GOOSEBERRIES

Hardy gooseberries are native to New England; however, the early English brought some of their own varieties with them when they came. Unfortunately, many were less hardy and didn’t like the warm weather, some survived and some did not. There is now a moratorium on new plantings of gooseberries in New Hampshire. According to the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, even the so-called new resistant varieties can be infected with white pine blister rust that can weaken and even kill white pine trees. So I won’t be planting my own soon.

Fortunately for me, we have a wonderful old English variety called Ribes uva-crispa , in the Moffatt-Ladd garden, and I was able to pick some. The gooseberries at the museum are smaller yet, when ripe, very sweet. I picked the largest green ones that I could find for one of my receipt and then just picked others to make jam.gooseberry-spring

I have always wanted to make gooseberries that look like hops. There are many receipts out there, the first being Eliza Smith 1727, The Compleat Housewife. However, I decided to use W. A. Henderson The Housekeeper’s Instructor, 1792. This is a receipt that I found on Ivan Day’s site. I love his story about how Liza Smith impaled her split gooseberries on thorns, could be dangerous if you swallowed one. Like Henderson, I’m using linen thread.

The first thing I needed to do is wash them and pick through them. I then picked out the largest of the gooseberries. There were only a few that were still very green so I added some that were starting to ripen. Then I arrange six to be made into the imitation of hops. With a knife I cut the gooseberries from the stem side and split it into four without going all the way to the flower end. Then the arduous task of taking out all the seeds begins. Now this is when I wish I had a servant; it takes a long time to remove all the seeds.

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After you have the gooseberries strung, they need to be blanched. I had picked grape leaves from the garden also and put a layer of them in cold water in a shallow pan. I then began to layer gooseberry hops in-between the leaves. The use of the leaves is to help the gooseberries keep their green color. I put a cover on it and let the water heat just until small bubbles formed. When blanched, I took them out and put them in ice water to stop the cooking. I did not want them to get to soft and fall apart.

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With the gooseberries hops cooled, I put them on a plate, while I boiled sugar water and made thick sugary syrup to pour over them.

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I took the jar to my talk on kitchens at the Museum and put some on the tiered stand to give everyone a good look at them. They do look like hops. When I brought them home I put brandy on the top of the syrup to keep them safe from bacteria.

I like them, and even though they are troublesome to make, they will look great as an eatable decoration around a squab or fish dish.

Sandie

Gooseberry (Shrub)

…The tart fruit is eaten ripe and often made into jellies, preserves, pies, and other desserts or wine. Hundreds of varieties are grown in northern Europe, many interplanted in fruit orchards. English gooseberries ( R. uva-crispa), popularly called grossularia, are native to the Old World and have long been cultivated for fruit.

OF KITCHENS AND FOOD

So the day of my talk has come and gone.  I spent weeks researching all the stoves that were layered one behind another in the space that used to be the 1763 cooking hearth. With help from some ALHFAM friends I found out about the patents, makers and seller of the stoves that were found in the house.kitchen  M&Lcopy

There were three in all, starting with the brick-set stove placed inside the firebox of the old fireplace and then the M. Pond Glenwood B, 1991 iron wonder and last, a gas stove, perhaps for warmth. split stove copy

With each generation of families that lived there, I showed slides of the food they would have eaten, and the cooking utensils they needed, and how both changed over time.fish beef

 The talk was held in the barn of the Moffatt-Ladd Warehouse and the day was hot. I was happy to have at least a few guests who would venture out in such heat to hear my discourse on stoves and food. talk

 I had prepared a table of various foods and items used in cooking to help explain what and how a cook might have operated in the various stages of the kitchen.table

 I brought mushroom ketchup, rose water, pumpkin leather and pickles, and gooseberries made to look like hops. I had cooked and decorated a coffin and arranged a plate of goodies with marzipan walnuts, filled with comfits and tied with a bow, fresh grapes from the garden and ripe gooseberries.split t

And I could not leave out Alexander Ladd’s favorite dish, Squabtougn

After the talk I described the various things on the table and how things had changed over time, how they did their preserving with a crock and a cow’s bladder in 1763 and the 1800’s version of pickling with a glass jar.standing jpg

I let everyone smell the rose water and the mushroom ketchup, and showed how the cinnamon marzipan walnuts were made.  I displayed a jar of gooseberry made like hops in sugar syrup. There were bags filled with chestnut flour and Isinglass and the cake pan with no bottom.flour jpg

We talked for quite a while, as everyone had questions about the differences in the centuries and where and why certain foods were served. Who knew that stoves and food could turn into a performance? It was a nice afternoon and I enjoyed sharing the stories of the Moffatt-Ladd kitchen and the food that was served.

