Hammond Castle’s Salsa Marchigiana
A friend who knows I’m interested in local recipes dropped a bag full of cookbooks on my doorstep. The most surprising among them was the Hammond Castle Cookbook.
I knew that John Hays Hammond had been part of Gloucester’s wealthy summer establishment — an eccentric inventor responsible for everything from a radio-operated captain-less “ghost boat” that circled Gloucester harbor, terrorizing fisherman, to radio-dynamic torpedoes, the basis for modern intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Who knew he was also an avid cookbook collector and recipe clipper?
Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston and a dear friend of Hammond’s, inherited the castle in Magnolia when the childless inventor died in 1965. Cushing wrote the forward to the book (actually written by Mrs. Corinne B. Witham, who had been the Castle’s director), saying Hammond “collected cookbooks as some people collect postage stamps. He clipped recipes from papers and magazines receiving great delight in giving his cook new and unusual recipes to try. Thereafter, he would alter or add some item to make the food more pleasing to his palate.”
Guests at Hammond Castle dined beneath 15th-century Spanish wrought iron hanging lanterns, their chairs scraped on 13th century tiles. Serge Koussevitsky, Enrico Caruso, Thomas Edison, Jr. (son of the inventor), Roger Babson, Igor Sikorsky, Igor Stravinsky are just some from the gilded guest list that enjoyed Hammond’s hand-selected recipes over the years.
This little cookbook predictably reflects the tastes of a leader in 20th century science and engineering, someone whose circle of friends were literally the Who’s Who of the world’s most accomplished artists, musicians, and scientists. Therefore the book is almost more interesting for its prosaic qualities — there are recipes for Chicken Louisburg Square and Breasts of Guinea Hen, but there are also recipes for Brown-Rimmed Cookies and Cottage Cheese Pancakes.
Leagues ahead of his time, Hammond regularly had his cooks prepare Hammond Castle Savory Salt, made from a pound of fresh parsley, which was dried and then mixed with 1/4 pound of garlic, 1/4 pound of ginger, 4 tablespoons of cayenne, 1/2 pound of celery salt, and 5 pounds of salt. The book says that when Hammond Castle Savory Salt was prepared “the fragrant aroma would drift up the stairs through the Great Hall.”
I have no context to place the following recipe, except that it’s one that Mr. Hammond picked up somewhere in the world — perhaps the Marche region of Italy — and one that he had the excellent culinary taste to record. My research fails to find a sauce or condiment by this name, but it is a wonderful thing to do with beautiful, crisp, sweet onions. The raw onion slices are spread out on a platter, and covered with an anchovy, garlic, and parsley vinaigrette. The result is a sweet, sharp condiment with many uses. Hammond suggests serving it with chilled fish or meats as an hors d’oeuvre.
6 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon drained capers
2 tablespoons dried bread crumb
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
2-3 medium raw, fresh onions, thinly sliced into rings
In a blender or food processor blend the anchovies, garlic, parsley, capers, and bread crumbs. Slowly pour in the olive oil, and then add the vinegar.
In a shallow platter, lay out the onion rings. Pour dressing over all, and chill.
Serve with chilled fish or meats.
▶︎ Hammond Castle Museum, 80 Hesperus Avenue, Gloucester. (978) 283 2080. For more information, click here.