A delicious recipe amalgamated from two nineteenth century cookbooks written by ‘kitchen maids’. In eighteenth century England the housewife or her housekeeper ruled the cookbooks, in The Netherlands it was the keukenmeid (litt. kitchen maid), which is not quite the same as the housekeeper but more a female cook. However, I will use that in the translations of the book titles. The first cookbook of this kind appeared in 1746, De volmaakte Hollandsche Keuken-Meid (The perfect Housekeeper from Holland). In the second half of the eighteenth century followed De schrandere Stichtse Keuken-Meid (The clever housekeeper from the Sticht, 1754), De volmaakte Geldersche Keuken-Meyd (The perfect Housekeeper of Guelders, 1756), De nieuwe, welervarene Utrechtse Keuken-Meid (The new, well-experienced Housekeeper of Utrecht, 1769), and De nieuwe wel ervarene Nederlandsche Keuken-Meyd (The new well experienced Dutch Housekeeper, 1776). In the nineteenth century the housekeepers lose their anonimity, and they become economical (Aaltje de volmaakte en zuinige keukenmeid, [Aaltje the perfect and economical housekeeper], 1803) and even cheap (Betje de goedkoope keukenmeid, [Betje the cheap housekeeper] 1850). They provide simple recipes for ordinary people (although Betje’s broiled oysters, lobster butter, truffle sauce and ragoût with morilles hardly count as ‘simple fare’).
In my article on Herb soup with potato dumplings I already mentioned the problems with using nineteenth century cookbooks, with all their revized, extended and improved editions. Both Aaltje and Betje have appeared as facsimile reprints some thirty years ago, and these are the editions I have used for the recipe on this page. However, again things weren’t as straightforward as they seemed to be.
Aaltje‘s cookbook has quite a printing history.
The first edition, Aaltje, de volmaakte en zuinige keukenmeid, (Aaltje the perfect and economical housekeeper) appeared in 1803. The author declares in her introduction (‘voorrede’) that she has had the supervision over several kitchens for forty years. She wants to share her expertise in this cookbook, that was printed at her own cost. Other cookbooks, so she says, use all kinds of expensive ingredients, more apt for rich and lofty people, but her recipes will be suitable for the economical middle class.
The second edition in 1804 was already rewritten. In two letters that will accompany each edition until the 16th in 1878, the work-over is explained: a (fictive?) former colleague of Aaltje, the cook N.N. with whom she has consumed many a bottle of wine (“ménich fleschjen wyn”), has also written a cookbook. On his suggestion they combine their manuscripts, resulting in this new, improved Aaltje. From the Gesprek tusschen den Kok Jan de X*** en Aaltje de Keukenmeid(Conversation between the Cook Jan the X*** and Aaltje the kitchen maid) in the fifth edition in 1828, it appears that Aaltje is still working. By that time she must have a career of 65 years as kitchen maid.
In the same year an unauthorized version appears, Het echte Aaltje de volmaakte en zuinige keukenmeid (The real Aaltje etc.). According to the letter from her ‘godchild and beneficiary’ from 1839, Aaltje passed away in the spring of that year. Until 1878 Aaltje will see a total of sixteen editions, and three editions of the Echte Aaltje. Every edition claims to be augmented and improved, chapters are added on which wine to serve, on baking bread and making ice cream.
The last two editions, the seventeenth and eighteenth, are in fact a completely different cookbook, with a new subtitle: Aaltje, Nieuw Nederlandsch Kookboek (Aaltje, New Dutch Cookbook). It is written by ms Odilia Corver, manageress of the Temporary Cooking school in Amsterdam. The original Aaltje was written for experienced cooks, Corver’s recipes explain meticulously the ins and outs of the art of cooking to inexperienced girls, using the newest insights and technologies. She states that roasting on a grill or spit are completely obsolete. (Corvers Aaltje p.95, see bibliography) You can clearly see the difference in style between the old and new Aaltje in the recipes below. The facsimile edition of Aaltje from 1977 is from the 17th edition, the adaptation by Corver.
