Girls, Geese, and Onions:

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.1-copy

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).

To keep the blood flowing and keep somewhat warm, I walked about the room and took note of what I saw. Hanging in the corner was a wonderful vignette of colorful onions.4copy

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.

The reception began and the day came to a close.

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.

We thank Coggeshall Farms, and all the speakers, who so kindly gave their time to present workshops and provide us with a conference we will all long remember.

Thank you everyone,


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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.

2 thoughts on “Girls, Geese, and Onions:

  1. You can-and should-buy fresh galingale (aka galanga). You can find it at Asian grocery stores in the produce section. Lo’s in Newington carries it. It does not keep as long as fresh ginger, so I usually grate the leftovers and then freeze it for later use. But it doesn’t retain its fresh quality and can only be kept in the freezer for a short time before it becomes rather tasteless. It is close to ginger-but totally different. So if you can find it fresh, please do! However, beware of powdered “Laos powder”, which is dried powdered galingale-it tastes bitter and doesn’t have the wonderful spicy flavor the fresh has.

    I am so excited about this recipe! I love galingale but have, until now, only associated it with southeastern Asian cooking. I just came back from the store and have my pears (on sale at Hannaford’s) and chicken (sorry, duck is too fatty for my husband’s triglycerides) and am ready to try it this weekend!

    Thanks for all of the recipes! Cindi

  2. Cindi,

    Thank you for the information and I will let Kathleen know, and I will keep it in mind the next time I need it. I’m so glad that someone is trying thses reciepts.


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