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Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

Loin and Neck of Pork by S. J. Hale (1852) and M. Rundell (1807)

Rolled and Stuffed Loin of Pork, a Hit from 1852, and from 1807 too!


In The Culture of Food (Blackwell, 1994), historian Massimo Montanari writes that the ancient Celts and Germans did not have a "plant of civilization," (the phrase is taken from Fernand Braudel) such as the wheat that served this purpose for the Greeks and Romans, the corn for Native Americans, or the rice for Asians. Instead, these forest peoples had an "animal of civilization," the pig, "to express and embody the cultural and productive values" of their civilizations. Thus we are treated to Celtic myths, such as The Story of Mac Dathos' Pig and Germanic tales of a paradise in which the great pig Saehrimnir provides its meat to fallen heroes.  Read More 

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Beef, or Veal Stewed with Apples (Very Good) by Catharine Beecher

Beef Stewed with Apples--indeed very good! A dish from 1846.


Despite its title, this dish isn't much like a modern stew of pieces of meat, fowl, or fish simmered along with vegetables in a rich broth or gravy. It's more like a seventeenth- or eighteen-century hash, which, as we explain in Northern Hospitality, was an elegant preparation of thinly sliced meat. Beecher's recipe calls for beef or veal, cut "in thin slices," and apple "sliced fine."

We confess that we thought this might be a rather bland dish. It was a popular preparation right into the nineteenth century, which is why we included it in our book. But there is so little to it--just sliced beef or veal, apples, a bit of onion, salt, pepper, and some butter to coat the pan. Read More 

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“To rost a Capon with Oysters and Chesnuts,” from Hannah Woolley’s The Queen-like Closet (1670)

Capon roasted with oysters and chestnuts, from 1670


Fall in New England is an ideal time to roast all sorts of good things to eat. Firing up the oven warms the kitchen on cool autumn days, while making dishes based on such classic foods as pumpkins, apples, and turkeys suffuses the house with wonderful aromas. But sometimes making a whole roast turkey with stuffing provides just too much of a good thing, leaving too many leftovers. The recipe we give you today offers an alternative to roast turkey, one that is just as delectable but that better suits our smaller modern families. The surprising thing is that it's also part of the classic New England cooking repertoire. Read More 

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“Of Baking Manchets,” from Gervase Markham’s The English Hus-wife (1615)

Manchet bread, a 1615 light wheat loaf


This recipe dates from a time when wheat was scarce and the bread made with it was therefore regarded almost with awe. Manchets are the name for the finest type of wheat bread. In his discourse on brewing and baking, Markham also offers "cheate" bread, the next level down from manchet in terms of the coarseness of the grains used. The lowest of all is not given a name, but Markham describes it as "bread for your hinde servants which is the coursest bread for mans use."  Read More 

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Scrode or Young Cod, Roasted--from A Practical Cook Book by Mrs. Bliss (1850)

Fresh haddock, planked and roasting


Scrod is most often broiled, so Mrs. Bliss's recipe for roasting it intrigued us. What would be the difference in taste between a nice piece of broiled scrod, as we've had any number of times at home and in restaurants, and roasted scrod? We were eager to find out.

But there was a prior question in need of an answer: What, exactly, is scrod? In our commentary on this recipe in Northern Hospitality, we discuss the word's etymology--few people have any idea what fish they're eating when they eat scrod, despite its enormous popularity in New England.  Read More 

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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 

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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 

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Cod Chowder with a Puff Pastry Crust

To Make Chouder, A Sea-Dish


"Chouder, a Sea-Dish" is an elegant fish stew made with cod, oysters, mushrooms, wine, spices, and herbs. As if that weren't enough, it's topped with a puff paste crust. First published in 1758 by Hannah Glasse, this opulent dish is one of the earliest chowders in print. You can find the original recipe, and a few remarks about it by us, in Northern Hospitality (page 125). What follows is how we made it by pretty much following Hannah Glasse's instructions and ingredients list, but baking it in a modern oven.  Read More 

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