COFFIN WORKSHOP ONE

And the hot oven!

What a difference a year makes. Last winter it snowed almost every Saturday, and the workshops were always being rescheduled. So far this year we have had wonderful weather, even though it has been below freezing a few days. Our workshop day dawned sunny and 22 degrees outside, with wind gusts up to 15 miles an hour. Perfect day to cook over the fire!

One of the dishes we were making was a stuffed pumpkin. I bought several pumpkins in the fall to see how they would keep over the winter. I was just at Old Sturbridge Village at the Freeman farm house and Victoria, who was working there that day, told me how their pumpkins have not fared well, being that the house is so cold. I stored mine under the sink in the panty. We keep this door open on very cold nights so the pipes won’t freeze. The pumpkins survived in wonderful shape with the exception of one that we fed to the deer outside.

The pumpkin was of a good size and I started it early in the morning. When Cathy and Sherry arrived  filled the pumpkin with a stuffing of apples, raisins, brown sugar, cubed bread, butter and spices. This would need to be turned every 20 minutes or so.

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Natalie and Kathy started right in on the quail coffin. Their marble pasty board was covered in cling wrap to keep it clean while they worked on the meat. The birds would be fried brown, cooled and picked of their meat. Four legs would be save intact to stick out of the top of the coffin. A version of, “Crustardes of Flesh,” from the Form of Curry 1390.Untitled3 copy

Sherry and Cathy read the receipt from Robert Smiths , ” A Venifon Pie” and the modern version that they plan to use. With the venison cut into cubes, Sherry renders some salt pork in the pan. Untitled-6 copy

Kathy and Natalie place the cut quail pieces in the oiled pan. After it browned at bit, they added garlic, anchovies, capers, red wine, and stock. A bouquet garni of fresh rosemary and oregano went into the simmering pan.

With the salt pork rendered, Sherry added the cut venison and browned it on all sides.Untitleda-1 copy

The filling for the venison coffin has onions, garlic, celery, carrots, potato, wine, spices and butter. When everything was cut, it was all put into the pan with the venison, and simmered along with some broth. Hanging on the crane is a pot with eggs boiling for the Lumber pie. Untitled7opy

Four quail legs were set aside and the picked meat was mixed with raisins. The braising liquid from the pan and some red wine was thickened with corn flour then poured over the torn meat. This was set aside in a cool place. The cling wrap was removed; the dough was made. After kneading it for 10 minutes it was placed in a linen cloth and twisted and set aside to help the flour absorbed the fat evenly.1

To make our coffin dough we used a medieval receipt from c 1465 Konzil von Konstanz (ÖNB 3044, fol. 48v). It is a hot water crust dough which is mainly flour, water butter, lard and a pinch of salt. The trick is to make sure you knead it well then tie it in a cloth.Capture

Now I’m lucky that I have such a handy husband who has a wood lathe. He made me three coffin forms. I’m not sure when wooden forms started to be used. I do know that they existed.

Robert Deeley, The Caildron, The Spit and the Fire, shows a picture of an 19c coffin form.

Delia Smith who wrote Food in England in 1954 has a wonder article on pork pies being cook in coffyn or coffer, i.e., little box or enclosure; it lent itself to elaborate traditional decorations, on top and sides. She says these forms were made of hot pasty and molded, or raised, round wooden molds.

And this might be the best YouTube I’ve seen of making meat pie with a wooden form.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNCQlkPExHo

Cathy flours the forms really well, and Natalie takes a piece of the warm dough and makes a small bowl shape with it. The inside gets floured and is put on the floured form and made into a coffin. Allan made two small forms on the wood lathe. This way we can make individual coffins. Kathy and Natalie were very excited with this, they want to do small coffins for the Deacon Graves House Museum dinner one day in Madison, CT.

