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Archive for February, 2013

The hearth cooking class held at The Israel Crane House
this past Saturday was a tremendous success! HUZZAH!
We had a full roster of folks who eagerly participated in
the preparation, the cooking, and, of course, the EATING

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of the dishes that comprised our “Simple Mid-day Meal.”
The menu was designed to be appropriate for this winter
season, and its contents were concocted in accordance
with original receipts from several historic cookbooks.

Of course, as usual, my opportunities for picture-taking
were limited. You’ll find a few below, however, along
with the corresponding receipts and their sources.

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The central dish of our meal was a meat pie, courtesy
of Mrs. Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife (1839):

A Chicken Pie.
Take two small chickens, (no other sort
being fit for a dish pie) cut them up in
small pieces, and season them with salt
and pepper. Line a deep dish with puff
paste, roll out another sheet tolerably
thin, and cut it into small squares; put
the chickens and dumplings in the dish,
in alternate layers; put in a pint of water
and four ounces of butter, that has been
rolled in flour, and broken up, put a paste
over the top, ornament it handsomely round
the edge with scolloped or crimped leaves
of the paste, and bake it in a moderate oven.

Beautiful!

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Into the bake kettle:

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After about an hour…Wowza!

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Simply put, this pie was mighty tasty and absolutely, downright
AWESOME! I’ve made it before, long ago, but WOW! I’d forgotten
just how good it is. And even though we suddenly realized after
all was said and done that we’d forgotten to put in the water, it
didn’t seem to matter. Definitely, this Chicken Pie gets the Crane
House Seal of Deliciousness. HUZZAH!

Next, from The Virginia Housewife (1824), by Mary Randolph:

Sweet Potatos [sic] Broiled.
Cut them across without peeling, in slices
half an inch thick, broil them on a griddle,
and serve then with butter in a boat.

Our sliced sweet taters were broiled both on a griddle hung
above open flames (below, left) and on a gridiron placed atop
hot coals (see the latter farther down this page*):

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A beet dish (seen to the right above, during the “stew” stage),
which was made per directions that’re also found in The Kentucky
Housewife
. I just love the final sentence in this receipt, wherein
the author tells how to store and preserve this root vegetable
for the winter:

Beets, Stewed.
Having boiled them till nearly tender,
scrape off the skin, cut the beets in
thick slices, put them in a stew-pan
with a little salt, pepper, vinegar, and
a good slice of butter, rolled in flour;
stew them a few minutes, and serve
them up with the gravy. Beets keep
well through the winter, buried in
heaps in the garden.

There’s nothing better, and more historically-realistic, than
multiple dishes cooking together above the flames or over
hot coals out on the hearth. Now, THAT’S a meal! HUZZAH!
(*more sweet potato slices are broiling on the gridiron)

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We also made a “pine-apple” tart, using the following receipt
from The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director…Part II (1732),
by Richard Bradley (our “pine-apple” pieces are stewing in the
kettle in the lower left, above
):

To Make a Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple.
From Barbadoes.

Take Pine-Apple, and twist off its Crown:
then pare it free from the Knots, and
cut it in Slices about half an Inch thick;
then stew it with a little Canary Wine,
or Madera Wine, and some Sugar, till it
is thoroughly hot, and it will distribute
its Flavour to the Wine much better than
any thing we can add to it. When it is as
one would have it, take it from the Fire;
and when it is cool, put it in to a sweet
Paste, with its Liquor, and bake it gently,
a little while, and when it comes from the
Oven, pour Cream over it, (if you have it)
and serve either hot or cold.

Our lovely, mighty tasty, Tart of the Ananas:

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The Tart is served:

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The pastes, or crusts, for both the Chicken Pie and the Tart were
perfect. They were light, flaky, and flavorful, and our cooks did
a fantastic job. I must say, it’s always amazing (to me, at least)
what can be accomplished without modern “stuff.”

And lastly, we made a chocolate beverage using two different
receipts. The first is from the 17th century and can be found
in Sophie and Michael Coe’s The True History of Chocolate (an
excellent book, by the way!). The second is from Lydia Child’s
The American Frugal Housewife (1833, 12th edition).

St. Disdier’s Chocolate
Recipe 1 (“very good”)
2 lb prepared cacao
1 ½ lb cassonade (sugar)
6 drachm powdered vanilla
4 drachm powdered cinnamon

Chocolate.
Many people boil chocolate in a coffee-pot;
but I think it is better to boil it in a skillet,
or something open. A piece of chocolate
about as big as a dollar is the usual
quantity for a quart of water; but some
put in more, and some less. When it boils,
pour in as much milk as you like and let
them boil together three or four minutes.
It is much richer with the milk boiled in
it. Put the sugar in either before or after,
as you please. Nutmeg improves it. The
chocolate should be scraped fine before
it is put into the water.

