December 30, 2009

Cocktail Hour: Green Tea Punch for your New Year's Party

It tastes like the best cup of tea you've ever had.

New Year's is one of my favorite holidays, primarily because of the level of drunken debauchery it allowed in 19th century New York. According to Lights and Shadows of New York Life by James Dabney McCabe, published 1873:

""Punch is seen in all its glory on this day, and each household strives to have the best of this article. There are regular punch-makers in the city, who reap a harvest at this time. Their services are engaged long before-hand, and they are kept busy all morning going from house to house, to make this beverage, which is no-where so palatable as in this city."

During the course of the day, ladies remained at home to receive guests, and gentleman went from house to house visiting friends and, apparently, sampling the punch:

"Towards the close of the day, everything is in confusion--the door-bell is never silent. Crowds of young men, in various stages of intoxication, rush into the lighted parlors, leer at the hostess in a vain effort to offer their respects, call for liquor, drink it, and stagger out, to repeat the same scene at some other house...Strange as it may seem, it is no disgrace to get drunk on New Year's Day. The next day one half of New York has a headache..."

So in the spirit of this great day, I present to you Jerry Thomas' recipe for Green Tea Punch; a cold weather favorite that's sure to please at your New Year's Eve get together, or your New Year's Day visiting hours.

Tea Punch
From How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas, 1862

"To make punch of any sort of perfection, the ambrosial essence of lemon must be extracted by rubbing lumps of sugar on the rind, which breaks the delicate little vessels that contain the essence, and at the same time absorb it. This, and making the mixture sweet and strong, using tea instead of water, and thoroughly amalgamating all the the grand secret, only to be acquired by practice."

1 lemon
1/2 cup super fine sugar
1 quart boiling water
1 ounce loose leaf green tea
1 pint brandy
1 pint rum

1. Add the sugar to a large punch bowl, rub the sugar on the rind of the lemon.
2. Remove the lemon, slice in half, and juice.  Add lemon juice to the punch bowl.
3. Wrap one ounce of loose leaf green tea in cheese cloth (or other method of infusing), and brew in boiling water for at least three minutes or to taste.
3.  Add brewed tea to the punch bowl; stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
4. Add brandy and rum, stir to combine.  Serve hot.

This is the way that I make it; Thomas' recipe actually calls for a bit more flair.  Follow steps 1-3, above.  Add alcohol, then "Set these a light, and pour in the tea gradually mixing it from time to time with a ladle; it will remain burning for some time and is to be poured in that state into the glasses."  I've never attempted this method before, but perhaps this is the year.

December 28, 2009

Taste History Today: Clear Toys and Cleveland's Early Ethnic Groups

I wanted to share with you two interesting, culinary history Christmas presents I received this year. My mom tucked a pair of "clear toys" into my stocking; made by Timberlake Candies, these little treast were popular gifts in the Victorian era:

Twisted sticks of Barley Sugar were originally made in the 17th century by boiling down refined cane sugar (a new product at that time) with barley water, cream of tartar, and water. During the 18th century metal molds were used to create the wonderful variety of shapes known as Barley Sugar Clear Toys. These became a popular Victorian Christmas treat.

"Clear Toy Candy" refers to the molding of hard candy into various three dimensional shapes without sticks (not a lollypop). The term does not imply the use of Barley Candy, though traditionally Barley Sugar and Barley Candy were used to make clear toy candy.

Timberlake Candy has hundreds of antique molds appropriate for any holiday or season, but they only make the traditional barley candy for a few weeks around Christmas. Buy barley sugar candy here.

My aunt gave me a tin of spices from The Olive and The Grape , a local business in Cleveland.  The tin contains a collection of seasonings "...Reflecting the history and foods of the ten major ethnic groups who were first to settle Cleveland--African-Americans, Chinese, Czech, German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Polish, Slovenian and Ukrainian."  I'll have to cook a traditional Cleveland area dish appropriate to each of these ethnic groups!

December 20, 2009

Events: The Cleveland Pre-Prohibition Pub Crawl

"This wall is over 100 years old." Inside Cleveland's oldest continually operating bar, the Harbor Inn.

I'm in my hometown of Cleveland for the holidays, a city I love very much. My heart breaks to see it looking so threadbare in this recession. My friends and I decided to celebrate our city via a journey into Cleveland history: a crawl of Cleveland's oldest pubs and bars that tip their hats to a bygone era.

Our first stop was Edison's Pub, a local bar that pays tribute to Thomas Edison.  We started there mostly because it was a convenient meeting spot for the attendees, but the $2.50 happy hour drink special wasn't bad either.  Cleveland, you truly are the land of plenty!

Next up was the Prosperity Social Club.  Although it resides in what was a 1938 ballroom, the atmosphere was more 1950s VFW hall.  However, as someone pointed out, it was very traditional, old-school Cleveland.  We dug it.  It was easy to picture iron workers coming in from the cold for a drink, and the bar is still warmed by a vintage wood-burning stove.  I drank a hot whiskey, a comforting combination of Jameson, honey, lemon and clove.  Good for what ails 'ya.  I recommend it, as well as the pierogies, the next time you're there.

