Saturday, July 26, 2014

What's In Season?

Trying to get people to bring period food to events can be difficult. There are many reasons that I have heard why people do not eat appropriate foods at events, "It's too hard" "It's too expensive" "This tastes better"...well.... no.  I have had many meals that require less effort than a sandwich, cost less than a funnel cake, and tastes better than a hot dog. But everyone has their own opinion. 

One easy way to ease someone into period appropriate foods is to take a trip to the farmers market. This can take the fear out of anyone when they are wondering "What on earth can we eat?"
In the Kitchen ,Johannes Engel Masurel, 1866
Summer
The great thing about summer is that there is an abundance of fruits & veggies that are in season. Being from NC there's an almost endless list
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Corn
  • Peaches
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Okra
  • Radishes
  • Peppers
  • Pears
  • Grapes
The great thing about this list is that most of it needs little or no cooking at all! Add some bread & cheese and make a spread of any of the above- a great filling, hydrating lunch or dinner for any setting! 

Fall
Fall brings another season of bounty! Some summer items are being carried over. 
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Cabbage
  • Turnips
Usually the butchering of fresh meat (beef, pork, etc) would happen late in the fall. The meat would then be salted, smoked & cured for use through the winter. 

Winter
  • Collards
  • Turnips
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter Squash
This is a great time for soups & stews that require little meat. Load up on the veggies! 
Making a great soup on a chilly day! 

Spring
  • Peas
  • Strawberries
You will want to use up what is left from the root cellar and what was put away for winter use- lots of root veggies, mixed with new spring produce. 
This is also when hens start laying again, so eggs can be added back to the menu! 

All Year
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Lettuce
  • Peanuts
  • Poultry (Chicken, Turkey, Goose)
  • Game meat
Many seasonal items are preserved for use all year. Read more about preservation techniques in V. Mescher's In a Pickle! Types of Food Preservation in the 19th Century.  

Every season will depend based on your geographic location check your local farmers market or produce stands to see what is available just before an event.  If you are able to keep a garden with fresh veggies & herbs keep the 19th century in mind. Period garden guides, such as, The Field and Garden Vegetables of America published in 1865 offers insight into what varieties were available to our 19th century ancestors. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Aren't you hot in that? Part 3

I started this series early last fall as a lesson in the safety of period clothing, then as a survey of evidence of women in "work" clothes. Images, engravings, and paintings of women doing daily chores invite us into their daily lives, like a snapshot to the 19th Century.

The Tin Cup, 1864 by John George Brown
I'm still not sure what the mother in this painting is doing, laundry maybe? Notice her light sun-bonnet and apron, but serving functionally. It appears that she may also have on a work petticoat under that apron.

Canal Street Market, 1860 by Henry Mosler

This painting of Canal Street Market has so much going on! Look at the aprons, the bonnets, the baskets! Its a look into bustling street scene that gives so much detail I encourage you to look at it large and see all of those wonderful details that Mosler included. Here we do see at least two wonderful sunbonnets in different styles.
Engraving of a Laundress

I wish I had the source for this engraving (if you know, please tell me). I think this is a war time engraving, considering the officer peaking around the corner. This laundress has her skirts pulled up around her and her sleeves either pushed up, or may even be a short sleeve dress. I love that her hair is  coming loose and we can see those stray ends falling out! Makes me feel good about my hair being a mess while running round.


For more in this series & to see more images, please read Part 1 & Part 2

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Christian Commission at Bermuda Hundred

The past few months have been devoted to sewing. I had a semi-immersion event coming up, and it was my first one in a few years, so I have been having to update my 19th Century "basics"- pettis, chemises, drawers, etc. The event took place in April 1864, we portraying volunteers of the United States Christian Commission (USCC) .

USCC Office, Washington DC- photo M. Brady (LOC) 
 The delegates of the USCC were volunteers who distributed over 6 millions dollars worth of supplies to the soldiers fighting. These supplies included food, clothing, medicines, reading materials, and more. The US Army was grateful for the efforts put forth by the USCC and the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC). Throughout the North there were fundraisers, fairs, and publications advertising and asking for donations for the men at the front fighting.

The rations issued by the military left little in the way of a tasty diet- salt pork, corn meal, hardtack, beans,etc. Soldiers were extremely grateful for any variety they could get their hands one. The USCC asked for foods that were easy to transport and store. Oatmeal, jelly, crackers, butter, onions, apples, lemons, pickles- all of these were easy to ship as well. There were very specific instructions for packing and labeling boxes to be sent to the USCC for distribution.

For this event we portrayed delegates in the field during the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. The event as a whole was very different. The set-up had visitors walk through the lines. Starting behind the Union Lines at the USCC & USSC set-up through the woods, to the Federal line, then to the Confederate works. The fighting was happening in "real  time" meaning that the earthworks were being constructed as the days went on, with fighting happening throughout the day.

DH, myself & Stormi walk from the battle area. 
It was not unusual for gunfire to be heard sporadically, followed by a volley or cannon fire. We did manage to walk down to the Federal lines once, but some fighting began, and we had to make our way back to the safety of our camp. Most of the day was spent interpreting to visitors the different roles of the USCC & the USSC (across the path from us). This did leave some downtime since we were prepared to help soldiers with reading material, food, etc.  We did get to feed some soldiers & give them coffee when they came from their entrenched quarters-they were grateful for the hot meal despite the 80* weather.
Stormi & I distributing food for the Soldiers

Although there was a lot of down time we did get to spend some time with friends who enjoy this crazy hobby with us. It was nice  to sit under the shade of the arbor to get to know the other "delegates".  One of the best moments to come from the weekend, was this awesome image that was struck of all of us. We used two different field images of the original USCC to create ours. 

