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Posts Tagged ‘The Israel Crane House’

This year will soon be gone. Yep, in just a few short
hours, 2015 will slide into the history books. And so
I thought I’d write up one last post before it goes!

The Israel Crane House was again part of the annual
Essex County (NJ) Historic Holiday House Tour, which
took place the weekend of December 5 and 6. Of course,
I was busyImage (63) in the Crane kitchen, where
visitors were welcomed with a variety
of foods to sample. The spread featured
the usual suspects: Gingerbread Cakes;
Pounded Cheese (with crackers); and
Shrewsbury Cakes. Newly-added were
Chocolate Drops. As in previous years,
we offered hot spiced cider, dried apple
slices, a ham, chestnuts, candied orange
peels, and more. No one left hungry, that’s for sure!

I always look forward to this annual event, and this year
was no exception. The best part (besides the yummy food!)
is all the lively, in-depth conversations I have with those
who stop by the kitchen to see “what’s cooking.” It’s never
a dull moment. I have fun every year. I trust the visitors
do, too! HUZZAH!

Welcome to the Crane kitchen. Come on in!

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Our spread of goodies:

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New for 2015 were these tasty Chocolate Drops:

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I prepared and cooked a dish each day, as well. First I made
a “Squash Pudding” (Saturday) and then a “Tart of the Ananas,
or Pine-Apple” (Sunday).

Both were baked in the bake kettle:

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the Squash Pudding:

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the Pine-Apple Tart:

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Our spiced cider heated up over the fire each day:

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Also new this season was a sweetmeat I saw Stephen Schmidt,
a fellow member of Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY),
make during the “Eating Through Time” symposium held this
past fall at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM). As he
did, I followed the “To Make White Marmalet of Quinces” receipt
from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery (circa 1550-1625).

Here is a portion of one of two batches I made:

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I was also busy hearth-side on December 15 for “Family Fun
Day,” when I made oodles of “Dough Nuts,” all in accordance
with a receipt in Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and
Sweetmeats
(1828), by Eliza Leslie. We had more hot spiced
cider, as well.

Little nut-sized balls of dough ready to be boiled:

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the fire doing its magic with our Dough Nuts and our cider:

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TA-DA! our Dough Nuts! YUM!

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All in all, we had lots of good eats at The Israel Crane House
this year. Here’s to another fantastic and tasty year of cooking
over an open fire in 2016! HUZZAH!

Happy New Year to one and all!

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Before we say “Farewell” to December and 2014, I thought
I’d share a few photos taken at The Israel Crane House
recently, during the annual Essex County (NJ) Historic
House Holiday Tours.

I thoroughly enjoy this event every year, and I always
look forward to it. It offers a marvelous opportunity
to share food and in-depth discussions with visitors.
This year, the crowds were non-stop on Saturday,

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when it poured rain, and they tended to ebb ‘n flow
on Sunday, when we had sun with clear blue skies.
Go figure!

As in the past, quite a spread of goodies was available
for visitors to enjoy. It consisted of the usual suspects,
ranging from a baked ham to shelled walnuts and roasted
chestnuts to hot spiced cider. Several items that’d been
prepared in advance were offered, as well. Of course,
all were done in accordance with receipts from several
of my favorite historic cookbooks. They included…

Hannah Glasse’s “Ginger-Bread Cakes” from her book
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747). And
as I’ve mentioned here previously, these are unique
in that treacle is specified, rather than molasses:

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“Shrewsbury Cakes,” from American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons:

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Open any cookbook written prior to 1830 or so, and you’re
bound to find a receipt for these small cakes. Sadly, they’ve
since fallen out of favor.

“Pounded Cheese” per Dr. William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle (1817):

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And “Naples Biscuits,” from the 18th century receipt book
of the James Logan Family of Germantown, PA. These were
generally made in advance for use in other dishes. Numerous
historic receipts specify that grated Naples Biscuits be added
to other ingredients. However, they were often served just
as they are, along with tea or another beverage:

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I usually make a dish or two during each year’s event, as well.
This year, I put together a Potato Pudding. Time was sorely
limited, so I mixed all the ingredients on the first day and
baked it on the second. I followed the same receipt that I’d
used previously for a Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY)
program. It’s from an early 19th century manuscript cookbook,
which is part of a new online collection of such sources. The type
of potatoes to be used are not specified, so I chose sweet:

into the bake kettle…

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it’s a-baking:

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between the visitors and staff, it didn’t last long!

