October 31, 2015

1880s Fortune Telling by Moles

Happy Halloween! Through my library travels I came across a book that was no doubt a product of the spiritualism movement of the 1880s and I thought it would be fun to highlight some passages for Halloween. It's called the Witches' Dream Book and Fortune Teller and it's the 19th century guilty pleasure equivalent of those "who was your dog in a past life" quizzes that your friends all do on facebook.

This book gives "practical dream advice," such as if you dream of bacon, it "denotes the death of some friend or relation and that enemies endeavor to do you mischief,"
and if you dream of baking it is a sign of "an ill housewife, who lies dreaming in bed, when she should be doing her business." Sometimes dreams are listed as meaning different things to different genders, such as,  dreaming of a hairy chest means profit for men while it, sadly, means the loss of a husband for a woman.

This book also includes advice on how to tell the future using cards, palms, dice, dreams, dominoes and weirdly, skin moles. I had heard of moles being used to denote witches in the 1600s and I have heard of moles as being thought of as the spot where a person had been mortally wounded in a past life but I had never heard of fortune telling by moles.

Now being the skeptic I am I turned right to the mole page to find out my fate. It starts at the top of the body and works its way down. I finally hit "Mole on right thigh." I have a mole on my right thigh! Let's see what it says. "A mole on the right thigh shows that the person will become rich and also fortunate in marriage." I can live with that! Oh wait. It's not on my right thigh, it's on my left thigh. Darn. Lets see what that one says. "A mole on the left thigh denotes that the person suffers much by poverty and want of friends, as also by the enmity and injustice of others." Too bad. :)

Happy Halloween, again! I hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday and found "fortune telling by moles" as fun as I did! I'd be interested in hearing what people think of this and before anyone asks, I hear having a mammalian burrowing mole for a pet denotes an adventurous outlook on life, whether or not it is on your left thigh, right thigh or shoulder. :)    

October 29, 2015

18th Century Crab Apple Verjuice Recipe

Verjuice is acidic juice typically made from unripe grapes or crab apples. It gained popularity in the Middle Ages and was popular throughout the 1700s as a sauce, glaze or pickle.| Easy recipe | World Turn'd Upside Down

Verjuice (or verjus) is acidic juice typically made from unripe grapes or crab apples. It gained popularity in the Middle Ages and was popular throughout the 1700s as a sauce, glaze or pickle. The flavor is milder than vinegar and is good when used in the place of lemon juice in recipes. The name comes from the French "verjus" or "green juice" and both terms are used throughout the 18th century. 

This verjuice recipe can be made with crab apples or unripe grapes. Crab apples are much easier to come by in Pennsylvania. The result is an amber colored liquid instead of the "green juice" you would get from grapes but is delicious nonetheless. When I was younger, I was told to pick crab apples when they were black and the crows started to eat them.  The farther along your crab apples are, the easier they will be to mash and remove the stems. The recipe says to pick the crab apples in October although many of our trees were finished long before. 


-Crab Apples (a pound of crab apples will yield about 1 cup of juice.)
-Sterilized Bottles 


Make sure your bottles are sterilized. Let your crab apples soak in a vinegar water solution to clean them before you remove the stems. You do not have to peel the crab apples. If you have a wine press or juicer, juice the crab apples. (I do not have a wine press or anything similar, so I minced my crab apples in a food processor. I then put the minced crab apples in a cloth and squeezed out the juice by hand.) Bottle your juice and cover with a cloth or cork loosely. Leave room at the top for the juice to ferment.  Keep in a dark cupboard.

Verjuice is used both fresh and fermented. Most 18th century recipes note that it is ready to use 2 weeks to a month after it is bottled. Some recipes call for distilling after juicing but it is not necessary. 

Crab apple verjus verjuice recipe 1700s

Colonial recipe Crab apple Verjuice reenacting
Colonial recipe crab apple verjuice

I was lucky enough to be given some crab apple vinegar by a friend so I've been having fun tasting them both every few days to see how they differ. When I first read about crab apple verjuice I was unsure of how the process differed from making crab apple vinegar. When making vinegar you ferment the skins, fruits and juice together for verjuice it is just the juice. The verjuice also appears darker in color.

Disclaimer: Fermenting, bottling and canning all require safety food procedures. Make sure you are up to date before attempting to make verjuice. As with all historical recipes, try at your own risk.  

October 21, 2015

Apple-Pye Bed

Since Trick or Treating season is upon us I thought I'd share a prank that dates back to at least the 18th century. In present day it is called "Short-sheeting" but in the late 1700s it had the more creative moniker of "Apple-Pye Bed."1 This prank is probably as old as sheets and was a popular prank up and through WWII where soldiers pranked their pards. 2

An Apple-Pye Bed is when the person making the bed folds the bed sheet in half, with both ends tucked at the top of the bed so that when the unsuspecting victim  tries to slide in, they get stuck half way down the bed.  As you might imagine, this prank was popular with sisters making beds for brothers. 

It received the name "apple pie" bed as the folded sheet was similar to a turnover apple pie in which a single crust is folded over the filling and baked. The term "apple pie bed" is still more commonly used in the UK today to describe this prank. Click here for more detailed instructions on how to trick your loved ones. :) 

1 Grose, Francis. A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. The 2nd ed. London: Printed for S. Hooper, 1788. 5.

2 Tomblin, Barbara. G.I. Nightingales the Army Nurse Corps in World War II. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996. 121.

October 16, 2015

18th Century Recipe: Stewed Pears

 18th Century Stewed Pears Recipe - 6 Pears  - 1/2 Cup Red Wine  (or water)  - 1 cup Sugar  - Lemon Peel  - Cloves    - Cochineal (optional for color)

These pears were delicious at made at the Clarissa F. Dillon Fall Cooking workshop at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. I had a lot of people ask me for the recipe. Pears are in season from late summer through the winter depending on variety. Lucky for modern historical cooks Bartlett pears (or William Pears in the UK,) one of the most common pear varieties today are a variety which dates back to 1765. (1) (2) 

- 6 Pears
- 1/2 Cup Red Wine  (or water)
- 1 cup Sugar
- Lemon Peel
- Cloves
- Cochineal (optional for color)


Core and peel 5 of the pears and cut into quarters. Peel the 6th pear but leave it whole. Add all ingredients to a medium sized sauce pan and cover. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until pears are soft (about 20 minutes.) Serve hot or cold.   

(1) http://www.heirloomorchardist.com/the_heirloom_orchardist/2009/10/the-bartlett-pear-a-brief-history-of-a-classic-fruit.html 
(2) http://www.marcherapple.net/c18var.htm

Click here to buy The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.

October 13, 2015

Take a Pound of Suet: Fall Cooking Workshop with Clarissa Dillon

Last weekend I was lucky enough to get to attend another workshop with Clarissa F. Dillon at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. It is part of a series, one being hosted in each of the seasons to get an around the year taste of Colonial cooking. There was a great group of people there, we made a pork and apple pie, stewed pears , a boiled cabbage pudding, cauliflower, and a "Regalia of Cucumbers" with a side of pickled gherkins. Everything was delicious, especially Clarissa's pickled gherkins.     

Clarissa F. Dillon
Clarissa Dillon
 One of the fun things about these workshops is that they have a more experimental archaeology focus and not so much of a 1st person cooking experience focus as many people who attend these workshops are already established hearth cooks and are more interested in trying archaic or little known cooking and preserving techniques.

Clarissa is currently working on one such experiment and I am very interested in seeing the results. She has eggs in slacked lime and plans to remove and try one egg every month for 2 years to see if the staying capacity of eggs in 18th century preservation receipts was an exaggeration.  We also got to try picked gherkins and claret which are typically hard to come by.

18th century kitchen
The busy kitchen.
18th century pie crust
Making the pie crust.

18th century pie

1700s Pork Pie
The pie filled with layers of pork and apples.
1700s Cheshire Pork Pie Recipe
Sue chopping quite a bit of suet.
18th century receipts Cabbage Pudding
Cabbage for the pudding.
18th century cooking

18th century recipe cabbage pudding
Before the boiling cloth.
18th century recipes cabbage pudding
Draining the pudding.
18th century pudding bag
All tied up.
18th century pudding

Clarissa F. Dillon
Into the pot.

18th century recipe Pork Pie
The completed Cheshire Pork Pie.
18th century, Hannah Glassee Recipe. Stewed Pears. Pears, wine, lemon peel, cloves.
The Stewed Pears.

Some of the recipes:

The food was delicious and everyone had a great time swapping hearth cooking and colonial stories. Can't wait for the next one.

October 9, 2015

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party

It's October already? What happened to September? Normally these are my two favorite months out of the year. But instead of cornfields and colored leaves we've had pouring rain and frigid days. I'm still recovering. I've also been doing way too much work on the computer to the point that my brain is fried so I will probably be taking a short hiatus soon. Technology, how can I love you and hate you at the same time?  

Fun trip to Valley Forge for a nice walk. The hurricane canceled almost everything we had planned for the weekend.

Monarch caterpillar chomping away.

 Remember the blood moon from the lunar eclipse? Most of us almost missed it because it was cloudy.

I made a friend a faux hairwork watch guard for Civil War Reenacting to replace a modern chain.

I don't post a lot of photos of myself. I'm tring to get better about this. Here's me with my mysteriously migrating kerchief. 

 I've been spending a lot of time sewing but it's mostly boring stuff like 18th century short gowns and aprons. One day I'll sew a pin cushion.

"Oh, but we forgot Ariya! Lets take the photo again!" I had the cutest class come to work. One of their friends and classmate couldn't make the trip so a group of girls made a paper doll of her and made sure to take photos of themselves and her doing all of the activities.

Fun find at an antique bookstore! I don't collect many antique books because I don't have the time to properly care for too many but I do still collect antique cookbooks, recipes and domestic books. <3 br="" nbsp="">

The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia now has a fantastic exhibit where you can watch artifacts being conserved.

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