Culinary Dictionary – H

Linda’s Culinary Dictionary – H

A Dictionary of Cooking, Food, and Beverage Terms

Culinary Dictionary

An outstanding and large culinary dictionary and glossary that includes the definitions and history of cooking, food, and beverage terms.

Please click on a letter below to alphabetically search the many food and cooking terms

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habanero pepper (ah-bah-NEH-roh) – You might also know this Yucatan-raised, lantern-shaped chile as a Scot bonnet or Bahamian chile.  Whatever you call it, with a fire reportedly 60 times that of a Jalapeno, these pods pack a punch.  It is the hottest of all chiles in the world. It should be handled only while wearing plastic gloves.  Ripe Habaneros, which are dark green, red, or orange-red, have a sweeter flavor and are fruitier than the green, unripe ones.

haggis (HAG-ihs) – Haggis is a Scottish dish made from sheep’s offal (windpipe, lungs, heart and liver) of the sheep, which is first boiled and then minced.  It is then mixed with beef suet and lightly toasted oatmeal.  This mixture is placed inside the sheep’s stomach, which is sewn closed.  The resulting haggis is traditionally cooked by further boiling (for up to three hours).

This is the most traditional of all Scottish dishes, eaten on Burns Night (25th January; the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, 1759-1796) and at Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve).  Haggis is traditionally served as “haggis, neeps and tatties”.  The neeps are mashed turnip or swede, with a little milk and allspice added, whereas the tatties are creamed potatoes flavored with a little nutmeg.  To add that authentic touch, consume your haggis, neeps and tatties with a dram of good whisky.

History:  There are no actual records, as far as we are aware, of the origins of haggis, as we know it today.  The first known English cookbook is The Form of Cury (cookery), written in 1390 by one of the cooks to King Richard II.  It contains a recipe for a dish called Afronchemoyle, which is in effect a haggis.  The haggis became well established in the Scottish culinary scene, not as a star dish but as an everyday staple.  Like a lot of other foods, haggis probably came about because the raw material was available and it had to be made into a more acceptable form.

Author Clarissa Dickson Wright in her book The Haggis – A Little History makes a case for haggis originally being from Sweden.  Scandinavians from Sweden eat haggis with great relish and invariably remark on its resemblance to a dish in their local cuisine.  Relations between Scotland and the Nordic world go back to the 9th century.  Norsemen, raiders at first, very soon became settlers and farmers.  It was late in the 15th century before Orkney and Shetland finally ceased to be dependencies of the Danish crown.  The impact of the Norse was far greater than that of the French; they are part of Scotland’s historic fabric.  The root of the word haggis is not from Latin languages, and its origin appears to be Scandinavian.  There is no doubt that the word haggis is related to such words as the Swedish hagga, meaning to hew or chop; and the Icelandic hoggva, with the same meaning.

halibut – Halibut is a large flatfish, resembling the turbot in appearance, and is the largest in the flatfish group.  They sometimes weigh in at over 500 pounds and six feet in length.  The flesh of the halibut is coarser and the flavor is stronger and less refined than the flounder, and especially the sole.  Halibut is exclusively a cold-water fish and is found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.  “Hippo of the sea” is how the halibut’s Latin family name “hippoglossus” translates.

hamburger – A grilled, fried, or broiled patty of ground beef that is usually served on a “hamburger bun” and topped with ketchup, onions, and/or other condiments.  It is considered a cultural icon in America.

History:  Check out History and Legends of Hamburgers.

Hangtown Fry – This oyster dish includes oysters, eggs, and bacon.

History:  Check out History of the Hangtown Fry.

haricot vert (ah-ree-koh VEHR) – The French term for green string beans, Haricot means, “bean,” and vert means, “green.”  They are much thinner than regular green beans and traditionally have a much better flavor.  They are also known as French green beans and French beans.

Hardtack – A hard square biscuit or cracker that is made with flour and water only (unleavened and unsalted bread).  Since it’s very dry, it can be stored for years without refrigeration.   People can live for quite a while on just bread and water. Hardtack is eaten by itself, dipped in coffee, or crumbled into soups.  Inexpensive, stable, and easy to transport, hardtack was a staple in military life throughout most of our history.  It was also the most convenient food for soldiers, explorers, and pioneers.

Dandy funk – Also called Danderfunk.  A pudding made by sailors using crumbled hardtack, fat, and molasses.

