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As always, I had a grand ol’ time this past weekend during
the annual Essex County (NJ) Holiday Historic House Tours.
I was busy both days chatting with visitors in the kitchen
of The Israel Crane House. I enjoy this event every year,
and once again, it was great fun. HUZZAH!

However, before I continue, I need to step back a few weeks
and report on the most recent hearth cooking class at Crane’s.
Held in mid-November when our national Thanksgiving holiday
was just around the corner, this particular session was designed
to offer participants opportunities to “Cook Like a Pilgrim.” And

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so, we replicated several dishes that might’ve been prepared,
cooked, and eaten by those early Plymouth settlers and their
neighbors, the Wampanoags, in the autumn of 1621.

Now, I won’t delve too deeply here into the details of that
so-called “first thanksgiving feast.” I’ve written several times
about the myths behind the annual holiday, including this post.
In addition, you can check out the website for Plimoth Plantation,
as well as the various blogs associated with it. Suffice it to say
that it was far different from the modern incantation. The very
foundations of the holiday have been misconstrued, as it was
not a day of thanksgiving, particularly in a religious sense,
for if it had been, the settlers would’ve not only spent the day
listening to sermons in the meeting house (church), but they
also would’ve been fasting, not feasting. However, it was
indeed a harvest celebration, just like all the others that’d
been traditionally held in the colonist’s native England. It
wasn’t necessarily an annual event, either, in the homeland
or the new colony (there was none in 1622), even after
a spectacularly bountiful harvest.

But never mind all that. This was a hearth cooking class! What
about the food? What was offered at the long-ago colonial feast?
What was available? What did the colonists and the Native Peoples
eat? What specific dishes were most likely cooked and shared?
Heck, more importantly, what did WE cook during our recent
“Cook Like a Pilgrim” class?!

To create a viable menu for our meal, I began by studying
various sources, including books, websites, and the like.
I also relied on my knowledge of basic food history. All
of this enabled me to select period-appropriate foods and
dishes. Fortunately, there’s also an eye-witness account.
It’s a letter that Mayflower passenger and Plymouth colonist
Edward Winslow wrote to a friend back in England shortly
after the event, wherein he described the proceedings:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor
sent four men on fowling, that so we might
after a special manner rejoice together after
we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They
four in one day killed as much fowl as, with
a little help beside, served the company
almost a week. At which time, amongst
other recreations, we exercised our arms,
many of the Indians coming amongst us,
and among the rest their greatest king
Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom
for three days we entertained and feasted,
and they went out and killed five deer,
which they brought to the plantation and
bestowed on our governor, and upon the
captain and others. And although it be
not always so plentiful as it was at this
time with us, yet by the goodness of God,
we are so far from want that we often wish
you partakers of our plenty.

So we know fowl (most likely ducks, geese, and other types
of waterfowl), and a good supply of venison were on the table.
Additional research revealed what else might’ve been offered
during the harvest meal. It also allowed me to safely say what
was probably NOT eaten. Thus, there were no mashed potatoes or
pumpkin pie nor any cranberries or 30-pound turkeys.

Thus, our “Cook Like a Pilgrim” menu was set. It would consist
of venison, duck, mussels, hasty pudding, a salad, and “pompion.”
I soon found receipts (recipes) for all these dishes in either my

our venison roasting in the tin reflector oven

our venison roasting in the tin reflector oven

own facsimiles of 17th century cookbooks or in others online.
I must say that, at first, it was a daunting prospect, this
searching in an unfamiliar century, but soon I was happily
discovering a host of different options. And so, with a bit
of tweaking,* we followed the instructions of the following:

Gervase Markham’s To roast venison, from his The English
Hus-wife
(1615)
Finding a specialty meat store that sells venison, effortless;
dealing with the resulting sticker shock, priceless!

