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Archive for the ‘historic cooking’ Category

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.

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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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I’ve had several requests for the receipts that were used to create
the chocolate dishes presented in my previous posting. All of them
were compiled by Deb Peterson, the workshop’s instructor, and they
came from an assortment of 18th century cookbooks.

Let’s start with the most-awesome Chocolate Tart.

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We used the following receipt from John Nott’s The Cooks and
Confectioners Dictionary
, which was first published in 1723:

132. To make a Chocolate Tart.
Mix a little Milk, the Yolks of ten Eggs,
with two Spoonfuls of Rice-flour, and
a little Salt; then add a Quart of Cream,
and Sugar to your Palate; make it boil,
but take care it do not curdle; then grate
Chocolate into a Plate; dry it at the Fire;
and having taken off your Cream, mix
your Chocolate with it, stirring it well in,
and set it by to cool. Then sheet a Tart-pan,
put in your Mixture, bake it. When it comes
out of the Oven, glaze it with powder’d Sugar
and a red hot Shovel.

Note there’s no mention of the crust with which to “sheet your
tart-pan.” I imagine any would do, but Deb choose to have us
make the one below, which is found in the cookbook Bradshaw’s
Valuable Family Jewel
(1751), by Mrs. Penelope Bradshaw:

To make proper Paste for Tarts.
Take three Quarters of a Pound of Butter
mixed well with a Pound of Flour. Or thus:
Take equal Quantities of Flour, Butter, and
Sugar mixed well; beat it with a rolling Pin,
and roll it then.

Interestingly, the above tart receipt is also in The Court and
Country Confectioner
(1770), by a Mr. Borella. His version,
however, is ever so slightly re-worded, and the quantities
of all the ingredients have been cut in half. I suppose that’s
one way to avoid claims of plagiarism, ay, Mr. B.?!

Ahh, well…

In addition, I found a fun video the other day wherein a similar
tart is prepared. It was filmed as part of the 2012 long-awaited
opening of the newly-renovated Royal Kitchens of London’s Kew
Palace
. Unfortunately, no clue is given as to what receipt the cook
was using, and it’s been modernized/adapted, but it sounds very
similar to the one above. Even his process matches (somewhat)
what we did during our workshop. And, dagnabit, I think his
comment dealing with the “is chocolate a food or a beverage?”
debate is still a bit off, albeit he’s closer than some others. I’m
beginning to think that, in some ways, it’s all in how it’s stated.
But even if by 1789, a Chocolate Tart receipt had been floating
around since at least 1723 (nearly 70 years! almost a century!),
surely somebody had to’ve been whipping it up now and then,
so just how “unusual” was it?! Particularly for the “better sort”!

Ahh, well…so it goes.

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Back in April of this year, I attended an annual “foodie” conference
here in NYC at the Roger Smith Hotel. In the past it was dubbed
“The Cookbook Conference,” but it was re-named the Food-Tech
Conference
for its fourth go-round in 2014. Every year, there are
sessions on multifarious topics, the speakers and panelists (well,
most of them!) present informative talks, and the opportunities
to network with “fellow foodies” are abundant.

Now, one of the sessions I attended was entitled “Mechanizing
Cacao.” It featured a panel of three speakers, plus a moderator.
Each panelist spoke on some aspect of cacao, whether its history
or the modern chocolate-making process. However, one of these
supposed “experts” was sadly mis-informed! And oddly enough,
he just happened to be a representative of Mars, Inc., who’re
the makers of American Heritage Historic Chocolate,** and was
also one of the sponsors of this year’s Conference. Oh, dear…!

Anyway, according to Mr. Mars/American Heritage, chocolate
was consumed ONLY as a beverage during the 18th century
and NOT as a food. HA! That statement is NOT true! I know
this, definitively, because I’ve made “eat-able” dishes that
contained chocolate (remember my “Nut Bomboons”?). But
coincidentally, I’d also just participated in an historic hearth
cooking workshop the previous weekend, wherein we made
several 18th century chocolate dishes that were meant to be
eaten. Thus, I am sorry Sir, but you are incorrect! And yes,
I had intended to raise my little hand during the session-ending
Q & A, in order to share the above information about replicating
18th century chocolate as something to be eaten, but, alas, it
wasn’t meant to be. You see, after all the panelists had done
their spiels, the session rather abruptly ended, as time had run
out! Everyone then quickly disappeared, both the speakers and
the audience! I must say, it was rather bizarre. I found myself
wondering, “What just happened? Where’d everyone go? It’s
over?!?” And so, there was no Q & A, no sharing of anything.
It was officially The End.

