A year ago, I bought an 18th century wafer Iron. It was a bit on the rusty, gooey side and needed a good cleaning and seasoning. The plans to get it in working order unfortunately fell by the wayside. However, it is now clean and has been seasoned by Allan, so it is time to try it out.

I looked at several receipts for wafers and came up with three different ones. I thought I’d start with the oldest and work forward in time to see how the different receipts compared. The first receipt was copied from a choice manuscript of Sir Theodore Mayerne, written in 1658, and includes “rare forms of sugar-works: according to the French mode, and English manner.”

The receipt follows.

Take Rose-water or other water, the whites of two eggs and beat them and your water, then put in flour, and make them thick as you would do butter for fritters, then season them with salt, and put in so much sugar as will make them sweet, and so cast them upon your irons being hot, and roule them up upon a little pin of wood; if they cleave to your irons, put in more sugar to your butter, for that will make them turn.

Being that this was a test of the newly seasoned iron I made a very small batch and I added orange flower water instead of rose water, a personal preference and not a huge change to the receipt. I put in enough flour so the batter was similar to a fritter batter mentioned in the receipt.

I put a trivet near the fire and shoveled hot coals under it. I rubbed the inside of the wafer iron with oil and placed it on the trivet to heat up. I waited about five minutes turning it twice.

Making wafers is a two-man job, so as Allan held the wafer iron open while I poured a spoonful of the batter in. Allan clamped down on the iron and put it on the trivet. Two things happened. I had put a bit too much batter in so it ran out the sides, and once the iron handles were let go, they instantly opened a bit. I grabbed a pot holder and clamped down hard.Untitled-1 copy

Now as I sat on a stool before the fire warming myself to a point of doneness, I remembered that the handle should have a little fastener on the end to keep it shut. Well I’ll have to get Allan to make one for the end so I won’t have to sit there roasting.


So I sat by the fireplace turning the wafer iron over and over so both sides would get cooked. After three minutes I took the iron off the fire and put it on the plate for Allan to remove the wafer.  He needed to scrape off the overflow first then I opened the iron and the wafer came off nicely. I took a tin cone and wrapped the wafer around it and we started the process all over again.


This time I did not put as much batter in for the second one. I also let it sit over the coals longer. The first one would not crisp up and stay curled around the tin form. We timed the second one to five minutes, which meant I had to sit there longer. Allan did run off and grab a large poster board and tried to shield me from the hearth fire; however, his hands began to get hot as the board warmed up and he bailed. But the five minutes seemed to be the magic number and the second wafer was great.

I went to put the last of the batter on the heated iron and found that it had gotten very thick so I added a bit of orange flower water to thin it out. It made a perfect wafer and baked over the fire for the allotted five minutes and came off the iron and rolled on the tin cone just as it should.  Now I had to leave the room, and headed to the glassed-in porch to cool myself down. I gazed at the stars and saw the big dipper in the sky pouring its batter of star dust out among the universe, a lovely cold night. My red face began to return to a normal color.

Back in the house, I considered my experience of making wafers. The batter had made four wafers. The first one was not cooked and the others were fine. Each wafer had a bit of dark iron on them from the seasoning process. I think after the iron makes a few more wafers that will disappear. And no one would want to sit by the fire and hold a wafer iron for five minutes. An alteration to the wafer iron handle is a must.

Now the first wafer that was soft, so I went to set on the trivet to see if it would dry out and I dropped it in the fire. Allan and I tasted the second one. It was good; perhaps a bit too much sugar for our taste, however, it had a nice crunch. Allan said it would be much better filled with cream. Me, I’d dip it in dark chocolate.

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So the first receipt gets thumbs up and so does the seasoning of the wafer iron. Stay tuned as I will again use the wafer iron with a receipt from Charles Carter’s cookery book, 1730, a very different batter than this.


“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”

Vincent van Gogh


If my neighbors were looking at me on the porch they might have seen steam rising from my head.



Last year, in the spring, Tom Kelleher gave me a gift of a wood handle from one of the apple trees that was trimmed at Old Sturbridge Village to use for my bake oven door.  I couldn’t use it right away as it took a while to find the right wood for the door.  I was looking for something already old, and with a good color.  In the mean time Allan made me a temporary one that worked just fine, however did not have the look deserving of the old bricks used for the fireplace.

