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.
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.
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.
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.
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.