Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Onion Pie and Sippet like it's the 1700's!

Still Life, 1660, by Christoff Paudiss
Today I thought it might be fun to share a couple delicious eighteenth century recipes (or "receipts" as they were called in the 1700s.) The first, "Onion Pie," (made with onions, of course, but also with potatoes and apples) is from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1708-1770) and the second, "Sippet Pudding," (a kind of bread pudding made with raisins or currants with a wine sauce) is from The Virginia House-wife by Mary Randolph (1762-1828.) Beneath each, is a twenty-first century interpretation which keeps the spirit and flavor of the originals but with modern kitchens in mind. Enjoy!

Onion Pie
As written in Hannah Glasse's cookbook:
Wash and pare some potatoes and cut them in slices, peel some onions, cut them in slices, pare some apples and slice them, make a good crust, cover your dish, lay a quarter of a pound of butter all over, take a quarter of an ounce of mace beat fine, a nutmeg grated, a tea-spoonful of beaten pepper, three tea-spoonfuls of salt; mix all together, strew some over the butter, lay a layer of potatoes, a layer of onions, a layer of apples, and a layer of eggs, and so on till you have filled your pie, strewing a little of the seasoning between each layer, and a quarter of a pound of butter in bits, and six spoonfuls of water; close your pie, and bake it an hour and a half. A pound of potatoes, a pound of onions, a pound of apples, and twelve eggs will do.
21st Century version:
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by Harriet Glasse
  • 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
  • ½ to 1 grated nutmeg
  • ½ to 1 tsp. mace
  • 4 oz. butter
  • frozen puff pastry or homemade pie crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Boil and slice the eggs.
  3. Pare and slice the potatoes, apples and onions. Slice everything ¼ inch thick. Place the apples and potatoes in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation.
  4. Roll out the bottom crust and set it into the pie pan.
  5. Mix the salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace to together in a single bowl.
  6. Drain and dry the apples and potatoes with a towel.
  7. Begin the layers from the bottom up with potatoes, then eggs, then apples and then onions. Sprinkle each layer with a little of the seasoning and little bits of butter. Continue filling and seasoning the pie until you are out of ingredients.
  8. Put a top crust on the pie and crimp the edges. Cut 4 or 5 slashes on top crust to allow steam to vent out.
  9. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden brown.
Sippet Pudding
A Still Life of Cherries and Currants and a Parrot, ca. 1700,
by Jan Frans von Son 

As written in Mary Randolph's cookbook: 
Cut a loaf of bread as thin as possible, put a layer of it on the bottom of a deep dish, strew on some slices of marrow or butter, with a handful of currant or stoned raisins; do this until the dish is full; let the currants or raisins be on top; beat four eggs, mix them with a quart of milk that has been boiled a little and become cold, a quarter of a pound of sugar, and a grated nutmeg – pour it in, and bake in a moderate oven – eat it with wine sauce.
21st Century version: 

  • A large round loaf of French or Italian bread
  • ¼ pound of butter
  • ½ cup of dried currants or raisins (currants are sweeter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • For Sauce: ½ stick butter, ¼ cup white wine, ¼ cup sugar
    Mary Randolph, artist unknown
  1. This can best be described as a layered bread pudding with a hard sauce.
  2. Grease a 9” pie plate or layer cake pan.
  3. Slice the bread rather thin with a serrated edge knife. ¼ inch thick is nice.
  4. In the bottom of the plate/pan make one layer of bread slices, then put some butter pats on top, then strew some currants or raisins over that. Repeat that process until your plate/pan is full.
  5. In a bowl whip the eggs and blend in the warm milk, sugar and nutmeg until sugar is dissolved.
  6. Carefully pour this over the bread mixture in the plate/pan until it soaks into the bread without overflowing.
  7. Bake in a 375°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until the bread is browned and you can touch the top and it springs back.
  8. For the sauce combine the sugar, wine and butter in a saucepan and stir it over medium/high heat until thick and drizzle over the finished pudding.     

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ducking the Witch...Grace Sherwood's trial by water

Statue of Grace Sherwood by Robert Cunningham
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Having spent my formative years in the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia, the words “witch duck” were ubiquitous and, pretty much, taken for granted: Witchduck Road, Witchduck Point, Witchduck Post Office, etc. You might wonder if Virginia Beach is the home of some kind of spell-casting duck or if it is a city where witches frequently duck in or are in danger of bumping their hats against low hanging branches. In fact, Virginia Beach was the scene of the eighteenth century witch trial of one Grace White Sherwood and a ducking into the river was part of the proceedings .

