Catfish Soup

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This recipe for catfish soup was written by Eliza Leslie, a well-known cookbook author in the 19th century and someone who grew up and lived most of her life in Philadelphia. Below you can find the original form of the recipe as it appeared in the 1840 version of her cookbook, Directions for Cookery, In Its Various Branches, and a modernized version that you can easily follow.

Original Recipe

CAT-FISH that have been caught near the middle of the river are much nicer than those that are taken near the shore where they have access to impure food. The small white ones are the best. Having cut off their heads, skin the fish, and clean them, and cut them in three. To twelve small cat-fish allow a pound and a half of ham. Cut the ham into small pieces, or slice it very thin, and scald it two or three times in boiling water, lest it be too salt. Chop together a bunch of parsley and some sweet marjoram stripped from the stalks. Put these ingredients into a soup kettle and season them with pepper: the ham will make it salt enough. Add a head of celery cut small, or a large table-spoonful of celery seed tied up in a bit of clear muslin to prevent its dispersing. Put in two quarts of water, cover the kettle, and let it boil slowly till every thing is sufficiently done, and the fish and ham quite tender. Skim it frequently. Boil in another vessel a quart of rich milk, in which you have melted a quarter of a pound of butter divided into small bits and rolled in flour. Pour it hot to the soup, and stir in at the last the beaten yolks of four eggs. Give it another boil, just to take off the rawness of the eggs, and then put it into a tureen, taking out the bag of celery seed before you send the soup to table, and adding some toasted bread cut into small squares. In making toast for soup, cut the bread thick, and pare off all the crust.This soup will be found very fine. CAT-FISH that have been caught near the middle of the river are much nicer than those that are taken near the shore where they have access to impure food. The small white ones are the best. Having cut off their heads, skin the fish, and clean them, and cut them in three. To twelve small cat-fish allow a pound and a half of ham. Cut the ham into small pieces, or slice it very thin, and scald it two or three times in boiling water, lest it be too salt. Chop together a bunch of parsley and some sweet marjoram stripped from the stalks. Put these ingredients into a soup kettle and season them with pepper: the ham will make it salt enough. Add a head of celery cut small, or a large table-spoonful of celery seed tied up in a bit of clear muslin to prevent its dispersing. Put in two quarts of water, cover the kettle, and let it boil slowly till every thing is sufficiently done, and the fish and ham quite tender. Skim it frequently. Boil in another vessel a quart of rich milk, in which you have melted a quarter of a pound of butter divided into small bits and rolled in flour. Pour it hot to the soup, and stir in at the last the beaten yolks of four eggs. Give it another boil, just to take off the rawness of the eggs, and then put it into a tureen, taking out the bag of celery seed before you send the soup to table, and adding some toasted bread cut into small squares. In making toast for soup, cut the bread thick, and pare off all the crust.This soup will be found very fine.

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Catfish Soup

Ingredients

  • 12 small catfish
  • 1.5 lbs ham
  • 1 tbsp celery seeds, or 1 head of celery
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1/4 lb butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • bunch of parsley
  • bunch of marjoram or oregano
  • pepper
  • toasted bread crumbs (optional)
  • flour

Instructions

  1. Cut off the catfish heads. Clean and skin the bodies and cut them into three equal parts.

  2. Cut the 1 ½ lbs of ham into small pieces.

  3. Chop together a bunch of parsley and some sweet marjoram (or oregano) stripped from the stalks.

  4. Chop up a head of celery into small pieces or put a tablespoon of celery seeds into some cheese cloth and tie it up with twine.

  5. Put the catfish, ham, parsley, marjoram (or oregano), and celery (or celery seeds) into a soup kettle and season them to taste with pepper.

  6. Add two quarts of water, cover the kettle, and let it boil slowly till every thing is sufficiently done, and the fish and ham quite tender.

  7. Cut up ¼ lb of butter into ¼ inch cubes and roll them in flour. In a separate pan, add the quart of milk and the butter and flour. Bring to a boil.

  8. Pour the milk mixture into the soup and stir in four egg yolks. Bring the soup back to a boil.

  9. If using the celery seeds, be sure to remove the cheese cloth bundle before serving the soup.

  10. Garnish with toasted bread cut into small squares if you like.