Right: Hot Whiskey at the Prosperity Social Club

We jumped in a cab and headed north, stopping at Cleveland's new mixology sensation, the Velvet Tango Room.  From their website:

"At the Tango Room, we believe in craft. We believe that the right combination of ingredients can take you back in time, to a porch in Key West, a beach in Bermuda, a shadowy speakeasy in New York, or a glittering bar in Paris. When you sit at our bar, we want you to connect to those places and that history, so we carefully research old cocktail recipes, lovingly resurrecting classic drinks with historically accurate ingredients."

Sounds right up my alley, doesn't it?  It's pricier than most Cleveland bars, at $15 a drink, but it's worth it.  The cocktails taste like a sip of history, respectfully revived and celebrated.  I had a pisco sour (Peru's national drink!) and I plan on returning soon for one of their carefully crafted Manhattans.

This bar is incredibly popular in Cleveland: five years ago, when I was working on my thesis, everyone said a venue like this could never survive locally.  As it turns out, perhaps a historically innovative place like the Tango Room is exactly what Cleveland needs.

Next we walked a few blocks past the Westside Market, and into the Great Lakes Brewery.  GLB is know for its beers named after famous Clevelanders and events from the city's history.  It's  housed in what was once the Market Tavern, est. 1865.

"Its most famous patron was Eliot Ness, the man credited with taking down Al Capone's gang. The Taproom retains much of the charm and mystique from the 1930s era in its grand Tiger Mahogany bar (Cleveland's oldest) and intriguing bullet holes said to have come from Eliot Ness himself."

The bar in the Taproom at the Great Lakes Brewery.  There is a pen sticking out of a bullet hole put in the bar in the 1930s.

Ness' time in Cleveland is a fascinating one, marked by his fruitless search for a serial killer known as the Torso Murderer that stalked the city streets.  The killer would dismember his victims and leave their remains on the banks of the Cuyahoga.  The case was never solved.

We cabbed it again, heading for the lake front and the Harbor Inn, Cleveland's oldest continually operating bar, est. 1895.  We were apprehensive about this joint, having heard it was both a dive and a college bar.  But upon arrival, it was exactly the kind of place I'm comfortable in: a little worse for the wear, but roomy and convivial.  We had a great time playing on the vintage bowling machine and downing $2 PBR tall boys.

Last, we crossed the river and entered the Flat Iron Cafe.  Established in 1910, it's Cleveland's oldest Irish Bar:

"The building, which was formally a four story hotel, had a fire in the late 1800's in which the top two floors were destroyed...The first floor was used as a blacksmith's shop and the rooms on the second floor were used as lodging over the years by the sailors and longshoremen working on the lakes.”

Exterior: Flat Iron Cafe

I don't remember much at this point...someone was solving a mystery.  I ate a gyro from a street cart. Somebody else may have gotten married.  At any rate, a good time was had by all.  I'm certainly thankful for my Cleveland friends who joined me on my historic antics.  And I'm thankful to have grown up in such great town with a fascinating history.  I love you, Cleveland!

Check out our route here.

And see more photos below!

December 17, 2009

In The News: Historic Gastronomy 'Round the World

From December 27th - January 3rd, the Hampton Court Palace kitchens in London will be open to the public and cooking up historic Tudor cuisine:

"The Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court Palace are famous throughout the world for being those of King Henry VIII.
In fact they continued to be used as Royal Court kitchens for a further two hundred years, feeding the tables of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian monarchs and their many courtiers...For the last five years, they have been home to a fascinating research project run by Historia food archaeologists who regularly bring the kitchens to life experimenting with traditional recipes, ingredients and cooking methods to prepare feasts fit for a king!"

The New York Times follows in the footsteps of famous French gourmand Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, and takes us on a culinary journey through 19th century Paris

"Starting in 1803, Grimod, whose family fortune had largely been lost during the Revolution, financed his voracious appetite by writing a series of best-selling guidebooks to the culinary wonders of Paris — its famous delicatessens, p√Ętissiers and chocolatiers — including the first reviews of an alluring new institution called le restaurant...One of the most exciting things about the Almanachs is that they include detailed gastronomic walking tours of Paris, called “nutritional itineraries” — each one a vivid window onto the past."
Grimod's favorite chocolate, Debauve & Gallais, can be acquired this side of the Atlantic at their shop in New York City.

Cooking with the Caliphs analyzes a medieval cookbook from "the court of 9th century Baghdad":
"A little over a thousand years ago, an Arab scribe wrote a book he titled Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Recipes)... The book has come down to our time in three manuscripts and fragments of a fourth—and what a treasure it is. These are the dishes actually eaten by the connoisseurs of Baghdad when it was the richest city in the world."

The recipes in the article sound amazing. They're fascinating because they use ingredients common to 19th century American cooking, like citron and rosewater. I think I'm going to have an ancient Middle Eastern dinner party before too long.

December 14, 2009

History Dish Mondays: The Original Christmas Cookie

There are two very interesting aspects to this recipe.  It comes from Amelia Simmons' book 
American Cookery, the first cookbook of American authorship, published in 1796.  It's one of the earliest printed uses of the word cookie or "cookey," an Americanism derived from the Dutch word koekjea little cake that was offered as a treat to New Year's day visitors in New York City.

