instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

"Connecticut Thanksgiving Chicken Pie," by Mrs. A. L. Webster, as prepared by Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald

Connecticut Thanksgiving Chicken Pie
Mrs. Webster's 1844 Connecticut Thanksgiving Chicken Pie. Here it is, ready for eating!

 

Clearly from the name she gave her recipe, Mrs. Webster thought Thanksgiving was a time for pies--and not only of the sweet variety. This savory one is as delightful an addition to the banquet today as it was in the 1840s when the recipe was first published. The tradition of adding savory pies to the meal was widespread in New England, in part because domesticated turkeys in the nineteenth century and earlier were generally smaller than ours today, weighing on average eight pounds or less. To feed hungrey dinner guests, the turkey was supplemented with roast meats and other dishes, such as this one. We think this is a Thanksgiving tradition well worth reviving. Read More 

Be the first to comment

"A Pipin Tart," from Gervase Markham's Countrey Contentments (1623)

A Pip of a Tart from the Seventeenth Century

Piping Up about Pippins
The pippin was introduced into England in the sixteenth century from (where else?) France and quickly became the most popular variety of apple in that apple-loving nation. (The English preference for apples above all other fruits is suggested by the fact that when the English set out to make pies with an unfamiliar New World vegetable such as the pumpkin, they chose to swaddle the sliced pumpkin in sliced apples—see our post on "Pumpion Pye.") Though apples in general became at least as popular in New as in Old England, the pippin never made it into the front rank of New England pomological prestige. One can find occasional references in the historical record to orchards that grew, for example, the "Ribstone Pippin," and in the eighteenth century the American colonies acquired their own pippin, called the Newtown after the Long Island village where it originated. Read More 
Be the first to comment

Not Your Mother's Pumpkin Pie: "To Make a Pumpion Pye," from The Complete Cook (1658)

Pumpkin Pie Fit for a Queen


Now that we're smack dab in the middle of the fall, New England's best time of year (as we noted in one of our summer posts), it's time to talk about one of the seasonal pies for which New England is best known—pumpkin pie. But the pumpkin pie we have in mind isn't your mother's pumpkin pie. Far from it. That pie—a pumpkin custard, gently spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of ginger and allspice, and baked in a crust—didn’t come into existence until the late eighteenth century. A century and a half before that, the early settlers of New England weren't all that keen on pumpkins, or the pies that could be made from them. According to the region's first historian, writing in the 1650s, people ate "Pumpkin Pies" only because they had to, because pumpkins (like corn, another unfamiliar food) grew like weeds in the strange new world in which they found themselves. They came up with ways to cook pumpkins (and corn) so that they could survive, not so that they could enjoy what they were eating.

But their compatriots in England didn't feel the same way. To them, sitting pretty and comfortable back home, pumpkins were intriguing in their novelty, not displeasing.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

Summer Pies II: “Peach Pie,” from Mrs. A. L. Webster’s The Improved Housewife (1844)

A Peach of a Pie from the 1840s


It’s the Pits
Peaches in any form are one of summer’s greatest delights. That goes double for peaches in a pie, and doubled again for the peaches in this particular pie, for which we’re indebted to Mrs. A. L. Webster of Hartford, Connecticut. Webster’s The Improved Housewife first appeared in the 1840s, just as the American publishing industry was getting itself modernized and consolidated and was starting to issue cookbooks at a much faster and more furious rate. Webster’s book was extremely popular and was frequently revised and reissued.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

Summer Pies I: “Cherry Pie” and “Pie Crust,” from Lydia Maria Child’s American Frugal Housewife (1833)

A Child (Lydia Maria, not Julia) cherry pie from 1829


New England is perhaps  best known for pumpkin and apple pies. The fall season, when pumpkins and apples are ready for pie-making, is considered by many to be New England's best time of year. But the region's historic cookbooks also offer lots of great recipes for summer fruit pies as well, and we'll be telling you about some of them in this and upcoming posts.

We’ll start with a simple yet elegant recipe for cherry pie from the second cookbook ever written by a New Englander, The American Frugal Housewife (1829)  Read More 

Be the first to comment

Marlborough Pudding (Pie) by Amelia Simmons

Marlborough Pudding, a custard apple pie from Amelia Simmons (1796)


In Amelia Simmons's day, "pudding in paste" was a common term for custard pie. Her "Marlborough Pudding" is just that, a custardized apple filling in a crust. For this pie, she recommends using her own paste No. 3, lining a deep dish, and filling it with a rich apple custard. Her paste no. 3 is a superb puff paste (we give it in Northern Hospitality, p. 247). But any good homemade pie crust will do nicely. The essence of this apple pie is the filling: luscious fresh apples, cooked down to a thick sauce, mixed with eggs, wine, butter, cream, spices, and sugar. It's a pity that Marlborough Pie is seldom seen on restaurant menus or in cookbooks today.  Read More 

1 Comments
Post a comment

Mrs. Gardiner's "An Ham Pie," ca. 1770

1770 Ham Pie with Kale and Butternut Squash for Dinner!


In Northern Hospitality, we point out that Mrs. Gardiner's "An Ham Pie" is moved toward the mixed-pie category by its liberal inclusion of chicken. She instructs the cook to "lay whole chickens" all around the ham, which has been made "handsome" by cutting it to "rather of a roundish Form." The ham and chicken are seasoned with mace, pepper, and a few pounded cloves. To further enhance the chickens, she advises "putting into the Bellies of each a little piece of butter." Gardiner's quaint turns of phrase remind us that whether or not you cook them, historic recipes are fun to read.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

Puff Pastry

Puff Pastry Graces a Ham Pie


Puff pastry is that light, multilayered, buttery dough that rises impressively when it is baked and causes your guests to say "Oooooh!" It can be used as a pie dough, baked as a shell for sweet fillings such as ice cream or strawberries and whipped cream, or stuffed with lobster or chicken salad for an elegant lunch. Or it can simply be rolled and twisted into shapes such as twigs or pinwheels, sprinkled with a bit of sugar and cinnamon, and baked for a hand-held treat. In other words, puff pastry can be used in any number of ways to enhance both savory and sweet dishes. Read More 

Be the first to comment