February, 2012

The Enormous Turnip

February 28th, 2012 by KM Wall

A re-run from February 19, 2009, My So-Called Pilgrim Life


Turnips in the Howland garden.

It was such a lovely day, with the thaw and all, so Justin and I went down to the 1627 Village to see how the gardens were doing. It’s really interesting to see where the snow has and hasn’t melted, and to see what were such large pile of manure becoming much smaller piles of compost – just in time for spring top dressing.
Justin had left some plants for seed in the Howland garden. That’s when we saw it – the Enormous Turnip. There were several other, more turnip sized turnips, but this one…. I HAD to have it. Alrighty – I’m rather turnip mad, but when I went to weigh this one, I had to move to the baby scale because it was too big for the regular scale. I weighed in at THIRTEEN POUNDS. Almost thirteen pounds, one ounce. Yep, that’s one big turnip. The turnips we grow here are a variety know as Eastham turnips, which do have a tendency to grow big. Seeing turnips this big, you can understand how before pumpkins were popular, that it was turnips that were carves out and had candles put in them for lanterns. Eastham turnips are local turnips – Eastham is on Cape Cod. I was first introduced to Eastham turnips by Carolyn Crowell of Crow Farm in Sandwich (MA). Carolyn grew up on Crow Farm, had a career as a home ec teacher, and then became a pilgrim. She probably knew more about farming then some of the original Mayflower passengers. Eastham turnips were the turnip she was raised on. She finally retired from the pilgrim life – to work in the farm department! Talking to people all day long wore her out more than tossing around bales of hay. She had her eightieth birthday a while back. Our potters made her a seventeenth century style pitcher – with a flowering turnip design motif.
Now, as proud as Eastham is of their turnips, Westport (MA) also has turnip bragging rights. I got some Westport turnips at the Farmer’s Market this summer, mistaking them at first for Easthams because they look that much alike. As far as I can tell the biggest difference is that Easthams have their festival and Westports have an historic marker. But back to the enormous turnips……
At thirteen pounds, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find when I cut it open. With the first cut, sure enough there are the tell-tale signs of A Very Hungry Caterpillar. But more cutting, and peeling, and a little trimming left me with six pounds of perfectly fine turnip. I dare say if I were hungrier or had a family to feed it could have been closer to eight pounds of good turnip. I parboiled it in lightly salted water for about ten minutes, drained and then some went into a casserole dish with a little salt and pepper and a nice bath of light cream. Into a 350 oven. The rest went into a pan on top of the stove with a little water, white wine vinegar (about 2 ounces of each) and tablespoon of sugar, mixed it up and let it simmer. About twenty minutes later I took the casserole out of the oven, stirred it up and mashed down any bits that weren’t under cream, which was getting nice and thick and added a little butter on top, maybe 2 tablespoons. Stirred the pan in the stove and all was well with the world. Washed and chopped some fresh sage. Another twenty minutes (or was it twenty-five?) the casserole came out of the oven, got another stir and mash and it was ready to serve. Added the sage to the turnips on the stove, the vinegar mellowing nicely with the sugar. It smelled terrific. Took a taste and added a few more leaves of sage and it was ready to serve. This sage and turnip recipe is one we use in the 1627 English Village. The recipe calls for cooking the turnips in wine after their first boil – I use a 1627 English Village substitute of vinegar and water with a little sugar.
You would think a turnip that big and that old would be rank and/or woody, but it was sweet, fragrant, delicious, delectable – even people who don’t ordinarily like turnips liked these.
So, the lessons learned are: 1) you can keep turnips in the ground through February, even in New England IF you grow the right turnips in the first place; 2) changing the water takes away turnip rankness; 3) cream is a great improver of just about any food; 4) it’s harder to cook seventeenth century recipes in a twenty-first century kitchen if you’re used to cooking them over a wood fire in iron pots. I felt compelled to measure everything in modern kitchen. In the early modern kitchen I trust myself to know what’s enough.

‘We have turnop hearts….’

February 27th, 2012 by KM Wall

Not really.


Housewife tending her garden.


We are strong enough to curb ‘em. But we have turnop hearts.

from c1620 FLETCHER & MASSINGER Trag. Barnavelt II. ii (thank you Oxford English Dictionary!)

Turnip hearts are not a good thing. If you raise turnips, you may know that sometimes there’s a little hollow place on the inside – the turnips heart.
We gathered these turnips out of the garden last week. They were planted in September, and have been doing just fine. The lack of our usual freeze and thaw has meant that they didn’t pop out of the ground on their own volition – we actually had to dig a little for these. And although these turnips are a good size, they’re not exactly ‘The Enormous Turnip’…….


Turnips freshly picked from the garden!




Baking Day

February 24th, 2012 by Carolyn


We started with our reference!


The oven stacked with wood ready to be lite!

Sparks were flying.


The wood is starting to burn down.


After all that work we ended up with this. Yum!

Pancake Tuesday!

