I have never cooked a lamb roast before. For most of my life a disliked the smell of lamb, and could not be in a house that was cooking it. I just recently, for some unknown reasons have fallen in love with lamb chops, which my husband roasts in the oven. For several months I’ve been thinking of other ways to use lamb. Greek shish kabobs came to mind, however, I haven’t found a receipt I like yet. While shopping at the store, I saw they had a lamb roast on sale, and into the basket it went.

Off to the office and to the bookshelf with my early Cookery Booke’s. I spent several days hemming and hawing over the different receipts in my books. I went online to Project Gutenberg’s and found what I wanted, “Leg of Mutton with Oysters.” This receipt is from the The English Art of Cookery, by Richard Briggs, 1788. I liked it because it would give me the opportunity to try wrapping a roast with paper and then frothing it. Also it had oyster stuffed inside and, in this household, we all love oysters.

While looking for the receipt, I received a call from the blacksmith, he had my antique andirons fixed and ready to be picked up. I found these andirons in Connecticut, thanks to good friends, and they had hooks in the front for a spit so one could roast in front of the fire. They needed to be repaired and the hooks were in bad shape.


Russell Pope did a great job of fixing them and I cannot wait to use them. You see them here, on the right, in front of the beams and wood floor that will go into the new kitchen. I bought the andirons for the new cooking fireplace. However, it won’t be done for a month (OH, PLEASE!) so why not use them in the small fireplace? Well, it turned out that there was a very good reason to not use them. My daughter was coming for dinner and she was bringing her black lab. Visions of a dog with a burnt tongue and half a roast missing ran through my head. The tin kitchen will have to do.

In many of the cookbooks, they have receipts of sauces, so I quickly looked for something to use for the lamb. I came up with To make Roasted Gravy from The Complete Practical Cook by Charles Carter, 1730. Now when it comes to gravy, Allan is the gravy master. I handed him the job. First he had to shuck the oysters for the roast, and to halve them, while we were preparing. The freezer and shelf are well-stocked with stock and anything else he might need. While I was at it, I let my daughter be in charge of the roasted asparagus.

With everyone busy, I began working on the roast. It came tied up and had fat on one side, so I larded the other side with bacon lard. I love it when I can use my larding pin; it is such a nifty kitchen tool.

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With the larding complete, I cut holes into the roast to stuff the oysters in. Holey moley, oysters are slippery. Trying to push them in was a struggle. I ended up using a small melon baller to scoop them up and in then quickly wrapped the roast in paper before they slid out. I had given much thought to the paper I would use to wrap the roast. Back in the 17th and 18th Centuries, they would use something like our watercolor paper. Well, I don’t have a piece of paper that large, so I could use a brown paper bag or parchment paper. Again I had a vision; this time of a paper page in flames. Okay, parchment paper. I know that will work, and I’ll have no worries with it going up in flames. One of the reasons you use paper on a roast is to have it act like a pressure cooker to speed up cooking. Now most receipts are feeding a large amount of people, not so in my house. However, I wanted to try the technique.


Once again I enlisted Allan, as he is very good at tying a roast together. And I wanted to make sure the oysters stayed in. After it was tied we put it on the skewer in the tin oven. The fire was ready and throwing plenty of heat.



The roast was just over 2 ½ pounds and I knew it would cook quickly, I turned it every five minutes, and each time the juice poured into the bottom of the tin oven. I had a container underneath to save all the juices for adding to the sauce Allan made. After 20 minutes, we took off the paper and I began basting every few minutes as I turned the roast. By now the oysters were baked inside and not falling out. Then came the fun part, frothing. Would it work? I filled a shaker with flour and spices and put it on as I once more turned the roast. (Oh, for a spit jack.)


Yes, it did work. If I had a bigger roast I would have had more frothing. However, I was really afraid I’d ruin the roast by overcooking. Everyone here wants rare meat. You can see just a hint of froth starting on the left.

I will try this again when I have cooking classes and many more mouths to feed.

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With Allan’s sauce mixed with the drippings, he carved the roast. It was done to perfection. Now, how would it taste? Well, it was spectacular; the oysters added a wonderful depth of flavor, and the basting gave crispness to the edges.


My family was delighted with the meal, and I could not have been happier with the experience of frothing.

I wonder if I can find an 18th Century receipt for shish kabobs?



The Complete Practical Cook

After a long and unusual blog on butchering a pig, I thought something light would be nice. For the last year I have been looking at the picture of a Banniet Tort from a receipt of Charles Carter. I first saw this tort on Ivan Day’s* site and knew I would one day want to make it. Ivan Day is best known for his recreations of historic table settings, and has forty year’s experience of cooking period food. A Banniet Tort is made of many layers of pancakes, sugared fruit, sack and orange juice. We were having company that evening, so I thought it was time to make the tort.

