Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marblehead Red Flannel Hash

If this article piqued your interest, you are probably wondering what in the world Red Flannel Hash is. It is a New England fish dish.  While researching for this article I had a good laugh reading this posting on .

Suspecting her husband of unfaithfulness a mining camp wife, who was also ran a boarding house, awoke in a bitter mood. When she went to cook breakfast for the miners she noticed the laundry hanging to dry in the kitchen. In a fit of anger she grabbed her husband's red flannel long johns, ground them up and threw them into the hash she was preparing. The breakfast was served and the miners kept asking for more of that "bright red hash". The wife had ground up her husband's only pair of red flannels, so she substituted beet in the next batch of hash. They proved to be just as popular.

No, Marblehead Red Flannel Hash was not made from some red long johns that had not been washed all winter. It is a fish dish concocted out of necessity by early settelers along the Atlantic seacoast. 

Front Stree at Fort Sewell ater a Northeaster
Life in those days would have been harsh. Wind, cold, snow, high tides and rocky soil created hearty souls that persevered using foods they could store. Homes were small, with low ceilings, small rooms, handmade glass pane windows and dirt cellars.  The hearty souls had to made do with what they had to survive.

Early Gregory Street, Marblehead
In their unheated cellars, they stored winter vegetables like potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnip and winter squash that they might have grown in the rocky or loamy soil.  They also would have had salted Haddock and Cod and pork fat. These were not rich people but hard working survivors.

Salted fish racks in Nova Scotia
Marblehead Red Flannel Hash is unique because it is made using salted or corned fish.  Salted fish was rolled in rock salt and dried in the sun then packed in wooden boxes.  The dried fish lasted most of the winter.  Corned fish is fresh fish that is rolled in course salt like kosher salt and refrigerated till use usually the same day.  Our family always uses Haddock instead of Cod.

Salt, Salt Pork, Dried Beans and Common Crackers were staples of early New England settlers

To make Marblehead Red Flannel Hash you need potatoes, onions, beets, salt pork and corned Haddock.  The amounts will depend on how many people you are going to feed.  A good sized fillet of Haddock will feed a family of four.  Look for a thick fillet.  Ask the fish monger to corn the fish.  If they look at you oddly, bring the fish home and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and refrigerate till dinner time.

Salt pork is a piece of pork fat  usually from the back of the pig that has been salted and cured.  One side is rind which has to be removed with a sharp knife and discarded.  I presume in the olden days this piece of rind was also cut up and cooked but I was taught not to use it as it is tough (we would have used it in baked beans). The remaining fat is cut into very small pieces, put into a fry pan and fried till golden brown.  The small brown pieces are called rashers. Salt pork is similar to bacon but does not have any meat attached.  Salt pork rashers are very salty.  The liquified fat will also be used in this dish so do not throw it away.  For all of you Cardiologist wannabes out there please do not email me with warnings about sodium content and fat content.  This dish was created for hard working people who used salt to preserve their food and did not eat prepared foods and convienence foods laced with artificial ingredients.  The salt was commonly collected from the ocean and contained more nutrients and minerals than the iodized stuff we have today that might be laced with aluminium.

I prefer to use fresh beets straight from my garden. 

First the beet greens are cut off and kept for another dish.  I like them steamed with some onion as a side dish.  Next the beets are scrubbed to get off all the dirt.  Then the root is pulled off.  Do not cut it off or the beets will bleed as they are cooked.

I boil my beets till I can insert a knife easily then pour off the boiling water.  Then run them under cold water and the skins will slip right off.  I finish them by cutting off the end where the stems grew and the root end.

Boil the potatoes and onions till done then rinse the excess salt off the fish and place the fish in the boiling water with the potatoes and onions and cook for 7 minutes.  The fish will break into flakes when done.  Pour the contents of the pan into a colander and drain off the liquid.

Put potatoes, onion, beets, fish on a plate.  Mash it all up till it turns into red mush.  Sprinkle with some pork rashers and a little bit of the liquid fat (teaspon or so) to taste and you have just made Marblehead Red Flannel Hash.  If you like Haddock and boiled vegetables with a taste of salty pork pieces you will savor this dish.  If you try this I really want to hear about it because it is one of my family's favorites and we consider it a treat to have (especially since we have to fly the Haddock to the west coast).

Marblehead's Barnacle Restaurant Corned Beef Hash

Red Flannel Hash is a name more commonly used for corned beef hash.  Often leftovers of a boiled corned beef dinner were mashed and fried the next morning and topped with an egg.  The hash gets a nice crust when fried and is delicious.  Red Flannel Hash is a common breakfast at New England diners and local restaurants not to be mistaken for the Marblehead Red Flannel Hash. 

Here is a great Recipe for Red Flannel Hash. Give it a try.


psp games said...

It looks delicious. I am going to make a dish like shown in a top of the blog.

margearm said...

you forgot the best part - the next day - put a little grease from the pork in a fry pan, smash up everything else, it is even better than the first meal. Also learned a new thing about beets, never knew about leaving the root on.

The Frugal Fraulein said...

Mister T, the Dachshund, really loved this dish and now eats beets! Next time we have corned beef I am going to reserve some and make it into hash. I like corned beef hash for a special breakfast.

Brad n Charly said...

it might just be a coincedence,but ive put on some weight since i started reading your ive got to go and make a sandwich. nitey night