If you have been reading this blog since I began 18 months ago, you’ll recall that a meal at the Eagle Tavern at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan was the catalyst for my journey into historic food. That day, I ordered pork sausage patties. They were spicy, thick, and delicious. I love Bob Evans sausage but these vintage babies made commercial sausages look like clay cakes. So when I stumbled across this recipe, I immediately recognized it as an opportunity to recreate that influential meal.
My Eagle Tavern pork sausage was not served over fried mush but this recipe, from Mrs. Wilson’s Cookbook, published in 1920, called for mush and I saw it as a chance to make another staple of the vintage kitchen.
Mush is a basic grain dish created thousands of years ago. It requires water, a heat source, and some corn meal. It’s cooked for a long time over a simmering fire. When I was cooking it, I could imagine prehistoric civilizations using this combination as a simple, inexpensive means of sustenance. In more modern times (think 1700’s and later), the mush was left to gel after cooking, then sliced, pan fried and served with meat or topped with sugar or maple syrup.
Mush is not a staple of the modern kitchen-in fact, I was the only person in my house who had eaten it before. But everyone should try it at least once and you’ll see just how easy it is to make. I got this recipe from The Century Cookbook, published in 1901.
One other note-the sausage portion of this recipe calls for a bread preparation that I still, frankly, do not understand. I did it just to be authentic. I think you can just add bread crumbs instead of going through the trouble of drying out and then re-soaking bread. I often think that some of those vintage cooks did a lot of unnecessary work… and this is one good example.
• 1 pound ground pork
• 2 medium onions, chopped as fine as possible
• Four slices of bread or two whole hamburger buns OR ¾ cup plain bread crumbs
• Two teaspoons salt
• One teaspoon paprika
• Three tablespoons parsley
• ½ cup boiling water
• 1 can tomatoes or two fresh tomatoes, chopped
• 4 cups tap water
• 1 cups corn meal
If you’re using bread or buns, set them on a plate the night before and allow them to dry out and get stale. I used bread and an old hamburger bun that was getting hard anyway.
The mush should also be made the day before. In a saucepan, boil the four cups of tap water. Add the corn meal, stirring constantly. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for one hour stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Transfer mush to a bread pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Let it cool, then cover and allow it to sit overnight. When you wake up the next morning, it will have gelled. Turn it onto a cutting board and slice into pieces, ½ to one inch thick.
Fry them in butter until brown, about five minutes on each side. Set aside.
Soak the stale bread in a bowl of cold water, one slice at a time until soft.
Press the water out of the bread.
Run the bread through a sieve to remove lumps and set aside.
Mix the pork, onions, bread, salt, paprika and parsley in a bowl and form into round patties.
Warm a skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium heat. Roll the sausage patties in flour and brown, about 5 minutes on each side.
Add ½ cup of boiling water and the tomatoes to the skillet. Cover and let simmer for about a half an hour, until patties are no longer pink. The cooking time will depend on how thick you’ve made your patties.
To serve, place a few slices of fried mush on your plate and place a pattie on top, then spoon some of the tomato sauce over the whole thing.