Monday, October 10, 2016

HFF 2.21: Party Foods

This challenge lined up nicely with The Fort's event schedule, falling over Candlelight Tours.  So, what shall I have Mrs. Tolmie serve at her final reception in the Fort Nisqually Factor's House?

The Challenge: If there’s a party, there has to be food! Pick a dish meant to be served to a crowd, or at a festive gathering, and show your work!
"This plan is to ornament the sideboard with a basket of fruit, instead of insignificant pieces of pastry. Place in their stead things that can be eaten--such as jelly, plates of mixed pastry, and sandwiches of a superior kind, but not in too great profusion. Affix a label to each plate, indicating its contents...This is what is called a stand up supper..." --John Timbs Hints for the Table (London, 1859)

Though indicated for a ball, this "stand up supper" will do well for the Fort's 1859 Candlelight Tour itinerary: Mr. & Mrs. Tolmie are hosting a final evening party for their American friends before they depart for Fort Victoria.  With fourteen people in two rooms, the buffet-like arrangement will allow guests to mingle, converse and move freely.  Having all the dishes set out will also make a pretty display for the audience, while not over-burdening the servants with errands.

The Receipt:  
A PYRAMID OF TARTS from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery 
Roll out a sufficient quantity of the best puff paste, or sugar paste; and with oval or circular cutters cut it out into seven or eight pieces of different sizes stamping the middle of each with the cutter you intend using for the next. Bake them all separately and when they are cool place them on a dish in a pyramid gradually diminishing in size the largest piece at the bottom and the smallest at the top. Take various preserved fruits, and lay some of the largest on the lower piece of paste; on the next place fruit that is rather smaller; and so on till you finish at the top with the smallest sweetmeats you have. The upper one may be not so large as a half-dollar containing only a single raspberry or strawberry. 
Notch all the edges handsomely. You may ornament the top or pinnacle of the pyramid with a sprig of orange blossom or myrtle. 
The Date/Year and Region: 1858 (1st ed. 1837)/ Philadelphia PA, USA

How Did You Make It: I took some liberties with this one.  The main being I used jam instead of preserved fruits as a matter of logistics (and, in my defense, "sweetmeats" elsewhere in this book names jams, jellies, and preserved whole fruits).

First I prepared puff paste using my usual period receipt from Mrs. Beeton (1 cup of water to 1 pound of flour, make a paste, fold in butter and roll out 3-4 times until 1 lb of butter has been incorporated). I cut out seven rounds of decreasing size; the scraps of paste were stamped into star shapes. The paste baked about 10-12 minutes at 400F.  To assemble, I spread cherry jam over the largest past circle, set the next largest round on pastry on top of it, and repeated the process, alternating raspberry and blackberry jam.  The pyramid was then decorated with the paste stars and sprigs of lemon balm.

A pyramid of tarts,from Miss Leslie's "Complete Cookery" 1858
A pyramid of tarts. 

Time to Complete: About an hour to roll and bake.  Twenty minutes or so to assemble.

Total Cost: $10 for three jars of jam and 1 pound butter, other ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?/How Accurate Is It? I'm treating these together, because I realized half-way through that the preserved fruit would give a much more impressive dimensionality.  So, my major deviation from the instructions was also a major point against the dish's successful appearance. Next time, I either need to make this during the summer when a lot of fresh fruit is in season, or else plan far enough ahead to have whole-fruit preserves.  That being said, the tart was tasty and well-received by the group.  It also didn't look as bad as I feared: even with the relatively flat individual layers, taken all together the dish made a nice pyramid shape.  I would make this one again, hopefully with improved presentation.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

HFF 2.20: Foods Mentioned in Songs

The Challenge: Find a historic song that mentions a food - and then cook a historic recipe around that food and the time of the song. Whether it’s Yankee Doodle’s macaroni, mussels a la Molly Malone, or the Muffin Man’s muffins, make sure it’s documented!

Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, and in the Victorian period were mostly purchased from street-sellers, whose calls supposedly gave rise to the song.

