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
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.
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.
Into the bake kettle:
After about an hour…Wowza!
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*):
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:
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)
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.
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:
The Tart is served:
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
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):