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I spent this past Sunday, May 17, doing some hearth cooking
over at The Israel Crane House. It was my last time doing so
for the 2014-2015 season (I’ll return in the fall). To mark
the occasion, I devised a story wherein Mrs. Crane had me
prepare dishes for a tea she was holding for fellow female
members of the local Presbyterian Church (the Family was
an active supporter). Thus, I whipped up a few delightful
and delicious desserts.

First up was a Chocolate Tart.

Heating milk, eggs, sugar, and cream to a boil:

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The grated chocolate:

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Which was stirred into the cream mixture after it’d cooled:

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Now, I may’ve put in a little too much chocolate. I was doing my
best to gently and slowly shake it off the plate into the kettle,
but then *whoosh* a whole bunch slid off! Oh, well…

A simple paste was made with butter and put in a pie pan:

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Put it all together and…

It’s baking!

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TA-DA!!!

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The receipt I followed was first introduced to me during 2014’s
MA-ALHFAM,* Conference at the Peter Wentz Homestead. You
can find it HERE. It was taken from John Nott’s The Cooks and
Confectioners Dictionary
of 1723.

Many people think chocolate was only consumed as a beverage
in the 18th and early 19th centuries. And although that’s how
the general public most likely used it, as you see, chocolate
could also be eaten.

Next, I used a receipt from a manuscript cookbook of a Boston
apothecary’s wife to make a Lemon Pudding:

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As I prepared this dish, I wasn’t sure if it was coming together
properly. The batter seemed too liquid-y. Perhaps there was
an ingredient missing? One that the copier of the receipt had
inadvertently left out? More importantly, will this be any good?!
But when all was said and done, and nicely baked…WOW! It
was fantastic! What a light ‘n lemon-y, refreshing treat for such
a hot ‘n muggy day! I hope I can make this again.

Below are the instructions, taken from the published version
of Anne Gibbons Gardiner’s manuscript, which is entitled
Mrs. Gardiner’s Family Receipts from 1763:

Lemon Pudding
Take the Yolks of 8 Eggs well beaten, &
the whites of only 4 of them, the Rhinds
of 2 Lemons grated and the Juice of one
of them, somewhat less that [sic] half
a pound of white Sugar & a quarter of
a pound of Butter. Mix all well together,
& bake it half an hour.

A few weeks ago, Pat Roos, a fellow member of the Order
of the Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia, expressed
interest in making a hedgehog. I later found an 18th century
receipt for it in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made
Plain and Easy
(1747). It looked quite intriguing, and so
I tried it. Here’s the one I made at the time:

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Even though I’d cut the proportions in half, there was still alot
of extra dough. But then, I was making small-ish critters. In any
event, I took it to the Crane House and made more:

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They sure is cute, yes?!

Below is Glasse’s receipt. As I mentioned previously, I cut
the ingredient amounts. I also didn’t make the sauce:

To make a Hedge-Hog.
Take two Pounds of blanched Almonds,
beat them well in a Mortar with a little
Canary and Orange-flower Water,
to keep them from oiling. Make them
into stiff Paste, then beat in the Yolks
of twelve Eggs, leave out five of the
Whites, put to it a Pint of Cream,
sweeten it with Sugar, put in half
a Pound of sweet Butter melted,
set it on a Furnace or slow Fire,
and keep it constantly stirring,
till it is stiff enough to be made
into the Form of an Hedge-Hog;
then stick it full of blanched
Almonds, slit and stuck up like
the Bristles of a Hedge-Hog,
then put it into a Dish, take
a Pint of Cream, and the Yolks
of four Eggs beat up, sweetned
with Sugar to your Palate. Stir
them together over a slow Fire
till it is quite hot, then pour it
round the Hedge-Hog in the Dish,
and let it stand till it is cold, and
serve it up.—-Or a rich Calf’s Foot
Jelly made clear and good, pour
into the Dish round the Hedge-Hog;
and when it is cold, it looks pretty,
and makes a pretty Dish; or looks
pretty in the Middle of a Table
for Supper.

hedgehogs at Crane Hse  5_17_2015

What else? Oh, yes. I’d made a batch of Shrewsbury Cakes
at home and brought them for folks to enjoy:

another angle Shrewsbury Cakes 5_17_2015 at Crane Hs

These were prepared in accordance with my usual go-to
receipt
from Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796).

