Our workshop for Old Fort Western took place at the Col. Ruben Colburn House in Pittston Maine, during an encampment with Benedict Arnold, on Columbus Day Weekend.
Led by Colonel Benedict Arnold, a force of 1,100 soldiers began what is now called “Arnold’s March” or the “Arnold Expedition,” here on Colburn’s property. Among those who accompanied Arnold were Aaron Burr, Henry Dearborn, Daniel Morgan, and men from Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
With the autumn harvest in, Linda Novak, the Director/Curator of Old Fort Western gathered the needed ingredients for a weekend of hearth cooking. A local farm and fishery supplied a wonderful array of ingredients for the hearth. Her brother Stan’s contribution was meat and fat from his pig. How fresh can you get? With just a few other items from the store we were ready to roll up our sleeves and cook.
The men who spent the weekend camping outside kept our fires going both days, by splitting the wood and hauling it in. WE CAN’T THANK THEM ENOUGH!
We started off Saturday with just a few people but as the day and weekend progressed we ended up with 12 cooks and plenty of hunger campers. All the time we were there we had many visitors, for the encampment and to watch us cook. Our menu for the first day was stuffed pumpkin, chicken on a string, fried cocks’ combs, onion pie, cheese loaf, molasses cookies and wafers.The workshop was designed to explore methods of using the hearth as an educational tool to connect the public with the Foodways history of Old Fort Western and the people that lived there.
Not everyone was impressed with the idea of cocks’ combs, however Linda literally dug right in and boiled and peeled them; they were then fried in duck fat. When they came out of the kettle they disappeared so fast I never got a picture of them. They tasted just like bacon but better. We did save one for Linda who did all the work getting them ready to cook.
After the inside of the pumpkin was cleaned of seeds, pricked with a fork and rubbed with dry mustard, Perry and Tessa took the boiled rice, chopped meats, spices and herbs mixture and stuffed it leaving a bit of room for expansion. With the lid back on, it went into the fireplace at the front side to roast, being turned every so often. Stephanie chopped some of the ingredients for the stuffing as he wanted to keep her distance from the cock’s combs.
The molasses cookie dough was made and rolled out between parchment paper and put in a cool place to dry a bit. Then Tessa took a decorative rolling pin and made the cookies for our dinner. Some were cut in squares and some without a design were cut round. Stan was amazing; his mother taught him how to cook when he was young and he is an excellent pastry maker. Both days we put his skills to good use.
While he took the onion pie out of the bake oven the ladies sat with the camps doctor and learned a bit about herbal cures and how to dress a cut finger.
Using the wafer iron from Old Fort Western Stephanie, Tessa and Melissa made a nice stack of wafers and whipped cream with sugar for the top.
Everything started to come together, and while Perry took care of the chicken, Stephanie sliced the cheese bread, one made with grains from King Arthur Flour.
With the table spread with all our efforts, the line began and food was piled on plates to be taken to the dining room.
Soon the word was out and the encampment spilled into the kitchen for a taste. There are always leftovers. And I could not pick one receipt that I enjoyed over another. They all came out as expected and were enjoyed by all.
It was a good first day. Even though the well went dry by mid-afternoon. I have to thank all the helpers who took items home to wash and brought back two gallons of water each the following day so we would have enough to drink, use and wash with.
Day two will be out soon so stay tuned for our second day of fun.
“Let me die in this old uniform in which I fought my battles. May God forgive me for ever having put on another.” ―Benedict Arnold