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Next the quail filling goes in with the reserved leg in the middle. A top is then placed on with a hole for the leg. The sides and top edge were washed with beaten egg. Once they are pinched together they should hold in the filling nicely.Untitled-15 copy

Susan was in charge of Robert Mays’ 1660 “Lumber Pie” receipt. While she cuts all the suet, mushrooms, shallots, and marrow, I peel the eggs.Untitled-8 copy

I had some barberries in my spice box and even though the venison receipt did not call for it I ask the ladies if they would like to try it. Susan, a superb venison cook, suggested we grind three berry’s and add it to the mix and everyone agreed. The meat for the Lumber pie was made into little sausages and were then wrapped in caul to hold them together.Untitled-9

The sausages were browned in batches. I had made a beef gravy previously and we warmed it up with a bit of verjuice for pouring on the top of the filled coffin.Untitled-10 copy

Sherry and Cathy worked on their coffin. They were using the large wooden mold. And, yes, we went through a lot of flour, with three different coffins being made it’s not surprising.Untitled-11 copy

With their coffin made the venison filling was poured in. Cathy rolled out a lid and after brushing things with the beaten egg, she crimped it together. Their coffin was not raised very high, however, it would hold a goodly amount and serve four easily.Untitled-12 copy

Susan started to make her coffin on the large form. The wood was floured very well and she was able to make it very tall.Untitled-13 copy

Susan used a wooden noodle roller to make a great outside cover. Brushed with mixed egg, she applied the design.

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Now came the layering of the grapes, figs , eggs, mushrooms and meat sausages in the coffin. The gravy was poured on last.Untitled-18 copy

With the top pinched all round she cut more designs for the top. It was definitely decorating time and everyone was busy putting on the finishing touches of their coffins.Untitled-19 copy

Susan put leaves on top of her coffin, Sherry and Cathy put hearts, Natalie and Kathy use a combination of designs.

After all Valentine’s Day was only one day away. Coffins were ready for the oven.Untitled-20 copy

Because of the stretch of cold days Allan felt the bricks of the chimney and bake oven would take a long time to heat up. He kept testing the bake oven with the Laser Infrared Thermometer. It just would not get up to heat so he added more wood. Finally, he said it was 500 degrees and falling, so in went the coffins.

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While the coffins baked away, Cathy prepared the lovely golden and red beets she had boiled and then sliced into rounds. She melted a stick of butter in a pan, added a little roux and stirred in the chopped parsley. scallions, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper and sautéed them lightly. The beets were added and simmered until the sauce thickened.

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NOW HERE IS WHERE THE BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE AND MEN GO WRONG.

So it was time to check the bake oven. First thing that someone noticed was that there was smoke pouring out of the back of the wooden door. It was smoking and I mean really smoking. So we tossed it in the sink and poured water on it. Next we looked at the coffins. Yikes! The Lumber Pie was way in the back and BLACK. We took it out and cut off the top and found that the inside was fine. Perhaps this is why they never eat the coffin dough . (Only kidding) 

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The Venison pie did not look too bad and the small coffins were about the same. The dough was cooked, but a tad over brown!

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THEN CAME

Fredrick Nutt’s The Complete Confectioner, 1790, and his Chocolate Drops.

The chocolate was put in a brass kettle and confectionery sugar added. Sherry put it over coals and started stirring and stirring and stirring until her arm was almost baked. At this point, it was removed to the stove and it took some doing, but the chocolate and sugar melted together.

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Now the chocolate was dropped by a spoon onto a piece of parchment and sprinkled with nonpareils. When the parchment was filled, the edges were picked up, and the bottom was tapped on the marble to flatten out the chocolate. In theory, this would work. However, that would be to good to be true. What we made was glass, pretty glass, but GLASS.Untitled-25 copy

All in all the meal was enjoyable and showed off the coffin-making skills of the cooks.

Each coffin had its own distinctive taste. The capers and rosemary in the quail coffin added a nice bright taste. Putting the barberries in the venison was a great idea; you could taste them in the background. Next time I’d add more. The lumbar pie had many layers of flavors with the fruit adding sweet moisture to the gravy.

The red and golden beets with a hint of lemon and the apple pumpkin brown betty was superb.

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As we sat eating, there was lots of discussion of what went wrong with the candy. The beginning of the receipt says “Take one pound and a half of chocolate, put it on your pewter sheet or plate, put it in the oven just to warm the chocolate,….” (Our chocolate was sitting by the fire all day and was very soft.) “then put it into a copper stew pan, with three quarters of a pound of powdered sugar, mix well………” So, Cathy thought this sounded like a double boiler type process; other disagreed. What do you think? We would all be interested to know. One thing for sure we went way past the candy stage of warming the chocolate.

