May 26, 2014

18th Century Altoids: A Recipe from the 1790s and Beyond

18th Century Altoids Lozenges Recipe
The current day mints that we call Altoids have a long history. The recipe dates back at least to the 1780s, and were called peppermint lozenges. Peppermint lozenges were originally thought to cure upset stomachs. They were created as a convenient substitution for peppermint water which was used previously.     

By the early 1800s, doctors and chemists attest to the popularity of lozenges and mention the additional flavors of ginger and horehound.[1] By the 1860s, authors mention many additives such as liquorish, anise, black currant, cayenne, rose, lavender, rhubarb as well as others, including quinine.[2] 

They became popular as both medicine and candy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In modern times, there are few candies that have stuck with this simple recipe. Altoids is the most prominent company making them today. Their history with the recipe dates back to one of the early big producers in the 1780s, Smith and Co. who dubbed their brand of peppermint lozenges Altoids, but they weren't sold in the United States until the 20th century. The recipe remains very similar today.  [3]
1700s Altoids Lozenge Recipe

Peppermint Lozenges


- 16 oz Powdered Sugar + more for dusting
- 2 oz Gum Arabic, Gum Tragacanth or Tylose (more common in modern baking)
-Peppermint Oil
-Food Coloring


Mix sugar, gum and water in a bowl. If making one flavor, about 15 or so drops of oil and coloring can be added during the mixing process. If making multiple flavors, make the dough first and knead in the colors and flavors later. Let sit for 15 minutes. Roll out on a powdered sugar or cornstarched surface and cut shapes with a small cutter or large straw.  
Sprinkle your hands, workspace and rolling pin with powdered sugar or cornstarch.

***Alternatively, Modern gum paste can be bought and used as it has changed very little in recipe, most are a mixture of sugar and some type of gum. Many modern recipes for gum paste are also available online.

[1] Chamberlaine, W.. "Mr. Chamberlaine, on the Ammendments of the Medicine Act." In The Medical and Physical Journal, . London: Richard Phillips, 1803.
[2] Weatherley, Henry. A treatise on the art of boiling sugar, crystallizing, lozenge-making, comfits, gum goods, and
 other processes for confectionery, etc.: in which are explained, in an easy and familiar manner, the various methods of manufacturing every description of raw and refined sugar goods, as sold by the trade, confectioners, and others. Philadelphia: H.C. Baird, 1865.
[3] Altoids® (

May 23, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 19

I'm starting to think I bake too much. :) I am really enjoying taking these photos. Even though I don't always have my good camera with me, I am learning a lot by just having a camera with me. There are a lot of times when something happens and you just wish you had a way to capture it. For me, whenever I see something inspirational, it kills if I can't capture it somehow.

I love photography and the ability to capture a moment in a few minutes. I am continually amazed at historical photography methods and the moments they captured. I am equally amazed at the ways people conveyed beauty and moments to their loved ones, such as in this Civil War letter from James R. McCutchan to Rachel Ann McCutchan in March of 1862:

"We left Winchester on the 11th, of this month + fell back to Strausburg; we stayed there a few days, + we are now about to middle way between Edinburg + Mt. Jackson. Our encampment is a very pretty one, in a beautiful pine grove, on the bank of the Shenandoah River. The surrounding country is exceedingly beautiful rivalling any in natural charm that I have ever seen. 

I felt sad when we left Winchester...Our last stopping place was between Woodstock + Edinburg; we stayed there one night. It was the most romantic place I ever saw. Right on the edge of a high cliff on the side of the Shenandoah River. The cliff is on one side of the turnpike + the railroad on the other side crosses a deep chasm on trussel work 130 feet high. I will send you some Spruce Pine that I got there. I must write some to your Ma. 

Yours truly



There is such a thing as too much icing. :)


Had an art day in the park.


Memorial day is a difficult one to decorate cakes and things for. I know people will be barbequing and having fun but it's hard to make festive cakes about the memory of dead Civil War veterans.


Made cupcakes for my friend at work's birthday. It was the week before but the weather cancelled the school programs we would be working together. My coworkers were excited the I decorate them with Hog Island sheep. Characterized by their white fur and black faces, Hog Islands are endangered descendants of sheep that were abandoned on Hog Island off of Virginia in the 1930s. Due to the island's exclusivity, the breed is one of the closest we have to the one settlers brought in the 1700s. There are fewer than 200 of these sheep left on the planet and our site used to own a few.  