As you see, we had quite a spread of delicious goodies!
Or should I say, Mrs. Crane had them?! LOL In any event,
lots of visitors came through, and they all enjoyed each
one. There was nary a crumb remaining! So, despite the
heat ‘n humidity, it was a fun-filled afternoon. HUZZAH!

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______________________________

* MA-ALHFAM stands for Mid-Atlantic region of the Association
for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums.

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I spent a good chunk of time earlier this year developing menus for two different hearth cooking classes at The Israel Crane House (including one that never materialized…ahh, well, so it goes). It’s always an interesting journey when I search for dishes that might have made up a typical mid-day meal at the Crane family table. I usually begin by making a general list of what I’d like to include, along with specific dishes and cooking techniques that I think class IMG_9597 participants might like to try. I consider what foods would’ve been in season at the time, and what was likely available to a family such as the Cranes, who lived so close (relatively!) to Manhattan. I often simply skim the table of contents and indexes of assorted historic cookbooks for ideas. Frequently, I’ll open one at random and just start reading, which can be fascinating, as I never know what I’ll find! If nothing else, creating menus for these classes is always a fascinating and educational experience. And so, my recent search for receipts (recipes) followed this same basic path. However, as I went along my merry way, I suddenly discovered some shocking, good-golly-miss-molly, eye poppin’ and jaw-droppin’ information. As I perused the vegetable section of the Index in Mrs. Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife (1839), I came upon these two little words:

Potatoe pumpkin.

“Wow!” I thought. “Is this another, a second, receipt for the dish that I know so well and have made multiple times? If so, how cool is that?! I’ve gotta check this out.” You see, there’s a “Potato Pumpkin” in The Virginia Housewife (1824), by Mary Randolph. I was first introduced to it during the 18th Century Historic Foodways Conference back in 2009 at Colonial Williamsburg. The Historic Foodways folks there had made one that played a major role in various displays and “live” presentations. It was a most unique dish, and I was just fascinated with it. I vowed then and there to try it when I got home. And, indeed I did, both for use at the Crane House and at my own celebratory meals. Many of my fellow hearth cooks have prepared it, as well, and I’ve seen a wide range of photos posted online that showcase their efforts. Of course, I’ve also shown off my handiwork here on my blog. One made for use at the Crane House: and another, eaten at home: And although I’d shared Randolph’s receipt for “Potato Pumpkin” often, I admit I’d never paid too much attention to the specifics contained therein. I mean, I’d read it and re-read it, and there was that one puzzling sentence, but, golly, I’d seen it, and heard its preparation discussed, at Colonial Williamsburg, and thus had a clear idea of what it was and how it went together. Certainly, the foodways folks at CW must’ve known what they were doing and what was up and what was correct, yes? There was no need to question their efforts! So, in accordance with everything that I’d witnessed, making a “Potato Pumpkin” appeared to simply involve cutting off the top of a regular (pie or sugar) pumpkin, paring and gutting it, filling the cavity with forcemeat (which typically consists of sausage or other meat mixed with herbs, bread crumbs, and other ingredients), baking it, and then, finally, eating the entire thing. Yeah, well…no! There’s one part of those basic instructions that’s completely wrong! How do I know? Well, remember when I stated previously that I’d discovered another “Potato Pumpkin” receipt in The Kentucky Housewife? Turns out, not only is it NOT the same as Randolph’s (HUZZAH! no stealing, er, “borrowing” here!), but it’s also much, MUCH different. Here’s what I found in Mrs. Bryan’s book:

POTATO PUMPKIN. Potato pumpkin when large and ripe, is very good, tasting much like the sweet potato, and can be kept well through the winter, put up in a dry place, and covered securely with fodder or shucks. They may be dressed by the various receipts I have just given for winter squash.

