After taking part in a hearth cooking class at The Israel Crane House
about a year ago, a woman rounded up several friends and arranged
to do another this year. So on Saturday, February 28, they all arrived,
each one ready, willing, and oh-so-eager to whip up a winter’s mid-day
meal. We had seven lovely ladies, and I tell you, they were great fun!
Everyone worked so well together. And given the ease with which they
tackled the five different receipts, nobody would’ve known that all but
one had never done any hearth cooking before. It was a fantastic group,
one that operated like such a well-oiled machine, that we even ended
early. A hearty HUZZAH to them all!
As for the day’s menu, my goals in creating it were to include dishes
that were not only appropriate for the season, but also for a merchant’s
family such as the Crane’s, and to showcase multiple cooking processes,
including frying, baking, and roasting. We traveled through time, as well,
for the receipts we used came from cookbooks of the 17th, 18th, and
early 19th centuries:
An Excellent Way to Roast Pigeons or Chickens.
The Art of Cookery Refin’d and Augmented (1654), by Joseph Cooper;
American Cookery (1796, 1st ed.), by Amelia Simmons;
The Cook’s Own Book: Being a Complete Culinary Encyclopedia
(1832), by A Boston Housekeeper;
To Make a Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple. From Barbadoes.
The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director…Part II (1732),
by Richard Bradley; and
No. 51. Chocolate Drops.
The Complete Confectioner, or, The Whole Art of Confectionary
(1790, 2nd ed.), by Frederick Nutt.
Okay. Enough of that! On to some photos. And thankfully, THIS time
I was able to take quite a few. Unlike the class I conducted late last fall,
when I totally spaced it and forgot. Heck, even I was disappointed! In
any event, as you’ll see from the following, when all was said and done,
and the ladies had worked their magic, we had a truly marvelous meal,
one which definitely provided some mighty good eating! HUZZAH!
The fire was blazing and the ingredients were set…
All the ladies arrived, and we were ready to begin. First, I presented
the background of our menu. I also explained some unfamiliar terms
and gave a few basic tips on cooking at an open hearth, handling all
the various equipment and utensils, what cooking technique to use
for which dish, and other such matters.
And thus, it was on to the prepping ‘n cooking…
First up, our chicken. Now, Cooper’s receipt directs the cook to make
a forcemeat (what we might call stuffing or dressing today) containing
grated bread, hard boiled egg yolks, the fowl’s liver, a couple of spices,
and so on, which is finely minced. This mixture is then placed between
the bird’s skin and flesh, instead of in its cavity. Finally, it’s trussed
Of course, if a portion of skin tears during the process, a few little
well-placed stitches will take care of the problem…
into the reflector oven it went…
After several unsuccessful attempts to insert the chicken “normally”
(aka horizontally) and securely in the oven (so it wouldn’t flop
around), it was decided to place it perpendicular to the spit…
It worked! It may’ve looked a bit odd, but at least it was roasting…
On to the carrots for the pudding, which were cleaned, sliced,…
and boiled, along with the potatoes for the fritters…
The carrots were then mashed, combined with other ingredients,
and the whole set into a bake kettle. Soon, our Carrot Pudding
was cooked to perfection!
Pineapple pieces were par-boiled in Madeira for the tart…
a simple paste was made…
the two were put together, and it was ready for the bake kettle…
Mashing those previously-mentioned boiled potatoes for the fritters…
the clumps of ‘tater fritter batter may not’ve looked too pretty, but…
once fried, either in a spider…
or on the griddle…
they were very, VERY delicious! So much so that we nearly ate
them ALL before the cooking of the entire meal was completed!
Several of our dishes posed on the hearth for a group photo…
Our chicken cooked up fairly quickly!
And finally, the Chocolate Drops, which proved to be the easiest
and simplest dish to prepare!
And so, after all the chopping, slicing, grating, mixing, pounding,
stirring, boiling, frying, baking, and roasting, our wonderful winter’s
mid-day meal was ready to be eaten:
The Carrot Pudding…
Our “Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple“…
and the Chocolate Drops…
Excellent job, ladies! HUZZAH!!! I look forward to working
with you, again.