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All in all, it was a highly successful AND enjoyable event.
I can hardly wait ’til next year’s!

In the meantime, Happy New Year to all! I hope your 2015
is as good, no, better, than your 2014. I’m looking forward
to everything it has to offer. HUZZAH!

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Our menu for the most recent hearth cooking class* at The Israel Crane House included “Beef-stake Pie,” “Eggs and Onions, commonly called the Onion Dish,” “Sweet Potato Balls,” “Mrs Perrot’s Heart or Pound Cake,” and a simple beverage of “Chocolate.” We had a great group of folks participating, and it was a beehive of constant activity as everyone busily worked on one dish and/or another. Clearly, all had a marvelous time! HUZZAH! Of course, as usual, I was only able to snag one or two pictures. Luckily, however, several people came with cameras in hand, resulting in some really lovely photos. And so, with her permission, I share those taken by Andrea Swenson. CLICK HERE to see them. Several are simply stunning! HUZZAH!

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* This, the second class of 2014, was held Sunday, March 2.

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A few weeks ago, I began considering
what dish to prepare during the annual
Presidents’ Day festivities held this past
Monday at the Israel Crane House. Before
long, it hit me: a Washington Cake! It’s
perfect for a day that celebrates, at least
in part, the birthday of the man who led
us to victory in the War for Independence
and who was the very first President of
our brand new nation: namely, George Washington. Nothing
could be better! HUZZAH!

Now, I’ve made a few Washington Cakes before, including
one during a Fireside Feasts session years ago at Brooklyn’s
Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum. At that time, we used the receipt
given below, which is one of two for such cakes in Catharine
Rapelye Wyckoff’s (of Flatlands, Long Island, NY) manuscript
cookbook. As I recall, it turned out well, was quite tasty, and
every last crumb disappeared quickly:

Washington Cake
1/2 lb of butter 3/4 lb of Sugar
1 lb of flour 4 Eggs coffee cup
Cream pearlash. Spice. fruit

However, I wanted to try another receipt this time. Besides,
there’s a slight problem with the Wyckoff manuscript receipts:
both are circa 1855, which is later than I’d like. So, I began
to do some research, to see if I could find any earlier versions.

Of course, Washington Cakes are strictly of the 19th century.
They began to appear at some point after our First President’s
death (1799), when someone apparently thought it’d be a good
idea to honor him by either taking an already tried ‘n true cake,
or creating an entirely new one, and naming it after him. Based
on the make-up of the various receipts I found, I tend to think
it’s most likely the former, because it’s similar to the so-called
“Great Cakes” of past centuries. In fact, with its standard cake
ingredients, fruit, and assorted spices, most Washington Cakes
are highly reminiscent of your basic everyday, run-of-the-mill
cakes of the Medieval era. What’s even more interesting is that

not only do these cakes hark back to Medieval times, but they’re
also very similar to receipts, particularly those for Great Cakes,
in Martha Washington’s own manuscript cookery book. A work,
as you may know, whose origins are medieval! And so, I have
to wonder, were the creators of the Washington Cakes aware
of that? Did they make a deliberate and conscious decision
to devise just such medieval-like cakes? Surely, it can’t just
be a coincidence. Or can it? But…how? I tell you, I wish I had
the answers to all these questions!

However, there’s a slight glitch in my theory. You see, I did
find several other Washington Cake receipts, including three
in published sources and three in manuscript cookbooks. All
but two* contained fruit and spices, and often specific ones.
Two exceptions to this were, surprisingly, the printed versions!
I was a bit puzzled by this. Did the manuscript writers insert
the spices and fruit on their own? Did they copy the similar
fruit ‘n spice printed versions? Or did they possibly refer to
a printed receipt that I have yet to find? Once again, all are
intriguing, and at this point, unanswered, questions.

Lastly, there is one specific ingredient in all of these cakes
that sets them apart from those of more ancient times. It’s
one that makes them truly “modern” confections of the 19th
century. And that one ingredient is what was then a relatively
new “invention”: the chemical leavener known as pearl-ash.
Technically known was potassium carbonate, it was also
called pot-ash and was the forerunner of today’s common
baking soda.

