HALL TAVERN COOK-OFF
Recap – Sunday night we had a meet-and-greet at a wonderful local tavern for those who traveled far to Sandra Oliver’s workshop in Deerfield. The next day was all work and Sandy led the pack through a course on recipe research.
After several days it was time to head over to Hall Tavern and put our research to use. Claire had purchased all our ingredients and we were off and running, in many directions, finding pots and pans, spices and flour. It was a busy scene.
I had eggs to boil, forced meatballs to make, chicken to partially fry, herbs and spices to put together and gravy to make. Then on to the coffin, and that is where the disaster began. I had all the right amounts and began working the pastry. Barbara Blumenthal was at the same table making a crust for an apple pie. I’m not sure who said it first but it looked like I was making a sand castle. The rye flour would not absorb the liquid it was like grains of sand. I pushed, beat, and molded and it continued to fall apart. I added more hot water and butter and it almost worked. I rolled it out and it cracked every time I tried to raise the pye. Well, I was determined not to let this stop me from making my coffin. Into the wastebasket it went. I got a bag of unbleached flour and started all over. As I’m working the new batch, Sandy comes over to see what might have happened. She grabbed a handful of the first pastry out of the garbage and put it in a bowl and played with it.
Sure enough she likened it to rye grain and not flour at all. I was happy to know it was not just me who thought that. So I hurried along so the coffin would cook in time for the meal.
I raised a quick pastry wall and stuffed it with all the filling and on to a peel to be placed directly on the floor in the bake oven along with the apple pie and the gingerbread.
It took about one and a half hours to bake the coffin hard. Sandie and I worked together to retrieve it from the oven and I cut the top to reveal a well-cooked coffin that tasted as good as it looked.
With all hands busy, it was hard to get photographs of everyone. However, I did manage to get some. Here we have Barbara working on the apples for the pie with Sandy looking on and Mary Lou making her gingerbread.
I wish I had more pictures of the other cooks and their food; however one can’t be everywhere, although we sometimes try.
As a side note, the wonderful copper pots and some of the other equipment were donated to Historic Deerfield by a friend of mine, Paul, I know he is smiling knowing that we put them to task and they worked to our advantage in making the food come out grand. Thanks, Paul. I also would be remiss if I forget to thank Julie, who fed us three meals a day in splendid fashion. What a wonderful ending to a great workshop. I know each time I research a receipt in the future I will think back on this great group of food historians and triumphing over a challenge.