The focus of this past week’s final Fireside Feasts workshop
at Wyckoff was the one-pot dish. Take a meat or fish, put it
in a kettle with a vegetable or two, add spices, stew the whole
for several hours, and you’ll have a meal for today, tomorrow,
and maybe even the next day. There’d be enough to feed just
a few or a whole crowd of folks. Every culture, every ethnicity,
every group of one kind or another, has one, and has had one,
since time immemorial; only the names of the dishes vary,
dictated by the time period, the region, and/or the national
language. Whether a pottage, a hodge-podge, a hotch-potch,
a hutspot, a hot pot, a stampot, the olla podrida, even porridge
or just plain ol’ stew, they’re all the same thing: a hearty meal
cooked in one pot.
And so, we made three of these one-pot wonders this past
Thursday, cooking each over the open fire just as people
might’ve done centuries ago in this, or any other, area.
First up, we “Jugged a Hare.” Or rather, we “Jugged a Rabbit,”
as that is the only available bred-for-cooking animal. Raised
locally on Long Island by Arcadia Pastures, ours was a cross
between a Flemish Giant and a Californian. Both of which,
incidentally, were not “developed” until the early 1900s;
finding a true, genuine, “historic” hare is nigh impossible today.
A jugged, or potted, hare would’ve most likely been a frequent
meal in earlier centuries for a farm family such as the Wyckoffs.
Next up was a somewhat more elaborate one-potter, using
a receipt from a late 17th Century cookbook published in
The Netherlands, that was meant for well-to-do households.
Called a “hutspot,” or the Dutch word for stew, it contains meat
as well as numerous spices, sugar, and dates. (BTW, the latter
two are a sure sign of wealth and 1600s-era cookery. A century
later, the combination would disappear.)
And finally, we made a Soup Meagre. Or a dish without meat,
namely, a vegetable soup (also spelled soop, soupe, soope).
Receipts for this, and variations thereof, can be found in nearly
every published historic cookbook. It was particularly served
during Lent and other fast days, or at any time when meat was
scarce. Again, this would’ve been a perfect meal for the Wyckoffs.
In short, one pot dishes made for universal meals. Everybody
made them, rich or poor, city dweller or country folk. There’s
also the convenience aspect. Only one pot was needed. Constant
watching was traded for just a check every now and then. And
then during the required several hours of cooking over the open
fire, the housewife could attend to other matters, be it doing
laundry, tending the kitchen garden, making candles, mending
clothing, instructing children in their lessons and chores, and
so on. A possible result for the more wealthy was additional
time in which the household servants and slaves could complete
other tasks. Many of the more complicated and enriched one-pot
dishes, such as our hutspot, also might have provided a means
for a dinner host to show off in front of his guests.
The “Jugged Hare” a’cookin’:
The versatile bake kettle can be used for one-pot dishes as well as baking.
Our hutspot is in there, honest!:
The mostly-eaten hutspot; if you’re not there, ready and waiting, when
it’s done, you’re outta luck:
The pot line-up…hot water, jugged rabbit, and soup meagre:
A bird’s eye view, in reverse:
Rabbit ready to eat (I apologize for the photo’s poor quality):
Receipts used will be posted in the “Fireside Feasts” section of the RECEIPTS page.