The second cookbook, Betje de goedkoope keukenmeid, has been printed thirteen times between 1850 and 1927. The eleventh edition (1908) was rewritten by F.S. Oldeman, and the twelfth and thirteenth editions appeared under the name Oldeman, titled Het goedkoope keukenboek (The cheap kitchen book). I always thought that the facsimile edition of Betje (Van Goor, 1975) was from the first edition in 1850 (as stated on the title page of that edition), but according to the Bibliotheca Gastronomica (the source of most of the information on the editions of Aaltje and Betje on this page) the facsimile is from the sixth edition from 1877. There simply is no known copy of the 1850 edition.
Thanks to the kind cooperation of the Kenniscentum van het Nederlands Bakkerijmuseum (The Dutch Bakery Museum, the information on their library is now regrettably offline) in Hattem, I have taken a look at the second edition of Betje. There are some differences with the sixth edition: the type is different, some recipes and chapters have changed position, some sixty recipes are added and a few have disappeared. The recipe for salmon salad for example has been moved from chapter IV (Fish) to chapter 8 (salads), but the text has remained unchanged (except for modernized spelling).
By the way, Betje also has a recipe for chicken salad (2nd edition p.42, 6th edition -facsimile-edition- p.47) with exact the same ingredients, except for the salmon, which has been changed into “de overblijfselen van twee of drie gebraden kippen” (“the leftovers of two or three fried chickens”).
The history of Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is a recent addition to the stock of sauces. When and where the first mayonnaise was prepared is subject to discussion. The theory that is most populair on the web is the following: the cook of the duke of Richelieu has created this sauce after the French victory on the British army at Port Mahon on Menorca, in 1756 (see picture on the right). For want of cream the cook used olive oil to thicken a sauce with egg yolks, and he called this creation mahonnaise. But the term mayonnaise (however written) does not appear before early nineteen century. In 1804 there is mention of ‘mayonnaise de poulet’ in the description of the menu of a Parisian restaurant in the Erinnerungen aus Paris by A. von Kotzebue, and in 1806 the first recipes for mayonnaise appear, in Le cuisinier imperial by A. Viard. One of these recipes is ‘Saumon à la Mayonnaise’: “Quand votre dalle de saumon est cuite, vous pouvez la servir entière ou en morceaux … vous les masquerez avec une mayonnaise froide …” (Cited from Dictionnaire de l’Art Culinaire Français (edition)). According to Tom Stobbart (see bibliography), mayonnaise probably originates south of the Pyrenees, a kind of alioli. The first Dutch mention of mayonnaise in a cookbook dates from 1851 (De ervaren Kok [The experienced cook] by J.G. van Langerak), a ‘white sauce or magnonnaise’. But five years earlier, in 1846, the sauce is already described, although not under the name mayonnaise, by Henriëtte Stam in De Fijne keuken of De Kok voor Lekkerbekken (The fine kitchen or The cook for epicures). See Johannes van Dam, bibliography. In Aaltje the first mention of Mayonnaise is in the 17th edition of 1891, the revized version by Corver. Betje has no mention of the sauce at all (at least not in the editions up to 1877, the sixth edition).
Many people nowadays shun home-made mayonnaise. Partly out of laziness, partly because of the phobia about raw egg yolks. I often use raw egg yolks, and have never had salmonella-poisoning because of it. I did get it once some thirtyfive years ago, after eating in a restaurant.
The first ready-made mayonnaise was sold in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century, brand Hellman.
Salmon and the conscience
Maybe it’s different where you live, but in the Netherlands of today salmon is rarely seen in our rivers. Efforts are made to bring the salmon back through cleaner water and enhancement of its natural habitat, but there is a long way to go yet. What to choose? Eat bred salmon that is bad for the environment, or eat wild salmon which is threatened by extinction? Or maybe refrain from eating salmon altogether? This document on the international SlowFood website may be of help.