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I started in the afternoon making paste and candying oranges peels. I had a jar of candied lemon and orange peels leftover from Christmas but wanted more orange. Next, I made the pancakes. I did not want them to be very thick so I made a very loose batter, somewhere between a pancake and a French crepe. I ended up with eight lovely brown thin pancakes. In a bowl, I mixed the fruit, some sugar and squeezed in a bit of orange. I would have used the sack, as in the receipt, but forgot to pick it up at the store. Not much cooking liquor in the cabinet after the holidays. I buttered the pan and cut parchment paper for the bottom and sides. I buttered the bottom paper and put the pasty in the pan. I sprinkle some of the fruit on the bottom of the pasty then started layering the pancakes and fruit. I brushed the pancakes with a little butter.  I folded over the sides and put a top on it and I squeezed the oranges so I would have juice for later.


I had a brisk fire going and put the kettle right inside to heat it up for about 20 minutes. Carter says to bake it off pretty quickly. In went the tort and I turned it every eight minutes or so. Well it was a hot kettle alright. After 15 minutes I looked and the top was flaky but black. Quickly I took the tort out of the kettle and brought it to the kitchen where I found the top peeled off very nicely. I thought for sure it was so burned it would be inedible. However, the rest of the tort was golden brown. Next time I won’t put so many coals on the top.

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We had swordfish for dinner, so something fruity and sweet was a perfect finish to the meal. After I cut it up, I poured in more orange juice and served it. Everyone liked it, and I’ll make this tort again, however, I’ll watch just how much heat I pile on the top.


  *Iva Day –



Heritage Breed Pig

Old Sturbridge Village

DAY ONEOn a gloomy foggy, damp and cold day I walked to the Freeman Farm at OSV with a mission, which was to learn how to butcher a pig.

According to state laws, the pig was shot in the head with a gun. This was done before visitors were allowed in the park. It took four men to drag the pig from the sty to the barn and hang him up. The English Black was only eleven months old and was estimated to be around 400 pounds. Fed with the leftover whey and scraps from the kitchen, he was one healthy pig.

First order of the day was to drain out the blood. Rowan, one of the ladies from the kitchen, sat and collected as much blood in a tin wash pan as she could. This would be turned into blood sausage.

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Next the hair needed to be removed from the skin. This was done by scalding the front half of the pig in water that was about 120 to 150 degrees. Out it came and then placed on the table where the men, with hog scrapers, remove as much hair as possible. It took several more times of dipping to remove most of the hair. The pig was turned about and dunked tail first to finish the job of hair removal. What was left would be candled off later if needed.

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While the men scraped the pig, I went into the house and watched the ladies make the blood sausage. They used an old receipt for blood pudding. It was very important to keep stirring the blood so it would not coagulate and, when measured, it came to about 1 ½ pints of fresh blood. They set out cubes of bread soaked in milk, corn meal with a bit of water, chopped hog’s fat, and many spices; adding 6 eggs, they mixed it all together. What they ended up with was a loose mixture they could pour through the tin sausage maker, which they used like a funnel. With a knot on the end of the small intestines, from last year’s pig, they started to make links by tying off every four inches or so with string. You must leave room for the corn meal to expand when they are boiled. After a short boil over the fire, the blood sausage are taken out and brought to the buttry to dry. They could have been eaten then; however, they will be preserved for the long winter months to come.


Back to the barn I went to see the men cut open the pig. It is very important to not cut the diaphragm as this is what divides the edible organs from the bad stuff. Everyone pitches in and helps when the opening was made in the front half, Dan used an ax to split the chest bone and reached in and pulled out the heart.  Untitled-5 copy

Then the pig was hoisted up again by his feet so they could carefully cut the rear. You don’t want to nick the intestines and contaminate anything. It was moved closer to the table while hanging and the insides were removed starting with the intestines and ending up with the liver, lungs, kidneys and so forth.

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This pig had a lovely caul. I would have loved to have it for cooking. They did not keep it, however, as it is too fancy an item for OSV. Back on the table, the pelvis was split with the ax and cut in two pieces and hung. It needs to spend a night in the barn to let rigamortis set in. This would make it easier to butcher the meat. pig_diagram

DAY TWO – The butchering begins. The ladies have a bit of fun out in the barn, knowing full well this poor piggy will be in pieces soon. I arrive and had to have my picture taken also.

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Justin and Dave lower the pig and bring it into the house.

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The ladies flip it over and take out the leaf lard, this snow white fat that lies between the ribs and the organs and feels like butter it is prized for its taste and consistency.

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Next the tenderloin was removed and put aside; it was later fried with onions and spices by Ryan, who then served it to all the workers at lunch.

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Flipping the pig over, Victoria cuts the ham out, with help from Pauline and Dave with his ax. Now it is interesting to note that cuts of pork were very unlike ours today. They were large, and even though pork chops were known of, they were reserved for very special occasions. The front and back legs were huge pieces of meat and the ribs were cut into large roast.


The head needs to be removed before you can cut the shoulder. Once that is done, the ear is cut off. The pig’s jowl is cut off next; along with a wonderful piece of neck meat that will become a roast. Then the jowl is trimmed for jowl bacon. Victoria and Erica cut the back fat from the outer ribs and peel the ribs away.

