Asparagus Forced in Rolls

forced asparagus in rolls

I’m intrigued by the variety of colonial recipes for stuffed foods, some of them with elaborate “forcing” instructions, as the method was called. Forced cucumber, for example, was stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, suet, and spices, then sewn up with a needle and thread and stewed. Odd but true!

Another approach was to stick foods into (rather than inside) other foods. You see this in desserts like quaking pudding, which has almond slices sticking out of it like a porcupine’s quills. (A picture of this can be seen on the home page of Ivan Day’s website Historic Food.) Another example of this spiking technique is asparagus forced in rolls, which I decided to make since asparagus is so plentiful right now.  Continue reading


Chocolate Puffs

chocolate puffsI recently bought a block of American Heritage Chocolate, a gritty, stone-ground chocolate made in the colonial style, at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford, New York. I was excited about using it for this blog, but soon discovered that not many 18th-century English or American recipes actually called for chocolate.

Chocolate was widely consumed in colonial America — it was even part of military rations for American and British troops during the Revolutionary War. But until the mid-19th century, it was nearly always used for drinking, not baked in desserts or eaten on its own.

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Table Manners

51VM4YOozwL._SS500_My eight-year-old, Katie, has many wonderful qualities, but I wouldn’t list good table manners among them. So I was interested when I saw a book called The School of Manners, or Rules for Children’s Behaviour, in a shop at Colonial Williamsburg.

According to the online Norton Anthology of English Literature, “conduct books” like The School of Manners, which was written by John Garretson and published in London in 1701, had been around since the Middle Ages but became hugely popular with the growth of the middle classes in the 18th century. They offered readers “a way to recognize class distinctions, as well as the hope that they might improve their own station in life through imitating the behavior of their ‘betters.'”  Continue reading

Transparent Pudding

transparent puddingI wanted to make transparent pudding because the name seemed so intriguing — and I wanted to see if it was actually transparent. It’s not, but the filling is sort of cloudy. It’s also more like a pie, but in the 18th century, this type of dessert was called pudding. (For more on the complicated history of pudding in England and America, see  Continue reading

Cheshire Pork Pie

baked pork pie

I recently made a Cheshire pork pie from History is Served, a collection of recipes on Colonial Williamsburg’s history website. These recipes are by the staff of the Department of Historic Foodways, who re-create colonial food in demonstration kitchens at Williamsburg. This pie, which originated in Cheshire county in northwest England, is similar to what was made centuries ago, but in the updated recipe the pork is cooked ahead of time so that the pie safer to eat. Continue reading

Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie

I don’t know what’s scarier about this pie from Amelia Simmons (American Cookery1796), the butter content or the fact that it’s baked with whole chickens inside:

“Pick and clean six chickens, (without scalding) take out their inwards and wash the birds while whole, then joint the birds, salt and pepper the pieces and inwards. Roll one inch thick paste … and cover a deep dish … put thereto a layer of chickens and a layer of thin slices of butter, till the chickens and one and a half pound butter are expended, which cover with a thick paste; bake one and a half hour.”

Chickens were smaller in colonial times, in case you were wondering how Simmons fit six chickens in one pie (I’m guessing it was also a very big pie). Continue reading


I had never heard of syllabub before visiting Colonial Williamsburg. It’s still occasionally served in the South but was extremely popular in colonial times, made either as a beverage or in a thicker form (with a higher proportion of cream) as a dessert.

Syllabub used to be made by adding fresh warm milk to sweetened cider, wine, or ale, which caused a froth to form on top. Some versions also contained egg whites. I just wish I could replicate the very dramatic recipe for “a fine Syllabub from the Cow” by Amelia Simmons, from American Cookery (1796):

“Sweeten a quart of cyder with double refined sugar, grate nutmeg into it, then milk your cow into your liquor, when you have thus added what quantity of milk you think proper, pour half a pint or more, in proportion to the quantity of syllabub you make, of the sweetest cream you can get all over it.”

Lacking a cow in midtown Manhattan, I followed a more modern recipe from Shields Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia. Continue reading