Strong Broth with a Pottage of Peas

Our New Hampshire weather has been unseasonably warm; however, we do get a few below normal days now and then. This week is one of them, so soup comes to mind. Looking through all the cookbooks, I came up with a Pottage of Peas that closely resembles what we might make today with the exception of the mint leaves.

I have chosen two receipts from

 The Complete Practical Cook, by Charles Carter, 1730.

 To make a Stock of Strong Broth of Flesh & Pottage of Pease, with Flesh.

 The first receipt calls for a Leg of Beef, a Knuckle of Veal, and a Neck of Mutton and Bacon. I have chosen the bacon for this stock, as it will go nicely with the pottage of peas. Karen Hess writes that bacon was a haunch of pork or simply pork as a hank end of ham. In a more lavish household, butter would have been used instead of the bacon/ham but this is a rustic soup that would be found on the more common tables, so I am using pork hocks and, for the meat, a smoked ham.

My ingredients for the broth are parsley, celery, onions, carrots and thyme along with salt and pepper which goes into a pot with the ham hocks. Water is added to cover. After I brought it to a boil, it was simmered for 4 hours to release all the goodness from the bone. With our cool nights, I put the soup on the porch and let it cool down overnight. In the morning I brought it in. The broth had a thick layer of fat on top, so I scummed it well; this is the base of my pottage.

After the broth was scummed, I added the peas and simmered them. This took about 1 ½ hours to get them to a very soft consistency. During this time, I boiled the smoked ham so I would have the meat for the pottage. I pureed the peas, however, not too much, as I want my pottage to be rustic.

In a small fry pan, I browned until tender, leeks, onions, parsley and celery, and carrots; last I put in the chopped spinach.

The marrow from the hambones made the pottage peas thick, and I added a bit of water to make it the consistency of soup. I cut up the ham and chicken into small pieces and put it in a bowl and placed the fried vegetables in another. While reading Pottage Peas receipts, I found that they often put a whole chicken in the middle of the soup, as well as many other types of meat. Having leftover chicken, I thought to give it a try.

With the addition of a manchet and a small container of sherry placed on the cutting board. Our rustic meal, on a cold night, was at hand.

Each bowl received a portion of the pottage, and then ham and chicken put in the middle, and topped with the fried vegetables and a spoon of sherry.

The vegetables were a terrific addition to the traditional, plain pea soup and the manchet, with the tang of the beer and yeast, gave it an inviting taste, such a simple meal, however, so delightful.

One component, the mint, did not make the dish; I simply did not have any. I saved some soup, and went off a few days later and bought mint, and boiled it in leftover ham hock jelly. I added this to the Pottage and was pleasantly surprise at the freshness of taste. I may add mint the nest I make pottage and not tell anyone.

In Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery, Karen Hess tells us that the English have been fond of mint in cooking since medieval times. In John Gerard’s book, The Herbal, he writes that, “It will not suffer milke to curdle in the stomacke.” Well, neither will sherry!

Hope you enjoyed the journey into peasant food, wholesome and delicious.


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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 “Strong Broth with a Pottage of Peas

  1. I know that mint is called for frequently in period recipes-I will ashamedly admit that I simply pretend not to see the ingredient. I guess next time I will give mint a try (or at least feel even more guilty if I ignore it again!)

    I am working from home today and think a certain scotch collops dish may be humming softly to me-I just hope there isn’t any mint in the recipe!

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