Tag Archives: cheese

Rinktum Ditty

It was the name of this recipe that caught my eye initially, as I was flipping through an old cookbook. Then, looking over the ingredients, I was definitely interested in trying it. Seriously, anything with melted cheese is going to be pretty good. Rinktum Ditty is something of a spin on Welsh rarebit (or do you say “rabbit”–both terms are ancient and correct), but with tomatoes taking the place of beer.

It appears that Rinktum Ditty came to America from England, specifically from Cheshire. It became associated with New England, but it clearly spread nationwide, even appearing in a 1917 collection of recipes in Arizona.

Some versions call for cooked tomatoes, others for tomato sauce, and a few Depression-era versions used canned tomato soup. I decided to update it a bit, using a can of “petite diced” tomatoes. It made it a bit chunkier, but the flavor of the cheese came through a bit more, and it was thicker and heartier. If you want to try an older version than mine, just use 2 cups of cooked tomatoes in place of the can of diced tomatoes.

The first recipe I ever saw for this simply called for “cheese.” I wondered that no specific kind was named, but after I made it, I realized it was because almost any good melting cheese would work. I used a good, sharp cheddar, but I imagine a nice smoked gouda would be amazing. And since the recipe apparently came from Cheshire, it’s a good bet Cheshire cheese would work.

Because of its antiquity, as it spread, the name got written down phonetically often enough to have created a fair number of spellings, including Rum Tum Ditty, Ring Tum Tiddy, Rink Tum Diddy, and a few other options. But Rinktum Ditty is the most common spelling. It’s an easy dish to prepare, even finding its way into the repertoire of early logging camps on the frontier. And it’s very economical. Some older collections note that, because there is no beer, it is suitable for children. It’s also mighty tasty.

It is traditionally served over toast. Some recipes suggest buttered toast, but I think that’s overkill, with all the cheese in the dish. Some versions specify crackers. I also tried it over pumpernickel, which was great. Enjoy.

Rinktum Ditty
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs. butter
1 14.5-oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sugar
½ pound cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
Cook the onion in the butter until tender. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar, and heat through. Add the cheese. Stirring constantly, cook until the cheese is melted. Add the beaten egg slowly, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute longer. Serve over toast. Makes 4 servings.


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Scarborough Pie

During the holidays, I was invited to a potluck dinner where I knew a couple of people were vegetarians. I had a load of cheese and onions on hand, so I thought a pie of some sort would be a fun thing to attempt. However, knowing that one of the vegetarians doesn’t like quiche, I knew it would have to avoid being too custardy. And so was born Scarborough pie — so named because I used parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. (If you don’t immediately see the connection from the list of herbs, I suggest you listen to the song “Scarborough Fair” by Simon & Garfunkel.)

The winter has been mild, so the sage, rosemary, and thyme were still growing out in the pots on my balcony, so parsley was the only one that I needed to use dried — though using dried herbs would work splendidly, as well.

The non-quiche friend loved this. I hope you do, too. Continue reading

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All-Purpose Soufflé

I’ve done histories on cheese and eggs, so I thought it might be time for a recipe that combined the two —cheese soufflé. The soufflé is pretty much the pinnacle of egg-dom, the coolest possible thing to do with these versatile little protein parcels. And (here’s the surprise) it’s actually pretty easy to make a soufflé. In fact, this is an almost fool-proof recipe. Soufflés are fun, yummy, and a relatively easy way to impress the heck out of people. (The instructions may look ponderous, but don’t let that put you off—a lot of it is just technique, to help ensure your success.)

For soufflé making, in addition to the usual pots, cups, and measuring spoons, you must have a metal or ceramic bowl (never plastic), a rubber spatula, and a whisk. An electric mixer is pretty much a requirement, as well (I’ve actually beaten egg whites by hand before—so I know it works, but I also know it’s a daunting amount of work). A soufflé dish is nice, but not required; you just need an oven-proof dish of some sort, 1 quart capacity for this recipe, or double the recipe, if all you have is a 2-quart baking dish.

Cheese Soufflé
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs, separated, plus 1 extra egg white
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
dash cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce Continue reading

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Yes, Sir, Cheese my Baby

Cheese at Neal’s Yard

Local cheeses at Neal’s Yard, one of London’s great cheese shops.

Clifton Fadiman described cheese as “Milk’s leap to immortality.” In a way, cheese has in turn immortalized other things—how many towns are known primarily because of the famous cheeses that come from them (Cheddar, England, for example, or Gouda, Holland)?

It probably won’t come as a surprise that cheese has been around for a long time. Cows, sheep, goats, yaks, and buffalo were being milked long before refrigeration was available. So cheese making, along with other forms of milk fermentation, from yoghurt to buttermilk, date back pretty much to the dawn of animal domestication, at least among cultures that consume milk. Continue reading

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