A-HA!!! It’s a squash! A specific squash. And it’s a food item unto itself, one that’s wholly distinct and separate from a regular pumpkin. And it’s called a “POTATO pumpkin” because it TASTES like a SWEET POTATO. [emphasis mine] Good golly, miss molly. After reading this, I turned again to the receipt in Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife:

POTATO PUMPKIN. Get one of a good colour, and seven or eight inches in diameter; cut a piece off the top, take out all the seeds, wash and wipe the cavity, pare the rind off, and fill the hollow with good forcemeat—put the top on, and set it in a deep pan, to protect the sides; bake it in a moderate oven, put it carefully in the dish without breaking, and it will look like a handsome mould. Another way of cooking potato pumpkin is to cut it in slices, pare off the rind, and make a puree as directed for turnips.

“Get one of a good colour,” as in one of the specific vegetables that’re known as potato pumpkins. And, again, NOT a REGULAR pumpkin! Then that last line, which greatly puzzled me: “another way of cooking potato pumpkin….” Well, seeing as it’s referring to a specific type of squash, cutting IT into slices, cooking and making IT into “a puree as directed for turnips,” I understand better now. But golly, I’d always wondered how you were supposed to cut a regular ol’ pumpkin filled with forcemeat into slices and then puree them all together. It just didn’t make any sense! Now, though, it does. HUZZAH! Then, as I was reading these two different receipts, I suddenly recalled seeing the words “potato pumpkin” in another section of my facsimile of Randolph’s 1824 book. Ahhh, yes, it was in the “Historical Glossary”! So I looked, and sure enough, there it says, in part:

POTATO PUMPKIN—I take this to be calabaza or West Indian pumpkin. In a letter to Samuel Vaughn, Jr., in 1790, Jefferson speaks of the potatoe-pumpkin, calling it thus ‘on account of the extreme resemblance of its taste to that of the sweet-potatoe’…

Good golly. Wow, WOW, WOW! One good part of all this is we may FINALLY be rid of that constantly-asked and annoying, but unanswerable question, “Why is the dish called a potato pumpkin, when there’s no potato in it?!” I don’t know about anyone else, but it sure made me uncomfortable. There I’d be, putting it all together with relative ease, and yet I couldn’t offer up an explanation for the name of it. THAT didn’t make any sense, either! Of course, after this major discovery, I wanted to know more and to get as much information as I could about this squash called a potato pumpkin. So, first I turned to my facsimile of Noah Webster’s 1828 edition of his American Dictionary of the English Language. Nothing was given for potato pumpkin, but under “Calabash,” I found:

[Sp. calabaza, a pumpkin….] (In case you’re wondering, “Sp.” is the abbreviation for Spanish)

Next, I consulted that well-known source for definitions of all “odd” and unfamiliar words, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Again, there was no potato pumpkin. However, I did find:

calabaza Chiefly West Indies Known as West Indian or green pumpkin…not to be confused with pie pumpkin… (emphasis mine)

