Catching up

I guess you have been wondering where I have been.  I put my cooking on the back burner so to speak, so that I could do a play with my son.  This is his Senior year and we had the opportunity to be in a local production of “Bye Bye Birdie” and we took it! We had a great time and now that it is over, I need to get moving.

I promise to catch you up on some of the things I have done that did involve cooking or foodways.  Like my getting to speak at the Renaissance Convention.  But until I do, I should tell you what I will be up to soon!

I am excited about this summer.  On June 29th I will be cooking at the Carlyle House in Alexandria, VA .  The day is about the Revolutionary war and I will be cooking food that the troops would eat.  July 11, I will be at London Town in their tavern’s kitchen as the cook.  Although, the site does not allow cooking in the kitchen, I will be discussing the food of the Tavern and it’s owners.  Having also been asked to be a guest chef at the Olney Farmers Market on July 18, I am looking forward to planning the demonstration and redacting historical receipts for it.  Hopefully soon, I will have word from the Maryland Renaissance Festival on whether they will need me for cooking demonstrations for the month of September in their historical kitchen.

On top of my foodways obligations, I have been commissioned to make a historically accurate 1540’s gentleman’ outfit befitting the rank of knight and a wedding dress for a friend renewing her vows.  In addition on June 5,  I portrayed Mrs. Mary Anne Welby De Butts for Oxen Hill Farm, then I was asked to portray her again this past Saturday for the Alexandria Archeology Museum.  I am also busy with my garden again.  Plus I am planning a huge celebration for the graduation of my son from High School and my husband from Law school.

So, my summer is busy but will provide me with lots to blog on.  Now to work on catching you up…..

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  


“St. Davids Day, the first of March, kept in honour of St. David Bishop of Menivy in Wales, at which time the Welsh men wear Leeks in their hats, in commemoration of the singular victory obtained by them, under the conduct of St. David, over the Saxons” – An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1675)

Leeks are known throughout history.  They are found on hieroglyphics in Egypt.  They are mentioned in the book of Numbers as a food that the Jewish slaves ate in Egypt.  Pliny (23 AD-79AD) writes about the uses of leeks.   The Leek has been used in many comedies and bawdy poetry of the 16th and 17th centuries.  Regardless of its origins in history, the one thing that is known is that it is of the onion family, that it is not only used culinary wise but also medicinally and that it can change the acceptance of ones breath.

There are many Leeks.  Allium ampeloprasum is the Latin name of the leek you find in your local grocery store and the one we always call Leek, however, there are many types of Leeks in historic writings.  You may have heard the word Ramp when talking of Wild Leeks.  These are now commonly know as scallions or spring onions.  You may have heard of the House leek.  Funny enough, it is not an allium but it is eaten and interesting enough, it grows wild on the houses in England. In many 16th, 17th, and 18th century writings several Leeks are mentioned: Leeks of the Vine, house leeks, Wild leeks, French Leeks, Dog Leeks, Scotch Leek, and Broad leav’d Leek or London Leek.  However, in today’s world you will find there are even more types of leeks then the ones mention above.  When researching leeks you will find that right along side the type of leeks written about there is also the illnesses that they are intended to aid in the healing of.

Leeks are Hot and Dry in the 4th degree and therefore have expulsive faculties of cold and moist ailments.  That being said, Leeks are said to “Cause bad blood” (Pambotanologia Sive Enchiridon Botonicum; Robert Lovel, 1665).  Blood is hot and moist, so I am assuming although, one is dry and one is moist that because they are both Hot in nature it is not good for the body.  Lovel goes on to mention that leeks are good for ridding one of worms, good for catarrhes or thin rheums, stays the spitting of blood, opens and cleanses the lungs, expectorates tough phlegm and is helpful in childbirth and provoking courses in women.  Leeks are also said to be hurtful to the eyes/sight.  In Eighteen books of the Secrets of Art and Nature (1661) Johann Jacob Wecker says that leeks are good Locust deterrent.  In a Way to get Wealth, William Larsen says to use leeks as a mole deterrent.  Larsen also says that the best time to plant leeks is on the New Moon in February or March and to gather seeds in fair weather on the Wain of the Moon.  Regardless of their medicinal value, leeks are also valued for their culinary uses.