Grace White Sherwood was born in 1660, in what was then called Princess Anne County and is now called the Pungo area of Virginia Beach, to John and Susan White. When Grace married respectable, small-time farmer James Sherwood in 1680, Grace’s father gave them fifty acres of land and when he died a year later, the remainder of his one hundred forty-five acres. Grace became a widow in 1701 and never remarried. Contemporary accounts described Grace as tall, attractive, and with a good sense of humor. It was also noted she often wore men’s trousers when working on her farm. She was a mid-wife and a grower of medicinal herbs that she used in the healing of both people and animals.

Such a combination of qualities, which sound quite benign and positive to our twenty-first
Magic Scene, 1741, by Andrea Locatelli
century eyes, may have been the core of jealousy and ill-will which assailed Mrs. Sherwood and sent her to court a dozen times between 1697 and 1706. Some of these court cases were for accusations of Grace’s witchcraft and others were her own suits for slander against her accusers. The cries of witchcraft blamed her for actions such as bewitching farm animals and crops to die and for bewitching a woman to miscarry her baby. One woman, Elizabeth Barnes, accused Grace of entering her bedroom one night in the form of a black cat, scratching and attacking her then departing through a keyhole. 

Although these varied accusations were dismissed or declared inconclusive, the courts of Virginia apparently grew tired of it all and considered Grace Sherwood a nuisance. In 1706 they allowed her to be tried for witchcraft by means of being examined by a jury of “ancient and wise women” to determine if she had marks on her body indicative of the Devil’s brand. These women, led by Elizabeth Barnes herself, did indeed decide Grace had two markings unlike any found on themselves or any other woman they knew. This opened the door for the final trial by water.

The Three Witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth, 1775, by Daniel Gardner
Illustration from A Popular History of the United States by William Cullen Bryant
On July 10, 1706, Grace Sherwood was taken to 
Lynnhaven Parish Church, set upon a stool, and ordered to ask forgiveness for her witchcraft. Her reply was, “I be not a witch, I be a healer.” The unrepentant “witch” was taken down a road (now called Witchduck Road) to the shores of the Lynnhaven River where five women searched her naked body for any devices she may have had to free herself, then covered her with a sack. Her right thumb was bound to her left big toe and her left thumb was bound to her right big toe. Thus bound, six justices rowed the bound woman out two-hundred yards into the river and threw her overboard. The idea was not to drown her but just to test her. The thought was, if she floated she was considered a witch and if she sank, she was innocent. Grace was apparently quite buoyant and floated on the surface. Then to give her the benefit of the doubt, the Sheriff of Princess Anne County tested her a second time by tying a thirteen-pound Bible around her neck and casting her overboard once more. This time she did sink but was able to free herself and swim to the surface. Aha! Proof-positive: Guilty!

Intersection of Witchduck RD and Sherwood LA
(Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)
Grace was sentenced to about seven years in prison and served out her time in a jail adjacent to Lynnhaven Parish Church. In 1714, she paid back-taxes on her land which Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood then helped her secure back from the County of Princess Anne. Grace Sherwood lived out the rest of her days in relative peace and quiet before dying at the age of eighty. 

Tales cropped up after her death including a story that the Devil came down the chimney and claimed Grace’s body before her sons could bury her. There were also claims of unnatural storms and lingering black cats. Soon, men were killing any cat they ran across in the county. This may have led to the
"Black cat (2901924188)" by mwanasimba from La Réunion (WikiMedia commons) 
infestation of rats and mice recorded in Princess Anne County in 1743. Grace’s body (assuming the Devil didn’t actually carry it away) is buried in an unmarked grave beneath a group of trees in a field near the intersection of present-day Pungo Ferry Road and Princess Anne Road. Local residents of present-day Virginia Beach say a strange moving light can be seen each July over the water where Grace was tried.

July 10, 2006, on the three-hundredth anniversary of Grace’s infamous trial by ducking,
Official Congressional Portrait of Tim Kaine
 (Governor, Senator, and Witch Pardoner)
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine granted her an official pardon. A statue of her holding a basket of rosemary and a raccoon by her side is visible from Independence Boulevard near the current Sentara Bayside Hospital and not too distant from her place of trial. This commemorative statue by sculptor Robert Cunningham was unveiled on April 21, 2007.