The Receipt:  Cross Buns from Five Thousand Receipts: In All The Useful And Domestic Arts, by Colin MacKenzie (page 179)
Cross buns 
Put 2 1/2 lbs. of fine flour into a wooden bowl, and set it before the fire to warm; then add 1/2 a lb. sifted sugar, some coriander seed, cinnamon and mace powdered fine; melt 1/2 lb of butter in half pint of milk; when it is as warm as it can bear the finger, mix with it three table spoonsful of thick yeast, and a little salt; put it to the flour, mix it to a paste, and make the buns as directed the last receipt. [...cover it over and set it before the fire an hour to rise, then make it into buns, put them on a tin, set them before the fire for a quarter of an hour, cover over with flannel, then brush them with very warm milk and bake them of a nice brown in a moderate oven.] Put a cross on the top not deep.
The Date/Year and Region: 1854, American (Philadelphia), adapted from a British source

How Did You Make It:  Using this helpful conversion chart, I decided to use 6 tsp of dry yeast for the amount of flour in the receipt*.

Measured out 2.5 lbs of all-purpose flour (about 9 cups) and 1/2 lb of granulated sugar, then added 4 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp coriander, and 1 tsp mace. The spices are pure guesswork; I used all of them pre-ground, as that's what was on hand.  After mixing the dry ingredients, I melted 1/2 lb (2 sticks) of unsalted butter on the stove, added 1 cup of 1% milk to the butter, then stirred in 6 tsp of active dry yeast and 1 tsp salt.  The liquid ingredients were the incorporated with the dry, and the resulting dough was placed inside the oven (on the lowest warming setting) to rise for one hour.

After rising, the dough was kneaded and worked into rolls.  The rolls were incised with crosses per the instructions ("not deep" indicates the cross should be cut rather than drawn in sugar), and allowed to rise a further 15 minutes, with the second pan rising a bit more while the first baked.  Baked at 375 for just over 20 minutes.  I brushed the second pan with milk before baking.

*As it turns out, I probably should have used a bit more yeast.

Time to Complete: About 3 hours, include rising and baking time.

Total Cost: $2 worth of butter, other ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It? Tasty, but a bit dense. The dough didn't rise as much during the first hour as I would have hoped.  It may be that I didn't use enough yeast, or that I didn't knead it enough initially, or that the temperature was too high, etc. Next time, I'd try a bit more yeast (at least 3 full packages or 6.75 tsp, maybe 4 packs), and ask one of my friends who is actually good at making bread for advice on kneading/shaping buns.  The flavor gave satisfaction--sweet and spicy, but not overly so.  I think I picked good starting values for the spices, though I'm tempted to experiment a bit, particularly with adding a little more mace and/or coriander (or using the specified coriander seeds rather than pre-ground).

How Accurate Is It? Deviations on yeast and estimated spices previously noted.  Of course, these are apparently an item that is normally purchased rather than made at home in the 19th century, so my amateurish attempts are already of questionable accuracy.

Hot Cross Buns from 1854 recipe, for Historical Food Fortnightly
The densest Cross Buns ever.

Monday, September 26, 2016

HFF 2.19: Ethnic Foods

[I'm a few days late on this one--I was out of town, but mainly, I had the date wrong and thought this challenge ended next Thursday.]

The Challenge: Foodways and cuisine are at the heart of every ethnic group around the world and throughout time. Choose one ethnic group, research their traditional dishes or food, and prepare one as it is traditionally made.

I'm not sure whether I'd call this an "ethnic" German dish, but I did translate it from an 188-year-old German cookbook, complete with archaic spelling, usage, and typeface.

The Receipt:  Himbeer Eßig [Raspberry Vinegar] from Stuttgarter Kochbuch, page 32
Himbeer Eßig recht gut. 
An die Himbeer wird Eßig gegossen, bis er dar über geht, hernach wird ein Geschirr oder Brettlen auf die Himbeer gelegt, ein Schoppenglas darauf gestellt mit einem Gewicht, daß es die Himbeer hinab druft aber nichts in das Glas lauft und solche 24 Stunden in den Keller gestellt; den andern Tag wird der Saft durch ein Haarsieb abgegossen, und in eine Pfanne gethan; zu einer Maas Eßig nimmt man ein voellig Pfund Zuker welcher zu kleinen Stüklein zerschlagen wird; wenn er zerschmol zen ist wird er über ein starkes Kohlfeuer gethan, wo man ihn wie ein paar weiche Eyer [Eher?] sieden läßt. Der erste Schaum wird abgenommen.
My translation: 
Vinegar is poured over the raspberries, until they are covered, then a dish is placed on the berries, a pint glass is placed on it with a weight, so that the berries [are pressed?] and it is left that way for 24 hours in the cellar. The next day, the juice is poured through a hair-sieve into a pan; per liter* of vinegar, a pound of sugar is needed, which has been broken into small pieces; when the sugar is dissolved, place the mixture over a hot fire, where one keeps it at rather soft boil**.  The initial foam is removed.
*This 1875 document (Commercial Relations of the United States With Foreign Countries, page 463) indicates that a "Maas" is a Bavarian volume unit slightly larger than liter; and that the 'new' pound is about 7/8 of an old Bavarian pound.  I'm rounding these to 1 liter/1 pound.

