OLD FORT WESTERN WORKSHOP

DAY TWO

Col. Rueben Colburn House Museum

This is a lovely museum and a great place to visit in the summer. The history of the expedition and the building of the Bateaux are well described and showcased in the house and barn. Visit someday; you’ll enjoy it.
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dummysThe fish monger gave us two wonderful fresh salmon for our workshop. Zack gutted them and took the scales off outdoors in the camp. As you can see the fish are real beauties.
2 copyZack and I stuffed each fish with thyme, dill, parsley and sliced lemons. We took twine and made sure to secure all the herbs and lemons so they would stay inside the fish. For a board we used a long split log we found outside in the pile of fire wood. Zack placed the fish on the side of the fire to roast as we made other dishes.

3copyRoger, the regiment’s parson, was in charge of deflowering the cabbage so it could be stuffed with a forced meat. We needed a very big pot to dip it in. It was a hot job and he was able to get down to the center section and cut it out for the forcing. The ladies pitched in and made the forced meat for him. He then wrapped the cabbage into a pudding cloth and boiled it for an hour. He was very diligent and kept the water boiling at all times.

4 copy Melissa took all the marrow out of the bones. Some was used for the marrow pasties and some went into a sauce that Roger made for the forced cabbage. Stephanie looks on from as far away as she can get. Marrow and cocks’ combs were not her favorite things on the menu.
Untitled8 copy Perry shared with me her copy of a rare book called Mrs Gardner’s Receipt Book 1763. Mrs. Gardiner husband, Doc Gardner, traveled to Old Fort Western as he was one of the large landholders in Maine. So we thought it would be fitting to use her receipt for Marrow Pasties. Pasties were easy to carry with you and could be eaten anytime you were hungry. She also had a receipt for portable soup which I’m sure she sent along with her husband when he left for the Fort. So it only seemed fitting that we should use a few of her receipts.  Susan and Perry made the puff paste for the marrow pasties and everyone pitched in to make them.  The beets that are on the table were baked, peeled and cut by Stephanie to be fried later in a batter.
passties-2The last thing that was done on Saturday before we cleaned up was to make the starter for the French bread the next day. Stan took care of this. On Sunday, the dough had risen and smelled of wonderful yeast and beer. Desiree came to join us on Sunday and took over the bread making. As you can see her efforts paid off with a great rise on the dough.

bread copyLinda’s task was to make the winter squash pudding. Paring and grating the large squash took a good part of the morning. When done, she poured it into a pudding cloth and tied it up ready to be boiled.
linda copyThe cabbage was boiled on the hearth right next to our vermicelli soup. The soup was made with the leftover chicken bones from the day before and some chicken meat. Stan made super vermicelli noodles but we never got a picture of them, darn. Linda’s pudding came out great. It is so important to prep the pudding cloth and keep the water boiling at all times.
linda me copyStan is an expert with flour and water. He made the vermicelli for the soup, He also made the crust for the lemon pudding Stephanie made. Both receipts are from Mr. Gardner’s receipt book.
8copySo we made Vermicelli soup, planked fish, forced cabbage, marrow pasties, fried beets, winter squash pudding, cranberry sauce, gravy, French bread, and lemon pudding all from scratch. Plus we put figs on the lemon pie and had a bowl of preserved walnuts, and cider to drink. It was a busy day and all the time we had visitors asking questions and wanting to taste the food. This is not the best picture; however, you can see that all day we were having visitors in and out of the kitchen.
visitorThe last 15 minutes was hectic with everyone scurrying around with their last minute touches. I sat down and reviewed the receipt to make sure we had not forgotten anything.

Untitled-16 copyAll looked well and the weather was lovely out of doors. There were so many of us we decided to move the feast out to the encampment. The men put up tables and brought chairs out and we all had our plates, cups and utensils ready. Everything was placed on the table, given a spoon or fork, and was ready to serve.
soupcopyPeter Morrissey, the regiment captain, took a moment to read a bit about the important contributions that Benedict Arnold had made in the beginning of his career, then Pastor Dough said a prayer for health, and happiness. We all dug into a tasty Sunday repast that was done to perfection.
end copyWe were busy each day and, because of that, we didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked. Missing in the round of day two is Tess, she ran back and forth from camp to kitchen keeping things clean and helping everyone chop or mix when needed. However, with the pictures we do have, I think you’ll get the gist of what was accomplished over the weekend.

Now, if you remember I had said that the day before, we ran the well dry. Thanks to everyone bringing water we made it through the day. Also Tessa and Melissa washed everything out doors in camp and we could not have gone home without their help. We all took what was ours and packed it into our cars and said our goodbyes. So the workshops came to a close.

Our goal was to use the hearth as an educational tool and cook with seasonally available foods from the months of May to October in Maine to interpret the Floodways of the Fort. However it is  not  the food alone that will leave a lasting impression on the visitor, it is the performance at the earth. Our task was to find things to cook that would engage the visitor in a sensory experience and share the simple technology of a chicken cooked on a string, puddings boiled in a bag, the smell the yeasty bread fresh from the bake kettle. This did indeed keep our visitors asking questions and wanting  to learn more. I think we accomplished our goal.

The camaraderie and joy shared by everyone at the workshop and encampment was phenomenal, I had such a great time and made lifelong friends along the way.