A lot of people say that they would love to have my job. I do love it. But a lot of people get the wrong idea about what I do. I don't just get paid to sit around and reenact. We actually teach hundreds of kids a day about life on a Colonial farm. I routinely make dessert with the students. That means making enough food on the hearth to feed an army. 


Got out the paints.


The storm clouds from that crazy storm we had. We had flash flooding while close by had huge chunks of hail falling from the sky.


May 16, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 18

 This week had periods of nice weather and crazy rain. Historical season is in full swing as the historical sites open up and the reenactments take off. I'm working on a redesign of this blog which will hopefully have an index. I haven't redesigned in a few years and used to do it yearly.



We've been having a lot of rainstorms and the farm is slushy. Everyone ran around to take cover. 


 The 3rd and final baby lamb was born! A black sheep in the family.


Attaching the mizzen mast on Gazela  after a long winter.

Spent a great while making flowers for cupcakes. It seems like a popular item right now. The heat and humidity is really making the buttercream icing non cooperative. 

This week has been all about enjoying the weather when it is nice and enjoying forced indoor activities when it hasn't been. I hope everyone had a good week and got a lot of reading done with this weather.

May 12, 2014

Tips for New Civil War Reenactors: Be a Bit of a Farb

Soldiers at Neshaminy State Park 2014
I get a lot of emails from budding reenactors about to go to their first reenactment. They ask me for all sorts of advice but most of them want to know if what they have is "okay." Generally, most of them have a basic reenacting kit that will most likely soon be updated but is a decent enough starting point. We all know, authenticity is a personal journey and most will attain good enough, soon enough. This is a post to tell new reenactors what I wish someone told me: It's okay to be a little bit of a farb and here's why.

At my first event, I wanted to go super-hardcore. I thought that's what I was supposed to do as there is so much emphasis on it in the hobby. I didn't know anything about the rule of hiding non-period items so I just did without any of them, including things I really should have had with me, like a cell phone. I didn't bring a hairbrush, a toothbrush or a change of clothes. I did not know what I was in for!

Little did anyone tell me but my first event was in the mountains in the fall. I had no extra clothing to keep warm and only one blanket. I fell in a stream and had no way to dry off. I went to bed wet, cold and frozen and honestly could have gotten very sick. I was hours away from home and had no way of contacting anyone. It was very unsafe and I will always tell beginning reenactors that it's okay to start out as a bit of a farb. Safety is first. As experience grows, so will authenticity. As your kit grows, your use of non period items will dwindle. But until you reach that point. Do what you need to do to be safe.
Whenever I recieve an e-mail from a new reenactor about what to bring to their first event, I always tell them to add these items. they take up very little space and can make the difference between a horrible event and a great one. These can be very useful, even if you just keep them in the car.   

Stephanie Ann's (Farby but Important) Reenactor Survival Kit


- Sunscreen- You might not always need it, but it's good if you have it. There are even sunscreen wipes for sale that take up very little space.
- Lip Balm
- Nail Clippers- Not only are nail issues a pain at events, but these are tiny and can be used to cut thread and string.
- Trash bag- In the event of a downpour, it's good to be able to have something to throw all of your stuff in it. Also these are helpful at the end of events for trash or dirty equipment. 
- Small sewing kit (if there isn't one as part of your period kit.)
-Twine- You better believe I've found a use for twine at almost every event. From replacement canteen cork holders to tent pole lashings.
-Tissues and/or wet wipes. You'll thank me when you end up in a depleted portable toilet at 1 am.  
- Washcloth or small towel. 
- Hand Sanitizer
-Any medicines you may need.
-Bandages-Helpful for blisters. 

Everything Loose.

Emergency Items:

-Spare money
-Phone numbers, addresses in case you lose your phone or it dies.
-Spare phone battery. 
-Spare car key
-Gatorade Powder, chews or other electrolyte supplement. A recipe for a cheap one made from things in your kitchen can be found here.


-Spare change of clothing or at least undies and socks.

