A Kinrowan Estate story: Tatties

Have I shown you our tattie patch yet? I haven’t? Well let’s see it now. It’s a bit of a walk to it, as we’ve needed a lot of space down the centuries for this endeavour, as tatties get used for a lot of purposes, including several not so successful attempts by the more enthusiastic members of our staff to replicate their favorite vodkas! Oh they managed to make a passable vodka but (as the Brewmaster at the time recorded in his journal) they did couldn’t quite get the distillation process right. So after the regrettable accident in the Thirties with their still that went BOOM!, vodka making was banned.

Ahhh, we’re here now. Not much to look at now as most of the tubers have long since been harvested but there’s a few late season varieties in the ground which will get harvested this week before we get a hard frost as they are unfortunately sensitive to such frosts, which damage them in the ground. Even not terribly cold weather makes tatties far more susceptible to bruising and quite possibly later rotting, which can quickly ruin a large stored crop, and that we do not want to happen!

Tatties are a lot fussier than most non-gardeners, and a lot of gardeners as well, realize. This rather steep slope has been used for tatties for centuries now and carefully tended the whole time. It’s now a soil with lots of compost added in and even a bit of sand to facilitate draining . . . Note that it’s fully open to the sun and air flow here is excellent which keeps the damp away.

We’re harvesting tatties for two breads that Mrs. Ware and her kitchen staff want to make in a week or so . . . I’ll show you the recipes she’s using when we get back to the Kitchen, as they’re quite interesting and have been used here ever since they were published in Keesling’s 1890 Book Of Recipes And Household Hints. These are mostly Russets and Red Pontiac varieties, with the former probably better suited for using in bread than the latter. Of course tattie breads run the spectrum from Okrągły chleb kartoflany which is a light and airy Ukrainian tattie bread to the German Kartoffelbrot, which may contain spelt and rye flour.

OK, let’s take our harvest back to my workshop where we’ll gently clean them and set them on wire racks to cure for a week or so…

Mrs. F.M. Harwood’s Potato Ball Bread

Scald a tablespoonful of flour with a pint of water. Take a pint of fresh mashed potatoes, when cool, add a small potato ball (left from last baking), and one teaspoonful salt, two teaspoonfuls sugar, beat thoroughly. Take out half or three fourths of a cup of this mixture and save it to start bread next time. Mix the remainder of the potatoes with the scalded flour, and let rise overnight; next morning add a pint of tepid water to the yeast or sponge and enough flour to knead well: let rise, work down and rise again before putting in pan, when very light mould into a loaf and a pan of biscuit.

Mrs. PJ Studebaker’s Potato Beer Bread

One cup of dried yeast, soak twenty minutes, stir stiff with flour, and let rise; boil four potatoes, scald two spoonfuls of flour with beer from boiled potatoes, mash potatoes and mix with beer and flour. Stir in three quarts of water, then the yeast, let stand overnight; in the morning stir in flour to make thin batter, let rise, then knead stiff with flour, let rise, knead, then rise again, knead out in pans to bake, let rise, then bake in forty-five minutes.

About Gus the Estate Head Gardener

I’m the person responsible for both the grounds and the livestock which are raised here. I live with Bree (my wife) in one of the cottages that has been here for centuries.

I actually enjoy Winters here as my work load is considerably reduced as I let the younger staff members handle the needed work which leaves me time for reading, ice skating and skiing, not to mention just being with my wife. Bliss!

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