Happy Valentine’s Day 

What better meal can you make for Valentine’s Day than steak, salad, toasted bread and cheesecake?  Looking through Robert May cookery booke, I found Carbonadoes of Beef, raw, roasted, or toasted; reading through the receipt, it looked very similar to marinated beef that we might throw on the grill. The marinade has wine, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Interesting, so we gave it a try.

Back in 1440 a Dominican recluse, Galfridus Grammaticus wrote the first English-Latin Dictionary called the Parvulorum, and the word Chesekake shows up, it is defined as a cake or tart. Not having any cookery receipts from the 1400s I went, back to Robert May to a  1685 original receipt for my cheesecake. Now, not wanting to spend several days making cheese I remembered that in the Plymouth Plantation Cook Book there was a receipt I have used before that was adapted from an original. I have posted both receipts in the file. The ricotta in the receipt is very much like what would have been used in the 18th Century, just homemade instead.

First thing to do was to start the cheesecake. The dough was made and refrigerated for an hour. The ingredients brought to room temperature. Once again, I have my granddaughter here to help. You can see her hands creaming the butter and sugar together.

I had pre baked the pie shell. It is interesting to note that this was a common practice in the 1600s, and was called in Robert May’s cookery booke as Dry the coffin. He also makes several tarts in a heart shaped pan. I searched all over for mine, then realized that I gave them to my daughter. So we are using a fluted cake tin instead.

Now, here is where we deviate a bit from the original receipt. This is a Valentine’s Day dinner, so you just have to have RED! My granddaughter mixes all the ingredients together per the receipt and took a bit of the batter out and poured in the red food coloring. We cover the bottom of the pie shell with red, saving some for the top, then in went the rest in white.

Everyone wants a red heart on Valentine’s Day, so we take the leftover red and decorate the top. Now, this is still an original way to make cheesecake, just the decoration is updated. So into the bake kettle it goes. Now all the cheesecakes I have made were done in a bake oven in a water bath so I was a bit worried about not having some water in the bake kettle.

We kept turning the kettle a half turn every ten minutes or so. Having a small working area, I wanted to be careful that we did not burn the cheesecake. Things cook faster and make for a very hot hand and face. I did lift the lid a few times to check that it was OK. The cheesecake only took 30 minutes to bake and was taken out to cool. Not having any water did not seem to affect its baking and the top did not crack.

While all this was happening, my husband made the marinade and let the sirloin tips soak it up for a few hours. Then we took it out and brought it to room temperature for an hour. I decided I’d make a side dish of a salad, having endives and spinach along with some other ingredients. It looked like a painlessly way to get some veggies into my husband.

In section V of Robert Mays cookery booke, you can find a receipt called, “To make a grand Sallet of divers Compounds, “ this includes the white endives. The next receipt is called, “Another way for a grand Sallet.” This receipt calls for putting all the greens into a clean napkin and swinging them to get them dry. I’m sure we have all done this; nothing new under the sun.

With the grill now hot the carbonadoes of beef are placed over the heat.

 In the toaster I placed several slices of bread to warm and left my granddaughter and husband to watch the fire. I went off to compose the salad. First I roasted the endives, and then put in the apples and shallots together, and when done, I added this to the spinach, along with goat cheese and hazelnuts. I topped it all off with a pomegranate dressing.

So we made our plates and sat down for dinner. The meat had a nice char on it, and even though marinated sirloin tips can be tough, we had plenty of tender pieces. The nutmeg taste was interesting, and again, an acquired taste. I think if I do it again, I would not be so heavy handed with the fresh nutmeg, and marinate the meat longer. I would rate the carbonadoes of beef as a good 18th Century receipt. However, it was the cheesecake that became the star.    

The crust was crisp and delicious, the cream cheese mixture firm and smooth to the taste. The combination of the ground almonds and mace mixed with the cream cheese and ricotta almost gave it a coconut taste. The rosewater was not strong and gave off just a hint of summer roses. However, it was all in the presentation. Decorated with red hearts and browned to perfection, it was a fitting end to a Valentine’s Day Feast.

Side note,

I have been invited to Connecticut to make a full 18th Century meal in an beautiful 1740 home home with a big fireplace and bake oven. So, next week, no red dye or bread from the store. I’m excited and will share this journey with you next time. ‘Til then.

 We wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day.


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About Sandie

Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However it was not until about Fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury Ct. I was the director of the Junior Docent program and among the programs each week we cooked. At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages you name it we offered it. I am now a member of the ALFAM foodways group. Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on heart cooking and the 18th century way of life. I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 17070’s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at Museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing workshop and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright house. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the Museum of Old York in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file Because I do make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager. I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.


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