Secondly, this recipe was published at a time when Christmas was not uniformly celebrated.  Santa Claus wasn't invented for another thirty years, and the domestic, gift giving Christmas we're familiar with today did not exist.  There was a great debate as to whether Christmas should be celebrating piously, in quiet prayer and devotion; or in a more traditional Solstice celebration, with a focus on drinking and mischief.  "
The Antics" were roaming the streets of Boston, a rowdy gang who burst into the houses of the wealthy, and acted out bawdy plays for a reward of money or alcohol.  "Callathumpian bands" paraded around the streets of New York, their purpose to make as much noise and cause as much chaos as possible.

For more on the origins of modern Christmas, read Stephen 
Nissenbaum's amazing book, The Battle for Christmas.  I don't know more about this recipe in particular, but I was intrigued to taste the earliest American Christmas cookie recipe that I know of.

This recipe is essentially a sugar cookie flavored with coriander, which is the dried seeds of cilantro (and technically, cilantro is fresh coriander).  
Simmons'  receipt is vague, so I searched for a modern recipe I could retronovate, and found the perfect solution in Martha Stewart's Old Fashioned Sugar Cookie.  This recipe appealed to me because it uses an interesting modern technique of applying a double layer of sanding sugar, which gives the cookie a sweet glaze.  I altered the batter so it would be closer to Simmons' original recipe.  For a slightly more authentic Christmas Cookey, I recommend using a recipe for Springerle cookies, a traditional Dutch treat, and replace the anise flavor with 1-2 tsp. of ground coriander.

Christmas Cookeys
From American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796)
Modern recipe derived fromMartha Stewart's Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
2 large eggs
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, coriander and salt into a bowl; set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat sugars and butter at a medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until mixed. Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula

3. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

4. Scoop dough into a ziploc bag or sheet of plastic wrap. Form into a ball and refrigerate for at least an hour.

5. Break off a 1/4 of the dough ball. On a generously floured surface, roll out dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. "Cut or stamp in shape and size you please (Simmons)," and place on a baking sheet. "Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar (Stewart)."

6. Bake for 7 minutes, turning half way through.

I really like these cookies; they're a simple sugar cookie, with a kick of fresh citrusy flavor form the coriander.  I've boxed them up with some Chocolet Puffs and Cayenne Gingerbread, and they'll make a lovely Christmas gift.


December 11, 2009

The Gallery: What if Your Fruit Was Large and Terrifying

Eva has provided me with further evidence that Victorians had too much time on their hands.  She directed me towards this bookFruit Figures, and How to Make Them.

The first is a giant, disembodied hand, made up to resemble an old woman.

However, these images do seem to be the inspiration for some contemporary artists.

December 8, 2009

The Historic Gastonomist's Gift Guide

Curious where to find the best Christmas gifts for the culinary history enthusiast in your life?  Look no further: I've put together this list of gifts for the antiquated cook and contemporary gastronome alike..

Vintage and Historic Cook Books:

Kitchen Arts & Letters
1435 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10128
(212) 876-5550

"Nach Waxman is owner of one of the largest food bookstores in the country, Kitchen Arts & Letters, in Manhattan. From his perch behind the counter, he sees customers—famous chefs, not-famous line cooks, and civilians alike—streaming in to peruse his bountiful, unusual collection. Waxman shows us the basement, where he’s got some truly rare books. ("

Joanna Hendricks Cookbooks

488 Grennwich Street, New York NY
tel. 212-226-5731

"Located downtown, on Manhattan’s far west side, the tiny unique shop is filled with a variety of vintage cookbooks, menus, photographs and tableware. There isn’t a lot of foot traffic on this part of Greenwich Street and it’s easy to miss the store. Look for a small copper plaque that reads cookbooks, affixed to a very old and heavy wooden door. ("


Measuring Spoons

Cast Iron Cookware from Lodge Cast Iron
$10 and Up

"Nestled alongside the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains is the town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee (population 3,300). Yet out of this tiny community comes the finest cast iron cookware in the world. Lodge Cast Iron began making cookware during the first presidential term of William McKinley. Amazingly, some of the first cast iron skillets,griddles and dutch ovens made over 100 years ago are still being put to good use."


Economy Candy
108 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002
(800) 352-4544
order online:
photo: petervh

This mega candy store on New York's lower east side carries a plethora of hard-to-find historic cooking ingredients such as preserved citron peel, dried currants, and almond paste. Additionally, they carry "Old Time Favorites," vintage candy bars like the Cherry Mash.

Deborah's Pantry
327 Sumneytown Pike
Harleysville, PA 19438
order online:

Deborah's Pantry specializes in obscure 18th century cooing ingredients and apparatus, including isinglass and pearlash.  The 18th Century Tea Sampler ($16) makes a great gift for the casual enthusiastic.

Cheese of the Month Club
Murray's Cheese
254 Bleecker St.
New York, NY 10014

The Cheese of the Month club is on everyone's wish list: "Murray's Cheese of the Month is a 1½ pound selection of 3 varied and delicious cheeses, sent to your door for 4, 6 or 12 consecutive months. Each selection includes a variety of milk types, textures and flavor profiles, with a special focus on seasonal cheeses."

