Looking for a Rainbow

Rain, Rain, Rain…that is the week, so I haven’t gotten out to cook.  Then there has been computer issues, which are all fixed and are seeming to stay fit.  In addition, I have been so busy with other things that I have not made time for me, cooking or the garden.

Well, I did get a little done between the rain drops.  I was able to get the vegetable garden prepped and planted with beans and eggplant but I haven’t be able to plant anything else.  But all is not at a lost, the rain is making everything healthy so far; lets just hope the sun comes out every once in a while.  On a bright note, I am heading to Williamsburg for a much needed break from reality.   I will be looking at the plants they have for sale to see what I can add to my garden.  I am not sure if they sell seeds, but if they do I will most likely be purchasing some.

Now, I have been cooking but nothing with historical note and with the computer down I have not finished my catalogueing. However, I have done something that pertains to historical food.  I have registered for Foodways in the 18th Century:Bringing Virginia’s Bounty to the Royal Governor’s Table that will be held in Williamsburg in November (the link is the pfd of the event).  And the day before that I will be attending the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show 2009 with my mother.  We had so much fun last year that I am looking forward to it again this year.  So November looks to be exciting.

I do enjoy sharing my findings with you and wish I had more to share with you this week, however, next week I expect I will have a lot to share with you.  So until then, I hope where ever you are that the sun is shining bright, the gardens are watered right and that there is good food at hand.  Till next week…

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Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)  

Victory Garden, slightly

This year to supplement my fresh food, I am putting in a small vegetable garden.  Yep, I know I am running a little late in starting but I figure if I at least start and use plants instead of seeds I should be alright for the harvest of beans and lettuce.  I will also put in eggplant and squash plants.  I already have tomatoes in pots so they are busy growing.  I am trying out the “Topsy Turvy” tomato planter, you know the one you see on T.V. that grows the plant upside down.  No real difference yet in the plant from the others in plain pots but we will see.  If it works well this year, I may get a couple more to grow on either side of the outside doors with tomato, squash or eggplant…they say all will work.

Like I said, I am late in planting and I am doing this slowly because the vegetable garden is a box garden.  I hope to eventually have 4 5’x5′ beds, so this year is the first 5’x5′ bed.  I will add a picture to this post once I have the box filled with dirt and planted.

The artichoke and cardoon I planted last year was a half success, in that the artichoke died but the cardoon came back, and in my cataloging I have found several receipts for cardoons, so I am hoping for a good harvest of some.  The elderberry bushes also came back, as did the rhubarb.  I have added to the side hill of strawberries and have had a couple produce already this spring.  I dream of a hill side of strawberries to cook with.  My green thumb is getting a brighter shade of green and giving my spoon holding hand anticipated delights.

As to the process of cataloging the receipts, well that sort of got put on the side for a while.  I do hope to work hard on it for the next week, especially sitting in the back yard amidst my growing gardens!

Published in: on May 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm  Comments (3)  

Desire to do More with so Little Time

Mother’s Day and most moms are sleeping in a little with the hopes of the family making breakfast with as little mess as possible.  Not me, I was up at my usual time not to make breakfast but to get everything ready for me to travel over to the Riversdale House Museum to cook in their dependency.  I do try to get everything out of their packaging at home so set up time is diminished, but I will get to that in a moment.  My husband did make me breakfast and helped me get everything into the car.  Kissed him goodbye and off I went.   Riversdale has a dependency that was set up to feel like a kitchen, although the kitchen was never in the dependency but in the house as was the European style in the 18th century.  The kitchen is only open from 12 to 4 on Sundays, which if you are a cook is not a lot of time.  So, we try to plan our receipts to fit the time constraints.  I really was not too ambitious with my menu:

