Scalloped Potatoes – Raffals

nut field Potatoes arrived in the Colonies in 1621 when the Governor of Bermuda, Nathaniel Butler, sent two large cedar chests containing potatoes and other vegetables to Governor Francis Wyatt of Virginia at Jamestown. It is thought that these potatoes were a form of yams and or sweet potatoes, not the white Irish potatoes we know today. By the 18th century, the white potato was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by the Spanish Conquistadors that conquered Peru. In 1718 when the Reverend James MacGregor and his Scotch-Irish immigrants came to New Hampshire and settled, in what was called the Nuttfield colony, they brought with them sacks of seed potatoes. Potatoes were easy to grow, tasty and very nutritious. The also produced more food per acre than other crops. In 1772, the colony of Nuttfield applied to Royal Governor Shute to be incorporated as a town called Londonderry. A token yearly rent was included in the incorporating document this rent was paid to the governor with “one peck of potatoes, on the first day of October, yearly, forever.” The planting of potatoes in Nuttfield is believed, to be the genesis of the massive potato industry in America. Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. So potatoes have been around in one color or another for many years. The Dutch called them earth apples. Being that a picture of a potato is not very interesting I have included this picture that was taken by Bill Gekes of his daughter, reminiscent of a Vermeer.

Searching through early cookery books, I found potatoes done mostly in pyes and or puddings. However, I also found them as cakes, cooked with apples, put in soup, mashed with almonds and butter and Richard Briggs, in “The English Art of Cooking” mentions both a potatoes pudding and a yam pudding. Elizabeth Raffald who wrote “The Experienced English House- keeper,” had a unique way of doing her potatoes. She scalloped them, meaning she put the mashed potatoes in a scallop shell. So I boiled my potatoes in a stew pan with a little salt and floured butter. When done I mashed them with a lump of butter and good cream and put them in my shells. I made a smooth top and put a dent in it for more butter, then my own touch of new spring parsley sprinkled on them. p2 copy Also, in the receipt, she says to put them in a “Dutch oven,” now there’s a controversy for you. Did she own a bake kettle from Holland or is this Dutch oven a new-fangled tin thing. HMMM– very interesting side note. There has been a lot of banter about the word “Dutch Oven” and nothing conclusive that I have heard either way. Anyone out there have an idea about this? So I stuffed the shells and placed mine in the bake kettle and covered it by placing coals on top and on the bottom.p3 copy This is not the first time I’ve used this receipt and it is one of my favorites, as I love mashed potatoes. They were a great accompaniment to the fish dinner and look so fancy. p4 copy The receipt for this potato dish is in the Receipt file along with all the others. Sandie  “We’re serious but not solemn about potatoes here. The potato has lots of eyes, but no mouth. That’s where I come in” E. Thomas Hughes, founder, Potato Museum, Washington, DC

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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.

4 thoughts on “Scalloped Potatoes – Raffals

  1. Not exactly what I was expecting, but interesting, nontheless. Look so pretty! Where did you find your nice shells? Real shells or ceramic?
    Pat McMillion

  2. Pat,

    They are reall shells, I’ve been getting them here and there for a long time. They do sell them in kitchen stores too. A fun little dish.

    sandieay

  3. Like the potatoes in the scalloped shells. Very pretty. I have a photo of an old ?Dutch Painting that is clearly what I call a tin kitchen or reflector but labeled as a “Dutch Oven” dating to the 1600’s. I’ll have to send it to you via email as I can’t figure out how to attach it to this message. That’s one of the reasons many of us in Pennsylvania call the cast iron pot in which we bake a “Bake Kettle”.