Salt Cod

salt cod with parsnipsI was so excited to see a small wooden box of salt cod fillets at a supermarket a few weeks ago. I had no idea what to do with it but knew I’d find recipes in 18th-century cookbooks, since cod was ubiquitous in colonial times.

Enormous cod populations were what first drew Europeans to America, according to Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World.  As Francis Higginson, the first minister of Salem, Massachusetts, wrote in 1630:

The aboundance of Sea-Fish are almost beyond beleeving, and sure I whould scarce have beleeved it except I had seene it with mine owns eyes. Continue reading

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Fruit Shrubs

shrub with seltzer

I apologize to my readers for being away from the blog universe for a few weeks. I was in Orlando, Florida, having a decidedly non-colonial experience with my family at the Harry Potter theme park. I was also letting my shrubs age and mellow.

Shrubs, also known as “drinking vinegars,” are syrups made from fruit (usually berries), vinegar, and sugar, which are then combined with water, wine, or spirits to make a refreshing, tart summer drink. An easy way to preserve fruits in the days before refrigeration, shrubs date back to 17th century England and were popular thirst-quenchers in colonial America. Continue reading

Open Hearth Cooking

hearth cookingI had seen open hearth cooking at several historic sites but never tried it, so I was really excited about Sarah Lohman’s hearth cooking class at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn last weekend, despite the 90-degree temperature. Sarah, a “historic gastronomist” and author of the fantastic blog Four Pounds Flour, taught a small group of us how to cook an 18th-century meal over an open fire and learn, as she put it, “primal cooking skills.”

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