Asparagus Soup

Some of the first produce from our kitchen garden is asparagus. After a little searching we located a few asparagus soup recipes. We used parts from the Asparagus Soup recipe found in the Virginia Housewife.

ASPARAGUS SOUP.

Take four large bunches of asparagus, scrape it nicely, cut off one inch of the tops, and lay them in water, chop the stalks and put them on the fire with a piece of bacon, a large onion cut up, and pepper and salt; add two quarts of water, boil them till the stalks are quite soft, then pulp them through a sieve, and strain the water to it, which must be put back in the pot; put into it a chicken cut up, with the tops of asparagus which had been laid by, boil it until these last articles are sufficiently done, thicken with flour, butter and milk, and serve it up.

The Virginia Housewife, by Mary Randolph, 1860

And we used parts from a handwritten receipt book found in the manuscript collection of the Wellcome Library.  This recipe was in the Receipt book of Anna-Marie Maysey.

Anna-Maria MeyseyAsparagusSoup
We found several soups that were run through a sieve to puree them like these.  Then thickened with a combination of flour, butter and milk or cream.

As is often done, we changed the recipes slightly to suit our taste and the soup was delicious!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small Chicken
  • 1-2 pounds asparagus
  • Handful of dried peas
  • 3-4 slices of bacon
  • 1 large onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Milk

INSTRUCTIONS

Begin by cooking the chicken over the hearth until done.  When cooked, remove the chicken and set aside to cool.

Boil chicken over hearth

Boil chicken over hearth

Prepare the asparagus by cutting off the tender tops of the asparagus and set these aside. Use the chicken broth to boil the stems of the asparagus add dried peas at this time if you like.

Begin cooking the bacon slices and onion.

BaconOnion.jpg

Once the asparagus and peas are cooked, run them through a sieve and remove the tough parts of the asparagus stalks. Add the cooked bacon and onion to the soup base. The soup base will be watery at this stage. Pour it back into a kettle over the hearth and simmer.

SoupBase.JPG

Add chicken to the pot.  Make balls out of the flour, butter and milk and add to the soup.  Smush these into the wall of the kettle to help them dissolve into the pot.  The more you add the thicker the soup base will become.

 

A few minutes prior to serving add the asparagus tips back to the pot.  These only need to cook for a few minutes.

HC_AsparagusSoup

 

 

Wild Yeast Sourdough Bread

When we first set out to capture the ‘wild yeast’ for our bread, I didn’t realize how easy it was going to be. Maybe we were just lucky. There are many ways to capture wild yeast to make your own starter and the results are as varied as the varieties of yeast ‘captured’.  We used the instructions on The Splendid Table blog to make our starter but there are many different approaches to capturing wild yeast to make starter.

Yeast is a microscopic fungus that reproduces by budding, and it is capable of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It is used in baking as a leavening agent. It converts the fermentable sugars in the dough into the gas carbon dioxide. This causes the dough to expand or rise as gas forms pockets or bubbles in the dough.

We captured the naturally existing yeast that was in the air and on the vegetation at Venoge. The bread we made we felt was our own!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water or Buttermilk leftover from making butter
  • 1 cup starter* made from wild yeast
  • 4 cups unsifted regular all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups unsifted regular all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda

*If you use 1 cup starter, you can reduce the flour and liquid in the recipe by 4 oz each and you will wait longer for the bread to rise the first time.  You can substitute the starter for 1 package of yeast, active dry or compressed and use the recipe as written.

VARIATIONS

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon each of herbs on hand such as dill, rosemary, and chives
  • Add crispy bacon bits and sauteed onions

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine water, starter, 4 cups flour, sugar and salt. Mix well and place in crock. Leave at room temperature 18 hours or until doubled.

Stir in 1 cup flour mixed with the soda. Turn onto floured board and knead adding remaining 1 cup of flour as needed. Add in herbs or bacon and onions at this time if you like. Knead until smooth about 8 minutes.

Shape into one large round or two long loaves, place on lightly greased sheet to rise until doubled, cover. Brush with melted butter for a softer crust before baking. Slash and put into 400 oven for 45 minutes or until done.

Recipe adapted from the Sunset Cook Book of Breads.

6 Hour Chicken

Six Hour Chicken

The flavor of chicken is exceptional when slow roasted in front of the fire. A chicken could be done in about two hours, depending on how close the tin kitchen is set to the fire.

At Venoge, our hearth cooking is partly a demonstration for our visitors so we prefer a Six Hour Chicken. Moving the tin kitchen back from the fire keeps the chicken from roasting as fast. Our chickens roast all day and are ready by supper.

We serve the roasted chicken with various vegetables or rice.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken or two small chickens
  • Kitchen twine to bind the chicken to the skewers

Instructions

Just about any size chicken will work in the tin kitchen. We use a large roasting chicken so the meat to bone ratio is high.

Clean the chicken and insert the main rod that will hold the chicken in the tin kitchen. Truss the chicken well, wrapping twine around the skewers. As the chicken cooks, it shrinks; good wrapping keeps it from falling off.

Turn the spit one notch approximately every 15 minutes. We do not baste or add spices.