“He that eat cumminseed first, shall never breath forth the stinking ill smell of Leek, though he eat leeks in abundance, for eating of that takes away the ill sent of this.” (Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art and Nature, 1661)  Although, when looking for receipts for Leeks I found little, I can suppose from the statement above that eating leeks raw must have been the fashion in the 17th century.  Robert Lovel suggest boiling leeks make them “less hurtful and looseth it’s sharpness”.  In the late 17th and throughout the 18th century many writers of cookery books include a leek soup or a soup that has leeks in it.  Does that come from the belief stated by Lovel?  I am not sure, but it does leave one to ponder, since I only found a couple of receipts that are not soup but had leeks as an ingredient.  I did however find several mentions to when they are in season and how to grow them, which leads me back to maybe they were enjoyed raw.  I remember growing up and the lady that watched me loved to eat onions raw with a glass of milk.  She ate it like an apple, and onions are from the same family as leeks.  So, given the information I have found and knowing that there are people who like to eat raw onions today, why could it not the same for our ancestors.  Of course, I am just speculating.

With all this on leeks, did I recreate an historical receipt this week?  In a word, no.  But I did cook a side dish and thought I would share this with you anyway, just because it turned out so delicious!

Take 4 nice size leeks, clean and cut into about 3 inch pieces.  Then cook in 1 1/4 cups milk for about 16 minutes.  Be watchful to not let it boil or scorch.
At the same time fry up some bacon (I used turkey bacon this time around)
once the leeks are done drain and put them into a well buttered shallow baking dish. Crumble bacon over top.
In the pan used to cook the leeks place 1 cup cream, 1 egg, 1 Tablespoon mustard (I used Dijon), and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Cook whisking until thickens.  Once thicken pour over the bacon and leeks.  Top with shredded cheese ( I shredded Cotswold).  Then place in the oven under a high broiler for about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your oven.

See how creamy it is!  I just couldn’t stop eating it.

Result:  One of the best side dishes I have ever had!  It is a must try.

Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  


The debate growing up in my family home was wether we liked sea or freshwater scallops better.  My winner Sea!  When researching scallops the extant information does not state wether it is sea or freshwater.  Samuel Pepys mentions in his diary on February 16, 1659 that he received a box of China oranges and two little barrels of scallops from Captain Cuttance for his Lord.  Again, no mention of the type.  As to receipts, I only found two different ones mention.

“Scallops in shells, with onions” is found in William Verrall’s 1759 cookery book and a similar receipt “To broyl scallops” found in The Court & Kitchen of Elizabeth 1664.  Following the William Verrall’s receipt produced an acceptable tasting scallop but nothing worth trying again.  The Receipt calls for using a salamander of which I do not have and even if I did it would be harder to use indoors, so, I used the oven broiler.  I allowed myself to be distracted the short time it needed and I burned it a little.

Take your scallops from your shells, blanch them well, and take off the beards, provide some small old onions, peel off the two outmost skins, and fry them of a nice colour and tender, cut the scallops in thins pieces, put them into a stewpan, with the onions well drained, a little cullis, and pepper, salt , parsley and nutmeg; stew all together a few minutes, squeeze the juice of orange or lemon, and put into the shells, sift over a little fine grated bread, but not to hide what it is, colour with a salamander, or in an oven, and serve ’em to table.
This is a genteel good entremets, with sauce a la Benjamele, with a little Parmesan cheese nicely coloured.
A Complete System of Cookery

*Note: Cullis is the juice that runs out of cooked meat

The second receipt, “To stew scallops” was found in Hannah Glasse’s 1805 cookery book.

