Posts Tagged ‘hearth cooking’

After taking part in a hearth cooking class at The Israel Crane House
about a year ago, a woman rounded up several friends and arranged
to do another this year. So on Saturday, February 28, they all arrived,
each one ready, willing, and oh-so-eager to whip up a winter’s mid-day
meal. We had seven lovely ladies, and I tell you, they were great fun!
Everyone worked so well together. And given the ease with which they


tackled the five different receipts, nobody would’ve known that all but
one had never done any hearth cooking before. It was a fantastic group,
one that operated like such a well-oiled machine, that we even ended
early. A hearty HUZZAH to them all!

As for the day’s menu, my goals in creating it were to include dishes
that were not only appropriate for the season, but also for a merchant’s
family such as the Crane’s, and to showcase multiple cooking processes,
including frying, baking, and roasting. We traveled through time, as well,
for the receipts we used came from cookbooks of the 17th, 18th, and
early 19th centuries:

An Excellent Way to Roast Pigeons or Chickens.
The Art of Cookery Refin’d and Augmented (1654), by Joseph Cooper;

Carrot Pudding.
American Cookery (1796, 1st ed.), by Amelia Simmons;

Potato Fritters.
The Cook’s Own Book: Being a Complete Culinary Encyclopedia
(1832), by A Boston Housekeeper;

To Make a Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple. From Barbadoes.
The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director…Part II (1732),
by Richard Bradley; and

No. 51. Chocolate Drops.
The Complete Confectioner, or, The Whole Art of Confectionary
(1790, 2nd ed.), by Frederick Nutt.

Okay. Enough of that! On to some photos. And thankfully, THIS time
I was able to take quite a few. Unlike the class I conducted late last fall,
when I totally spaced it and forgot. Heck, even I was disappointed! In
any event, as you’ll see from the following, when all was said and done,
and the ladies had worked their magic, we had a truly marvelous meal,
one which definitely provided some mighty good eating! HUZZAH!


The fire was blazing and the ingredients were set…

photo 1(1)

photo 3

All the ladies arrived, and we were ready to begin. First, I presented
the background of our menu. I also explained some unfamiliar terms
and gave a few basic tips on cooking at an open hearth, handling all
the various equipment and utensils, what cooking technique to use
for which dish, and other such matters.

photo 5

And thus, it was on to the prepping ‘n cooking…

First up, our chicken. Now, Cooper’s receipt directs the cook to make
a forcemeat (what we might call stuffing or dressing today) containing
grated bread, hard boiled egg yolks, the fowl’s liver, a couple of spices,
and so on, which is finely minced. This mixture is then placed between
the bird’s skin and flesh, instead of in its cavity. Finally, it’s trussed
and roasted.

Of course, if a portion of skin tears during the process, a few little
well-placed stitches will take care of the problem…


into the reflector oven it went…


photo 1(2)

After several unsuccessful attempts to insert the chicken “normally”
(aka horizontally) and securely in the oven (so it wouldn’t flop
around), it was decided to place it perpendicular to the spit…


It worked! It may’ve looked a bit odd, but at least it was roasting…


On to the carrots for the pudding, which were cleaned, sliced,…


and boiled, along with the potatoes for the fritters…


The carrots were then mashed, combined with other ingredients,
and the whole set into a bake kettle. Soon, our Carrot Pudding
was cooked to perfection!


Pineapple pieces were par-boiled in Madeira for the tart…


a simple paste was made…


the two were put together, and it was ready for the bake kettle…





Mashing those previously-mentioned boiled potatoes for the fritters…


the clumps of ‘tater fritter batter may not’ve looked too pretty, but…


once fried, either in a spider…


or on the griddle…


they were very, VERY delicious! So much so that we nearly ate
them ALL before the cooking of the entire meal was completed!


Several of our dishes posed on the hearth for a group photo…


Our chicken cooked up fairly quickly!

photo 5(1)

And finally, the Chocolate Drops, which proved to be the easiest
and simplest dish to prepare!


