Archive for the ‘historic cooking’ Category

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
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.


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




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


Time to work on the cream filling:


The chocolate was grated:


Then it was added to the cream mixture and cooked:


Ready to go:


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


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



TA-DA! Our mighty fine tart was completed:


Next, we worked on Chocolate Drops:


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


All the chocolate mixtures were cooked on a brazier:


And finally, we made Chocolate Biscuits:



Our intrepid workshop leader, Deb:


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!



* 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!


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


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


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…


* 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,


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.











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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!



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.


* I first posted all three videos separately in July 2010

** published as The Forme of Cury




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Our menu for the most recent hearth cooking class*
at The Israel Crane House included “Beef-stake Pie,”
“Eggs and Onions, commonly called the Onion Dish,”
“Sweet Potato Balls,” “Mrs Perrot’s Heart or Pound
Cake,” and a simple beverage of “Chocolate.” We
had a great group of folks participating, and it was
a beehive of constant activity as everyone busily
worked on one dish and/or another. Clearly, all
had a marvelous time! HUZZAH!

Of course, as usual, I was only able to snag one or
two pictures. Luckily, however, several people came
with cameras in hand, resulting in some really lovely
photos. And so, with her permission, I share those
taken by Andrea Swenson. CLICK HERE to see them.
Several are simply stunning! HUZZAH!


*This, the second class of 2014, was held Sunday, March 2.

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In addition to the Cheese Puddings mentioned in the previous
post, the menu for the hearth cooking class held on February 8
at The Israel Crane House also included Stewed Chickens and
Mashed Turnips. The plan was then to close our meal with some
refreshing sweetmeats known as Lemon Bomboons. I say “plan”
because…well, let me explain.

First, I made a batch of Nut Bomboons (aka chocolate) at home.
I did so for several reasons, including re-acquainting myself
with the receipt, its contents and its processes, and to show


what they should look like when finished (albeit in a different
color). And by making the chocolate variety, and not the lemon,
we’d then have two different flavors. Of course, they were a hit,
and soon disappeared!

For both sets of Bomboons, receipts from Mr. Borella’s cookbook,
The Court and Country Confectioner (1772) were used. Here’s
the one for the Lemon (the chocolate is at the end):

Lemon or Orange Bomboons.
Take a piece of loaf sugar, rasp
the oranges or lemons with it,
what of them sticks to the sugar
you brush off upon a paper; then
you pound in a mortar that same
piece of sugar, and put it in a pan
with that which is upon the paper,
and which tastes of the lemon or
orange; you set it upon a gentle
fire, in melting it slowly; after
which you pour it upon a tin
plate, which you must before
have rubbed with a little butter,
or it will stick to the plate; then
you spread it with the rolling-pin
as you did for the nuts;* (observe
the rolling-pin must likewise be
rubbed with butter, for fear it
should stick) when all that is
done, and it is perfectly cold,
then you cut it in what shapes
you please and send it up.

Although nearly everyone helped along the way, particularly
with rasping (grating) the lemons on chunks of the sugar loaf,
one intrepid class member dove right in and took charge of
making our Bomboons:




A most lovely pile of lemon raspings:


The sugary-lemony-concoction ready to be set over the fire:


Now, remember I said previously that the “plan” was to make
these? Well, we ended up NOT! The mixture just wouldn’t set
up properly. We got nothing but lemon soup. Even though it
was cooked and stirred, stirred and cooked, the end result
was…zilch, nada, nothing. For whatever reason, it didn’t
work. Sadly, there were no Bomboons for us. dagnabit

So, I took the vat of juice home, put it in a saucepan on top
of my mo-dern stove, and tried again. I re-heated it to just
below the boiling stage, and cooked it, stirring constantly,
for quite some time (unfortunately, no, I didn’t check my
start and stop times). I also added more sugar, probably
about half to three quarters of a cup or so. Then, it began
to thicken, slowly but surely, and eventually, with even more
stirring, it FINALLY reached the correct stage. I poured it out,
let it set up, and HUZZAH! I had a most-awesome, glorious
batch of refreshingly-sweet Lemon Bomboons!


Most definitely, I’ll have to try these again at the hearth. If
for no other reason than the fact that I’ll be able to use my
new favorite word, “Bomboons,” again!

Here’s the receipt for the Nut (or Spanish nuts or cacao
beans aka chocolate) Bomboons, also from The Court and
Country Confectioner
(1772), by Mr. no-first-name Borella.
Oh, and not having any cacao beans, I used a bar of 100%
cacao (however, I have done the entire chocolate making
process, from roasting the cacao beans to shelling them
to grinding them into a smooth liquid)

Nut Bomboons.
Take a pound of Spanish nuts [cacao],
and boil them in an iron pan; when
they are well boiled rub off their
skin with a napkin, if some stick
too hard, pare it off with a knife;
take a tin grater and grate your
nuts very fine on a sheet of paper;
then you take a pound of powdered
sugar, to a pound of nuts, put it
in a pan over a slow fire, when
your sugar is all melted in stirring
it perpetually with a wooden spoon,
pour your nuts in and work them
well till all is well mixed, and pour
it upon a tin plate; you have
a wooden rolling-pin to spread
it, which you must be very quick
in doing, for it cools very fast;
and when it is cold you cut it
in what form you please; you
must take care the sugar should
not be too much melted, for it is
very apt to soften when the nuts
are joined to it.

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“A Cheese Pudding” was one of the dishes on the menu
for our recent hearth cooking class at The Israel Crane
In fact, we made two of them. And I must say,
they were mighty tasty! HUZZAH!


