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, 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 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!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mrs. M. E. Hite's Sally Lunn

Sally Lunn has been around, well, forever? I have always seen this recipe constantly repeated in almost anything referencing period cookery (18th & 19th Century) and yet I have never tried it! It seems Sally Lunn may or may not have been a real person- a few legends of her namesake are around, and you can even visit her Bakery in Bath!
A few months ago I was "gifted" with Hearthside Cooking by Nancy Carter Crump, I have soaked in her knowledge! I highly recommend this book. She gives an overview of tools & techniques, followed by a slew of period recipes & hints! Inlcuded in the book is Mrs. M. E. Hite's Sally Lunn- which is actually Eliza Leslie's recipe from Directions for Cookery, in Its Various Branches, 1844.

Luckily, Crump already did all of the hard work for and 'converted' the recipe to a modern measurement. Crump says to bake the bread/cake in a tube pan, though Leslie says a square tin pan. I went with the tube thinking this would be more of a cake batter....nope. Very much a dough, after rising for 2 hours,  it was hard to form in the tube pan, next time I will use a regular bread pan for it. I completely forgot to get any photos of the mixing process. But did manage to get an after shot out of the oven.
Fresh Sally Lunn

Mine does look a bit uneven- but I did say it was hard to get around in that tube pan!! Maybe next time will result in a prettier bread. This was excellent served fresh out of the oven with some butter- just as Eliza Leslie suggests. DH was even a fan! It was not a "cake" as some recipes suggest- or at least not a cake for our 21st Century tastes. It is not sweet, since there is no sugar, but a savory, buttery bread!
While this will not replace my ever-popular & loved white bread at events, I think it will make an appearance on the menu occasionally.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

You have been weighed, you have been measured....

Well, not exactly, but I love that movie!  If you are like me, you find it almost impossible to bake a cake or make bread without proper measuring cups & spoons.  But we are certain that this plastic, aluminum and silicone devices did not exist to our 19th century ancestors. Or did they?

When we encounter original recipes- it can go something like this- add butter the size of a hens egg to a tea cup of milk.   Really.... a hens egg....really!

Graduated Tin Measures
Standard measures were not common until Fanny Farmer published here lovely book in 1869. I do thank her for this revolutionary thought of standard measures, but what did our ancestors do before? Measuring cups were around, in a since.

Liquids could be measured in tin cups. Cups, Pints, Quarts. Cups could be bought in graduated sets like these or cups had rings around them to designate the amount of liquid (very similar to today's modern measuring cups).

These tin measuring cups are still available for purchase from many sutlers & tinsmiths. Occasionally you can find an "original". I do try to prevent people from using originals, but some of these tine cups were used up until the 1950s for bulk orders, so some may still be safe to use.  Make sure they are clean & rust free, if they are tin keep a light coat of oil on them to keep rust away.  You can also buy tin reproductions from Old Sturbridge Village .

Dry goods, such as flour, sugar, indian meal, etc. were most likely measured in pounds rather than cups. Just as modern bakers recommend, weighing ingredients gives a better product. Miss Beecher gives an illustration for Balances for Cake.
Miss Beechers Domestic Receipt-book, 1871. 
Balances would have one side for the good to be measured and another pan for the weight to be placed. Weighing loose dry goods, such as flour, helps to give a more exact measurement rather than packing flour into a cup to be mixed which can result in too much flour- and dry baked goods.
Pan Balance with weights 

Measuring small amounts- teaspoons & tablespoons may have been a bit more tricky. It seems that spoons of different sizes were used before the standardized measures.
Apothecary spoon of Horn

 This seems to be the only "measuring spoon" I can find so far. ( I did not search the globe) It is horn, used to measure goods at an apothecary. Such spoons would have been handy in the kitchen- and who is to say they weren't? I did manage to find a company that reproduces a spoon similar to this in copper as well- find it here.  This company has lots of other cool 19th Century copper gadgets as well!

By the turn of the century it seems that many cooks were buying into the standard measuring system. Standard measuring cups & spoons were more readily available, and cookery books, such as Fanny Farmer began publishing their receipts using this new system.
Measuring spoons c. 1900. 

For more on period measurments & conversions please read "When a cup is not a cup?" by V. Mescher- I keep this chart on my wall for constant reference!

What I Do

If I am going to an event where I know I will be baking or need a specific amounts of an ingredient I pre- measure at home!! Yes, this saves the hassle of trying to find a "proper" measuring cups & spoons. I package the items in bags or boxes and then its hassle-free baking as well! I  have an absent mind at times, and if I am interpreting to the public while cooking, I often for get if that was my third or fourth cup of sugar! 

I have also measured out a few of my spoons, cups & bottles that I use. For instance I have a small white tea-cup that holds one gill (half- cup) it is perfect!! I use it all the time!! 

So, get whether or not you can afford the wonderful reproduction tin ware or not- you can still get accurate measures for your foodstuffs at events! Experiment at home with your supplies on hand & see which ones are "standard" cups or tumblers, teaspoons are gills. 

As always- Happy cooking!! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thanksgiving- A look into the 19th Century meal!

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914
     Once a year we all sit down and enjoy a great feast with our friends and family in November. This national holiday is often a time to be grateful for all that we have. In recent years however, it has become cluttered with the stress of setting the meal out on a massive table topped with manicured centerpieces and the looming cloud of Black Friday shoppers. The images of Pilgrims & Indians dance in our heads as we sit down to eat the traditional meal of Turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pie- you know just what they had in 1621! Okay, so maybe I am painting a false picture. Let's take a look back.
     Thanksgiving was made a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, not 1621! We have one lady to thank- Sarah J. Hale. While Thanksgiving had been celebrated sporadically before the 1863 proclamation, it was not an annual occurrence. Hale had lobbied for years to get a day for national Thanksgiving, in the midst of the Civil War, after the victories in Gettysburg & Vicksburg, Lincoln conceded and made the proclamation for an annual national holiday.
     Traditional foods have been served for centuries, but where our "menu" comes from is a bit sketchy. I would assume that a lot of the first thanksgivings used what was available, usually meaning wild game & seasonal vegetables. Some of the first "pilgrims" list fowl, venison & fish for the meal, and not much else is mentioned. It could be that the sides were a common staple and not worth the mention.
     When Sara J. Hale wrote Northwood in 1827 she included an entire chapter about the Thanksgiving Meal, giving detailed information about the food that was included- with the turkey taking the center stage. She also references a chicken pie that should be as large as the host's gratitude for the party. Another reference to a Thanksgiving menu can be found in Buckeye Cookery in 1877.

     You can see that many of our traditional favorites are mentioned including roast turkey, baked sweet potatoes, macaroni & cheese, and  pumpkin pie!   There are other references to what should be served at a Thanksgiving meal that include chicken pie, pork loin, pickles & sweetmeats! There seemed to be a lot of variety in the meal, much like there is today from table to table.
     Meat pies were common in the 19th Century, as I have tried on here, there are many varieties for each meat pie, chicken, pork, mincemeat, etc. the possibilities seems almost endless. The chicken pie seems to be a staple on the 19th century kitchen table. Sara Hale describes a simple pie made from the best parts of the chicken then flavored with butter & put into a puff paste- like a pumpkin pie. The dish below taken from  Jennie June's American Cookery Book, 1870 is more complex- including three meats & boiled eggs.

Roast turkey- the center piece of every meal- including a nice stuffing & gravy from the  Practical Cook Book-1850. Suggested sides include boiled ham & cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce is often served with roast turkey & other fowl.
Directions for Cookery, in Its Various Branches- 1844
The side items seem to be an endless list of potatoes, squash, salads, pickles, breads, and relishes. Almost any in season vegetable could be dressed and sent to the table to accompany the meats.

Desserts were plenty to chose from as well- the lists of cakes, pies and puddings could meet the need of any sweet tooth.
There are many- almost too many- reference to pumpkin pies & puddings- check out this post for pumpkin goodies.
 Indian Pudding- a dish made with corn meal and molasses- was an item most tables had seen throughout the year, and of course was brought out on Thanksgiving as well.
Directions for Cookery, in Its Various Branches, 1844
Mince pies are often thought of as a traditional Christmas dish but seemed to have been served around Thanksgiving as well. This is a common recipe combining beef & apples with raisins and spices to make a great savory pie!
The New England Economical Housekeeper, 1845
So on this Thanksgiving, sit aside the Sales ads & the Christmas ornaments & make a delectable meal for the family- enjoy it with the ones you love! Maybe take the time to read Thank You, Sarah: The Woman that Saved Thanksgiving ! Remember, Thanksgiving would not be the holiday that it is today without a great influence from the 19th Century!