Tagged ‘cheese’

from Curds to Cheesecake

July 30th, 2013 by KM Wall

When the Protestant reformation hit England, the nation found that banning the Old Calendar and it’s Feast Days, left the people bereft of days to publicly celebrate. The Accession of Elizabeth to the throne – popularly known as Crownation Day (November 19th) was one of the first non-religious nationwide public holidays for England. Today I get notices of daily food celebration days, because it’s not just the food, it’s the ways……

So it seems that today is National Cheesecake Day.  No doubt most are celebrating with something more along the lines of a New York style cheese cake, or perhaps Philadelphia style cheesecake, both of which   include cream cheese. For our 17th Century English Housewife, cheesecake would indeed be for a special day, and would probably begin with milking the cow and her cheesecake would include fresh curds, spice and currents or raisins. No cream cheese.

Straining the morning's milk

Straining the morning’s milk – nice and frothy, good milking!


Freshly made cheese

Freshly made cheese

Her cheesecake would also not be New York style, but more like an Italian Easter Pie.

Pastiera Napoletara - Italian Easter Pie

Pastiera Napoletana – Italian Easter Pie


To make Cheesecakes otherwayes.
Take a good morning milk cheese, or better, of some eight pound weight, stamp it in a mortar, and beat a pound of butter amongst it, and a pound of sugar, then mix with it beaten mace, two pound of currans well picked and washed, a penny manchet grated, or a pound of almonds blanched and beaten fine with rose-water, and some salt; then boil some cream, and thicken it with six or eight yolks of eggs, mixed with the other things, work them well together, and fill the cheesecakes, make the curd not too soft, and make the past of cold butter and water according to these forms.
- Robert May, The Accomplish’t Cook

Did you notice the EIGHT POUNDS of milk cheese? As well as a pound of butter? This is cheesecake for a crowd.


Robert May's form of cheesecakes

Robert May’s form of cheesecakes


Learning by dough-ing

July 19th, 2013 by KM Wall

You can read about things or you can see things happen to learn about them, but the greatest retention and understanding come from learning by doing.

So when we had new ovens that needed a test run, we needed to use them in a way we could learn the most from.

New Oven!

New Oven!

This is a cloam (or clome or clume) oven. The shell is made from clay and fire hardened in a potters kiln. There was one in Jamestown in the early 17th century, and two at Ferrylands in Newfoundland. Remains of one have also been found in early Plymouth Colony. And there are lots of them in England.

cloam oven at  Jamestown

cloam oven at Jamestown – old oven!

But there’s not just ONE oven, there are two, two cloam ovens in Plimoth Colony now.

Two, Two new  ovens!

Two, Two new ovens!

The Jamestown oven was found in pieces….I know, most archeology is…..but without context for how it was used. But meanwhile, up in Newfoundland…

Bakehouse remains at Colony of Avalon, Newfoundland

Bakehouse and brewhouse remains at Colony of Avalon, Newfoundland – the circles are the cloam oven remains

Back to the baking training……

Put the fire in the ovens to heat them

Fire in the ovens to heat them

Each oven is different- even these two, which were built by the same potter at the same time (Thank-you, Ron!) and installed in the same bakehouse at the same time (thank you Steve and other artisans) heated up a little differently.

Doors for the ovens - when the fire is out and the food is in, the doors go on.

Doors for the ovens – when the fire is out and the food is in, the doors go on.

Dough  for the test bake

Dough for the test bake

Getting the dough ready to bake

Getting the dough ready to bake

This workshop was after hours, so we didn’t keep it strictly old school. And because it was getting dark and my camera is fiddly, I didn’t capture real good images of the peel or maulkin either in or out of action.

More dough preperation

More dough preparation







Seasonings for the dough...Bread, and cheese - and maybe a little pepperoni....

Seasonings for the dough…

If this looks like bread and cheese…and perhaps a little pepperoni…..a piece of bread and cheese, as it were…..

Yes, they did have pizza in the 17th century. Just not in England. The first reference to the word pizza in the Oxford English Dictionary is 1921….The first reference to the word in the US is earlier – 1904 – and in Boston, no less. According to Wikipedia:

The term “pizza” first appeared “in a Latin text from the southern Italian town of Gaeta in 997 AD, which claims that a tenant of certain property is to give the bishop of Gaeta ‘duodecim pizze’ ['twelve pizzas'] every Christmas Day, and another twelve every Easter Sunday”

So pizza is older then 1620. By the way, that’s the Gaeta that my mother is from….



Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

June 6th, 2013 by KM Wall


A great book by Barbara Kingslover  (link to  her website  ) and….

the true, seldom told story of rennet.  Also known as renning in the  early modern period. It’s what makes milk curdle. It’s actually one of several things that will do that  although it’s unclear how clear it was to the people of the past. Now we divide it between:

Animal rennet, from the stomachs of unweaned animals ( cow, goat or sheep, generally, although camels might have been used in places where camels were common.

Vegetable rennet,  from figs or bedstraw or other herbs, has also been kicking around since the days of Ancient Rome, and were referenced by 17th century writers. Cheshire was famous for the bedstraw used in its cheese.

But knowing how to do something and knowing why something works aren’t always part of the same package.

Chymosin complex

Chymosin complex – portrait of an enzyme agent

It’s actually an enzyme and it’s modern chemical name is rennin. This is a VAST and HUGE oversimplification of the process. It does make a pretty picture. What is does is tangle up the protein strands in the milk, leaving us with curds and whey.


Curds (the solid bits) and whey (the liquid) on an industrial scale

Curds (the solid bits) and whey (the liquid) on an industrial scale

Just like Little Miss Muffet. Who sat on a tuffet. Who may or may not have been the step daughter named Patience of a certain Thomas Muffet, (Moffat/Moufet, Mouffet) Puritan and physician, who wrote about insects, among other things. Even though the poem doesn’t start kicking around until the early 1800′s…..

Theatre of Insects by Thomas Moffat...I bet there are SPIDERS in there

Theatre of Insects by Thomas Moffat 1634…I bet there are SPIDERS in there



Sample of the animal rennet we used in the workshop - a commercial product and not terribly photogenic

Sample of the animal rennet we used in the workshop – a commercial product and not terribly photogenic

A sample of commercially available vegetable rennet that we used Monday night. Also not photogenic.The smell a little differently, or it could have been the containers.

A sample of commercially available vegetable rennet that we used Monday night. Also not photogenic.They smell a little differently, or it could have been the containers.

and to continue a little further afield be we get back to cheese, which is where all roads lead this week….

a little side trip to Ireland, famous cheese eaters and milk drinkers of the 17th century ,where they got all poetical about curds and cream.

Stately, pleasantly it sat,
A compact house and strong.
Then I went in:
The door of it was dry meat,
The threshold was bare bread,
cheese-curds the sides.

Smooth pillars of old cheese,
And sappy bacon props
Alternate ranged;
Fine beams of mellow cream,
White rafters – real curds,
Kept up the house.

 - Aislinge Meic Con Glinne : The Vision of Mac Conglinne (this Irish  story  is from the 11th century ; the extant manuscripts are the one from the 15th  century; the other from the 16th or 17th century. )

The Image of Ireland - are they eating curds and cream?

The Image of Irelande, with a Discoverie of Woodkarne 1581

“the moon is made of a greene cheese.”

June 4th, 2013 by KM Wall
Adam Elsheimer  - 1609 Flight into Eygpt

Adam Elsheimer – 1609 Flight into Egypt. Notice the greene cheese moon


According to John Heywood’s Book of Proverbs in 1546 “the moon is made of a greene cheese“.

But not green in color sort of way, but rather green as an age and stage sort of way. Like green wood, it’s fresh and moist. It’s cheese made to eat sooner rather then later .

There are many green cheeses that we still know and love – cottage cheese or schmeerkase, paneer, queso blanco, and to the dismay and disclaim of lovers of true ricotta, ricotta.   (Ricotta is a whey cheese, not a milk cheese. Most of the on-line directions for ricotta include cream, as well as full milk, which makes them a sort of mascarpone, but I digress into fresh Italian cheeses…..)