So…next time you happen to be in Virginia Beach, riding down Witchduck Road or visiting a friend living on Witchduck Point, give a nod to the lady who endured so much during one of Virginia’s less gracious moments.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Preserving the Past...saving summer's harvest in the 18th century

From the tomato harvest of the author's garden (photo by the author)
Ah, summer, and the tomatoes and cucumbers are running rampant in our home garden. After we've sated ourselves with fresh tomato sandwiches, tomato pies, cucumber salads and sandwiches, there are still more seasonal treasures ripening and in danger of going to waste. What to do! Time to pull out the canner and the freezer bags and get busy, but what did our 18th century counterparts do with such an embarrassment of riches?  To find out, I searched and ran across an amazing resource: the first cookbook ever published in America that wasn't just a copy of European recipes (or, receipts, as they were known at the time.) 
Title Page of American Cookery

Amelia Simmons, who added the title "An American Orphan" to her author name, wrote her book with the express purpose of using ingredients which could be procured on American soil, either through direct propagation or easy importation. Printed in Hartford, Connecticut in 1793, her cookbook bore the usual eighteenth century penchant for exceedingly long subtitles. In her case, the subtitle handily served the purpose of a table of contents as well: 

C A K E S,


Reading Miss Simmons's recipes and anecdotal notes is a delight. Her proposal of putting naughty, and otherwise orchard-marauding, boys  in charge of planting and caring for fruit trees is priceless (but that's for another blog post.)

The first cucumber of the summer in the author's garden (photo by the author)
I've printed, below, some of her directions for preserving summer's bounty, maintaining most of its original spellings. As you will see, her directions for preserving gooseberries is very similar to our present day canning methods.The last recipe is for something called Diet Bread, not related to food preservation but I just had to include it today. Obviously, the eighteenth century's use of the word diet was far different than its popular use today but, when you note how long you're supposed to beat the sugar and eggs, it might not be a bad way to lose weight after all!

To Pickle Cucumbers:
Let your cucumbers be small, fresh gathered, and free from spots; then make a pickle of salt and water, strong enough to bear an egg; boil the pickle and skim it well, and then pour it upon your cucumbers, and stive them down for twenty four hours; then strain them out into a cullender, and dry them well with a cloth, and take the best white wine vinegar, with cloves, sliced mace, nutmeg, white pepper corns, long pepper, and races of ginger, (as much as you please) boil them up together, and then clap the cucumbers in, with a few vine leaves, and a little salt, and as soon as they begin to turn their colour, put them into jars, stive them down close, and when cold, tie on a bladder and leather.
Naked peaches (photo by the author)

To Preserve Peaches:
Put your peaches in boiling water, just give them a scald, but don't let them boil, take them out, and put them in cold water, then dry them in a sieve, and put them in long wide mouthed bottles: to half a dozen peaches take a quarter pound of sugar, clarify it, pour it over your peaches, and fill the bottles with brandy, stop them close, and keep them in a close place.

To Dry Peaches:
Take the fairest and ripest peaches, pare them into fair water; take their weight in double refined sugar; of one half make a very thin sirup; then put in your peaches, boiling them till they look clear, then split and stone them, boil them till they are very tender, lay them a draining, take the other half of the sugar, and boil it almost to a candy; then put in your peaches, and let them lie all night, then lay them on a glass, and set them in a stove, till they are dry, if they are sugared too much, wipe them with a wet cloth a little; let the first sirup be very thin, a quart of water to a pound of sugar.

To Preserve Gooseberries, Damsons, or Plums:
Page 41 of Amelia Simmons's American Cookery
Gather them when dry, full grown, and not ripe; pick them one by one, put them into glass bottles that are very clean and dry, and cork them close with new corks; then put a kettle of water on the fire, and put in the bottles with care; wet not the corks, but let the water come up to the necks; make a gentle fire till they are a little coddled and turn white; do not take them up till cold, then pitch the corks all over, or wax them close and thick; then set them in a cool dry cellar.

The American Citron:
Take the rind of a large watermelon not too ripe, cut it into small pieces, take two pound of loaf sugar, one pint of water, put it all into a kettle, let it boil gently for four hours, then put it into pots for use.

Diet Bread:
One pound sugar, 9 eggs, beat for an hour, add to 14 ounces flour, spoonful rose water, one do. cinnamon or coriander, bake quick.

To see more of this gem, go to:

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

18th Century Buying Power...wages and prices of the 1700s

The Shop, 1772 by Luis Paret y Alcázar 
So you wake up and you’ve been transported to the early 1700s where someone hands you a shopping list. How much money will you need? We know, of course, costs are relative to one another and to the amount of earnings of the average person at any given time. Who earned more: a teacher or a farm laborer? Which cost more: a wig or shop rental for a year? (Hint-- they didn't call them Big Wigs for nothing.)The answers may surprise you! They certainly did me. Below is a chart of costs and wages I have adapted from Colin Woodard’s book, The Republic of Pirates. Mr. Woodard lists the amounts in British pounds of the early eighteenth century but I have transferred them into US dollars (based on the current exchange rate of 1 pound sterling equaling 1.72 dollars, rounding up or down to next dollar) and where he lists a range of prices or wages, I have given the average. Sadly, there is also listed the price for human life.
The Housemaid, 1782, by Thomas Gainsborough