To Stew a Mallard, from The Good Housewife’s Jewel, by
Thomas Dawson (1596)
A receipt Dawson stole, er, “borrowed” from The good Huswifes
Handmaide for the Kitchin
, which was published in 1594. Yep,
plagiarism was rampant even back then! And we used a duck,
as mallards are WAY too expensive. Heck, even our Miss Duck
wasn’t cheap! Which was surprising. I imagine it’s because
few people eat it nowadays. Most stores had a limited supply,
and the birds were always frozen. Boy, I tell ya, at one point
when I was in the midst of the meat section of one Brooklyn
Big Name Store, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I was
surrounded by vast quantities of different versions of chicken
(fresh, frozen, whole, legs only, wings only, boneless, skinless,
tenders, fryers, bites, etc.) and smaller sections of beef and
pork varieties, but there were only three $35 frozen ducks
in one little cubicle of a freezer case. Clearly, we Americans
have a VERY limited meat palate. Sad. But I digress…

John Murrell’s To frye Mussels, Perywinckels, or Oysters,
to serue [serve] with a Ducke, or single by themselves
,
from his A New Booke of Cookerie: London Cookerie (1615)
I wanted to include seafood of some kind on our menu, as
it would’ve most definitely been readily available. It was
too late in the season for some fish, but not for mussels,
so I choose them. I also figured they’d have been greatly
appreciated by the Native Peoples at the 1621 feast. After
all, you’ve heard the advice to “serve what your guests
will like,” yes?! The best part of this particular receipt
is that it states “to serue [serve] with a Ducke.” Perfect!
I just loved how everything fit together so well! HUZZAH!

Another way to make a hasty Pudding, courtesy
of The Queen-like Closet (1672), by Hannah Wolley
This is the quintessential British dish. It would’ve been easy
to make and would’ve fed a boat-load of people. Although it
was typically made with flour, Indian (aka corn) meal would’ve
been used in 1621. Flour would’ve been in limited supply, if
it was available at all. Plus, early wheat crops in the colony
did poorly, so corn meal was a handy, and logical, substitution.
And thanks to the Wampanoag’s assistance, it WAS readily
available. HUZZAH, again!

Markham’s To make an excellent compound boild Sallat
(from the same book as mentioned above)
The best part of this dish is…YES! They ate sallats (salads)!

And finally, we made use of several receipts for “pompion.”
Which to an early settler meant any type of squash, including
pumpkins and ‘vine apples (aka acorn squash). Among others,

"pompions" aka pumpkins & acorn squashes

“pompions” aka pumpkins & acorn squashes

we used one from Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook (1685)
and another from New-Englands Rarities Discovered, by John
Josselyn (1672). It was quite fascinating to see the number
of pumpkin/squash receipts increase exponentially in cookbooks
from the early to the mid-1600s.

Overall, I think it was a successful class. It provided everyone
with opportunities to enjoy a meal composed of assorted and
non-traditional Thanksgiving (so-called) dishes. Of course,
I’d like to offer this class and its menu every fall. That
remains to be seen, I guess, but…well, here’s hoping!

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=============================================

NOTE: I sincerely apologize for the appalling lack of photos.
There just wasn’t time or opportunities to take any. I’m even
disappointed! **sigh**
Ahh, well…so it goes…dagnabit

*By “tweaking,” I mean taking into account what the early
settlers had access to, whether it grew in their own fields
and/or gardens and what they likely brought with them
on the initial voyage. I also wanted to be reasonable,
but not punitive, all while staying true to my concerns,
goals, and overall drive for historical accuracy. So, for
instance, one receipt calls for dates. Yeah, no to that.
No way. But many, in fact most, of them make use
of various spices. I said, “Yes” to those, and I did so
for a couple of reasons: one, they were a normal part
of the cooking process during this time period (the early
1600s); and two, they were easily stored, whether while
being transported or when in a home.

Heads up! This is a repeat from last year…and the year
before that! Yep. I’m STILL lazy! LOL oy

Anyway…I think we should all hail the woman who’s largely
responsible for “inventing” our Thanksgiving holiday, and
that woman is…Sarah Josepha Hale! Yes, we should all hail
Hale! (get it? it’s a funny…you know, ‘cuz the words match!)