Wow. There you have it. What more need I say?! Nothing. Other than the fact that I now have LOTS of questions about the research (or lack thereof?!) done on this dish by members of the Historic Foodways staff down at Colonial Williamsburg. I mean…really?!? It’s bad enough that they insist on using a 19th century cookbook (The Virginia Housewife), one that wasn’t to be published for another half century (50 years!) after the time period the site is portraying. Golly, what’s up with that?!? Furthermore, which edition of Randolph’s are they using? Indeed, there are several, from its 1824 original to those of 1828, 1836…even 1860 (incidentally, she died in 1828). If theirs is the facsimile of the original of 1824, is it the one with notes and commentaries by the late Karen Hess? And, if yes, haven’t they ever found and READ her “Historical Glossary”?! And if they have, well, so…what? They forgot what’s in it? Or they purposely chose to ignore it? And if, indeed, they’re aware they’ve used the wrong squash, did IMG_3656 they do so because they couldn’t find the correct one? So why haven’t they ever said as much? Substitutions occasionally must be made, for one reason or another, so why not share that bit of information? Particularly during the 2009 Conference. When all their fellow hearth cooks and food historians were present?! You know, saying something along the lines of “A potato pumpkin is a specific type of squash, but we’ve been unable to procure one, so we’re substituting a regular pumpkin”?! I mean, golly, don’t they think they’re obligated to tell us the truth?! And I’m fully aware that CW gives adapted receipts to the general public, particularly on its “History is Served” pages, but, come on, that ain’t us! We’re striving to closely follow historic receipts, too, and to make every dish as correctly as possible. Besides, being workers in the various kitchens at Colonial Williamsburg, they’re at the center of the 18th century living history world. We look to them to provide us with solid, factual information, and NOT namby-pamby “enh, we’ll just fudge it” shenanigans like this. On a personal level, I feel duped and betrayed, like I’ve been led astray and sent down the wrong path. I expected better, so it’s rather disappointing. Alas, I guess it highlights the fact that it’s best to do your own experimentation and conduct your own research. Don’t rely on anyone else, no matter who they are or where they work. It reminds me of what the woman told me as she led a group of us on a tour of CW’s Costume Design Center awhile back. She said, “Don’t copy us. We don’t always get things right.” Okay, good to know! Guess maybe that sentiment also applies to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways, ay?! In any event, I’ll end here with two items I found of interest online. One is an image of a potato pumpkin, the other a video of a chef creating a potato pumpkin soup. Be sure to note the colors, texture, and shape of the squash in both. Courtesy of Wikibooks: image of calabaza from wikibooks And then check out this video for making Calabaza Soup. It offers a good idea of what a calabaza looks like, inside and out. Note especially when he peels it. The rind is much thinner than that of our everyday pumpkin. Oh, and one other thing. There’s a large Caribbean population here in NYC/Brooklyn. I’ve asked around, and I should be able to find a calabaza, a potato pumpkin, at a market somewhere! My plan is to buy one and make an actual, true “Potato Pumpkin.” When I do, I’ll be sure to post an update, complete with photos. Can’t wait! HUZZAH!!! IMG_1934

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Before we say “Farewell” to December and 2014, I thought
I’d share a few photos taken at The Israel Crane House
recently, during the annual Essex County (NJ) Historic
House Holiday Tours.

I thoroughly enjoy this event every year, and I always
look forward to it. It offers a marvelous opportunity
to share food and in-depth discussions with visitors.
This year, the crowds were non-stop on Saturday,

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when it poured rain, and they tended to ebb ‘n flow
on Sunday, when we had sun with clear blue skies.
Go figure!

As in the past, quite a spread of goodies was available
for visitors to enjoy. It consisted of the usual suspects,
ranging from a baked ham to shelled walnuts and roasted
chestnuts to hot spiced cider. Several items that’d been
prepared in advance were offered, as well. Of course,
all were done in accordance with receipts from several
of my favorite historic cookbooks. They included…

Hannah Glasse’s “Ginger-Bread Cakes” from her book
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747). And
as I’ve mentioned here previously, these are unique
in that treacle is specified, rather than molasses:

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“Shrewsbury Cakes,” from American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons:

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Open any cookbook written prior to 1830 or so, and you’re
bound to find a receipt for these small cakes. Sadly, they’ve
since fallen out of favor.

“Pounded Cheese” per Dr. William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle (1817):

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And “Naples Biscuits,” from the 18th century receipt book
of the James Logan Family of Germantown, PA. These were
generally made in advance for use in other dishes. Numerous
historic receipts specify that grated Naples Biscuits be added
to other ingredients. However, they were often served just
as they are, along with tea or another beverage:

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I usually make a dish or two during each year’s event, as well.
This year, I put together a Potato Pudding. Time was sorely
limited, so I mixed all the ingredients on the first day and
baked it on the second. I followed the same receipt that I’d
used previously for a Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY)
program. It’s from an early 19th century manuscript cookbook,
which is part of a new online collection of such sources. The type
of potatoes to be used are not specified, so I chose sweet:

into the bake kettle…

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it’s a-baking:

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between the visitors and staff, it didn’t last long!

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All in all, it was a highly successful AND enjoyable event.
I can hardly wait ’til next year’s!

In the meantime, Happy New Year to all! I hope your 2015
is as good, no, better, than your 2014. I’m looking forward
to everything it has to offer. HUZZAH!

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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.

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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]

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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,

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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),

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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!

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

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_________________________

*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.

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