Boil them very well in salt and water, take them out and stew them in a little of the liquor, a little white-wine, a little vinegar, two or three blades of mace, two or three cloves, a piece of butter rol’ed in flour, and the juice of a Seville orange.  Stew them well, and dish them up.
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

This produced the best tasting scallops I have ever had.

My redaction of this receipt:

In a bowl place two table spoons white-wine, teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 3 blades of mace, 2 cloves, and the juice of one orange.  Place scallops in boiling salt water for about two minutes.  Remove scallops from water saving two tablespoons of the water.  Place the stuff all back into the pan with 1 Tablespoon of butter rolled in flour allow to stew approximately two minutes on each side.

Result: The family loved the stewed scallops.  The flavouring of the liquid did not over power the scallops, which were tender.  The family found nothing wrong with the scallops with onions, but it may have been that the bread burned in broiling it that did not give the wow that the stewed scallops gave.  I am not sure what would happen if I had used freshwater scallops instead…guess I will have to do this experiment over again with freshwater.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cheese: Aged Cheddar Cheese

This week I bought Kerrygold‘s Reserve Cheddar: Aged over 2 years.  It is a strong sharp cheddar.  Absolutely fine alone, but if you are not one to eat strong cheeses on their own, this cheese would be lovely paired with ham on a butter biscuit.  Of course this is Lent and for me I am unable to eat it with ham, so, I grated some over steamed asparagus and it was heavenly.

So what is Cheddar Cheese?  First of all it goes back a way, at least to the 12th century were Henry II mentions purchasing 10,000 pounds of it.  There is indeed a village of Cheddar in Somerset Country where it is believed that it was first developed and hence, thereafter taking its name.  But what really makes Cheddar Cheese Cheddar is how it is made.

The term Cheddar comes from the term cheddaring, which a unique portion of making the cheese.  Imagine if you will a large tub of very firm jello (this is the best description of a vat of coagulated cows milk that I can think of) to that vat take a rake of knives raking it as many time until this jello substance is in small pieces.  Then these small pieces are cooked, drained, milled, salted, put into forms and press.  It is then set to age anywhere from 1 month to 12+ years.

I find it fascinating but really all I care about is the taste.  I liked this aged Cheddar Cheese and I hope you do to.

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  


First day of Lent and a I thought I would try a simple fish dish.

To Fry Haddock

Gut and wash them clean, Cut the fins on the back close, slip off the skins, turn them round with the tails in their mouths, and fasten them with little skewers, then with a brush put some yolk of eggs on, and strew bread crumbs over them; have a pan of hogs-lard or beef-drippings boiling hot, put them in, and fry them quick of a fine light brown; take them out,and put them on a drainer in front of the fire to drain; put the fish in a hot dish, and garnish with the fried parsley, with anchovy sauce in a boat.

Another way is, scale and gut the fish, wash them very clean, cut them in slices about an inch thick, dry them well in a cloth, and flour them; put a pound of butter into a frying pan, and melt it till it is done hissing, put in your fish, and fry them on both side till they are brown; put them in a dish before the fire to keep hot, and put a pint of boiling water, a quarter of a pound of butter, a spoonful of anchovy liquor, two spoonfuls of ketchup, boil it up, pour over the fish, and garnish with horseradish.
The English art of cookery, according to the present practice: (1788)

To Fry Haddock

Take fresh small ones, gut, and wash them; take off the skin and small bones, sprinkle a little salt on them, dredge them with flour.  Make your drippings or butter boiling hot.  Fry the a little brown.  Lay them round a the dish.  Garnish with crisped parsley.  For sauce, melted butter, with anchovies.
N.B. Do whitings in the same manner, but with the skin on.
The Lady’s housewife’s, and cookmaid’s Assistant: (1769)

I basically followed the second receipt for cooking the fish.  I bought four fillets of Haddock, dredged them in flour and pan fried them in butter.  The sauce is the anchovy sauce found in the first receipt.  The ketchup I used was mushroom.  It turned out to be a thinner sauce then we are used to but it actually complimented the haddock.  I would like to find a thicker form of it so as not to end up all over the plate.

