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Archive for December, 2013

Merry Christmas to all, from little ol’ me here in NYC!

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scan0002The annual Essex County (NJ) Historic Holiday
House Tour was held this year on December 7
and 8. The public was able to tour assorted
historic sites located throughout the County
on both days. Naturally, all the properties held
under the auspices of the Montclair Historical
Society
were included in this event.

Of course, I was busy greeting the many folks
who stopped by the kitchen during their tour
of The Israel Crane House. The crowds on Saturday tended
to ebb and flow, but they were virtually non-stop on Sunday.
It was fantastic! I SO enjoy this program every year, as it
gives me an opportunity to chat at length with visitors. We
always cover an assortment of topics and have some mighty
interesting conversations. HUZZAH!

Engaging and enlightening discussions weren’t the only thing
that I shared with the guests. There was a rather wonderful
spread of tasty treats for all to enjoy, as well. And this year,

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the offerings were pretty much the same as in years past. And
so the following goodies were set out for guests to enjoy.

Shrewsbury Cakes, made in accordance with Amelia Smmons’
receipt in her book American Cookery (1796):

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.

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For our Gingerbread Cakes, below, I followed the receipt
in The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747), by Hannah
Glasse (1747):

To make Ginger-Bread Cakes.
Take three Pounds of Flour, one Pound
of Sugar, one Pound of Butter, rubbed
in very fine, two Ounces of Ginger beat
fine, a large Nutmeg grated; then take
a Pound of Treakle, a quarter of a Pint
of Cream, make them warm together,
and make up the Bread stiff, roll it out,
and make it up into thin Cakes, cut them
out with a Tea-Cup, or a small Glass, or
roll them round like Nuts, bake them
on Tin Plates in a slack Oven.

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I particularly like Glasse’s version, as she calls for using treacle
(“Treakle”) and not molasses. Yes, the two are similar, as both
are obtained during the sugar refining process, and either one
can be used. However, the taste of each is VERY different! And
I find that small cakes made with molasses tend to be blander
than those with treacle. The latter have a bit of a bite to them
(which I like BTW!).

If you’re interested in more information on the difference
between treacle and molasses, and their respective places
in the process of sugar refining, see my previous post HERE.

Pounded Cheese was also offered, along with store-bought
Water Crackers, which are made by Carr’s, a British company
that was founded in 1831.

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The receipt for the above cheese is from the 1817 cookbook,
The Cook’s Oracle, by William Kitchiner, M.D.:

Pounded Cheese.
Cut a pound of good mellow Cheddar,
Cheshire, or North Wiltshire 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.

Obs.–When cheese is dry, and
for those whose digestion is feeble,
this is the best way of eating it
and spread it on Bread, it makes
an excellent Luncheon or Supper.

N.B. The piquance of this buttery,
caseous relish, is sometimes
increased by pounding with it
Curry Powder, Ground Spice,
Cayenne Pepper, 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.

Also on hand both days were a smoked ham, candied citron,
dried apple slices, roasted chestnuts, and so on. OH! And
our delightful hot spiced cider. Which, according to one

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visitor, was MUCH better than what he’d been served
at another Tour site. HUZZAH!

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It’s never too early to start planning for next year! Come help
prepare, cook, AND eat a typical meal of the early 19th century.
I think you’ll agree that there’s just nothing like food that’s been
cooked over an open fire. HUZZAH!

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