SOUP TO NUTS BLOG
What was I thinking!!!
In my workshops I like to have a theme and use original receipts, from medieval times up to the 1820s. It takes some doing to rewrite them in modern language. Now this theme took me by surprise. Fall and pumpkins just sounded too good not to do. So off to the cookery books I go to put together a sensible meal to cook over the hearth. First stop Amelia Simons. On the title page she writes that it is the first cookery book “Adapted to this Country”. What I find is pompkin No1 &2, a pie. As I read on through the Historical Notes written in my copy of Simons 1796 edition, Karen Hess has much to say about pumpkin and other squashes and gourds. She mentions Hannah Woolley’s 1675 receipt for pie that is very different from Simons. And she goes on to say how the use of edible gourds go as far back as ancient Rome. Great, I should find lots of receipt for my Pumpkin Workshop!
NOOO! However what I do find is more interesting. Great information from the Food Time Lime, a description from the travels of Peter Kalm in 1750 to the colonies, A history on “Eating in America” by Root and De Rochemont and a great 1630 poem from Plymouth.
Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies. Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies, We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.
And I can go on and on. There is a lot of information on the use of pumpkin in America , but not many receipts.
However, I forged on and this class will be a bit different, some original old receipts, and some I’m making judgment calls on ways pumpkin might have been used in the 1700s.
I went to the local farmer and bought several types of pumpkins some for this workshop and some for the next one. On the wall dresser I put out the red kabocha squash and a Long Island cheese pumpkin.
Everyone arrived and started right in. We had two Heathers so we called them Heather 1 & 2
Heather 2 and her husband Ken wanted to work on the sausages. I used “To make Sausage” by John Nott for a receipt. No, we did not put pumpkin in the sausage, this sausage would top the Pumpkin sauce for the Vermicelli. It is always fun to see someone cleaning the guts and using a hand held sausage stuffer for the first time.
Pumpkin soup had to be on the menu. Paul and Heather 1 picked the red kabocha squash as they felt it looked like a pumpkin and had the right color. They chopped the pumpkin, a potato, leeks, onions and garlic and sautéed them in butter in the iron cauldron.
Brenda flew in from Pennsylvania for the workshop and to visit her daughter Heather 2. She is a delightful lady and unafraid in the kitchen. Here she soften up pumpkin over the fire to use in a Pumpkin and Maize bread as described by Peter Kalm. In the morning I made barm to be added to the bread. Brenda scalded the cornmeal first then added the pumpkin and a cup of wheat flour. When that cooled she put in the yeast and mixed it up.
Ken and Heather looked over the receipt for Nott’s sausage and chopped the pork very fine. I had rendered some suet and added a bit of goose fat from the workshop beforehand; this was chopped and mixed in. The receipt also called for spinach and cloves .
Heather reads the soup receipt and gets the chicken stock out. Allan made the fresh chicken stock just for the workshop. Heather gathers the brandy, cloves coriander, nutmeg and cayenne to mix in with the sautéed mixture in the cauldron. Ken and Heather are still chopping and I’m adding a bit of water to Brenda’s bread. The day was very low in humidity and the cornmeal needed just needed a bit more liquid one teaspoon at a time.
With all the ingredients in the soup, Paul hangs it from an S-hook on the crane. After much attention, it was taken off and put to the side to keep warm. The cauldron was turned now and again to make sure one side did not get too hot and burn.
17th Century Cheese Cake by Robert May was next to be made. The dough is made of wheat flour with cold butter, just pinch of salt and sugar and a three egg whites. It is very stiff. After Brenda mixed it together it went into the refrigerator for a hour. Brenda rolled out one disk and I showed her how to make a round into a triangle for the base.
Ken and Heather take turns with the hand sausage stuffer. Ken said next time he makes sausages he’ll really appreciate an electric grinder.
Being that this is a pumpkin workshop and we have Robert Mays cold butter crust, it needs a pumpkin filling. I picked a filling form Plymouth Plantation and we added pumpkin. Paul softened the pumpkin over the fire and drained it. Heather and Paul mixed up a filling with a good amount of ground almonds, ricotta cheese, cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt, eggs, mace, a hint of rose water and the pumpkin.
Paul tried the roll and slice technique and the dough was a bit too sticky to unroll the strains of vermicelli. Paul unrolled what was left and cut the vermicelli, that worked better. Every day is different in the kitchen.
I found two receipts and I decided to combined them. One is “The Vse Of Pompkins,” by John Parkinson, 1629; and “Fried Sausage” by Hannah Glasse where she puts stewed apples and cabbage around sausage.
Hannah’s receipt will be the base for our pumpkin sauce. Heather uses the kabocha again cutting the chunks into bite size pieces. Brenda cut onions, apples and half a cabbage. Ken put the butter in a the pan that had the sausage drippings, added the cabbage, apple, pumpkin, garlic, chicken broth salt and pepper. This would be put on the vermicelli and topped with sausages and parmesan.
Then my 21st century sensibility kicked in. I wanted something green on the table and I needed it to be done just before we served our lunch. I decided on braised greens. My favorite green is Swiss Chard which has nothing to do with Switzerland but with someone who coined the name, as he was from there. With a bit of research, I found that Chard is a cousin to spinach and the beet greens. Back in the fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote about chard, as the Greeks and Romans used it for its medicinal properties. Then things get very confusing as the French called cardoon and chard “carde”. The English had many names for it as well, white beet, strawberry spinach, seakale beet, Spinach beet and Roman Kale among others. Well I know it existed and I have no reason to think it was not braised somewhere, sometime, perhaps with meat in a stew . So my batting average on Pumpkin receipts “Soup to nuts” was taking a dip here.
The receipt I chose had bacon, chard, garlic, anchovies and fresh peeled tomatoes. No pumpkin in this although you certainly could. I thought better of it though, with all the pumpkin we did put in other things, I thought a fresh braised green on the side would be better. Heather and Paul put this together and it looked great.
Everything was coming together as Paul put the vermicelli in the boiling water and Ken took out the bread and cheese cake.
This workshop really stretched my brain and though it was different from the others it was an interesting learning curve. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. We had a great group and the food was outstanding.
We feasted on a bowl of Pumpkin soup, a plates full of braised greens, pumpkin cheese cake, pumpkin maize bread, vermicelli topped with pumpkin sauce, sausage and parmesan cheese.
The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” Julia Child
So What the hell it had a lot of pumpkin!