There were six people in the workshop and all wanted to learn how to make coffins. It does seem to be a popular form of pie-making these days. This day we would go a step beyond the normal and make a coffins and a ‘subteltie’ or eye-catching centerpiece.

– A castle with a keep, three towers and a center.

First thing that needed to be done was make the fillings for the coffins. Veronica made the mushroom and onion filling while Matt added bread crumbs and spices to beef to make a forced meat mixture.1

Nancy made two fillings. Both needed constant watchfulness and stirring. A rice filing hung over the fire, made with milk, could easily scorch, while the spinach sweating in a large spider over coals had to be carefully tended. Kate was done with her venison sausage filling, and she and Matt started on the Orange Fool. Veronica put the finishing touches on the mushrooms and onions.4 copy

Kate lends a hand to Nancy and places the spinach in a cloth-lined bowl to remove the last vestige of moisture.

Susan made a paste of shredded chicken breast, eggs and cream then picked all the meat off of the boiled quail. This would all go in her coffin with wild mushrooms, dates, fresh figs, and spices.6 copy

Kevin took the receipt for Cucumber a la Forced. He cut a small piece off the end of the cucumber and using a marrow spoon he removed all the seeds. Next he made a forced meat of bread cubes, eggs, melted butter and many fresh spices. This forced meat was stuffed into the center of the cucumber and the little end also.  Susan made a leer for her quail coffin over the fire with a roux.  Leers are like our modern gravies, made for pouring in the coffins and enjoying  as a side. One of the interesting things about this roux is most of us put the butter in the pan add the flour and mix it together. Early receipts call for mixing the flour and butter together in your hand and then put it into the liquid, a very different concept for us.


Now back to Kevin and the cucumber. The small end needed to be sewn back on. I did a brief demonstration for him and he was on his way to resembling three forced cucumbers. Susan watched the surgery.5 copy

Veronica beat the egg whites for the Orange Fool. This was folded into the juice, sugar, and rinds, and thickened on the hearth by Matt. 3 copy

Nancy grated the mozzarella for the spinach filling and mixed it with parmesan, whole eggs and spices. Kate was done with her venison sausage filling and she and Matt, working as a team, strained the orange peels from the sauce for the Orange Fool. Untitled-1 copy

With all the fillings ready to go, we made our coffins. Everyone took turns pouring the hot water crust liquid into their flour.  You must stir it with a spoon first and wait until you can touch it. When that time comes, you need to work fast to get the flour to mix with the liquid. 

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Once the flour will keep its shape as a ball, out on the work surface it goes. Ten minutes of kneading and then 10 minutes of rest and you have a ball that feels much like play dough. Using a coffin form, Susan starts on her large coffin. 8 copy

Coffin forms are mentioned in early 19th century cookbooks. I have not seen any evidence, of their existence, in the previous centuries, however, they do make the work easier, and I’ll keep looking for proof.

Turning the form upside down helps to raise a nice tall coffin. Then in went the quail mixture.9 copy

Nancy used a smaller form for her spinach filling and a tall one for the rice. Kate’s venison would go in a taller form. The spinach would be the center and the rest would become part of the castle towers. 10 copy

Veronica and Matt made the flanking towers.11 copy

Susan rolled out hot water crust to make the top for her coffin; she did a wonderful edge on the side. Kevin mentioned that she is an excellent pie maker. This edge showed off her skills. Kevin was pretty good with a basting brush, and applied the egg wash all over the coffin.12 copy

Matt really gets down making his tower tall, it would become the castle keep.  Kevin does the honors of positioning the quail coffin into the back side of the beehive oven.Untitled-12psd

With the center, towers, and castle keep filled, the tops were placed on and the embattlements cut out. Then they were stuck together to form a castle Richard II would be proud.14copy

Into the beehive they went, and after an hour they came out.15b

While the coffins cooked, Kevin simmered his forced cucumber in chicken stock. In the kettle, the leers that were made were kept warm.15

With flags flying on the castle towers, Matt take it to the table. The tops was cut off to reveal, rice pudding, venison sausage, beef forced meat, mushroom and onions and a center of spinach. All worthy of a medieval feast.