History:  Hardtack was a part of the staple diet of English and American sailors for many centuries.  Christopher Columbus took unleavened bread with him on his journeys.  Sailors referred to it as sea biscuit, sea bread, ship biscuit, Midshipman’s nuts, and pilot bread.

During the Civil War, a soldier in the army, both north and south was usually issued one half pound of beans or peas, bacon, pickled beef, compressed mixed vegetables and one pound of hard tack.  Too hard to be eaten whole, it was generally broken up with a rock or rifle butt, placed in the cheek pocket and softened with saliva enough to be chewed and swallowed.  The hardtack was also soaked in water and then fried in bacon grease to soften it.  The soldiers called the biscuits “sheet iron crackers”, “teeth dullers”, or “worm castles” in references to the weevils and maggots all too often found in the hardtack boxes.

hartshorn – It is also called bakers’ ammonia (ammonium carbonate).  It is an ammonia compound and not harmful after baking.  However ,do not eat the raw dough.  Your kitchen will stink of ammonia while the cookies bake – but once baked, the cookies will not taste of it.  Can be substituted for equal amount of baking powder in any cookies recipe.  It is an old-time leavening favored for cookies, such as German Springerle.  It is said to give a “fluffiness” of texture baking powder can’t.  Its leavening is only activated by heat, not moisture (such as baking powder).

hash – A dish of chopped pork or beef combined with various chopped up vegetables and seasonings.  Hash is often thought of as a dish that you throw into it whatever is left in the kitchen.  In the 19th century, cheap restaurants were called “hash houses” and the workers in these restaurants were called “hash slingers.”

Hasty Pudding/Indian Pudding – Despite the name Indian Pudding, it is not a traditional native dish.  Native Americans had neither milk nor molasses to use in their cooking.  They did mix ground corn with berries, and may have had maple syrup.  Hasty Pudding and Indian Pudding are basically the same pudding, as Hasty Pudding was an English tradition for centuries.Printed references to hasty pudding in England date to 1599, while Indian pudding recipes start appearing in American cookbooks in 1796.

History:  Check out Hasty Pudding/Indian Pudding.

haunch – A term used in a cut of meat, usually venison.  One of the back legs of an animal with four legs that is used for meat (the leg and loin undivided, or, as more commonly called, the hind quarter) – a haunch of veal, venison, or wild boar.

Haute Cuisine – Food that is prepared in an elegant or elaborate manner; the very finest food available.  The French word “haute” translates as “high” or “superior.”  Cuisine translates as “cooking” in general.  Literally meaning “high cooking” or high-class cooking, the rich sauces, fine ingredients and exquisite taste of haute cuisine typifies classic French cooking.

History:  The arrival in 1533 of Italian-born Catherine de Medici at the French court and her marriage to Henri II in the 16th century brought about the development of the culinary arts in France.  She had her staff introduce delicacies previously unknown to the French.  Over the next couple of centuries, the royal families employed chefs who developed and prepared the finest cuisine, and dining became an art form.  Chef Francois Pierre de La Varenne (1615-1678) who was a court chef during King Louis XIV’s (1643-1715) reign is often cited as being the founder of haute cuisine.  It was during La Varenne life that is often considered the turning point of cuisine, the ending of medieval cuisine and the beginning of classic French cooking.

Haute Cuisine Couture – It means “Recipe for Comfort” and it relates to the fashion world.  It is first and foremost a form of expertise or savoir-faire, involving a craft that has endured for more than one hundred and fifty years.  The origins of haute couture date back to Charles Fric Worth who, in 1858, founded the first true house of haute couture at 7, rue de la Paix, in Paris, creating original models for individual clients.  Haute couture involves craftsmanship, the skill of the seamstress and embellisher (feather makers, embroiderers, milliners) who, each season, create the finery of the exceptional.


havarti cheese (huh-VAR-tee) – It is a light to pale yellow cheese with tiny holes “eyes” in its smooth body, it melts well when it is shredded . It is similar to Montery Jack cheese.

hazelnut – Also called filberts.  According to a manuscript found in China, from the year 2838 B.C., the hazelnut took its place among the five sacred nourishments God bestowed to human beings.  The cultivation of hazelnuts has been going on for over 4500 years.  In olden times, the nut was used as a medicine and tonic.  Up until 1940, most hazelnuts were imported to the United States from Sicily and Naples.  Now the nuts are grown in Oregon and Washington.  Nuts begin forming on the trees in the early spring.  They mature during the summer months and are harvested in the early fall.  The nuts usually grow in clusters of two or three, each nut covered with an open ended husk that extends beyond the rounded nut itself.  When the nuts mature, they fall free from the husks to the ground where they are harvested.

headcheese – A sausage made from a calf or pig’s head and molded in its own jelly and seasoned.  In England it is called brawn and in France it goes by the name fromage de tete de porc.

