Monday, April 16, 2018

Mid 19th Century Stag Weekend; Or, The Fanciest Camping Meals Ever!

Those who know me can tell you how much I am an advocate of history interpretation of non-military menfolk. An especial friend will leave the ranks of bachelorhood soon, and that deserves a party. I combined the two into a very special event, a mid 19th century Stag Weekend.
After inadvertently choosing a very popular weekend for events, we made a party of four men and me, your hostess. The men donned their mid 19th century attire and headed out for hiking, swimming, and a Tall Tales competition that left everyone in stitches with laughter.

Of course, the men would need sustenance and I was happy to oblige.
I had read previously on how the menu composition differed in the mid 19th century and began looking into how menu composition might change with all masculine company verses a mixed one.
A first stop was Jennie June's American Cookery Book by Jane Cunningham Crowly, 1870. 
On Friday, for supper, I used this as an inspiration for composing a menu. With only four people dining, the full spread would be too much, so I took a poll on what they'd most like to see. A few meat items were unavailable, so that prompted a few more tweaks. We decided on the following:
It was dark when we arrived, so we didn't get photos. You'll have to take my word that it was lovely. the items were very well received and prompted the first comment of, "This is the fanciest camping meal I've ever had." It would not be the last.

For breakfast, I turned to the hotels and public dining houses. A fair few may be found in the online collections of the New York Public Library and the University of Houston Library. Again, we needed fewer items and had to tweak some unavailable items. Our breakfast on Saturday included the following:

Here's a coupla photos of breakfast in progress.

The sausage, fried mush, and eggs were a hit. All were in a food coma that required a long rest before heading out on a hike.

The gents made themselves useful by helping to clear away the dishes. They were very good about this throughout the weekend, for which I was grateful.

With breakfast out of the way, the gents filled their satchels with luncheon and headed out on a hike.
For luncheon I chose portable items that are often considered appropriate for picnics. This is what was on offer.

Cooking the Dinner was an all-day endeavor. I began after the luncheon was set out.
I knew I wanted an opportunity to showcase the dining styles of mid 19th century America. Events such as this were attended by gents of means and society, if an intellectual bent; so, offering an appropriate sit-down dining experience allowed the menfolk to learn a bit of social history in a fun way.

For the menu composition, I was inspired by menus given in Chef Francatelli's work The Modern Cook  (Charles Elme Francatelli, 1859). 
I included several American inspirations of international dishes in my selections, as this is a special interest of mine (one of many.)
This is our finalized menu.

Likewise a few items were unavailable, so substitutions were made.
I was excited to try campfire cooking because I was new at it. I can't do things by halves, so I jumped right in. I usually need to convert a receipt to modern cooking methods, but these receipts were written for fire-based cooking. It went much faster than I anticipated. I even had enough time for a quick nap and to move up dinner by an hour. I'll detail a few key receipts in future posts.

With cooking complete, it was time to set up and serve.
The key to efficient dinner service is an organized sideboard and precise table-setting. Here's a few photos of the sideboard, table, and a rare photo of Wolfie herself.

At this point I changed up into my service dress, the gents changed into their dinner suits, and I guided them through the meal. We toasted the honoree and let the food settle.
Many comments were made about loosening waistbands and how spoiled they felt to have such a splendid meal. They considered how different mid 19th century dinners were from modern dinners and how they were unprepared for the variety of foods in a dinner. They commented they took too large of portions in the first course and were disappointed not to have room for the good food in later courses.
Then the men formed an assembly line to clean the many, many dishes.
I was ready for some pain relief and sleep.

On Sunday, we began with a breakfast similar to Saturday, with a few changes to keep things interesting.

Again, the appreciation for the weekend of meals was expressed with ever more creative adjectives.
After a colorful edition of the Tall Tales Competition and an intense packing session... we were ready to say adieu to Lake Anna, wishing our friend the best on his next step in life's journey.

For the collection of receipts used for this event, I formed an online booklet you may explore here. 
Photo credit goes to John Payne and N.W. Briggs, with thanks.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Roomie's Birthday Afternoon Tea.. The Process.

Dear Readers will kindly remember I am working on a selection of gluten free baked goodies suitable for a modern traditional Afternoon Tea for my Roomie's Birthday.

7:15 am I begin to assemble ingredients for Battenberg Cake. This is the most complex recipe, so I will start with it. Disaster Strikes! I just KNOW I have baking powder around here somewhere!
After a frantic search of every cabinet and pantry and cubbyhole in the kitchen, we establish that if we have baking powder, it will not be found today.

7:30 am Emergency run to the grocers.

8:00 am Ingredients assembled, I begin the Battenberg Cake.

9:00 am As the cake for the Battenberg Cake bakes, I begin the Unadorned Scones. I really like this recipe, though it's much more crumbly than I'd like.

9:25  As the Scones are baking, I take a breather to have some breakfast and update the loyal readers on FaceBook with photos.

9:45am Here we are with another challenge. One of the pink sections of cake collapsed. Well, one Battenburg cake and one Victoria cake it will be then. I'm not about to let a good cake go to waste.

10:00am As the honoree is getting her breakfast together, I begin the Salmon Corn cakes. I decide we'll make a double batch since we really like these a lot and don't make them often. Each batch makes 11 cakes that fill two large baking sheets. That's 20 minutes cooking time for each sheet and four sheets. We'll be at this awhile.

10:30 am As the salmon corn cakes are having a hot time in the oven, I flour the counter and prepare to assemble the Battenberg cake. I've not done rolled marzipan work before, so I prepared by watching videos. I learned how to do the neat roses too.  A quick caution, while marzipan would seem to be naturally gluten free, a few brands (including some from Odense, sold commonly here in the US) have some cross-contamination concerns. Make certain yours is labelled specifically gluten free.
The greatest challenge here was trimming the cake. The recipe was very moist and had the typical gluten free crumble, so it didn't slice well. Some apricot jam glued the pieces together.
My Battenburg Cake may not have been as pretty as a professional, but I think it came out very well.

11:40 am With the end of the salmon corn cake baking in sight, I put together the dough for the Cheddar Scones. I've already confessed this was a box mix, a really terrific box mix.

12:20 pm The oven is now ready for the cereal crusts for the tarts. Crushed cereal, butter, and sugar and then baked stiff... easy as pie.

1:00pm With only the sandwiches left, I take a break for a quick visit to furry friends.

2:30 pm Disaster number two strikes. I intended to layer the tarts with lemon curd, lemon pudding, and whipped cream. I bought cook-n-serve lemon pudding instead of instant and didn't have sufficient eggs to cook the pudding. Well, just lemon curd and whipped cream it is.

2:45 pm While peeling and slicing the cucumber for the sandwiches, I cut my finger on the mandolin slicer. Yep, fully expected to do this and here I did. Ouch!
The Sam's Choice Gluten Free Classic White Bread is kinda small, especially when trimmed up and the crusts removed. I used four pieces for two sandwiches. The sandwiches were very tasty and really hit the spot.

2:50 pm We set the tea water to boil while I put together the ham and havarti pinwheels. I used Mission Gluten Free Tortillas. They're fabulous when fresh, but gummy when they sit with toppings in them.

3:05 pm. With photos taken and plates assembled, we sit down to enjoy the eating of all this food. We're groaning about being over-stuffed and in a sugar coma in short order.  Success!

Looking down the spread

Impromptu Victoria Cake
Cheddar Scones
Unadorned Scones
Battenburg Cake

Lemon Tarts
Cucumber Sandwiches
Ham & Havarti Pinwheels
Salmon Corn Cakes

...and Tea, of course!


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Roomie's Birthday Afternoon Tea...yes, it's gluten free

My Dear Readers will forgive me a quick trip into the modern era, I hope.
My Roomie enjoys the British tradition of Afternoon Tea. I suppose it makes her feel elegant and special. Every lady ought to feel elegant and special on her birthday. BUT... as a sufferer of Celiac disease on a gluten free diet, the baked goods of an Afternoon Tea leaves her drooling sadly at the bakery window. That will just not do for this special lady, so I'm turning my hand to some traditional afternoon tea components in gluten free recipes.

