I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

July 27, 2011

Remember my post last year on Ice Cream a la 1800s, where I talked a bit about the origins of ice cream and more specifically the first “ice cream” maker, called a sabottiere?

A little refresher: The sabottiere is the inner canister shown in the picture to the right. The prepared ingredients would be placed in the canister with the lid secured. The sabottiere was then placed in a bucket, and a mixture of ice and salt was packed around it. Then someone had to manually grab the handle and turn the canister clockwise and then counterclockwise for whatever length of time the recipe specified.

Labor intensive indeed!

The sabottiere was the ice cream maker of the 1700s, but by the 1800s it was on its way out as technology advanced and a new ice cream maker was introduced. This one functioned the same as the sabottiere, but had a hand crank that attached to the top. A person would turn the crank, which in turn rotated the sabottiere. It was a lot less work, and it made ice cream much faster. The design has stood the test of time. You can still find ice cream makers today (both electric and hand cranked) that are very similar to the mid-1800s ice cream maker.

There were two forms of ice cream:

  1. Frozen ice, which was basically a mix of water or lemonade and fresh fruit (raspberries, cherries, currents, strawberries…).
  2. Ice cream, made with milk, cream and eggs.

Here’s a recipe for Chocolate Ice Cream from the 1847 Lady’s Receipt Book by Eliza Leslie:

Scrape down half a pound of the best chocolate or of Baker’s prepared cocoa. Put it into a sauce-pan, and pour on it a pint of boiling milk. Stir, and mix it well, and smoothly. Then set it over the fire, and let it come to a boil. Mix together in a pan, a quarter of a pound of powdered loaf-sugar, and a pint of rich cream. In another pan beat very light the yolks of nine eggs. Afterwards gradually stir the beaten egg into the cream and sugar, and then put the mixture into a sauce-pan; stir in, by degrees, the chocolate; set it over the fire, and simmer it till it is just ready to come to a boil. Strain it through a sieve, transfer it to a freezer, and freeze it in the usual manner of ice-cream.

Did you know Fact Alert!

  • Did you know that Frederick Tudor was known as Boston’s “Ice King?” He founded the Tudor Ice Company during the early 19th century and made a fortune by harvesting ice in the winter from New England lakes and then selling it to the Caribbean and Europe.
  • Did you know that sugar was so abundant by the 1830s that an average person was consuming about 90lbs of sugar per year. Today the average person consumes over 156 lbs of sugar per year!


December 29, 2010

The holiday wouldn’t be complete without a fruitcake recipe!  And this recipe actually doesn’t sound half bad!  No candied cherries!  Just good wholesome ingredients!


Take one pint of light dough; one tea-cupful of sugar; one of butter; three eggs, a teaspoonful of saleratus, one pound of raisins; nutmeg or cinnamon, to the taste, bake one hour.

Let it stand and rise a little before baked.

From The Skillful Housewife Book: The Complete Guide to Domestic Cookery by, Mrs. L. G. Abell, 1852

Fruitcake was also called “Wedding Cake” and The American Frugal Housewife published this version of the cake:

Four pounds of flour, three pounds of butter, three pounds of sugar, four pounds of currants, two pounds of raisins, twenty-four eggs, half a pint of brandy, or lemon-brandy, one ounce of mace, and three nutmegs. A little molasses makes it dark colored, which is desirable. Half a pound of citron improves it; but it is not necessary. To be baked two hours and a half or three hours.

The modern version of the above recipe is as follows:

1/2 lb. raisins
1/4 cup brandy
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon mace
2 teaspoon nutmeg
1lb. currants
3/4 lb. butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 tablespoons molasses to 1/2 cup
2 oz. citron

Soak raisins in brandy overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Sift flour before measuring. Sift flour with spices. Add currants and citron, if desired. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Stir in molasses and any brandy that was not absorbed by the raisins. Stir in sifted flour with spices and fruits. Grease two 5″ x 9″ loaf pans, three 8-inch round pans, or one 10-inch tube pan. Pour batter into greased pans and bake about 45 minutes to an hour.

The above translation was provided by Old Sturbridge Village (from their Christmas by Candlelight program). I can attest to this recipe. It’s really quite good!

Are there plums in Plum Pudding?

December 22, 2010

How many times have you read a Christmas scene in a historical book where the family was enjoying their plum pudding (often referred to as Christmas pudding)?  Did you know exactly what plum pudding was?  Did you ever wonder if there are plums in plum pudding?  And better yet, how did they get plums in December?  My curiosity finally got the better of me, and I looked up the recipe!  There are many versions of this recipe.  This one was taken from Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes, by Miss Leslie of Philadelphia.

And no, there are no plums in plum pudding!


