Posts Tagged ‘Amelia Simmons’

Before we’re too far removed from our recent election, I’d like
to share a couple of author’s comments about Election Cake,
that uniquely-American celebratory treat.

First, the late food historian Karen Hess has this to say in her
introduction to the facsimile of the second edition of American
(by Amelia Simmons; Albany, NY; 1796):

A word on her famous ‘Election Cake,’ one
of many recipes which did not appear until
the Albany edition, so that it cannot be
identified specifically with Hartford, which
it often is. It is simply one of the ‘Great
Cakes’ of English culinary tradition, to be
made for festival occasions, huge loaves
of highly enriched yeasted bread, flavored
with sugar, spices, and lovely rosewater or
spirits of some kind, as well as raisins
or the like, recipes for which abounded
in cookbooks of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. Certainly in 1796,
Election Day would have been a major
festival, a cause for celebration.

Mary Tolford Wilson also makes note of these special cakes in her
opening essay to the facsimile of the first edition of Simmons’
American Cookery (published in Hartford, CT; 1796):

It [the second edition] was an extensively
revised and considerably augmented work.
There were new recipes such as ‘Election
Cake’ (beginning with thirty quarts of flour),
‘Independence Cake,’ and ‘Federal Pan Cake,’
recording by their names America’s awareness
of its new status as a nation.

And so, one final HUZZAH for Election Cake!

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It’s here! Today is the Big Election. So to celebrate this day while
at The Israel Crane House this past Sunday, I made the perfect
dish: an Election Cake. HUZZAH!

I used the following receipt (recipe) from Mrs. Child’s The American
Frugal Housewife
(12th edition, 1833; originally published 1832):

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.

Now you see why I chose to use Child’s receipt! It was, indeed,
a bit simpler, at least ingredient-wise. I also made it even easier
(I think!) by quartering the proportions (starting with just one
pound of flour and so on). Working with yeast was challenging,
as most of the cakes I’ve made using historical receipts haven’t
called for it. I probably should’ve let it rise longer. Or started it
at home and finished it at Crane’s. Or something. The problem
with that is, I didn’t know for sure I’d even be going there, due
to Hurricane Sandy issues, until Saturday. However, the good
news is, it didn’t really seem to matter, as the final product
turned out well and was quite tasty! Visitors greatly enjoyed
it, as did staff members. Some even had several slices! So,
by and large, I’d say it was a delicious success. HUZZAH!

As usual, I wasn’t able to get many photos, but here are a few:

While the cake was rising and then later baking, I also cut up
and strung a few apples to hang on the mantel for drying:

Overall, it was a fantastic day! HUZZAH!


ADDENDUM: I failed to note above that the above Election Cake receipt
is from the second edition of Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery, which
was published in Albany, NY, in 1796. This receipt was NOT in her first
edition, which was published in Hartford, CT, also in 1796. My apologies!

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We had a great group of folks
at the recent (April 15) hearth
cooking class at the Israel Crane
. Everyone worked diligently
on all the various dishes, and I think
it’s safe to say that a fun time was
had by all. Of course, the absolute
BEST part was sitting down to enjoy
a lovely meal of delectable goodies
straight from the open fire. HUZZAH!

So, without further ado, here are a few scenes, and some
receipts (recipes), from that day. Let the fun begin!

First up, from Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796):

To stuff and roast four Chickens.
Six ounces salt pork, half loaf bread,
six ounces butter, 3 eggs, a handful
of parsley shredded fine, summer-
savory, sweet marjoram; mix the
whole well together, fill and sew
up; roast one hour, baste with
butter, and dust on flour.

Next, from the Ashfield Family’s (of New York and New Jersey)
manuscript cookbook (1720s-1780s)*:

81. To make a Tansey to Bake
Take 18 Eggs and beat them well.
Put to them a quart of Cream and
the Crumb of a Stale penny Loaf
grated fine, one Nutmegg grated,
a little Salt, a Spoonfull of Orange
flower water, as much juice of Spinage
and Tansey as will make it green.
Sweeten it to your tast and put it
in your dish. Strew over it a quarter
of a pound of melted Butter. Put it
into a moderate Oven. Half an hour
will bake it. When you take it out,
Strew it with loaf Sugar and garnish
your dish with Oranges cut in Quarters.