We think of creating “subteltie” as being only in the medieval times, however, even Mrs. Beeton, in 1890, did a game pie with a stuffed pheasant on top.copy4

Susan’s quail pie baked perfectly and was exceptionally good with the fruit, giving it an enjoyable tang .copy3

Everyone around the table thought the spinach tasted much like spanakopita. The venison sausage was terrific, the rice pudding slightly sweet and creamy, the mushrooms and onions delightful and the ground cloves in the forced meat was a wonderful surprise. The forced cucumbers were interesting ranging in ratings from, “glad I had it once” to “it’s not bad.”

Everyone loved the Orange Fool. It was such a popular dessert in the 1800s that Hanna Glasse had at least four receipts for it. Topped with a bit of blueberry sauce it was a perfect ending to the meal.copy 1

Another coffin workshop behind me, and so glad to have shared the day with such wonderful and interesting friends.18


“Food . . . can look beautiful, taste exquisite, smell wonderful, make people feel good, bring them together . . . At its most basic, it is fuel for a hungry machine . . . “

Rosamond Richardson, English cookery author


And the hot oven!

What a difference a year makes. Last winter it snowed almost every Saturday, and the workshops were always being rescheduled. So far this year we have had wonderful weather, even though it has been below freezing a few days. Our workshop day dawned sunny and 22 degrees outside, with wind gusts up to 15 miles an hour. Perfect day to cook over the fire!

One of the dishes we were making was a stuffed pumpkin. I bought several pumpkins in the fall to see how they would keep over the winter. I was just at Old Sturbridge Village at the Freeman farm house and Victoria, who was working there that day, told me how their pumpkins have not fared well, being that the house is so cold. I stored mine under the sink in the panty. We keep this door open on very cold nights so the pipes won’t freeze. The pumpkins survived in wonderful shape with the exception of one that we fed to the deer outside.

The pumpkin was of a good size and I started it early in the morning. When Cathy and Sherry arrived  filled the pumpkin with a stuffing of apples, raisins, brown sugar, cubed bread, butter and spices. This would need to be turned every 20 minutes or so.

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Natalie and Kathy started right in on the quail coffin. Their marble pasty board was covered in cling wrap to keep it clean while they worked on the meat. The birds would be fried brown, cooled and picked of their meat. Four legs would be save intact to stick out of the top of the coffin. A version of, “Crustardes of Flesh,” from the Form of Curry 1390.Untitled3 copy

Sherry and Cathy read the receipt from Robert Smiths , ” A Venifon Pie” and the modern version that they plan to use. With the venison cut into cubes, Sherry renders some salt pork in the pan. Untitled-6 copy

Kathy and Natalie place the cut quail pieces in the oiled pan. After it browned at bit, they added garlic, anchovies, capers, red wine, and stock. A bouquet garni of fresh rosemary and oregano went into the simmering pan.

With the salt pork rendered, Sherry added the cut venison and browned it on all sides.Untitleda-1 copy

The filling for the venison coffin has onions, garlic, celery, carrots, potato, wine, spices and butter. When everything was cut, it was all put into the pan with the venison, and simmered along with some broth. Hanging on the crane is a pot with eggs boiling for the Lumber pie. Untitled7opy

Four quail legs were set aside and the picked meat was mixed with raisins. The braising liquid from the pan and some red wine was thickened with corn flour then poured over the torn meat. This was set aside in a cool place. The cling wrap was removed; the dough was made. After kneading it for 10 minutes it was placed in a linen cloth and twisted and set aside to help the flour absorbed the fat evenly.1

To make our coffin dough we used a medieval receipt from c 1465 Konzil von Konstanz (ÖNB 3044, fol. 48v). It is a hot water crust dough which is mainly flour, water butter, lard and a pinch of salt. The trick is to make sure you knead it well then tie it in a cloth.Capture

Now I’m lucky that I have such a handy husband who has a wood lathe. He made me three coffin forms. I’m not sure when wooden forms started to be used. I do know that they existed.

Robert Deeley, The Caildron, The Spit and the Fire, shows a picture of an 19c coffin form.

Delia Smith who wrote Food in England in 1954 has a wonder article on pork pies being cook in coffyn or coffer, i.e., little box or enclosure; it lent itself to elaborate traditional decorations, on top and sides. She says these forms were made of hot pasty and molded, or raised, round wooden molds.

And this might be the best YouTube I’ve seen of making meat pie with a wooden form.

Cathy flours the forms really well, and Natalie takes a piece of the warm dough and makes a small bowl shape with it. The inside gets floured and is put on the floured form and made into a coffin. Allan made two small forms on the wood lathe. This way we can make individual coffins. Kathy and Natalie were very excited with this, they want to do small coffins for the Deacon Graves House Museum dinner one day in Madison, CT.

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Next the quail filling goes in with the reserved leg in the middle. A top is then placed on with a hole for the leg. The sides and top edge were washed with beaten egg. Once they are pinched together they should hold in the filling nicely.Untitled-15 copy

Susan was in charge of Robert Mays’ 1660 “Lumber Pie” receipt. While she cuts all the suet, mushrooms, shallots, and marrow, I peel the eggs.Untitled-8 copy

I had some barberries in my spice box and even though the venison receipt did not call for it I ask the ladies if they would like to try it. Susan, a superb venison cook, suggested we grind three berry’s and add it to the mix and everyone agreed. The meat for the Lumber pie was made into little sausages and were then wrapped in caul to hold them together.Untitled-9

The sausages were browned in batches. I had made a beef gravy previously and we warmed it up with a bit of verjuice for pouring on the top of the filled coffin.Untitled-10 copy

Sherry and Cathy worked on their coffin. They were using the large wooden mold. And, yes, we went through a lot of flour, with three different coffins being made it’s not surprising.Untitled-11 copy

With their coffin made the venison filling was poured in. Cathy rolled out a lid and after brushing things with the beaten egg, she crimped it together. Their coffin was not raised very high, however, it would hold a goodly amount and serve four easily.Untitled-12 copy

Susan started to make her coffin on the large form. The wood was floured very well and she was able to make it very tall.Untitled-13 copy

Susan used a wooden noodle roller to make a great outside cover. Brushed with mixed egg, she applied the design.

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Now came the layering of the grapes, figs , eggs, mushrooms and meat sausages in the coffin. The gravy was poured on last.Untitled-18 copy

With the top pinched all round she cut more designs for the top. It was definitely decorating time and everyone was busy putting on the finishing touches of their coffins.Untitled-19 copy

Susan put leaves on top of her coffin, Sherry and Cathy put hearts, Natalie and Kathy use a combination of designs.

After all Valentine’s Day was only one day away. Coffins were ready for the oven.Untitled-20 copy

Because of the stretch of cold days Allan felt the bricks of the chimney and bake oven would take a long time to heat up. He kept testing the bake oven with the Laser Infrared Thermometer. It just would not get up to heat so he added more wood. Finally, he said it was 500 degrees and falling, so in went the coffins.

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While the coffins baked away, Cathy prepared the lovely golden and red beets she had boiled and then sliced into rounds. She melted a stick of butter in a pan, added a little roux and stirred in the chopped parsley. scallions, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper and sautéed them lightly. The beets were added and simmered until the sauce thickened.



So it was time to check the bake oven. First thing that someone noticed was that there was smoke pouring out of the back of the wooden door. It was smoking and I mean really smoking. So we tossed it in the sink and poured water on it. Next we looked at the coffins. Yikes! The Lumber Pie was way in the back and BLACK. We took it out and cut off the top and found that the inside was fine. Perhaps this is why they never eat the coffin dough . (Only kidding) 

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The Venison pie did not look too bad and the small coffins were about the same. The dough was cooked, but a tad over brown!



Fredrick Nutt’s The Complete Confectioner, 1790, and his Chocolate Drops.

The chocolate was put in a brass kettle and confectionery sugar added. Sherry put it over coals and started stirring and stirring and stirring until her arm was almost baked. At this point, it was removed to the stove and it took some doing, but the chocolate and sugar melted together.