Published in: on February 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

40 days

Spring will not get here soon enough.  I say this because we still have 2 feet of snow and even had some visit yesterday which thank goodness left nothing behind to worry about.  But the other ritual before spring that is officially part of my life is Lent.  Today many people are having a party for Fat Tuesday, the end of Mardi Gras.  Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday,  there will be repentant heads and souls.  Some will be in church, as was the original thing to do, to having ash place on their head and promising to give something up for the next forty days.  If you pull your calendar out you will find that there is actually 46 days till Easter the end of Lent.  This is because the church originally had a non-beast eating rule during Lent.  Beasts were defined as those that walked upon the earth, because they were cursed when Adam and Even sinned; “…cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eate of it all the dayes of thy life.” (Genesis 3:17b)  The thought being, because the earth was cursed so must the animals that walk upon it including birds. Lent was the time in preparation for easter and also our being like Jesus, who fasted for forty days in the dessert.  I am not sure but I would believe that they knew we were human and not god like and would fail, so making it forty-six days allowed for 6 days of reprieve during this long time.  These six days were Sundays.

In addition to the two major fasting periods, Advent and Lent, there were three other official fasting days: Wednesday, to fast for we are sinners;  Friday, for our Lord gave himself as a sacrifice on a Friday and therefore we fast in thanks and acknowledgement that we have salvation; Saturday, to fast to ask to be vessels of his works as the Virgin Mary herself gave herself to be used by God.  But never was there fasting allowed on a Sunday, because Sunday is a holy day and therefor a day of celebration.  Incidentally, if a holy/saints day fell on a fasting day the fasting was cancelled.  As time rolled along, there became too many saints days and of course amendments were made to the fasting rules.  There was also exceptions to whom fast rules apply, like the elderly and young children, not to mention the sick.  There even were Papal dispensations given out.  Then with the Protestant Revolution, fasting diminished or done away with completely.  It is now a personal choice to have a time of fasting.  When I was growing up Friday was observed in the Catholic church as Fish day but even that is a personal choice, however, one is encourage now to give something up in reflection of the Lenten season.

All of this brings me to the fact that I now have 46 days of Lent to look forward to, and yes my family gives up something, red meat.  Since too much fish has in the past caused me some physical ailments, we continue to have fowl, eggs or cheese.  However, this year I am going to try replicate a few historic receipts.  There are Lenten sections in cookery books up to about the year 1745 and event past this time, but I am unsure if it is just added because there has always been a Lenten section or if there is anyone still practicing.  I say this because in An Essay on Regimen: Together with Five Discourses, Medical, Moral, and Philosophical(1740, London), the author,George Cheyne, talks about fasting for Lent being for Catholics in France, Italy and Spain. I am neither Catholic, French, Italian or Spanish but I love history and this is part of history.

I will admit this is my third year of giving up red meat and I still struggle with not having it, but this will be the first year I will try out “Lenten” receipts.  I am not sure it is right to as for luck in this endeavor but it’s probably ok to as for your prayers.

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Cheese: Cotswold

Cotswold cheese is a Double Gloucester cheese with minced onion and chives.  To give a little information on what a Double Gloucester cheese is, you must know that there is also a single type.  Gloucester is a county on the southwest border of England that borders Wales.  They have been making cheese in this area since the 16th century.  Single Gloucester is made with skimmed milk and Double Gloucester is made with whole milk.  This particular cheese was made by the Clawson company.  Clawson known as “Long Clawson Dairy Limited”  is a 12 farm co-op created in 1911.

John Perkins writes under the title Cheese:

The Double Gloucester is a cheese that pleases almost every palate.  The best of this kind is made from the new, or (as it is called in that and ajoining counties) covered milk.  An infirior sort is made from what is called half covered milk; though when any of the cheeses turn out to be good, people are decieved, and often purchase them for the best coverd milk cheese; but farmers who are honest have them stamped with a peice of wood in the shape of a heart, so that any person may know them.  Every Woman Her Own Housekeeper (1796)

It is a strong hard cheese and the onion flavor compliments it perfectly.  Many sites recommend it for a plowman’s lunch.  A Plowman’s Lunch usually consists of cheese, pickle, butter and crusty bread, at times there is a meat.  I can definitely see why this is recommended.  We ate the cheese with a biscuit which went perfectly together.  I did try it alone but it was too strong for me, however, the rest of my family didn’t mind it on it’s own.