Then it was on to:

Peeres in Confyt. XX. VI. XII.
Take peeres and pare hem clene.
take gode rede wyne &. mulberes
oper saundres and seep pe peeres
perin & whan pei buth ysode,
take hem up, make a syryp of
wyne greke. oper vernage with
blaunche powdour oper white
sugur and powdour gyngur & do
the peres perin. seep it a lytel
& messe it forth.

from The Forme of Cury, the published version of the manuscript
compiled by the Master Cooks at the Court of England’s King
Richard II (1399-1420):

Ahhh, there’s just nothing like a crackling fire:

Finding an original, historic receipt for cornbread has always
been mighty difficult. So I usually fall back on my recollections
of what we did when I worked at Conner Prairie long ago.
Thus, our somewhat “mo-dern” cornbread (made according
to my own recipe

In addition, we cooked one of my favorites, “Salmon in Cases,”
courtesy of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, made [sic] Plain
and Easy
. We also churned butter.

Finally, our sumptuous mid-day meal is served. Let’s eat!:

‘Til next time!


* Published as Pleasures of Colonial Cooking, by The New Jersey
Historical Society, Newark, NJ (1982).
**There’s been a discussion about this very subject on one
of Plimoth Plantation’s blogs. I wanted to provide a link to it,
but, dagnabit, I can’t remember which one it was!

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Now that I’ve gotten a bit o’ rest after a busy week and have
done things like cleaned up kitchen messes and organized
my photos, I can now get back to blogging. HUZZAH!

Besides, a report on my most recent hearth cooking adventures is
long overdue. And there were several during the week of March 26
to April 1. Three, to be exact; well, four, if you count making a dish
for the Culinary Historians of New York’s (CHNY) program. In any
event, it began with Homeschool Day at the Israel Crane House,
followed by CHNY, then a Teachers Professional Development
Workshop at the Queens County Farm Museum, and finally,
it ended with a return to the Crane House. Whew!

My Big Week was filled with varied and numerous preparations,
as well. It seemed that I was constantly slicing, mixing, mashing,
cooking, and/or baking something. Not to mention all the planning
that’d been done days, even weeks, previously, including deciding
what dishes to make, selecting the receipts (recipes) to be used,
and developing the menus for each particular hearth cooking
session. Then throw in all the scurrying from one grocery store
to another to yet another, as I attempted to procure the required
ingredients for most of the dishes. Ahh, what a life: keeps me busy
and outta trouble. Besides, I absolutely love it! HUZZAH!

Okay. Onward. Let the hearth cooking adventures begin!

First up, I headed to the Crane House on Tuesday for the semi-annual
Homeschool Day. I had a fantastic time with all the young’uns, as we
learned the secrets of hearth cooking (with a few chores thrown in,

just for good measure, of course). We made toast and ate it with
pre-churned butter on top, as we churned some new. Then we fried
up a bit o’ salt pork, which greased the pan for lots of subsequent
Indian Slapjacks, made according to a receipt from Amelia Simmons’
American Cookery (1796) (it follows the photos, below).


Here is the receipt from Simmons’ American Cookery (1796):

Indian Slapjack.
One quart milk, 1 pint of Indian meal,
4 eggs, 4 spoons of flour, little salt,
beat together, baked on griddles, or
fry in a dry pan, or baked in a pan
which has been rub’d with suet,
lard or butter.

NEXT: Seed Cakes and Carrot Puddings

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Here are the receipts (recipes) for the pumpkin pudding and
the apple tarts that I made recently at the Israel Crane House.
Both are from Amelia Simmons’ book American Cookery (1796).
As I mentioned previously, the fillings for each were cooked
down ahead of time. I used a basic pie crust, as well, rather
than the specific “pastes” that are given.


No. I. One quart stewed and strained,
3 pints milk, six beaten eggs, sugar,
mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into
paste No. 7, or 3, cross and chequer
it, and bake in dishes three quarters
of an hour.

