Sunday, June 12, 2016

Balmorals


To all of you that have followed Kelly's blog:
Kelly passed away on Sunday, July 10 after a long struggle with cancer. She was a beautiful lady that loved history, especially about clothing. A talented artist and great speaker at period history conferences. But most of all she was ecstatic to live on her island and be able to share her passion with you. She will be missed dearly for she has been my everything for 23 years. Sincerely,
Robin Dorman


The Balmoral boot was designed for Prince Albert as a walking boot.  Albert was looking for a walking boot that he could both wear on the grouse moors of his Scottish estate Balmoral and which would look suitably stylish indoors as well.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert wearing Black Balmoral Boots in 1854

The Balmoral boot was waterproofed to protect his feet from the wet gorse. Victoria also took a liking to the style and had several pairs made for herself,  as she too liked to walk the grounds of Balmoral. With such distinguished wearers, it should come as no surprise that they became extremely popular with the gentry and later the general public alike.  Apart from men, even women adapted Balmoral boots for daywear.

While made for an essentially rural setting, over time it began to be favored in urban areas as well; in those days the streets of major towns were quite dirty what with all the horse dung etc. lying around.

I purchased a pair of antique Blamorals and offered them for sale on my Etsy shop:






They have a number of lovely details, including scalloped tops and toe foxing, but I found one detail especially exciting:


They had never been worn!


I was (of course) pleased when they were purchased, but even more intrigued when I saw the name of the purchaser - Lauren Stowell of American Duchess.

And I was ecstatic when I saw this video on her website!

Unfortunately, I failed to post about this during the preorder sale, but her video alone is valuable - she outlines very well what to look for in a quality pair of reproduction Balmorals.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #9: Mock Food


This is late, but it couldn't be prevented - we've had no internet service for over a week! I did actually do the cooking and the photography on time, just couldn't do my write up.

So what exactly is a "mock food"?

Basically, something edible intend to mimic something else edible, either in taste or appearance.

And why would you want a "mock"food?

Maybe the real thing was just too expensive; mock turtle soup was created in the mid-18th century as a cheaper imitation of green turtle soup.  It often used such as calf's head or a calf's foot to duplicate the texture and flavor of the originals turtle meat.

Substitutes in times of scarcity might be needed, for instance, during the Civil War in the southern states, coffee was seldom procurable and when it was available, was outrageously expensive. People tried a variety of "alternates", including acorn, chicory and okra coffees.

Faux food was/is often created for religious or other ethical reasons, such as the fake meat served at Lent throughout the ages.

I was able to find many, many receipts for mock foods in mid-19th century cook books; almost all had examples of mock turtle soup, but not having ready access to a calf's head (ewww!), that wasn't an option.

I also found numerous listings for mock oysters; I was very tempted by those, but again was limited by ingredient availability - no fresh corn right now. I may have to try them this summer though.

Another intriguing receipt, for mock ice cream, which sounded more like a jello mold than anything else - might have to try this one at some future point also.

I had made a "Methodist" mincemeat previously (no booze) and when I came upon a recipe for mock mincemeat, I decided that was what I would try.

The Challenge: #9 Mock Food

The Recipe: No. 108. How to make Mock Mince-Pies
from:

600 Miscellaneous Valuable Receipts , Worth Their Weight in Gold: A Thirty Years Collection, to which is Added Two Simple Gauging Tables, to Enable Merchants to Take Inventory of Their Stock by John Marquart

Mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup molasses, 1 cup breadcrumbs, with 1 cup good cider-vinegar, 4 cups water and 3 eggs; add 1 cup raisins, 1 ounce cloves, 1 ounce soda. This quantity will be sufficient for 3 pies. Bake.

The Date/Year and Region: 1860 Philadelphia

How Did You Make It:

We have no need for three pies, so I cut the receipt down to a third, which resulted in enough filling for 1 modern sized pie; if I had used my period pie plates, it would have filled at least four, if not five.

I was a little worried by the amount of cloves (almost a tablespoon!), they have such a strong flavor, but they didn't overwhelm the finished pie surprisingly.