Here’s our group ready to feast on three coffins, a medley of beets, and apple-stuffed pumpkin24

Later that night, as Allan and I sat waiting for the fire to die down, he picked up the Laser Infrared Thermometer. Guess what? It has two settings, Fahrenheit and Celsius. It seems Allan was dealing with Celsius and didn’t know it. After all, he had it in his mind that the temperature outdoors had been so bitter cold that the brick stack would be cold. WRONG.

500 degrees Celsius is 800 degrees Fahrenheit – it’s a wonder the coffins didn’t burst into flames!

Sandie

“…no one is born a great cook; one learns by doing.”

̶ Julia Childs, My Life in France

PS: Coffin Workshop Two ̶ check the laser.

PUMPKIN WORKSHOP

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.

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Everyone arrived and started right in. We had two Heathers so we called them Heather 1 & 2

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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.

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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.

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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.

Notice my new marble pastry board. Thanks to Niel Vincent De Marino for information on where to buy it. 6 copy

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 . 4

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. 9

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.

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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.

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Ken and Heather take turns with the hand sausage stuffer. Ken said next time he makes sausages he’ll really appreciate an electric grinder.

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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.

The triangle paste held its shape wonderfully and Heather filled it up. 7

With the sausages made, Ken and Heather fry them up in a pan. They were then taken out and set aside to keep warm. The drippings would be used in the pumpkin sauce.  14

Our two Heathers put in the cheese cake and the risen pumpkin maize bread into the bake oven. 1 copy

Hannah Glasse’s receipt “To Make Vermicelli” was made by Paul with help from Heather.  12 copy

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. 15

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.

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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.

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Everything was coming together as Paul put the vermicelli in the boiling water and Ken took out the bread and cheese cake.

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The pumpkin sauce was scooped out and the soup put in bowls.19

The Pumpkin Maize bread and Robert May/ Plymouth Plantation/Pumpkin cheese cake were cooling. Brenda and Heather cut the sausages in pieces for the top of the vermicelli and pumpkin sauce.20

The table was set and everything plated. 18

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.  1a

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.

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 Sandie

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!

 

 

CHAWETTYS AND HAND PYES

Before there were vessels to bake our food in, flour was mixed with lard and water, formed into various shapes, and filled with a mix of meat and or fruit with spices. As I mentioned in earlier posts, these vessels had names like Chawetty, Chewits, Coffins , Daryoles , Pyes and Pasties; once filled, they were baked or deep fried.

These parcels with savory or sweet filling would be served at Medieval and Tutor banquets. The smaller Chewits and Hand Pyes made a very convenient package for the traveler or worker to put in a pocket and eat on the way. ENGLISH TAKE OUT!

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I decided that the first workshop of the year would be on how to make these smaller chewits and hand pyes. I spent many weeks pouring over receipts from the 14th century to the 18th century, trying to find receipts that did not include, cocks combs, tongues, sweet breads, ambergris and other ingredients unlikely to be eaten by my participants. It took a while, and I settled on several receipts that I was sure would fit our 21st century taste.

The day of the workshop arrived, and I assembled the ingredients on the wall dresser and the side table. I also needed items for our pottage. Being that the hand pie and chewits were going home with their makers we needed to have a light midday meal while we worked.

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Due to unforeseen circumstances, three participants rescheduled for other workshops. However, Paul and Heather arrived ready to explore these medieval techniques. After reading through the receipts, we needed to prepare some things ahead of time. The apples were cored, put into a kettle to bake, the spinach went into a pan to steam, marrow bones were roasted and eggs boiled.

Our first receipt came from the Tutor Cookery of Hampton Court Palace in England, “Figs and Dates Hand Pyes.” The figs and dates were chopped with spices and mixed thoroughly.  Robert Smith’s receipt from The Compleat English Cook was “Apples Pyes to Fry.” The cored apples in the bake kettle had split their skins and the pulp was just right for scooping out, and mixing with lemon, quince marmalade and sugar. Heather added the sugar as she knew Paul would be a bit heavy-handed.