Now, I only had about a pint of cooked pumpkin, so I cut this
receipt in half. In doing so, however, I think perhaps I erred
in the amounts of the other ingredients. I used three eggs
but I think two would’ve been enough. It IS a pudding, and
a custard-y one at that, but I thought the final result was
rather egg-y. And although I strained most of the cooked
pumpkin, I also left some of it chunky, hoping to make sure
the taste of it would be prominent. It might’ve been better,
however, to strain it all. Yet, at the same time, it was quite
good, as evidenced by those who had more than one piece!


Apple Tarts.
Stew and strain the apples, add cinnamon,
rose-water, wine and sugar to your taste,
lay in paste, No. 3. squeeze thereon orange
juice—bake gently.

I was very pleased at how these turned out. The apples were
tasty, so full of flavor, and the crust cooked just beautifully, very
light and flaky. And in this instance, retaining the chunky-ness
of the apples proved beneficial. They were so good, in fact,
that I even made a few more later at home!

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This past Sunday, I was once again cooking at the hearth
of the Israel Crane House over in Montclair, NJ. Despite
our recent Halloween snow storm and the lack of much
color on this area’s trees, it IS still fall! So I made these

season-appropriate dishes from American Cookery (1796)
by Amelia Simmons: a Pompkin [sic] pudding; and a few
Apple Tarts.

Now, due to limited weekend hours at the House, and
the fact that I have to lug my supplies over to Jersey
via public transportation, I did some prep work ahead
of time. Thus the pumpkin and the apples were pared,
cored, cut, and cooked down at home.

For the pudding, I had hoped to use a cheese pumpkin,
as it’s the most historically-correct. However, I couldn’t
find any (dagnabit!) this year, so I used a pie pumpkin.
A sugar pumpkin would work as well, although I’m not

sure that’s it not the exact same pumpkin. I’ve even seen
“use a sugar pie pumpkin” in some modern recipes! Your
common field pumpkins are probably not the best, as they
tend to be rather tough. Besides, they’re really only meant
for carving all those spooky jack o’lanterns.

For the tarts, I used Lady Apples, which have been around,
literally, for centuries. In fact, their first recorded use was
in Europe during the early 1600s. They were grown on this

continent, as well, and were highly popular from colonial times
into the 19th century. A fairly small apple, I’d say they’re much
more flavorful than other varieties. When they’re cooked down,
you can just smell the difference. It was amazing! Unfortunately,
they’re not widely available. I just happened on to them at one
of my local groceries, and so I bought several in order to make
these tarts.

OK. Enough of that. On to the cooking at Crane’s!


Everything’s on the table and ready to go:

First up, the Pompkin Pudding:

The pudding was indeed a pudding. It was light, airy, and
very custard-like. I’m not a fan of modern-day pumpkin pies,
as they tend to be dry and dense, but this…it was definitely
the opposite. HUZZAH!

We also offered up some lovely hot mulled cider:

Next, the Apple Tarts:

As you saw above, the pudding was similar to a pie in that
it had a crust (bottom only). I used the leftover dough to line
my tart pans:

The cooking’s done, the fire’s dying out. Time to head home.


NEXT: first, the recipes for the above and then (I promise!)
my other Yorkshire Pudding

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From American Cookery (1796), by Amelia Simmons:

Shrewsbury Cake.
Half pound butter, three quarters
of a pound sugar, a little mace,
four eggs mixed and beat with
your hand, till very light, put
the composition to one pound
flour, roll into small cakes—bake
with a light oven.

N.B. In all cases where spices are
named, it is supposed that they
be pounded fine and sifted; sugar
must be dried and rolled fine; flour,
dried in an oven; eggs well beat
or whipped into a raging foam.


I just love that last line: “…eggs…whipped into a raging foam.”
What language! Such imagery! HUZZAH!

In any case, this is the receipt (recipe) that I followed when
making Shrewsbury Cakes for use at the Israel Crane House
this past December. Of course, as you know by now, there
are literally dozens of these out there, and I could’ve used
any one of them. So then, why did I choose Amelia’s?