The Menu
Layer of Scones
Cheddar Scone
Unadorned Scone (cream and jam)
Layer of Sandwiches
Cucumber Sandwich
Ham, Havarti roll-up
Salmon Corn Cake
Layer of Cakes & Pastry
Battenburg Cake
Lemon Tart


For the Cheddar Scones, I'll be using LiveGFree's Cheddar Biscuits box mix. Roomie bought this Aldi's product in quantities and wrote the company begging for it to be made a permanently available item. That's high praise.

For the Unadorned Scones, I'll be baking. Here's the recipe:
2 cups all purpose flour (Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Flour)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup yogurt
Fills... 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup fruit (no fills for us, thanks)

Oven at 400*
Mix Flour, Sugar, Baking powder, Baking soda, spices
Add butter
Add eggs and yogurt
Add extras

Turn onto a floured surface and shape into a round 1" thick by 7" wide.
Cut into 8 triangles.
Transfer to baking sheet

Bake 8-10 minutes.

For the Cucumber Sandwich, we had to delve into which gluten free breads will stand up to such an august sandwich. Gluten Free breads are notorious for being crumbly, gritty, and coming across stale from the start. Roomie often solves this by toasting. I had to ruin the surprise to have her opinion. We agreed to give Sam's Choice a try.  Roomie prefers cream cheese to the traditional butter, so that's what I'll use.

For the Ham & Havarti Pinwheel, I'll use Mission's Gluten Free Tortillas. Knowing the Bread Issue, I wanted something else for a second sandwich offering. 

The Salmon Corn Cake is a family recipe that Roomie adores. I've made a few tweaks from Grandma's recipe.  Here is the recipe with gluten free tweaks:
1 can of responsibly caught salmon flaked, clear out the skin and bones
1 can of whole kernel sweet corn, drained of packing water
4 eggs
1 box of Lance Baked Original Crackers, crumbed into grainy pieces

Pre-heat the oven to 400*
Prepare the salmon and cracker crumbs.
Mix the salmon, corn, eggs, and cracker crumbs together in a large bowl.
Grease a baking sheet. 
Form the mixture into cakes and place on the greased sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake another 10 minutes or until both sides are a light golden brown.

The Battenburg Cake required some British to American measurement conversions. Thanks to Traditional Oven, this task wasn't too difficult. This is Roomie's most dreamed of Tea goodie, so the pressure is really on. I'll do a separate post detailing this addition to our tea table.

The Lemon Tart gave me an excuse to try some fun recipes, including breakfast cereal pie crust. Here's a recipe for this:
2 1/2 Cups vanilla Chex cereal
1-4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
lemon pudding, lemon curd, whipped topping

Oven at 375*
Crush cereal.  Mix with sugar and butter
Bake-7-9 minutes.   Cool completely and fill.

And that's The Plan. What could possibly go wrong? Check back tomorrow and I'll tell ya.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Series: Further Adventures with the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick- Grocery and Day One

We were last preparing for a tasting dinner for my friends in the 28th Mass to sample selections from the menu of the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a final hurrah for the 2016 Challenges of the Historical Food Fortnightly.

Such a massive menu meant an involved trip to several grocers. I needed a spreadsheet to organize the ingredients lists. It also involved some creative challenge-meeting as items weren't available that I thought would be. And then there is the age-old pondering of the non-drinking hostess, "how much of each kind of wine to buy for that many people?"

Here's the fridge, invaded with the immediately perishables. I stashed the "keep cool" perishables in a cooler with ice packs, which mostly worked. The shelf stable ingredients were organized on what is usually my sewing tables.

I organized my cooking by like processes together, what would take several days, what could stand reheating, and what needed to be made on the day it was served. On Day One, I tackled Fruits De Macedoine, Lemonade, Brunoise (dumplings would come later), and Gelee Madere.

