Cow’s BladderPaulus_Potter_-_Young_Bull

I spent several weeks visiting farms and following leads to try and find a cow’s bladder. I have a freezer full of sheep bladders for crocks but nothing large enough to stuff a chicken in. The reason I need one is that I’m doing a program for ALHFAM, The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums. The regional meeting of ALHFAM will be held in March at Old Sturbridge Village. My workshop is called “They Ate That.” It’s a look at foods we don’t often use today. I will use the bladder for Pigeon Pears. I‘ll have more on the receipt and how it is done after the workshop, so stay tuned. If I lived in Europe I’d have no problem getting a bladder, as there they process them, dry them and ship them to all the restaurants who want them. However I’m glad I’m right here in the good old U S of A.


With a lead from Ron, the Executive Chef-Owner of Chez Boucher, in Hampton, I found a place on the other side of Manchester. I gave them a call, and in a week they had a bladder. So Allan and I drove over, not sure what to expect in size or condition. I once bought a cow’s bladder that was badly butchered and had holes in it and was of little use. Now a cow’s bladder is said to be able to hold 40 gallon of urine, that’s one stretchy balloon and the size I’m sure I would be looking for.

We arrive and the place was very busy; that was a good sign; and I introduced myself, and was immediately recognized, I’m sure, as the crazy lady who is looking for a bladder. Not many people pass through their door asking for one of those I bet. While someone went back to get it, I looked around and saw that they sell ½ a pig and many other interesting things. Soon Rick appeared with a clear bag and I was so happy to see a huge bladder in it. It was tied double and placed in a shopping bag. I paid for it and then it dawned on me; why not get a cow’s tongue there too? I’ll need one of those for our tongue pie, and sure enough they had one. So that’s two down, now I just need the cod fish head.

We arrived home, had lunch and I began working on the bladder. I first washed the kitchen sink down really good, found a knife and scissors to use and a few towels. I was ready to clean the bladder. The bladder was filled with urine and had fat and other attachments that needed to be removed. I first washed it down with warm water.


The bladder is a slippery thing and it kept trying to go down the drain. I was afraid it might catch on it and puncture, so I placed it on the bag it came in and began to pull off the fat.


I worked on the bladder for a good 40 minutes to remove all the stuff, using my knife and scissors. Once that was removed I could let the liquid out and then I filled it many times with warm water. There is a light membrane that is attached to the opening and I was very careful not to put any tear in the bladder as I pulled it off. Next I turned it inside out to give it a good wash.


Here you see it cleaned and filled with water. Perhaps not 40 gallons, yet certainly big enough to do a demonstration of how it was stuffed with a chicken. Does look like a balloon, doesn’t it?


I emptied the bladder and flattened it out on a piece of wax paper on a roasting pan and put it in the freezer. After a while it was rock hard and I wrapped it up and put it in a baggie for later use. Not all bladders were used in reciepts, many were used to seal the top of potted meat and other foods to keep during the winter months. Here is one I use as a demo, the top was tighter, however, the kids love to drum on it so it is a bit loose.together

I’m looking forward to the workshop and have other things to prepare before I go, and, thankfully, perhaps for my readers, nothing like this. I need to make 18th century catsup and fish gravy.

Your Most Humble Servant,


Every Dish Has A Past:

A Workshop in Historic Recipe Research

Historic Deerfield Mass.

March 18, 2013 – March 20, 20138:30 am – 5:00 pm

gillis_tablesettingSandra L. Oliver, noted food historian and celebrated author, will lead an intensive three-day workshop in historic recipe research. Each participant selects a recipe and an alternative they would like to research. Class time is divided between lecture and discussion time, and Oliver will teach a method of conducting the research. Each participant will use a combination of resources both real—books in the room—and virtual—on-line resources via computer—to conduct research. Participants are encouraged to bring a computer with wireless capacity. The workshop concludes with a cooking afternoon to test your recipe on the final day in the 1786 kitchen at the Visitor Center at Hall Tavern. Registration includes 3 nights stay Sunday, March 17 to Wednesday (morning), March 20 at the Deerfield Inn Carriage House and all meals. Traveling companions not attending the workshop may come and share in meals for an extra cost. The workshop is limited to 15 participants.

To register Contact

Julie Orvis     Historic Deerfield       413-775-7179




Robert and Mary Smith are not relatives, although genealogy can prove me wrong. Robert Smith wrote Court Cookery Or the Complete English Cook, in 1725. Mary wrote The complete house-keeper and professed cook, in 1772. So why have I joined them together? Well, they both have a receipt for Chicken Fricaffee. Mary’s is To Fricaffee Chicken and Roberts is A Brown Fricaffey of Chicken or Rabbit. The receipts have some similar ingredients, and some very different. They both use a pre-made gravy, one white, one color not mentioned. So I thought I’d check out their gravy receipts, too.