Homemade cottage cheese - the green cheese many of us know now

Homemade cottage cheese – the green cheese many of us know now

Back to English cheeses….English green cheeses


Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674)

Fresh Cheese And Cream

Would ye have fresh cheese and cream?

and a little more that’s more suggestive then outright obscene, about Julia and her  …  tasty bits -  this  blog has a G rating, so go read some poetry if you want to know more…..


To make a Fresh Cheese & Creame.

Take a pottle of new milk, a quart of creame, put therein a stick of cinamon, & set it on the fire, have in readiness the yelks of twoe eggs beaten, when it boiles up put them in, then take it from the fire, & let it stand, then put in as much rennet, as will turne it, then put it in a cloth, & let it hang will it bee drie. then season it with rose water, & sugar, & serve it.

Hilary Spurling. Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book: Elizabethan Country House Cooking (1986)p. 102.

Paneer is another sort of green cheese - this looks a little more moon like

Paneer is another sort of green cheese – this looks a little more moon like

Biscuit, butter, cheese and pudding….

March 15th, 2013 by KM Wall

Friday the 16 (of March 1620/21) a fair warm day towards; …….

there presented himself a savage, which caused alarm, he came very boldly came all alone and along the houses straight to the rendezvous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldness, he saluted us in English, and bade us welcome, for he learned some broken English  amongst the Englishmen that came to fish at Mohegan and knew name most of the captains, commanders, and masters, that usually come,……

he asked some beer, but we gave him strong water,and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all which he like well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English;….

Mourt’s Relation, p. 480-1, Johnson ed.

Pieter de Hooch - The Empty Glass - no beer, time to get the strong water. This seems to be setting a oh-so-wrong precedent ...





Floris Gerritsz. van Schooten Still Life with Glass, Cheese, Butter and Cake. There are little rusks, too, ever so biscuit like.



Pieter de Hooch - A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy - There are surprisingly few images of biscuit (OK, not so surprising) in genre paintings. I think this lump might be what the English sometimes call a 'rock' of butter, but that's only my tentative opinion.


spilt porridge detail from Pieter Bruegal's The Topsy Turvy World - a hasty pudding, as it weredetail of spilt porridge from Pieter Brughal’s Topsy Turvy World. A Hasty pudding of sorts

Pieter de Hooch - Woman Plucking a Duck



Father Christmas, his Children

January 6th, 2013 by KM Wall


The names of Father Christmas, his Children, with their attyres.

(What???You didn’t know that Father Christmas was married? And who is his bride? Why, none other then VENUS :Good Lady Venus of Pudding-lane, you must go out for all this.)

I’ve highlighted the FOOD babies.

In a velvet Cap with a Sprig, a short Cloake, great yellow Ruffe like a
Reveller, his Torch bearer bearing a Rope, a Cheese and a Basket,


A long tawny Coat, with a red Cap, and a Flute at his girdle, his Torch-bearer
carrying a Song booke open.


Like a fine Cookes Wife, drest neat; her Man carrying a Pie, Dish, and Spoones.


Like a Tumbler, with a hoope and Bells; his Torch-bearer arm’d with a Cole-staffe,
and a blinding cloth.


With a paire-Royall of Aces in his Hat; his Garment all done over with Payres,
and Purrs; his Squier carrying a Box, Gards, and Counters.


In a blew Coat, serving-man like, with an Orange, and a sprig of Rosemarie guilt
on his head, his Hat full of Broaches, with a coller of Gingerbread, his Torch-bearer carrying a March-paine, with a bottle of wine on either arme.


In a Masquing pied suite, with a Visor, his Torch-bearer carrying the Boxe, and
ringing it.


Like a neat Sempster, and Songster; her Page bearing a browne bowle, drest with
Ribbands, and Rosemarie before her.



Wassail bowl - imagine the ribbons and rosemary


In a short gowne, with a Porters staffe in his hand; a Wyth borne before him,
and a Bason by his Torch-bearer.


Drest like a Boy, in a fine long Coat, Biggin, Bib, Muckender, and a little Dagger; his Vsher bearing a great Cake with a Beane, and a Pease.




Last, Baby-cake, that an end doth make
of Christmas merrie, merrie vaine a
Is Child Rowlan, and a straight young man,
though he come out of Crooked-lane ‘a.