Nevertheless, HUZZAH for Hale!

During the mid-19th century, Hale lobbied tirelessly for a national
day of thanksgiving. At the time, it was already observed somewhat
regularly in New England, but she thought it should be nation-wide.
As the first-ever female editor of Ladies’ Magazine and later, Godey’s
Lady’s Book
, Hale used her position to publish numerous editorials
promoting the idea. The New Hampshire native also wrote letters
to any and every politician she could find, including then-President
Abraham Lincoln. Her campaign finally proved successful when he
declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. However, it was
many years before the entire country embraced it, particularly
in the South (for obvious reasons!). Nevertheless, Thanksgiving
has become one of America’s beloved celebrations. And we owe
it all to Hale’s incessant efforts. It’s amazing what one person
(and a woman, at that) can do!

Incidentally, Hale was quite a prolific writer. She penned a variety
of works, including cookbooks (such as The Good Housekeeper,
which was first published in 1839), numerous novels (she even
described a Thanksgiving dinner in one), and the nursery rhyme
“Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

===============================================
===============================================

For more factual information about our annual feast day, check out the following:

New England, in the time of the so-called “Pilgrims,” when a day
of thanksgiving meant a day spent listening to religious sermons
and of fasting, NOT feasting:

http://marybarrettdyer.blogspot.com/2013/11/thanksgiving-in-new-england-no-parties.html

____________________

And from those who “live” it daily at Plimoth Plantation:

http://hazelwood.patch.com/groups/house-and-home/p/discovering-thanksgiving-the-truth-about-the-holiday

There are plenty more, but I’ll let you search for ‘em!

Absolutely!

Elections come and go, but there will always be cake! And what
better way to celebrate your participation in this year’s (or any
year’s, for that matter) electoral process, then by voting and
afterwards enjoying some “Election Cake.” So whether your
candidate wins or loses, at least you’ll have a tasty treat!

In our nation’s early years, there were two receipts for this
dish. One could be found in Mrs. Child’s The American Frugal
Housewife
(originally published 1832):

ELECTION CAKE.
Old-fashioned election cake is made
of four pounds of flour; three quarters
of a pound of butter; four eggs; one
pound of sugar; one pound of currants,
or raisins if you choose; half a pint of
good yeast; wet it with milk as soft as
it can be and be moulded on a board.
Set to rise over night in winter; in warm
weather, three hours is usually enough
for it to rise. A loaf, the size of common
flour bread, should bake three quarters
of an hour.

I find it interesting (and a bit humorous!) that Mrs. Child refers
to this Cake as “old-fashioned,” despite the fact that, at the time,
such cakes had been around less than 50 years! Yep, Election
Cakes are strictly an American “invention,” just as is our whole

electoral process. And thus, you’ll not find a single receipt for it
in earlier cookbooks. In fact, there’s only one other, prior to the
publication of American Frugal, and it’s in American Cookery (1796),
by Amelia Simmons. As you’ll see below, Simmons’ receipt is similar
and yet different. Of course, most notable is the vast quantities
of each ingredient, even though they’re basically the same (at
least in part). But what I found intriguing was the inclusion of
not only a few spices, but also wine AND brandy. Hmmmm, eat
several slices of Simmons’ Cake and perhaps be easily persuaded
to change your vote?!

At the same time, an Election Cake really isn’t all that different
from many other cakes, particularly those that include raisins
and/or currants. It’s probably because, when someone (who
was most likely a woman) had the brilliant idea to bake a cake
for an upcoming election, she didn’t make up an entirely new
receipt; she merely selected an already-familiar one. In a way,
it’s similar to what the early settlers in this country did; they
took an unknown New World ingredient (such as corn), mixed
it with an Old World receipt, and thus created a “new” dish.
In this case, an oft-used receipt (possibly one for a good
ol’ British plumb cake) was selected, re-named, and given
a new function and new status.