They both have several receipts for gravy; I picked Mary’s, To make White Gravy and Roberts, A good Gravy. Mary uses vegetables to enhance her Leg of veal and Robert uses, butter, anchovies, mushroom and truffles to add his flavor. (Boy what a time to be all out of truffles). These gravies are meant to be made and kept for use when called for. Living with a gravy master, I’m going to have Allan whip up something using both receipts. I know the anchovies will find their way into the sauce. Now the Fricaffe receipts differ in that Robert uses vinegar and is very heavy-handed with the butter and Mary uses lemon and hardly any butter at all. Mary only has some seasoning and Robert empties the buttry of everything he could find. Onions, gravy, parsley, mace, salt and pepper, egg yolks and cream make it in both receipts.

2copyThis evening, it will be just two of us, so I will fricaffey a large Cornish hen. I start with cutting the hen in pieces and putting out all the ingredients I will need for the receipt. I’ll use the long-handled spider, as well a few pots for rice and carrots. Allan had a great fire going and we sat in front of it and enjoyed a glass of wine while we waited for it to burn down so it would have coals.1 copy

The coals were ready and very hot. I mixed butter and a bit of oil in the bottom of the pan and the butter melted instantly but did not burn. I put the chicken pieces in, skin side down, then later when I felt they were nice and brown I turned them over. When I did, the grease in the pan caught fire on the edge and I had to back the pan off the fire a little.

If I was to compose a fricaffey receipt, I’d add mushrooms to give it that earthy flavor to complement the hen. I don’t think Mary or Robert would mind if I added them. I had shitake and oyster mushrooms left over from the making the gravy, so in they went with the chopped onion.2-copy


When everything was a nice crispy brown, I poured in Allan’s Gravy and sprinkled in the salt, pepper and spices. In making the gravy, Allan used a combination of Roberts and Mary’s gravy receipt. There were beef and pork scraps in the freezer which he browned along with chopped celery, carrots, and shallots. Next came the anchovies, mushrooms, parsley, herbs, spices and some red wine. He simmered this for a long time and then strained the liquor from the pot.

The carrots were on the fire simmering away earlier and keeping warm on the hearth. I scooped them out and added them to the spider and gave everything a stir.


Now Robert puts vinegar in his fricaffey and Mary uses lemon. Allan suggested using wine vinegar; this was poured in and mixed about. Then I whipped the egg and cream in a bowl and added some of the hot gravy from the pan into it to temper the eggs and keep them from scrambling in the spider. Once I added the amount I thought I’d need, I gave it a good stir and shook the pan as suggested by Robert’s receipt. Now Robert finishes his fricaffey off with a half pound of butter, I don’t think I need that. I did however; add some of the carrot water from the pot to the pan so the pieces could stay on the fire longer. I wanted to make sure the hen was cooked through.

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Having the carrots ready when I started the hen helped to speed up the cooking process and the pieces took less than 30 minutes. The rice which was leftover from the night before had been sitting by the fire the whole time; it was so hot I could not believe it. Then again, the bell metal pot it was in is a great conductor of heat.

Time to serve, I put the rice down first, then the hen pieces with the carrots and mushroom then I poured the gravy around the dish and on the mushroom mixture. I garnished it with some parsley. The fricaffey was cooked perfectly, and we liked the ingredients, however, the vinegar taste was not present and I think next time I will use Mary’s Lemon at the end as a finish.

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I think Robert, who wanted to “render the Art practicable and eafy,” and Mary, who wrote her book for the “greater ease and assistance of ladies, house-keepers and cooks,” would be happy knowing that I used their receipts and l combined them for my own practicability and greater ease.

Now what should I cook next time – any suggestions?

Your most humble servant,




Slow but sure, my new hearth is taking place, one more week and I can build a fire.g

One of the members of our Culinary Historians just reminded me that we had the pleasure of cooking at his home it two medieval fireplaces. One of which is pictured below.



This time of year when the weatherman calls for a big storm , everyone runs out for milk, eggs, bread and other supplies, to hold them over for the storm to come (or not). Back in the 18th century there were few stores, unless you lived in the cities of that time, and no one to tell you to prepare. And they did not need to know, as they were as prepared as they could be. It was the “Months of Want,” February, March and April, which were the hardest to survive food wise. By these months, if you had anything left from your preservation efforts and in the root cellar you were a lucky family. Getting nutrition from preserved food was all you had.sleepyhollowc

At Halloween, I bought a cooking pumpkin and I have managed to keep it edible for over three months. However, it was time to use it or lose it. My friend Sabra came to mind. Several years ago she brought a stuffed pumpkin to the Hartwell Tavern Preservation Day event, at Minuteman National Park. So I emailed her and she sent her receipt. She does not remember where it came from and thought it might be French. She had gotten the receipt at a hearth cooking class. Well, we may not have an original receipt, however, I’m sure we can say with some certainty that pumpkins were used as a cooking vessel and may have been stuffed and served in the 18th century. I liked Sabra’s ingredients and used those as my base. All the while my husband Allan is huffing about the house and wishing we were cooking steak instead. I held to my guns and told him if he did not like it he could have the leftovers from the night before.