Published in: on February 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm  Comments (2)  


I found I had about four lamb chops in the freezer, so, out come the cook books to find a receipt to make with them.  No lamb chops are to be found in my receipt books, but a few Mutton chops.  So what is the difference between mutton and lamb? Lamb is a sheep under 12 months old, and mutton is usually a ewe or wether (castrated male) that is over 1 year.  Knowing that mutton and lamb are basically the same animal, I decided to try a mutton-chop receipt from Hannah Glass

Baked Mutton Chops

Take a loin or neck of mutton, cut it into steaks, put some pepper and salt over it, butter your dish, and lay in your steaks; then take a quart of milk, six eggs, beat up fine, and four spoonfuls of flour; beat your flour and eggs in little milk first, and then put the rest to it; put in a little beaten ginger, and a little salt.  Pour this over the steaks, and sent it to the oven; an hour and an half will bake it.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1775)

Taking the four chops, salted and peppered, I laid them in a buttered rectangular stone pan.  In a large bowl, I took the 6 eggs beat them then adding 4 heaping Tablespoons of flour.  (Put the flour in slowly keeps lumps from happening.)  I slowly added the milk following what the receipt said.  I added about 1/2 teaspoon of ginger, because I didn’t want it to overwhelm the meal, and a pinch of salt.  The batter it makes is quite thin and there is a large amount but I poured it in over the chops, it  cover them completely.  Into a heated 350 degree oven it went for 1 1/2 hours.

Not very attractive but quite tasty.

Result:  As you can see it looks unique but it actually tasted quite nice.  Although the batter did initially cover the chops is seems in the cooking that either the chops floated to the top or the batter shrank with cooking.  Whatever did happen, this receipt turned out to be very similar to toad in the hole (sausages in an egg batter).  The one thing that I would do differently is remove the extra fat.  Leaving it on the chops caused a lot of fat to bubble up to the top.  Also, the receipt did not say to remove the bones.  Leaving the meat on the bone did not cause too much trouble when eating, but I may try to remove the bones also when I make it again.

Gosh Tomorrow is Friday…new cheese day!  I can’t believe how much I have blogged this week.  Thank you all for reading!  Till tomorrow…

Published in: on February 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Potato Soup

The comfort food in our house is either mash potatoes or potato soup.  I have been making potato soup since I can remember cooking.  I decided to see what potato soups are in my historic cookbooks.

Potato Soup

Pour two quarts water on six or seven large peeled potatoes, adding two or three slices of middling;  boil thoroughly done.  Take them out, mash the potatoes well ad return all to the same water, together with pepper, salt, one spoonful butter, and one quart milk, as for chicken soup.-Mrs. W

Potato Soup

Mash potatoes, pour on them one teacup cream, one large spoonful butter.

Pour boiling water on them till you have the desired quantity.  Boil until it thickens; season with salt, parsley, and pepper to your taste-Mrs. R.E.

Both are from: Housekeeping in Old Virginia (1897)

What I do is similar to combination of these two.  Just to let you know, Middling is salt pork but I use bacon.

I fry up the bacaon, remove most of the drippings, then add sliced leeks (not in either receipt but adds a great flavor), once the leeks are slightly cooked I add cubed potatoes then cover with water or chicken broth (the broth again is great for flavoring).  I allow the liquid to come to a boil, lower the heat and allow the potaoes to cook through.  Instead of removing the potatoes to mash them, I just mash them in the liquid.

This is what it looks like just mashed.

I add cream and if cooking for an historical event I have a wooden masher and work it to get it a more fine consistancy but at home I use a hand held emulcifier.