Sandie

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

Oscar Wilde

Kitchens to be Featured

A Special Talk and Tour at the Moffatt-Ladd House 

Join culinary historian and Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden staff member Sandra Tarbox for a voyage through time and an in-depth look at the evolution of the house’s kitchen. This power point presentation will show how the different stoves were installed in the kitchen over time, as hearth cooking gave way to the iron stove, and technological improvements made it possible for cooks to have running water in the kitchen, and “refrigerators” to keep food cool.  Cabinets were added to hold preserved foods and varieties of cookware and serving pieces.  Sandra will peel away the layers of the 1911 kitchen as it was restoed during the 1960’s and discuss how the new iron stoves changed along with the food that was cooked.  For the occasion Sandra will create a special display of foods cooked in the kicthen by the six cooks of the house.   See what looks good, and take a recipe to try at home! 

Thursday July 18th at 4:30 addmission $5.00

 

WILD STRAWBERRIES

At the Moffat Ladd House Museum in Portsmouth, where I work, their gardens are surrounded by wild strawberries. I had some free time in the morning to go out and pick some and bring them home. Having the next day off and with the temperature finally getting out of the 90s and the humidity dropping, I thought it was a good time to make a strawberry cheesecake.

Now wild strawberries are tiny, exquisitely sweet and very small, and taste better than what you can find at the store. It takes a long time to pick a bowlful. Here you can see the wild plant, those strawberries that I picked and a modern one sitting next to the wild one. I did mention tiny, right!1 copy

My go-to receipt for cheesecake has always been the one from Plimouth Plantation 1627 that came from our receipts folder at Strawberry Banke. However, that is all the receipt says, Plimouth Plantation Cheesecake 1627. So I emailed Kathleen Wall at Plimouth and asked her if she knew the source of the receipt. As it turns out cheesecake was unlikely to be made there. HMMM, so where does this receipt come from. We really don’t know! Kathleen sent me the receipt “To make Cheesecakes other wayes” from Robert May’s The Accomplish’t Cook. This receipt had been put in modern language and has measurements; they use it as a handout.

So I went looking at Robert May’s cookbook and found he has nine receipts for cheesecake. I picked the one closest to the one I have been using, and that includes almond flour.  

I mixed my flour, salt and sugar together and added my cold butter and cut it in until it looked like corn meal. Next I whipped up the egg white and water and quickly mixed that until it held together. I placed it on a floured board and made a four-inch round disk. This I wrapped and put in the refrigerator for an hour or so.

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In several of May’s paste receipts he calls for the pie shell to dried, which means pre-cooked. This helps to have the pastry crispy all over. I had more dough than I needed, so I made an extra blank shell to use at the end of the week with something wonderful.

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While the pie shells baked, I made the filling according to my receipt that is close to May’s, yet in a lesser amount. He was cooking cheesecake for a crowd; I’m cooking for two. I creamed the butter and sugar in the bowl then added the ground almonds, cheese, cream, mace, salt and rose water. I went easy on the rose water as I wanted the flavor of the strawberries to be the highlight. In went the eggs and everything was beaten well. I floured the strawberries before I placed them in the bowl. A light hand was needed to stir them in.

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With my shell prebaked, I poured in the batter, and into the bake oven it went. The temperature in the bake oven was about 400 degrees; falling oven, (cooling) and it took just about 40 minutes to cook. I left it in the opening to cool down a bit before I removed it to the pantry to sit.

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The smell of the pastry was wonderful, and I wanted to dig right in. However, I waited until it was cold and I could share it with my husband. Now, this is not your everyday cheesecake. Early receipts produce a flavor and texture very different than what we are used to in modern recipes.  A small piece goes a long way. I found the strawberries to be excellent in the body of the cheesecake, and, with the faint aroma of the rose water, it really woke up all of your senses, sight, smell, taste, and the feeling on your tongue that dances in delight. An upbeat satisfied sigh in praise of this dessert completes the tour of the senses.

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Go out and pick wild strawberries now before they are gone. Even if you don’t cook with them, just eating a handful will wake up your senses.

Did you know that Portsmouth N.H was once called Strawberry Banke because it was covered in this wonderful tiny fruit?

Sandie

Strawberry Quote:
“We are bound by a small, sometimes magical fruit called the strawberry. This fruit has the power to make tears dry up, make friends with enemies, make sick people feel better, make the elderly feel younger by bringing back pleasant memories of days gone by, make acquaintances of strangers, and above all, make little children smile. What other fruit has that power?”
Marvin Brown