And so, after all the chopping, slicing, grating, mixing, pounding,
stirring, boiling, frying, baking, and roasting, our wonderful winter’s
mid-day meal was ready to be eaten:


The Carrot Pudding…


Our “Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple“…


and the Chocolate Drops…


Excellent job, ladies! HUZZAH!!! I look forward to working
with you, again.

photo 2(2)

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Before we move on to the baking of those wonderfully
delectable ‘n delightful hard biscuits that were a part
of every Rev War soldier’s rations, I’d like to announce
that I was recently on the radio!

“Oh, oh, oh, on the radio!”*

Yes, this past Thursday, November 21, I was invited
by Linda Pelaccio to be interviewed during her show,
“Taste of the Past,” which airs on the Heritage Radio
. Naturally, the topic of our half-hour chat was
my all-time most-favorite activity, namely, open hearth
cooking. HUZZAH! It was great fun. And I had a blast!
It all went by so quickly, though. I could’ve talked
for hours and hours and hours and…!

Here’s the link to the show.




* My apologies to Regina Spektor! See the lyrics to her entire song HERE.

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My “Big Week” of hearth cooking (March 20 to April 1, when I had
one event after another) finally came to a close at the same spot
where it all began: the Israel Crane House. That Sunday was billed
as “Family Day,” since all of the properties owned by The Montclair
Historical Society (MHS) were now officially open for the new season.
And so I decided, in honor of this auspicious occasion, to cook an
old, and a new, favorite dish: a “Potatoe [sic] Pudding”; and more
“Salmon in Cases.” I also used up a bit of bread (for toast), along
with the fresh batch of butter that’d been churned earlier in the
week (all courtesy of Homeschool Day, doncha know!). Oh, and
a few remaining bites of my Seed Cake. Of course, as usual,
I brought in all this food, but left empty-handed. HUZZAH!

Okay, here we go…

Everything’s set out and ready:

the potato pudding’s prepped and ready to bake:

The receipt for my “Potatoe [sic] Pudding” came from the Leffert’s
manuscript cookbook. This little volume is part of the collection
of Lefferts Family Papers located at the Brooklyn Historical Society

(BHS) of Brooklyn, NY. Most likely, it was written at some point
in the 1830s. I’ve visited BHS several times to study this small
historical document, and it’s quite fascinating (more on it later).
In addition, when I did hearth cooking at the Lefferts historic
house (in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park) several years ago, I made
numerous dishes found therein. So it was great fun to make this
baked pudding again!

Here’s the receipt, taken from the “Puddings and Custards” section
of the manuscript:

33. Potatoe Puding.
Boil the potatoes very dry skin them and
rub them through a sieve to 1 lb. of potato
add 1 pt cream 7 eggs 6 oz. of butter
lemon juice sugar and nutmeg to your
taste, bake it with or without paste.*

TA-DA! It’s nearly done.

Visitors to the House that afternoon ate up my “Potatoe Pud”
so quickly, that I wasn’t able to get a photo of the finished
dish. dagnabit.

Now, regular readers will recall my recent experiments in cooking
“Salmon in Cases” in reflector ovens. Well, it was so much fun,
I wanted to do it again. In fact, by this time I’d also decided that
we’d make them during our hearth cooking class on April 15, so
I figured a little more practice couldn’t hurt! In any event, I made
them, again following Hannah Glasse’s receipt from her cookbook
The Art of Cookery, made [sic] Plain and Easy (1747).

Cut your Salmon into little Pieces…

…butter the Inside of the Paper well…

…season it with Pepper, Salt and Nutmeg…

…fold the Paper so as nothing can come out, then lay them on
a Tin Plate to be baked…a Tin Oven before the Fire does best.

What fun! HUZZAH!


*NOTE: Most all the receipts in the Lefferts book are written in pen.
However, here the word “paste” is written in pencil. That one word
was probably added later. Also, on the page where this receipt appears,
it is written as
“28. Potato Pudding.”

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Now that I’ve gotten a bit o’ rest after a busy week and have
done things like cleaned up kitchen messes and organized
my photos, I can now get back to blogging. HUZZAH!

