OLD FORT WESTERN

DAY ONE

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.
colburnhouseLed 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.

Untitled-0With 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!

Untitled-8 copyWe 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.

Untitled7Not 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.

4After 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.

Untitled5 copyThe 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.
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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.

Untitled-3 copy 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.

wafers copy 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.

Untitled-2 copy With the table spread with all our efforts, the line began and food was piled on plates to be taken to the dining room.
Stich-1  copy 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.
Untitled-11 copy 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.

Sandie

“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

BAKED STUFFED PUMPKIN

This time of year when the weatherman calls for a big storm , everyone runs out for milk, eggs, bread and other supplies, to hold them over for the storm to come (or not). Back in the 18th century there were few stores, unless you lived in the cities of that time, and no one to tell you to prepare. And they did not need to know, as they were as prepared as they could be. It was the “Months of Want,” February, March and April, which were the hardest to survive food wise. By these months, if you had anything left from your preservation efforts and in the root cellar you were a lucky family. Getting nutrition from preserved food was all you had.sleepyhollowc

At Halloween, I bought a cooking pumpkin and I have managed to keep it edible for over three months. However, it was time to use it or lose it. My friend Sabra came to mind. Several years ago she brought a stuffed pumpkin to the Hartwell Tavern Preservation Day event, at Minuteman National Park. So I emailed her and she sent her receipt. She does not remember where it came from and thought it might be French. She had gotten the receipt at a hearth cooking class. Well, we may not have an original receipt, however, I’m sure we can say with some certainty that pumpkins were used as a cooking vessel and may have been stuffed and served in the 18th century. I liked Sabra’s ingredients and used those as my base. All the while my husband Allan is huffing about the house and wishing we were cooking steak instead. I held to my guns and told him if he did not like it he could have the leftovers from the night before.

Now, I had preserved in my freezer sausage, and ground chuck, in the larder I had onions, garlic, dried mushrooms, rice and dried beans. Along with some ground mustard, salt and pepper I thought I had a great combination going. I had been to the store, like a good New Englander, readying myself for the storm and saw some very nice marrow bones and brought them home.

I roasted the marrow bones for about 45 minutes and ended up with a lovely clear fat on the bottom of the pan and soft, and hopefully flavorful, marrow on the inside of the bones. I scooped out the marrow and saved all the fat. Not sure what I may use it for yet I just could not throw the fat away. While the bones were cooking, I scooped out the pumpkin and made brown rice.

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I had already soaked and cooked the beans and just needed to drain them. I put the dried mushrooms in boiling water to make them soft and gave them a rough chop. In a skillet, I fried the sausage, out of their casings, and the beef. When they were almost brown, I added the marrow, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and the mushrooms. After it all sautéed a bit, I poured it into the bowl.2copy

I rubbed the inside of the pumpkin with the dried mustard. I added some thyme and began to fill it with the mixture and placed it in a kettle with a cup of water around it, and placed it on the hearth. But then I thought “oh, no” I forgot the beans. Those were added at the hearth, and mixed as best I could.3copy

All the ingredients inside the pumpkin were cooked and I really just needed to have the pumpkin get soft on the inside. Turning it now and then, and placing it very near the fire, which we kept very hot, I poked at it, like any good cook, and when I thought it was tender I took it to the kitchen. It took the pumpkin about two hours to become soft inside.  

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So the hour of reckoning was here. I piled Allan’s plate with the stuffing and waited for his verdict. Don’t ya know he’s a man and he loved it, raved about it. Told me to write down what I did right away so I would not forget. He was so glad that we had some left over!

So our winter blizzard and days of want came and went with bellies full and thoughts of “What can I cook for him next?”

May you never have a month or day of want.

Sandie