Now the chocolate was dropped by a spoon onto a piece of parchment and sprinkled with nonpareils. When the parchment was filled, the edges were picked up, and the bottom was tapped on the marble to flatten out the chocolate. In theory, this would work. However, that would be to good to be true. What we made was glass, pretty glass, but GLASS.Untitled-25 copy

All in all the meal was enjoyable and showed off the coffin-making skills of the cooks.

Each coffin had its own distinctive taste. The capers and rosemary in the quail coffin added a nice bright taste. Putting the barberries in the venison was a great idea; you could taste them in the background. Next time I’d add more. The lumbar pie had many layers of flavors with the fruit adding sweet moisture to the gravy.

The red and golden beets with a hint of lemon and the apple pumpkin brown betty was superb.


As we sat eating, there was lots of discussion of what went wrong with the candy. The beginning of the receipt says “Take one pound and a half of chocolate, put it on your pewter sheet or plate, put it in the oven just to warm the chocolate,….” (Our chocolate was sitting by the fire all day and was very soft.) “then put it into a copper stew pan, with three quarters of a pound of powdered sugar, mix well………” So, Cathy thought this sounded like a double boiler type process; other disagreed. What do you think? We would all be interested to know. One thing for sure we went way past the candy stage of warming the chocolate.

Here’s our group ready to feast on three coffins, a medley of beets, and apple-stuffed pumpkin24

Later that night, as Allan and I sat waiting for the fire to die down, he picked up the Laser Infrared Thermometer. Guess what? It has two settings, Fahrenheit and Celsius. It seems Allan was dealing with Celsius and didn’t know it. After all, he had it in his mind that the temperature outdoors had been so bitter cold that the brick stack would be cold. WRONG.

500 degrees Celsius is 800 degrees Fahrenheit – it’s a wonder the coffins didn’t burst into flames!


“…no one is born a great cook; one learns by doing.”

̶ Julia Childs, My Life in France

PS: Coffin Workshop Two ̶ check the laser.

April 9 -10


The menu will be designed to meet your particular need and interests

Participation is limited

Possible room and board

This gives us time to do molded fish pond jelly, bread and other two day receipts.

For more information  please contact me at

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So, as usual the weather man got it wrong. Plymouth, Massachusetts, was going to get four inches, if that, on Saturday. So off I go, with my friend Barbara to the bread making workshop at Plimoth Plantation.

I left at 8:30 and picked her up and off we went. We got to Plymouth with no problem; however, when we checked into the motel the building next to it had a flooded parking area. The wind was so fierce you could barely stand to take a picture. We checked into the motel, that is right on the ocean, and then I dropped Barbara off at her friend’s house just down the road to have lunch while I baked bread.

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I found the Craft Building and was greeted by Tani our instructor for the day. I had arrived early to make sure I was there before the snow started.  The place looked a bit deserted; however, I was early. After taking off my coat, Kathleen Wall came through the kitchen door. We hugged and said our hellos. We had planned on taking the workshop on the same day.

Soon I found out that the other four people had canceled out so it was just Kathleen and myself.  The class was to go from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. However, we started right in at 11:30 am, hoping to not get snowed it. It seems that the weatherman was now saying 6 to 12 inches of snow and flooding by the shore. Just Great! 

 Tani had the first batch of bread started from the night before in plastic tubs.

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 She showed us how to stretch the bread fold it in thirds and then thirds again and then it would rest.

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This was done several times. We then took the dough and made a round ball which we threw as hard as we could on the table and turned it again. We kept turning the dough round and around making the bottom as smooth as the top. Into floured baskets they went. To rise once more.

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In the craft workshop there is a huge bee hive oven heated, of course, by wood. Just waiting for our dough.

Kathy had started the oven and it was ready, so the coals were raked out. Because it was so hot, we needed to wait for the temperature to drop. The dough was slowly rising.

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Tani is the new baker at the Plantation. She has a doctoral degree from Oxford and is a food historian. She says that “At Plimoth Plantation, her work comes together at the intersection of food and history.” Here we see Tani  on the right) and Kathy, her helper checking out the oven for baking. They are using a wonderful Laser Infrared Thermometer.