In the past salmon was seasonal food, as were all fish. But Aaltje and Betje have different views on what that season was. In the older editions of Aaltje, salmon was typically served during March. In Corver’s version, salmon is eaten from April to July, and winterzalm (winter salmon) from September to May (which in fact means that salmon could be eaten the whole year round). Betje (1877) mentions a different season. According to the introductory remarks in the chapter on fish, salmon is eaten from May to September. Centuries before, Gerard Vorsselman’s Nyeuwen Coock Boeck (New Cookbook) from 1560 (edition Cockx-Indestege, see bibliography) had yet another season: “Den salm is inden april ende mey, ende een wijle daerna tsinen alder besten, ende blijft salm tot na sint Jacobs dach; daer na heetmen hem laset tot op sinte Andries dach ende is ten besten tusschen sinte Michiels (29 september) ende sinte Martens dach (11 november)” (“Salmon is at its best in April and May and a while after that, and will remain ‘salmon’ till after Saint Jacob’s Day (July 25); then it is called ‘laset’ until Saint Andrew’s Day (November 30) and is best between Saint Michael (September 29) and Saint Martin (November 11)” VI.2, edition p.140, Vorsselman’s source is the Late Medieval text Wie man fish und vögel fahen soll from 1493 (edition Hoffman, see bibliography), which was translated into Dutch in the beginning of the sixteenth century).
The original recipes
Here are some recipes, from the new Aaltje from 1891, the older Aaltjes from 1803 and 1878, and from Betje 1851).
Deze visch gebruikt men zelden heel, meestal in mooten. Men kookt haar in gezouten water, liefst zonder kruiderij of alleen met peper.
Men laat den vischketel open en schuimt voortdurend. Men kookt ze 15 à 20 minuten en laat ze nog even in den bouillon staan, altijd open: dan neemt men ze eruit en zet ze op de vischplaat een 10 à 15 minuten in de open lucht. (Pas op de katten!). Nu heeft de moot al haar kleur behouden en komt temidden van salade of peterselie prachtig rood op tafel. Naarmate de mooten dikker of dunner zijn, behoeft men meer of minder tijd. Men dient ze warm met een kapper- of ansjovissaus of mayonnaise, en koud als lunchgerecht met een mayonnaise.
This fish is seldom used whole, often in slices. It is cooked in salted water, preferably without spices, or just with pepper.
One leaves the fish kettle open and skims continuously. Boil them 15 to 20 minutes, and leave them in the stock for a while, always without the lid; then take them out and put them on the fish plate in the open air for 10 to 15 minutes. (Beware of the cats!). Now, the slice has kept all its colour and will appear beautifully red amidst the salad or parsley on the table. According to the greater or lesser thickness of the slices, one needs more or less time. They are served with a caper or anchovy sauce or mayonnaise, and cold for lunch with a mayonnaise.
Deze maakt men vooruit, want ze vereischt zorg. Kluts twee geheele eieren met 5 gr. zout en 10 gr. suiker. Zet 1/8 liter kruidenazijn of azijn en 1/4 liter slaolie klaar. Roer de eieren tot een stijve massa, doe er langzaam, al roerend, eerst een lepel azijn bij (anders schift het licht) en dan een lepel olie, zoo om en om; telkens roert men het weer dik, eer men er het volgende bijgiet. Doe er 3 gr. peper bij en het sap van 1/2 citroen. Is ze te stijf, leng ze dan voorzichtig aan met azijn of zeer goede gekookte melk. Men kan er een geraspte ui en Cayennepeper bijdoen.
This is made in advance, because of the care it needs. Beat two whole eggs with 5 gr. salt and 10 gr. sugar. Place 1/8 liter herb vinegar and 1/4 liter vegetable oil near at hand. Beat the eggs to a stiff mass, add slowly, whilst stirring, first a spoon vinegar (else it will easily curdle), and then a spoonful of oil, alternately; each time beat it thick again, before pouring the next spoonful. Add 3 gr. pepper and the juice of 1/2 lemon. If it’s too thick, carefuly add some vinegar or well boiled milk. One can add a grated onion and cayenne pepper.
To compare Corver’s version with the older editions of Aaltje the recipes for boiled salmon from the first edition (1803) and the sixteenth edition (1878, the last before Corver’s revision):
Snijdt men in mooten en kookt die met water en zout.t
Is cut in slices, and cook it with water and salt.
Als de zalm gekookt is, legt men de mooten in eene saus van olie, azijn, zout, peper en fijne eijeren. Maak daarna eene saus van vier lepels wijnazijn, twee lepels consommé, tien lepels slaolie, zout, peper, gehakte dragon en pimpernel. Leg de mooten daarin en schik ze op den schotel, doe de saus erover en leg kropsalade in vier deelen gesneden en op ieder deel een kwart ei met kappers, augurken en ansjovisch.
