas Chewy Pecan Praline is made by Lammes Candies, founded in Austin, Texas, by William Wirt Lamme in 1878 – seven years after our beloved Dosher Candies – but still over 130 years.     I’ll have to do a bit of research to see what state has the oldest candy company in the U.S.   Originally called the Red Front Candy Factory, it was in the 800 block of Congress Avenue in the main business district of Austin, Texas. Apparently, candy wasn’t William Lamme’s only indulgence, as he lost the candy business in a poker game in 1885!     And, it probably was not a game of Texas Holdem.  His son, David Turner Lamme, Sr., returned to Austin, after selling barbed wire for several years , to repay the gambling debt of $800 and reclaim the store as his own. David renamed the business from Red Front to Lammes Candies and officially opened on July 10, 1885. Today, the $16 Million dollar business is run by Pam Teich, the great-granddaughter of David Lamme.
The world famous Texas Chewy Pecan Praline – the current best seller – was first produced by David Lamme Sr, in 1892 (about the same time as Doscher’s French Chew was invented) after seven lucky years of recipe testing. The ingredients, except for the pecans, are the same. Originally only pecans grown along the Colorado River in Austin were used. Today, the company uses only Texas grown pecans, not necessarily from Austin. The Texas Chewie, as its affectionately called, is produced in 2000 pound quantities daily.

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The company also makes a spicy habanero version of the Texas Chewie, along with 1000 other items like Texas Longhorns, chocolate nut clusters, Divinity and Mints, and caramels.