The morning’s weather was crisp and stayed at 52 most of the day. Perfect for our hearth fire. I had the tables ready with all the things we would need, and stations for each receipt set up. This was a busy day; we were making two types of bread, two types of sausage, a stuffed pumpkin, cheese, butter, a prune tart and whipped cream. A doable task for the time we had.
Everyone arrived and the workshop began. There were several things that needed to be made first. The breads would need time to rise, the puff paste to rest, and the filling for the stuffed pumpkin made and put by the fire; these were the first order of the day.
Nancy started on Hannah Glasses’ French Rolls from the The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, I had made the starter the night before so she would have a good head start. Sue made the cheese bread from the receipt of W.M.’s The Compleat Cook 1658. Because the cheese would take too long to make I had cheese prepared for use. The most difficult thing about making this bread is to fight the desire to overwork the dough. Sue was hesitant that it would rise without kneading, and surprised an hour and half later, when it started pouring over the container. This is not sissy bread; it grows twice its size.
Patty worked with the puff paste, layering butter amongst the dough and folding it over and rolling again as she went along. While it rested she began the soft cheese which we would use as an hors d’oeuvre later. Sara was using a combination of two Pompions receipts from John Parkinson, 17th c Herbal. Sara cut up cabbage, onions, sausage and apples, and fried them in the spider, and then mixed it with herbs and spices. The pumpkin was cut, cleaned out, and the inside rubbed with dry mustard. When the stuffing was ready, it was put into the pumpkin and rotated every 20 minutes to get a nice soft flesh.
While the bread was rising, Nancy and Sue chopped the meat and suet for the sausages. Sue was working on the 17th century Portuguese pork sausage that also had beef in it, orange peels, lemon juice, cumin and port wine, among other interesting goodies. Nancy was working on John Nott’s “To Make Sausage another way.” She was adding chopped spinach, mace and cloves, and added an extra egg to make it the consistency looser. Sara was finished with the pumpkin, and joined Nancy and chopped the herbs and spinach.
Patty was working with the cheese and not having any luck turning it into curds. We are not sure what happened but it just would not curdle. We added some lemon and still nothing. This is the same receipt I used last week just to make sure it would work. However, this time it did not. We all concluded that we got milk from a bad cow. Fortunately, we did not need it for our cheese bread
Earlier in the morning I had washed the hog casings very well, and they were ready for the sausage press. It’s a little tricky putting them on; however with the help of a little running water in the pantry sink, the girls were able to slip the casings on the tube, with much laughter and discussion not printable.
Before the mixture was put into the casing, both batches were tested by making little patties and frying them first. Patty and Sue had forgotten to put in the port and wanted to add more orange peels. With the addition of some more spices and the port, everything tasted great and the sausage went into the casings. Sara and Nancy went first. Their mixture was loose and it made it easier to push the plunger and make the links of sausages.
The 17th century Portuguese sausage was a different story. The mixture was a bit stiff and much harder to get into the casings. As an afterthought, we could have added some chicken stock to make it looser. However, Patty and Sue persevered and turned out a wonderful dish of links. We all stood around and cheered them on to the finish, and took turns churning the butter for the bread.
The French rolls and the cheese bread were done with all their rising and ready for the bake oven. The fire had been going in the oven for a few hours, and, after it was raked out, it was very hot. We waited a while for the temperature to go down then put in the puff paste and gave it a high heat start. After about 15 minutes, we transferred it to a bake kettle to finish. We needed all our oven space for the bread. Both breads looked wonderful and we were very eager to get them into the bake oven.
With the pumpkin cooking by the fire and the puff pastry in the kettle, it was time to start Amelia Simmons’ receipt “ To Keep Peas till Christmas.” The peas were kept in leaf lard in my refrigerator and Sue put them into a pipkin to melt the lard. When she was satisfied that the lard was melting she placed the peas into the corner of the fireplace to keep warm. When we were ready to eat, Sara took them and drained them through a cloth to remove the lard.
It was now time to check the bread. We removed the door and took a look. There we found nicely browned rolls and loafs of bread with an aroma that wafted out of the oven with an incredible warmth that said, “Where’s the butter?” Out they came to rest before we dove into each of them with our meal.
While the bread cooled, Sara, who made the prune filling for Plimouth Plantation Prune Tart, covered the puff paste with the mashed prunes with its cinnamon and rosemary flavors. Then it was off to help her mom whip the cream. This was done away from the fire with the twigs beater and in a deep bowl to get nice soft peaks.
Patty was on sausage duty and kept turning them as they cooked in the spider. With deft hands, she kept turning the sausage so they browned to perfection. While Patty toiled by the fire, everyone began to clear the table and bring out the dishes and dinnerware for our feast.
We all sat down and gave a toast to a job well done, and for the help of Allan, who lugged wood, and took pictures. While we all filled our plates, Sara put the final glory on the prune tart, mounds of whipped cream.
With dinner over, Patty served the tart. The puff paste was flaky and filled with a wonderful buttery flavor. And the topping was excellent. How could you go wrong with rosemary and cinnamon?
We had a wonderful time and shared our happiness for a job well done as we all talked about food sources, books to read and many other things. With our day-long efforts enjoyed and praised, it was off to the kitchen to clean up, divide the spoils and continue the camaraderie that we shared.
Next month is the last workshop of this year, a Harvest Dinner; we still have room if you wish to join us.
Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.