On June 25, 2007 the Discovery Channel did a piece on frog legs that were discovered in pits in Kutna Hora-Denemark, a fort outside of Prague. Because the bones found were almost exclusively the hind legs the archaeologists at the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of the Science of the Czech Republic ruled out natural causes or the frogs being caught and consumed by larger animals. From that discovery we know that frogs were being consumed as early as the Neolithic period.
The frogs could have been simply gathered directly from the pond, or…other more specialized methods could have been used, such as ground traps during their migration or by fishing on a line and hook. – René Kyselý wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
They could not determine how the frogs were prepared.
The first published recipe for frog legs may be that of Francis Peter LaVarenne in 1653. – The French Cook.
Frog legs are one of those things that can be expensive if you buy them, or a free dinner if you catch them yourself, and they were prepared in so many ways it’s hard to imagine anyone that couldn’t find a recipe they liked.
Their popularity has waxed and waned throughout the centuries, once something only the French had enough sense to eat, or resorted to in times of scarcity as during the American Civil War. By the turn of the 20th century many cookery books contained recipes for them, and some contained several.
Olive Green’s cookbook contained 27 ways to prepare frog legs. At the risk of sounding like Bubba extolling the virtues of shrimp in Forrest Gump, they were fried a L’Anglaise and a La Francaise, they were baked, and broiled, they were fricasseed four ways (white and brown), four ways stewed, with Hollandaise, and a la’ Provencal, you could have Au Beurre Noir, or a La Poulette and that in a couple of ways, then there was frog leg patties and a La Creole for a change of pace. – Green, Olive. How to Cook Fish. 1908. NY & London.
Both the bullfrog and the green frog hopped on edible legs. While the French and Americans wanted nothing to do with any part other than the legs, the Germans ate all the muscular parts of the frog.
The hind-legs of large frogs are the only parts used; the bodies are separated in the middle, and the legs are skinned. The flesh of the legs is white, very tender, and somewhat resembles that of poultry. After the frogs’ legs are skinned, wash them well in cold water, put them over the fire in salted boiling water, and boil them for five minutes; then throw them into cold water to cool. This process is called blanching, and msut always be done if the flavor is to be considered. After the frogs’ legs are blanched, they may be fried or broiled according to any of the recipes for frying or broiling fish, or stewed in a white sauce. Corson, Juliet. Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery. 1886. NY.
In Canada and the middle states in the U.S., frogs were kept and fattened on farms and comprised the bulk of the city markets. American patrons could purchase them in the markets already skinned and ready to cook. In the wild, frog legs could be harvested the year round, although some felt they were at their finest between June and October. – Everyday Housekeeping: A Magazine for Practical Housekeepers. July 1896.
There were 23 frog farms known in southern Florida in the 1930’s, with enough being consumed in Louisiana to warrant Rayne being known as the Frog Capital of the World. St. Paul and Minneapolis were labeled, “the largest frog markets in the world”, in 1904. In 1903, those two cities alone were reported as selling 500,000 dozen pairs. They sold for 35 to 50 cents per dozen in restaurants. – Our Paper. April 16, 1904.
The greatest demand for frog-legs exists in the larger cities and comes largely from hotels and restaurants. – Ibid.
The hind legs alone are eaten. They may be broiled or made into a white or brown fricassee, seasoned with mushrooms or tomato ketchup. The flesh is delicate, and resembles that of tender chicken. – Centennial Committees Women’s Centennial Committee. National Cookery Book. 1876. Philadelphia.
In the days when Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays, the Church’s stance was that because the frog was aquatic in its habits and cold-blooded it was considered with fish and, therefore, permissible. – Heuser, Herman. Catholic University of America. The American Ecclesiastical. 1919. Philadelphia.
FRIED FROGS. Frogs are usually fried, and are considered a great delicacy. Only the hind-legs and quarters are used. Clean them well, season, and fry in egg batter or dipped in beaten egg and fine cracker-crumbs, the same as oysters. – Gillette, Fanny. White House Cook Book. 1887. Chicago.
FRIED FROG LEGS. 6 pair frog legs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon grated onion, 1 egg
Boil frog legs with salt, pepper, and onion. Make a batter of flour, milk, and egg. Dip frog legs in this and fry until brown. Serve with cream sauce or mayonnaise.
FROG LEGS A LA POULETTE. 6 pair frog legs, 1 wine glass sherry, 1 cup cream, 1 Tablespoon flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup mushrooms, 1 pod pepper, 1/2 teaspoon minced parsley, Twelve pieces of toast cut into triangles
Boil frog legs with just enough water to cover them. When tender add mushrooms, cream, flour, butter, parsley, salt, and pepper. Just before serving stir in sherry and serve on toast. – Stanford, Martha. Old and New Cook Book. 1904. New Orleans.
CREAMED FROG LEGS. Use the hind legs. Separate the legs at the joint. Drop in boiling salted water, and cook three minutes. Remove and simmer in enough milk to cover till the meat is thoroughly cooked and tender. Salt and pepper the milk to taste, and thicken with flour, adding enough butter or thick cream to give richness to the dish, in the proportion of a tablespoon of butter to four sets of legs. The Home Cook Book: A Collection of Practical Receipts by Expert Cooks. 1905. NY.