A WORKSHOP WITH SANDRA OLIVER What a changing and rewarding encounter! Sandy had us jumping hoops through our culinary thinking muscles and digging deep into our chosen receipt. It will take a week or more to go over all the notes and pictures to post a proper blog. It was truly a participatory and collaborative experience, and enjoyed by all. Each person who attended was helpful and shared what they had found that pertained to our own receipt while they were researching theirs. And the proof of our efforts was celebrated by cooking on the hearth and sharing a meal of discovery. Thank you, Sandy, for providing us with such a wonderful, interactive and educational experience. Sandie
A workshop presented at the ALHFAM conference by
Tom Kelleher, Curator of Mechanical Arts at Old Sturbridge Village
Of all the workshops I attended at the ALFAM regional at OSV, this may be the most difficult to explain. Every year there is an auction to raise money for a fellowship to the conference the following year. This year I bid on a piggin made by Tom. I wanted it for under my table, in front of the hearth, so I had something to put refuse in while cooking.
Well, I won the bid, and off I went to watch Tom make the piggin. This was one of the workshops offered and I could not miss the making of my wooden piggin. While taking pictures, I was also taking notes so I could write this blog. Well, there must be over ten different tools, and a ton of steps needed to make a wooden piggin, and most were unfamiliar to me. My husband may be a carpenter when we need something, yet coopering is a whole other art form. So I’ll do my best to wander my way to the mystery of coopering.
Tom had pre-made the staves to make the piggin. He demonstrated on one by putting it on the shaving horse, and ,using the coopers draw knife, he curves the back. With a hollowing knife, the curve of the inside was done, and then, using the joint plane, he tapered the sides.
To hold the staves together, Tom takes iron hoops to use as a template, and a funny pin (for which I have no name.) Being that this piggin was to be mine he asked if I wanted the wide side up or down. I opted for up, this way I could easily throw food waste into it. Tom hammers the handle down to make the top wide.
The hoop driver is grooved to prevent them from slipping off the hoops when hit by the hammer. These hoops will tighten up the sides and are temporary.
With the aid of a hammer, the bottom is tapped in place and the temporary hoop is once again tightened.
Now this is where my battery went dead in the camera. However, as I remember it, Tom then made the permanent hoops and placed the bottom on first then the top. He also ran the piggin bottom over the joint plane to make it level. Next he cut a curve in the handle and took a pen knife to round off the top. I have over-simplified the process that took almost two hours. However, it came out perfect, and I’m so glad to have my own original Tom Kelleher piggin.
To Make Minced Tongue Pie
Last, but not least, the third receipt is minced tongue pie. Minced pie is a medieval combination of meat, fruit, sugar and spices. Over the years it has changed from a first course to a dessert, often doused in liquor and served at Christmas.
The Puritans banned minced pie as it had become synonymous with Christmas, which they appalled. Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan influence reached as far as the colonies, and for 22 years in Massachusetts there was no Christmas. According to Linda Stradley, of the blog “What’s Cooking America,” “The pie’s sullied reputation stuck, and even in 1733 a writer still lamented that Puritans “inveigh[ed] against Christmas Pye, as an Invention of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon . . . the Devil and all his Works.” Strong words for a pie.
So I started looking at tongue and minced pie receipts, and went as far back as 1658 and up to 1785. The receipts were both sweet and savory with the sweet leading the pack. With the exception of the tongue, there was no one ingredient that was used in all the 16 receipts I examined. The next most-used ingredient was Sack or some type of wine followed by sugar, mace, nutmeg, cloves, suet, cinnamon, lemon, orange and citron, next apples, and last, raisins, in that order. I found some interesting ingredients too, butter, orange and rose water, chestnuts, bacon, artichokes, eggs, anchovies, grapes, bread crumbs and cream. There did not seem to be any indication that any one year used more ingredients than another, it was sporadic. The majority did not mention what type of crust they used, but puff paste, coffin and high paste were mentioned. For the most part, they were making one pie, yet in the early receipts they mention making small hand pies also. The name of the pie did change over the course of the years; we start with, To Make Tongue Pye, and end with, To Make Minced Pie of Tongue. Several of the later receipts called for previously made minced to which you added the tongue.
Modern day mince meat pies contain no meat, and sometimes no alcohol, yet they do have every other ingredient under the sun in them. Most minced pies today are made with bottled minced meat, which has no meat, no tongue. The meat is the fruit that has been chopped to tiny bits.
For the “Minced Pie of Tongue,” Kathleen took the lead. Being a great pastry maker as well as a superior hearth cook, I knew that, under her guidance, the pie would be made to perfection.
Kathleen was joined by Linda and John. While the ladies peeled lemons and oranges, and cut in the butter for the pastry, John chopped the tongue and suet. Here he has cut the large tongue to human size. This workshop was not all work and no play.
With the pie done it was placed in the bake kettle on the hearth, and coals placed below and on top. The kettle was turned a time or two until it was deemed ready, Kathleen and Linda carefully take it out of the hot kettle.
The minced tongue pie team gathers for a final photo with their warm pie ready to be served. The crust had a wonderful buttery taste while the suet mixed with the tongue; apples, spices, raisin and other ingredients gave everything a luscious texture. The brandy also added bit of a kick.