So, when all was said and done, which receipt did I use this
past Monday? I chose that of a woman who lived essentially
in my neighborhood, in my own backyard, back in the 1800s.
I made my Washington Cake from the following receipt from
the handwritten household book of Mrs. Lefferts of Flatbush,
Long Island, NY (circa 1838?):

Washington Cake
19. 1 lb of Flour 1lb of Sugar ¾ lb butter
4 Eggs 2 lb raisins half a pint of milk
a teaspoon of pearlash one glass of wine
one of Brandy two nutmegs two
spoonsfull of cinamon and one of cloves

And it was mighty good! HUZZAH!
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*The two published cookbooks with Washington Cake receipts
that do NOT contain fruit or spices were Eliza Leslie’s
Directions
for Cookery, in all its Various Branches, (1837/1840) and Lettice
Bryan’s
The Kentucky Housewife (1839). In addition, Mrs. Bryan
uses the possessive form in the title of hers, as in “Washington’s
Cake,” as opposed to just the “Washington Cake” of the others.

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In addition to a tasty store-bought smoked ham,
we had two other historic meat dishes on hand
to share with visitors to The Israel Crane House
during this past December’s Essex County (NJ)
Historic Holiday House Tour. Naturally, they were
two of my favorites: a Minced (meat) Pie; and
a Potato Pumpkin. I’ll deal first with the pie.

Once again, I used a receipt (recipe) which most
likely dates from the 17th century. Namely, one
found in Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery.

I made the filing and the pie crust at home, and then assembled
and cooked it at the Crane House during the Tour. And yes, THIS
time I made my own crust, thank you very much. None of that
grocery store refrigerated dough like last year! No way! Of course,
as in the past, my minced pie was definitely a big hit with visitors.
HUZZAH!

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Here’s the receipt, from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery,
transcribed by Karen Hess (1981, 1995). The book is described
as “a Family Manuscript, curiously copied by an unknown Hand
sometime in the seventeenth century, which was in her [Martha’s]
keeping from 1749…to 1799, at which time she gave it to…her
granddaughter, on the occasion of her Marriage….”

TO MAKE MINCD PIES
Take to 4 pound of the flesh of a legg
of veale, or neats tongues, 4 pound
of beefe suet, 2 pound of raysons
stoned & shread, 3 pound of currans,
halfe a pound or more of sugar,
3 quarters of an ounce of cloves,
mace, nutmegg, & cinnamon,
beaten, halfe a dosin apples shread,
some rosewater, a quarter of a pinte
o[f] muskadine or sack, some candied
orringe, leamon & citron pill minced.
shread your meat & suet very fine,
& mingle all togethe[r]. for plaine
mincd pies, leave out the fruit & put
in blanchd almond minced small.

BTW this receipt makes alotta filing. So I cut the proportions
by four. That way I’m using one pound of veal, one of suet,
and so forth. Makes for just one nicely-over-stuffed pie!

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NEXT: the simply marvelous Potato Pumpkin

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Several dishes that I made for use this past
December at The Israel Crane House during
the annual Essex County (NJ) Historic Holiday
House Tour were “repeats” from the previous
year. They included mulled cider, Pounded
Cheese, and of course, a visitor favorite,
Gingerbread Cakes.

As with last year, I used Hannah Glasse’s
receipt from her book, The Art of Cookery,
made Plain and Easy
(1747). They were fairly easy to do, and
they turned out quite well. However, there was one very slight
difference in this year’s batch: I was forced to use molasses
instead of treacle. dagnabit. As you may recall, in 2010 I was
extremely eager to follow Glasse’s receipt largely because it
called for the use of treacle. Those Cakes were a huge hit, so
I wanted to make them again. Alas, when I went to the grocery
store that usually sells treacle, there was not a can to be found.
Not a one! I even checked back THREE separate times. It was
highly disappointing, to say the least. And so, I had to substitute
molasses for the treacle. dagnabit. It was mighty painful to do so.
Sure, they were fine; everyone who stopped to visit me in the Crane
kitchen loved them; but, still…. And believe me, there IS a difference
in the taste. They seemed just a bit more bland. At least, to me.

Ahh, well…maybe next year. One thing is certain: if I see any cans
of treacle at that store between now and then, I’m buying up several!

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NEXT: those “unique” meat dishes

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