The filling foamed to an amazing height when I added the soda - I knew it would, but didn't expect quite so much!

Time to Complete: Mixed it together in just over 5 minutes, baked for 45 minutes.

Total Cost: As usual for this time of year, all pantry items used, so approximately $5.00


How Successful Was It?:

When I first opened the oven, I was sure I had burnt it to a crisp - it was VERY dark. But it wasn't burnt at all; that's just how the filling comes out.

The taste was rather interesting, not too heavy on cloves and not too sweet. The texture was also interesting, but not necessarily in a good way; sticky, lumpy, just off by modern standards. I've never actually tasted true mincemeat, but Robin assured me that it wasn't even close to the real thing, but again, it wasn't unpleasant.

How Accurate Is It?:

I totally cheated on the crust and used pre-made refrigerated pie crust purchased at the store. Everything else was fairly accurate, except for the modern pie dish and use of the electric oven.



The "Methodist" mincemeat I made a number of years ago was much better in both flavor and texture, much more nuanced.

I'm glad I made this, it was a great experiment, but I won't make it again - in fact, there are a number a squirrels with a sugar buzz running amuck in the neighborhood right now!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

1870's Battledore


This is a find from a recent antiquing trip downstate; I really don't like to purchase images from unbound books, but I couldn't resist adding this one to my battledore and shuttlecock research.

It appears to be from an 1870's children's book, but unfortunately, it has no title or any identifying information.

Here's information on making your own battledore and shuttlecock set, here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In the Mail


Another (small) batch of rune stones on their way to Traverse City, for the Dennos Museum shop.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Compare and Contrast


I discovered the first wildflower of the year, a hepatica, on the same day my garden shared the first blooms of the year, white crocus.


Which is better?

I really can't decide, each has it's own charm!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #7 Pretty as a Picture



I just have to start by saying EPIC FAILURE!!!!!!!!!!


Not only is NOT "Pretty as a picture", it tastes like paste!

I decided to attempt to recreate a mid-19th century molded dessert: jellies, cremes, blancmange or flummery. They are just so pretty!


However, I don't have easy access to either isinglass or calves feet to make my own gelatine, so I decided to try a flummery.

The original flummery was a kind of oatmeal broth or porridge. Over time, other grains came into use, in particular, rice - probably as the resulting flummery would be a pristine white.


RICE FLUMMERY

Boil with a pint of new milk a bit of lemon-peel and cinnamon; mix with a little cold milk as much rice flour as will make the whole of a good consistence; sweeten, and add a spoonful of peach-water, or a bitter almond beaten; boil it observing it does not burn; pour it into a shape,or pint basin, taking out the spice; when cold, turn the flummery into a dish, and serve with cream, milk or custard, round, or put a tea-cupful of cream into a half a pint of new milk, a glass or white wine, half a lemon squeezed and sugar.

The Date/Year and Region: 1837 America

How Did You Make It:

I looked at many, many receipts for rice flummery; one suggested that rice ground in a hand-mill worked better than purchased rice flour. Another suggested allowing the rice and milk to soak overnight before boiling. Only one suggested using specifically "Carolina" rice.

I had several kinds of rice in the cabinet, plain white, jasmine, arborio, brown and even green; I decided to use the arborio, as the point seemed to be extract as much starch as possible.

I soaked it overnight and then boiled it, which resulted in a saucepan of goop. I strained it to remove the lemon peel, cinnamon and larger bits of ground rice.

Then into a fancy mold and the refrigerator, until well chilled. My attempts to unmold it failed utterly, so I scooped it into the bowl and surrounded it with cranberry sauce (receipt below) - I found many references to combining flummery and fruit.

Time to Complete: Hands on time, maybe 30 minutes. Complete time, 24 hours.

Total Cost: Unknown, everything came from the pantry or freezer, but probably less than $2.00.

How Successful Was It?: HORRIBLE! It looked bad and tasted worse, like lemony paste.
Will NOT be making this again. The cranberry sauce was fine.

