Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Buttermilk Biscuit

I have never made biscuits, aside from out of the can. I know, what kind of Southern girl has never made biscuits?!?! Well, I do remember helping my mom do it when I was little, but I have never made them by myself.   I chose "Buttermilk Biscuit" from The Practical Cook Book, 1850. There were other biscuit recipes listed, but this one just looked good.

Rolled and cut
Add one tablespoon of butter to 4 cups of flour, then add about a teaspoon of salt. Mix well. Ton 2 cups of buttermilk add a teaspoon of baking soda and mix it in. Add the liquid to the flour and mix until a nice dough is formed. The dough is a nice thick dough and rolls out well. Roll the dough out to and cut into biscuits, I use the end of a glass since I do not have a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits in pans and bake at 400 for twelve minutes.
The biscuits are good hot out of the oven with butter. They were a bit heavy, and I am finding a lot of period breads to be. But, they were pretty good for a first try at biscuits!  The recipe made about 15 biscuits.
Biscuits hot out of the Oven
These would keep well for traveling, taking for a weekend event, or for soldiers to keep in a Haversack since they are not a fragile bread.

To Fricassee Eggs

I have been wanting to make these for a while, they sounded so easy. This recipe comes from The Virginia Housewife, 1838, pg. 89. There are few ingredients needed, eggs, bread crumbs, and that's really all.
So you start by boiling the six eggs, and letting them cool before peeling them. After peeling the eggs, I must admit that I forgot the flour & egg part, and just rolled them in bread crumb mixture.  I did not use lard to fry the eggs, instead I opted for vegetable shortening (its a little bit healthier).
They are fried until a nice golden brown. Use your judgement on how brown you would like them. I served mine with a bit of melted butter with parsley as I did not have any gravy, and did not make any.
They turned out great! DH stated "They're delicious!" Since this is essentially a soft boiled egg that is then deep fried, I was not going to try them as I am not a soft-boiled egg eater. But I braved them and tried one, and well, my taste stayed true and I did not like the soft boiled egg part. However, it is a quick easy recipe that can be cooked & served almost anywhere, kitchen or camp!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cooking in Camp Part 1

Many of us that cook & make period recipes do not have the luxury of having a fully stocked reproduction kitchen for our own use. While I have cooked in period kitchens, most of the time I am stuck in a camp setting with a fire pit for a hearth. So, what do we do in these situations? Do we drag every piece of crockery we own to an event? Well, no.  I am usually in the civilian part of a camp so I don't really need a back story other than the "We have to eat" one. When cooking in a camp setting I usually go with the basics. I establish what I will be cooking before the event. I have cooked as a group, which does cut down on cost & labor! But I have also cooked for group by myself & established a price based on the menu.

So, before the event. Decide on what you (or the group) will eat and how many you will be cooking for. Usually 4 or 5 meals, some events do offer a supper on Saturday night, but sometimes I opt out of this. So you will need at least 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and one dinner/supper.  The way I plan these meals depends on the type of event & the time of the year. There are a lot of factors that go into  meal planning, but it is so worth it to have a plan of attack.

Breakfast- easy, easy, easy! It's early, the fire is not ready, do not try to do a full coarse breakfast. Go with fruit, bread, cheese, eggs (easy to cook on the morning fire). Set this meal up "buffet" style with options for those waiting to eat.

Lunch- this can be as easy or as difficult as you would like. Soups are always a good way to go, unless the heat prevents such things. A vegetable soup is so easy to prepare on site. Bring plenty of root vegetables that can be cut & peeled on site, this makes an awesome demo in today's canned & frozen food world (root veggies require no refrigeration!).  The soup allows you to cook but does not require constant monitoring, just an occasional stir. A cold buffet is another option. Cold buffets can offer a variety of options for a full crowd. Bread, cheese, fruit, pickles, boiled eggs, cold ham, salads, cakes, the options really are endless.  If you really want to cook, again the options are endless. A boiled or roast meant (fowl or beef), some veggies, and your good to go! Some spectators are really entertained at seeing meat on a spit, so please caution people to not touch your meal.

Dinner/Supper- Again, this can be easy or elaborate. Usually I can concentrate most of my time on making a nice evening meal, preparing it throughout the day. This usually is a nice roasted or stewed meat with plenty of sides. I chose the sides based on what vegetables are in season for the area. Usually bread & cheese are offered as well. Also, use up any leftovers from lunch. You don't want food sitting around camp to attract the bugs & animals.

Repeat for the next day. You can use the leftover meat from supper for breakfast. I do usually do a "buffet" lunch for Sunday at an event, it is easier and does require less clean up at the end of a long weekend.

So, when the menus are decided put together a shopping/ingredients list. If you are cooking as a group decide who will buy/cook what. Get everything together & determine if anything can be made ahead of time. I always bake bread before an event and freeze is until the morning we leave. I also make any cookies or cakes we will have for the weekend, and any cold meats are cooked ahead of time as well. Cooking ahead of time saves lots of time at an event, and causes less stress when on site. Precooked items can also be warmed up on site if needed.  Package everything in period containers. Bags, tins, pasteboard boxes, paper, etc are all good packaging options.

Items to be used on site in recipes should also be placed in period packaging. I do this before I ever leave the house, and pack the items needed, so when I get on site I just unload a box right into the 1860's. I use a variety of crocks, jars, tins, boxes and bags. Make sure that whatever you use for food storage is food safe. I pre-measure everything that I will be using and place these ingredients in their container so that I know I have the right amount for what I will need to cook.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No. 7 Gingerbread

Going along with the upcoming Holiday season I decided that I wanted some Gingerbread! There are countless recipes for this sweet cake. They range from a soft cake to a crisp cookie like treat. I browsed through several recipes before deciding on No. 7 Gingerbread from The Practical Cookbook, 1850. This book gives ten recipes for gingerbread, and one for ginger cookies, I think its safe to say that it was a popular treat!
I partly chose this recipe because I knew I had all of the ingredients (and quantities needed) in the cabinet and would not have to make a special trip to get anything required.

I softened a stick and half of butter and creamed it with 3/4 cup of sugar. I did this by hand, it does not take long with the softened butter. Add in the flour (2 1/4 cups) and 3/4 cups of molasses. I used a light colored "local farm" molasses that I love. Beat three eggs well in a separate bowl, then add to the mix. I then added a heaping tablespoon of ground ginger. Mix well, almost completely. The recipe states that you should bake as soon as the soda is added. I dissolved the teaspoon of soda in milk ( about 1/4 cup) in a separate bowl before incorporating it to the mix.   After working in the milk I spooned the mix into my "buttered tin" which was a regular 9" round cake pan.

Into the oven at 350 for about 25-30 minutes. This was my oven, oven temps vary. 
Batter all mixed.
Since the batter had been so good, I was not worried so much about the taste, as what the finished product would look like, and whether it would be a soft & cake-y. I kept checking the oven to make sure it was not burning.
Then, out came this lovely cake of gingerbread, perfect out of the oven!!!! I plated it & could not wait to cut into it (I'm always so excited about these things).
Hot out of the oven
The end result was a gorgeous, lovely, and yummy cake of gingerbread!!!!
This recipe is defiantly a keeper, I may even try it at the event this weekend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweet Potato Buns

This recipe comes from the ever faithful- The Virginia Housewife, 1838. This was THE book to have in the kitchen in the 19th Century.   In light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I thought this would be a festive recipe to try. It sounded easy enough & tasty!

I cut & peeled one sweet potato, and boiled it until tender. Drained & mashed with a fork. I added some pumpkin pie spice & a nice portion of sugar- it says to taste  right? I added the flour, and added more flour, and it looked like a bread dough. I had proofed a package of dry yeast & added some (about a tablespoon or so).  And set it in the bowl to rise.  About 20 minutes later, it looked the same.  So I added a little more yeast. About 30 minutes later, the dough looked the same..... hmmmmm, curious.

Dough ready to rise
Oh, well I put it on the baking sheet & into a 350 degree oven. The dough was a little sticky, and not really like bread dough, and maybe that should have been my warning.  In the oven they went for about 20 minutes.  They looked done. So I served them hot with butter as suggested. And well, not so good. Yes, recipe failures are normal.  I am not sure if I should call this one a failure or not. The taste was not that bad, but the consistency of the "bun" was a little gooey.
"Buns" out of the oven
So this led me to think about the taste differences between us and our 19th Century ancestors. Today we think of a bun as something light & fluffy.  I have previously made pumpkin bread that had about the same gooey heavy texture as these buns. So, maybe they were not a failure?

To Make a Cheshire Pork-Pie

So this recipe is a little older than the 19th Century, but I still wanted to try it. Besides, meat pies are timeless! After searching the books & finding many, many pies I still had not found one that I really wanted to try. Sure there were ones that looked good, and I have an idea for my next one, but this one sounded super good. I found the recipe on the Colonial Williamsburg Colonial Foodways page. The cool thing about the CWCF page is that they have already done the hard work for you! They give a period recipe, and the modern conversion for you, super easy!
 On to the pie! Today's recipe comes from "The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy", 1784.