When the salmon is cooked, place the slices in a sauce of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and fine eggs. Then make a sauce of four spoons wine vinegar, two spoons consommé, ten spoons vegetable oil, salt, pepper, chopped tarragon, and burnet. Put the slices in it and arrange them on a dish, pour the sauce over it and arrange quartered butterhead lettuce, on every quarter a quartered egg with capers, pickled gherkins and anchovy.
Modern adaptation of the recipe
For this adaptation I have combined the recipes of Aaltje en Betje: the salmon slices are boiled and served with a mayonnaise according to Aaltje from 1891, but the garnish and herbs in the mayonnaise are from Betje, which changes the mayonnaise into a kind of ravigotte sauce. Aaltje’s mayonnaise is more acid than modern mayonnaise. In Betje from 1877 there is no mention of mayonnaise at all (see above, the history of Mayonnaise)
First course or Lunch dish for 4 persons; preparation 40 minutes.
2 salmon slices à 200 gr
1 head of lettuce
2 hard-boiled eggs
4 pickled gherkins
1 Tbsp capers
4 anchovy fillets
Voor de mayonaise
2 raw eggs or 2 egg yolks
4 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
salt and white pepper to taste
½ tsp sugar
½ Tbsp tarragon
½ Tbsp burnet (if available)
1½ to 2 dl (5 to 7 fl.oz.) vegetable oil, or half vegetable oil and half olive oil
Bring water with salt to the boil, lower the heat and put in the slices of salmon. Poach them for ten to fifteen minutes. Take them out of the water, and let them cool. Aaltje has right, beware of cats!
Prepare the mayonnaise. If you use a blender, take whole eggs, if you make it by hand, use egg yolks. Temper eggs or egg yolks, vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar. Pour ithe oil in a thin drizzle, keep beating the eggs. When the mayonnaise has thickened enough, it is ready. Finish with adding chopped tarragon and burnet, and taste the sauce. The amount of oil you’ll need varies according to the size of the eggs and how thick you want your mayonnaise to be. A warning: when there is thunder in the air, don’t even THINK of making your own mayonnaise. It will curdle. Use ready-made mayonnaise in that case. (See also here)
Garnish: clean and wash the lettuce, halve the boiled eggs, cut the gherkins, drain the capers and pat the anchovy dry after soaking for ten minutes in water or milk to remove excess salt.
Use a decorative dish or plate. Cover with lettuce, scoop some mayonnaise on it, then arrange the salmon slices on top. Cover the salmon with the rest of the mayonnaise. Place the prepared garnish in an attractive manner.
Serve with simple toasted white sandwich bread and butter.
Cookbook writers Henriëtte Davidis and Maria Haezebroek (both second half of the nineteenth century) only serve oil, vinegar and parsley to cold poached salmon cuts. In this, they agree with the Volmaakte Hollandsche Keuken-Meid (The perfect Dutch housekeeper), who already gives this combination in 1746 in the recipe for ‘Zalm, hoe men die kooken en stooven zal voor de Vasten’ (p.132, ‘Salmon, how to cook and broil for Lent’).
Both Aaltje and Betje combine salmon also with caper sauce. Betje’s recipe (p.66) resembles a sauce Hollandaise, with 6 eggs, 1 tablespoon flour, salt and vinegar, brought to the boil whilst stirring, and finsished with a lump butter and the capers.
All descriptions of ingredients
A small fish, Engraulis ecrasicolus, that lives in the Mediteranean and other waters. Where I live (the Netherlands, incase you hadn’t noticed yet), we seldom eat fresh anchovy. Our anchovy comes salted in glass pots or canned in oil. Use salted anchovy rather than in oil, the flesh is firmer, they taste better, and if you need but a few fillets, you’ll never get the can closed again. But if you use salted anchovy, take care to steep them in water or milk for ten minutes, else they’ll be too salty.
A perennial (Sanguisorba minor) with decorative leaves and sweet little flowers. Indigenous to Europe. The young green is used in salads and cooling drinks.
These are the pickled unripe flowerbuds of the Capparis spinosa L. The shrub is indigenous to the regions around the Mediterranean, and its flower buds were already eaten in Antiquity. They are never eaten raw.