A few weeks ago Allan came across just the right wood and put together the new, old -looking door.  The apple wood handle needed to be peeled of its bark and made smooth; however, Allan was careful not to remove the soft nutty brown color underneath. I love the color of the wood he used as it matched the handle so well.  The handle itself is, well spectacular.  I love the way it twists and has a place for your thumb as you remove the door.  You can see by the pictures this is not an ordinary handle, this has character and movement.  I think it sings of happy baking days and the warmth and aroma of the bread sliding out on the peel.

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(Pictures from left and right to see the curve of the handle)

Thanks Tom for such a thoughtful gift.  I will think of you each time I use the bake oven door.  And Allan as always.


“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” – Robert Browning

A thank You

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Thank you for sharing the photo of Paul & I together. (from the last workshop)  The chewits were delicious!  I particularly enjoyed the hare filling which was moist with a tender flavor.  Wish it hadn’t slipped my mind to add thyme as had intended to do so, but will try it next time we make this receipt as think it would be a nice accompaniment to the flavor.  Paul preferred the pork.  Although this filling was drier than the hare, your suggestion of adding the leftover apple filling was a good one and would definitely go that route again…and I would add even more blue cheese too.

After eating many of the hand pies, did some reading about bone marrow as enjoyed those hand pies the most and was curious about it.(Spinach and Marrow Hand Pies)  Found some interesting reading online about the health benefits of bone marrow, its history as a staple for Indians, and how bone marrow is considered a gourmet delicacy by some and is still widely used in many other countries despite having fallen out of favor here.  Learn something new every day!

Your classes are so informative and we find we always come away with renewed interest every time.  Thanks for providing this fun opportunity.

Talk to you again soon,



A Workshop in Historic Recipe Research

Historic Deerfield Mass.

March 17, 2014 – March 19, 2014 | 9:00 pm – 5:00 pm


Once again Sandra 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. The all-inclusive registration fee includes course materials, meals and four nights (Sunday-Thursday) lodging at the Deerfield Inn.

To register Contact

Julie Orvis     Historic Deerfield

   413-775-7179         events@historic-deerfield.org


Before there were vessels to bake our food in, flour was mixed with lard and water, formed into various shapes, and filled with a mix of meat and or fruit with spices. As I mentioned in earlier posts, these vessels had names like Chawetty, Chewits, Coffins , Daryoles , Pyes and Pasties; once filled, they were baked or deep fried.

These parcels with savory or sweet filling would be served at Medieval and Tutor banquets. The smaller Chewits and Hand Pyes made a very convenient package for the traveler or worker to put in a pocket and eat on the way. ENGLISH TAKE OUT!


I decided that the first workshop of the year would be on how to make these smaller chewits and hand pyes. I spent many weeks pouring over receipts from the 14th century to the 18th century, trying to find receipts that did not include, cocks combs, tongues, sweet breads, ambergris and other ingredients unlikely to be eaten by my participants. It took a while, and I settled on several receipts that I was sure would fit our 21st century taste.

The day of the workshop arrived, and I assembled the ingredients on the wall dresser and the side table. I also needed items for our pottage. Being that the hand pie and chewits were going home with their makers we needed to have a light midday meal while we worked.


Due to unforeseen circumstances, three participants rescheduled for other workshops. However, Paul and Heather arrived ready to explore these medieval techniques. After reading through the receipts, we needed to prepare some things ahead of time. The apples were cored, put into a kettle to bake, the spinach went into a pan to steam, marrow bones were roasted and eggs boiled.

Our first receipt came from the Tutor Cookery of Hampton Court Palace in England, “Figs and Dates Hand Pyes.” The figs and dates were chopped with spices and mixed thoroughly.  Robert Smith’s receipt from The Compleat English Cook was “Apples Pyes to Fry.” The cored apples in the bake kettle had split their skins and the pulp was just right for scooping out, and mixing with lemon, quince marmalade and sugar. Heather added the sugar as she knew Paul would be a bit heavy-handed.


Our third pye was a receipt from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened – 1669, “Excellent Marrow-Spinach-Pasties” This receipt is both savory and sweet as it has marrow, spinach, currants and sugar.

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Our dough was next and the receipt came from a medieval cookbook called A Proper new Booke of Cokery – 1545. This receipt was different than some; it calls for egg whites and saffron water to mix with the dough. With a pinch of sugar added we were sure it would be tasty.


Each receipt made enough dough for 12 hand pyes. Heather and Paul rolled it out and cut out circles about the size of a tea cup. Each circle was given a half tablespoon of filling, the edge of the dough dampened and then folded over to make a half moon. With the edges crimped in various ways they were placed on the platter.