How Accurate Is It?:  Well, my hand-mill was my blender and, of course, an electric stove and refrigerator. The choice of rice type was a guess, I've not spent any time researching 19th century rice.




Mrs. Ellis's Housekeeping Made Easy, Or, Complete Instructor in All Branches of Cookery and Domestic Economy : Containing the Most Modern and Approved Receipts of Daily Service in All Families, circa 1843, provided the following receipt for cranberry sauce.


"Cranberry Sauce.—Wash a quart of ripe cranberries, and put them into a pan with about a wine-glass full of water. Stew them slowly, and stir them frequently, particularly after they begin to burst. They require a great deal of stewing, and should be like a marmalade when done. Just before you take them from the fire, stir in a pound of brown sugar."

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fabric for the Ladies: The Civilian Symposium 2016


The Civilian Symposium is full of highlights, but the most anticipated is the reveal of the "fabric" - each year all the female presenters receive a dress-length of fabric, with the instructions of "make a garment." Gentlemen receive a vest-length of a differing fabric.

This years fabric was an Italian cotton, in a fairly large scale, woven plaid. It had a very fine hand, much more like a wool challis than cotton.

The reveal looks a bit like this, except multiplied times 4 or 5!

 

Once in a while, the fabric immediately "speaks" and tells me exactly what it would like to become; other times (this time) it remains silent,leaving me to figure it out alone.

I started going through the many, many photos of original garments I've taken over the years and then through all the books and exhibit catalogs in my library.

Doing so caused my to notice something: plaids of this scale were nearly always wool or silk, not cotton. But I did come up with some possibilities:

1.) This one is in the Kent State University Museum collection. I've always liked the "bodice trimmed like a jacket" concept, but haven't yet constructed one. I also happen to have yards and yards of pale blue soutache that I could have used for the trim. But I decided against it; the fabric just seemed to casual for this dress.


2.) This a wool dress, the plaid being approximately the same scale as the provided cotton. The peplum, is actually a separate belt.It would have been a good choice, but it just didn't thrill me - I prefer something that will be a bit more of a challenge to figure out.


3.) This was my fall-back: if I didn't come up with any other ideas, I would make this one - at least it had an interesting sleeve! But I did find something else...



I had a chance to go off Island and took the opportunity to look for some coordinating fabric that might open up the possibilities:


Which lead to...
4.) But I came to the conclusion that the plaid was just too big, the sash would have been 20" wide!


Maybe a late 50's look?

5.) I drafted out this "tunic body" and even managed to make it fit with some tweaking, but it just would NOT work in the plaid - too many lines and angles coming together in strange ways. I do plan to make this in a solid silk or wool.


AND THEN I FOUND IT!!!!!

6.) Something interesting that would provide a slight challenge!




























The fashion plate dates to November of 1859, I wasn't able to find a written description, but I'm fairly certain that either silk or wool was suggested.However, the cotton felt and behaves so much like a thin wool, I  decided to go for it.

Do to fabric constraints, I went with a small 90" hoop. I would have liked to suspend the bottom flounce from the top of the trim fabric, so it would look like a separate skirt, but there just wasn't enough fabric. I also plan on adding one more bow. I decided against going with a true pagoda, but did create a full bottom flounce for the sleeve and added a large open undersleeve.

And here are the other presenters:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #5 Roasts


The Challenge: Roasts
 
The obvious direction for this challenge was meat, but I wanted to do something different. I've always enjoyed baked apples, and decided to look for roast apple receipts; I found a few, but they weren't much different from a modern recipe.
The Recipe: To Roast Apples Another Way from Practice of Cookery and Pastry, Adapted to the Business of Everyday Life by Mrs. I. Williamson

The Year and Region: 1862, United States

How Did You Make It:
"Take as many baking-apples as you require, and with an apple-corer core them half way through, beginning at the top; then fill the hole thus made with fresh butter and sugar, previously mixed together. While roasting, be sure to keep the top up in order to keep in the butter and sugar. Serve on a table-napkin".