Fruits De Macedoine (follow the link)

Gelee Madere

Bruniose, or Brown Soup

Rich Brown Soup.
--Take six pounds of the lean of fresh beef, cut from the bone. Stick it over with four dozen cloves. Season it with a tea-spoonful of salt, a tea-spoonful of pepper, a tea-spoonful of mace, and a beaten nutmeg. Slice half a dozen onions; fry them in butter; chop them, and spread them over the meat after you have put it into the soup-pot. Pour in five quarts of water, and stew it slowly for five or six hours; skimming it well. When the meat has dissolved into shreds, strain it, and return the liquid to the pot. Then add a tumbler and a half, or six wine glasses of claret or port wine. Simmer it again slowly till dinner time. When the soup is reduced to three quarts, it is done enough. Put it into a tureen, and send it to table.

From: Directions for Cookery, In it's various branches by Eliza Leslie, 1840

--Take a small teacupful of flour, a pinch of salt, and butter the size of a walnut; rub well with the flour; sprinkle in a little pepper; add sweet milk enough to form a stiff dough; flour the board and roll very thin; cut in small squares; drop into the soup, and let them boil ten minutes.
From: The Presbyterian Cookbook by Ladies of the First Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio, 1873


From: The House Servant's Directory, Or A Monitor For Private Families: Comprising Hints On The Arrangement And Performance Of Servants' Work… And Upwards Of 100 Various And Useful Receipts, Chiefly Compiled For The Use Of House Servants… by Robert Roberts, 1827

*45. Lemonade That Has the Appearance and Flavour of Jelly
Pare two Seville oranges, and six lemons, as thin as possible, steep them for four hours in one quart of hot water, then boil one pound and a quarter of loaf sugar in three pints of water, skim it, and then add the two liquors to the juice of six good oranges, and twelve lemons; stir the whole well together, and run it through a jelly bag until clear, then add a little orange water, if you like the flavour, and if wanted, you may add more sugar; if corked tight it will keep a long time.

In the next installment, we'll continue with Day Two.

Series: Further Adventures with the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick- Introduction

When we last left each other, we had received the news that the Historic Food Fortnightly would not have official challenges in 2017. For the 2016 challenge set, I had dedicated the season to the recreated 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, company B by working my way through the menu for the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. I wanted to give the honorees a chance to taste these dishes and give the whole Thing some closure; so I rented a hall, sent out the invitations, and started making Plans.

The first challenge was solidifying the menu. I knew some ingredients would be cost prohibitive, some ingredients would be unavailable, and our vegetarian honorees would appreciate considered choices.

So here's the menus, side by side, and then my notes:


Dishes in GREEN are substitutions from the original menu.
Grilled Shad in White Wine Sauce- Shad is a protected species due to over-fishing. Another comparable Whitefish is substituted.
Quail in Perigneux Sauce- Quail is no longer readily available and Perigneux Sauce includes significant amounts of truffles, which quickly becomes cost prohibitive. We show our House Specialty Macaroni Pudding instead.
Grouse- Grouse is an import item, available seasonally. Cornish Hen is substituted.
Turkey Galantine- This dish includes five kinds of meat, which quickly becomes expensive. Instead, we offer an onion and herb tart, similar to a quiche, which will be more welcoming to our brothers who follow a vegetarian diet.

Russian Salad- the Russian preparation for salad includes a number of meats or seafood, which becomes expensive. We offer a vegetarian salad instead.

Next I choose the recipes I would follow. Some were brushed off from the HFF Challenges of the previous year and some were new. As always, Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project proved an invaluable resource.

With menu and recipes selected, it was time to start cooking, baking, and fussing. More about that in the next installment of the Series. :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 2016, Challenge No. 17: Myths and Legends

The Challenge:
17. Myths and Legends (August 12 - August 25) It’s time to make some legendary food! Pick a story from folklore (a myth, fantasy, legend, or fairy tale) that features food, and use a historical recipe to recreate it.