You know your chicken is done when the juices run clear.

HC_6HourChicken_6HourChicken

6 hour chicken


 

Doughnuts

We like to serve these delightful little sweet treats at our Country Christmas get together each December. Our recipe is adapted from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hanna Glasse 1805. 

Doughnuts

To one pound of flour, put one quarter of a pound of butter, one quarter of a pound of sugar and; two spoonfuls of yeast; mix them all together in warm milk or water of the thickness of bread, let it raise, and make them in what form you please, boil your fat (consisting of hog’s lard), and put them in.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, Hanna Glasse, 1805.

Since we cook the doughnuts in small batches they are somewhat labor intensive, however a larger kettle could be used for the oil or lard. As soon as they are done, drain and roll in a sugar-cinnamon, powdered sugar or eat them plain. The crisp outer crust is fantastic.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm butter
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups warm milk

Instructions

Heat oil to about 375°F. We fill our kettle half full with oil and heat it over the hearth.

Mix ingredients.

Roll dough out 1/2 inch thick. Cut in squares and let rise.

Drop a few carefully into the oil. The dough should sink to the bottom then quickly float to the top as it cooks. 

Gently flip the doughnuts. These will cook quickly. Since oil temperatures will vary, cut one open to see if it is done and adjust cooking time accordingly.

Roll in sugar or cinnamon sugar.


Switchel

Switchel is a traditional drink with a long history. Some say Switchel dates back to the late 17th century. It is often called ‘haymaker’s switchel’ because it was a refreshing drink for those doing the hard work of harvesting hay and often served along with the noon meal. Although, they didn’t know at the time, the vinegar and molasses help hydrate and replace electrolytes.  They only knew it worked.

HC_VillageTavernKrimmel1815

John Lewis Krimmel, “The Village Tavern/In an American Inn” (1814), Toledo Museum of Art

The American Table blog has a nice Switchel page along with a recipe from 1853. In the last decade or so it appears Switchel is having a revival and it has lately become popular and now you can buy it bottled online.

We have served Switchel at Venoge since 2005 and only once have I had someone reject it ‘violently’. Most like it or find it ‘interesting’. There are many variations, some using honey or maple syrup, but always using vinegar. The recipe below is the one we use most often.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup vinegar or to taste
  • 2 quarts water

Instructions

Slowly heat ingredients over low heat until combined thoroughly. We recommend using half of the recommended vinegar to start.

Adjust amounts to taste and add more vinegar now if desired. Chill and serve.

HC_Switchel


 

Venison Stew

Venison on the supper table is a rarity today, but in the early 19th century it was not unusual in rural areas. Below is a typical Stewed Venison recipe similar to what we make at Venoge.

Stewed Venison

Take some of the fore quarter of fresh venison, with the ribs, chop them into small pieces, rinse, and season them, stew them in a small quantity of water, with a few slices of pork or bacon.  Stew it very tender, season the gravy with butter, flour, onions, pepper and sweet cream; simmer a few minutes, and serve it on toast.

The Kentucky Housewife: Containing Nearly Thirteen Hundred Full Receipts. by Mrs. Lettice Bryan, 1839.

Venoge gives permission to three hunters to hunt deer on the 30 acres of our property. In return the hunters supply us with venison for our events. We usually use a loin or roast for the stew, cooked slowly and we often add noodles or rice. Venison is low in fat and high in protein, plus, it tastes good!

Ingredients

  • Venison roast, loin or stew meat
  • Herbs of choice, savory, sage, thyme
  • Salt to taste
  • Onions
  • Carrots (optional)
  • Potatoes (optional)
  • Water to cover

Instructions

Cut the meat into 2 x 2 inch pieces, larger than bite-size. Cover with water.

Add onions and herbs.

Simmer until done (several hours). Noodles or rice can be added toward the end of cooking. To thicken, make a gravy with butter, flour and venison stock.


 

Venoge Summer Soup

This soup has a chicken base and we add various seasonal vegetables. It is very adaptable to the vegetables and herbs on hand. It is a light soup but filling, especially when served with our Round Loaf or Onion Herb Bread.   

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken
  • Water to cover the chicken
  • Assorted herbs, dill, chives, garlic, savory, sage, etc.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Assorted vegetables, carrots, squash, chard or spinach, onions, etc.

Instructions

We boil the chicken with the herbs until done, then remove the meat from the bone. Cut or tear the meat into bite-sized pieces. 

Add selected vegetables to the chicken broth and cook until almost done.

Add the cut chicken and cook a bit more. If we want to make dumplings, this is the time we add those for cooking.


 

Apple Dumplings

Our most adventurous recipe so far has been boiled apple dumplings.  We started with Hannah Glasse’s recipe and modified it for individual apples, which works well.  Unless you have made apple dumplings before, we suggest you read the Hannah Glasse original instructions as well as our instructions prior to beginning this recipe.

To Make Apple Dumplings

Make a good puff-paste, pare some large apples, cut them in quarters, and take out the cores very nicely; take a piece of crust, and roll it round enough for one apple; if they are big, they will not look pretty; so roll the crust round each apple, and make them round like a ball, with a little flour in your hand; have a pot of water boiling, take a clean cloth, dip it in the water and shake flour over it; tie each dumpling by itself, and put them in the water boiling, which keep boiling all the time; and if your crust is light and good, and the apples not too large, half an hour will boil them; but if the apples be large, they will take an hour’s boiling; when they are enough, take them up and lay them in a dish; throw fine sugar all over them, and send them to table; have good fresh butter melted in a cup, and fine beaten sugar in a saucer.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, Hannah Glasse, 1747 & 1796.

INGREDIENTS

  • Tart apples, four fit into a kettle
  • Grandmother Nora’s pie crust
  • Cinnamon and sugar mix
  • Four pieces of cloth, large enough to wrap around apples
  • String
  • Flour for cloth
  • Melted butter, honey with cinnamon for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

Peal and core apples. Fill the core with cinnamon and sugar. Prepare Grandmother Nora’s pie crust recipe and roll out the dough 3/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into 4 strips, one for each apple. Mold and shape the crust evenly around each filled apple so that the dumpling is sealed shut with dough.

Next prepare the apples one at a time for the kettle.

For each apple, take a piece of cotton or linen which is large enough to wrap around the dumpling and dip the cloth into the boiling water, then flour the cloth. The flour creates a barrier around the apple and helps to seal in the flavor when the dumpling cooks. Wrap the floured cloth securely around each apple and tie it off tightly with strong kitchen twine.

Flouring the wet cloth was easier when we laid the cloth flat on the table, poured a bit of flour along one side and then picked that side up and let the flour shimmy and cover the center of the cloth where the dumpling would be placed.

Using a loop of kitchen twine, suspend the apples from sturdy sticks or fireplace pokers in boiling water. Keep the water boiling.

The dumplings should cook in about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the apples. Remove dumplings from the pot, cut open the tie and place on a plate to cool.   

We topped our dumplings with melted butter and then drizzled cinnamon and honey on them.

Recommended Reading

Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy: the Revolutionary 1805 Classic. Dover Publications, 2015.

Kay Moss and Kathryn Hoffman. The Backcountry Housewife. 18th Century Backcountry Lifeways Studies Program, Schiele Museum, 2001. Good discussion of various dumplings.


 

Sweet Potato Fritters

One of the most successful vegetables we grow in the Venoge kitchen garden are sweet potatoes. They are, of course, suitable and yummy in pies but we wanted to try using them in a recipe that could be made in front of visitors. We decided to try deep fried sweet potato fritters. Not only were they easy to make but they were fantastic and have a crunchy and tasty outer crust.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of milk

Topping

  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

Heat oil to about 375°F. We fill our kettle half full with oil and heat it over the hearth.

Combine mashed sweet potatoes and egg in a small bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking powder.

Add sweet potato mixture to dry ingredients and slowly add milk. Batter may be a little lumpy, but that is okay.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together

Mix wet and dry ingredients together

Carefully drop teaspoons of batter into hot oil. The batter should sink to the bottom then quickly float to the top as it cooks.

Sweet Potato Fritters cooking

Sweet Potato Fritters cooking

Gently flip the fritters in the oil so that both sides cook. These will cook quickly. Since oil temperatures will vary, cut one open to see if it is done and adjust cooking time accordingly.

While still warm, roll in the sugar and cinnamon mix.


 

Roasted Eggs

I became aware that roasted eggs were a ‘thing’ when I read “The Backcountry Housewife” (a must read). The writer states that:

“Experimentation has shown us that eggs do indeed roast quite nicely in their shells when buried in hot ashes for a quarter of an hour or more. A fine explosion results when placing the eggs in contact with hot coals, however. The roasted egg is very similar to a boiled egg.

Made dishes of boiled or perhaps roasted eggs are common in old recipes. These dishes are generally composed of the eggs, whole, sliced, quartered, or stuffed, with a white sauce. Mushrooms, onions, or oranges (if available) are common accompanying ingredients. …. If the eggs are stuffed, the filling may be mashed and seasoned yolks or bread crumbs. Forcemeat might also be included.”

Kay Moss and Kathryn Hoffman. The Backcountry Housewife. 18th Century Backcountry Lifeways Studies Program, Schiele Museum, 2001.

When we tested the method at Venoge, we waited until we had a nice mound of hot ashes to bury the raw eggs. We had a thin layer of ashes on the bottom and about an inch on top and sides. A few hot coals were present but none touched the eggs. It can take a bit longer than 15 minutes depending on the heat of the ashes.

The advantage of roasting versus boiling was apparent immediately. There is no need for another pot on the crane or trivet taking up space. Just remember where you buried the eggs!

Ingredients

  • Eggs
  • Hot ash (free from coals)

Instruction

Place eggs on top of a thin layer of hot ash. Be careful to not include any coals or the eggs may explode or get too roasted on one side.

Cover eggs entirely with ashes and wait 15 minutes. You can turn eggs during cooking depending on the heat of your ashes.

Remove eggs and let them cool. We place ours in cool water so we can peel them easily. Remember older eggs peel easier than fresh eggs. So if you are having trouble peeling the eggs, like we did, it is likely you are using fresh eggs.