Now, I had preserved in my freezer sausage, and ground chuck, in the larder I had onions, garlic, dried mushrooms, rice and dried beans. Along with some ground mustard, salt and pepper I thought I had a great combination going. I had been to the store, like a good New Englander, readying myself for the storm and saw some very nice marrow bones and brought them home.

I roasted the marrow bones for about 45 minutes and ended up with a lovely clear fat on the bottom of the pan and soft, and hopefully flavorful, marrow on the inside of the bones. I scooped out the marrow and saved all the fat. Not sure what I may use it for yet I just could not throw the fat away. While the bones were cooking, I scooped out the pumpkin and made brown rice.

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I had already soaked and cooked the beans and just needed to drain them. I put the dried mushrooms in boiling water to make them soft and gave them a rough chop. In a skillet, I fried the sausage, out of their casings, and the beef. When they were almost brown, I added the marrow, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and the mushrooms. After it all sautéed a bit, I poured it into the bowl.2copy

I rubbed the inside of the pumpkin with the dried mustard. I added some thyme and began to fill it with the mixture and placed it in a kettle with a cup of water around it, and placed it on the hearth. But then I thought “oh, no” I forgot the beans. Those were added at the hearth, and mixed as best I could.3copy

All the ingredients inside the pumpkin were cooked and I really just needed to have the pumpkin get soft on the inside. Turning it now and then, and placing it very near the fire, which we kept very hot, I poked at it, like any good cook, and when I thought it was tender I took it to the kitchen. It took the pumpkin about two hours to become soft inside.  


So the hour of reckoning was here. I piled Allan’s plate with the stuffing and waited for his verdict. Don’t ya know he’s a man and he loved it, raved about it. Told me to write down what I did right away so I would not forget. He was so glad that we had some left over!

So our winter blizzard and days of want came and went with bellies full and thoughts of “What can I cook for him next?”

May you never have a month or day of want.





According to Mark Strauss at the Smithsonian, we have celebrated Valentine’s Day since Roman Times. I like this passage he writes of a traveler’s diary from the early 18th century that notes: “On the eve of St. Valentine’s Day . . . An equal number of maids and bachelors get together; each writes his or her true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men’s billets, and the men the maids’ . . . Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the Valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses [and] wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves.”

I’ve also read that gift-giving and exchanging handmade cards on Valentine’s Day had become common and handmade Valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts began to be created on this day and handed over to the man or woman one loved. This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies due to the import from England of booklets, or “writers,” which had “be my Valentine” verses and messages which could be copied into cards or letters.

It was not until 1843 that Valentine’s Day greeting cards began to be commercially produced, the first one created by Esther A. Howland, a native of Worcester, Massachusetts. 

So I find that Valentine’s Day has come around again, and last year I made Allan a cheesecake. (See February 2012 Post) This year I decided on a Lobster and Scallop Pie. Looking at several cookery books, I found first a receipt from Hannah Glasse called “To Make a Lobster Pie.” 

 This is a rather simple receipt with few ingredients and seemed a bit bland, so I continued to look to find something a bit special for this Valentine’s Day treat. In Charles Carter’s 1730 cookery book I found one that I also liked yet it had too many sweet seasonings. Hannah uses vinegar in her lobster, Carter uses sack (sherry or a red wine) and this sounds more interesting. He also uses a leer (sauce or gravy) in the pie. So I will combine the two receipts to satisfy our taste in seafood.

I had two small lobsters and a few scallops for the pie. I started by cooking the lobster about 10 minutes, just enough so the meat could be removed from the shell. Next a puff paste as per Hannah. She does not mention blind baking the crust and it may be just something they did or did not do and did not write down. I wanted to try it without baking the bottom first. I think the heat under the kettle will brown it up nicely. I had already put the kettle by the fire to warm up, as I wanted a high heat.

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 I lined the pie tin with the puff paste and filled it with lobster and scallops. For a sauce, Allan heated cream in a sauce pan, then added some to, two whipped egg yolks to temper them. After he whisked the egg mixture back into the cream he added anchovy paste, salt and pepper, butter and sherry, to round off the sauce. This became our leer and we poured it over the lobster and scallops. 2 copy

I rolled out the top paste and cut some hearts out from the sides. With the top in place and decorated with the hearts, into the kettle it went. I turned it every 10 minutes or so and took a look half-way through. It was not cooking as fast as I would have liked, so I put more coals under and over the kettle.

3 copy The added coals worked, and the hearts puffed up and the sides pulled away from the pan. It took about 45 minutes total. I scooped it out onto the plates. It lacked presentation as it flowed out of the crust onto the dish, however, it tasted wonderful. There were some leftovers and they will make a nice starter for our next meal.

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We will celebrate Valentine’s Day, on the 14th of February by going off to lunch at one of our favorite resturants in Portsmouth. I doubt they will have a seafood pie as great as this, however.

 Happy Valentine’s Day