Archive for August, 2009

The focus of this past week’s final Fireside Feasts workshop
at Wyckoff was the one-pot dish. Take a meat or fish, put it
in a kettle with a vegetable or two, add spices, stew the whole
for several hours, and you’ll have a meal for today, tomorrow,
and maybe even the next day. There’d be enough to feed just
a few or a whole crowd of folks. Every culture, every ethnicity,
every group of one kind or another, has one, and has had one,
since time immemorial; only the names of the dishes vary,
dictated by the time period, the region, and/or the national
language. Whether a pottage, a hodge-podge, a hotch-potch,
a hutspot, a hot pot, a stampot, the olla podrida, even porridge
or just plain ol’ stew, they’re all the same thing: a hearty meal
cooked in one pot.


And so, we made three of these one-pot wonders this past
Thursday, cooking each over the open fire just as people
might’ve done centuries ago in this, or any other, area.

First up, we “Jugged a Hare.” Or rather, we “Jugged a Rabbit,”
as that is the only available bred-for-cooking animal. Raised
locally on Long Island by Arcadia Pastures, ours was a cross
between a Flemish Giant and a Californian. Both of which,
incidentally, were not “developed” until the early 1900s;
finding a true, genuine, “historic” hare is nigh impossible today.
A jugged, or potted, hare would’ve most likely been a frequent
meal in earlier centuries for a farm family such as the Wyckoffs.

Next up was a somewhat more elaborate one-potter, using
a receipt from a late 17th Century cookbook published in
The Netherlands, that was meant for well-to-do households.
Called a “hutspot,” or the Dutch word for stew, it contains meat
as well as numerous spices, sugar, and dates. (BTW, the latter
two are a sure sign of wealth and 1600s-era cookery. A century
later, the combination would disappear.)

And finally, we made a Soup Meagre. Or a dish without meat,
namely, a vegetable soup (also spelled soop, soupe, soope).
Receipts for this, and variations thereof, can be found in nearly
every published historic cookbook. It was particularly served
during Lent and other fast days, or at any time when meat was
scarce. Again, this would’ve been a perfect meal for the Wyckoffs.

In short, one pot dishes made for universal meals. Everybody
made them, rich or poor, city dweller or country folk. There’s
also the convenience aspect. Only one pot was needed. Constant
watching was traded for just a check every now and then. And
then during the required several hours of cooking over the open
fire, the housewife could attend to other matters, be it doing
laundry, tending the kitchen garden, making candles, mending
clothing, instructing children in their lessons and chores, and
so on. A possible result for the more wealthy was additional
time in which the household servants and slaves could complete
other tasks. Many of the more complicated and enriched one-pot
dishes, such as our hutspot, also might have provided a means
for a dinner host to show off in front of his guests.


The “Jugged Hare” a’cookin’:


The versatile bake kettle can be used for one-pot dishes as well as baking.
Our hutspot is in there, honest!:


The mostly-eaten hutspot; if you’re not there, ready and waiting, when
it’s done, you’re outta luck:


The pot line-up…hot water, jugged rabbit, and soup meagre:


A bird’s eye view, in reverse:


Rabbit ready to eat (I apologize for the photo’s poor quality):



Receipts used will be posted in the “Fireside Feasts” section of the RECEIPTS page.

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sc00041d08Well, this summer’s Fireside Feasts historic
cooking workshop series out at The Wyckoff
Farmhouse Museum
here in Brooklyn has
come to an end. This past week’s final session,
which focused on one-pot dishes, was another
rounding success. Everyone dined on delicious
food and enjoyed some mighty fine company.
My thanks to all who attended, assisted, and
participated. HUZZAH to you all!

I’ll be posting some photos later. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take
but a few. It gets rather like a hectic, crazy, three-ring circus during
these events, so stopping to grab my camera and snap a picture or
two is often nigh impossible. I will post those that I did get, however,
so check back.


In addition, the receipts we used will be posted shortly under “Fireside
” on the RECEIPTS pages. Be sure to look for those, as well.
(Hopefully, I’ll get to it soon!)

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At this week’s session of Fireside Feasts out at Wyckoff,
we’ll be preparing a dish I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

We’re gonna jug a hare!

Or, rather, jug a rabbit, as that is the available animal.
(and yes, there’s a difference*)

So, I contacted a vendor at my local Farmer’s Market, we
discussed what I needed, and soon I was bringing the little
fellow home. I then had to cut it up into pieces. I’ve not
done this dish in a while, but it wasn’t too difficult.