Back to Amelia Simmons’ receipt:

Election Cake.
Thirty quarts flour, 10 pound butter,
14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins,
3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart
brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces
fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground
allspice; wet the flour with milk to
the consistence of bread over night,
adding one quart yeast; the next
morning work the butter and sugar
together for half an hour, which will
render the cake much lighter and
whiter; when it has rise light work
in every other ingredient except
the plumbs, which work in when
going into the oven.

Interestingly, the above receipt is only in the second edition
of Simmons’ work. Although it was published in the same year
as the first (1796), it was done so in a different city.

When I made this at The Israel Crane House for the Big Election
two years ago, I used Child’s receipt, as it was a bit simpler, at
least ingredient-wise. And I made it even easier by quartering
the proportions (starting with just one pound of flour and so on).
Working with yeast was challenging at the time, as most cakes
I’d made before then (using historical receipts) hadn’t called
for it. It can be tricky knowing how much to use and how long
to let the mixture rise. Nevertheless, it turned out fine back
then, and it proved to be a delicious success.

So, it’s another year, another round of elections, and yes, that
means…cake. “Election Cake,” that is! HUZZAH!

__________________________________

[NOTE: this is an edited and partially re-written version of a post from 2012]

Earlier this month, I presented another ‘straight-talk’ version
of my “Cook Like a Soldier” program to a group of lovely
ladies who make up the Fortnightly Club in Summit, NJ.

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The Club is a women’s social and philanthropic organization
dedicated to community service and outreach, which also
sponsors social activities for members and their families.
It meets regularly at the historic Twin Maples Mansion,
a spacious landmarked early 20th century former home.
Which, incidentally, was designed by an architect who
resided at the time in Israel Crane territory, otherwise
known as Montclair, NJ.

Now, as you may know, particularly if you’ve ever perused my
Portable Historic Programs page, this talk deals with soldier’s
fare during the American War for Independence. I discuss what
foods the troops ate, how they were prepared and cooked, who
did the cooking, how the rations were delivered, and so on. And
in an effort to not only tell the audience what specific food items
a soldier received on a daily and weekly (hopefully!) basis, but
to also show people what what they were, I have bags of each
on display. So, for instance, I set out a whole pound of flour,

IMG_0305

a pound of hard bisket, and three pints of peas. But what I’ve
struggled with is, how do I exhibit the flesh-y side of things?
As in the meat? The beef and the pork? Or the fish? Sure, I can
bring samples of each, and I have done that (taken a slab of salt
pork and made my own salt cod), but it’s a bit tricky, especially
if it’s a hot or warm day. It can get rather messy…and smelly!
And then, what do I do with them afterwards? Eat ‘em? Well,
after it’s been dragged many miles and then man-handled by
various people, even I don’t care to do that!

Finally, I decided I would set out pictures of each ration meat.
Or rather, the source of it. Of course, I had to find some images,
and they had to be ones that’re period-appropriate for the Rev
War years. Then it hit me: use copies of 18th century woodcuts!
One for each animal! So I got out my copy of “Catchpenny Prints,”
and I found fantastic ones for the beef (a cow), the pork (a pig),

IMG_2865

and the fish (a, er, a fish!). I enlarged each one, then cut it out
and glued it to card stock. So now, each meat ration is represented
nicely on my table of soldier’s fare. I have it all, from the beef and
fish to the bread and peas to all the others. I think it looks pretty
good, yes?! HUZZAH!

IMG_2867

Kitchen Pepper

During a Revolutionary War encampment a few months ago,
I began assisting a fellow hearth cook with demonstrations
of the use of spices in the 18th century. Now at this point,
I’m not exactly sure how, when, or why I became involved,
other than the fact that, like my friend, I’d been searching
for an alternative to doing, or even just helping with, any
cooking at these events. Well, one thing led to another,
and soon I was not only plying my skills with my trusty
mortar & pestle, but I had also suggested we make good
use of all that grating, grinding, and pounding by producing
a centuries-old spice combination known as Kitchen Pepper.