December 6, 2009

Menus: St. Nicholas Society Anniversary Dinner, Dec. 6th 1851

The St. Nicholas Society of New York was founded by a man named John Pintard.  Pintard was largely responsible for the invention of our modern Christmas traditions, along with society members Washington Irving and Clement Clark Moore. These men were obsessed with the Dutch history of New York, and they appropriated St. Nick as New York City's patron saint.

I'm reading a fascinating book on Christmas traditions,  The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum.  It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and is a wonderful read this time of year.  Nissembaum outlines the transition of the Christmas holidays from a time of gluttony and drunkenness to a celebration of domesticity.  On the St. Nicholas Society and its members, Nissenbaum has this to say:

...It was John Pintard who brought St. Nicholas to America, in an effort to make that figure both the icon of the New York Historical Society and the patron saint of New York City....In the 1810s, Pintard organized and led elaborate St. Nicholas' Day banquets for his fellow members of the New York Historical Society...
In Holland, St. Nicholas brings toys to children on his saint's day, Dec. 6th.  Historically, this tradition was observed by upper class Dutch families.   The working class Dutch that immigrated to New Amsterdam did not bring this tradition with them.
...Nobody has ever found contemporaneous evidence of such a St. Nicholas cult in New York during the colonial period.  Instead, the familiar Santa Claus story appears to have been devised in the early nineteenth century...It was the work of a small group of antiquarian minded New York gentlemen--men who knew one another as members of a distinct social set.  Collectively, those men became known as the Knickerbockers...
In short, the Knickerbockers felt that they belonged to a patrician class whose authority was under siege.  From that angle, their invention of Santa Claus was part of what we can now see as a larger, ultimately quite serious cultural enterprise:  forging a pseudo-Dutch identity for New York, a placid "folk" identity that could provide a cultural counterweight to the commercial bustle and democratic 'misrule' of early 19th century New York.
St. Nicholas evolved into Santa Claus with the aid of Clement Clark Moore's poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.

In the above menu, note the special "Knickerbocker" recipes, various traditional Dutch dishes.  Additionally, take note of the "Ornamental Confectionery."  These would have probably been sculpted out of marzipan.

For another piece of fascinating holiday ephemera, check out Charles Dickens's original manuscript of A Christmas Carol currently housed at the Morgan Library and Museum.  The New York Times has a high-resolution scan of the full manuscript online, and "The reader who spots the most intriguing textual change will be invited to tea at the Morgan Library and Museum."

Today is also the one year anniversary of this blog.  Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and enthusiasm.  This year has been so meaningful and wonderful, and I can't wait to see what the next twelve months will bring!

December 3, 2009

Events: Emily Dickinson's Birthday Bash!

You are invited to celebrate Emily Dickinson's birthday on Thursday, December 10th, at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC.  The event starts at 6pm, and is free!

It's a particularly special night for me because it is the premiere of Emily: Her True Self, a short film I'm working on with artist Flash Rosenberg and the Lower East Side Girls Club.

And like any good birthday party, there will be CAKE!  Emily Dickinson's "Black Cake," a fruitcake recipe found amongst the poet's papers.  I'm not baking it, but I will be there eating it.

Read more about the event here.  And if you can't make it down to the Bowery for a night of poetry and premieres, then celebrate at home with a slice of Miss Dickinson's cake.  It's a traditional fruitcake, so it's perfect for the holidays.  A recipe adapted for modern kitchens is printed below; try as I might, I couldn't track down a copy of Dickinson's original recipe online (although if anyone out there attends Harvard, you could get your hands on a copy).

Like any good fruitcake, you should let it sit in the back of your fridge for about a month before serving.  And don't forget the 179 birthday candles.

Emily Dickinson's Black Cake
From Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as a Cook by the Guides at the Dickinson Homestead.
As reprinted on Down the Rabbit Hole

2 cups sugar
1/2 lb. butter
5 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp clove
1 tsp mace
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
1/4-1/2 cup brandy
1 lb. raisins
2/3 cup currants
2/3 lb. citron (buy citron here)
Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom of the oven.  Preheat oven to 225 F. Add sugar gradually to butter;  blend until light and creamy.   Add unbeaten eggs and molasses.  Beat well. Re-sift flour with soda and spices. If you're using unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt. Beat sifted ingredients into mixture, alternately adding brandy. Stir in raisins, currants, and citron.
Pour batter into two loaf pans lined with waxed paper. Bake at 225F for 3 hours.  Remove pan of water for last 1/2 hour. Let loaves cool before removing from pans. Remove paper and wrap in fresh paper.

December 2, 2009

In the News: Bring Back Butter!

Through my experiments in historic gastronomy, I have come to appreciate the beauties of butter, particularly when it's fresh from the churn.

Apparently, I share this dairy fetish with installation artist Tim Eads, who "...Aims to reinvigorate our appetite for the long-standing table staple by crafting a pedal-operated machine that churns butter while simultaneously operating a toaster..."
"About a year ago I was thumbing through a 1905 Sears catalog I found in a used book store. It was humorous to see how everything was so bulky and strange looking and only performed simple tasks. It occurred to me that in 100 years our machines will look silly and inefficient.

...The reason I chose butter was it seemed like one of the most basic ways to connect to people. Because much of our brain activity is dedicated to finding and eating food we all connect with it on some level."