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With the hand pyes all filled and ready to cook, Heather and Paul took turns by the warm fire frying them. When they got to be a golden brown they were placed on a towel to drain.

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The day before I made Manchet Rolls from “Martha Washinton’s Booke of Cookery.” Placing the bowl in a warm place for over two hours, the yeast worked its magic and it had doubled in size. When I punched it down and divided the dough; it made 16 rolls. I baked some and froze the rest. I’m hoping the frozen ones will cook as nicely as the first ones did.


For our midday meal I made a “Pease Pottage” from Robert May’s, The Accomplisht cook. I wanted to make the potage hearty so I decided to beef it up a bit with extra vegetables. First I boiled a smoked ham knuckle for a long time the day before and the day of the workshop I skimmed off the fat from the gelatin broth. I hung a pot over the fire and sautéed a few onions, garlic, carrots and celery, and when they were soft in went the broth, peas and the rest of the larger cut carrots, onions, celery, parsnips and potatoes. This simmered all morning and was stirred now and again.

Deserving a rest after frying all the hand pyes, Heather and Paul sat to enjoy a midday meal of pottage and manchets. On top of the pottage we floated a bit of sherry which complemented the flavors of the broth and vegetables that had simmered together.

For dessert, we dug into the hand pyes, each one was different and all were very good. With our meal finished, we began the next part of the workshop, the Chawettys .9copy

Paul prepared the loin of the hare to use in the 1685 receipt from Robert Mays, The Accomplisht Cook, which includes grapes and thick bacon mixed with spices both sweet and savory. Heather sautéed the pork tenderloin over the fire for the “Pork Chawettys” receipt that I found in the, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books – Published by the “Early English Text Society” in 1888.

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The Pork Chawettys were seasoned with dates, ginger, cinnamon, bleu cheese and hard boiled eggs. With the fillings prepared, the dough was made with flour, lard, butter, salt and water. This made a stiff dough and Paul, who is the expert at dough-making, made a quick task of it.

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The dough was divided in half and each half cut into four pieces. Then each piece had some removed for the lid of the Chawettys. I have seen several different ways to make the vessel for the filling. In Robert Deeley’s book , The Cauldron, The Spit and The Fire, he pictures a wonderful old coffin form made of wood. I have one now, however it is too large for chewits. So we used a potato masher. This worked very well, and both Heather and Paul’s dough raised high.

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Every cook has his or her own likes and dislikes in spices, and other ingredients they might use. I explained that the receipts I printed were guidelines, and they could put other spices or fruit in to them as they might like. The Pork called for a green cheese. A green cheese is any unripe cheese such as bleu cheese. Paul is not really a cheese person so he omitted the bleu cheese and instead he added the leftover apples from the hand pyes. The hare filling included fresh grapes. With the filling placed inside, the lid was rolled out and brushed with water and pinched in place.


With two different fillings, we decided to decorate the tops of the pork Chawettys so they would know which one was which when they came out of the oven. Heather and Paul made theirs different so they could tell the cheese from the non-cheese.


When they were all made, the chawettys were basted with an egg yolk and saffron mixture that made the crust a lovely red yellow. In several receipts, I found the use of cochineal, red sandalwood and saffron to turn the dough red. Not having my delivery from Dobyns and Martin Grocers yet, I only had the saffron and it looked fine. The chawettys were slid into the oven to bake for about 25 – 30 minutes.


Baked to perfection, the chawettys were taken out and the proud makers took them home. Heather said they would have them during the Super Bowl. They left, and then returned a bit later, as Heather had forgotten her glasses. They had already eaten several of the hand pyes in route, not waiting to get home. They did look very tasty.

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I was sorry to see them go, both Heather and Paul, and the accomplishments of the day. I will need to make my own soon. I’m thinking turkey, chestnuts and cranberries.

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There is still room in a few classes so:

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
― Ruth Reichl




With the museum closed for the winter months it is always nice to get-together with co-workers once and awhile to visit with each other and have some fun.  There was a trip to the MFA in Boston and on Saturday a few ladies came to cook at my hearth.  This was a full workshop as well as a time to talk about up-coming events.  We will all be going to the “Life and Death Symposium” next Saturday in Portsmouth.  However for now we are going to cook, roast and bake.

