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                                                                   Francisco Goya

I grew up eating wild game meat.  My dad owned a fishing and hunting store. He, my brother Jim and sister Joan hunted all the time.  It was a great way to stretch the food budget of a household of nine.  One of my favorite was rabbit. My mom cooked it two ways, in a stew or deep fried.  I loved them both. So, while looking through Williams Verral’s cookery book, I came across “Collops of Rabbit in Champagne wine” and it looked interesting. Being that we don’t hunt, Allan and I took a ride up RT 4 to Loudon and the Hungry Buffalo. They sell all kinds of wild game. We purchased enough rabbit tenders for two meals.

A few days before I wanted to make this I printed Verral’s receipt and read it over twice. I recommend that everyone read early receipt at least  twice. This way you will understand what you need to do to change it into a modern equivalent and save yourself from a cooking catastrophe. Also, I need to decide what else would go with it. I felt that cranberries would complement the rabbit and, being that there would be a bit of a sauce, I decided to have French rolls to accompany it. Then I picked a dessert that Allan has been asking for, baked custard. Along with the custard I thought it would be nice to place a tiny Madeleine on top.

I made the cranberry sauce and the Madeleine the day before our meal and sealed them in a tight container. The next afternoon I made the Cream Custard  from Lady H in Richard Bradley ‘s 1732 cookery book, and put it in the refrigerator until later.

The next day arrived and I made the custard in the early afternoon in a nice water bath. Then I started the French rolls  from Hannah Glasse receipt. We are only two people here so I froze most of the rolls. This is an experiment I’ve been wanting to try to see how will they come out the next time I want to use them.  I also froze some of the cranberry sauce for later use.  That evening I assembled all the ingredients for the collops. I chopped the green onions and  shallots put the herbs and seasoning into a small bowl and poured out the right amount of broth. I salted and floured the collops and I was ready to cook.

The fire had been going for a while and the coals were ready.  I sautéed the rabbit tenders to a golden brown and then took them out and put the plate aside to keep warm. In the same pan used for the rabbit went some butter, the mushrooms, green onions and herbs, salt and pepper.  When they were softened and the mushrooms had turned a nice chestnut color, I added a knob of butter mixed with flour and stirred it in to make a roux, then cooked it. If you don’t cook a roux long enough the flour taste remains. I stirred in the white wine and lemon juice and some chicken stock and let this  simmer a while. The rabbit was then added in, tossed around to coat and cooked for a few more minutes. I moved the pan from the coals and covered it.

My French rolls would be baked in the new reflector oven that I recently bought, this was the first chance I had to use it. When the rabbit was out of the way, I moved it closer to the fire so they would obtain a crispy golden  top.

Dinner was ready.  With everything on the table, we began to plate.

We sat  leisurely eating while the custard heated up in a warm kettle by the fire. I like my custard warm. After I took them out I toasted the top with a hot iron out of the fire.

With the custard ready I placed a mini Madileine on it. Allan was in heaven.

Now the review on this meal is complicated.  I loved the cranberry sauce and the rolls were flaky and moist.  The custard delicious and the Madeleine on top was a perfect compliment.  The rabbit sauce I did not like. They say if you’re going to use wine in a recipe use one you love. Well, I am not a fan of white wine and should have thought about this.  I found the sauce to be overly sweet from the wine and the lemon didn’t help the matter. I did like the rabbit. After scraping off the sauce I found it very tender and tasting somewhere in-between white and dark chicken meat.

Now Allan, he loved it. The next day he had it for lunch and said it tasted even better after sitting  overnight. Don’t be reluctant about trying this rabbit receipt, if you like white wine.  You may love it like Allan did.

Our next rabbit receipt will be from Edward Kidder.  I’ve read this receipt and with a change or two I’m sure I will like it.  I’ll post it soon.