February 21st, 2012 by KM Wall

The best pancake.
To make the best pancake, take two or three eggs, and break them into a dish, and beat them well; then add a pretty quantity of fair running water, and beat all well together; then put in cloves, mace, cinnamon. and nutmeg, and season it with salt; which done, make it as thick as you think good with fine wheat flour; then fry the cakes as thin as may be with sweet butter, or sweet seam, and make them brown, and so serve them up with sugar strewed upon them. There be some which mix pancakes with new milk or cream, but that makes them tough, cloying, and not crisp, pleasant and savoury as running water.

- Gervase Markham, The English Housewife. (Best edition). p. 68-9.


A wheat flour pancake, ready to eat!


Warden Pie alias Pear Pie

February 16th, 2012 by KM Wall

Warden pie, or quince pie.


Take of the fairest and best Wardens, and pare them, and take out the hard chores on the top, and cut the sharp ends at the bottome flat; (We had 3# of Barlett pears. I stood them up around each other to get a sense of how big this pie was going to be. I also plunked them down into a stewing pot so I could get a sense of how much liquid I would need to poach them in.)


Make sure there is enough room in your pot for all your pears.

then boyle them in White-wine and suger, vntill the sirrup grow thick: (We used 16 oz of wine and 48 oz of water (for a total of 64 oz liquid). You could use all wine or half wine and half water. We added 1 cup (1/2 pound) sugar and set them on the stove. Brought to a boil and then simmered for about 30 minutes – or until tender.)

then take the wardens from the sirrup into a clean dish, & let them coole; then set them into the coffin (The coffin is the pastry. In the 17th century it was a stand-alone sort of thing; we’re using a cake hoop to hold it up during the baking. Pie plates are becoming more common starting in the 1640’s, so feel free to use a deep dish plate or a springform pan.The pears will be standing up and you’ll want a pastry that is tall enough to accomadate them.),

and prick cloues in the tops, with whole sticks of cinnamon, and great store of Suger as for Pippins ; then couer it, and onely reseue [reserve] a vent-hole, so set it in the ouen and bake it: (we set the oven at 400 and turned it down to 350 after 5 minutes. Total baking time: 35-40 minutes)

when it is bak’t, draw it forth and taste it, and take the first sirrup in which the Wardens were boyled, and taste it, and if it be not sweet enough, then put in more suger and some rosewater, & boile it again a little, then power it into the vent-hole, and shake the pie wel; then take sweet butter and rose-water melted,(2 tablespoons each butter and the pear syrup – ½ -1 teaspoon rosewater, depending on how rosy you like things. We spooned most of the pear syrup/butter mixture over the top of the pie.)

and with it anoint the pie-lid all ouer, and then strow vpon it store of suger, (We then used about 3 tablespoons of sugar for strowing. The butter/pear syrup mixture dribs we had left went into the pie via the vent, as did a little of the sugar. We did not shake.We are cowardly pie-wives. Shake at your own risk.) and so set it into the ouen againe a little space (about 25 minutes to dry up the anointing and color the sugar some),


All done, now ready to eat!

and serue it vp. And in this manner you may also bake Quinces.
Gervase Markham, Covntrey Contentments, or, The English Housewife. London: 1623. p. 104.

Valentine’s Pies

February 14th, 2012 by Carolyn

Peteets of Shrimp.... pretty delicious.


Happy Valentines Day!

February 13th, 2012 by Carolyn

The Pilgrims may not have had Valentines Day, but if they did, I’m sure they’d use this recipe.

To make Pockets of Shrimp or Pranes

When you have made your little Coffins like Hearts, Diamonds, round or how you please; you may fry up your shelled fish, with the yolks of eggs, Cinamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cloves, and Mace beaten together, and when they are crisp and brown, fill your dryed Coffins with a lear made with a little Claret wine, drawn Butter, and Oyster-liquor, beaten up with the yolk or two of an egg; so put it to your fish, and let it stand in the oven until you dish it up.

By these rules in boyling, broyling, roasting and baking of those varieties of fish before mentioned, the ingenuous Practioner may know the nature, and how to order and dress any other.

“The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected”; Rubisha;

1661; Pages 131-132


To boile Onions.

February 9th, 2012 by KM Wall

To boile Onions.
Take a good many onions and cut them in foure quarters, set them on the fire in as much water as you think will boyle them tender, and when they be clean skimmed, put in a good many small raisons, halfe a spooneful grose pepper, a good peece of Suger, and a little Salte, and when the Onions be through boiled, beat the yolke of an Egge with Vergious, and put into your pot and so serve it upon soppes. If you will poch, Egges and lay upon them.
- Thomas Dawson. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell. London:1597.
Grose pepper means either large or grocer’s
Vergious is a liquid made from unripe grapes or apples, ie green fruit, therefore ‘green juice’. Vinegar as a good substitute.
Soppes are slices of bread that are either toasted or fryed.

Bread Records

February 8th, 2012 by KM Wall

Illustrations from the Book of Assize – the official Baker’s Guild guide to making bread – help to figure out the size and shape of various loaves.

First Bake

February 7th, 2012 by Carolyn


KMW places the unbaked dough loaves into the white hot oven.



Loaves fresh out of the oven!


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