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Archive for February, 2011

The pound cake I made at the Israel Crane House with its accompanying
raspberry sauce:

Visitors quickly made sure it disappeared:

Nothing beats a pound cake, or any food, cooked over an open fire.
HUZZAH!

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And finally (whew, at last!), I prepared and cooked a Pound Cake
at the Israel Crane House during the Essex County (NJ) Historic
Holiday House Tour this past December. Of course, the receipt
(recipe) is simple enough. Just mix together a pound each of four
ingredients, flour, sugar, eggs, and butter; then bake and serve.
HUZZAH!

Now, for a pound of everything, you can either weigh each ingredient
or use these “mo-dern” measurements: one pound of flour is four cups;
a pound of sugar is two; use eight eggs; and an entire box of butter.
Of course, you’ll most likely get enough batter for two cakes, so do as
I did for this and just cut everything in half. As you see, I garnished it
with lemon slices and a couple of marzipan strawberries. A raspberry
sauce was also provided for folks to pour on their individual slices.

Happy baking!

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In addition to what I made at home ahead of time, and the items that
were purchased, I also prepared and cooked a couple of dishes during
the two-day Tour* event at the Israel Crane House. I had wanted to add
another meat of some sort to our mix of historic foods, so I decided to roast
something in the tin reflector oven on that Saturday. Coincidentally, I had
just read an article in my neighborhood newspaper about La Pera Brothers,
a shop in Brooklyn that sells a vast assortment of live fowl. Everything from

turkeys to ducks to pheasants, and even quail, capons (castrated chicken)
and squab (young pigeon). Animals such as rabbits, lamb, and goat are
also available. Of course, they’re all sold LIVE, as in still breathing and
struttin’ around. Want a duck? It’s right here. A rabbit? Those are in
a cage over there. You can either pick out the specific one(s) you want,
or the staff will reach in and grab whoever’s closest.

And so, I found my way to La Pera’s, bought a couple of squab (they’re
small birds, even tinier after; and they sure ain’t cheap!), and then, that
Saturday, roasted them on the hearth.

Yes, it was a bit disconcerting to see all those birds that were essentially
on death row. Golly, growing up, I had ducks and chickens as pets! A few
looked like they knew what was about to happen. Or so it seemed. Even
the rabbits were cute ‘n furry white things just like your average pet. And
oh the noise, particularly the squawking ducks. Alas, I enjoy meat, and so
I realize this happens every day, all around the world. Besides, I wanted to
cook this “unusual” dish. I did, however, reply, “No” when asked if I cared
to watch…well…you know. Perhaps I should have (watched)? dagnabit.
Ahh, what one must do in the pursuit of historic cooking!

Receipts (recipes) for pigeon are abundant in historic cookbooks.
Of course, the actual bird they specify was different from what’s
sold in shops such as La Pera’s. Back then, it was the passenger
pigeon, which is now extinct. Today’s version is just your basic
everyday bird that flutters around city buildings. Something that
most people consider a dirty pest, not a fine meal. I have read,
however, of attempts to change this view, that in fact, squab can
be a viable option to our usual meats. In any event, pigeons were
a popular dish in past centuries, but they are certainly an unusual
one these days.

My pair of roasted squab. I so enjoy doing these “different” types of dishes.
It was a real thrill to cook them. I couldn’t be more proud! HUZZAH!

______________________________

*the Essex County, NJ, Historic Holiday House Tour, December 11 & 12, 2010

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Minced meat pie. Or mincemeat pie. Either way, I was bound and
determined to make one for this past December’s Big Weekend Tour
event* at the Israel Crane House. Determined, I tell you! I was going
to make sure that a minced meat pie (or small individual pies) was
included in our spread of historic foods if it was the last thing I did.
And believe me, it nearly was. In fact, the pie almost didn’t happen.

Let me explain…

There’s a sign in the meat department of one of my local Key Foods
supermarkets. It’s not very prominent, but it’s there nonetheless. This
sign says something along the lines of “If you don’t see what you need,
just ask, we’re here to help.” Well, earlier this past fall, I had decided to
try it out. Lo and behold, it’s true! And in the process, I discovered that
one could procure suet (aka beef fat) at NO CHARGE! Yep, it was FREE.
What a deal.

So, in early December, I asked for the meat required for my minced
meat pie, cut up in small pieces, of course, along with a nice chunk
of similarly-chopped suet. Eventually, I also purchased all the other
necessary ingredients. The problem then became, when could I make
this pie? I was so busy, baking Shrewsbury and Ginger-Bread cakes,
making pounded cheese, and procuring all the other foods. Finally,
although I had the filling mixed and ready to go, by the first day of
the Tour, my minced meat pie wasn’t done. Oh no! Thus, on that
Saturday night, in between the two Tour days, I had to “cheat” once
again. Yep, there just wasn’t time to make a proper pie crust AND
bake it. Plus, I was SO tired by that point! It was late, I needed to
go home and get some sleep. Thus, that night I made a quick stop
at the grocery, bought some refrigerator-ready-made dough, went

home, made one large pie, popped it in the oven, and within minutes,
I had a lovely minced meat pie! HUZZAH! Now, I do apologize for my
“transgression,” but dagnabit, I was gonna get that sucker made and
baked and over to the Crane House no matter what!