After using the emulsifier; you can use a blender and get the same result.

I usually get a very thick soup, but if you want to thin it use milk instead of cream or a combination of both.  I then ladle it into bowels and top it with a little cheese and bacon.  Yummy!

Still snowed in…let see what is in the freezer to cook.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Snowed in!

With close to 30″ of snow dumped on us this weekend, all our plans have gone to the wayside.  My son planned to have his buddies over for a Superbowl party, of course that didn’t happen.  But the Super Bowl went on and we had all this stuff bought to make party food.  He wanted me to make homemade pizza bites not the ones from the bag.  I think I have spoiled him a little with making homemade dinners.  He wanted my chili cheese dip, potato soup, and a vegetable pizza for his vegetarian friends.  He was going to make his buffalo chicken wings and some brownies.  No, we did not go ahead and make all that food for three of us.  We just made a regular pizza, the chili cheese dip and the wings.  I am making the potato soup for lunch today.  He would have much prefered to have his friends over but mother nature is unpredictable.

This morning I decided to cheer both my husband and son up by making breakfast on a weekday.  They love pancakes.  Me, not so much, but I will make it for them from time to time.  I must admit, I am not a morning person so I cheat and make pancakes from a mix, however, there is no mix to be found in my pantry today.  I have to make it from scratch.  I have never made pancakes from scratch, but when has that stopped me from doing anything.

To Make Pancakes

Take a quart of milk, beat in six or eight eggs, leaving half the whites out; mix it well till your batter is of a fine thickness.  You must observe to mix your flour first with a little milk, then add the rest by degrees; put in two spoonfuls of beaten ginger, a glass of brandy, a little salt; stir all together; make your stew-pan very clean, put in a piece of butter as big as a walnut, then pour in a ladleful of batter, which will make a pancake, moving the pan around that the batter be all over the pan; shake the pan, and when you think that side is enough, toss it;  If you cannot, turn it cleverly; and when both sides are done lay it in a dish before the fire and so do the rest.  You must take care they are dry; when you sent them to table, strew a little sugar over them.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy(1774)

If you notice the only leavening agent in this is eggs and lots of it.  This also looks like too thin of a batter for modern tastes.


Pancakes should be made of a half a pint of milk, three great spoonfuls of sugar, one or two eggs, a tea-spoonful of dissolved pearlash, spiced with cinnamon, or cloves,a little salt, rose-water, or lemon brandy, just as you happen to have it.  Flour should be stirred in till the spoon moved round with difficulty.  If they are thin, they are apt to soak fat.  Have the fat in your skillet boiling hot, and drop them in with a spoon.  Let them cook till thoroughly brown.  The fat which is left is good to shorten other cakes.  The more fat they are cooked in, the less they soak.

The American Frugal Housewife (1844)

By the time of this receipt, the cook uses less eggs and is using Pearlash as a leavening agent.  Pearlash is refined Potash, which is Potassium Carbonate, you know it as Baking Powder.  This receipt also sounds like a drop biscuit instead of what I call a batter pancake.  So looking at these two receipts and knowing that my family prefers to have maple syrup on plain tasting pancakes, I decided to leave out the rose-water, brandies, or spices and did the following.

3/4 cup milk, 3 eggs beaten in a bowl.  I sifted together, 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons of Baking Powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Following Mrs. Glasses recommendations I slowly added the flour to the egg mixture, making sure all was encorporated before adding more flour.  Once all was encorporated.  I heated a skillet with a Tablespoon of butter (about a walnut size I thought) and using a ladle I poured enough batter to make a 3″ pancake.  I knew to turn the pancake when the side up has a good many bubbles, turned it and it takes not too long for the other side to cook.  This batch makes about 12 pancakes.

The batter is a little thinner then I usually get with a box mix.

Result:  A very eggy pancake.  It was the right texture but not the flavour my family likes.  I guess this will be a work in progress.  I’ll update you on the changes once I do this again.  I think I would like to try it with the brandy and spices…any takers?

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment