Monday, 23 June 2014

Sunday at Westfield - Cooking 1830's

 On Sunday at Westfield, I was asked to interpret in the Lockhart house, rather than the bake oven.  The Lockhart house is an 1830's farm house as was typical in Ontario at that time.   I can't believe I didn't take more photos, but as soon as I started, people came in and I was distracted.   At any rate, the Lockhart is set up with the facilities to accomodate open hearth cooking.  There are utensils, crockery, cast iron pots, pans and dutch ovens.  There is a hanging flat iron griddle, and even a reflector oven with a removable spit, so you can use it for meat and baked goods.  The best thing is that we are able to use the items to demonstrate for the public.

I had a variety of items to cook, not knowing how many people would show up that day.  I started up the fire and pre-heated the griddle.  I need to find one of these toys for home.  It was so totally awesome for cooking over a fire.  It would be great to hang from my tripod over the firepit!   Anyway, I got out the dough board and rolled out the Muffin dough I'd made before I headed out for the day.   I let them rise on the dough board and cooked them slowly throughout the day, so there were always fresh ones for the visitors to sample.   There weren't enough visitors to warrant making the oat cakes and cookies, but they were packaged so I could save them for other times if needed.

I heated water in the old steel kettle to wash up with in the basin in the dry sink.   If it hadn't been so warm, I would have made tea from herbs in the gardens.  I have lemon balm and spearmint here and a bit of lavender.  In the 1830's, tea and coffee weren't always available in the general stores, so herbal alternatives were used.  Mint and lemon balm is a really yummy combination for an herbal tea.

It was a lovely day outside and it was an interesting change to work in a different venue at the village.  I will quite look forward to working here some more and trying out different cooking techniques.   At the bake oven, I surf the decades for baking.  At the Lockhart, I'll limit the decades to about 30 years, but be able to do so many other techniques that it shall be worth it.   There are apple trees too!  I've been trying to find a way to get a hold of a bunch of the apples when ripe,  to do an apple jelly demo in the autumn.    I shall have to get started on my 1830's costume.  I've had the fabric sitting in a corner for a year now.  Surely it's aged enough to be ready to sew with now!

1830's Muffins - (English Muffins)

5 cups flour
1/8 cup butter
 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsn sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 - 2 cups water or milk (more as needed)

Proof the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water mixed with 1 tbsn sugar.  Just dissolve the sugar in the water, sprinkle the yeast over it and let it sit for 10 minutes.  If the yeast is puffy and bubbly, then it's good to go.   Put the 5 cups of flour in a bowl, ( I use my stand mixer).  Add the salt, the butter and then pour in the yeast.   Turn the mixer on low and start to mix, or start to mix the dough by hand.  Slowly add in the rest of the water.   Knead or mix the dough until it is elastic.  I prefer this dough to be slightly softer than I might normally use for bread as it's easier to roll out.  

Grease a bowl, transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around so that the ball of dough is completely covered in oil.  This will keep the dough soft and prevent a crust from forming.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  I just toss it in the truck and it rises while I drive to Westfield, but any place that is draft free, warm and the cat won't get it, is a good place to rise bread dough.

When it's doubled in size, gently punch it down to remove the large gas bubbles, roll it out on a floured board or table.  Use a biscuit or cookie cutter to cut rounds.   Don't twist the cutter!  Just press straight down.  Sometimes twisting the cutter can seal the sides together and the muffins or biscuits don't get as light and puffy as they should.   Let the rounds rise a bit while you preheat a pan or griddle (medium heat?)  .  Lightly grease the pan's surface.   Put the dough rounds on the pan and cook until nicely browned on the bottom, flip and continue cooking until cooked through .  
Take off the pan and serve!  They can be split with a fork or just ripped apart.  You can toast them or not as you choose.  I like them freshly cooked, split and slathered with currant jam!

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