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Our third pye was a receipt from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened – 1669, “Excellent Marrow-Spinach-Pasties” This receipt is both savory and sweet as it has marrow, spinach, currants and sugar.

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Our dough was next and the receipt came from a medieval cookbook called A Proper new Booke of Cokery – 1545. This receipt was different than some; it calls for egg whites and saffron water to mix with the dough. With a pinch of sugar added we were sure it would be tasty.

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Each receipt made enough dough for 12 hand pyes. Heather and Paul rolled it out and cut out circles about the size of a tea cup. Each circle was given a half tablespoon of filling, the edge of the dough dampened and then folded over to make a half moon. With the edges crimped in various ways they were placed on the platter.

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With the hand pyes all filled and ready to cook, Heather and Paul took turns by the warm fire frying them. When they got to be a golden brown they were placed on a towel to drain.

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The day before I made Manchet Rolls from “Martha Washinton’s Booke of Cookery.” Placing the bowl in a warm place for over two hours, the yeast worked its magic and it had doubled in size. When I punched it down and divided the dough; it made 16 rolls. I baked some and froze the rest. I’m hoping the frozen ones will cook as nicely as the first ones did.

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For our midday meal I made a “Pease Pottage” from Robert May’s, The Accomplisht cook. I wanted to make the potage hearty so I decided to beef it up a bit with extra vegetables. First I boiled a smoked ham knuckle for a long time the day before and the day of the workshop I skimmed off the fat from the gelatin broth. I hung a pot over the fire and sautéed a few onions, garlic, carrots and celery, and when they were soft in went the broth, peas and the rest of the larger cut carrots, onions, celery, parsnips and potatoes. This simmered all morning and was stirred now and again.

Deserving a rest after frying all the hand pyes, Heather and Paul sat to enjoy a midday meal of pottage and manchets. On top of the pottage we floated a bit of sherry which complemented the flavors of the broth and vegetables that had simmered together.

For dessert, we dug into the hand pyes, each one was different and all were very good. With our meal finished, we began the next part of the workshop, the Chawettys .9copy

Paul prepared the loin of the hare to use in the 1685 receipt from Robert Mays, The Accomplisht Cook, which includes grapes and thick bacon mixed with spices both sweet and savory. Heather sautéed the pork tenderloin over the fire for the “Pork Chawettys” receipt that I found in the, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books – Published by the “Early English Text Society” in 1888.

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The Pork Chawettys were seasoned with dates, ginger, cinnamon, bleu cheese and hard boiled eggs. With the fillings prepared, the dough was made with flour, lard, butter, salt and water. This made a stiff dough and Paul, who is the expert at dough-making, made a quick task of it.

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The dough was divided in half and each half cut into four pieces. Then each piece had some removed for the lid of the Chawettys. I have seen several different ways to make the vessel for the filling. In Robert Deeley’s book , The Cauldron, The Spit and The Fire, he pictures a wonderful old coffin form made of wood. I have one now, however it is too large for chewits. So we used a potato masher. This worked very well, and both Heather and Paul’s dough raised high.

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Every cook has his or her own likes and dislikes in spices, and other ingredients they might use. I explained that the receipts I printed were guidelines, and they could put other spices or fruit in to them as they might like. The Pork called for a green cheese. A green cheese is any unripe cheese such as bleu cheese. Paul is not really a cheese person so he omitted the bleu cheese and instead he added the leftover apples from the hand pyes. The hare filling included fresh grapes. With the filling placed inside, the lid was rolled out and brushed with water and pinched in place.

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With two different fillings, we decided to decorate the tops of the pork Chawettys so they would know which one was which when they came out of the oven. Heather and Paul made theirs different so they could tell the cheese from the non-cheese.

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When they were all made, the chawettys were basted with an egg yolk and saffron mixture that made the crust a lovely red yellow. In several receipts, I found the use of cochineal, red sandalwood and saffron to turn the dough red. Not having my delivery from Dobyns and Martin Grocers yet, I only had the saffron and it looked fine. The chawettys were slid into the oven to bake for about 25 – 30 minutes.