On the right you see me putting flour on the peel so my dough won’t stick as I slide it into the oven.

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I loved this sign in the room. According to the Plimoth Plantitation site, “This room has been dubbed Plimoth Bread Company. The facility opened September 26, as the culmination of a months-long renovation of the Plantation’s Craft Center. The result: visitors can get a taste of colonial-era baking techniques through daily demonstrations, special events, classes, workshops, and opportunities for participation year-round.” It is a wonderful space with lots of room to work. Hope you can go sometime and work with Tani.

We each made two loaves of bread, with Tani making them right alongside of us to show us how. With six loaves of bread, we needed to mark them. Here Kathleen marks her bread with her initial.

It was now about 1:00 pm, and the snow started blowing sideways in the wind.

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 We took turns putting our dough in the oven, and Kathy draped a wet cloth over the inside of the door to give some steam to the oven. An hour or so later we had nicely browned loaves. As you can see I was delighted with mine.

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While they cooled, Tani, had made a loaf to be put in a bake kettle in the oven. This is for the students who do not have a bake oven at home. She heated it up and then put the dough in. Next she covered it with a iron lid for 20 minutes to keep in the steam. When she uncovered it the steam rose up from the pot. When it came out, as you can see, it looked as if you had baked it in a bee hive oven. I like her slashes on top. Of course, she is an expert with the knife.

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Next Kathleen and I started more dough from scratch. Using a scale set for grams we measured out all of the different flours and corn meal and salt, into our plastic tubs. With our fingers we mixed this, and added the yeast and water. Then we mixed it with our hands until it was all incorporated. This batch of dough was to go home with us and be made fresh in our own ovens. Mine was going to be put into the refrigerator overnight in the Motel.

With the workshop over, I headed to the motel. The snow was getting deeper and the wind was coming off the bay horizontally and was filled with frozen bits of surf, mixed with snow that stung my face as I dragged my belongings into the building. As it turned out, overnight the total snow that fell was 11 inches. High tide was at 11 pm and it was wild. The surf was crashing on our door step. Both Barbara and I were sure they were going to evacuate us. By midnight, we knew we were okay and in for the night.


Morning came and the car was encased in saltwater/snow ice. After scraping the windows and such we headed back to New Hampshire. The trip may not have been easy, yet it was worth it. Plus we have a great story to tell when we get older, of the time Jonas tried to get the better of us.

When I got home, I started on my bread. I stretched it, folded it, threw it and rolled it. With my oven at 450 and the kettle warmed, in it went, I slashed the top and put a lid on. 20 minutes later I took off the lid and popped it back in. No steam! 20 minutes later it was done. Now, my flipping the dough into the pot was not as round as Tani, and my slashing leaves something to be desired; however, it tasted great.

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There are still some opening in Tani’s workshops, and I highly recommend attending. Just don’t believe the weatherman.

As Julia Childs once said “The art of bread making can become a consuming hobby, and no matter how often and how many kinds one has made, there always seems to be something new to learn.”

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with Tani and learn a few new tricks for making bread.















Side to determine

Orange pudding


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Workshops run from 9:30 to 3ish

To register or for more information please contact

Sandra Tarbox



39 Dishes from the Cookery Book Published in 1660, by John Notts

“If the thought of planning Christmas dinner makes you nervous, be glad you weren’t born in the Renaissance. The earliest known published Christmas menu includes pork, beef, goose, lark, pheasant, venison, oysters, swan, woodcock, and “a kid with a pudding in his belly,” to name just a few.”

Read more about the full story written by   Joy Lonzendorfer


May you all have a Happy Holiday with family and friends.


Looking forward to the New Year and seeing many of you at the  Workshops







The third and last workshop was a busy one with many dishes to prepare. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’m sure these photos of our day illustrate just that.

Everyone was eager to start, the receipts that needed to be done first were passed around and things really got cooking.