History: This dish was created in the Middle Ages when bits and pieces of meat and gelatin were enclosed in the head skin of the animal cooked and served that way.

heart of palm – Heart of palm is the inner, edible portion of the stem of the cabbage (palmetto) palm tree.  This palm grows in tropical climates such as Florida (it’s the state tree) and Brazil.  Hearts of palm are ivory colored and resemble white asparagus without the tips.  They are usually available canned and packed in water.  They are rather expensive and have a taste reminiscent of artichoke.  Delicious in salads, hearts of palm can also be used in main dishes or fried.

hickory nuts – There are 17 varieties of hickory trees, 13 of which are native to the United States, including the pecan nut.  The common hickory nut has an extremely hard shell.  Hickory nuts have an excellent rich flavor with a buttery quality due to their high fat content.  They are a usually sold unshelled. Hickory nuts can be used in a variety of baked goods and in almost any recipe as a substitute for pecans.

High Tea – High Tea is often a misnomer.  Most people refer to afternoon tea as high tea because they think it sounds regal and lofty, when in all actuality, high tea, or “meat tea” is dinner.  High tea, in Britain, at any rate, tends to be on the heavier side.  American hotels and tea rooms, on the other hand, continue to misunderstand and offer tidbits of fancy pastries and cakes on delicate china when they offer a “high tea.”

History:  Check out History of English High Tea.

hippenmasse – A cookie that you fill with chocolate mousse or berries.  Hippenmasse or Hippen Paste – a German thin wafer cookie similar to a plain tuile or tulip paste, where you pipe out the batter in designs or spread the batter over a template and bake and form as required.

Hoagie – Also known as submarines, heroes, bombers, grinder, torpedoes, and rockets in other parts of the United States.  Hoagies are built-to-order sandwiches filled with meat and cheese, as well as lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, topped off with a dash of oregano=vinegar dressing on an Italian roll.  A true Italian Hoagie is made with Italian ham, prosciutto salami, and provolone cheese, along with all the works. It was declared the “Official Sandwich of Philadelphia.”

History:  Check out History of Hoagies, Submarines, Po’Boys, Dagwood, and Italian Sandwiches.

Holland Rusks – Rusks are known in France as Biscotte and in Germany as Zwieback.  A rusk is a slice of yeast bread (thick or thin) that is baked until dry, crisp, and golden brown.  In America, rusks are given to babies when teething.

hollandaise sauce (butter) – Uses butter and egg yolks as binding.  It is served hot with vegetables, fish, and eggs (like egg benedict).  It will be a pale lemon color, opaque, but with a luster not appearing oily.  The basic sauce and its variations should have a buttery-smooth texture, almost frothy, and an aroma of good butter.  Making this emulsified sauce requires a good deal of practice – it is not for the faint of heart.  Berrnaise sauce, which is “related” to hollandaise sauce, is most often served with steak.

hominy – Hominy is made from dried corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed, usually by boiling in lime.  The kernels look somewhat like popcorn and have a soft, chewy consistency.  It is sold either in canned or dried form.

Hommard a L’amoricaine – Hommard in French means “lobster or crawfish” and amoricaine “mean in the style of America or American Sauce.”  Also called Lobster a L’amoricaine.

History:  French Chef Pierre Fraisse who had lived and worked in Chicago, Illinois in 1858 created this dish. Fraisse was considered to be a bit “Americanized” by the French.  He created the dish in Paris in 1860 when several American customers came in very late and asked for supper by specifying that they had only one hour to eat.  Not having time to cook lobsters with the traditional court-bouillon, he prepared a sauce that consisted of tomatoes, tarragon, wine, cream, and cognac, and then poached the lobsters pieces it.  The guests asked for the name of this exquisite receipt and Pierre, according to the inspiration of the moment, called it “Lobster au amicaine” in honor of his American customers and probably because he had worked as chef in Chicago.

