Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Not When It's Hot!"- No Fire Food

As Spring rolls through, we know that summer will be just around the corner. While we do look forward to the warmer temperatures and the blooming flowers, most of us do not want to bend over an open fire all day in order to feed our living history crowd. So what do we do?
Luckily there are options!
Bread- Try to pre-bake ahead of the event- Bread, Biscuits, cakes, cookies, etc. These can be made in the off-season and stored in the freezer until the even (this will also keep your house from getting hot)
Fruit-Fresh, seasonal fruit is a great option for summer months. Apples, oranges, watermelon, peaches, berries- these will also help keep hydration levels up!
The Virginia Housewife, 1838

Vegetables- Fresh produce is a wonderful thing to have a basket of. Pick & chose what is wanted at a time- eat cucumbers, tomatoes, celery alone or on sandwiches. Try some salads with a nice vinaigrette  These are nice alternatives to "heavy foods" and will keep you full without that "sick" feeling. Also, keep some pickles around! These are also great to throw in a salad or to snack on, plus the vinegar content keeps electrolytes happy!
Meats-Cold ham, cold roast chicken, summer sausages. Pre-cook ham & chicken before the event, then enjoy it cold as a main dish, on a sandwich, or as a topping on salad.
Beverages- Water, water, water!!! I can't say it enough! Drink water! Try to stay away from the sugary alternatives (Gatorade,etc.). Drink even when you do not think you need it, start hydrating before events. Start drinking plenty of water a few days before the planned summer event.  Lemonade is also quick & easy to make at events. Fruit waters were also found in the period (strawberries, mmmmmm). Another option is Switchel- (1 gal. of water, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup molasses  1 cup vinegar, 1 tsp ginger). Switchel is used to replace & replenish what the body has lost (think modern sports drinks), but the ingredients are all natural!
Ice Cream- There are numerous references to "ices" and "creams". Enjoy a nice fruit-flavored ice cream to keep cool!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pleasing a Picky Palatte

We all have seen them, we have them in our family, we may even be one ourselves....a picky eater. While being particular about what you eat may deter you from packing period food for a fun weekend of living history, but it shouldn't. The 19th Century offers a variety of foods that are sure to please almost any palate. Sure, it may not be the most nutritious for two days, or even have the most variety, but who cares if you eat nothing but apples & bread for the weekend? I spent a week last summer eating almost nothing but tomato sandwiches, but I digress. Below is a listing of simple foods. There should be enough on the list to compose a nice picnic-style menu for the weekend!
  • Breads- Homemade or from a local bakery. Rolls, biscuits, etc. You really can't go wrong with a bread. This can be a staple for the weekend. It does not need to refrigerated and keeps for a while. You can also make your own if you have any dietary restrictions (ex. Celiac disease).
  • Cheese- Again, a variety is appropriate. Stick to the harder cheeses so they will not melt or become too soft during an event. (Leave that cooler at home, you won't need it!) 
  • Eggs- You can't beat fresh eggs! You can cook these a variety of ways- fry, boil, scramble, poach, make egg salad- the ideas are endless. Try to get fresh eggs that have not been refrigerated so they will keep the weekend without needing refrigeration- put them in a nice basket for storage & a nice display item in camp! 
  • Nuts- Looking for another source of protein? Pecan, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc. They are great for snacking too!
  • Fruits- Fresh, seasonal fruits are another wonderful option. Strawberries, pears, apples (can use these most of the year), peaches (fresh or canned!).
  • Vegetables- Fresh & seasonal, the summer months are full of them! Tomatoes, corn, carrots, onions, cucumbers, radishes, celery, potatoes (fry, boil, mash).Choose a variety to snack on or throw in a pot for a great stew or soup! Root vegetables can be used almost all year! 
  • Mac & Cheese- yes, that's right, Kraft did not invent this favorite dish- See the recipe here
  • Pickles- The 19th century is known for the variety of pickled items. Try cucumbers, eggs, peaches (yes, peaches, they are not that bad!). The vinegar will help keeping electrolytes happy.
  • Condiments- add some flavor to the basics. Jams, jellies, butter, honey, molasses. 
  • Cakes & Cookies- These are sure to please the sweet-tooth in the crowd. Ginger cakes, molasses cookies, macaroons, shortcake, pound cake. 
You may have noticed that I composed this entire list as a meat-free menu! Pretty impressive! However, if you find yourself just at a loss without meat on your plate, fear not. 
  • Fish- fresh caught, easy to cook. 
  • Pork- One thing that is found over & over again in a 19th Century diet- salt pork. Also try ham & sausages. 
  • Chicken- Cook it any way you want. Roast it over the fire, boil, fry, add to a stew. A little can feed a lot! Use any leftovers to make a nice chicken salad for a Sunday lunch. 
  • Game meat- if you have any family or friends that hunt, chances are they may have an extra haunch of meat that you can have. Cook as desired. 
This list, sans meat, can travel easy without needing refrigeration. Remember to always package food in a period way as to not have to mess with plastics during an event. Bags, crockery, paper, boxes, etc are all period uses to store foods. 