We needed to have hard-boiled eggs and boiled beets first thing. In this picture you can see how many men it takes to boil two eggs and how many women it takes to boil beets.


Jane began on the Pompion pye receipt from Hannah Wolley. This was a compound receipt. First you needed to make a Froise (pancake) of pumpkin, spices, eggs and flour. Kate picked the pumpkin rolls and started right in.


We used rehydrated pumpkin leather. I make this every year and have it on hand for soup and other receipts.


David picked the butter. Not difficult to make. More time consuming, however, I added a twist: he would be making Fairy Butter with it.


Kate worked hard kneading the dough and it got an astonishing rise from her efforts.

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She divided the dough and rolled them into round balls then cut the edges eight times. Then she stuck a wooden spoon handle into the middle. These went off to rise again.

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John started in on Hannah Glass’s receipt for “To Stuff a Chine of Pork.” He made a stuffing, rolled it up and we covered it with a caul.


It takes a few hands to place the caul on the pork loin and then tie it so it would not unroll.


Dave creamed  the eggs, orange flower water and sugar into a paste, then he added it to his fresh churned butter to finish our Fairy Butter. This he put in a crock for later. Then he helped John skewer the roast on the spit in the tin oven.


Kris shredded the pumpkin for the pye to add to Jane’s mixture. Then they began to fry the Froise.


Taking turns Jane stepped in and made a few. Then she tested one to make sure they really did taste good. Answer was yes.


While Kate waited for the second rise on her rolls, she and John made Hannah Glasses’s Gooseberry Fool with a twist also, we added rhubarb from my garden. John first took the gooseberries and boiled them up until the popped. I picked them at the Moffatt Ladd House Museum early in the season and froze them. When they were done, he put them through a strainer to get all the seeds and pulp out. Next he cut the rhubarb and put it in the pot to which Kate added the honey, and vanilla and kept it stirred.


The next part of the Pompion Pye receipt called for a caudle of eggs, cream and brandy. There was also a filling of apples and currants. The pye would be placed in a pye dough made by our expert pastry creator, Susan.


So the layering began, the pumpkin Froise, then the apples and caudle until it was full.


Susan cut mushrooms for the filling of George Dalirumple” To Bake or Fry Mushroom in Paste”

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Kris topped the pye with a crust and decorated it. Susan waits for Allan to finish cleaning out the oven so she can add the chopped green onions and shallots to the mushrooms she had cooking on the hearth.


Dave washed all the greens for the Soup Meager, a Hannah Glass receipt. He cut celery and parsley and added it to the greens . Next he put butter in the caldron, added some onions to sauté, then put all the greens in with a bit of flour. After 10 minutes or so he added broth and stirred all very well. Lastly, he added the bread crumbs and a mixture of vinegar and egg yolks slowly.15jpg

Kris took coals out of the fire to put under the bake kettle for her pye. She wondered how women could stand this heat every day. She headed out to the porch for a minute to cool down. Every 15 minutes the pye was turned and checked on.


With the sauce and custard ready, Kate and John had some fun assembling the Fool. Kate had crushed ginger cookies in the mortar and pestle and as John filled the glasses she sprinkled the ginger dust over it.


Susan’s Puff Paste was rolled out and she cut them in triangles for the mushrooms in paste.

A spoon full of the mushroom and a dab of water on the edges and they were folded over ready for the bake oven.


After the golden beets had cooled, Jane peeled them and cut them into fat slices. It called for a clove of garlic. We had a discussion of how big that might be. We decided it was TO YOUR LIKING, a phrase we often see in old receipt. With parsley and chives from my garden some butter and seasoning, she made a sauce in the pan. When it was warm she added the beets, thoroughly coating them. This is a receipt from 1746 by Menon.


Everything was coming together. The roast was done, and John masterfully carved it


The Pumpkin Rolls received their sliced pecans, and the mushrooms in paste were hot out of the oven. A triumph of bakery skills.


David plated his soup meager and John his roast of pork loin. Both were delicious


The beets looked lovely with their lemon garnish, and had a unique taste. The pye cooked perfectly and I can’t stress this enough, make this pye – it was wonderful.


