Saturday, 29 August 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Calf's Foot Jelly/Chicken Stock from Pollyanna

Calf's Foot Jelly is wholesome, medicinal nourishment for invalids, according to Pollyanna Whittier and her dutiful aunt. Pollyanna devotedly delivers bowlfuls of it to the feeble Mrs Snow to give her strength, although in the end we realise that Mrs Snow is quite well in body, and only rather low in spirits. Thus, although regular portions of Calf's Foot Jelly was appreciated and nutritious, it was the frequent visits from sprightly young Pollyanna, and her large doses of gladness and enthusiasm for life and people, that truly brought Mrs Snow back to full health. 

As much as I would love to boil a Calf's Foot, I have none to hand. My butcher, though brilliant, does not provide these delicacies, so it is with a heavy heart that I resort to the easy alternative outlined in Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts by Jane Brocket. 

This slightly less gruesome option is something that I make regularly - chicken stock. 

During the autumn and winter I would reserve 4 chicken frames every week and collect them every Tuesday when passing the butchers after my morning's work at the library, on the way home. I would then get out our big stock pot and set the chicken frames boiling away on the hob while I drew, with the tantalising smell of chicken wafting to my nostrils and the cats yowling and chirruping in a mixture of delight and dismay.

I know you can just as easily use a pressure cooker, which we do have, but it is Andy's tool of choice while I favour saucepans and casserole pots and I am not interested in using it. I like to see how things are doing, and taste regularly.

I've rather got out of the chicken stock habit in these balmy summer months, so it was nice to get the chicken bubbling away again, especially as I was getting over a nasty cold.

I just used two frames this time, and kept coming to check it, waiting till the water had reduced substantially, producing a honey-coloured, nectar-like, golden juice of wonder, full of flavour and almost sweet with its pure chicken yumminess. 

I then used a sieve and a funnel to separate the bones from the liquid, as by now the carcas had completely collapsed. 

Once I had all the liquid set aside, I spent a few minutes picking off the nicest bits of meat from the bones and had myself a very nourishing late-afternoon snack that I absolutely relished. I put the chicken pieces in a little dish and added a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Then I spooned over some of the hot chicken broth, (with the cats ogling at me in disbelief) then sat back and savoured every warming mouthful. For those of you who are sympathetic to the plight of cats, I can assure you that their persistence paid off and they got their chicken in the end.

I can recommend that every now and then you give yourself this little bit of care. It's cheap and it's easy, and is to an Oxo cube what a homemade Victoria Sponge is to a Supermarket one. And if you have access to a Calf's Foot, I'm sure that's just as delicious, if not quite as appealing.

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