Time to Complete: 5 minutes prep time, 30 minutes in the oven.
 
Total Cost: All ingredients on hand, approximately less than $2.00.
 
How successful Was It?
 
 
 
Quite tasty, the butter bastes the apple skin and makes it tender.
 
How Accurate Is It?
 
Granny Smith's are definitely not period correct, but were all I had - we haven't been off Island in over a month, and these were the last two apples we had in the frig. I did NOT serve these on a table-napkin.

 
As roast apples weren't really much of a challenge, I'm doing a "two-fer" again this month.

The Challenge: Roasts #2
The Recipe: To Roast Cheese from "Mrs. Hale's New Cook Book: A Practical System for Private Families in Town and Country with Direction for Carving and Arranging the Table for Parties Etc., also, Preparations of food for Invalids and for Children" by Mrs. Sarah J. Hale

The Year and Region: 1857, United States

How Did You Make It: 
 
"Mix two ounces grated cheese with the yolk of an egg, two ounces of grated bread, and about an ounce of butter; beat them in a mortar, with mustard, pepper, and salt, to a paste, which spread thickly on toast, and warm and lightly brown in a Dutch oven."
 
 
 
 
 

Time to Complete: About ten minutes prep time and 20 minutes in the oven.

Total Cost: Again, everything in the pantry or frig, maybe $1.50 total?


How Successful Was It?: It was...interesting. Not bad, but not what I expected; the paste stayed thick - I had expected it to melt and become saucier. It would make a good light supper or a nursery meal.

How Accurate Is It?: Purchased, sliced bread; I had planned on making bread, but it didn't happen. Not having a mortar, I smashed it all together with a spoon.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016


The Challenge: History Detective

The Recipe: Cinderellas or German Puffs From Miss Leslie's Directions for Cookery

Sift half a pound of the finest flour. Cut up in a quart of rich milk, half a pound of fresh butter, and set it on the stove, or near the fire, till it has melted. Beat eight eggs very light, and stir them gradually into the milk and butter, alternately with the flour. Add a powdered nutmeg, and a tea-spoonful of' powdered cinnamon. Mix 'the whole very well to a fine smooth batter, in which there, must be no lumps. Butter some large common tea-cups, and divide the mixture among them till they are half full or a little more. Set them immediately in a quick oven, and bake them about a quarter of an hour. When done, turn them out into a dish, and grate white sugar over them. Serve them up hot, with a sauce of sweetened cream flavoured with wine and nutmeg; or you may eat them with molasses and butter; or with sugar and wine. Send, them round whole, for they will fall almost as soon as cut.

The mystery I hoped to solve regarded the name: why "German" puffs or for that matter, Cinderellas?

The Date/Year and Region: 1851, United States

How Did You Make It: 


Putting this together was fairly straightforward, as all the ingredients were normal pantry items.



What took the longest was grating the cinnamon - yes, I have grated cinnamon in the cabinet, but I was trying to keep this period, and fresh is better anyway.



All my teacups are antique, and I wasn't willing to put them in the oven, so I substituted 6 oz ramekins. I wasn't really sure what constituted a "quick" oven, so started at 375; after 15 minutes they were no where close to done, so I increased the temperature to 400 and they cooked for another 15 minutes.

Aren't they pretty?


And then they fell, immediately upon being removed from the ramekins!


Time to Complete: 

About 45 minutes, as I said previously, these were very easy to put together. They would have baked more quickly had I started with a higher temperature oven.

Total Cost:

Probably less than $2.00, I had all the ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?: 


I chose to serve these with the sweetened cream and nutmeg option; they were quite good, not the super-sweet typical dessert of today, but very pleasant and not as rich as might be expected given all the butter and eggs.

From a flavor and ease of making standpoint, these were a success. From the standpoint of solving the mystery of the names - FAILURE!

I found versions of this receipt in a number of different published cookbooks, over quite a range of time; the earliest was 1837, the latest 1896. All were remarkably similar.

These are obviously what would typically be called a popover today, but all the references I found consider popovers to be an American version of Yorkshire pudding and similar batter puddings made in England since the 17th century.