Hopefully, this list can give you some ideas for composing a nice meal to solidify a good impression. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Salads for the Season

Since I am in the middle of packing & moving,  I will offer a sampling of recipes  rather that my attempt at them. I promise, I will get back to cooking soon!  Below is a sampling of salads from the 19th Century.  With the weather warming up and the farmer's markets opening, it is a great way to use up all of those fresh  veggies that will be on our plates soon.

*I may actually make this sometime soon! So easy!!* 

These are a few salads to bring you some spring cheer! Stay tuned for more posts on spring foods! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cooking in Camp Part 2

Part one can be found here.
The menu is planned, the food is packed. What do you cook on?  Copper? Tin? Cast iron? Yes. I use all three. More copper and cast iron than tin (it rusts so easy!). I have been able to get some cheap copper pots & pans at thrift stores and antique stalls. Cast iron is my go-to. I use it at home, I use it in camp. Cast iron is almost indestructible, which helps in a camp situation. I absolutely love cooking on my cast iron! It holds heat very well, and is easy to clean ( another camp plus)! Copper & tin do have their advantages in that they are lighter and easier to carry. Tin tends to rust easily if you do not take care of it.

Serving dishes can also be tricky when in a camping situation. I'm sure at some point we all want to make a pretty table with pretty china dishes, however, we have to look at practicality. Those of us who do cook in a camp setting usually do not have space for such, though it would be nice. China items are far too breakable to haul around, but if you find some appropriate ones for .25 at the goodwill, you won't be upset if they get broken. I tend to use ironstone and some wood pieces. I have lucked up and have been able to get some good iron stone cheap, either at yard sales, discount stores, etc. Wood serving dishes are another option. These can be over-used I think in some cases. I like to serve bread on my large wooden cutting board after cutting it. Sometimes I use small wood bowls for veggies, nuts, etc. Luckily a lot of places are starting to make/sell reproduction pottery pieces. While I love to use pottery, I also feel like I need to be careful while transporting it. I have had pieces get cracks, like my Williamsburg mug :(. Again, look in thrift stores, yard sales, even some antique markets have great, cheap finds!
Variety of dishes used in camp cooking

When it comes time to eat the meal, I depend on "the guys", or whoever I am feeding, to provide their own utensils. I keep a few extra bowls & forks around for those who are just starting out.  I usually serve soup/stew right from the pot on the fire so that it stays warm. Sides like potatoes, salad, fruit, veggies, cheese, bread, etc. are usually self-serve "buffet-style" on a central table. There is always water & lemonade available as well!  I try to keep camp meals simple, but still add variety. When feeding a large crowd, everyone has different tastes and there is no way to please everyone, but variety helps everyone get their fill!

Clean-up. The dreaded four-letter word...clean..... Well, we all have to do it. I try to keep hot water going all day for easy clean-up. If there are a lot of people eating, I have made "the guys" clean their own dishes. I provide the basins, water, soap, and towels, they provide their labor to clean their dishes.  I combine leftovers for mid-afternoon grazing. Usually leftovers are placed on the cutting board (bread, cheese, etc.) and a towel over them to keep fly's off.  Cast iron pots & pans are cleaned with boiling water and good wipe down with oil so they are ready for next time.

So, cooking in camp may seem like a big responsibility, but its not! Just take your time and remember, provide a variety of simple foods! Bake ahead of time & package everything before you leave home so you do not have to hide modern wrappings.

Happy cooking!!!