July 21, 2015

Chicken Livers and Curd Fritters: Cooking Workshop with Clarissa Dillon

\Clarissa F. Dillon
Last weekend I attended the hearth cooking workshop with Clarissa F. Dillon at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation.

Clarissa is the lead historian in 18th century foodways of Pennsylvania and needs no introduction. I was extremely excited to get to learn from her. On the menu was raspberry waters, curd fritters and chicken livers. 

I had never made curd fritters before and chicken livers sounded very interesting. I didn't get the exact recipe we used in the workshop but the recipe below is very similar.

The fun thing about this workshop was that it had a mixture of veteran hearthcooks and new hearthcooks and I learned a lot from everyone there. 


Clarissa F. Dillon

1700s Curd Fritter Recipe 


-1 Cup Cheese Curds or Cottage Cheese
-1 Cup Flour
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
-5 Eggs (enough to make a batter.)
-Cloves, Mace, Nutmeg, Saffron to taste
-Lard or Butter
-Oranges, cut into wedges

Drain the cheese curd in a sieve or strainer. Mix with the flour and beat in the eggs. Add the spices to taste.  In a medium saucepan add a pat of lard or butter and add  large spoonfuls of batter, being careful not to let them touch. Fry for about 5 minutes then flip and fry the other side until golden. Remove from pan and let sit in a sieve to drain. Serve with orange wedges. 

Colonial Recipes Curd Fritters 1700s

Colonial Recipes Curd Fritters

July 3, 2015

18th Century Candied Orange Peel Recipe

I recently got to make some with the kids I work with at summer camp. Their theme was "Pirates and Spies" of the 1700s so we made some orange themed foods to keep scurvy at bay. Yarr!

We were letting the peels dry when one of the older girls asked me "Where did you learn to cook all of this stuff? Pinterest?"

I laughed and told her that most of my cooking knowledge came from a time before Pinterest and I learned very much like the girls of the 1700s, from the awesome, experienced ladies I found in the kitchen. The first time I ever made candied orange peel was with Jodi from Curious Acorn.

In my travels into history, I've met two kinds of strong women. The first kind is snippy, closed off, and only too happy to point out when something isn't up to their standards. But the second kind is like a majestic tree with roots firmly planted and arms open wide. They plant and nurture the seeds of the future and parts of them are passed on through the generations. Jodi is this second type of woman.

This has been weighing on my mind as of late when a friend asked me what I miss most about my early days of living history. The thing I miss most was learning from these "grandmother tree" women, many who have moved on to be appreciated elsewhere, leaving us with more of the prickly cactus variety. The things they knew and were willing to teach were astounding and it was amazing to get to learn from them. I really miss learning something new at work everyday and am so grateful I had women willing to answer my pesky questions and not get frustrated when they had to tell me something for the zillionth time.  

I am honored to get to help continue this tradition with young girls who don't have a lot of experience in this type of learning and encourage others to get out there and teach. Some girls only have Pinterest to learn from and we know how many of those turn out. :)

Candied Orange Peel


- 5-6 thick skinned Oranges
- 2 Cups Sugar, plus some for dusting
- 1 Cup Water
- 2 Tablespoons Salt


Peel the oranges, removing as much of the pith as possible. You can cut the orange peels into strips if you prefer. Soak in salt water for 10 minutes, rinse well. Stew the peels in fresh water, for about 15 minutes and drain. Repeat stewing and draining process. Place the peels in the stewpan once more, add the sugar and water and simmer until peels are tender. Remove peels and dry in a sieve for 10-15 minutes. Coat in granulated sugar.  

You can make this recipe with lemon and lime peels or a mixture of the three. If you want to store your peels for an extended period of time, let them dry overnight before sugaring A friend at work said that she stores candied peels in sugar in a separate container, then uses the slightly citrus flavored sugar in tea and I think that is a great idea. 

June 29, 2015

Tall Ships Philadelphia Camden 2015

Schooner When and If, owned by General Patton

Tall Ships Philadelphia Camden was one of the most anticipated history events of the year. Tall ships would be visiting from all over the world, centering around the visit of L'Hermione, a reproduction of the frigate that Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, used to aid the Continentals during the American Revolution. The other big draw was the World's Largest Rubber Ducky, the 11 ton duck hoping to promote wetland protection. 

Even before the festival started issues were cropping up. I heard that Colonial Reenactors were wanted for L'Hermione. I considered going but heard reenactors were being turned away at the gates. Then the website stated that all parking for 2 miles surrounding the event was already reserved. We were stuck taking public transit into the city. I would spend most of the day leading tours on Gazela, Philadelphia's tall ship.     