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink does have a reference for Cinderellas, defining then as a muffin flavored with wine or sherry and nutmeg and claims the name derives from the muffin;s "fancy" appearance as Cinderella transformed from a servant girl to a princess - these don't look especially "fancy" to me!.

I am inclined to believe these derive from the traditional baked German pancakes or as they are commonly called today "Dutch babies", but I wasn't able to definitively confirm this.

How Accurate Is It?: 

All ingredients purchased at a conventional grocery store and baked in a modern electric oven.

I did cut the recipe in half, as I only had 4 eggs. It was just as well, as this made 6 good sized popovers and there are only two of us in the house.

I'm fairly certain that the wine for the sweetened cream should have been a sherry or Madeira, however, I did not have either, so I substituted a bit of apple ice wine.


The Challenge: History Detective

The Recipe: Cinderellas or German Puffs From Miss Leslie's Directions for Cookery

Sift half a pound of the finest flour. Cut up in a quart of rich milk, half a pound of fresh butter, and set it on the stove, or near the fire, till it has melted. Beat eight eggs very light, and stir them gradually into the milk and butter, alternately with the flour. Add a powdered nutmeg, and a tea-spoonful of' powdered cinnamon. Mix 'the whole very well to a fine smooth batter, in which there, must be no lumps. Butter some large common tea-cups, and divide the mixture among them till they are half full or a little more. Set them immediately in a quick oven, and bake them about a quarter of an hour. When done, turn them out into a dish, and grate white sugar over them. Serve them up hot, with a sauce of sweetened cream flavoured with wine and nutmeg; or you may eat them with molasses and butter; or with sugar and wine. Send, them round whole, for they will fall almost as soon as cut.

The mystery I hoped to solve regarded the name: why "German" puffs or for that matter, Cinderellas?

The Date/Year and Region: 1851, United States

How Did You Make It: 


Putting this together was fairly straightforward, as all the ingredients were normal pantry items.



What took the longest was grating the cinnamon - yes, I have grated cinnamon in the cabinet, but I was trying to keep this period, and fresh is better anyway.



All my teacups are antique, and I wasn't willing to put them in the oven, so I substituted 6 oz ramekins. I wasn't really sure what constituted a "quick" oven, so started at 375; after 15 minutes they were no where close to done, so I increased the temperature to 400 and they cooked for another 15 minutes.

Aren't they pretty?


And then they fell, immediately upon being removed from the ramekins!


Time to Complete: 

About 45 minutes, as I said previously, these were very easy to put together. They would have baked more quickly had I started with a higher temperature oven.

Total Cost:

Probably less than $2.00, I had all the ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?: 


I chose to serve these with the sweetened cream and nutmeg option; they were quite good, not the super-sweet typical dessert of today, but very pleasant and not as rich as might be expected given all the butter and eggs.

From a flavor and ease of making standpoint, these were a success. From the standpoint of solving the mystery of the names - FAILURE!

I found versions of this receipt in a number of different published cookbooks, over quite a range of time; the earliest was 1837, the latest 1896. All were remarkably similar.

These are obviously what would typically be called a popover today, but all the references I found consider popovers to be an American version of Yorkshire pudding and similar batter puddings made in England since the 17th century.

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink does have a reference for Cinderellas, defining then as a muffin flavored with wine or sherry and nutmeg and claims the name derives from the muffin;s "fancy" appearance as Cinderella transformed from a servant girl to a princess - these don't look especially "fancy" to me!.

I am inclined to believe these derive from the traditional baked German pancakes or as they are commonly called today "Dutch babies", but I wasn't able to definitively confirm this.

How Accurate Is It?: 

All ingredients purchased at a conventional grocery store and baked in a modern electric oven.

I did cut the recipe in half, as I only had 4 eggs. It was just as well, as this made 6 good sized popovers and there are only two of us in the house.

I'm fairly certain that the wine for the sweetened cream should have been a sherry or Madeira, however, I did not have either, so I substituted a bit of apple ice wine.