It is also said this dish had actually been on the menu of the restaurant before Fraisse began to work there and was then known as Homard Bonnefoy, thought to have originated in Languedoc in Southern France.

honey – Honey is produced by domesticated and many wild bees from the nectar of flowers and other plant secretions.  The bees combine those fluids with other substances to make honey, which they store in their hives.  Honey has been around as long as bees and man has used it as a sweetener and food since the earliest times . It is still one of his richest and most useful food substances.  A rock drawing near Valencia in Spain that dates back to 15000 BC shows two men climbing up cords to reach the nest of a swarm of bees.  eekeeping was being practiced along the banks of the Nile in Egypt at least as early as 3000 BC. Ancient literature teems with references to bees, honey and beekeeping.

hooch, hootch – A cheap whiskey. The term, which became widespread during Prohibition.  It was derived from the name of a Chinook Indian tribe, the Hoochinoo that made a form of distilled spirits bought by U.S. soldiers who had occupied the Alaskan territory.

hopping john – A southern dish made of black-eyed peas (cowpeas) and rice.  It is traditionally served on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck for the New Year.  The dish was a staple of the African slaves who populated southern plantations (especially those of South Carolina).

History:   Check out History of Hoppin’ John.

hors d’oeuvres (or DERV) – Means little snack foods, small items of food or light courses, served before or outside of (“hors”) the main dishes of a meal (the “oeuvres”) which are intended to stimulate the appetite.  The terms hors d’oeuvres and appetizers are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference: hors d’oeuvres are the small savory bites, typically finger food, served before a meal, while appetizers appear as the first course served at the table.  The name hors d’oeuvres comes from the French and is literally translated as “out of the work,” but it’s more logical to think of it as meaning “apart from (or before) the meal.”

horseradish – The name may have come from an English adaptation of its German name.  In early times the plant grew wild in European coastal areas; the Germans called it meerrettich, or sea radish.  The German word “meer” sounds like “mare” in English.

History: The earliest account of Horseradish comes from 13th century Western Europe, where Germans and Danes used it as a condiment, stimulant, and digestive medicine.  The word horseradish first appeared in print in 1597 in John Gerarde’s English herbal on medicinal plants.  It was introduced in England in the 16th century, where it is still used to treat hoarseness and coughs.  It was brought to the United States in the 19th century, and now grows wild along the East Coast.

Horseshoe Sandwich – The sandwich is considered the signature dish or Springfield, Illinois, the home of Abraham Lincoln.  This sandwich will make our arteries cringe and your taste buds rejoice.  The sandwich starts out with two to three slices of thick toasted bread.  On top of that you have two traditional choices: a thick fried ham steak or two large hamburger patties.  Then a large amount of freshly made French fries are placed onto the top of it.  The secret to this sandwich is the sauce that is poured over the top.  Every restaurant and chef seems to have his or her own secret cheese sauce recipe.  The name of the sandwich comes from the shape of the ham with the fries representing the horseshoe nails, and the heated steak platter as the anvil.  If you order a Pony Shoe Sandwich, it is the same thing, but a smaller or half a Horseshoe portion (usually one slice of toast).  Check out History of Sandwiches.

Hot Brown Sandwich – An open-faced turkey sandwich with turkey, bacon, pimientos, and a delicate Mornay sauce.  The sandwich is place under the broiler to melt the cheese.  Check out History of Sandwiches.

hot dog – Also called frankfurters.  A cooked sausage that consists of a combination of beef and pork or all beef, which is cured, smoked, and cooked.  Seasonings may include coriander, garlic, ground mustard, nutmeg, salt, sugar, and white pepper.  They are fully cooked but are usually served hot.  Sizes range from big dinner frankfurters to tiny cocktail size.  Check out History and Legends of the Hot Dog.

huitlacoche – See cuitlacoche.

Hurricane – This signature cocktail of New Orleans is a potent sweet fruit punch and rum drink that is served in a special hurricane lamp glass that has become one of the most sought-after souvenirs in New Orleans.  During celebrations (celebrations seem to be nightly in the New Orleans French Quarter) tourists carry their “to go” Hurricane drink down the streets.  Hurricanes are also the cocktail of choice during Mardi Gras, where thousands come to parade and party.  The Hurricane was made famous by Pat O’Brien’s French Quarter bar.  Other restaurants and bars serve this drink but it has become synonymous with Pat O’Brien’s, where people line up to get their Hurricane drink.  Check out History of Hurricane.

Hushpuppies – A finger-shaped dumpling of cornmeal that is deep-fried (they are traditionally served with fried catfish).  Hushpuppies, also known as corn dodgers.  They are especially popular throughout the South.  Check out History Hushpuppies.


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