Allan took the picture then joined us as we sat down to a hearty meal which also included apple sauce and a gravy for the meat. In-between bites there was a lively discussion on many topic both modern and 18th century. I’ve never had a group at a workshop that was not compatible. I think like minds and the discovery of just how complicated it was to put a meal together back then, helps brings everyone together. This year has been an amazing journey for me, working alongside so many wonder and interesting people. I love the feedback I get and the help and suggestions from some very talented 18th century cooks. Their thoughtful share of information is a true gift.


Afterward, there is always the clean-up. The men took over at the sink while we women folk cleared the table and put clean things away. And look, they’re smiling.


I’ll be posting the next round of workshops in January 2016. One will include COFFINS as I have been asked so often to do it again.

I hope your Thanksgiving feast was spent with family and friends and your Christmas will be Safe and Merry.


“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  – James Beard












What was I thinking!!!

In my workshops I like to have a theme and use original receipts, from medieval times up to the 1820s. It takes some doing to rewrite them in modern language. Now this theme took me by surprise. Fall and pumpkins just sounded too good not to do. So off to the cookery books I go to put together a sensible meal to cook over the hearth. First stop Amelia Simons. On the title page she writes that it is the first cookery book “Adapted to this Country”. What I find is pompkin No1 &2, a pie. As I read on through the Historical Notes written in my copy of Simons 1796 edition, Karen Hess has much to say about pumpkin and other squashes and gourds. She mentions Hannah Woolley’s 1675 receipt for pie that is very different from Simons. And she goes on to say how the use of edible gourds go as far back as ancient Rome. Great, I should find lots of receipt for my Pumpkin Workshop!

NOOO! However what I do find is more interesting. Great information from the Food Time Lime, a description from the travels of Peter Kalm in 1750 to the colonies, A history on “Eating in America” by Root and De Rochemont and a great 1630 poem from Plymouth.

Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies. Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies, We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

And I can go on and on. There is a lot of information on the use of pumpkin in America , but not many receipts.

However, I forged on and this class will be a bit different, some original old receipts, and some I’m making judgment calls on ways pumpkin might have been used in the 1700s.

I went to the local farmer and bought several types of pumpkins some for this workshop and some for the next one. On the wall dresser I put out the red kabocha squash and a Long Island cheese pumpkin.


Everyone arrived and started right in. We had two Heathers so we called them Heather 1 & 2


Heather 2 and her husband Ken wanted to work on the sausages. I used “To make Sausage” by John Nott for a receipt. No, we did not put pumpkin in the sausage, this sausage would top the Pumpkin sauce for the Vermicelli. It is always fun to see someone cleaning the guts and using a hand held sausage stuffer for the first time.


Pumpkin soup had to be on the menu. Paul and Heather 1 picked the red kabocha squash as they felt it looked like a pumpkin and had the right color. They chopped the pumpkin, a potato, leeks, onions and garlic and sautéed them in butter in the iron cauldron.


Brenda flew in from Pennsylvania for the workshop and to visit her daughter Heather 2. She is a delightful lady and unafraid in the kitchen. Here she soften up pumpkin over the fire to use in a Pumpkin and Maize bread as described by Peter Kalm. In the morning I made barm to be added to the bread. Brenda scalded the cornmeal first then added the pumpkin and a cup of wheat flour. When that cooled she put in the yeast and mixed it up.

Notice my new marble pastry board. Thanks to Niel Vincent De Marino for information on where to buy it. 6 copy

Ken and Heather looked over the receipt for Nott’s sausage and chopped the pork very fine. I had rendered some suet and added a bit of goose fat from the workshop beforehand; this was chopped and mixed in. The receipt also called for spinach and cloves . 4

Heather reads the soup receipt and gets the chicken stock out. Allan made the fresh chicken stock just for the workshop. Heather gathers the brandy, cloves coriander, nutmeg and cayenne to mix in with the sautéed mixture in the cauldron. Ken and Heather are still chopping and I’m adding a bit of water to Brenda’s bread. The day was very low in humidity and the cornmeal needed just needed a bit more liquid one teaspoon at a time. 9

With all the ingredients in the soup, Paul hangs it from an S-hook on the crane. After much attention, it was taken off and put to the side to keep warm. The cauldron was turned now and again to make sure one side did not get too hot and burn.


