The Charleston Silver Lady
This ladle is a shining example of the silver made in Charleston and South Carolina before 1900. It is made of the alloy I have written about in this column before known as coin silver. This alloy pre-dates sterling and is uniquely American.
A large ladle like this would have been for a syllabub jar, a punch bowl or even a large soup tureen.
The tear drop shape of the bowl is very unusual and is deep as you see it resting in my hand you can see it has a greater depth to it than most large ladles. Most silver makers sold this form of bouillon ladle.
Scalding hot broth/bouillon would have been added to cooling bowls of once hot food to make them even more appealing to eat when the weather turned cool.
Bouillon was made from boiled meat bones, a root vegetable or two and salt and was almost always homemade.
This recipe I am going to share with you is one you will want to use as an ingredient for your own meals this time of year.
As a child in Charleston, I remember the big steaming pot of bouillon keeping hot on the stove for a sit down meal for family or guests. I can nearly feel the heat and humidity of the steam as it rolled out of the large metal pot that held the ingredients to make a most delicious broth.
As an aside to those who love silver. Look up the silver patterns Fontainebleau and Gilpen, both made by Gorham. Both patterns feature cupids toiling in the kitchen.
I own a silver soup ladle in the Fontainebleau pattern. The motif features a cupid holding a boiling pot of soup/bouillon over his head. Also check out Labors of Cupid by Domonick and Haf. Ok, back to the recipe.
Place a large stock pot with 8-10 cups of cold water on the fire until the water begins to rapidly boil. Add a palm full of salt, a bunch of cleaned, chopped celery, leaves and all, 3 or 4 whole unpeeled carrots, 4 large peeled yellow onions, 2 parsnips, 6 or 8 beef bones and a palm full of black pepper. Boil for 2-3 hours. Keep the water bubbling but not so rapid that it will boil over.
You want it to boil down to concentrate the flavors.
Remove the pot from the heat, cover it (we use a linen cloth) and let it sit off the heat for about 2 hours.
Strain the solids and return remaining broth to the pot.
When you are ready for dinner, ladle the hot bouillon over any meat you are serving. The magic of this simple liquid is undeniable.
At Thanksgiving, the vegetables from the broth would be added to the stuffing for instant heightened flavor.
We would also pour a cup of it over the stuffing before it was baked in the oven, all in hopes of making a good thing even better – and it was.
I know we can buy wonderful bouillon cubes today that can do an even better job than this humble recipe but there is something special about the taste of bouillon that is homemade right down to the last detail.
Throughout the meal, a porcelain tureen of the hot bouillon would be brought in if anyone wanted their plate heated. The ladle allowed the steaming liquid to be served without any worry of accidental burns.
I hope you will try this recipe.
Use whatever vegetables and meat bones you have. Making it using the turkey bones you may have left over a few weeks from now would be ideal and would be a great use of something you might ordinarily discard. Recipes like this one stand the test of time, just as the silver ladle has done.