Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kitchen 'must have's' 150 years ago...

I had the pleasure of doing a couple of talks about Pioneer cooking techniques and foods at a local festival this past weekend.

The whole thing was thrown together at the last minute, but...  I'd been out of town for a couple of weeks prior to the event, and it was a busy week  couple of days for me when I returned home.

So, I did the talks with a couple of props and recipes and had some people who were interested enough to stick around and listen to my little spiel.   I'm hoping to do this again next year, but with a difference.   I'll actually demonstrate a couple of recipes and techniques.

This year I talked about some of our favourite kitchen 'must haves', or tools we don't think we can live without.   Mine being my Kitchen Aid mixer.  I just love mine, and of course there is the submersion blender and a few other bits and pieces that were not available, well, they weren't even thought of 150+ years ago.

  Back then, the home cook had a good fork, a spatula, maybe a couple of pine whisks, a few cast iron pans and skillets, as well as a dutch oven and of course some wooden spoons.   A lot of utensils were made by local craftsmen, and having a full cupboard of china was unheard of unless you were very wealthy.   Many people had hand carved forks, plates and bowls made of wood.

This picture was taken at a display in Zions National Park, and you can see some of the items a cook might have to hand.  From the fork with a Horn handle, probably hand made to the spoon, and very important, the key.   Many spices were kept in wooden boxes with a key, as they were very precious. 

I also talked a little about the varied meats that early pioneers ate, they weren't limited to just what they could pick up at their local grocery store.   They were only limited by what they could shoot, trap or barter for.  And can't forget the fishing either.

Think about it.  How many different meats do you eat?   I know for myself we eat chicken, beef and pork on a regular basis.   And some turkey a couple of times a year.    Can you imagine building your meals around whatever protein was available?   The only time you got fresh meat was after either killing your hogs, a cow or shooting a deer or wild turkey or other wild animal,  much of the time you ate preserved meat.   Which you preserved by salting, or smoking or a combination of both.   Refrigeration wasn't available, never mind freezing your excess meat.  I'm talking about living in the South here, not up North.

And you used what you had available for meals.   In the south, a lot of cornmeal was consumed in various forms, from mush in the morning, to 'pone' or cornbread with the midday meal and the dinner.   It was used in many different forms, and another day I will share a few cornmeal recipes but for now.

Since it's starting to get hot down here, and I'm thirsty...

I am going to leave you with a recipe I shared the other day.    Think about how hard it was to have a cool refreshing drink back then.    And how grateful you are for the choices we have for cool refreshing drinks we can make or purchase ready made.

Shrub *
Take four pounds raspberries, pour over them half a pint of vinegar, place it in an earthen jar, 
and cover it securely, so no air can enter, place  it in the sun for 12 hours, then inside overnight, 
outside in the sun again for 12 hours. Strain by placing it in a flannel bag, til the juice has run 
through without pressure. Then for every pound of juice, take a pound of loaf sugar, and boil for a quarter of an hour or til no scum arises. Then put into small bottles and well cork it. 

The vinegar preserves the juice, and you would mix this with some water for a drink.   You can also use this in place of bitters or as an apertif if you will.    

*This recipe is from my copy of Civil War Recipes, Receipts from the pages of Godey's Lady's Book, by the University Press of Kentucky

Check out this explanation of Shrub on Wikipedia for more information.   

Sidsel Munkholm - Author
Sidsel Munkholm - Author

Sid loves to cook, feed people and have fun in the kitchen. She shares her successes and the involuntary offerings she sometimes gives the kitchen goddess as well. And she's still looking for the mythical fairy to help her clean the kitchen after a marathon cooking session. Currently working on a cookbook showcasing the recipes from her Danish heritage.

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