Marsh, Lisa and Sidney arrived first, followed by Sherry and Cathy. After a few house keeping things and a run-through of the receipts we were on our way to a great meal. Chicken on a string and fish on a plank were the first order of the day.


Sidney and Sherry took apples, onion, herbs and spices and put them into the cavity of the chicken, then sewed it up to keep all the goodness inside.  On the other side of the table, Cathy, Lisa and Marsha stuffed the fish with lemons and herds with butter.


While the butter churned and the chicken was stitched up, a medley of vegetables were prepared to par boil.  Cathy egged and breaded the outside of the fish.3 copy

With skewers pushed through the wings and highs a string was attached and the chicken hung before the fire about 4 inches above the drip pan

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The girls tried their hand at everything and took turns churning the butter that we would be use for our potatoes rolls and cooking as we went along. The fish was secured to the board with string and it was placed in the fire and every so often it needed to be turned upside down


The vegetables were taken out of the water and deemed par boiled, the apples also came off the fire and had the perfect tenderness to them.  Our fish needed to be re-planked.  The strings were cut and the fish was gently turned over, so the other side could bake.  It was washed with eggs and sprinkled with bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Tied once more to the board it went into the fireplace for more roasting


Our dessert was from Charles Carter 1730. Tort De Pomme made with a sugar paste crust.  Cathy made the dough and every one pitched in and peel apples and par boil them, cut oranges rinds and made the custard.  Cathy’s sugar paste came out beautiful and there was some leftover so she made a large fruit roll up with preserves fig, plumb and apple.  Wastes not want not!  With the softened apples in the shell Cathy put the dish by the fire to warm before adding the custard and putting it in the bake oven.  One must always remember that cold crockery will break if not heated a bit before it goes into a bake oven or kettle.


Sidney the newest member of the Moffatt Ladd family, and a professed non-cook, dove right into cracking eggs and not scrambling them in the hot cream, to make the custard for the pie.  With a little encouragement from Marsha she made velvety smooth custard with no lumps.  Go Sidney!

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This custard was poured over the apple, orange peel and citron mixture and popped into the bake oven.8copy

Sidney was a fast and efficient worker at the sink and kept us all in clean utensils and bowls.  We didn’t make her do all the dishes she had help. However she was the head dishwasher for the day.  Our chicken was not cooking fast enough for me so we moved it inside the fireplace and hung it from the crane.  It needed to be spun often, however everyone did their share of twisting the string. In the pan under the chicken you can see the vegetables roasting, infused with garlic, sweet oil and herbs, it gave off a tantalizing aroma.

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Allan dropped in to see how we were doing and took a picture of all of us having a brief respite from the days work.


Sherry made the Potato rolls.  Potatoes were approves as a  food fit for humans in the mid 1700 and a French pharmacist Antoine Parmentier may have written down the first receipt for potatoes bread.  From there various receipts were propagated by authors I have read.  However the earliest receipt I can find is one from 1794 by Madame Merigot.  This receipt is a no-knead dough and very sticky.  It made the loveliest browned rolls which were light in texture and made you ask, where is that home churned butter?


With all the main food preparation done it was time to make sauces for the fish and chicken.  From the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies the receipt for “How to make sauce for a Fish without gravy” was made.  Butter, wine, lemon juice, lobster stock, anchovies and horseradish was heated through, with thyme and parsley for a tangy sauce.  I forgot to purchase the cranberries for the chicken sauce so Marsha and I improvised.  I had an orange, a jar of cranberry preserves, and some sherry and into a redware pipkin they went. Add a little garlic and salt and pepper and it was ready to reduce by the fire.  Now it was time to plate all our hard labor. The fish was cut down the back and plated with the bones carefully removed.

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The chicken was hoisted from the fire and un-strung and the skewers removed.  Sidney wanted to carve


With the table washed down and set for lunch, the plates of food were placed. First the fish and chicken was put on the table.

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Then a large plate of roasted vegetables, potato rolls and two graves ready for hungry dinners.

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Sherry gave a toast to the accomplished cooks, friends and a new year’s start at the Moffatt Ladd House and Garden Museum

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OH and I did not forget about the Tory De Pomme.  Glistening with citron that looked like gold and apples sitting on a sugar paste, all held together with custard, and was a perfect finish for a winter’s day.


I’m looking forward to the up-coming workshop just as much as I did this one.  There is still room in some workshops and I hope you will join me for a day of fun and hearth cooking. Click on the Open Hearth Workshop Bar for more information.


Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

James Beard