Samuel Pepys  London on Epiphany night, 6 January 1659/1660: “…to my cousin Stradwick, where, after a good supper, there being there my father, mothers, brothers, and sister, my cousin Scott and his wife, Mr. Drawwater and his wife, and her brother, Mr. Stradwick, we had a brave cake brought us, and in the choosing, Pall was Queen and Mr. Stradwick was King. After that my wife and I bid adieu and came home, it being still a great frost.”

Pall was the Queen of the Pea – Mr Stradwick was the King of the Bean.

The Secret Life of Beets

December 7th, 2012 by KM Wall

Chapter One.

Lumdardy Tart.

How to make Lumbardy Tarts

Take beets, chop them small, and to them put grated bread and cheese, and mingle them wel in the chopping.  Take a few corrans, and a dishe of sweet butter, and melt it.  Then stir al these in the butter, together with three yolkes of egges, sinamon, ginger, and sugar, and make your tart as large as you will, and fill it with the stuffe, bake it, and serve it in.

-1588. The Good Huswives Handemaide.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago in a place not so far away.

So there I was with my pilgrim sister and future pilgrim sister. Just what was a Lumdardy? The Oxford English Dictionary – several of us had joined a book of the month club because a copy of the condensed version – complete with magnifying glass – was the welcome gift – had no better answer then we did.

But, we were young and we had beets – lots of beets. It had been a great year for beets. And, really, what could this tart be but an olde-timey version of a vegetable quiche. Right?

Enter, stage right, Myrtle Winslow. Myrtle was a lovely lady who had retired about the time most of us youngun’s were just being born. She also liked to whitewater raft and road her bike all along Cape Cod, a trip of dozens , if not scores of miles, being fairly ordinary. She could cram more movement in after a full days work then many of us could even contemplate for a weekend. I never felt more sluggish then near her. But she was also whip-smart and kind and wise and thoroughly no-nonsense. And kind.

She was also the best gardener. She had a vested interest – she was also a vegetarian. So it was her beautiful red beets that we harvested. She thought that they’d be easier to chop if they were boiled first – seemed reasonable. Even someone with a small amount (and we had no idea just how small at that time) of time with 17th century recipes knows that they can be frustratingly lacking in real basic details.

Beet boiled, skinned and chopped. A pile of vegetable rubies.

The some grated bread – we were using a cornbread – a skillet cornbread made with sour milk….if it sounds a little frontier, well, that’s another story. Golden-yellow bread crumbs. (Golden yellow breadcrumbs)

As for the cheese, we had been given some chedderish bit, from the local supermarket, a lovely orange shade.

Then we added butter and currents, which were actually raisins; three egg yolks from our hens, fresh laid and the color of the sun; but it didn’t seem like enough to make the quiche like dish we thought we OUGHT to be making, so we adding 4 or 5 other eggs…….

The came the spice, and it all went into a pastry coffin. I’m pretty sure that we baked it in a Dutch oven on the hearth, but we did have an outdoor clay oven then, so if someone else was baking – and we baked pretty much every day back then, we might have thrown it in with the bread, but I don’t think so.

And when it was done – did I mention that we all assumed that since it was a tart, it wouldn’t have a top on? – it was fragrant and truly beautiful. Gloriously striking. A color unlike any other, unless you’ve been a bridemaid in a seventies wedding….

And we had to wonder – if there were instructions to make a tart carry the color white (cream and egg whites) and another for a tart to carry the color yellow (cream and egg yolk, and sometimes saffron) and to carry the color black (prunes, stewed) and green (spinach or other herbs) –



It was delicious, but we decided we needed to do a little more research before trying it again.

Tomorrow – Chapter Two.

Seems like a good time to remind that that subscribers get Pilgrim Seasonings right in their in box, just put your e-mail address in the little space and don’t miss the next episode of

The Secret Life of Beets



October 4th, 2012 by KM Wall

female mallard


male mallard







March 16 Friday 1620/21
“…he [Samoset] asked some beer, but we gave him strong water and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all of which he liked well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English.”
- Mourts, Applewood ed. p. 5.