Me and our intrepid hearth cooks (minus the three who had to leave early):

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While creating the menu for this coming Saturday’s hearth
cooking class at the Israel Crane House, I came across
the following in Mrs. Gardiner’s Family Receipts* (1763).
Note the specific instructions on storage:

Beets to pickle
Boil Spring Water, and when it boils
put in your Beets and let them boil
untill [sic] they are tender; then
peel them with a Cloth, and lay
them in a Stone Jar. To three
quarts of Vinegar put two quarts
of Spring Water, and so mix untill
you have as much as you think you
shall want. Put your watered Vinegar
in a Pan and add Salt to your taste;
stir it well together untill all the Salt
is melted when you must pour it upon
your Beets. Cover your Jar with a Bladder.
(emphasis mine)

Of course, if you’d just completed your hog butchering, you’d
use a fresh bladder. But if not, the bladders could be dried
and used later.

A dried hog’s bladder:

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After soaking in water overnight, the bladder is stretched
across the mouth of a jar and securely tied:

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And in a few days, it dries again, creating an air-tight seal:

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TA-DA! The equivalent of today’s Tuperware! Or, as one
visitor to the Crane House kitchen described it, “colonial
Saran wrap.” It also makes a great drum! HUZZAH!

Of course, it’d be MUCH better to use a stoneware crock
(as it states here in Mrs. Gardiner’s receipt) for storing
any pickled items (or liquids). Stoneware is less porous
and far more durable than this redware jar, which is likely
to leak. No leaching of lead from the pot’s glaze, as well
(and yes, they were aware of those dangers; not the
specifics so much as knowing “we’ll become ill”).

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____________________

NOTE: Oops! Forgot to mention initially that the above jar is empty.
The bladder was secured soley for the purpose of demonstrating food
preservation techniques.

_______________________________________

* Mrs. Gardiner’s Family Receipts, the published personal manuscript
cookbook of Anne Gibbons (Mrs. Sylvester) Gardiner of Boston, MA,
was begun in 1763.

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Ack! I’ve been working on this blog entry since early January, and
I’d hoped to get it posted long before tonight. Alas, life kept getting
in the way, and now, January has come to an end and February
is here. dagnabit. Ahh, well…timely or not, here it is.
Finally. Oh!
And thanks to fellow hearth cook Tiffany Fisk-Watts for getting
me started. HUZZAH!

____________________________________

Awhile back, I conducted an in-depth receipt (recipe) search
for Twelfth Cake aka Twelfth-Night Cake. I looked in all my
facsimiles of 18th century cookbooks, as well as in the few
I have from the 17th, 16th, and earlier centuries. Books I’d
downloaded and a few others that are available online were
also consulted.

And so, what was the result of this investigation? What did
I find? Well, the answer, as you may recall from when I wrote
about my
search some two years ago: Absolutely nothing.
Yep, I found zilch, nada, zip. There’s not a single receipt
for Twelfth Night Cake of in any of those cookbooks.

Now, if you received one of James Townsend & Son’s 2013
calendars (as I did), you may be thinking, “Hey, now wait
just a minute! According to Townsend, there’s a receipt for

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‘Twelfth-Night Cake’ in The London Art of Cookery (1800*),
by John Farley. Good golly, it’s right there, on the opening
page, as the receipt for January!” Yeah, well, sorry, but it’s
incorrect. There are NO receipts for twelfth-night cakes
in any 18th century cookbook, let alone in Farley’s.

So, if that’s the case (and indeed it is), what’s with that
first recipe on Townsend’s calendar? Where did it come
from? Heavens! Did he make it up?! Thankfully, no. The
answer, though, is easily found. It’s in fine print over
in the lower right-hand corner of the very same page.
Read it, and you’ll discover Townsend believes that
a Twelfth-Night cake is the same as a Bride’s Cake.
Apparently, at least according to Townsend, they’re
interchangeable! And thus, THAT is exactly what is
given here. Yep, January’s recipe is NOT, specifically,
for a Twelfth-Night cake; it’s for a Bride’s Cake.

Now, this claim that the two cakes, Twelfth-Night and
Bride’s, are one and the same is one that I’ve never,
ever heard before. And so, I have to wonder, where’d
Townsend get this idea?! What is its source? Why does
he believe it’s correct? Whatever the answers may be
to those questions, the bottom line is, it isn’t true.
These cakes are NOT the same!

How do I know? Because there are receipts specifically
for twelfth cakes in at least two early 19th century
cookbooks which ALSO contain instructions for making,
specifically, a Bride’s Cake. And yes, the two cakes ARE
different, even if only slightly. The first of the above books
is John Mollard’s The Art of Cookery (1801), and The Cook’s
Oracle
(1817), by William Kitchiner, M.D., is the second.

There’s a pesky, um, problem, if you will, with Farley’s
Bride Cake receipt. It’s not his. It’s Elizabeth Raffald’s.
Yep, he stole, er, borrowed, it from her. In fact, Farley
scan0029is well known for plagiarizing other
author’s works. Heck, a few years
ago, a member of the historic food-
ways staff at Colonial Williamsburg
told me that they refer to his book
as “The London Art of Plagiarism.”
Pretty accurate, I’d say! So I rarely,
if ever, use it. In any event, seems
to me, if you’re going to engage in
a substitution scheme of some sort, that you’d choose
the original and not a copy! Not only that, but there
ARE actual historic receipts for twelfth cakes. Why not
use one of those? The one Townsend offers is from an
1800 publication anyway, so it’s not like he’s sticking
necessarily to one single time period. Why not move
ahead just one year (1801), or even a few more (1817),
and present a TRUE twelfth cake receipt?

Another problem I have with January’s receipt, besides
it being one cake masquerading as another and it not
being attributed to its original source, is the fact that
it’s an adaptation. And you all know how I absolutely,
positively, detest adaptations! And what you see here
is NOT the actual receipt taken from an historic cookbook.
In addition, it’s not even faithful to the original, as both
the ingredients and the instructions have been altered.
It’s been adapted and re-written! And although I’ve not
inspected each and every one (it’d be too maddening!),
I suspect all the recipes in Townsend’s 2013 calendar
are merely adaptations of historic ones. Most likely,
there’s not one authentic, not-been-messed-with
recipe in the lot (sadly). That’s why I think it needs
to be re-titled. Instead of “Recipes & Sundry Items,”
it should be “Adapted Historic Recipes & Sundry Items.”
Truth in advertising, don’t you know!

Hmmm. On second thought, I guess he DID make it up!
Which is just the sort of thing that I don’t understand.
There are plenty of actual, original historic receipts out
there. They’re not difficult to find. So use them! Then
tell us how to make THAT receipt, as it’s written! It CAN
be done. Heck, I do it all the time in my hearth cooking.
But to muck about with an historic receipt, and then pass
it off as being historic, even down to “it’s from so-n-so’s”
18th or 19th century book. Add in the nature of your
business (seller of supposed historic reproductions),
and, well, it just seems deceitful to me.

Nevertheless…let’s continue…

In order to compare Townsend’s recipe to the original,
here is Elizabeth Raffald’s Bride Cake, as given in her
book, The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769):

To make a Bride Cake
Take four pounds of fine flour well dried,
four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds
of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter
of an ounce of mace, the same of nutmegs.
To every pound of flour put eight eggs.
Wash four pounds of currants, pick them
well and dry them before the fire. Blanch
a pound of sweet almonds (and cut them
lengthway very thin), a pound of citron,
one pound of candied orange, the same
of candied lemon, half a pint of brandy.
First work the butter with your hand to
a cream, then beat in your sugar a quarter
of an hour. Beat the whites of your eggs
to a very strong froth, mix them with your
sugar and butter, beat your yolks half an
hour at least and mix them with your cake.
Then put in your flour, mace and nutmeg,
keep beating it well till your oven is ready,
put in your brandy, and beat your currants
and almonds lightly in. Tie three sheets
of paper round the bottom of your hoop
to keep it from running out, rub it well
your sweetmeats in three lays with cake
betwixt every lay. After it is risen and
coloured, cover it with paper before
your oven is stopped up. It will take
three hours baking.

Did you notice the following line?

and lay your sweetmeats in three
lays with cake betwixt every lay.

So, that means it’s not just another every-day cake,
scan0028with all those various ingredients
thrown in higgledy-piggledy. No, it’s
more deliberate. There’s to be three
separate layers of citron and candied
orange and lemon peels that alternate
in between three of cake batter. Almost
sounds as if it’s perhaps a type of 18th
century layer cake.

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Lastly, let’s take a look at the two known, bona-fide receipts
for Twelfth Cakes that’re from the early 1800s. First up, is
John Mollard’s, from his The Art of Cookery (1801). Then
we’ll move on to William Kitchiner’s, as presented in his
work, The Cook’s Oracle (1817). I trust you’ll ferret out
the similarities and the differences between these two
cakes (for instance, the use of yeast in Mollard’s) below:

TWELFTH CAKES.

Take seven pounds of flour, make a cavity
in the center, set a sponge with a gill and
a half of yeast and a little warm milk; then
put round it one pound of fresh butter broke
into small lumps, one pound and a quarter
of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half
of currants washed and picked, half an
ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of
an ounce of pounded cloves, mace, and
nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or
lemon peel and citron. When the sponge
is risen, mix all the ingredients together
with a little warm milk; let the hoops be
well papered and buttered, then fill them
with the mixture and bake them, and
when nearly cold ice them over with sugar
prepared for that purpose as per receipt;
or they may be plain.

Again, as you may recall from from my blog post two years
ago
, noted food historian Ivan Day wrote in Cooking in Europe,
1650-1850
, that Mollard’s receipt “seems to be the earliest
printed recipe for an English twelfth cake.”

Next, Kitchiner’s receipt from his The Cook’s Oracle (1817):

Twelfth Cake. (No. 55.)
2 lb of sifted flour, 2 lb of sifted loaf
sugar, 2 lb of butter, 18 eggs, 4 lb
of currants, 1/2 pound almonds,
blanched and chopped, 1/2 pound
of citron or lemon, 1 lb of candied
orange and lemon peel cut into thin
slices, a large nutmeg grated, 1/2 oz
ground allspice; ground cinnamon,
mace, ginger, and corianders, 1/4 oz
of each and a gill of brandy.
Put the butter into a stewpan in a warm
place and work it into a smooth cream
with the hand. Mix it with the sugar
and spice in a pan (or on your paste
board), for some time; then break
in the eggs by degrees, and beat it
at least 20 minutes; stir in the brandy,
and then the flour, and work it a little.
Add the fruit, sweetmeats and almonds
and mix all lightly together. Have ready
a hoop cased with paper on a baking
plate. Put in the mixture, smooth it on
the top with your hand. Put the plate
on another one with sawdust between,
to prevent the bottom from colouring
too much, and bake it in a slow oven
four hours or more. When nearly cold,
ice it with twelfth cake icing.
Obs. A good twelfth cake, not baked
too much, and kept in a cool dry place,
will retain its moisture and eat well if
twelve months old.

Oh, and look what follows the above receipt:

Bride or Wedding Cake. (No. 56)
The only difference usually made
in these Cakes is, the addition of
one pound of Raisins, stoned and
mixed with the other fruit.

Perhaps this is where Townsend got his idea that a Bride
Cake is the same as a Twelfth Cake? According to Kitchiner,
they ARE similar, in all but one ingredient. And yet, still they
are NOT exactly the same. They are two distinct receipts!

But I digress…. Now, the receipt in Kitchiner for making
icing for these cakes is found under the heading:

Icing for Twelfth or Bride Cake. (No. 84.)

Let’s take a closer look. It specifies icing for Twelfth OR
Bride Cake. In other words, it refers to two SEPARATE
cakes, Twelfth AND Bride. It does NOT say, or even imply,
that the two are one and the same. That would be “Icing
for Twelfth, or Bride, Cake.” Or, “Icing for Twelfth, also known
as Bride, Cake.” You get the idea, yes?! It’s merely an Icing
for Twelfth Cake OR for Bride Cake! It’s for the one AND/OR
the other. In short, it’s icing for both.

This fact is also reiterated in the content of the icing
receipt itself. To wit, the highlighted words below:

Icing for Twelfth or Bride Cake. (No. 84.)
Take 1 lb of double refined sugar,
pounded and sifted through a sieve;
put into a pan quite free from grease,
break in the whites of six eggs, and
as much powder blue as will lie on
a sixpence; beat it well with a spattle
for ten minutes, then squeeze in the
juice of a lemon, and beat till it becomes
thick and transparent. Set the cake you
intend to ice, in an oven or warm place
for five minutes, then spread over the
top and sides with the mixture as smooth
as possible. If for a wedding cake only,
plain ice it; if for a twelfth cake,
ornament it with gum paste, or
fancy articles of any description.

(emphasis mine)

One final observation: below is the title page of Kitchiner’s
Oracle. About a third of the way down, the author mentions
that his work provides a “system of cookery for Catholic
Families.” So, were twelfth/twelfth-night cakes mainly
eaten by followers of that religion? Maybe that’s why
receipts are so hard to find?! Adds more fodder to that
burning question: Christmas. Did they or didn’t they?!
Ahh, well, that’s a whole other topic for another day.

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*John Farley’s book, The London Art of Cookery, was initially published
in 1783. There were numerous subsequent editions, and the one I have
is the 11th of 1807. I don’t know whether or not there was an 1800
edition, as noted on Townsend’s calendar (there very well may be).

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