We're gonna take a quick break from the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner to bring you a Legend from Irish culture and one of my favorite historic recipes.
Fionn MacCumhaill and the Salmon of Knowledge.
The legend goes that an ordinary salmon ate nine hazelnuts that had fallen into the Well of Knowledge. Whomever ate the fish would gain the knowledge of the world. As a young man Fionn was fostered with a wise poet named Finn Eces. After seven years, Finn Eces caught the Salmon of Knowledge. He left it with Fionn to cook with a firm admonishment not to eat any of it. When Finn Eces returned, he saw a certain look in young Fionn's eye and quizzed him about eating the fish. He confessed a drop of hot fat from the fish had burned his thumb, which he had stuck in his mouth. Finn Eces realized this counted as "eating from the fish of knowledge" and insisted Fionn finish the fish. The prophecy was fufilled and Fionn MacCumhaill became the warrior, leader, and wise-man he was meant to be.

The Recipe:
From: Cre-fydd's Family Fare: The Young Housewife's Daily Assistant by Simpkin, Marshall, &Co., 1864

           (Second dressing.)
Mash six mealy potatoes with a wooden spoon till quite smooth, add two saltspoonfuls of salt, two ounces of oiled butter, and the yolk of an egg; beat till very light. Divide about half a pound of cold salmon into neat pieces an inch long, freed from skin and bone. Mix with it a saltspoonful of salt, a grain of cayenne, half a saltspoonful of white pepper, and three tablespoonfuls of shrimp sauce, or melted butter. Put a layer of potato into a flat dish, lay in the fish, cover it with the rest of the potato. Smooth over the top with a knife, and bake in a quick oven for twenty minutes. Serve in the same dish, which should be placed on a folded napkin on another dish.

The Date/Year and Region: 
1850-1870, Great Britain and the United States

How Did You Make It:
First prepare the fish. Notice the "second dressing" designation? This indicates the dish is made of left-overs. In this case, I did oven-baked salmon cutlets with a seasoned gluten-free breadcrumb coating from my trusty Eliza Leslie's Lady's Receipt Book.

Next I steamed the potatoes.
Then I mashed the potatoes with salted butter and egg yolk.

Finally I'm ready to layer the dish.

Bake until the potatoes get crispy on the peaks.

Time to Complete: 
About an hour, once the ingredients are assembled.

Total Cost: 
The salmon was $10.00, so it's not the cheap dish it once was.

How Successful Was It: 
It looked like a horror show from the 1960s Jello Cookbook, but it tastes great. I got to use my new fish mold pan and it un-molded well. Overall it's a success.

How Accurate Was It: 
It's definitely "in the spirit, but I took a few departures. I used imitation crab instead of lobster. It was cheaper and we love us some crab in this household. I did only two layers and used a molded pan instead of a casserole dish. Since a celebratory dinner is my sub-goal for this year, I think a dressing up was appropriate. For me, I thought a molded piece would do so. Otherwise, the recipe was prepared as given and thus, I say the accuracy level is fairly high.

Bonus Recipe:
From: The Lady's Receipt Book by Eliza Leslie, 1840
BAKED SALMON.--A small salmon may be baked whole. Stuff it with forcemeat made of bread-crumbs; chopped oysters, or minced lobster; butter; cayenne; a little salt, and powdered mace,--all mixed well, and moistened with beaten yolk of egg. Bend the salmon round, and put the tail into the mouth, fastening it with a skewer. Put it into a large deep dish; lay bits of butter on it at small intervals; and set it into the oven. While baking, look at it occasionally, and baste it with the butter. When one side is well browned, turn it carefully in the dish, and add more butter. Bake it till the other side is well browned. Then transfer it to another dish with the gravy that is about it, and send it to table.

If you bake salmon in slices, reserve the forcemeat for the outside. Dip each slice first in beaten yolk of egg, and then in the forcemeat, till it is well coated. If in one large piece, cover it in the same manner thickly with the seasoning.

The usual sauce for baked salmon is melted butter, flavoured with the juice of a lemon, and a glass of port wine, stirred in just before the butter is taken from the fire. Serve it up in a sauce-boat.

How Did You Make It:
Prepare the forcemeat

Layer the forcemeat on the salmon

Bake at 350* for 15 minutes
Yep, I really did have dinner barefoot. I'm quite classy that way sometimes. :-)