**This could be wrong. I suspect there's some idiom or obsolete usage that I'm missing here.

The Date/Year and Region: 1828, Stuttgart (Swabian/German)

How Did You Make It: Rinsed the berries, then set them in a glass dish and covered with white vinegar (1 pint vinegar over 12 dry oz of berries). Placed another glass dish on top of them, and weighed it down with a pint glass full of water.  Set aside for 24 hours.

The next evening, I drained off the now-red vinegar, using a piece of muslin to strain it.  Twelve ounces of white sugar were added to the 2.75 cups of liquid, which was then brought to a boil on the stove.  The pink foam/scum which formed upon heating was skimmed off as it rose.  Once clear, the liquid was removed from heat and bottled.

Time to Complete: 24 hours to press the berries; about a half-hour for the rest

Total Cost: $5 for raspberries out of season; sugar and vinegar on hand.

How Successful Was It? I like it.  Full-strength, the vinegar flavor is very strong, but about 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) of it added to an 8-oz glass of water produces a very pleasant beverage.  It has a sweet raspberry flavor, with a slight kick from the vinegar, making an effect comparable to lemonade.  It was also fairly straightforward to make, and I'll be adding this to my event menus for next summer.

How Accurate Is It? Translation errors are distinctly possible.  Aside from that, I made guesses on the type of vinegar (white) and sugar (granulated).  The receipt mentions breaking the sugar into very small pieces, which I suspect means loaf sugar is intended--alternatively, it may mean to call for powdered/pounded sugar.  As the sugar ends up dissolved, I doubt it matters much.  I went with white vinegar so as to not mix flavors (though that might be a fun experiment).  An electric stove was used instead of a coal fire. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

ALHFAM Western Region Conference 2016

I've just returned from the ALHFAM (Association for Living History Farms and Museums) Western Region Conference.  This year, it was hosted by the Dorris Ranch in Springfield, OR, which is just outside of Eugene.  It is also an interesting mixed used park, historic site and living history village, which includes a working filbert/hazelnut orchard, and is approximately 172 times the size of Fort Nisqually.
ALHFAM 2016. Filbert/hazelnut trees. Dorris Ranch, Springfield, OR.
Filbert (hazelnut) trees at Dorris Ranch, Springfield, OR.
[They're also dealing with a really nasty blight that's affecting about 130 acres of America's oldest commercial hazelnut orchard, including trees over 110 years old.  Click here to find out more.]

ALHFAM 2016 Living History Clothing Collection Presentation.
Nancy prepares to give her presentation on site wardrobes.
I was there to provide tech support for Nancy's talk: "Clothes Make the Person: How We Run a Successful Living History Clothing Program at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum".  From the other presenters, we got to learn about Genesee Country Village's experiential programming around spices (the best-smelling presentation), points to consider when reproducing historic clothing (best display of original garments), and crowd-sourced museum funding (best slide-show).  Over dinner, author William Sullivan took us through 14000 years of Oregon history.  In a related note, he's a formidable hiker.

On Saturday, we toured the Dorris Ranch, and took time for some hands-on activities to explore Oregon history, while perhaps getting a bit silly. 
ALFHAM 2016 Dorris Ranch Filbert Nut Orchard.
Janna knows a great deal about filbert trees.
ALFHAM 2016 Dorris Ranch Oregon Trail Activity
Conference attendees prepare to embark on the Oregon Trail.
ALFHAM 2016 Dorris Ranch Archery
Peggy's archery puts us all to shame.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Wool Side-Lacing Gaiters, c.1856

Pattern and instructions from Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker (1856), with advice from Mrs. Ryan, Mr. Kempe, and an anonymous brigader.