I used a receipt from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, which is
firmly rooted in British meat pies, particularly those of Medieval times.
In fact, it is most likely from that very time period:

TO MAKE MINCD PIES
Take to 4 pound of the flesh of a legg
of veale, or neats tongues, 4 pound
of beefe suet, 2 pound of raysons
stoned & shread, 3 pound of currans,
halfe a pound or more of sugar,
3 quarters of an ounce of cloves,
mace, nutmegg, & cinnamon,
beaten, halfe a dosin apples shread,
some rosewater, a quarter of a pinte
o[f] muskadine or sack, some candied
orringe, leamon & citron pill minced.
shread your meat & suet very fine,
& mingle all togethe[r]. for plaine
mincd pies, leave out the fruit & put
in blanchd almond minced small.

Yes, my pie had “veale” and all the other ingredients; although instead
of sack (Sherry), I used white wine. And I didn’t have any candied citron,
but I did have the orringe (orange) and leamon (lemon). Oddly enough,
I could’ve used neat’s (beef) tongue for the meat portion, as I found it
in the store. Then I thought, well, with all the fruit, meat, and everything
else, I’m asking enough as it is of our visitors and their palates!

Also, note the final sentence, where it says to “leave out the fruit” for
“plaine,” or regular, minced pies. In other words, “plaine” is mainly meat,
enclosed in a piecrust…or simply a meat pie.

Typically, the contents of mincemeat pies are soaked in either brandy
or rum; at least, in modern versions. Soaking is not mentioned here,
nor is brandy or rum. In fact, according to the late Karen Hess, who
transcribed this edition of Martha’s cookery book, the above receipt
is “mercifully free” from all that. I suppose I could’ve let my filling
stew for a few days anyway, but alas, as I mentioned, my prep time
was limited. Incidentally, Hess believes that the above “is a most
excellent recipe,” one that “deserves to be treasured and used.” That
opinion, and in fact all the other factors above, played a part in my
decision to choose Martha’s receipt.

Minced pie has an interesting taste, one that’s both savory and sweet.
The texture of the filling is unique, as well. Surprisingly (I thought),
however, everyone who tried the pie thoroughly enjoyed it. One visitor
even had a second helping! HUZZAH!

The photo below is a little out of focus, but I like it because it shows
me with my hard-fought-for-and-won mincemeat pie. Yes, making
it was a bit of a struggle, but I eventually triumphed and got it done.
HUZZAH, again!

___________________________________

*the December 11 & 12, 2010, Essex County, NJ, Historic Holiday House Tour

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Thusfar, I’ve discussed the Shrewsbury and Ginger-Bread cakes
that I made for use at the Israel Crane House during the Essex
County (NJ) Holiday Historic Houses Tour this past December.
I provided several other foods, as well, including a couple more
that I made and some that were store-bought. The latter items

consisted of a small ham, chestnuts, walnuts, candied lemon and
orange peels, dried apple slices, and assorted fresh fruit. I hung
a spice bag in some cider, as well, and heated it over the open fire.

The former, the additional items that I made in advance at home,
were Pounded Cheese and a Mincemeat Pie. First, the cheese.

Now, Pounded Cheese is a hold-over from my days of working
at Conner Prairie (CP) nearly two decades ago. At the time, it
was served every night during CP’s “Hearthside Suppers.” This
dish made for an excellent appetizer then, and it still does today.
I’ll often try to find a reason just to mix up a batch! In addition,
it was always served at CP with Carr’s Table Water Crackers, and
so I usually do the same. Incidentally, Carr’s is a British company
that was established in 1831, so I think the crackers are appropriate
from an historical standpoint.

The receipt (recipe) for this tasty treat can be found in The Cooks
Own Book, Being a Complete Culinary Encyclopedia
(1832), by
a Boston Housekeeper (aka Mrs. N.K.M. Lee):

Pounded Cheese.
Cut a pound of good mellow
cheese into thin bits; add to it
two, and if the cheese is dry,
three ounces of fresh butter;
pound, and rub them well
together in a mortar till it
is quite smooth. When cheese
is dry, and for those whose
digestion is feeble, this is
the best way of eating it; and
spread on bread, it makes
an excellent luncheon or
supper. The piquance of this
is sometimes increased by
pounding with it curry powder,
ground spice, black pepper,
Cayenne, and a little made
mustard; and some moisten
it with a glass of Sherry. If
pressed down hard in a jar,
and covered with clarified
butter, it will keep for several
days in cool weather.

I just love the part about spreading this cheese on bread, and
how it’ll make “an excellent” supper. Who needs anything else
to eat when you have pounded cheese on bread?! HUZZAH!

The cheeses I used this time were a sharp cheddar, parmesan,
and gouda. Typically I cut the cheese into small pieces, and
then pound everything with a mortar and pestle. However, this
time I first grated all the cheeses, and then, well, gulp, I cheated.
It was in the interest of time, mind you, as I had just spent several
days on the two sets of cakes! In any event, I chopped and mixed
it all up (cheese, butter, spices) in a small electric grinder. Then
I packed it in a plastic container and took it to the Crane House,
where it was transferred to a redware bowl. The Carr’s crackers
were arranged on a pewter plate and placed beside it. As with
the Shrewsbury and Ginger-Bread cakes, the tangy Pounded
Cheese was definitely a major hit with the visitors! HUZZAH!

______________________________

NEXT: the Mincemeat Pie

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