17th  Century Cheese Cake by Robert May was next to be made. The dough is made of wheat flour with cold butter,  just pinch of salt and sugar and a three egg whites. It is very stiff. After Brenda mixed it together it went into the refrigerator for a hour. Brenda rolled out one disk and I showed her how to make a round into a triangle for the base.


Ken and Heather take turns with the hand sausage stuffer. Ken said next time he makes sausages he’ll really appreciate an electric grinder.


Being that this is a pumpkin workshop and we have Robert Mays cold butter crust, it needs a pumpkin filling. I picked a filling form Plymouth Plantation and we added pumpkin. Paul softened the pumpkin over the fire and drained it. Heather and Paul mixed up a filling with a good amount of ground almonds, ricotta cheese, cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt, eggs, mace, a hint of rose water and the pumpkin.

The triangle paste held its shape wonderfully and Heather filled it up. 7

With the sausages made, Ken and Heather fry them up in a pan. They were then taken out and set aside to keep warm. The drippings would be used in the pumpkin sauce.  14

Our two Heathers put in the cheese cake and the risen pumpkin maize bread into the bake oven. 1 copy

Hannah Glasse’s receipt “To Make Vermicelli” was made by Paul with help from Heather.  12 copy

Paul tried the roll and slice technique and the dough was a bit too sticky to unroll the strains of vermicelli. Paul unrolled what was left and cut the vermicelli, that worked better. Every day is different in the kitchen. 15

I found two receipts and I decided to combined them. One is “The Vse Of Pompkins,” by John Parkinson, 1629; and “Fried Sausage” by Hannah Glasse where she puts stewed apples and cabbage around sausage.

Hannah’s receipt will be the base for our pumpkin sauce. Heather uses the kabocha again cutting the chunks into bite size pieces. Brenda cut onions, apples and half a cabbage. Ken put the butter in a the pan that had the sausage drippings, added the cabbage, apple, pumpkin, garlic, chicken broth salt and pepper. This would be put on the vermicelli and topped with sausages and parmesan.


Then my 21st century sensibility kicked in. I wanted something green on the table and I needed it to be done just before we served our lunch. I decided on braised greens. My favorite green is Swiss Chard which has nothing to do with Switzerland but with someone who coined the name, as he was from there. With a bit of research, I found that Chard is a cousin to spinach and the beet greens. Back in the fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote about chard, as the Greeks and Romans used it for its medicinal properties. Then things get very confusing as the French called cardoon and chard “carde”. The English had many names for it as well, white beet, strawberry spinach, seakale beet, Spinach beet and Roman Kale among others. Well I know it existed and I have no reason to think it was not braised somewhere, sometime, perhaps with meat in a stew . So my batting average on Pumpkin receipts “Soup to nuts” was taking a dip here.

The receipt I chose had bacon, chard, garlic, anchovies and fresh peeled tomatoes. No pumpkin in this although you certainly could. I thought better of it though, with all the pumpkin we did put in other things, I thought  a fresh braised green on the side would be better. Heather and Paul put this together and it looked great.


Everything was coming together as Paul put the vermicelli in the boiling water and Ken took out the bread and cheese cake.


The pumpkin sauce was scooped out and the soup put in bowls.19

The Pumpkin Maize bread and Robert May/ Plymouth Plantation/Pumpkin cheese cake were cooling. Brenda and Heather cut the sausages in pieces for the top of the vermicelli and pumpkin sauce.20

The table was set and everything plated. 18

This workshop really stretched my brain and though it was different from the others it was an interesting learning curve. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. We had a great group and the food was outstanding.  1a

We feasted on a bowl of Pumpkin soup, a plates full of braised greens, pumpkin cheese cake, pumpkin maize bread, vermicelli topped with pumpkin sauce, sausage and parmesan cheese.



The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” Julia Child

 So What the hell it had a lot of pumpkin!