Tag Archives: Virginia Campbell's cookbook

Campbell Cuisine » Morel Season

A patch of whim­si­cal-look­ing morels.

One of the most deli­cious bell­wethers of spring is morel sea­son. A prized vari­ety of mush­room that is found in damp con­di­tions at the base of cer­tain vari­eties of trees, morels are extra­or­di­nar­i­ly tasty and are sought after by dis­cern­ing chefs and gour­mands alike. Morels are at their peak begin­ning in April, but they can be found as ear­ly as Feb­ru­ary. Though cul­ti­vat­ed, morels appear in the wild, thus peo­ple who go look­ing for them are “hunters.” Hike through the many pub­lic morel-hunt­ing spots here in Mis­souri and across the coun­try, and you’ll find these dis­tinc­tive-look­ing fun­gi grow­ing in patch­es.  To learn more about more about morels in Mis­souri, check out the Mis­souri Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s page on Munch­able Morels.

Are you a lucky morel hunter and need a new recipe? We’ve got you cov­ered. We found a deca­dent recipe in Vir­ginia Campbell”s cook­book for Stewed Mush­rooms. (And we mean deca­dent: cream, an egg-sized slab of but­ter and eggs. Holy cho­les­terol, Batman!)

Vir­gini­a’s cook­book is sig­nif­i­cant for a num­ber of rea­sons, but pri­mar­i­ly because it is so old and it’s in such good shape. Dat­ing to the 1840s, this was her per­son­al, hand-writ­ten cook­book that con­tains recipes that were reg­u­lar­ly pre­pared by the cook in our kitchen. You’ll notice that Vir­gini­a’s recipes do not have the same for­mat we’re used to (the list of ingre­di­ents on top, direc­tions under­neath); they read more like short nar­ra­tives. Our mod­ern palates con­sid­er a dish of stewed mush­rooms fair­ly nor­mal, but we have recipes for calves feet (and jel­ly!), boiled turkey, cough med­i­cine and ter­rapin stew. The Camp­bells also ate things we still eat reg­u­lar­ly, includ­ing donuts, mac­a­roni and cheese, and fried chick­en, but after flip­ping through the cook­book, you get a glimpse of how dif­fer­ent culi­nary life — and life in gen­er­al — was in the sec­ond half of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. As time goes on, we’ll share many more of her recipes with you, but with­out fur­ther ado, here’s an image of her recipe:

The tran­scrip­tion with orig­i­nal punc­tu­a­tion and spelling:

Stewed Mush­rooms.

Take a qt of fresh Mush­rooms, peel them and cut off the stems, sea­son them
with Pep­per and Salt. Put them in a saucepan or skil­let, with a lump of
fresh But­ter the size of an Egg, and suf­fi­cient Cream or rich Milk to cover
them. Put on the lid of the pan, and stew the Mush­rooms about a 1/4 of an
hour, keep­ing them well cov­ered, or the fla­vors will evap­o­rate. When you take them
off the fire have ready 1 or 2 well beat­en Eggs. Stir the eggs grad­u­al­ly into the stew,
and send them to table in a cov­ered dish.

This sounds pret­ty tasty, but if you would rather stick with a recipe that has more exact mea­sure­ments, give this one a shot. Enjoy!