To Roast Ducks

With the weather turning warmer, it’s hard to imagine cooking over the fire as we did several weeks ago when there was a drop in the temperature. With my arm out of the sling, finally, I have begun to type with both hands. The right is still a little shaky so I have to keep my post a bit short. However, I did not want to go too long between them.

There is not much to say about duck with the exception that wild duck in the 1700s may not have been as plump as our store bought one. And, did the farm-grown “Dung Hill Fowl” have as good a diet as they have now. This reminds me of a duck dinner many years ago.

My brother, being a hunter-gatherer, shot a goose flying over his house. He roasted this goose in the oven at a large family gathering. Well, roasting a goose was new to him, and when my husband and I arrived with the baked ham, the smoke was so thick we had to duck to see where everyone was. Needless to say, we all learned a thing or two about cooking geese. Duck, like geese, has a lot of fat and before you bake it, it is advised that you steam it first. This Allan did with ours and ended up with several cups of duck fat.

I used the receipt “To Roast Ducks” from The Complete Housekeeper and Professional Cook by Mary Smith, 1772, and combined it with Sauce Madame. We assembled and diced parsley, thyme, sage, oregano, an apple and garlic. This we mixed with bread crumbs and cranberries.

After mixing everything together we stuffed and trussed the duck. We wanted to make sure that when we put the skewers through the duck on the spit it would hold fast and make turning easy.

With the duck securely in place in the tin oven we basted it with butter and an orange sauce. After about 25 minutes the duck was a golden brown and ready for the table.

The duck was served with the Sauce Madam, Spanish potatoes and our spring Fiddleheads.

I hope you have been enjoying the posts and Allan’s adventures into hearth cooking. I think he has done a wonderful job. This was a very tasty meal.

For now,



You may not have heard of Fiddlehead ferns; however they were one of the first greens to come up in the spring in New England that were edible and tasty. These delicacies show up beginning in May and last through early July. What exactly are these deep green, coiled vegetables, though? Fiddleheads are actually young fern fronds that have not yet opened up. These curly young fronds are harvested off the forest floor primarily by professional gatherers, and taste like artichokes crossed with asparagus – depending on who you ask.

The practice of eating them is said to have started with the French settlers, who took that cue from the American Indian. The Indian’s have a long history of harvesting and eating Fiddleheads. They consider them to be a medicine, as well as a food, and were known to mark their canoes, wigwams, and clothing with a Fiddlehead motif. We now know that Fiddleheads have antioxidant activity and are a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6, and are high in iron and fiber.

The ostrich fern is the species that produces these edible shoots, which have a unique texture. Fiddleheads can be consumed raw or cooked. A necessary, yet not sufficient, point of identification for ostrich fern Fiddleheads is a groove in the inside of the stem. However, unless you know what you are doing don’t pick your own as some are poisonous.

This April with the warm weather the Fiddlehead crop was early and the Officials with the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Site in Cornish, New Hampshire said rangers were posted to prevent foraging for Fiddlehead ferns at the park. It is, of course, against the rules to pick anything on park property.

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I bought my ferns at the store and brought them home and soaked them to clean them off. I gave them a quick shake in a towel, and then coated them. I like to use a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Very simple.

On the hearth was a skillet heating with duck fat. When the fat was hot enough, in went the Fiddleheads to be fried.

When they began to brown, Allan took them off and served them for our dinner.

They were tasty , however, next time I may just fry them in good old spring butter.

I have not found an 18th century receipt for Fiddleheads, however, we do know they ate them and may have cooked them in several ways. I have posted in the receipt files a great ragout with Fiddleheads and morels. It is a modern receipt and I think I may try it next.

So enjoy the bounty of spring and try Fiddleheads at your next meal.



Sorry I have been remiss in my blogging. Due to a bad rotator cuff, I have not been able to type. However, my dear husband helped me prepare a wonderful meal on the hearth, and the following weeks will highlight his skills as a hearth cook, and the individual items we made. I was able to work with the children at the American Independence Museum and it offered a wonderful outlet for my energy. I played a midwife and I did not lose one patient in the group.