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While this is going on, Rowan is cleaning out the small intestines. To clean the intestines, you need to take off the hard fat that surrounds it and then place it in a bowl of water and turn the casing inside out and then scrape with a knife to remove all the stuff that is stuck on it and clean the inside. Then you turn it inside out again and repeat until the casing is white and super clean. This will be used for sausage. This is a long process, and, yesterday, everyone helped with the task.

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Now the ribs are completely removed and the bacon exposed. The ax is used to divide the ribs into three roasts. The large layer of fat with its skin is removed from the bacon. The bacon, ribs and legs all have a lot of exposed meat so this is trimmed off down to the fat layer and saved in the scrap bowl for the sausage or to boil. This is done so there is no waste when it is smoked.

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On the table is a leg, and bacon that has already been smoked. The leg looks like glass but is surprisingly soft on the other side, same with the bacon. Everything is placed on the table while and Ryan points out the layer of meat in the bacon that has been smoked.

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I wish I had counted how many visitors they had throughout the day. It was one large group after another, and only four people that I saw left the room abruptly. The children made wonderful comments and really enjoyed the experience as much as I did. One girl thanked the ladies for the demonstration and said “It was gross, but interesting.” Don’t you just love kids?

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The men did a great job of preparing the pig for butchering, and the ladies were expert in doing so. All this pork will be used in the programs at OSV during the year. Every part of the pig was used. The ear, tail, and feet will be made into souse a gravy-like jello, with vinegar in it, to preserve it. The head will be boiled and made into head cheese. The heart, lungs, kidneys, tongue, liver and any other organ meat will be processed for use. The large cuts will be brined and placed in the cellar, after 6 weeks some will be hung in their smokehouse for another 6 weeks above a smoldering fire of corncobs and applewood, giving the meat a distinctive OSV flavor.

This was a great experience and I can’t thank the ladies enough for letting me record their work. Now I will have to get half of a pig of my own for next year and butcher it myself, some to eat right away with my cooking classes and some to go down in the new root cellar. Now I just need my husband to build me a smokehouse.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and will continue to subscribe and receive the new posts of culinary treats and happenings around the Colonial Table.



Yankee Doodle went to town, a-riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and called it macaroni.

Happy New Year!

With the holidays and the exciting gourmet food behind us all, it’s time to go back to basics. I have a hankering for good old macaroni and cheese.  Renaissance cooks brought pasta in its many forms to England from Italy back in the 16th Century; however it didn’t catch on until the early 18th Century. Pasta was easy to ship and found its way to the Colonies at that time.

One of the first receipts for this new ingredient was “To Make Soop with Vermicelly,” from the cookbook, The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, written in 1723, by John Nott. Nott was a learned man and was inspired by the French and their use of vermicelli. Other cooks followed suit, Charles Carter, Elizabeth Raffald. Then the first cookbook to be published in the colonies, The Complete Housewyfe by Eliza Smith, was followed by the first American cookbook author Hannah Glass. Vermicelli seemed to be used mostly in soups and puddings and it was not until Elizabeth Raffald’s, cookery book, that we see “To drefs MACORONI with PARMESAN CHEESE” And from there it became history, in a box for kids.

As it is the New Year I thought I would start with the first Mac and Cheese receipt. Something simple and comforting with the addition of some fried cured ham and a green vegetable my dinner would be easy and complete.

Allan started the fire early and it produced a lot of coals and heat. After a few mornings of 5 below zero and very chilly wind it felt really good. I boiled the macaroni and put it on the side to keep warm, and assembled all the things I’d need by the fire.

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I melted the butter and added the flour and some salt and pepper to make a rue, then I put in the cream. When it was thick, I poured it over the pasta that I had put in a buttered dish.


I mixed all the sauce into the macaroni and added the parmesan cheese on top.


I sprinkled some bread crumbs on top and put it in the bake kettle to keep warm and toast the crumbs a bit. Then I fried the cured smoked ham in a little butter and cooked the broccoli , needed something healthy on the plate. Next year when my root cellar is operational I’ll have something from “age-appropriate” to use.


So the dinner was as easy as it sounded and comforting . Allan gave it rave reviews, even the broccoli tasted better than he thought. That saying a lot for a man who dislikes mosts vegetables.

As an historical sidebar, Thomas Jefferson was interested in macaroni, a general term he used for pasta, and this was something he ate while living in Paris; he even served macaroni at the White House too. He had a macaroni machine sent from Naples to Paris and then on to Philadelphia.


There is a recipe for macaroni from the Jefferson Papers Library of Congress, that was donein Jefferson’s own hand:

6 eggs. yolks & whites
2 wine glasses of milk
2 tb of flour
a [?] salt

Work them together without water, and very well. Roll it then with a roller to a paper thickness cut it into small pieces which roll again with the hand into long slips, and then cut them to a proper length. Put them into warm water a quarter of an hour. Drain them. Dress them as macaroni. But if they are intended for soups they are to be put in the soup and not into warm water.

I hope you enjoyed the Pasta blog and will subscribe if you haven’t already, I have some wonderful plans for hearth cooking this year.


More to come


Word Press is giving me a fit, I can’t up load my pictures.  This will be figured out. I hope to post again soon,  next will be my macaroni and cheese and hog butchering. 

Thanks for being a part of my journey