Jugged Quail

Fricassee of French Beans

Apricot Almond Tart

Savory Meat Pie

Strawberry and Blood Orange Sauce

Many may think this is a lot but in reality this  was simple baking.  Prep for the pie and tart are the most time consuming and for demonstrations I thought the menu quite balanced.  Well, the minced meat for the pie was defrosting in the Fridge.  I try and listen to the so-called experts who recommend defrosting the meat in the Fridge, but It takes days.  Well, it was still frozen so I scratched the meat pie for an Onion and Cheese Pie.  Off I went, got to the house and set up went real fast especially since I was cooking with my good friend, Katy.  Usually I bring everything I would need with me but I finally gave in and thought I could at least use the staples like flour, sugar, salt and lard.  My mistake!  Katy was going to make the pastries for the pie and tart, but when she went to use the house’s lard it was too hard.  Tried as she might, she is not one to give up the challenge, she put the lard in the flour in the hopes that working it would soften.  Nope, it would not budge, so we thought to use butter. But, we didn’t have much flour so Katy again tried to sieve as much of the lard out of the flour so as to add the butter.  Suffice it to say it just wasn’t working so we had to scrap the tart and pie.

For anyone who knows the science of baking with coals, one knows that you must have coals.  To get a good amount of coals for baking takes approximately 2 hours for the logs to produce sufficient coals.  Now knowing this, I did bring real charcoal not briquettes to supplement the coals early.  It worked a treat and I was able to get the pot going with bacon to cook for the French Beans.  That going, we got inundated with visitors.  It was like tag team wrestling.  Katy was doing most of the talking with the first group while I cooked and then a second group came in and I talked to them.  Once done with the first group, Katy would cook then a third group came in and she talked to them.  I tried to deal with the food when a fourth group came in and I was talking to them.  Then when all had left I realized something smelled like it was burning.  Yep, with all the visitors I burned the bacon.  So, I pulled it out and started fresh.  I got the quails into the pot and they were busy cooking.  We then looked at the clock and realized that it was around 2:30.  Ah well, the menu was completely thrown out and we just finished getting the beans on to cook.

So Jugged quails:  to jug anything is basically a steaming effect of meat that has been prepared or marinated.  I stuffed the cavities of the quails, 8 in all, with bacon so to give them moisture since quail has little fat.  I then took the pot and place in the bottom celery, then herbs, then the quail.  I placed the lid on then placed the pot over the coals.  You leave it alone until completely cooked, which I guessed at at least 1/2 hour.Mom's 373cookery 035

They came out wonderfully.  Nice and tender with a light flavor of herbs.

Fricassee of French Beans:  To Fricassee literally is to fry, but most think of bits of meat cooked in a gravy.  I went with the frying.  I cooked the bacon down then added onions still softened.  Once the onions were translucent, I added the beans.  No water or stock, just allowing the beans to fry gently in the bacon dripping  and using their own juices to cook.

Mom's 371Results were a bean that was not fried crisp but was gently cooked/fried in fat for flavor with an al dente texture.

We got everything cleaned up and was finished by 4 o’clock.  Not to shabby but boy were we tired, probably due to the fact that neither of us were neither feeling 100%.  But we managed through and I don’t know about Katy but I slept well that night.

Conclusion:  Cooking this Sunday was not what I had planned but I did get great results on what was cooked.  I did get to spend time with a friend and share our enthusiasm of cookery with others.   I plan on bringing everything next time and not leaving it up to what might be in the larder at the house.  With the time constraints, I will never plan anything too ambitious unless it is the only thing I cook.  So, what will I do with the stuff that didn’t get cooked at the mansion? Well, I plan to cook it here at home…more on that next time.

Published in: on May 12, 2009 at 2:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Research, Research, Research

I have been doing Historic cookery for more than 15 years and have acquired so many cookery books.  Books on the History of cooking, on how to cook and receipt books of many different time periods.  I had never spent time comparing similar receipts in these books.  I have to be honest, I just look for something to cook and go from there.  As I stated last week, I am cataloguing receipts.  After days of this, I decided to narrow the cataloguing when I realized if I want to cook this summer I better just pick a couple of things.  So, I narrowed the cataloging down to Vegetables, sauces, soups/stews and minced meat items.  I am surprised by some of the things I have found.  I don’t want to reveal anything  until I am finished, which might be some time.  However, things I thought were common in most receipt books are not turning out to be so prevalent.  My assumptions are being challenged and I am all for that.

I will be cooking this week.  I didn’t plan right and put myself on the schedule at Riversdale Mansion to cook this Sunday, yep Mother’s Day.  If you find yourself in Riverdale Park, MD stop in and see what we are cooking.  I even plan to try out a new pot!

Published in: on May 4, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment