February 27, 2015

Civil War Era Rock Candy Recipe: Historical Food Fortnightly

"Our children eat crystallized sugar, under the name of rock candy, and we ourselves us it in the loaf crystallized in another form." -Friend's Intelligencer, 1859

Civil War Recipe, Civil War Reenactor

For this Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge, I searched high and low in search of something blue. Blueberries were the obvious choice but unseasonal and disagreeable. I'm the only person in the world who doesn't like berries. I didn't think to make rock candy until a few days before the challenge ended, but I decided to make it anyway, even if it would be a week late.

 "Rock candy" was the name given to many different types of candies in the 1800s. One version of the candy, was a hardened syrup mixture, mixed with nuts and cut into pieces. Another form of rock candy was recrystallized sugar.  It was eaten plain, used in medicines, to flavor drinks, and as decoration for other edibles.

 Civil War Recipe

The Challenge: "Something Borrowed, Something Blue February 8 - February 21
It’s a two part challenge! Either create a dish that relies on borrowed ingredients, or create a dish that involves the color blue. Bonus points if you can achieve both!"

The Recipe: 

The Date/Year and Region:
1860s, Boston, although it's a simple, popular treat in use almost everywhere.

How Did You Make It:


-3 Cups Sugar
- 1 Cup Water
-Essential Oil and Food Coloring Optional


Bring your sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. As soon as it boils, remove from heat, let sit for a minute to cool and pour into sterilized glasses. Mix in coloring and flavor if desired. Tie a string onto a stick or pencil and lay the stick over the glass, inserting the string into the liquid, being sure that the string does not touch the bottom of the glass. Cover the glass with a cloth and let it sit for a week. If crystals form on the top of it, just break them into the mixture with a butter knife. At the end of a week, remove string, drain off the extra syrup and rinse the string rock candy and the rock candy in the glass off with water. Lay it out on a cookie sheet to dry.    

Time to Complete:
10 minutes of prep and cooking, 7 days to form.

Total Cost:
Very inexpensive.

Civil War Recipe

How Successful Was It?:
Tastes delicious, I used a bit of Vanilla flavoring. I wish I made something else to put it on. It is very sweet.

How Accurate Is It?: The recipe called to bake the candy but I just let it air dry. It's blue, even though the recipe called for it to be a slate violet color, but I did borrow the glasses to make it in.

February 21, 2015

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party

 Cold wet and nasty has been the experience here the last few weeks. No one wants to leave their houses.

The construction on the roads mixed with the snow in my neighborhood is terrible. 

You know I live in Pennsylvania, right?

Lights in the slushy snow.

We are finally getting normal, light snow. For a while we were only getting slushy, wet snow that was impossible to move through.

Went out with the girls from dance class even though none of us wanted to leave the warm comfort of our houses.

We had a storm of 50 mph winds. Some of our electrical lines snapped and were making a whipping sounds in the wind. At 1 in the morning a tree fell on my neighbor's house, cutting the modular house into two, lengthwise. The young family; mom, dad, boy and girl all escaped with just scratches and bruises, the bulk of the tree, missing them by inches in their beds. We had a tree fall on our property last year as well but felt it was too negative to post about. You know that tree you've been meaning to get cut? Do it now.    

In another news, it's snowing again and it's looking like it will be another 4-5 inches.

Please be safe everyone. These storms, while lacking a lot of the snow of last winter, have still been very dangerous in terms of ice and wind.

February 16, 2015

History Timeline Community with Robert Diez

I was lucky enough to meet up with Robert Diez, the creator and curator of a facebook community page called History Timeline.

Robert Diez is a Costa Rican American reenactor who reenacts both the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. He was enamored by reenactors in the United States as a child but found that there was no reenacting in Costa Rica and related that they haven't even had a military since the 1940s. He was inspired by stories of family involvement in the war and wanted "to see what they saw."

 He started reenacting at the 150th Gettysburg and was featured in the book, Seething Hell, which will come out in September. He was inspired to create this page as a place to post relevant and quality content for reenactors and history people and spends 2 hours a day filling it with content. Much of his content comes from his friends on the battlefields like Garry Adelman (Gettysburg,) Austin Bradford (Gettysburg,) and Erik Dorr (Harper's Ferry.)   

Even though his English is not always good, he relates that it hasn't affected his reenacting and noted that even though the majority of foreign soldiers were German and Irish, that during the duration of the war 20,000 Hispanics and Latinos fought, appearing on both sides of the conflict.

If you don't already follow his fast growing page, head on over there and be sure to like it before it gets cool.

This is also a good time to go like me on facebook or connect with me on any of the following social media sites. 

February 5, 2015

Civil War Knitted or Crocheted Army Mittens or "Shooter's Mittens" Patterns

Civil War Soldier Mittens, Trigger finger
Image courtesy of the New-York Historical Society

Tensions were high in 1861 and even before the first shots were fired, men and boys lined up to join the coming fight. As loved ones left home and took their spots in rank, the wives, sisters, mothers and children at home were busy doing their part to keep their loved ones safe and as comfortable as possible. Women formed handiwork groups and people commented that girls no longer sat idle in public at any time but were always working on some garment for the soldiers.

Many organizations were created or took part in collecting items for the soldiers. Money, foodstuffs and clothing made up the bulk of donations and organizations were not shy in their requests for items:
"WOOLLEN MITTENS.—An officer from West Point who commands one of the finest regiments in the service, suggests that woollen [sic] mittens for the soldiers will be greatly needed when the cold weather begins. Will not all who can employ themselves in this way, help to furnish 500,000 pairs? They should be knit with one finger to allow the free use of the first finger and thumb. It is said there were more soldiers disabled in the Crimean war from frost bitten fingers than from any other cause."
 -Delaware State Journal and Statesman, November 5, 1861
The need was great enough that there were knit, crochet and even sewn patterns printed for this style of glove. Woollen mittens with a separate finger and thumb were so associated with soldiers that they found their way into a poem printed in The Ladies’ Repository in 1861,

With a warm heart and a true!
The stockings warm and new.
The mittens with a finger and thumb complete,
The gloves for the drummers their drums to beat-
And the nice warm socks for the shivering feet-"

As the war raged on, the pattern stopped appearing in publications, likely due to the war frenzy dying down. Women were still knitting and sewing items but many utilized the patterns they had collected early on.   

By January 1865, E.A. Paul, a correspondent from the New York Times to Sheridan's army reported that the weather had been cold, icy and wet and that 1 out of 4 soldiers did not have mittens. He postulated that the extra money spent on Christmas dinners could have covered the expense of the 50,000 pairs of mittens the army needed.  

Different versions of the pattern:

Civil War Shooter's Mittens

1860s Mitten pattern Free
Civil War Army Mittens Pattern

Civil War Knitting Pattern
Photo courtesy of Bren Woodard
Click here for a modern pattern for  "Shooter's Mitts."




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