Sunday, 16 November 2014

Historical Cooking

Yesterday, Westfield arranged for a day of historical cooking classes for the volunteers, with local food historian Carolyn Blackstock.  While we did a fair bit of cooking, there was a lot of time spent on food safety, woodstove and hearth cooking safety and making sure everyone was comfortable with the basics.  We also covered choosing and interpreting recipes.  While it was pretty basic in a lot of ways, and the instructor was a bit distracted at times, which caused the class participants to drift in their engagement to the topic, it was a lot of fun.   There were some great suggestions for resources, and a lot of upbeat ideas to get the enthusiasm revved back up.

Boiled pudding in a muslin pudding bag.
The morning session was on woodstove cooking, while the afternoon was on hearth cooking.  Because of the time of year, suet puddings were highlighted, including a boiled pudding in a pudding bag, a baked bread pudding, a stirred cornmeal pudding and a baked suet pudding.    As well, a simple sausage and potato dish, and a hot slaw were made, while the reflector roasted duck wasn't made due to time and the fact that the duck was missing. 

Boiled and/or steamed puddings are cakes which are cooked in a water bath.   When using a bag, the bag is first buttered and floured, before the batter is put in the bag.  After the bag is tied shut, with lots of room for expansion, the bag is dunked in boiling water and boiled for several hours, depending on the size of the pudding.  The larger the pudding, the more hours it takes to cook.   The batter isn't soaked and doesn't leak into the water because the boiling water immediately turns the butter/flour coating on the bag, to a glue like substance which seals the bag.   We also saw a very cool lidded metal pudding mould, which is now on my must have list.

I knew I'd forgotten my camera, but also forgot that I'd tossed my phone in my pocket until we were eating lunch.  In the afternoon we were at the inn, with it's large hearth and interestingly quirky andirons.  The cooking crane doesn't hang still, so the one andiron and a rock are used to control it.
Boiled cornmeal pudding
We started with a cornmeal pudding, which was boiled cornmeal with a few additions.  It was good enough, topped with molasses or butter if you chose.  It was an everyday sort of pudding, rather than something special, but definitely edible, though much less sweet than we are used to.
Breadcrumb pudding

We then moved on to a bread crumb based suet pudding.  The instructions gave the option of boiling or baking.    We pulled out a dutch oven, put the batter in a cake pan and baked the pudding with the coals.  For campfire/hearth cooking, a dutch oven with legs is preferable.  They usually have 3 legs, and a tight fitting, flat lid with a rim.    The lid holds coals so that the heat comes from both the bottom and the top for even baking.  One of the resources suggested using 1/3 of the coals on the bottom and 2/3 of the coals on top.   After half an hour, the dutch oven was opened and the pudding was tested.  It was close to done, but the quince sauce wasn't yet done, so the pudding was put back in the dutch oven to keep warm and bake a little more. 

The quince sauce was interesting because quinces aren't easily found in this area.  The were not quite ready to use, since they must sit and start to turn mushy before they are soft and sweet, but one of the strong gentlemen, with mad knife skills, peeled and chopped the quince, which were then tossed in a pot over the fire, to stew.   When they were soft enough, we sampled the quince with the pudding and it was a brilliantly nice combination.  This pudding was a very basic pudding, though it had a lot of lemon in it.  The two were a nice treat.

All in all, it was a great day!






1 comment:

Leigh said...

Very interesting about the puddings. I did not realize that about them but of course, here, pudding means a sweet custard pudding based on milk. I will have to see if I can dig up some recipes and give these a try.