Sandie,
“We had grown into one another somewhere along the way. We were officially a team.”
― Shannon A. Thompson, Take Me Tomorrow

RECEIPT TRIALS

Bread/Wafers/Waffles

Using 17th & 18th century original receipts can be difficult, as they were written in the narrative, like a story. They don’t always have measurements, unlike the modern cook books of today. Flours are made differently and other ingredients are not exactly the same. However, reading the receipt is fascinating; and rewarding, and the only way to truly understand them is to cook them. So a few friends decided to spend a day testing receipts for wafers and I baked bread in a kettle and buns a tin oven, instead of my bake oven. The following are the results.

The day started off with a definite chill in the air, great weather for heating up the hearth. With a stack of receipts for wafers and waffles, and armed with six irons, we were ready. I also made a bread dough the day before and let it rise all night long.

I conducted the bread experiment to see how a small loaf would bake in the cast iron kettle and a few rolls in the reflector oven. I am giving a workshop for the folks at Old Fort Western in Maine next month and they do not have a bake oven. They want to put together a group of receipts that can be demonstrated to the public when they are open. So bread is always a great showpiece, and the smell is glorious. I used a French bread receipt from, The English Art of Cookery, Richard Brigg, 1788. I wanted to make the texture more like that of a less milled flour, so I added some King Arthur Harvest blend of seeds and grains , whole and flaked to add a bit of rustic crunch to the finished bread. 

In the morning, I heated up a 12-inch bake kettle and the reflector oven. I divided the dough, worked it a bit and put a round loaf on some parchment paper in the kettle and made a ring of coals around the outside of the top and bottom. I was careful not to put any in the center as I did not want to scorch the bread, just bake it. I placed a few rolls in the oven, set that on coals and faced it towards the heat. The loaf was done in 35 minutes and the rolls needed to be taken out and turned around, so they took about 45 minutes. Below you can see the finished bread and wonderful fresh eggs Nancy brought for our receipts.

5jpgNancy brought four irons, and I had two, so we greased them all up and chose two to warm on the trivets.

Nancy began on a Dutch yeast wafer receipt by Mary Kettilby that she was eager to try. This batter needed to rest, so, after she mixed it she placed it on the high shelf of the cupboard to rise. While I was busy with the bread Barbara started on the Elizabeth Moxon’s 1764 receipt for making Goofer Wafers.

Now the word Goofer with wafer might mean several things and the more you read wafer receipts the more confusing it becomes; does Goofer mean the iron shape or does it mean a deeper pancake-like wafer. I have not found any good explanations for the word. It is a mystery for now. However, as we know, when you’re looking for something you often find something else; it might pop up yet.

With the irons hot, we started with Moxon’s and found that the coversion to a smaller amount needed adjustment. So, by adding a bit more milk and cream, we ended up with a consistency we thought was okay. The next issue was how much to put on the irons. We were very careful not to overfill at first and ended up with small wafers that did not fill the iron. Also one round iron kept making pancakes. This iron had a very deep lip round it so flat wafers were out of the question.

3 copyI mixed up a receipt translated by Peter Rose from, The Sensible Cook Dutch Foodways in the Old and New World. This called for wheat flour and chardonnay. We tried this batter in several irons and none of them came out to our satisfaction and they tasted awful to boot. So we dumped that one with haste.

We kept trying all six irons and found that my small one, two of Nancy’s round ones and her rectangle one made the best wafers while her deep surface iron made pancakes.

This was getting exhausting. The irons are heavy and the heat was starting to get to us, time for a break.
We took our lunch out onto the screened porch. There was a very chilly breeze blustering through and cooling us down while we chatted about old houses and restoration. Fortified, and ready to stand by the fire once again, we took the Dutch receipt off the shelf and found that it had not risen very much. Again we added to the amounts, more butter and sugar, and returned it to its warm place.

Hannah Glasse has a receipt To Make Whafles. Barbara mixed up the batter that was to be rolled in small balls the size of a nutmeg and baked. Dividing the batter into smaller portions didn’t work out very well and we ended up with a loose batter. So we thought why not give it a try. Well, they were not bad, however, we ran out of the irons too quickly. We then added lots of flour and made round balls and that worked wonderfully. Nancy’s rectangle iron made the most beautiful designs. With the small round irons we could roll them up in cones or sticks.

The Dutch yeast receipt had risen and had a weird sticky egg color glue like batter. We again started out cautious, putting just a bit in each of the irons and commenced to putting in more. We liked the results produced by several of the irons and stopped using others.

I ran off and made Lemon Cheese from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, to fill our cones and rolls. During the day a pot of chocolate with a teaspoon of cream melted by the fire ready to be dug into.

3 copyWith each receipt we tried different irons and the most interesting iron which I thought was a waffle iron turned out to be a 1611 wafer iron. It was decorated with a family crest in the center surrounded by many rectangles of stars and on the other side a wonderful center with initials MC surrounded by flying birds with a small star over their heads, a most remarkable iron.

Now, from what I have learned, pizzelle are a traditional cookie from the Abruzzi region of Italy. They are thin wafer cookies that look almost like our 18th century wafers. And perhaps this 1611 iron is one made for a woman in Italy to make her cookies or thin wafers on; oh, if it could only talk. We all loved it and I must say I was sorry to see it go home with Nancy, the lucky gal.

4 copyTo sum the day up I would say our two top favorite receipts were Hanna Glasse’s “To Make Wafers,” and “The Right Dutch-Wafers” from Mary Kettilby. And we all learned a lot about making wafers.

We still have other receipts we want to try. One has cheese in it and might be great with a glass of wine.

Some hints for making wafers, make sure the irons are hot, listen for the steam to whistle and don’t over-pour the batter. We are looking forward to doing more receipt trials.

Sandie

“Today we will live in the moment unless it’s unpleasant in which case me will eat a cookie “ Cookie Monster