*A hare has long ears and is bigger and more slender than a rabbit.
Its young are born with fur, their eyes open, and they can hear.
They live a solitary life, except to reproduce.

A rabbit, on the other hand, has short ears and a small muscular body.
Their young are born fur-less, blind, and deaf. Rabbits live in colonies,
preferring the company of others.

Hmmm…Bugs Bunny has long ears…he’s slender…and he lives
by himself…. So is he really a hare and not a “wascally wabbit”?!

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I’ve been diligently working on plans for the fourth and final
Fireside Feasts workshop out at Wyckoff this coming Thursday.
One of my tasks has been hunting down and purchasing all
the various ingredients we’ll need. Most I’ve found at local
supermarkets, but a couple were a little more illusive, namely
saffron and dates. They required a trek down to the Middle
Eastern markets along Atlantic Avenue here in Brooklyn.
As you can see, my search was successful. HUZZAH!

Saffron…VERY expensive:

Saffron is the dried stigmas (the receptive tip of the pistil where pollen
is deposited) of the crocus:


Don’t sneeze, or it’s bye-bye saffron:


Dates, Nature’s own candy:


Dates come from the Date Palm. Their exact origin is unknown,
but it was probably northern Africa and maybe southwest Asia.
They’ve been cultivated, literally, for thousands and thousands
and thousands of years.

Watch out for that pit:


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It’s just arrived, all the way from jolly ol’ England. My latest
acquistion, purchased on e-bay. What is it? A simple, yet
remarkable, little nutmeg grater. HUZZAH!

So, of course, I just HAD to try it out:


According to the seller, it’s an antique, dating “probably” from the 1820s.


It’s made from a coquilla nut, which is Spanish for “little coconut.”


A coquilla nut is the fruit of a Brazilian palm tree.


This fruit measures only about 3 or 4 inches long and is capable of being
carved and highly polished.


The grater works quite well, as you can see. It’s in excellent condition,
no cracks or major holes or anything, and each piece fits snugly into
another. A nice little gem, antique or not!


Pretty neat, ay?! HUZZAH!

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real cool relief

Summer has finally arrived here in NYC. June was cool and rainy.
July was cool, but not so rainy. Then August arrived, complete
with its typical heat and humidity. We even had an “official” heat
wave when temps hit 90 and higher on four straight days. yikes.

Hence, I’ve tried to think cooling thoughts in an effort to maybe
do a bit more than just sit under the air conditioner and vegetate.
And what spells cool more than ice cream?! Of course, it’d be
lovely to have this cool treat…


that I enjoyed awhile back at Susan McLellan Plasited’s ice cream
making demonstration at the William Trent House in Trenton, NJ.

But alas, I have none.

Oh well, this will have to do…


A pretty darn good substitute, ay?! HUZZAH!

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I was asked recently about the spice cardamom. Now I’ve not
used it often, if at all. I haven’t really noticed it in too many
historic receipts, either, although I’m sure there are a few.

Cardamom, native to India and China, belongs to the ginger
family. It was imported into Europe sometime during the 11th
or 12th century. Today it’s cultivated around the world. It’s
the seeds of the plant that are used in cooking and medicine.
Enclosed in small pods, they’re first removed, then ground.
It’s primarily used today in Indian and Scandinavian cuisines.
Other spellings include cardamon, cardumom, cardamony,
cardemon, and so on.

Wanting to investigate further, I went to a local market that
sells whole spices and herbs, purchased about an ounce or
so of whole cardamom, and went to work.

Whole dried cardamom pods:


Remove the outer shell and TA-DA! seeds:


Ready for grinding:


After a few minutes with the mortar and pestle:


Three stages of cardamom grinding…whole seeds, partially ground,
and finely ground (counter-clockwise, starting at the left):


Smashing the pods and removing the seeds was fairly easy, but
it was tedious work separating all the accompanying itty-bitty
pieces of chaff. And the seeds are SO teeny-tiny, you almost
need a magnifying glass to see them. Then they have a highly
annoying tendency (aaauuuggghhh) to shoot out across the
counter when the shell is removed. Seemed I was constantly
corralling errant seeds! However, the aroma that was released
at that first shattering of a pod’s shell was wonderful. Pounding
the seeds in my mortar and pestle was even better. I’d describe
it as lemony, maybe with a hint of licorice, particularly at first
whiff. Overall, it was an enjoyable and informative “experiment.”

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