One pound of raisins, stoned and cut in half.
One pound of currants, picked, washed, and dried.
One pound of beef suet, chopped fine.
One pound of grated stale bread, or, half a pound of flour and half a pound of bread.
Eight eggs.
One pound of sugar.
One glass of brandy.
One pint of milk.
One glass of wine.
Two nutmegs, grated.
One table-spoonful of mixed cinnamon and mace.
One salt-spoonful of salt.

You must prepare all your ingredients the day before (except beating the eggs) that in the morning you may have nothing to do but to mix them, as the pudding will require six hours to boil.

Beat the eggs very light, then put to them half the milk and beat both together. Stir in gradually the flour and grated bread. Next add the sugar by degrees. Then the suet and fruit alternately.

The fruit must be well sprinkled with flour, lest it sink to the bottom. Stir very hard. Then add the spice and liquor, and lastly the remainder of the milk. Stir the whole mixture very well together. If it is not thick enough, add a little more grated bread or flour. If there is too much bread or flour, the pudding will be hard and heavy.

Dip your pudding-cloth into boiling water, shake it out and sprinkle it slightly with flour. Lay it in a pan, and pour the mixture into the cloth. Tie it up carefully, allowing room for the pudding to swell.

Boil it six hours, and turn it carefully out of the cloth.

Before you send it to table, have ready some blanched sweet almonds cut into slips, or some slips of citron, or both. Stick them all over the outside of the pudding.

Eat with wine or with a sauce made of drawn butter, wine and nutmeg.

The pudding will be improved if you add to the other ingredients, the grated rind of a large lemon
or orange.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cooking advice!

December 14, 2010

With the holidays fast approaching, you’ll find my kitchen in constant use and filled with the aroma of holiday baking.  From cookies, to cakes, to breads, I love it when Christmas comes around and I can pull out all my holiday recipes.  So I thought while we’re on hiatus that I might share some cooking advice and recipes from a couple of early 1800s recipe books.  We’ll start today off with some basic baking advice.

From Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes, by Miss Leslie of Philadelphia, the following preparation advice is offered:

In making pastry or cakes, it is best to begin by weighing out the ingredients, sifting the flour, pounding and sifting the sugar and spice, washing the butter, and preparing the fruit. Sugar can be powdered by pounding it in a large mortar, or by rolling it on a paste-board with a rolling-pin. It should be made very fine and always sifted.

Sugar Nippers mounted on a stand to make cutting the sugar easier. (Image from OSV's Facebook Gallery page)

Washing the butter and powdering the sugar? Just two examples of the extra steps women had to go through when it came to baking in the early 19th century. Remember, butter was made fresh, and the buttermilk had to be removed from the freshly churned butter by washing it with cold water. Also, salt was added to the butter to preserve it for longer periods of time, and often some of the salt needed to be removed before the butter could be used.

Powdering the sugar? If you went to the country store in the 1800s to purchase some sugar, you’d notice that sugar came in large cone shaped loaves. Sugar nippers were used to cut smaller pieces off the cone. That sugar then had to be powdered for use in baking.

And then there is some advice that seems to stay the same no matter what century it is given in:

The eggs should not be beaten till after all the other ingredients are ready, as they will fall very soon. If the whites and yolks are to be beaten separately, do the whites first, as they will stand longer. Eggs should be beaten in a broad shallow pan, spreading wide at the top. Butter and sugar should be stirred in a deep pan with straight sides.

Break every egg by itself, in a saucer, before you put it into the pan, that in case there should be any bad ones, they may not spoil the others.


Sugar Nippers - Image from OSV Facebook Gallery

A Week of Gingerbread

December 6, 2010

Get ready for a week dedicated to gingerbread! Yes, you heard me right, a whole week on gingerbread! Okay, okay, I’ll explain. My friend and I entered a gingerbread contest…and, well, since it’s “historically” related (I’m not kidding you!) we thought over our little hiatus that posting pictures of our gingerbread house would be fun…and then it just morphed from one (very long) post into a week long series of posts. Some fun historical facts, a history lesson, and pictures of our historical gingerbread house!

Now, before I get to the pictures (yes, yes, go ahead and groan) I have to share a little bit of gingerbread history and an old-fashioned gingerbread recipe with you (this is a historical blog after all!). Without further ado…

Why do we call it gingerbread?