We followed the instructions found in Mrs. Lettice Bryan’s
receipt from her book, The Kentucky Housewife (1839):

A Cheese Pudding.
Cut slices of cold Indian mush
about half an inch thick. Grate
some nice kind of cheese thickly
over them, and lay on each a thin
slice of butter. Put them in a deep
dish, stratifying them till the dish
is full; then incrustate the top
with a little finely grated bread,
and broken bits of butter; bake
it a few minutes in a moderate
oven, and send it warm to table
with white wine and sugar.

Don’t you just love that word, “incrustate”?! I’m going
to have to find ways to use it often. What fun!

But I digress. Back to our puddings!


Now, as I mentioned, two were made, one (first, above)
with Parmesan cheese and the other (second photo)
with Cheddar. Both cheeses would’ve had to’ve been
imported to this country during the years the Crane
Family lived in the area. Mr. Crane most likely offered
them for sale in his store. At the very least, he would’ve
known how to acquire them.

We used two different types of “cold Indian mush” in our
puddings, as well. The Parmesan contained what I’d made
earlier at home. It was easy and fun, as all I needed to do
was make some Hasty Pudding (yum! me like!) and then
let it set up, or solidify, at which point it became mush:



Store-bought mush, or polenta, as it’s known in Italy, was
used in the pudding with the Cheddar cheese:


Interestingly, there’s a receipt for the exact same dish
in Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife (1824). It IS
a tad different, however. First, it’s entitled “To Make
Polenta,” and then it provides details on the entire
process, from the making of the Hasty Pudding to its
formation into mush to the layering with the cheese.

But hey, she doesn’t use the word “incrustate.” LOL

When all was said and done (and eaten!), it was clear
that it’s a most marvelous dish. I mean, really? Cornmeal
and cheese? Together?! Whodathunk it’d be so fantastically,
awesomely good?! HUZZAH!


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Back in November 2013, I was interviewed on the radio when
I was the sole guest on “A Taste of the Past,” a weekly show
on the Heritage Radio Network that’s hosted by fellow CHNY*
member, Linda Pelaccio. At the time, Thanksgiving was just
around the corner, and so we discussed cooking such a meal
(in fact, EVERY meal), at an open hearth.

You can listen to my episode here.

Now, THIS month, The Montclair Times featured me in a nice
little article wherein I was interviewed about open fire cooking,
in general, and my hearth cooking classes** at The Israel Crane
, in particular.

Read all about it here.

What fun! HUZZAH!



*CHNY = Culinary Historians of New York
**This article specifically mentions the class that was held February 8.
However, another class will be offered on Sunday, March 2. Space is
limited, so register now! See the “Carolina’s Calendar” page for details.

[This post has been brought to you by the Shameless Self-Promotion Department!]

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Ideally, hopefully, “God willin’ ‘n the creek don’t rise,” a soldier
who fought in the Revolutionary War received, as part of his
daily rations, one pound of bread OR one pound of flour OR
one pound of hard biscuits. And so I made several batches
of the latter for my “Cook Like a Soldier” programs this past
year. Here are a few, hot ‘n fresh from my mo-dern oven:


Hard biscuits are really quite easy to make. After all, there
are only three ingredients: flour; a bit of salt; and water.*
Mix them together into a fairly stiff dough, roll it out and
cut, then bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so until they’re
good and dry (you’re not cooking them as much as just
evaporating all the water). The best part is, they can be
made today and used next week, next month, or heck,
even next year! In fact, the longer you wait, the better.

Since a Rev War soldier was given a pound of these hard
biscuits, I weighed out that amount. At the size I made
them (roughly three inches in diameter), I discovered
that 17 individual biscuits equaled a pound:


Naturally, if I’d made them larger, there’d be less in a pound,
and more, if they’d been smaller. But I must say, I was quite
amazed to see, exactly, the amount a Rev War soldier could
potentially receive EVERY single day! It made me wonder if
there were times when he had so many biscuits, he didn’t
know what to do with them? Of course, on those days, and
during those weeks, when possibly little, or even nothing,
no other food, was being delivered, I imagine a few hard
biscuits in the bottom of a soldier’s haversack would’ve
seemed like manna from heaven!

I sewed up the handy-dandy cloth bag so that I could tote
the biscuits from one place to another, as well as use them
repeatedly for display purposes. Besides, as I understand it,
that’s what Rev War soldiers might’ve done, as well, in order
to carry their rations from some distribution point back to their
own camps.

One of the nicest aspects of always having a supply of hard
biscuits on hand is that I can wrap up a few and take them
with me whenever I participate in re-enactments. That way,


if I ever get hungry and/or need a quick snack, I have a little
something on which to nibble. The added bonus is that they’re
historically-accurate little somethings. What could be better?!

Of course, the Big Question is: How do they taste?

Well, actually, I think they’re quite delicious! They’re especially
yummy hot, right outta the oven, before they harden. But even
after, when they ARE hard as rocks, I still enjoy eating them. I’d
say the taste is a cross between a cracker and a regular biscuit.
In fact, I think they ARE, truly, delightful ‘n delectable! HUZZAH!


*The receipt for hard biscuits was shared at a symposium
conducted by Kimberly Boice this past March at Ft. Mifflin.
It’s also in
The Packet , by Mark R. Tully ( (c) 1999-2007;
see page 4).


NOTE: Hard biscuits were known as such during the wars of the 18th
and early 19th centuries. Unless you were in the Navy, then they were
called “ship’s biscuits” or “sea biscuits.” It wasn’t until the American
Civil War that they were referred to as “hard tack.”

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