Well, there were several reasons. Although, I must say, none
were earth shattering! So, let’s see, there were minor things,
such as the fact that American Cookery was published in 1796,
which is the same year that the Crane House was built. That
means, too, her version is appropriate for the early 1800s,
the time period we interpret. The receipt also contains all
the basic Shrewsbury components, without too many extras
thrown in. At the top of the list, however, was that Amelia’s
receipt has very manageable proportions. Yep, it was simple
as that. For instance, her receipt called for just one pound

of flour, as opposed to, say, Eliza Smith’s or Hannah Wolley’s,
which specify three and four, respectively. Thus, there are less
of the other ingredients, as well. So, I could do that. I could
figure it all out. No halving or third-i-fying or whatever all the
quantities. Besides, I knew any receipt, even Amelia’s, would
most likely result in a boat-load of little cakes (and it did), so
why make thousands when you just need hundreds?!

At the same time, I was influenced by all those other receipts.
As you see (above), on the spice front, Amelia’s receipt calls
for mace ONLY. No nutmeg or cinnamon. Not even rosewater.
So I mixed up the batter as written and baked about half of it.
Then I added those other two spices and finished the baking.
I also heeded several of the receipts that instruct the cook
to “prick them before they go into the oven.”

Overall, it was a bit of work, but great fun to do. They were a big
hit with all the visitors to the Crane House that December weekend,
as well.

Incidentally, during the course of my Shrewsbury research, I noticed
that, although these delectable little cakes have a centuries-old history,
they seem to have dropped out of favor by the mid-1800s. I think that’s
a shame. They’re not only delicious, but easy to make, as well. Thus,
I say, let’s join together and start a campaign to bring them back to
the American table. HUZZAH for Shrewsbury Cake!


UP NEXT: Ginger-Bread Cakes.

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The holidays have come and gone. It’s a new year. And,
dagnabit, now I need to start blogging again! Yes, I’ve
become a lazy, good for nothing, ol’ dang…whatever.
I must say, it’s quite amazing how NOT posting entries
for just a few days can easily become a bad habit. And
a very shameful and self-defeating bad habit, at that.

Nevertheless, let’s get back to some of my recent (fairly)
adventures in historic cookery. And there are alot of them!

Now, for an entire weekend back in December, the Israel
Crane House was included on the Essex County (NJ) Holiday
Historical Houses Tour. Of course, I participated by cooking
at the Crane kitchen hearth. A fantastic time was had by all.
Particularly me! HUZZAH!

I’ll explain more later about what I cooked before and during
each day of the Tour, but for now, I’ll give you a look at the
Shrewsbury Cakes that I baked at home and then set out
for visitors to enjoy. I must say, they were mighty popular!

Incidentally, I used the receipt (recipe) from Amelia Simmons’
American Cookery (1796). More on that later, as well.


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It’s New Year’s Eve. Time to celebrate the end of 2010 and
the beginning of 2011. HUZZAH!

As I wrote last year at this time, the best way to celebrate
the dawn of any new year (at least, historically speaking)
would be to make New Year’s Cake. What could be better?!
Here’s a receipt (recipe) for this confection from Amelia
Simmon’s American Cookery (1796), which, as you may
know, was the first cookbook published in America that
was also written by an American. Now, if perchance you’re
going to try this, might I suggest that you cut the proportions!


New Year’s Cake.

Take 14 pound flour, to which add
one pint milk, and one quart yeast,
put these together over night, and
let it lie in the sponge till morning,
5 pound sugar and 4 pound butter,
dissolve these together, 6 eggs
well beat, and carroway seed; put
the whole together, and when light
bake them in cakes, similar to breakfast
biscuit, 20 minutes.


Note yeast is used, much like with bread. There’s the usual
flour, sugar, and eggs. Then “carroway” seeds, making this,
in essence, a spice cake. Notice, too, it says to “bake them
in cakes” that are “similar to…biscuit.” In other words, this
is a receipt for making little cakes, or what we call cookies.
Up until the late 18th century, and even way into the 19th,
the word “cake” could mean several things: what we refer
to as a cake, large or small; what we’d call a cookie; and
even a biscuit. All are usually grouped together in the same
chapter of historic cookbooks, as well. And don’t forget, even
today, if you ever find yourself hankering for a cookie while
in jolly ol’ England, you’ll need to be sure to ask for a biscuit.