Housemaid, London:                   $9.00
Sailor, Navy:                               $22.00
Teacher, England:                      $28.00
Farm Laborer, England:             $31.00
Able Sailor, Merchant Marine:  $57.00
Shopkeeper, England:               $77.00
Surgeon, England:                     $89.00
Captain, Merchant Marine:      $112.00
Attorney, England:                    $194.00
Governor, North Carolina:       $516.00
Country Squire, England:        $516.00
Governor, New York:             $2,064.00
Gentleman, England:             $5,160.00
Duke of Newcastle:              $43,000.00

Daniel Defoe’s Book Advance for
Robinson Crusoe:                        $86.00
Annual Profit, 100-acre
Sugar Plantation, Jamaica:       $929.00
Annual Profit, 500-acre
Sugar Plantation, Barbados:$12,900.00 

12-pound Whole Cod Fish, Boston:$.02  
Duke of Newcastle, 1735 by Charles Jervis
1 pound, Fresh Beef, Boston:           $.07
1 barrel, Cider:                                    $.26
1 gallon, Rum:                                    $.34

Sailor’s Canvas Trousers:               $.10
Sailor’s Waist Coat:                          $.78
Gentleman’s Wig:                         $40.00

One Pot, Alleged Cure for
Venereal Disease, London:             $.26
Doctor, Annual Retainer for
a Family, Boston:                             $9.00

Letter Postage (England to Boston:)$.09
Book: General History of Pyrates:    $.34
Coach Ride, from edge to center of
London:                                                $.09
Budget Transportation, England to
America:                                            $10.00
Rent of Attic Room, Oxford:              $5.00/year
Rent of Shop, Boston:                      $34.00/year
Rent of Gentleman’s  
Townhouse, Charleston:                 $79.00/year
Fishmonger's Stall, 1737, by Balthazar Nebot

Indentured Servant (adult European,)
Virginia:                                                $21.00
Slave (adult African,) Americas:       $55.00
Total Value, 100 acre 
Sugar Plantation, Jamaica:          $9,675.00              
Sloop, 10-ton trader:                            $52.00
Frigate, 350 ton, 36 gun,
fully-fitted:                                      $14,104.00   

1oz Spanish Silver:                                  $.77
1oz Gold, London:                                  $7.40

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

18th Century Sea Bathing Machines... Machines? Really?

Mermaids at Brighton, 1829, by William Heath
‘Tis summer and many a hot and bothered person longs to take a plunge into the invigorating chill of ocean waves. How about our 18th century relations? Did they do likewise? It seems our ancestors were more inclined to take to the sea for medicinal purposes rather than recreational ones. A
Dr. Russell's book
Advertisement for Bathing Machines at Margate, England, 1791

book published in 1752, A Dissertation on the Use of Seawater in the Diseases of the Glands
by Dr. Richard Russell, trumpeted the benefits of dipping into the salt water and greatly increased the popularity of the practice. So for their health’s sake, men and women, alike, braved the seas (albeit separately.)

Enter the Bathing Machine, an invention which showed up on beaches in the first half of the 1700s; a contrivance with which people could take a dip into the sea without risking their modest virtue. The machine was basically a dressing room on wheels that was pulled into the ocean by a horse. Although there were variations, most followed this basic routine: individuals entered the beached machines, fully dressed, by climbing a set of steps and disappearing into the privacy of the wooden box. There was usually a window set high in the machine to let in light but not allow prying eyes to view the bather. Once inside, bathers would remove
their street clothes and don their bathing togs (although bathing in the nude was often the norm, at least for men, until 1862,) then signal their guide to take them out to sea. 

Once in place, the horse was unhitched and led ashore to pull out another machine or retrieve a bather ready to come back to dry land. An attendant, of the same sex as the bather, was at the ready to assist the bather as necessary to descend the steps leading down from the end of the machine facing out to sea. Since many 
bathers could not swim the attendant, also known as a “Dipper,” would either help keep
Dipper, Martha Gunn, 1790, Artist unknown
them afloat or actually push them under the water and lift them back up again, three plunges being the norm for health benefits. Dippers were usually very sturdy folk. A portrait of Brighton Beach's most famous Dipper, Martha Gunn, speaks to that asset. In 1750, an English Quaker glove and breeches maker by the name of Benjamin Beale invented a canvas hood, covering the seaward steps, that could be lowered and completely conceal the bathers until they were under the protection of the water’s surface. Some even remained beneath the hood during the entire bathing experience thus avoiding any chance of being seen.

Bathing Machine with Benjamin Beal's Modesty Hood, artist unknown
When the bathing session was over, bathers would climb back into their machines and signal (sometimes by raising flags) their desire to return to the beach. Once back inside the privacy of their bathing machines, they would dry off and dress back into their street wear. Returned to the beach, bathers would descend the steps in the clothes in which they arrived. Mission accomplished, reputations intact, thank you very much.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! (Don't forget the water wings and sunscreen!)