Archive for the ‘historic utensils’ Category

…was all that was necessary, and all that was likely
used, by Revolutionary War soldiers to create a simple
bread, particularly on those days when they received
a pound of flour as part of their individual rations. This
basic dough would’ve then been cooked by spreading
it on the flat side of a piece of firewood, on a rock or
a plank, or even just setting it amongst a fire’s ashes.
Whatever was available, whatever worked. No matter
how it was baked, it would’ve constituted a day’s
serving of bread.

Of course, in true soldier’s fashion, flour and water
were also all I needed, and used, this past summer

colonial_bread on a plank_DN_onderdonk

for my “Cook Like a Soldier” programs. And the same
combination was also employed earlier this month
when I participated in the first-ever Military Timeline
Event at Long Island’s Old Bethpage Village (OBV),
along with fellow members of the Huntington Militia.
Again, using a soldier’s potential flour ration, mixed
with a little water, I worked up dough for another
round of what I’ve fondly dubbed “soldier’s bread.”

I also cooked a pot of rations at OBV, which consisted
of beef, peas, and rice, with a few pieces of hard biscuit
thrown in for good measure. They make for some fairly
decent dumplings!


Of course, hard biscuits could also be distributed as part
of a Rev War soldier’s daily ration. I’ve baked quite a few
batches in recent months. More on that is up next.


NEXT: Those delightful ‘n delectable hard biscuits!

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The inaugural run of my “Cook Like a Soldier” program was
a HUGE success! HUZZAH! Held on Saturday, August 24,
at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House in Queens, NY, it


was one of many events and activities that made up the annual
commemoration of the Battle of Brooklyn known as Battle Week.
The program was well-received by all who participated. Together,
we chatted about the typical fare that soldiers received during
the Revolutionary War, including the specific foods, how the type
and quantities changed over time, the cooking equipment used,
distribution issues, and so on. Everyone was able to taste two
different soldiers’ meals, one of beef and peas, and another of
salt cod, carrots, and rice. Each “brew” also had a bit of hard
biscuit thrown in to create dumplings.

Overall, I had a fantastic time chatting with the visitors and
sharing my knowledge of the daily fare that was likely eaten
by colonial soldiers as they fought against the British in our
struggle for independence.



COOK LIKE A SOLDIER at the Onderdonk House


Several weeks before the program, I made a couple-three
batches of hard biscuits. Some were to be used in cooking,
and others were to be bundled together for demonstration
purposes. Since a soldier’s daily rations included one pound
of flour, bread, OR hard biscuits, I weighed out a pound’s
worth (or, in this shape and size, 17 individual biscuits):


I made examples of different ration items by placing them
in cloth bags, including (L-R) the possible weekly allotment
of one pint of Indian meal, the weekly three pints of peas
(or beans or other vegetables), a daily ration of one pound
of flour, and a few hard biscuits (in wooden bowl), along
with another daily option of one pound of hard biscuits
(behind the bowl; a third option, bread-wise, being
a pound of actual bread, which I also had on display):


Cast iron kettles were initially distributed to soldiers, but they
proved to be highly impractical. So a switch was made to tin
and then to sheet metal. Inside the reproduction pot below
is our mixture of a daily ration option of one pound of salt
cod, the weekly vegetable (in this case carrots), a portion of
the weekly option of half a pint of rice, and a few dumplings,
which were made by throwing in pieces of hard biscuit:


The repro soldier’s kettle (L) hangs alongside a typical brass
household kettle (R). In the latter is the daily ration of one
pound of beef with half a pint of the weekly ration of peas:



Rations for soldiers fighting during the Revolutionary War
typically included:

1 pound of beef or fish or ¾ pound of pork per day
1 pound of bread, hard biscuit, or flour per day
3 pints of peas, beans, or other root vegetables per week
½ pint rice or 1 pint Indian (corn) meal per week

The specific contents of these “regular” rations changed
periodically throughout the War. However, at the very least,
an effort was made to make sure the troops always received
meat, flour (in one form or another), and root vegetables
of some sort.



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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:


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


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


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”).



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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UPDATE: Summer 2014
Well, there’s nothing more constant than change, ay?! This video
series is always being moved. dagnabit

In any case, the previously-shared links no longer work. Even
what’s in the box, below, is just a quick succession of several
different sections. So, try this one HERE. You should be able
to find ALL of the episodes at this one location on youtube.
Ignore the “unavailable” notation. Just click on the videos
in the list on the right-hand side.

It’s a fantastic series. Enjoy!


I recently re-discovered a fantastic video series that I’d
like to share. Entitled “Tales from the Green Valley,” it
follows five historical experts as they spend 12 months
“living” in the year 1620 on an historical working farm
located along the Welsh borders (so yes, it’s British).
The work they do, the activities in which they engage,
and the challenges they face are all applicable to any
farm in any area during any pre-modern time period.
I hope everyone enjoys them as much as I do.

Comprised of 12 episodes, a playlist of the series exists
on youtbube, wherein one is shown right after another.
Believe me, this feature makes it much easier to view
each episode, rather than doing each one separately
and trying to figure out if E2P1-3 comes before or after
E1P2-5. Now, it will seem as if there are more than 12,
and there sorta are, because the playlist shows the
series in only 15 minute increments. It just means you
can watch as much or as little as you like. In the end,
believe me, it will be well worth it. I guarantee that
you will learn so much, and you’ll gain a very realistic
glimpse into 17th century farm life. HUZZAH!


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Was sorting through some photos when I came across these of another
nutmeg grater I purchased awhile back. I’d forgotten all about them.
At about three inches long, this acorn is a bit larger than the barrel-
shaped grater I showed last summer. In fact, I think it’s the largest
of all my “portable” non-metal nutmeg graters. I particularly like
the shape!



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