Nevertheless, HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all! Here’s
to a fantastic 2011. HUZZAH!

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A week ago Sunday, I was prepping
a squash pudding that was then to
be cooked at the hearth of the Israel
Crane House
. A good-sized crowd of
folks came to watch, and, in fact,
for quite awhile it was wall to wall
people. HUZZAH! I think everyone
had a fantastic time. I know I did!
And I can’t wait to be there, cooking,
again early next month (December 5 – - come join us!).

As to the squash pudding…I chose it because there is a receipt
in Fanny Pierson Crane’s (Israel’s wife) manuscript cookbook.
And that was the “theme,” if you will, of the day’s hearth activities:
preparing and cooking dishes from Fanny’s receipt book. However,
I’ve never seen her book; at least, not the actual original (although
I hope to at some point). What I have seen, and possess a copy of,
is a published booklet containing modern adaptations of Fanny’s
receipts. And, as frequent readers can attest, I don’t care for such
modern re-writes of historic works. I want to know what the original
is, what Fanny herself (or any other author of such a book) wrote.
Too often, the process is re-arranged and/or ingredients are added
that either weren’t available or “invented” yet or are contrary to the
make-up of the dish as a whole. In my view, it’s difficult enough
to approximate how a dish looked and tasted in centuries past,
so why make it worse by adding, deleting, or otherwise altering
specific components? Plus, as an historian, I want to view, and
to preserve, the bona-fide originals. Including a modern version
is fine, as long as the actual, written-on-a-page-by-the-hand-
of- -, well, of whomever, is there right beside it.

In any case, for my squash pudding, instead of using a modern
version, I followed Amelia Simmons’ receipt from her cookbook,
American Cookery. Which, incidentally, was published in 1796,
the same year that Fanny supposedly began hers:

A Crookneck, or Winter Squash Pudding.
Core, boil and skin a good squash,
and bruize it well; take 6 large apples,
pared, cored, and stewed tender, mix
together; add 6 or 7 spoonfuls of dry
bread or biscuit, rendered fine as meal,
one pint milk or cream, 2 spoons of
rose-water, 2 do. wine, 5 or 6 eggs
beaten and strained, nutmeg, salt
and sugar to your taste, one spoon
flour, beat all smartly together,
bake one hour.

The above is a good receipt for Pompkins,
Potatoes or Yams, adding more moistening
or milk and rose-water, and to the two
latter a few black or Lisbon currants, or
dry whortleberries scattered in, will
make it better.

Now, Israel, Fanny’s husband, owned and operated a mercantile, and
it’s quite possible that he stocked Amelia’s book. So perhaps Fanny
copied her receipt? Or at least, based it on Amelia’s? Of course, I’ll
be better able to determine whether or not she did either, when
I see Fanny’s original manuscript. And believe me, this whole
experience makes me even more eager to study it!

For comparison, here’s the modern version from Fanny Pierson Crane,
Her Receipts 1796
, compiled, illustrated, and adapted by Amy Hatrak,
Frances Mills, Elizabeth Shull, and Sally Williams (1974). When I first
saw this, my initial reaction was, “Why is there CHEDDAR CHEESE
in a squash pudding?!” Nevertheless, here it is:

2 pounds winter squash
1/2 pound cheddar cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Pare squash, remove seeds, and cut
into small pieces. Boil until tender,
drain well, and put into a deep
baking dish. Add cheese cut
into small pieces; saving a little
to sprinkle on top. Saute the onion
in butter. Mix into squash and cheese,
and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Beat
eggs to blend, add milk, then pour over
the squash. Sprinkle remaining cheese
on top. Dot with fresh bread crumbs
and butter. Grate nutmeg on top. Bake
slowly for 30 minutes or until top is
delicately browned and set. Serve
at once.


BTW…I used a buttercup squash

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