If you'd like to support Eads in his butter dreams, then stop by his Kickstarter page, where he's raising funds to make the butter bike a reality.  I wish him all the best.

And on a similar note, a novel gift idea: handmade butter, presented in a decked-out mason jar.  Visit  for the recipe.

November 30, 2009

Cocktail Hour: Egg Nogg Cocktail

I've often been asked where I get the ideas for the recipes I cook.  It goes a little like this: throughout the course of my day, thought bubbles appear with a pop above my head.  They waft through the air, trailing behind me, gently enfolding images of food I would like to devour: whole roasted pigs; booze flavored jell-o; fatty dairy products.  Recently, I've been dreaming of egg nog.

My roommate whipped up a batch based on this recipe, from the NPR article "More Evidence that Egg Nog Goes Better with Booze."  It's made with raw eggs and an entire bottle of rum.  The Nog has to sit around and mellow for a month in the refrigerator.  There's a cute video about it here, where scientists test the Nog for signs of salmonella.  Preliminary tests indicate that the alcohol kills any bacteria present in the eggs.  It's hardly surprising--the nog is so boozey it tastes like creamy astringent.

The scientist's findings inspired me to test out a 19th century egg nog recipe, from Jerry Thomas' wonderful book How to Mix Drinks.  On the subject of "Egg Nogg," Thomas has this to say:
Egg Nogg is a beverage of American origin but it has a popularity that is cosmopolitan.  At the South it is almost indispensable at Christmas time and at the North it is a favorite at all seasons...Every well ordered bar has a tin egg nogg shaker which is a great aid in mixing this beverage
The Egg Nogg chapter of his book offers a variety of recipes for egg nogg as we know it, in punch form.  But the very first recipe is for what I would call an egg nogg cocktail: a single serving drink of eggs shaken up with milk and alcohol.  Perhaps this is the way egg nogg was first served, well before it filled holiday punch bowls.

81. Egg Nogg
From How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon-Vivant's Companion by Professor Jerry Thomas

1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 tablespoon cold water
1 medium egg
2 ounces brandy
1 ounce rum
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup shaved ice or two ice cubes

1. The first step depends on what kind of cocktail shaker you have: If you have a Boston shaker, you're going to want to put your ice in the bar glass. If you have a cobbler shaker, put the ice in the shaker. (what kind of shaker do I have?)

2. Dissolve sugar in the water in a bar glass; add egg and beat slightly. Add milk and alcohol.

3.Cover and shake (or add to cobbler shaker) until all ingredients are thoroughly amalgamated.

2. Strain into a pint glass and garnish with grated nutmeg.


I am drinking this right now, and I love it.  It's not as heavy as a cream-based egg nog, but it is still satisfying my nog cravings.  And the best part--it's a single serving!  So I can enjoy it anytime without having to mix up large batch.

I also suspect this recipe would be good with bourbon instead of brandy.  Either way, I highly recommend it.  It's just delicious.

If you need some training for your cocktail shake, I recommend the Hard Shake.  And if you're interested in more holiday cocktails with egg, try LeNell's Mae West Royal Diamond Fizz.

And now that I've reached the end of this post...I'm a little tipsy.  Congratulations, me.

November 26, 2009

Menus: Thanksgiving in 1845

A menu from The New England Economical Housekeeper by Esther Allen Howland.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy the holiday weekend.

November 23, 2009

Events: A Revolutionary Thanksgiving Photos!

If you took any photos at the event, please add them to the Revolutionary Thanksgiving group here.

Events: Revolutionary Thanksgiving Recipe Extravaganza!

Preparing Four Pounds Flour "signature" apple tart.

The event yesterday at Old Stone House was a huge success: all the food was cooked and delicious!  We had a big turnout, thanks in part to some great press leading up to the event, including a listing on Grub Street, an article in the Village Voice and, my favorite, a wonderful feature on Brokelyn.  I'm going to be posting photos from the event photos soon!

Thanks to everyone who came out; also a big thanks to D'Artagnan for donating the wild turkey and the venison; and to Red Jacket Orchards who donated historic baking apples, the Newtown Pippin.

Many of those who attended requested my recipes, so I thought I'd share them with you here.  They are all incredibly simple and delicious, and perfect for your Thanksgiving table.

All three of these receipts were adapted from the first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons.  A hearth is not necessary to prepare them; you'll do just fine in a modern kitchen.

Stuffing for a Turkey

This recipe makes enough for one stuffed bird. If you plan to serve it as a side; bake it in a casserole at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

1 loaf bread or cornbread
1 stick butter
1/4 lb salt pork or fat back; or 4 slices bacon.
2 eggs
1 tsp savory
1 tsp marjoram
1 handful fresh parsley, torn
10 leaves fresh sage, torn
1 tsp each Salt and pepper, or to taste.

1. Tear bread into small pieces and put in a large bowl.

2. Melt butter and pour over bread.

3. Finely chop pork and add it to the bread mixture.

4. Add remaining ingredients.  If the mixture seems too dry, add another egg.

5. Stuff into a turkey.

Squash Pudding

This recipe is a bit labor intensive.