“My dinner is still in the woods.” -Unknown


William Verral, 1775

“The Complete System of Cookery”




With the museum closed for the winter months it is always nice to get-together with co-workers once and awhile to visit with each other and have some fun.  There was a trip to the MFA in Boston and on Saturday a few ladies came to cook at my hearth.  This was a full workshop as well as a time to talk about up-coming events.  We will all be going to the “Life and Death Symposium” next Saturday in Portsmouth.  However for now we are going to cook, roast and bake.

Marsh, Lisa and Sidney arrived first, followed by Sherry and Cathy. After a few house keeping things and a run-through of the receipts we were on our way to a great meal. Chicken on a string and fish on a plank were the first order of the day.


Sidney and Sherry took apples, onion, herbs and spices and put them into the cavity of the chicken, then sewed it up to keep all the goodness inside.  On the other side of the table, Cathy, Lisa and Marsha stuffed the fish with lemons and herds with butter.


While the butter churned and the chicken was stitched up, a medley of vegetables were prepared to par boil.  Cathy egged and breaded the outside of the fish.3 copy

With skewers pushed through the wings and highs a string was attached and the chicken hung before the fire about 4 inches above the drip pan

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The girls tried their hand at everything and took turns churning the butter that we would be use for our potatoes rolls and cooking as we went along. The fish was secured to the board with string and it was placed in the fire and every so often it needed to be turned upside down


The vegetables were taken out of the water and deemed par boiled, the apples also came off the fire and had the perfect tenderness to them.  Our fish needed to be re-planked.  The strings were cut and the fish was gently turned over, so the other side could bake.  It was washed with eggs and sprinkled with bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Tied once more to the board it went into the fireplace for more roasting


Our dessert was from Charles Carter 1730. Tort De Pomme made with a sugar paste crust.  Cathy made the dough and every one pitched in and peel apples and par boil them, cut oranges rinds and made the custard.  Cathy’s sugar paste came out beautiful and there was some leftover so she made a large fruit roll up with preserves fig, plumb and apple.  Wastes not want not!  With the softened apples in the shell Cathy put the dish by the fire to warm before adding the custard and putting it in the bake oven.  One must always remember that cold crockery will break if not heated a bit before it goes into a bake oven or kettle.


Sidney the newest member of the Moffatt Ladd family, and a professed non-cook, dove right into cracking eggs and not scrambling them in the hot cream, to make the custard for the pie.  With a little encouragement from Marsha she made velvety smooth custard with no lumps.  Go Sidney!

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This custard was poured over the apple, orange peel and citron mixture and popped into the bake oven.8copy

Sidney was a fast and efficient worker at the sink and kept us all in clean utensils and bowls.  We didn’t make her do all the dishes she had help. However she was the head dishwasher for the day.  Our chicken was not cooking fast enough for me so we moved it inside the fireplace and hung it from the crane.  It needed to be spun often, however everyone did their share of twisting the string. In the pan under the chicken you can see the vegetables roasting, infused with garlic, sweet oil and herbs, it gave off a tantalizing aroma.

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Allan dropped in to see how we were doing and took a picture of all of us having a brief respite from the days work.


Sherry made the Potato rolls.  Potatoes were approves as a  food fit for humans in the mid 1700 and a French pharmacist Antoine Parmentier may have written down the first receipt for potatoes bread.  From there various receipts were propagated by authors I have read.  However the earliest receipt I can find is one from 1794 by Madame Merigot.  This receipt is a no-knead dough and very sticky.  It made the loveliest browned rolls which were light in texture and made you ask, where is that home churned butter?


With all the main food preparation done it was time to make sauces for the fish and chicken.  From the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies the receipt for “How to make sauce for a Fish without gravy” was made.  Butter, wine, lemon juice, lobster stock, anchovies and horseradish was heated through, with thyme and parsley for a tangy sauce.  I forgot to purchase the cranberries for the chicken sauce so Marsha and I improvised.  I had an orange, a jar of cranberry preserves, and some sherry and into a redware pipkin they went. Add a little garlic and salt and pepper and it was ready to reduce by the fire.  Now it was time to plate all our hard labor. The fish was cut down the back and plated with the bones carefully removed.

