Friday, January 4, 2013

Family Recipe Friday

Being new to blogging and to GeneaBloggers, I am slowly making my way through consideration of the many helpful ideas and tips on the net.  When I read today’s Blogging Prompts on GeneaBloggers, the “Family Recipe Friday” reminded me of what would be a nice follow-up to yesterday’s post here on “The Prism.”  Presented below is a winter recipe delight sure to warm the cockles of a Rhode Islander’s heart (especially if some cockles are thrown into the chowder pot) -- Thomas Tew’s Blackfish Chowder!  

No, it’s not the chowder of that 17th Century rascally pirate Thomas Tew, but rather one Thomas Horswell Tew (1819 – 1874), a wood carver, Odd Fellow, and manager of the beach houses at Easton’s Beach in Newport, Rhode Island during the mid-1800s.

In 1994, E. Jean (MacDonald) Scott of Middletown, RI published a 122-page genealogy of her husband’s Tew family.  Her husband, the grandson of Laura E. (Tew) Scott, was a descendant of Richard Tew and his wife Mary (Clarke) Tew who came to America from Maidford, England in 1640 (and had a daughter born along the way who was, appropriately, named Seaborn Tew).  Mrs. Scott’s  paperback book has the delightful title, A Few of the Tews of Newport, Rhode Island.  [I had the privilege of corresponding with Mrs. Scott while she was compiling the genealogy and contributed in a very small way to her database.]

Mrs. Scott was a careful compiler who also took the effort to include interesting pictures, brief stories and the recipe below.  Her book is a little treasure that I had made into a hardback some years ago in order to better preserve it.  The book is well worth obtaining if you are lucky enough to find one and if you have any interest in or connection to the Tews of Rhode Island.  Mrs. Scott gives endnote credit for the following recipe to Clementine Paddelford, author of the 1960 book How America Eats* and traveling food columnist for the New York Herald Tribune and This Week (a nationally syndicated Sunday magazine from 1935 – 1969); but Mrs. Scott also informs us that the recipe was provided by other Tew descendants – John and Esther Benson of Newport.

* You can get a signed collectible 1960 edition on for $400 + shipping!

Thomas Tew’s Blackfish Chowder

3 4-pound Blackfish            3 quarts fish stock                        ¼ lb. salt pork –sliced
1 quart onions                      1 quart peeled diced potatoes (8 to 10)
1 quart canned tomatoes     1 lemon                                       1 ¼  tsp. poultry seasoning --
½ tsp. ground clove              1 tsp. sugar                               (sage, basil, marjoram, thyme)
pinch of cayenne pepper      salt to taste                                    1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp butter or margarine

Clean and scale the blackfish** leaving the heads on because the head contains good gelatin.  Wrap the fish in cheesecloth and put it into a deep pot covered with water.  Simmer over a low fire until the fish is tender enough to flake from the bones (allow about 12 minutes to the pound).  Remove the fish, save the stock (which should measure about three quarts) and flake the fish from the bones.  In a heavy iron skillet fry pork until golden and then add the pork to the fish stock -- retaining the fat.  Add onion to the fat and fry until limp and pale gold then add to stock also.  Take a half cup of the stock and rinse out the frying pan to get every last bit of the flavor, then pour into the chowder.  Add potatoes and tomatoes.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Wash a lemon and slice thinly (discarding the ends).  Quarter the slices and place in a saucepan then cover with water; simmer slowly.  After 10 minutes (DO NOT LET IT COME TO A BOIL OR THE FLAVOR WILL BE BITTER!), add the seasonings, stir a few times and add to the chowder pot.  Add the flaked fish.  If you think more lemon is needed, add juice to taste.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Just before serving add the wine and butter or margarine.  Heat until very hot, but do not boil!  Serve in deep bowls with pilot crackers [and a glass of Thomas Tew Rum if desired -- see January 2, 2013 post].   Yield is about 10 servings.

**  Blackfish or tautog is also known as the “poor-man’s lobster” and is found in salt water from Nova Scotia to Georgia.  “Tautaug” is said to be a native Narragansett word and is found in Roger Williams’ Key to the Indian Language.  See,  The tautog image above is in the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, taken or made as part of a public employee's official duties. 

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Copyright 2013,  John D. Tew
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