Besides, a report on my most recent hearth cooking adventures is
long overdue. And there were several during the week of March 26
to April 1. Three, to be exact; well, four, if you count making a dish
for the Culinary Historians of New York’s (CHNY) program. In any
event, it began with Homeschool Day at the Israel Crane House,
followed by CHNY, then a Teachers Professional Development
Workshop at the Queens County Farm Museum, and finally,
it ended with a return to the Crane House. Whew!

My Big Week was filled with varied and numerous preparations,
as well. It seemed that I was constantly slicing, mixing, mashing,
cooking, and/or baking something. Not to mention all the planning
that’d been done days, even weeks, previously, including deciding
what dishes to make, selecting the receipts (recipes) to be used,
and developing the menus for each particular hearth cooking
session. Then throw in all the scurrying from one grocery store
to another to yet another, as I attempted to procure the required
ingredients for most of the dishes. Ahh, what a life: keeps me busy
and outta trouble. Besides, I absolutely love it! HUZZAH!

Okay. Onward. Let the hearth cooking adventures begin!

First up, I headed to the Crane House on Tuesday for the semi-annual
Homeschool Day. I had a fantastic time with all the young’uns, as we
learned the secrets of hearth cooking (with a few chores thrown in,

just for good measure, of course). We made toast and ate it with
pre-churned butter on top, as we churned some new. Then we fried
up a bit o’ salt pork, which greased the pan for lots of subsequent
Indian Slapjacks, made according to a receipt from Amelia Simmons’
American Cookery (1796) (it follows the photos, below).


Here is the receipt from Simmons’ American Cookery (1796):

Indian Slapjack.
One quart milk, 1 pint of Indian meal,
4 eggs, 4 spoons of flour, little salt,
beat together, baked on griddles, or
fry in a dry pan, or baked in a pan
which has been rub’d with suet,
lard or butter.

NEXT: Seed Cakes and Carrot Puddings

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On Facebook recently there was quite a lively discussion,
as well as plenty of oooohhhing and ahhhhhing, amongst
my assorted friends about the tin (or is it copper?) reflector
oven that’s depicted in the painting below:

Initially posted by Tammy DeLauter Fletcher, this is entitled
simply “The Cook.” It was done by the Dutch painter Gabriel
Metsu (1629-1667) and was most likely completed by him
at some point between 1657 and 1662.

Yes, you read that correctly: between the years 1657 and
1662. Indeed, Metsu was a mid-17th century painter.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit it: I thought these ovens were
only in use during the 19th, maybe the very late 18th, century
(at least here in America). I’m not really sure why. I’ve used
them often, but I’ve never really given it much thought. I’ve
never investigated whether they were available/used earlier.
Of course, I’ve done quite a bit of 18th century hearth cooking,
but my main focus has typically been the 19th. Not to mention,
that’s the time period in which I was initially trained (at Conner
, back when the year 1836 was the focus). However,
based on this painting, apparently reflector ovens were
around, even as early as the mid-1600s.

At the same time, though, it IS a Dutch painting. So perhaps
reflector ovens were common in Europe, even during the 17th
century, but were they also used on this side of the pond? It
seems likely that they may’ve been imported. Or perhaps they
were made here. However, I think it is generally believed that
being a tinsmith was more of an 1800s profession. You know,
due to British control of manufactured goods, that sort of thing.
Or, perhaps not? It’d definitely be interesting to research this
further, and to look at store inventories, newspaper ads, ship
records, and other assorted documents, to see if, and when,
such ovens were made in, or transported to, the colonies.

In any event, when this painting and the ensuing discussion
took place on Facebook, I remembered a passage I’d read
in Prospect Books’ facsimile reprint of Hannah Glasse’s book,
The Art of Cookery, made [sic] Plain & Easy (1747). In the
glossary is this definition (and illustration) of “Tin Oven”:

The reference to a tin oven, [on page] 91,
is to the ‘Dutch oven’ which was in common
use and which stood in front of the fire. The
food being cooked was exposed to direct

(c) Prospect Books 1995

heat and also to reflected heat from the polished
tin interior. A door in the back could be opened
to permit viewing and basting.