USCC Delegates, BH 1864- Image by Chris Morgan

After two days of wet, muddy, tick-infested woods I would say the event is one to remember. I met some new people, got to see old friends, and once again learned some lessons along the way. 


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chicken Pudding, A Favourite Virginia Dish

 I have seen this recipe  a few times while flipping through my copy of "The Virginia Housewife" and have read over it, but never felt inspired to make it,until now. My DH has a thing for puddings & meat pies, so this incorporates both.
So here from Mary Randoldph's The Virginia Housewife, 1838. 

I halved the recipe since making a pudding of four chickens seemed a bit large! For my version I used 4 large eggs (modern eggs are larger), 1 1/2 cups of milk with 1/2 cup of cream (richer flavor), and about a half a stick of butter. 
The recipe suggest four chickens, four....no. I used two large chicken breasts with three legs, this gave me plenty of meat for the pudding. I boiled the chicken first as directed with a bundle of fresh thyme & parsley. 
Let the chicken cool while beating the eggs/milk/butter. Add flour to thicken the batter, I am not sure how much I used, I spooned it in, but it was less than half a cup. When the batter is combined, take the meat from the bones in small pieces and add to the batter, stir once to incorporate.  It looks like a thick soup! 
Put the pudding in a 350* oven. Depending on the heat of your oven, this could be anywhere from 30-50 minutes. I took mine out after 35 minutes, and it maybe could have stayed in a few minutes longer. Let it sit for a few minutes to cool & absorb any liquid that may be left. It will be a nice golden brown! 


Chicken Pudding right out of the oven!

I made a nice chicken gravy to serve with the pudding, as suggested, but I didn't think I was going to need it. I served the dish with a side of oven-roasted root vegetables (yummy!). It was still a bit runny when I cut into it, so it could have cooled a while longer. 



There have been a few great successes with my period cooking experiments, and this one seems to be a great hit! DH at almost half of the pudding himself! The gravy was a great addition. The pudding is a bit on the bland side, but I should have added more salt. Overall, this is a great meal! I may have to try it next time I'm cooking in the field! 


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Plain Family Dinners for February

It has been awfully quiet around here. I guess the cold creeped in, and I start sewing, and it started snowing (which is weird for NC). So I leave you with a menu for February- Yorkshire pudding, apple fritters, mashed potatoes- all great comfort foods for the cold! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mrs. Gray's Light Biscuits

Biscuits. No table may be complete without them, and since DH has been on me to make some, I tried a new recipe for the little treat. I didn't really feel like pulling from my stack of books & translating anything, so instead I pulled Hearthside Cooking from the shelf and chose one from there.
 "1 quart of sour milk, teas-spoon of saleratus to be beaten well together then worked into as much flour as will make it tolerably stiff.-a small lump of lard." 

Well, that's easy. I am not sure what date this recipe goes to, but seems to be in line with other biscuit recipes and is very similar to the Buttermilk Biscuit I tried before.

Sift 2 cups of flour together with 3/4 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of soda. Then work in about a 1/4 cup of lard. Yes, lard, pig fat, get it in there! You can still get it in grocery stores (or it may just be a southern thing).

Nancy Crump says to mix the lard in by hand. I tried to use my pastry cutter to keep my hands clean ( I was multi-tasking) but that failed. So really, get your hands into the flour to combine the lard until crumbly. Then add the buttermilk- only enough to make the dough soft- I used just a bit more than 2/3 cup. 
Turn your dough out onto a floured surface & knead enough to combine the dough together well. 
Dough ready to be rolled. 
Then roll our to about 1/2" thickness to be cut out. Cut out using a biscuit cutter of rim of a glass or tumbler. 
Cutting the biscuits
The recipe states it will make 10, 2 1/2" biscuits, but I only got 8 our of the batch. I think that has to do with the size of my biscuit cutter, it is a little larger than some. I also think I rolled my dough too thin. 

After the biscuits are cut out, place them in a pan & in a hot oven (450*) for about 12-15 minutes. My oven apparently cooks hot, because after 12 minutes they were brown & ready, maybe a little too brown. But then again, they are supposed to be "golden". 
Biscuits ready to eat!
These did not rise much, I still think I rolled my dough too thin. But they were great!! They even tasted like a biscuit should! (Yes, I am still amazed when I make something that tastes like it should). Even DH was surprised that they turned out well ( I have had a few flops lately....so bad that they didn't make it on here.)

Overall, a great biscuit. I will try these again, roll the dough thicker & cut them smaller. These are simple enough to make at event, and are excellent warm! I think kids could even help make these, mixing & cutting out (just be mindful of fire safety!)  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Plain Family Dinners for December

How to Dine,  dinners & dining. Isabella Beeton, 1866
Mince, pies, plum-pudding, apple tart!! Christmas must be getting close!!! I think even our 19th century counterparts enjoyed the lovely food of the season all month long!