2 small or one large squash. (I used 2 butternut squashes)
3 baking apples
Juice of 1/2 an orange
1/2 cup sugar
2 slices bread or 3 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon rosewater
1/3 cup wine
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon flower

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Peel and core apples.  Slice into 1/2 in - 1 inch chunks.  Add orange juice to prevent apples from browning.  Add to a skillet with  1/4 cup sugar.  Cook on a high heat until apples bubble and steam; turn heat down to medium, and stew for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3. Cut squash into quarters; peel and cut into one inch cubes.  Boil in a large stock pot, in lightly salted water, until tender.

4. Strain squash and add to a large mixing bowl. Mash to desired consistency with a potato masher, wine bottle, or other heavy implement.

5. Combine with remaining ingredients.

6. Bake from 45 minutes- 1 hour, until mixture is hot and bubbly around the edges.

Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pumpkin (canned or fresh)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup real maple syrup (fresh pumpkin may need an additional 1/3 cup of maple sugar.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs, well beaten
¼ cup brandy

1. Preheat oven to 325.  Combine pumpkin, sugar, maple syrup, salt and spices in a mixing bowl.

2. Beat together milk, eggs, cream and brandy.  Add to pumpkin mixture.

3. Pour into an unbaked pastry shell and bake for 1 hour.


November 18, 2009

Taste History Today: Jefferson's Favorite Apple

Photo by Brandon Miller

The premiere issue of Edible Queens has a feature on the Newtown Pippin apple, a heritage breed with it's origin in the New York area. From the U.S. Apple Association:
"Also known as Albemarle Pippin, a favorite variety of Thomas Jefferson. Discovered on Long Island in 1759, this apple is one of the oldest original U.S. varieties, helping to launch the U.S. fruit export industry. Newtown Pippin is a distinctive green, often with yellow highlights. Its aromatic, tangy flesh makes the Newtown great for use in pies and applesauce. Primarilly a processing variety, most U.S. supplies are used commercially. Newtown Pippin is typically available from September through December."
Jefferson dubbed the Newtown "The Prince of Apples" and grew them on his Monticello estate. The Newtown is making a comeback in the New York area thanks to Erik Baard, a Long Island City–based environmentalist.
"Since 2006, Baard has spearheaded a local movement to plant Newtown Pippin saplings across the city and state. “I’m trying to remind New Yorkers of our agricultural heritage one tree at a time,” explains Baard, the borough’s own Johnny Appleseed.
The Newtown Pippin—a pippin is an apple grown spontaneously from seed—first took root in the Newtown section of Queens, now Elmhurst, in the 1700s, and was almost universally lauded as one of the best-tasting apples ever grown. (Edible Queens)”
You can get your hands on Newtown Pippins in New York at the Red Jacket Orchard stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays. They sell other heirloom breeds including Baldwin, Staymen Winesap, 20 oz pippin and Northern Spy.

I'm going to be featuring the Newtown Pippin at the Old Stone House event this Sunday: stop by to see the apples for yourself and for a taste of apple-rosewater tart.

November 16, 2009

Origin of a Dish: Green Bean Casserole

I want to stick my face in it.

The most recent issue of Martha Stewart's Food magazine contains an abomination: a recipe for Green Bean Casserole in which all of the components are made from scratch. Shallots are hand-breaded and pan-fried. Mushrooms are seasoned and sauteed in cream. Ridiculous!

My mom and I got into a heated debate over the legitimacy of this recipe. Mom thought it might be good; I conceded that it might. However, this recipe takes a dish that was designed to be extraordinarily simple and makes it incredibly complicated!

I say don't fix what ain't broke. Green Bean Casserole was created in the 1950s during an era of canned convenience food. It has survived as a traditional Thanksgiving side dish not only because of its simplicity, but because it happens to be delicious.

From the Campbell's Kitchen webpage:

"Deemed the 'mother of comfort food,' Dorcas Reilly led the team that created the Green Bean Casserole in 1955, while working as a staff member in the Home Economics department of the Campbell Soup Company.

...She says the inspiration for the Green Bean Casserole was to create a quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950s: green beans and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup. Like all great recipes, the casserole requires minimal number of ingredients (just five), doesn't take much time, and can be customized to fit a wide range of tastes.

In 2002, Mrs. Reilly appeared at the National Inventor's Hall of Fame to donate the original copy of the recipe to the museum. The now-yellowed 8 x 11 recipe card takes its place alongside Enrico Fermi's invention of the first controlled nuclear reactor and Thomas Alva Edison's two greatest hits: the light bulb and the phonograph."

(Editor's Note: I can find no evidence that this recipe card is actually in the Inventors Hall of Fame.)

This Thanksgiving, reenact a tiny bit of American history, and make the classic Campbell's Green Bean Casserole.

Classic Green Bean Casserole
from Campbell's Kitchen

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

1. Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and
2/3 cuponions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.

2. Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.

3. Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

November 13, 2009

Events: A Revolutionary Thanksgiving at Old Stone House

I've often said that any object your heart desires can be found within the boundaries of New York City; however, that comes with a short list of items that are extraordinarily hard to track down in the city limits. At the top of that list is a working hearth. So you can imagine my amazement when, about a month ago, the executive director of Old Stone House in Park Slope dropped me an email to let me know that the museum owned an outdoor, working hearth.