This ALHFAM workshop was wonderful to present as the participants were all so eager to cook on the hearth. Some had only hearth-cooked a time or two, others were real pros. This provided a great combination as many shared tips and experiences they have had along their journey cooking on the open hearth.
With the workshop coming to a close, and the cleanup complete, we headed out the door. I hope that everyone took something new away with them. I know I did. Thank you all for participating.
Off to “Every Dish Has a Past” Workshop, with Sandra Oliver
OPEN HEARTH COOKING CLASSES
Start APRIL 13,
for more information go to the side bar
TO: OPEN HEARTH COOKING CLASSES
AND SLIDE THE CURSER TO THE LEFT AND CLICK
To Boil Fish Head
Our second receipt for “They Ate That” was boiled fish head. I found four receipts that looked interesting. Mary Smith, The Complete Housekeeper, had a cod’s head with shoulder, boiled with a simple garnish around it when done. Charles Carter, The Practical Cook, Edward Kidder, Receipts of Pastry and Cookery and Robert Smith, Court Cookery all seemed very similar by using a fagot of herbs, dressing it with various seafood and horseradish, and then garnishes. I decided on “To Boil a Codf Head” by Robert Smith, Court Cookery or The Complete English Cook.
When reading the introduction to Robert Smith’s cookery book, I got the feeling that he had a rather high opinion of himself and was rather insecure. He tells us of all the lofty patrons he serves and of how, when he shared his receipts, they would show up in someone else’s work, and done badly at that. So he wished to publish his cookery book and set the record straight as to what he considered his receipts and how they should be executed. He is not the first person to feel this way, I’m sure. Many early cookbooks were copied almost word for word with little changes. He humbles himself by mentioning that he wanted to omit all extravagancy in using silver scallops-shells and silver skewers, yet “left several valuable ones not unworthy the greatest Prince.”
The cookery book also contains a variety of receipts from friends “to render it more complete.” However, he does not give them credit for any particular receipt. It is possibly the use of lobster and shrimp that makes this fish head worthy of a prince. Our team for the “To Boil a Codf Head” comprised of Vicky, Linda, and Tom. The receipt for the fish seems simple, boil the head, make a sauce and garnish it. However, it is really more complicated than that. There is gravy involved in the sauce, and many steps to put it all together. Our trio cuts onions and starts the garnish and reviews the receipt. While Vickie tends to the simmering fish head and Faith blanches the spinach for the pigeon pear, Ryan, our trusty ALHFAM event planner, snaps pictures. Tom and Vicky remove the fish head and take it to the table. Here it is unwrapped from the cheese cloth and plated. Tom had ready all of the garnishes, lobster, shrimp, parsley, toast points and artfully cut lemons. Linda gets ready to pour on the gravy and the dish is ready to serve. Once again we had many a visitor sampling their wonderful cooking. The fish was cooked perfectly, and the gravy delicious, and the presentation as good as any four-star restaurant. Happy cooking! Sandie
When the ALHFAM New England Regional organization called for Foodways Programs for the Old Sturbridge Village conference in March 2013, I sent in a proposal. I knew I wanted to do something different, and different it would be. The title was called “They Ate That!” Pigeon Pear, Boiled Cods, Head and yummy minced Pie of Tongue,” a look at foods we don’t see on the menu today. This would be a workshop that explored some unexpected and shunned foods by today’s standards. My proposal was accepted and during the next few weeks I will post the results of our hearth cooking adventure at the ALHFAM regional conference. My first task was to find the best receipts for the three dishes. Edward Kidder was the inspiration for the Pigeon Pear. His receipt was novel and one of the few I have come across that uses a bladder. Edward Kidder was born in 1667 in Canterbury, England, and became a master pastry chef. He moved to London where the men of great power lived and worked. These lawyers and aldermen entertained in lavish style, and became his patrons. Kidder did more that sweets, he made robust food for large scale banquets and intimate dinner parties. In 1740, he wrote his receipts down in a beautifully illustrated book with elegant copper engravings of colored still-life with food, drinks and urns of flowers. Our team for the Pigeon Pear receipt was Faith, Beth and Susan. After reading the receipt through, they each took a task and started out. Gizzards were boiled, bread was toasted, spinach was blanched, gravy made and forced meat and a stuffing put together. With everything ready, Beth wraps the bird in bacon and stuffs the bladder with the forced meat stuffed, Cornish hen.
After the bladder cooled off, I cut the ties and the bladder in an attempt to save it for use on a crock. Unfortunately, it had too much food stuff stuck to it so I abandoned that idea. Then it was time to turn over to the chefs the cutting and serving of the Cornish Pear. Due to time restraints, we did not get to finish the hen. It still needed to be browned by the fire to crisp the bacon. I have posted a picture of one that I did previously. However, the cooks produced a delicious, tender and moist chicken. We ended sharing our feast with other workshop participants. A job well done and enjoyed, thanks to three remarkable ladies who came to cook. Happy cooking! Sandie
Day one, John Forti gave a very inspiring talk called,
“From Sustenance to Relevance:
Creating Community Resilience”
How to reinterpreting food, teaching local food history and the growing importance of our local farm markets in today’s society. John is the Curator of Historic Landscapes at Strawberry Bank and a good friend. Below are two pictures of John.
There will be more on John and the weekend at the ALHFAM conference in the coming weeks.