Ahh, well…so it goes.

In any case, below are the dishes we prepared during the hearth
cooking workshop. The receipts utilized for each one were taken
from assorted 18th century cookbooks. As you’ll see, chocolate
was consumed not only as a beverage, but also as a food. Indeed,
it was enjoyed in various forms, whether in a cup or on a plate.

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First up was a Chocolate Tart. We began by working on the paste
(or crust), which was beaten:

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The paste was cooked first. Beans were placed on it to keep it flat:

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Time to work on the cream filling:

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The chocolate was grated:

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Then it was added to the cream mixture and cooked:

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Ready to go:

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Into the bake oven it went, where any and all baking was done:

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Soon the Tart was done and it was then time to caramelize the top
with a heated salamander:

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TA-DA! Our mighty fine tart was completed:

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Next, we worked on Chocolate Drops:

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Then we made Chocolate Almonds, which, incidentally, do not
contain almonds, but are shaped like them:

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All the chocolate mixtures were cooked on a brazier:

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And finally, we made Chocolate Biscuits:

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Our intrepid workshop leader, Deb:

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It was a fantastic workshop. Lots of wonderful chocolate dishes
were made AND eaten. I’m looking forward to making them
in my own hearth cooking classes. HUZZAH!

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* Names withheld to protect the innocent…and the guilty! LOL
** American Heritage Chocolate is (allegedly) a reproduction of 18th century chocolate, which has been manufactured using an “Authentic 18th Century Product Recipe and Ingredients” (to quote the copy on the box). However, well…maybe not! *sigh* More on that later.
*** The chocolate hearth cooking workshop was conducted by the talented Deborah Peterson (formerly of Deborah’s Pantry) as part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museum’s (ALHFAM) annual conference. The workshop took place in the historic kitchen
of the Peter Wentz Farmstead, of Montgomery County, PA.

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Okay. Time to stop dawdling. Which isn’t easy, seeing
as we’re in the midst of the lazy-hazy-days of summer!
In any event, here’s a follow-up to my recent “phantom”
Pepper Pot post
. Let’s get to it!

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As several friends, colleagues, and blog commenters stated,
indeed, not only were there two subsequent editions of Sarah
Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife* (one in 1851 and another

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in 1855), but a Pepper Pot receipt was in each one, as well.
And yes, Karen Hess, author of The Carolina Rice Kitchen,
The African Connection
(1992) was aware of this. In fact,
she acknowledges that Mrs. Samuel G. Stoney, the compiler
of The Carolina Rice Cook Book (1901), “seems to have used
the third edition of 1855.” I was able to verify all this by first
re-reading the bulk of Hess’ ten-chapter narrative preceding
the facsimile of Carolina Rice, and then searching for, and
finding, those two other Housewife editions online. Although
I wasn’t able to read the Pepper Pot receipt in both, it IS
there (the 1855 could be read in its entirety for FREE, but
in order to go beyond the Table of Contents, where Pepper
Pot is listed, of the 1851 edition, I would’ve had to pay a fee!).
Nevertheless, save for a few minor changes in punctuation
and the like, Stoney’s version is nigh identical to Rutledge’s.
Of course, as with other second or tenth or 20th editions
of these historic cookbooks, I always wonder how much
input, if any, the original author actually had. In this case,
did Rutledge make these additions herself? Or did someone
else, perhaps the publisher, do it? After all, Rutledge died
in 1855, and that year’s edition had a different publisher
than the first two. I suppose we’ll never know. But such
uncertainty about provenance is why I prefer to use, if
possible, the first editions of any cookbook.