Now, what’s interesting is that all the receipts on page 91
in Glasse’s book are for fish, and only one specifically calls
for cooking the dish in “a Tin Oven.” It’s the receipt “Salmon
in Cases.” The instructions say to wrap salmon pieces in paper
and “lay them on a Tin Plate.” It then states that “a Tin Oven
before the Fire does best” (I imagine as opposed to a brick
bake oven). Which, of course, obviously means that the fish
is NOT put on the spit!

So, in a typical tin reflector oven, where would you put a plate
of fish “in cases”? On the floor/bottom of it? But that puts it too
low in relationship to the fire, yes? So, in order to gain some
height, could the plate perhaps be balanced on top of the spit?
Could that work, would it stay securely? (I’m thinking maybe,
but not likely?) Then I thought, “Well, perhaps Glasse means
one of those tin ovens with a shelf? The ones that’re often
used for small breads (either loose or in a pan)?” And if so,
does that mean those types of tin ovens were also around
in the early to mid 18th century? Makes perfect sense, yes?
Or no? And so, is there possibly a slight problem with this
glossary’s definition of “Tin Oven”: i.e. it’s not JUST the ones
with a spit and basting door, but it’s also other types?

Luckily for me, I was scheduled to cook again at the hearth
in the kitchen of the Israel Crane House on Sunday, March 1,
which meant I’d be able to conduct my own experiments.
I could figure out just how this fish receipt was to be
cooked. What fun!

So, stay tuned!


UP NEXT: Experiments in cooking fish in reflector ovens


For more information about Gabriel Metsu, his life, this painting
and other works, check out this site.

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This past Sunday, I was once again cooking at the hearth
of the Israel Crane House over in Montclair, NJ. Despite
our recent Halloween snow storm and the lack of much
color on this area’s trees, it IS still fall! So I made these

season-appropriate dishes from American Cookery (1796)
by Amelia Simmons: a Pompkin [sic] pudding; and a few
Apple Tarts.

Now, due to limited weekend hours at the House, and
the fact that I have to lug my supplies over to Jersey
via public transportation, I did some prep work ahead
of time. Thus the pumpkin and the apples were pared,
cored, cut, and cooked down at home.

For the pudding, I had hoped to use a cheese pumpkin,
as it’s the most historically-correct. However, I couldn’t
find any (dagnabit!) this year, so I used a pie pumpkin.
A sugar pumpkin would work as well, although I’m not

sure that’s it not the exact same pumpkin. I’ve even seen
“use a sugar pie pumpkin” in some modern recipes! Your
common field pumpkins are probably not the best, as they
tend to be rather tough. Besides, they’re really only meant
for carving all those spooky jack o’lanterns.

For the tarts, I used Lady Apples, which have been around,
literally, for centuries. In fact, their first recorded use was
in Europe during the early 1600s. They were grown on this

continent, as well, and were highly popular from colonial times
into the 19th century. A fairly small apple, I’d say they’re much
more flavorful than other varieties. When they’re cooked down,
you can just smell the difference. It was amazing! Unfortunately,
they’re not widely available. I just happened on to them at one
of my local groceries, and so I bought several in order to make
these tarts.

OK. Enough of that. On to the cooking at Crane’s!


Everything’s on the table and ready to go:

First up, the Pompkin Pudding:

The pudding was indeed a pudding. It was light, airy, and
very custard-like. I’m not a fan of modern-day pumpkin pies,
as they tend to be dry and dense, but this…it was definitely
the opposite. HUZZAH!

We also offered up some lovely hot mulled cider:

Next, the Apple Tarts:

As you saw above, the pudding was similar to a pie in that
it had a crust (bottom only). I used the leftover dough to line
my tart pans:

The cooking’s done, the fire’s dying out. Time to head home.


NEXT: first, the recipes for the above and then (I promise!)
my other Yorkshire Pudding

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I was busy cooking at the hearth of the Israel Crane House
this past Sunday. In fact, I’ll be there again the first Sundays
of November and December. And don’t forget about my hearth
cooking class next Sunday, October 9! The menu I have planned
is awesome! HUZZAH!

But I digress. Back to my cooking this past weekend.

In keeping with the season, I again cooked apples, only this time
they were done as dumplings. And, if I say so myself, they turned
out beautifully! I only wish I’d made more. I had a marvelous time
making them. And yes, they were as delicious as they looked!


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