“The cakelike consistency of gingerbread bears little resemblance to bread, so it comes as no surprise that gingerbread has no etymological connection with bread. It was originally, in the thirteenth century, gingerbras, a word borrowed from Old French which meant ‘preserved ginger’. But by the mid-fourteenth century, -bread had begun to replace -bras, and it was only a matter of time before sense followed form. One of the earliest known recipes for it, in the early fifteenth-century cookery book Good Cookery, directs that it be made with breadcrumbs boiled in honey with ginger and other spices. This is the lineal ancestor of the modern cakelike gingerbread in which treacle has replaced honey.”
—An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 142)

About gingerbread shapes:

“The first gingerbread man is credited to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who favored important visitors…with charming gingerbread likenesses of themselves…After the Grimm Brothers’ tale of Hansel and Gretel described a house “made of bread,” with a roof of cake and windows of barley, German bakeries began offering elaborate gingerbread houses with icing snow on the roofs, along with edible gingerbread Christmas cards and finely detailed molded cookies. Tinsmiths fashioned cookie cutters into all imaginable forms, and every woman wanted one shape that was different from anybody else’s…Most of the cookies that hung on nineteenth-century Christmas trees were at least half an inch thick and cut into animal shapes or gingerbread men…”
—“Gingerbread,” Karen S. Edwards & Sharon Antle, Americana [magazine], December 1988 (p. 49+)

A little bit of research through my 19th century recipe book collection also proved that gingerbread was eaten in America in the 1800s and that there were quite a few variations. I found recipes for Sponge Gingerbread, Soft Gingerbread, Ginger-nut Bread, Baker’s Gingerbread, Lafayette Gingerbread, and the following recipe for Common Gingerbread.

Common Gingerbread

A pint of molasses.
One pound of fresh butter
Three pounds of flour, sifted
A pint of milk
A small tea-spoonful of pearl-ash or less
A tea-cup full of ginger or more if it is not strong.

Cut the butter into the flour. Add the ginger. Having dissolved the pearl-ash in a little vinegar, stir it with the milk and molasses alternately into the other ingredients. Stir it very hard for a long time, till it is quite light. Knead it a little.

Put some flour on your paste-board, take out small portions of the dough, and make it with your hand into long rolls. Then curl up the rolls into round cakes, or twist two rolls together, or lay them in straight lengths or sticks side by side, and touching each other. Put them carefully into buttered pans, and bake them in a moderate oven, not hot enough to burn them. If they should get scorched, scrape off with a knife, or grater, all the burnt parts, before you put the cakes away.

You can, if you choose, cut out the dough with tins, in the shape of hearts, circles, ovals, etc. or you may bake it all in one, and cut it in squares when cold.

If the mixture appears to be too thin, add, gradually, a little more sifted flour.

From Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes, by Miss Leslie of Philadelphia

NOTE: Pearl-ash is an impure form of potassium carbonate. I found this bit of interesting info: “Pearl-Ash is a kind of fixed alkaline salt, prepared in various parts of Europe, and also in America, by melting and extracting the salts from the ashes of burnt vegetables.”

Curds and Whey

November 9, 2010

Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider, who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

by Dr. Thomas Muffet

I got the children’s rhyme stuck in my head one day and remembered the questions I used to ask my parents about this rhyme—which as a child I found very confusing—except for the parts about a spider scaring Miss Muffet away. What is a tuffet? And what are curds and whey? I learned that a tuffet was another name for a footstool—a rather silly name (or so my six year old self thought).  And that curds and whey was cottage cheese.  The rhyme didn’t hold quite the same appeal when I said footstool and cottage cheese…


Take a small piece of rennet about two inches square. Wash it very clean in cold water, to get all the salt off, and wipe it dry. Put it into a teacup, and pour on it just enough of lukewarm water to cover it. Let it set all night, or for several hours. Then take out the rennet, and stir the water in which it was soaked, into a quart of warm milk, which should be in a broad dish.

Set the milk in a warm place, till it becomes firm curd. As soon as the curd is completely made, set it in a cool place, or on ice (if in summer) for two or three hours before you want to use it.

Eat it with wine, sugar, and nutmeg. When perfectly well made it always looks greenish.

From Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes by, Miss Leslie of Philadelphia

Apple Sauce (the 1800s way)

October 14, 2010

Since it is apple season in New England…here’s a recipe for apple sauce…the 1800s way!

Apple Sauce

In the country it is thought almost as indispensable to provide the stock of apple sauce for winter use, as the pork; and there is no doubt of the healthiness as well as pleasantness of fruit taken in this way as food.  To eat with meat it is best made of sour apples, not too mellow, but pleasant flavored.  Boil down new sweet cider till it is nearly as thick, when cold, as molasses; strain it through a sieve; wash the kettle (it must be brass) put in the syrup, and as soon as it boils put in the apples, which must have been previously pared, quartered and cored.  Stew over a slow fire of coals till very tender.  A barrel of cider will make half a barrel of very strong apple sauce, which will keep through the winter.

If you like it sweet to eat with tea, use sweet apples, and skim out the whole quarters, when soft; then boil the syrup and pour over them.

Brought to you by: The Good Housekeeper, by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, 1839

Apple sauce in the 1800s was not like what we're used to today. It was rarely eaten on its own, but more common as a spread with meats or baked goods. (I apologize for the not so great picture it was the only one I had.)