At the same time, I must say that I was puzzled as to why
Pepper Pot is in a rice cookbook, seeing as there’s NO rice
in it! At least not in any of the various receipts I’ve found,
whether in Rutledge’s work or another’s. Even Hess mentions

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at one point that there’s no apparent rhyme or reason as to why
some of the receipts are included. In any event, while pondering
this, I looked carefully again at the Carolina Rice Cook Book’s
Pepper Pot. And then it hit me. It’s been altered! Stoney (or
someone) modified the receipt so it’d fit in perfectly with the
whole rice theme by adding one little sentence at the very end:

“Serve with rice.”

tsk tsk, Mrs. Stoney! Revised history, did we?! **sigh**

I suppose, since the book was created as a tool for the Carolina
Rice Company and other Southern rice growers to promote their
products,** it makes perfect sense. Throw together a bunch
of receipts, add side dishes of rice, and call it a day. I guess
that’s one way to pad a book AND sell rice!

Ahh, well, so it goes…

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* The first edition of the Carolina Housewife was published in 1847.
**BTW Mrs. Stoney was the wife of the Chairman of the Carolina
Rice Kitchen Association. The cookbook was offered in pamphlet
form to visitors for 25 cents during the apparently-not-successful
South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, which was
held in Charleston, SC from December 1, 1901 to June 20, 1902.

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About two weeks ago, I headed up north to participate in the Wilton
[CT] Historical Society’s
annual “Colonial Days” program for the area’s
fourth graders. It was an amazing four-day event, and the different
groups of young’uns were daily kept mighty busy with lots to see
and do. Everyone partook of a wide variety of activities at numerous
stations that were situated throughout the Society’s complex, ranging
from flax and wool processing to hauling buckets of water with a yoke
to creating a pincushion to watching a blacksmith at work to assisting
with a small-scale barn raising and more.

And then there was me, happily ensconced in the kitchen of the Society’s
Sloan-Raymond-Fitch House. Together, the students and I talked about
cooking over an open fire in the 18th century. We covered everything,

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including the process, the equipment and utensils, and the food. And
since they all just happened to arrive when the main meal of the day
(aka dinner) would’ve been prepared and cooked, we also chatted
about how they might’ve assisted and the chores they likely would
have done. Each child then had the opportunity to try three: grinding
peppercorns; cutting up sweet potatoes; and churning butter. When
their chores were completed, each student was then able to enjoy
some freshly-churned butter on a piece bread and to sample a cup
of the resulting buttermilk. The whole room was a beehive of activity,
what with our lively discussions and the sounds of ambitious little
helpers doing their chores. Alas, our time together was far too short,
and soon they were all on their way to the next station. Another group
of eager young folks arrived, and we began once again.

Overall, I think everyone had a marvelous time. I know I certainly did.
HUZZAH!

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Speaking of videos…Don Dempsey, a student in one of my recent
hearth cooking classes at The Israel Crane House this past winter,
did a whole lotta filming and then created this fantastic little video.
See what fun we all had! HUZZAH!

Not only that, but you get to hear part of my rant against that dang
fakelore-riddled story about the Mary Todd Lincoln cake. Help stomp
it out NOW! LOL oy

In any event, we had a marvelous time, and I hope you enjoy this
beautifully-filmed peek at hearth cooking in the Crane kitchen. And
don’t forget, you, too, can join the fun at a future class. Stay tuned!

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Video courtesy of Donald Dempsey of White Light, LLC

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Sadly, I read today of the passing of Clarissa Dickson Wright,
who had been the remaining member of those lovely ‘n jovial
cooks from the BBC television series “Two Fat Ladies.” Her
co-hort, Jennifer Paterson, passed away back in 1999, the
same year the series ended. Clarissa died in Edinburgh,
Scotland, on March 15.

I only saw a few of the “Ladies” shows, but about four
years* ago, I found a delightful video series on youtube
featuring Clarissa. It dealt with a fascinating manuscript
cookbook** from the time of King Richard II. The receipts,
written in scroll form, had been compiled by the King’s
Master Cooks. Clarissa prepared several of the dishes
and then shared them with noted British medieval food
experts. Their comments, alone, about the meal are
priceless! Bland English food? HA! And so, another
myth is debunked. HUZZAH!

And so, in honor of Clarissa, here again is the video series.
There are three parts, so be sure to watch them all. You
won’t regret it! It’s quite fun to watch.

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* I first posted all three videos separately in July 2010

** published as The Forme of Cury

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