The festival was special as we had two ships visit with a lot of history. Barques Eagle (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite ships) and one of her sister ships, Sagres were reunited. The Eagle was built in 1936 as the Horst Wessel in Germany. She was dedicated by Rudolph Hess in the presence of Adolph Hitler as a training ship. She was taken at the end of WWII by the U.S. as part of the reparations. Sagres has a similar history but hit a mine in 1944 and eventually ended up in Brazil but now sails under Portugal's flag. They are both now training ships for their respective navies.

Barque Sagres
Barque Sagres
Barque Sagres
 In the middle of the day crazy rainstorm hit but it wasn't the only disappointment that day. The giant rubber duck was torn during the previous sail and the 61 foot duck acquired a 60 foot puncture. Even though crews tried to repair it and inflate it most of the day, the duck still fell flat.  You could still see the baby giant duck on Camden's shore but it wasn't anywhere near as big as the giant mother duck. 

Above visitors take cover on Gazela during a torrent of rain. A belly of water formed on the tarp every 15 minutes and needed to be emptied before it hit the visitor's head. I ended up getting caught on Sagres during a particularly wet spot later in the day, my clothes soaked through as I tried to protect my camera. The deck of Sagres contains wooden buckets that were used to swab the deck in the 1940s. They are just for show now but were all full of water.

The Eagle

L'Hermione next to Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild's Jupiter
Andy and I only saw L'Hermione for a few minutes as the French were throwing some sort of gala during the downpour. I would have loved to give a more detailed account of the ship as this was the main attraction. I was really disappointed to not get to see her, especially since her crew came to Gazela while we were working. Maybe next time. Our disappointment was assuaged by getting to see the schooner When and If, which was commissioned by General George S. Patton. He planned to sail it with his wife "when the war ended" and "if he survived." All in all we had fun even with the crazy walk in the downpour and experience being soaked for quite a long time on public transportation.        

June 24, 2015

Colonial Shortgown Sewing Pattern

American Revolution Reenactor Bedgown Pattern
Shortgown Front
"[She had] a short gown, with some red and white stripes and sprigs through it, a good deal worn, and pieced under the arms with check linen, the colour much faded;"

I finally finished a new shortgown/bedgown. It's about time. It's an easy pattern but finishing the edges by hand took forever.  I find it really hard to get excited about "work clothes." Most notably because they get ripped up and dirty so quickly, especially while cooking. I'm sure only one trip to the hearth will have the kids asking "Why are you so dirty!?"

Shortgowns are unfitted or loosely fitted, work garments. Extant garments show that most were pinned shut but some have a few ties or even drawstrings at the neck and waist.  

 There had been a lot of debate among reenactors and historians about what a shortgown is versus a bedgown and whether or not these were considered appropriate public wear. Evidence points to these being casual or work wear. A 1793 version of the Shakespeare play Henry IV is annotated that "A half kirtle was perhaps the same kind of thing as we call at present a short gown or a bed gown," indicating that they were similar garments if not the same thing. Below are some great 18th century images of people wearing shortgowns outside or with visitors. 

Colonial Shortgown
The Abusive Fruitwoman, 1773, Courtesy of the LOC.
18th century shortgown pattern
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1761
Shortgown long sleeves 1700s
John Collet, 1764

1700s Colonial Reenactor Bedgown Pattern Free
Shortgown back

1700s Bedgown Shortgown reenactor pattern

18th Century Shortgown Sewing Pattern:

18th century Shortgown Bedgown Pattern Free
Right click and choose "open in new window" to see larger view.

I folded the fabric horizontally and then again vertically so that I only had to cut the pattern out once. Good seamstresses will cringe. If you wish you can fold the fabric horizontally and trace the pattern a second time mirrored vertically.

Cut out the back neck hole first. Open up the fabric,  then cut a vertical line down the center of the front. Adjust the neckline as you like, being sure to leave room for hemming. With right sides of the fabric together, sew under the arm and down the sides. Hem all loose ends. If you wish to have cuffs, fold the cuffs in half horizontally with right sides together. Fold 1/2 in up on the front and back of the cuff and sew the sides. Turn the cuff right side out and attach to sleeve. Fold the cuff up on the sleeve and secure it with a few stitches.   

I ended up sewing a pleat under each arm as well as three in the back, all ending at the waist to make the garment a little more fitted. It's not necessary if you use an apron to give the fitted look or if you are a beginner and just want something easy to work on.

Other Patterns and Info:

- MaraRiley.net: Shortgowns
- Making The Manteau de Lit

If you are trying this and need help, don't hesitate to comment or email.  

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