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) by Lydia Maria Child.
Cooking (and Contemplating) New England
Summer Pies I: “Cherry Pie” and “Pie Crust,” from Lydia Maria Child’s American Frugal Housewife (1833)
The Historic Setting
As we discuss in Northern Hospitality, game was neither as prominent in cooking sources nor as prestigious among the upper classes in New England as it had been among the aristocracy in England. Perhaps the difference in valuation can be attributed to the desire of the English colonists to distance themselves from the Indians' ways of obtaining food. For many settlers, too, hunting was a time-consuming activity of uncertain outcome that took the men of the household away from the important tasks associated with farming. Finally, we speculate, the plenitude of the resource in New England from the earliest years of settlement through most of the nineteenth century made wild game an important supplement to the diet but kept it from becoming the locus of leisure which it had been for the highest classes in England, where by law only the aristocracy could hunt it. Read More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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