So in the original recipe we need pork, pippins (apples), crust, seasonings & white wine. Luckily, we can still get all of these things today with ease!

Pork & Apples Layered in crust
I chose a thin cut pork chop, a little over a pound ended up being six pork chops. I seared them in the skillet as recommended by CW to ensure that the meat was fully cooked.  Don't forget to season them with salt, pepper, & nutmeg!! While the pork was cooking I started the crust. I chose to make the No. 1 Common Paste from The Practical Cook Book as made in the Apple Pie.  However, for this crust I only added about 3 cups of flour, and it was greatly improved!

So with the crust done & the pork seared, the apples pealed & sliced. Now time for assembly  I was using a deeper pie dish, about 8" wide and 3 or 4" deep to make sure I had enough layering room.

The bottom crust was already in the plate, and had been in the fridge while peeling & cutting apples.
 The dish was then layered with pork (3 chops on bottom) then apples & sugar, and the other 3 chops, followed by the rest of the apples.  When the layers are all in the plate, you add the wine.  I was able to find a "Rhine Wine" as CW called for, I had never heard of it, though I am not a wine person. I added a little over half a cup since I had a deep dish pie. Top crust added & closed.

Into the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes. It was a waiting game for this one, I was so ready to eat it, as was DH!  So as soon as I pulled it out of the oven he was ready to eat it. We did let it cool for a few minutes before I cut into it.  One thing I have noticed is that this crust does not really brown, so it looks almost the same coming out of the oven as it does going in! I did rub a little butter on the top crust when it was right out of the oven this time.  It smelled wonderful!  It was wonderful! The spices & wine & apples all work together to give a great sweet, but not too sweet taste. "These pork chops are amazing" So I had a pleased husband.
Dished out & ready to eat!
What I learned from this pie, next time cut the pork into smaller chucks rather than leaving the pork chop whole, it would really help the serving& eating of the pie. Maybe less apples, I used four, and it did seem a little apple heavy. And maybe a little less wine. The pie was very liquid-y, and that could have been from the apples, but since I used about 3/4 cup of wine, next time maybe only a half?
Over all, this was one of the tastiest  things tried so far!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bread-and-Butter Fruit Pudding

To try a bread pudding has been on my list for a while now, but I had not found a recipe that looked good. This one comes from The Practical Housekeeper, 1855. Bread-and-Butter Fruit Pudding can be found on page 69.

The recipe seems simple enough. One pound of light bread, I chose a whole loaf of white bread from the grocery store bakery, and sliced it thin as directed, now, I am horrible at slicing bread, so by the end of the loaf it was a squished mess!  After the bread was sliced, I started lying it in the bottom of a glass baking dish. I chose unsalted butter, at room temperature for easy spreading, and gave each slice a liberal spreading of butter.  Since you can choose any type of fruit, I went with the traditional raisins & dates (also DH loves these!). Layer the bread & fruit until you are out of bread.  My dish was quite full to the top with the bread &  fruit. 
Next, the "pudding". Beat 8 eggs, yes 8! In order to keep measurements close to originals I use medium eggs. Beat those to break the yolks, then add in the 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar, mix well. Then add the milk, three pints (equals 6 cups) and nutmeg. Half of a grated nutmeg. Well, I am unable to find whole nutmegs at my local store, so I guessed on how much ground nutmeg to use. And judging on the amount of bread & milk in this recipe I went with a scant tablespoon of ground nutmeg.  
The liquid gets poured over the bread & fruit. I would really recommend using a deep baking dish or even a bowl to bake this pudding in as there is a lot of milk & egg  that goes into this thing. I let the bread soak  for about 20 minutes to make sure it was saturated before putting it in the oven. 
Pudding just put in the oven!
The recipe does not tell how hot to get the oven, it only states to bake for three-quarters of an hour. Gee, thanks! So, since 350 seems to be a general setting, I put the pudding in at 350 for 45 minutes.  The top did brown well, but I think my oven rack was a little high. 
The pudding did seem done after the 45 minutes. Let it cool for a while. After dishing a little bit, it did seem a little runny.  The taste was pretty good, but did seem a bit bland compared to other bread puddings I had eaten. 
This would be good to use applesauce or peaches, as the recipe suggests. They would probably make the whole thing a little sweeter.  I would still call this pudding a success!!