Naturally, my first impulse was to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Which is utter insanity, considering that my hearth cooking experience up until this point has been fairly limited. But I was excited by the challenge: our foremothers did it, therefore there's no reason I should be incapable of doing it too.

This Sunday, November 22nd I am going to be cooking up a storm at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn. I've got a traditional, Revolutionary Menu in the works. There is a chance that everything will come out burnt on the outside, and raw in the middle. But either way, you're invited to join me in my culinary adventure! The event is free and open to the public; I'll be serving tasting portions of hot-off-the-hearth food from 12-3pm.

I want to mention that the fine folks at D'Artagnan are donating some of their exemplary meats for the occasion.

The official press release is below. I hope to see you there!


The Historic Gastronomist demonstrates:

An 18th Century Thanksgiving
Join Sarah Lohman at the Old Stone House Hearth
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Limited tastings will be available.

Preparations will include:

Turkey with Gravy
Stewed Squab
Venison Roast

Sourdough Bread

Squash Pudding
Onions in Cream

Seasonal Vegetable

Plum Pudding
Apple Tarts
Pumpkin Pie
336 Third Street, bet. 4th/5th Avenues
Brooklyn, NY 11215

November 12, 2009

Events: Brooklyn Beefsteak Wrap-up!

"The Unbridled Enthusiasm of Sarah Lohman." Photo by Doan Buu.

I know this post is belated, but I must to take the time to say something about the amazing event I attended in Gowanus last weekend, the Brooklyn Beefsteak.

The mood at the event was nothing less than euphoric: a room full of hungry carnivores, subdued by the ever-flowing pints of McSorely's, and finally satiated by course after course of beef. And oh, the beef! We started with tiny hamburgers, then slices of tenderloin, then there was pot roast, and some sort of BBQ Beef. Too many beefs for me to count or remember, and each one masterfully prepared.

My favorite course was the strips of tenderloin, grilled over charcoal and drizzled with butter. It's the most traditional preparation of beef at a beefsteak, and arguable the best.

And now I know a thing or two about the history of the beefsteak, thanks to the two lectures at the event: one on the tradition of the beefsteak in New York (a manly 19th century gathering) and one on the survival of the beefsteak in the VFW halls of northern New Jersey. Both talks were entertaining; however, I don't envy the speakers for trying to give a history lesson to a room full of drunks. We were an enthusiastic crowd, to say the least.

You can see a bajillion photos from the event here. And if you would like to learn more about the tradition of the beefsteak, I encourage you to read the classic New Yorker article All You Can Hold for Five Bucks. It was published in 1939 and survives as the source of most of our contemporary beefsteak knowledge. Don't be dismayed by the first two paragraphs, were he talks about how terrible women are. It gets better after that.

November 10, 2009

The Historic Gastronomist: Giving Recipes an Afterlife

Liza di Guia, a local food journalist, recently shot a short documentary about my work--and here it is! This is my first experience with being on camera, so I am simultaneously horrified and delighted.

And if you like what you see here, come see more in person at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn! On Sunday, November 22nd, from 12-3, I'm going to be cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner over the hearth. Stop by to tour the museum, chat, and get some free tastes of what's cooking. More information the meantime, please enjoy the video!

The Historic Gastronomist: Giving Recipes an Afterlife from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

Welcome to food. curated.

Meet Sarah Lohman. She's not a professional cook, nor a historian, yet what she is passionate about involves both cooking and history.

Sarah is a rare breed of hobbyist. A "historic gastronomist". She rediscovers and recreates American recipes that went out of style hundreds of years ago. For her, it is the closest thing to time travel...reawakening her senses and opening doors to old flavors and ideas that had once been pop culture.

And it's a hobby not without purpose. She uses these discoveries to introduce new ingredients and techniques into her cooking today. A trend, she says, that is catching on with chefs all over New York City.

food. curated. spent an afternoon with Sarah in her "kitchen lab" and at Brooklyn's Old Stonehouse to see what a typical day of recipe testing is like...

Read more about Sarah and her projects in her blog

Thanks for watching

Shot & Edited by Storyteller: Liza de Guia

Follow my food obsessions on Twitter: SkeeterNYC

November 9, 2009

History Dish Mondays: Huguenot Torte

You are gonna love this torte.

I first heard about the Huguenot Torte when paging through my most recent issue of
Cuisine at Home. The photos promised a luscious-looking apple and pecan treat, that "...Hails from the Ozarks, but was popularized in South Carolina by French Protestant immigrants known as the Huguenots." An apple dessert that also has a historical provenance? Excellent.

Then I came across the same recipe in the pages of
The First Ladies Cookbook, who listed it as one of Martin van Buren's favorite dishes. "Well, if MVB likes it," I thought, "It has to be good!"

As it turns out, this dish had little to do with the Huguenots, and nothing at all to do with our eigth president.

While researching a little further into the history of the Huguenot Torte, I can across this article in the New York Times. The article is part of a larger feature called Recipe Redux, wherein the author revisits recipes that were printed in the Times in years past. Huguenot Torte first appeared in the paper in 1965: "The Times’s recipe came from “The First Ladies Cook Book,” where it is featured in the chapter on Martin Van Buren — a historical impossibility because the dessert was created nearly 100 years after his term."