Be careful if you ever decide to grow your own tarragon. First of all, often Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var.inodora) is sold as kitchen herb (at least in the Netherlands), while the term inodora indicates that this plant hardly has any flavour. So be sure to find real French tarragon. Second warning: if your tarragon is happy, it will start to grow rank, sprouting up everywhere. So choose the spot where you want to plant your tarragon carefully.
Dried tarragon has hardly any flavour. If you do not have tarragon in your garden, use frozen tarragon, or ask your green grocer.
A three or four year old salmon with a minimal length of one meter (about three feet), caught in the rivers between October and May (Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, under lemma ‘winter’).
The editions below were used by me. Links refer to available editions.
- Aaltje, de volmaakte en zuinige keukenmeid; leerende het braaden, kooken, stooven, inleggen, confyen, droogen, enz.,van alle spyzen, die ‘er in eene burgerkeuken worden toebereid; op de zuinigste, gemaklykste, en smaaklykste wyze. J.B. Elwe and J.L. Werlingshoff, Amsterdam, 1803, 1st edition (‘Aaltje, the perfect and economical cook’). On Googlebooks: edition 1803, 1845 (and many more).
- O.A. Corver, Aaltje, nieuw Nederlandsch Kookboek (‘Aaltje, new Dutch cookbook’), 17th completely revised edition of Aaltje de volmaakte en zuinige keukenmeid, 1891. Facsimilé edition Van Goor Zonen, Den Haag, 1978. New edition in 2014.
- Betje de Goedkope Keukenmeid. Verzameling van beproefde voorschriften om lekker te koken en te braden, te stoven en te bakken, in te leggen, enz. enz.; Benevens enige door ondervinding voor goed erkende huismiddelen. (‘Betje the economical cook’) Tweede druk, z.j. (1851?), Voorburg, A.M. Broedelet.
- Betje de goedkope keukenmeid, (‘Betje the economical cook’), G.B. van Goor Zonen, 1850 (1st edition). Facsimilé edition from the 6th edition from 1877 Van Goor Zonen, Den Haag, 1975.
- Johannes van Dam, De dikke Van Dam, Nijgh Van Ditmar, 2005.
- Johannes van Dam and Joop Witteveen, Koks en keukenmeiden. Amsterdamse kookboeken uit de Gastronomische Bibliotheek en de Bibliotheek van de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Nijgh & Van Ditmar, Amsterdam, 2006.
- Alan Davidson, Tom Jaine The Oxford Companion to Food (División Academic). (Oxford, 2006; link goes to the third revised edtion of 2014).
- Manfred Höfler, Dictionnaire de l’Art Culinaire Français. Edisud, 1996.
- Richard C. Hoffmann, Fishers’ Craft and Lettered Art: Tracts on Fishing from the End of the Middle Ages (Toronto Mediaeval Texts and Translations), 1997.
- Tom Stobart, The cook’s encyclopedia. Ingredients and Processes. Grub Street, London, 1980 (reprint 1998).
- De volmaakte Hollandsche Keuken-meid, Onderwyzende Hoe men allerhande Spyzen, Confituren en Nagerechten, zonder ongemeene kosten, zelfs voor de Roomsgezinden op Visdagen,en in de Vasten, gezond en smakelyk kan toebereiden : Hoe men alles tegen de winter inlegt. Wat men in de Slachttyd doen moet : En hoe men Mol en versch Bier des zomers goed kan houden. […] Anonymous (The perfect Dutch kitchen-maid (=cook), by “A distinguished Lady, recently passed away in The Hague” (1761, 5th edition, facsimile A.W. Sijthoff 1973). Online version. (Jan Willem Claus van Laar) (first edition, Amsterdam, 1746).
- E. Cockx-Indestege, Eenen nyeuwen coock boeck. Kookboek samengesteld door Gheeraert Vorselman en gedrukt te Antwerpen in 1560, Wiesbaden, 1971.
- Joop Witteveen en Bart Cuperus, Bibliotheca gastronomica. Eten en drinken in Nederland en België 1474-1960. Amsterdam, 1998. (2 vols, Bibliography on Dutch cookbooks).
Cook’s Salmon Salad, a recipe from the 19th century