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The chicken was hoisted from the fire and un-strung and the skewers removed.  Sidney wanted to carve


With the table washed down and set for lunch, the plates of food were placed. First the fish and chicken was put on the table.

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Then a large plate of roasted vegetables, potato rolls and two graves ready for hungry dinners.

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Sherry gave a toast to the accomplished cooks, friends and a new year’s start at the Moffatt Ladd House and Garden Museum

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OH and I did not forget about the Tory De Pomme.  Glistening with citron that looked like gold and apples sitting on a sugar paste, all held together with custard, and was a perfect finish for a winter’s day.


I’m looking forward to the up-coming workshop just as much as I did this one.  There is still room in some workshops and I hope you will join me for a day of fun and hearth cooking. Click on the Open Hearth Workshop Bar for more information.


Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

James Beard




The day of the class arrived and the fires were started in the hearth and bake oven early. The wall dresser holds most of the food stuff with the exception of the cream and butter that we need to be cold. Bowls, utensils and all the needed pot and pans were assembled for easy access when everyone arrived.

We started at 10:00, and the first order of the day was to boil eggs and roast the beets. Next we made the fillings for the coffins. Early pies were called “coffins” or “coffyns” which means a basket or box that held savory meat within a crust or pastry. The dough formed the container that was then filled and cooked in a bake kettle or in a bake oven.


We broke up into two groups. Cathy, Dana and Debra started on the Lumbar Pie, while Barbara, Natalie and Nancy did a Turkey Pie.

Beef suet was chopped and mixed with parsley, thyme, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt and pepper and added to the chopped meat of veal, pork and beef. With it all mixed together, the meatballs were made with a piece of marrow put into the center, then rolled in a square of caul fat. These were then browned on the hearth in leaf lard.

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Turkey and chicken livers were the main ingredient in the next pie.  However a good deal of mushrooms was added along with thyme, garlic, onions, and brandy. These were sautéed in a pan to soften and brown.


A Puff Paste was made, by making dough and rolling it out and adding pats of butter to it and folding and pounding with the rolling pin to incorporate the butter. This was cooled for 10 minutes then the process started again, more butter more pounding. After four times, the pastry was ready.  The turkey livers and mushroom mixture, was placed on the bottom crust and topped with hazel nuts. The lid was put on and the coffin shape cut. Decoration were made and added to the top.


Over on the other table the dough for the raised Lumbar Pie was made. The process is much like a potter spinning the clay on a wheel. The dough was made into the shape of a deep bowl. Everyone had to come and take a look.


Some of the saved dough was decorated with a rolling pin, with a vine design; this was wrapped around the coffin sides. Then the layers of grapes, figs, hard boiled eggs and the browned meat was placed in the standing coffin. A lid was placed on top and crimped together and also decorated.8 copy

With both coffins ready, they were put into the bake oven.

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With the beets roasted and cool enough to handle they were peeled and sliced and a batter was made. The manchets were grated to make bread crumbs and some flour and parsley were added the battered beets were dipped in the crumb mixture and ready to fry.


Carrots were grated and a pudding made and put in a greased cloth. This was boiled for an hour while the beets were fried, and while custard, for a dessert, hung over the fire and was closely watched.12copy

After an hour, the coffins were removed from the oven and looked too good to eat. 10 out copy

Apples were cored and placed upside down on each person’s finger, then covered with whipped egg whites and powdered sugar. Then they were turned upside down and filled with the custard and baked while we ate our meal..11apple

Lumber Pie, Turkey Pie, gravy for both, boiled Carrot Pudding, Fried Beets, and a finish of George Dalrymple’s Custard Apples. A great beginning to the hearth cooking season, good food, good friends both old and new, and leftovers to take home. I’m sure there were a few very happy husbands.


We had a great time, shared stories while we worked, and laughed at a few mistakes. It was a wonderful day. Some of the participants are coming back for more classes and I look forward to being with them again, as they are now old friends.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

I hope I have inspired.