Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pies and Cabbage

Adventures in Historical Cooking
I've had many adventures in historical cooking over the course of the season at Strawbery Banke, including a newly found love of baking pies. who knew. My mother might be the most surprised about all of this.

As the season cooled I have thought of firing up the bake oven at Wheelwright house (where I cook at the hearth most Thursdays) but was reluctant. I've never done it before, it has been a fairly warm season, and I would feel bad firing it up without a good supply of items needing to be baked. Things came together recently when I had two days in a row in Wheelwright, and the weather has turned decidedly chilly. I took day one to read some of the materials in the house compiled by earlier hearth cooks and to make a ton of pie crusts and various fillings. 

I knew that the oven itself did not have a flue, it uses the main fireplace flue. I was worried about getting a fire started in there because of the airflow, but it turned out to be no problem at all. I started a good fire, kept adding to it, and all morning I watched the oven get hotter. By the time I thought to put an oven thermometer in there it was up to 650 degrees. Yup. I fired the oven. I raked the coals out, mopped the ashes with a soaked broom, then waited for it to cool down before I put in the first two pies. I did not wait long enough. The first two quickly burned to black. I waited a bit longer, and the next two turned out edible if you picked the burnt bits off the top. Ah well, I learned a lot.

I seem to have an admirer at the museum. I do not know what I did to deserve the praise I've received, but it does mean that I've attempted several cooking methods I might not have without of the confidence of others. This weekend in Shapiro house I made Sauerkraut. Actually, I started sauerkraut. It was not nearly as hard as I had thought it would be; I collected cabbages from various gardens throughout the museum, washed them, chopped them and then put them in a big crock and smashed the cabbage bits with a big masher. When possible I got kids to help me with the mashing, I probably should have got the adults to help me too because my hands were sore by the end of the day since I had made butter the day before and the motions were very similar. The reason why I saw I only started it is because to make sauerkraut the cabbage must ferment in its own juices. So I won't actually know if I've made sauerkraut for another couple of weeks. Just in time for the Museum season to be over. Sigh.

1 comment:

  1. Now that I'm making cheeses I was perplexed about what to do with all the whey. Turns out you can jump start sauerkraut and other fermented pickling with whey. If you've got anyone making cheese there it might be something to try?