Each time we demonstrate the creation of this spice mixture,
we follow the instructions that are found in The Receipt Book
of Harriott Pinckney Horry
,* of Charleston, S.C., which dates
from 1770:

Kitchen Pepper.
One ounce of Ginger—pepper cinnamon cloves
and Nutmeg half an ounce of each—6 ounces
of salt Mix it well keep it dry. its excellent in all
brown Sauces.

In addition to “all brown Sauces,” Kitchen Pepper would’ve also
added flavoring to meats, soups, pottages, and other dishes. It’s
been around since at least Medieval times, and it was eventually
often sold, pre-mixed, at mercantiles. Of course, the spicy combo
could also be concocted in any era by a cook at home.

Interestingly, Horry’s receipt has been the only one from the 18th
century that I’ve found, thusfar (I’ll keep looking!). There are two
others, but both, however, are from the 19th century. One is in
A New System of Domestic Cookery, by A Lady (aka Maria Eliza
Ketelby Rundell), which was first published in London, England,
in 1806. And the other is in Mrs. Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky
Housewife
, published in 1839, in Cincinatti, Ohio. As is often
the case, all three are somewhat alike and yet, they’re a bit
different. All of them contain ginger, black pepper, cinnamon,
cloves, and nutmeg. Two contain salt, one does not. And finally,
one alone calls for Jamaica pepper, while the one that has no
salt, instead includes white pepper, red pepper, and mace.

_________________________

Making our Kitchen Pepper during the encampment out on Long Island
at Old Bethpage Village:

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IMG_2554

IMG_2571

IMG_2567

And here’s our Kitchen Pepper operation at Raynham Hall, in Oyster Bay:

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IMG_2796

 

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IMG_2817

_________________________

*The Receipt Book of Harriott Pinckney Horry was a personal cookbook
that was written in Charleston, S.C., in 1770. It was eventually published
in 1984 as
A Colonial Plantation Cookbook, edited by Richard J. Hooker,
in Columbia, S.C.

I’ve thought alot about what I’d post for today, the 13th anniversary
of the horrific attacks here in New York City and elsewhere. My plan
was to hopefully find something different than what I posted in years
past. But, alas…

Gets to me every time.

Time for more of the receipts that were used to make chocolate
dishes during Deb Peterson’s workshop at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic
regional ALHFAM conference, which was held this past spring
at the Peter Wentz Farmstead.

____________________

Let’s start with a receipt from Frederick Nutt’s The Complete
Confectioner, or, the Whole Art of Confectionary
(1790):

IMG_2154

No. 51. Chocolate Drops.
Take one pound and a half of chocolate,
put it on your pewter sheet or plate,
and put it in the oven just to warm
the chocolate; then put it into a copper
stewpan, with three quarters of a pound
of powdered sugar, mix it well over the
fire, take it off, and roll it in size of small
marbles, put them on white paper, and
when they are all on, take the sheet
of paper by each corner, and lift it up
and down, so that the paper may touch
the table each time, and by that means
you will see the drops come quite flat,
about the size of sixpence; put some
sugar nonpareils over them, and cover
all that is on the paper, and then shake
them off, and you will see all the chocolate
drops are covered with the sugar nonpareils;
let them stand till cold, and they will come
off well, and then put them in your box papered.

IMG_2168

We made the tasty treats above using a receipt from E. Smith’s
The Compleat Housewife (originally published in 1727):

To make Chocolate Almonds.
Take a pound of chocolate finely grated,
and a pound and half of the best sugar
finely sifted; then soak gum dragant
in orange-flower water, and work them
into what form you please; the past[e]
must be stiff; dry them in a stove.

There’s also a receipt for these in Mrs. Mary Eales’ Receipts,
by Mary Eales (1733; first edition, 1718). It’s a bit different
than the above, as it calls for several spices. Note, also, that
the instructions for drying them are the complete opposite
of those in Smith’s receipt:

To make Chocolate-Almonds.
Take two Pound of fine sifted Sugar,
half a Pound of Chocolate grated,
and sifted thro’ an Hair Sieve,
a Grain of Musk, a Grain of Amber,
and two Spoonfuls of Ben; make this
up to a stiff Paste with Gum-Dragon
steep’d well in Orange-Flower-Water;
beat it well in a Mortar; make it
in a Mould like Almonds; lay them
to dry on Papers, but not in a Stove.

