Hearth Cooking Fun!

This past Sunday, at the IFarm in Boxford, MA, twelve participants gathered for a fun afternoon of hearth cooking and brick oven baking!  And I was lucky enough to be one of those participants!

Paula Marcoux, who I first met as a Pilgrim at Plimoth Plantation, had put together a menu of eleven recipes for all of us to make, bake, and eat!  And in such a wonderful setting as well!  Two large kitchens, one wood-fired stove, an open hearth with working brick oven, and a plethora of ingredients were at our disposal.  And, after a brief introduction, we delved right into it!

The first receipt I helped to make was the Steamed Pudding (there was ALOT of puddings).  This involved beating eggs with butter and sugar, adding lemon juice and rind, and then the really FUN (note sarcasm) of beating egg whites till they were stiff.  The good thing was there was a copper bowl to help with the process.  And the other good thing is my arm didn't fall off!  But I now see why even a hand crank beater was seen as a revelation.

While I was beating the eggs, currents, chopped apple and bread crumbs were added to the mix.  I then took and folded the beaten egg whites into the pudding mix, remembering to not over mix the batter like I was taught with "The Great British Baking Show". 

We poured the pudding mix into these well buttered pudding tins (which were adorable!) and then put them in a large kettle to steam for several hours.  Such a cool concept!

While I was working on the steamed pudding other receipts were being worked on.  The one pictured above is an epic Chicken Pie!  Three whole small chickens were put into the pie (already cooked but with bones and all) along with herbs and dredged in a gravy made from the stock the chickens were boiled in.  We were all very excited to see how this came out!

Also being worked on was the Cabbage Pudding, which has an interesting name but you'll see why it's called a pudding in a moment.  This involves parboiling a cabbage head, peeling back the leaves, taking out the center and chopping it up, mixing the chopped cabbage with force meat (think very fine sausage meat), and then putting the meat and cabbage mixture back into the center and placing the leaves back around it.  Easy right?

This particular receipt came from Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife (1831), and Paula hadn't even cooked it before, but was very curious how it would come out.  All of us were!  I had seen it be done on "A Taste of History" but was very curious on how it would taste.

And here's why it's called a pudding.  Because it was boiled in a cloth!  What?

Ok, so for those who haven't had/made/seen a boiled pudding in a cloth, it's the very common way that puddings were made through most of the 16th-18th centuries.  It could be done for both sweet or savory puddings.  And the reason it's called "pudding" was because it was "put into" a cloth to be boiled.  I made a lot of puddings when I was a Pilgrim and loved them. And you don't need a hearth to do it, just a way to hook the cloth so it doesn't touch the bottom of the boiling pot.  So if you've never tried it I highly recommend it!

Once the steamed puddings were in the steamer, I got started on making a carrot pudding (which actually looks more like a pie).  Of the 11 receipts we were cooking, 5 of them were puddings and one was a sauce for pudding.  So lots of puddings.  

So I mashed and muddled the carrots till they were super fine, then added cream, eggs, lemon rind, currants, nutmeg and brandy, mixed it all together, and added it to a crust.  It was then taken to the brick oven to be baked.

While I was working on the carrot pudding the kitchens were buzzing.  So many more delicious things were being made.  Two versions of Potato Pie being made, a Cranberry Pudding (baked above), stewing cranberries for a tart, Parker House rolls being rolled out, and a Thanksgiving Pudding being baked in a pot (literally), and a pudding sauce made of butter, sugar and wine (yum!).  

The Thanksgiving Pudding comes from the book Tit-Bits, or, How to Prepare a Nice Dish at a Moderate Expense written by Mrs. S.G. Knight (1864) for anyone who is curious about it.  

While other receipts were being finished up I jumped in on helping cut celery for the Celery Salad.  It was an interesting concept, cutting the celery into 1 inch pieced and then making matchsticks from those pieces.  And I guess it was a very popular recipe for around Thanksgiving.  But I can see that this job was probably given to the younger children who could safely use a knife because it is quite tedious to do.  But, in this case, many hands made light work!

Such a cool view of all those pies/puddings!

So, once the celery was cut and dressed and everything was either baking, boiling, or steaming, we had a bit of time to wander around the farm!  And it was such a beautiful day who wouldn't want to!

If you are in the area of Boxford, MA, you have to visit this place!  Even with things being bedded down for the winter it was still beautiful!

There are several structures on the property for use and the newest one (being barn for storing equipment) is made from wood from the property as a post and beam.  It was so cool!

They also have extensive herb gardens onsite.  The tripods there are meant for hops!  And you can tell how tall they are by the people walking next to them.  But, after seeing how high hops can grow, I believe that they get to the top every year.

The herbs are grown organically and are processed on sight and sold either through their website or at specific fairs they attend.  If you are interested I'll be putting their website below.

I tried not to drool too much.  Just told my husband when I got home that I found my dream place. 

And I couldn't leave without getting several pictures of their draft horses, both big and beautiful creatures.  And my son was very excited to see these pictures.  He LOVES horsies!

So when we got back in most everything was out of the oven, pot, and steamer.  So we laid everything out buffet style so we could load our plates accordingly.  

I know it's hard to see everything in the picture above, but from the colorful beets in the bottom left corner clockwise here's a list of what is on the table.  Boiled and Dressed Beats, Cranberry Pudding, Cabbage Pudding, Carrot Pudding, Chicken Pie, Cranberry Tarts, Pudding Sauce, Celery Salad, Potato pies (sweet and white potatoes). In the center is the Steamed Puddings (on the plates) and the Thanksgiving Pudding (in the tall dark pot).

This celery salad was a revelation!  It was simply dressed with salt, pepper, vinegar and oil.  But it was so wonderfully refreshing I'm certainly going to try it again soon!  Thanksgiving is coming up...

These cranberry tarts are so pretty!  And the steamed puddings didn't hold their structure, sadly, but were still moist and delicious!

Carrot pudding!  Surprising sweet and very much like pumpkin pie in texture and flavor.

The epic chicken pie!!!  It was huge and so good!  I can see why it would be the center piece of the 19th century Thanksgiving dinner.  And it was still steaming even as we were breaking it up to be brought home.

And here was the great reveal of the cabbage pudding!  And, this pudding, was the only thing that had no leftovers at the end of the meal.  We all enjoyed it!

And, not on the buffet but at the table, were the really soft and buttery Parker House rolls!

We all loaded are plates, and then realized that two trips were going to be necessary.  But all of it was delicious!  And I was surprised how different each pudding was, in both flavor and texture.  Makes me realize how limiting we are in our description on what pudding is.

After a great meal and some good wine, a nice conversation about the day and different historical recipes commenced.  In my busy life, I'll admit that I don't often get to sit down and have a meal and conversation at a kitchen table.  And it's moments like this that make me see the true value in doing that.  Not only in celebrating food but also discussing that celebration with others.

I would suggest that if you EVER have the chance to do a Hearth Cooking workshop, DO IT!  They are so much fun and they will change how you think about food and cooking forever!  And we are lucky that there are many different workshops available all around the country.  Try your local museums to see what they offer.  

But I would highly recommend, if you are able, to take one with Paula.  Her depth of knowledge and enthusiasm are contagious, and make for a great variety and good fun!  So check out the Plymouth Craft website (where she does most of her workshop advertising) at www.PlymouthCRAFT.org.  And if you can't make it to her workshops, then check out her book, "Cooking With Fire".  I have it and love it!  

And if you are in the Boxford, MA area, you have to come and see IFarm!!!  It's so beautiful and they do so many events throughout the year!  Here's their website:  www.ifarmboxford.com


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