Wool gaiters or ankle boots from "Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker" (1856)
Plaid wool ladies' gaiters, style of mid/late 1850s. 
Sideview of ankle boots (gaiters).
Side Laces.
The fit could use further refinements, but I'm generally quite pleased with how they turned out.  I'll try a stiffer lining on the next ones.
Front view of Victorian-style ankle boots (gaiters) with chevron.
This is how I match plaids. :)

The outer material is wool (from S. R. Harris); the lining is pimatex cotton.  The silk bias binding and cotton laces were dyed to match.  Scrap leather for the soles and heel-stiffener.  Upper sewn with silk thread, soles attached with coarse linen (waxed).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Another Rolled Sewing Kit

One of these days I will make some of the other items in Fanciful Utility (there's just too many to pick from!), but for now, here's another rolled sewing kit.  It's a gift for my other awesome mentor at The Fort.

Mid-nineteenth century sewing kit, open, from Anna Bauersmith's "Fanciful Utility".
Sewing kit open.
Victorian rolled sewing kit, closed, from Anna Bauersmith's "Fanciful Utility".
Rolled shut for transport or storage.
The blue stripe print is leftover from my wrapper (Windham 30586-2, from Eileen Trestain's "Sally Rose" line), the red is a Sturbridge Village print, and I don't recall the name of the purple coral. The needle pages are red wool, and the pin cushion is stuffed with wool roving.

Friday, September 9, 2016

HFF #2.18: Let's Get Saucy!

The Challenge: They can be the perfect addition to a delicious dish, the crowning glory, or stand on their own. Make your best sauce and show us how to use it!

The Receipt: Sweet Pudding Sauce  from Modern Household Cookery by Sarah Josepha Hale (page 54-55)
Boil together for fifteen minutes the thin rind of half a small lemon, an ounce and a half of fine sugar, and a wine glassful of water; then take out the lemon peel and mix very smoothly an ounce of butter with rather more than half a teaspoonful of flour; stir them round in the sauce until it has boiled one minute; next add a wine glassful and a half of sherry, or Madeira, or two thirds of that quantity and a quarter of a glass of brandy; when quite hot serve the sauce. Port wine sauce is made in the same way with the addition of a dessert spoonful of lemon juic,e some grated nutmeg, and a little more sugar; orange rind and juice may be used to give it flavour when preferred to lemon. Rind: half a lemon. sugar: one and a half ounce, water: one wine glassful; fifteen minutes. Butter: one ounce, flour: large half teaspoonful; one minute. Wine: one and a half wine glassful or one of wine and a quarter of a glass of brandy. 

To go under it: a plain rice pudding (page 223 of the same):
Wash well and pick eight ounces of rice, and put it into a deep dish with two quarts of milk; add to this two ounces of butter, four ounces of sugar, and a little cinnamon or nutmeg, ground; mix them well together and bake in a very slow oven. It will take about two hours.
The Date/Year and Region: 1854, London

How Did You Make It:  Mixed 8 oz of rice, 4 oz of sugar, approximately 1/3 of a nutmeg (grated) and a scant 2 oz of butter [estimated] in a pan, then poured over about 1.5 quarts of skim milk until the pan was full.  Stirred, then placed mixture in an oven pre-heated to 300F.  Baked about 2.5 hours, until rice was cooked, though the liquid in the pudding was not completely evaporated at that time.

Brought to boil on the stove 4 oz of water containing 1 oz of granulated sugar and the peel of half of a small lemon.  Allowed to boil for almost 15 minutes*, at which point very little of the original liquid remained.  Added approximately 1 oz of butter and a generous 1/2 tsp of flour to the pan, stirring all the while; added 6 oz of sherry and kept the sauce on low heat until ready to serve.

*The first time I attempted this, I went the whole 15 minutes, and ended up with a pan of charred sugar.  The liquid volume is reduced to almost nothing at that point, so I erred on the side of caution with the second batch.

Time to Complete: Nearly 3 hours.

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It? Excepting the inedible cherry pie from year one, this was probably my worst HFF dish to date.  

Despite the decreased quantity of milk, there was a lot of extra liquid in the rice pudding.  Nonetheless, the rice cooked nicely, and while it did not taste bad, the pudding somewhat bland and generally uninspiring.  The sauce basically tasted like sherry with some butter--unfortunately, the lemon flavor didn't come through at all.  The general effect was both rich and insipid.  I'm not in a hurry to try this one again.

Edit: After leaving the rest of the pudding in the cooling oven, it did eventually solidify.

How Accurate Is It? I didn't deviate from the instructions, except in reducing the amount of milk by 1/4, and having to estimate the butter quantities.

Rice pudding with sweet sauce, Sarah Hale's Modern Household Cookery 1854
It tasted better than it looks, but not enough to make it again.
Cranford fans: I ate it with a fork.