According to culinary historian John Martin Taylor:
"...The torte descends from a more recent Midwestern dessert called Ozark pudding. Huguenot torte, Taylor said, first showed up in print in 1950 in “Charleston Receipts,” a successful community cookbook in which the torte recipe was attributed to Evelyn Anderson Florance (then Mrs. Cornelius Huguenin). In the 1980s, Taylor tracked her down in a nursing home and discovered that she had eaten Ozark pudding on a trip to Galveston, Tex., in the ’30s. After fiddling with the recipe, she renamed it Huguenot torte after Huguenot Tavern, a Charleston restaurant where she made desserts. The tavern became known for the torte."

I don't hold the untruths that have been propagated about the Torte against it, because in actuality, this torte is one of the most amazing desserts I've ever had. It takes advantage of the fall apple harvest and is incredibly simple to put together. It has very little flour and a lot of eggs and sugar, which results in the most fascinating texture combination after it is baked: the top is the crustiest, crispiest meringue, while the inside is gooey, buttery caramel.

This dessert is astounding and due for a revival; in fact, I bet Martin van Buren would have loved it, had he been alive when it was created.

Huguenot Torte (1930s)

Ingredients taken from
The First Ladies' Cookbook (1965)
Directions inspired by
Cuisine at Home magazine (2009)

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup peeled and chopped tart cooking apples
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, mixed with
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

1. Preheat over to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; or line it with parchment paper.

2. Beats eggs and vanilla at high speed. Add the sugar a little at a time, until the eggs are light and creamy, about five minutes.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix into egg mixture until just combined.

4. Fold in apple and pecans.

5. Pour into baking dish. Baked torte 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Cool five minutes and serve warm, cut into squares. Don't get stressed out when the Torte crumbles as it is dished out; that's it's nature. A dollop of lightly sweetened, almond flavored whipped cream is an excellent compliment. This Torte tastes even better the next day, after being warmed a few minutes in the oven.

November 5, 2009

Menus: Roast Bear for Charles Dickens

I recently spent some time rifling through the New York Public Library's extensive menu collection, and I came across this gem from 1842:

Some of the dishes served included: Larded Sweet Breads and Larded Fillet Beef; Plum Puddings, blazing; and, my favorite, Roast Bear. I think the hosts tried to American things up for Charlie D: "Look at us! We're so wild in the States! We're eating a bear!" I hope Mr. Dickens had a good time.

I think this menu has planted the seed of an idea for a future dinner party.

November 2, 2009

Events: Brooklyn Beefsteak

I'm going to an exciting event this weekend: The Brooklyn Beefsteak, a revival of the 19th century tradition of an "all-you-can-eat-and-drink beef and beer feast." Would anyone like to come with?

GROUP TICKETS - SOLD OUT / $35 Advance Tickets / $50 Door

Ticket includes…
+ All-you-can-eat naturally raised aged beef
+ Ever flowing McSorley’s Light and Dark Ale
+ Your own McSorley’s pint glass
+ LIVE MUSIC by Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co.
+ Presentations by Beefsteak scholars Paul Lukas ( Page 2 Columnist) and Bill Wander
+ Eating Contest, Raffles, and More!

All tickets are general admission - general seating.

We expect guests to bring the shenanigans. For more information or press inquiries please e-mail

October 30, 2009

On a Personal Note: Showered with Gifts!

I treasure my new nutmeg grater.

On Wednesday, I braved the rain and the wind to go to Whisk, a delightful kitchen supply store in Brooklyn. I won a $25 gift certificate earlier this month, so I arrived with a list of small items I needed for my kitchen.

It warmed my heart to be able to pick out some tiny treasures. I got: A beautiful roll of brown parchment paper, which I think I may use to wrap my Christmas presents; a cookie cutter in the shape of an oak leaf and a jar of silver sanding sugar (also for Christmas presents); a candy thermometer, a tea ball, and (best of all) a nutmeg grater. I have wanted a nutmeg grater for years, and the one I got at Whisk is truly special. This nutmeg grater is the same make that I used in my other life in 1848. Hanging on a rack of completely modern and ordinary kitchen utensils, its punched-tin design seemed terribly out of place. I snatched it up and cradled it; I love it so.

When I returned home, a package had come for me in mail. A reader of this blog had mailed me some cookbooks: a two-volume set of 15th Century recipes called Take a Thousand Eggs or More by Cindy Renfrow. This reader had bought them several years ago at a renaissance festival, and never got around to using them. She decided they needed a new home.

I haven't done much work with Medieval or Renaissance cookery, but upon scanning the index, the heading "Spectacle Foods" caught my eye. The first entry: "Appraylere: a false pitcher made of pork, cheese and bread." What??? Meat Pitcher? Awwwwwesome!

Box of meat! Sarah Lohman, your ship has come in.

Lastly, yesterday morning the Fed-Ex truck arrive with a box of free meat. How this free meat came to be is a long story, but it's from D'Artagnan, a local purveyor of elegant products. I got two tiny chickens, heritage breed bacon, buffalo steaks, duck foie gras, and two types of truffle butter. I've never even owned a truffle before!

I feel truly fortunate to have received all of these wonderful gifts; they are going to take me on some wonderful food adventures