Sunday, June 12, 2016


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

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.


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."