For ladies:

 -Feminine products- You never know who will need them. Maybe I should have put this under the general section, as these are now the newest thing in manly survival.
- Extra hairpins

For gentlemen:

-Extra canteen cork
-Extra clothing patches
-Spare gun cleaning equipment

All Packed Away
For a long time, I kept my emergency items in a decent sized poke sack but a small box can be used with good results and locked up. Also, some of these items can be kept on your person if you think it would be helpful, such as tissues or lip balm.

Any reenactors have some advice for new recruits? Also, if you know any new reenactors, please forward this post!

May 10, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 17

This week had beautiful weather and I was lucky enough to get to enjoy a lot of it. I had time to take lots of photos since the weather was cooperating. I hope everyone is spending a lot of time outdoors. 



Andy and I took his new car out for the first time and saw this awesome rainbow!


Some of the millions of Pineapple Upside Down Cakes that I helped make.


Still one more baby yet to be born.


Tadpoles swimming in all of the newly formed ponds thanks to last week's rainstorms.


The trees are raining flower petals.


Helped out at the Art4MS Art show. This takes two photos so you can see what was going on a few minutes before the event began.


The pigs are getting big but are still running around with their ears flapping in the wind.


Bizarre bubbles in my dish water today.

May 5, 2014

The Mysteries of Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Recipe

I made a million Pineapple Upside Down Cakes at work today. Okay, maybe it wasn't a million, but it certainly felt like a million. During baking I realized that I really had very little experience with the cake. I don't think I ever had it before and I hadn't ever seen anyone make it.

I asked one of the other girls in the bakery how old they thought the recipe was.

"It's old, old because I mother made it since before i can remember and my grandma made it too."

It was really a curious cake as the concept of baking something and flipping it out once it was finished is a very old concept, as is putting fruit in such confectioneries. Another girl mentioned that she would guess it originated around WWII because of the canned goods. I agreed and thought it might even be earlier than that. Probably around WWI as I had read a lot of recipes that included canned pineapple around that time period.  After a lot of conjecture we (read: my coworker) decided that I should "Go home and google it. You're giving me a headache. You ask too many questions."

So I asked her what they did before google, but I digress.

It turns out that there are many recipes for cakes baked and flipped upside down, as you would do with any cake or pudding baked in a mold. Elizabeth Smith Miller includes a recipe for a similarly baked "Orange Cake" with fruit icing in her 1875 book, In the Kitchen. 

By the 1890s, there were many recipes for apple cakes that were served flipped upside down but many of these had the fruit toppings added after the cake had been flipped out of the pan, and therefore not exactly the same as a modern upside down cake.

Upside down cakes in their modern form seem to have become very popular in the 1920s. In 1925, The Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole) held a recipe contest to help popularize their pineapple. 2,500 people entered recipes for pineapple upside down cakes. This indicates that it was already a popular dish or at least similar enough to dishes already made that numerous cooks made the connection. So, Pineapple Upside Down Cake became immensely popular all at once and historians have yet to find the missing link.

Here's a post WWII recipe for Pinapple Upside Down Cake which is almost identical to the recipe we were using. 

It's surprisingly tasty for being so simple. I am thinking of trying to make one that has pineapple and walnut flavored cake with  the pineapple and cherries on top. 


Miller, Elizabeth Smith. In the kitchen ... Boston: Lee and Shepard;, 1875.

Olver, Lynn. "The Food Timeline: cake history notes." The Food Timeline: cake history notes. (accessed May 5, 2014).

Schlosser, Georgia. Recipes for quantity service. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1953.

May 2, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 16

What a crazy week. Hot, cold, torrential rains. Those of you not living here, might think we've become very picky about our weather. It's not true. We have had the most bizarre weather this year. This week had a little bit of everything, except snow. But we have had enough of that for a lifetime.




It was so nice out, I had to find a little patch of grass and eat my lunch outside. Being inside all day drives me nuts. I love the outdoors.


The newest baby lamb at work takes a nap with its mum. The mother wasn't doing too well after the birth but seems to have recovered. I hear there is one more little baby on the way.



Went to visit Jodi at but met with this newly formed river crossing the road.


At some point soon, I'm hoping to attempt sourdough breads using this nice starter that Jodi gave me.


Dried veggies from last year.

Hopefully everyone kept out of the rain and wind.

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