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Baked to perfection, the chawettys were taken out and the proud makers took them home. Heather said they would have them during the Super Bowl. They left, and then returned a bit later, as Heather had forgotten her glasses. They had already eaten several of the hand pyes in route, not waiting to get home. They did look very tasty.

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I was sorry to see them go, both Heather and Paul, and the accomplishments of the day. I will need to make my own soon. I’m thinking turkey, chestnuts and cranberries.

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Sandie

There is still room in a few classes so:

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
― Ruth Reichl

 

17TH CENTURY COFFIN CLASS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
Sandie

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

I hope I have inspired.

WILD STRAWBERRIES

At the Moffat Ladd House Museum in Portsmouth, where I work, their gardens are surrounded by wild strawberries. I had some free time in the morning to go out and pick some and bring them home. Having the next day off and with the temperature finally getting out of the 90s and the humidity dropping, I thought it was a good time to make a strawberry cheesecake.

Now wild strawberries are tiny, exquisitely sweet and very small, and taste better than what you can find at the store. It takes a long time to pick a bowlful. Here you can see the wild plant, those strawberries that I picked and a modern one sitting next to the wild one. I did mention tiny, right!1 copy

My go-to receipt for cheesecake has always been the one from Plimouth Plantation 1627 that came from our receipts folder at Strawberry Banke. However, that is all the receipt says, Plimouth Plantation Cheesecake 1627. So I emailed Kathleen Wall at Plimouth and asked her if she knew the source of the receipt. As it turns out cheesecake was unlikely to be made there. HMMM, so where does this receipt come from. We really don’t know! Kathleen sent me the receipt “To make Cheesecakes other wayes” from Robert May’s The Accomplish’t Cook. This receipt had been put in modern language and has measurements; they use it as a handout.

So I went looking at Robert May’s cookbook and found he has nine receipts for cheesecake. I picked the one closest to the one I have been using, and that includes almond flour.  

I mixed my flour, salt and sugar together and added my cold butter and cut it in until it looked like corn meal. Next I whipped up the egg white and water and quickly mixed that until it held together. I placed it on a floured board and made a four-inch round disk. This I wrapped and put in the refrigerator for an hour or so.

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In several of May’s paste receipts he calls for the pie shell to dried, which means pre-cooked. This helps to have the pastry crispy all over. I had more dough than I needed, so I made an extra blank shell to use at the end of the week with something wonderful.

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While the pie shells baked, I made the filling according to my receipt that is close to May’s, yet in a lesser amount. He was cooking cheesecake for a crowd; I’m cooking for two. I creamed the butter and sugar in the bowl then added the ground almonds, cheese, cream, mace, salt and rose water. I went easy on the rose water as I wanted the flavor of the strawberries to be the highlight. In went the eggs and everything was beaten well. I floured the strawberries before I placed them in the bowl. A light hand was needed to stir them in.

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With my shell prebaked, I poured in the batter, and into the bake oven it went. The temperature in the bake oven was about 400 degrees; falling oven, (cooling) and it took just about 40 minutes to cook. I left it in the opening to cool down a bit before I removed it to the pantry to sit.

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The smell of the pastry was wonderful, and I wanted to dig right in. However, I waited until it was cold and I could share it with my husband. Now, this is not your everyday cheesecake. Early receipts produce a flavor and texture very different than what we are used to in modern recipes.  A small piece goes a long way. I found the strawberries to be excellent in the body of the cheesecake, and, with the faint aroma of the rose water, it really woke up all of your senses, sight, smell, taste, and the feeling on your tongue that dances in delight. An upbeat satisfied sigh in praise of this dessert completes the tour of the senses.

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Go out and pick wild strawberries now before they are gone. Even if you don’t cook with them, just eating a handful will wake up your senses.

Did you know that Portsmouth N.H was once called Strawberry Banke because it was covered in this wonderful tiny fruit?

Sandie

Strawberry Quote:
“We are bound by a small, sometimes magical fruit called the strawberry. This fruit has the power to make tears dry up, make friends with enemies, make sick people feel better, make the elderly feel younger by bringing back pleasant memories of days gone by, make acquaintances of strangers, and above all, make little children smile. What other fruit has that power?”
Marvin Brown