Friday, July 24, 2015


Oatmeal. Yes, that pantry staple the lurks in the back of cabinet with it's happy hat-wearing logo smiling back at you. I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast almost everyday lately- which has me thinking- what else can you do with oatmeal? There are cookies, muffins, & breads- but what about our 19th Century counterparts. There always seems to be a reference to oatmeal when a discussion is started about breakfast options while at events. So let's look at some of the items they would have made with the grain.

First we have a nice Pudding of oats- "serve with a good deal of butter poured over it"- yes, I think I could try that!

The Frugal Housewife, 1803
Next, a great soup option. Soups seem to be a the top of most lists when feeding a crowd- and this is a great cheap soup and would work great for a working class impression.
The Complete Confectioner...., 1864
There are countless recipes for Oatmeal Gruel in period cook books. Most of the time you will find such recipes in the sections for "Feeding the Sick".
Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, 1844

So, there you have it. Oatmeal. Only a sampling of things to do with it, but it does answer the question as to what our ancestors did with the grain.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mrs. Gray's Muffins

Yesterday I decided to bake. Yes, bake. I haven't done much baking in the past 4 months, an infant keeps you on your toes! I wanted something easy- so I pulled Nancy Crump's Hearthside Cooking off the shelf since she has already done all of the hard work for me.

I browsed through the pages and landed in the "Breads" chapter, and there was Mrs. Gray's Muffins. I had previously made Mrs. Gray's Light Biscuits, and they turned out wonderful, so I trusted Mrs. Gray- and went with her muffins.

"To be made ten o'clock at night for breakfast, or 12 in the day for tea. Sift a quart of flour, work in it a piece of butter large as a hen egg-a teaspoon full of salt, & a large tablespoonful of lard beat 2 eggs, have a quart of milk ready & pour a little in the eggs, then add flour & milk alternately until all the flour is in, beat all well, for five or ten minutes then stir in gently a gill of yeast. Some cream or all cream is still better than milk. If ou want waffles, stir in gently half a pint of cream, at day light." 

What I love about Crump's book, is that she gives the period and modern way to execute the recipe- I was making these for tea, so I wanted them to turn out right the first time, so I followed the modern directions. 

Proof yeast- sift flour & salt- work in butter & lard. Combine egg and milk- blend into dry ingredients. Add yeast. Beat batter with a spoon for five minutes to aerate. 

5 minutes!  This is important- you'll see why in a moment. Really mix in that yeast- the batter will be light, but similar to a cake batter. 
Batter ready to rise. (This picture was an afterthought) 
Let rise for about 30 minutes. Then fill greased muffin tins half full. (Note: She does include directions on how to cook these on a griddle using rings.) Place in a 375* oven for 25 minutes, until golden brown. These muffins do rise well.
Muffins Plated with jam and marmalade, 

The muffins turn out very much like a bread. Not sweet, but good flavor. A friend compared the taste to a nice fluffy pancake- which may explain the "if you want waffles" comment in the original recipe.
Muffin insides! 
Remember how I said it was important to beat the batter for 5 minutes- to get it nice a fluffy? Look at the inside of that muffin! It's so airy! We served these at tea with jam and marmalade, but the would also be very good served with butter.

These will defiantly be made again!