Hmmm, so what the heck is “Ben”?! Not to mention, you need
“two Spoonfuls” of him, er, it. Unfortunately, my Oxford English
Dictionary
(OED) is buried deep inside my dead computer. dagnabit
I do, however, have my hard-bound facsimile of Noah Webster’s
1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. Here’s what
it offers:

BEN or BEN-NUT, n. A purgative fruit
or nut, the largest of which resembles
a filbert, yielding an oil used in pharmacy.

Interesting! Even more so is the idea of adding it to a dish made
with chocolate. I looked further online and discovered the Ben-nut
comes from the Moringa, which is:

(botany) A genus of trees of Southern India
and Northern Africa. One species (Moringa
pterygosperma) is the horse-radish tree,
and its seeds…are known in commerce
as ben or ben nuts, and yield the oil
called oil of ben.*

So, “two Spoonfuls of Ben” means two measures of the oil made
from the nuts of the Moringa tree, which is similar to olive oil,
albeit a bit lighter. Learn something new every day, yes?!
HUZZAH!

Let’s get back to our “chocolate-as-food” receipts. Here’s the last
one from the workshop, which is also in Nutt’s book:

No. 18. Chocolate Biscuits.
Take a quarter of a pound of chocolate,
and put it on a tin, over a stove to make
it warm, then put a pound of powdered
sugar in a bason, and when the chocolate
is quite warm and soft, put it in with the
sugar, and mix it well with about eight
whites of eggs, if you find it too thin,
mix more powdered sugar with it just
to bring it to a paste, so that you can
roll it in lumps as big as walnuts: let
your oven be moderate, put three
papers under them, let the oven just
raise them and make them crisp and
firm, and let them be quite cold before
you take them off the paper.

IMG_2200

Apparently, these biscuits were rather popular, as I found receipts
for them in four other 18th century cookbooks. The earliest is
in John Nott’s 1723 work, The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary.
And, as with the Chocolate Tart of the previous post, his version
is similar to the above. Which means, of course, that Nutt copied
Nott (think I got that right; dang similar names! but yes, John Nott
came before Frederick Nutt). Some food historians, however, think
that Nott plagiarized, er, I mean, “borrowed” heavily from other,
earlier authors, too, so…well, perhaps turn-about IS fair play?

Nevertheless, receipts for Chocolate Biscuits can also be found
in both the work of Spanish author Juan de La Mata, entitled
Arte de reposteria (1747), and The French Family Cook: Being
a Complete System of French Cookery
, by Menon (translated
1793 into English from the French of 1747). Interestingly, all
four receipts are largely similar, save for a few minor details.
The biggest difference is that Menon’s calls for the use of flour,
which may make them more of a bread-type biscuit, as opposed
to a small cake (aka cookie) or even a meringue. Oddly enough,
we added flour (albeit rice flour) to ours during the workshop.
Then there’s the fifth receipt, which also resembles the others,
and yet, it differs from them in one respect: it uses almonds. It’s
in The Court and Country Confectioner (1770), by a Mr. Borella.
Based on the contents of his receipt, the end-result will definitely
be more of a flat, small cake (aka cookie) or cracker.

It’d be an interesting experiment to try out all five of the above
Chocolate Biscuit receipts. Perhaps, some day. And if anyone out
there gets to it before I do, I hope you’ll share your experiences!

____________________

IMG_2184

* Definition found online HERE. Interestingly, you can buy moringa oils
online, even
from amazon.com. Whether the products shown are for use
in food, though, is a whole other matter. Oh, wait! Here’s
edible moringa
(aka ben) oil
. Wow! You can purchase it by the barrel. Whodathunk?!

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