ALHFAM New England Regional Conference
Hosted by Coggeshall Farm Museum
Bristol, Rhode Island
“Hail Bristol, happiest village, hail!
What rich produce is thine;
Girls, geese, and onions thou canst boast,
O, Triad most divine!” DeWolfs
And so the poem goes and our conference has a theme. Some workshops were on hat and rope mat making, women and men’s early clothing, local food as history, and sauce for the goose. It is the goose that brought me to Coggeshall Farm’s tenant farmhouse.
The workshop I attended was “Sauce for the Goose: Sauce Madam,” this receipt has a medieval precedent that remained current for several hundred years. The receipt includes a farce, and a sauce for a goose. Our instructors were Kathleen Wall and Carolyn Bither, from Plymouth Plantation. The class was just two hours long, so the two geese were boiled the day before to remove most of the fat, and to be partially cooked. With all the ingredients at hand we made two different farces, one from Forme of Cury, a 14th Century receipt by the master-cooks of King Richard II. Our next receipt is from the book, A Noble Boke Off Cookry for A Prynce Houssolde, 1468.
The first farce mix has an interesting ingredient galingale, which is a rhizome with a hot, ginger- peppery flavor. You will not find this in the local supermarket, so we used dried ginger grated. Next in went the garlic, parsley, pears, bread crumbs, cinnamon, lots of sage, salt and pepper and pecans.
For our second goose the farce was made with some of the leftover farce from the first bird, to which we added more sage, more cranberries, salt and vinegar. We substituted cranberries for the barberries, and ingredients the English would have used.
We had a group of eight participants; while the girls were busy, I took the scraps from the farce out to feed the chickens and turkeys. There was one dominant turkey who stood his ground before me as I did my best to spread the feast before them. He seems to be missing a feather or two.
All farced, the geese were trusst up so the wings and legs would not flap about as it was roasting on the spit. We used kitchen twine for the trussing; this holds up better than linen or hemp twine. Don’t want to lose these birds. Being supermarket birds they had a gaping hole and very little skin at the bottom end, I sewed up the last goose to hold in the farce.
Kathleen brought two large cob-irons and two spits. Both geese were skewered and placed on the cob-iron. Underneath was a huge heavy dripping pan. Whether or not this was the real use of this cast ion pan we’re not sure, yet it worked for our purpose of catching the dripping goose fat. Now it was time to take turns turning the geese. There was a person on each side to watch that the geese were cooked evenly. Now this brought me to an interesting realization.
We had a strong fire and we were in a house that had no heat, and in a room that had three windows and a hall opening to the front door. So as I sat there keeping watch over the geese, the left side of my body was extremely warm and the right extremely cold. We so often read about how water froze on the table overnight in the old house of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Well, I can now say I have lived this. When I gave up my seat to let someone else get warm I was so cold standing in that room that it took me hours to fully recover (more realizations to come).
Several slabs of pork from various parts, hung by leather strings placed on a nail in the wall. A large cod had been split and salted to keep dry by the fire. How appropriate these items are for a farm house on the sea.
Tucked in another corner were more pork drying and an apple press waiting for the fall apples and cider making. This brings me to an interesting story that Kathleen told us about pears. Sometime in 1630, John Endicott of Danvers, MA, planted the first pear trees in the colonies. Endicott was a leading Massachusetts colonial magistrate and Puritan elder. There is still one tree that stands there and flowers in the spring and bears fruit after all these years.
The small room in the tenant house was now getting that wonderful scent of roasted goose. We test the inner part of the legs, to check for doneness and deem them ready for the table. After removing the skewers and placing them on a plate, we let them rest before cutting into them. That was difficult, as we were all eager to pull them apart and eat our reward for a job well done.
After they rested, Kathleen wasted no time in carving up the birds, it is now 5:00 and other ALHFAMers are showing up for the evening’s reception. The twine is cut; the farce removed; and the bird carved and placed on plates ready to serve. There was no time to complete the sauce that would have been mixed with the farce. However, the farce could stand on its own.
In the other room, where Matt Brenckle was teaching hat making, more logs were put on the fire. The staff at Coggeshall Farm had placed a wonderful selection of local cheese and wine on the table. It took some doing, but we did finally place a dish of carved goose on the table also.
In parting, I took a picture of one of the staff who was regaling the participants with stories of the King of the Roost, his favorite rooster. And still sitting on the hearth, trying to warm up, was the leftover second farce, yet to no avail the pipkin without coals underneath, was not going to heat up. It sat there because we did not want to pull out coals to put under the pipkin, as it would be to close too those who were turning the geese. So even after 1 ½ hours of sitting near a very hot fire it was stone cold, much like the rest of us.
Thank you everyone,