There are many kinds of ducks. Mallard is one of the first mentioned in the Plymouth sources, and one that’s pretty common – think of Make Way for Ducklings.

female mallard and ducklings

Ducks Unlimited has a great site to identify -with pictures and sound- many of  the various sorts of ducks that John Josslyn mentions (there’s also hunting information on this site, but you can stay with the identification section) at Duck Identification

“There be four sorts of Ducks, a black Duck, a brown Duck like our wild Ducks, a grey Duck, and a great black and white Duck, these frequent Rivers and Ponds; but of Ducks there be many more sorts, as Hounds, old Wives, Murres, Doies,Shell-Drakes,Shoulers or Shoflers, Widgeons, Simps, Teal, Blew wing’d and green wing’d, Divers or Didapers, or Dipchicks,Fenduck, Duckers or Moorhens, Coots, Pochards, a water-fowl like a Duck, Plungeons, a kind of water –fowl with a long reddish Bill, Puets, Plovers, Smethes, Wilmotes, a kind of a Teal, Godwits, Humilities, Knotes, Red-Shankes, Wobbles, Loones, Gulls, White Gulls, or Sea-Cobbs, Caudemandies, Herons, grey Bitterns, Ox-eyes, Birds called Oxen and Keen, Petterels, Kings fishers, which breed in the spring in holes in the Sea-banks, being unapt to propagate in Summer, by reason of the driness of their bodies, which becomes more moist when their pores are closed by the cold. Most of these Fowls and Birds are eatable.”

- 1674 John Jossyln, Two Voyages to New-England, p. 72. Lindholdt ed.

And, of course, a recipe.

From Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from Pilgrim to Pumpkin Pie. Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Plimoth Plantation. Clarkson Potter: New York.2005. pp. 96-7.:

To Boil A wilde Duck.

Trusse and parboyle it, and then halfe roast it, then carve it and save the gravey: take store of Onyons Parsley, sliced Ginger, and Pepper: put the gravie into a Pipkin with washt currins, large Mace, Barberryes, a quart of Claret Wine: let all boyle well together, scumme it cleane, put in Butter and Sugar.

- John Murrell, The Newe Booke of Cookery, 1615

For the Duck:

1 4 to 5 pound duck

2 ½ teaspoons salts

10 black peppercorns

1 medium onion, quartered

Handful of parsley leaves and stalks

3 medium onions, halved vertically, then thinly sliced

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the Sauce:

2 cups red wine

⅓   cup parsley leaves, minced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼  cup dried currants or roughly chopped raisins

2-4 blades of whole mace or ½ teaspoon ground

¼ cup cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

4 Tablespoons (½ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces


Rinse the duck inside and out and rinse any giblets included. Place the duck and giblets (except the liver, which can be reserved for another use) in a pot large enough to accommodate them, along with 2 teaspoons of the salt, the peppercorns, the onion quarters, and parsley leaves and stalks.  Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat so the broth comes to a very low simmer.  Skim off the forth, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Arrange the sliced onions in a 13×9-inch roasting pan. Carefully remove the duck from the broth and reserve the broth. Season the duck inside and out with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the ground pepper and then place it on top of the onions. Roast the duck for 25 minutes, then place it on a carving board and cover loosely with foil.


Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Strain 1 cup of the reserved broth and place in a saucepan along with the onions from the roasting pan, the wine, parsley, ginger, currants, and mace. Boil over medium-high heat until the mixture is reduced by two thirds and attains a syrupy consistency.


When the duck has rested for at least 10 minutes, carve it into serving pieces.  Place the meat on a heated serving platter and cover loosely with foil.


Add any juices given off during carving to the sauce and stir in the cranberries and sugar. Simmer for another 30 seconds, then remove from the heat.  Swirl in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is silky.  Serve the duck immediately, accompanied by the sauce.


Serves 4-6


NOTE: Simmer the leftover defatted duck broth until it is reduced to one quarter; this makes a very useful stock.  Store in the freezer until needed




July 16th, 2012 by Carolyn

When you hear the extraordinary word CHEESECAKE, a lot of us think about New York Cheesecake with strawberries on top or a chocolate drizzle, or this place:





Yes… that place, the one where you eat until you hate yourself, and then you get 3 more slices for the way home.







You read that right, the way home. Apparently our cheesecake loving roots go way back, here in the Colonial Foodways Dept. we have quite a few 17th century cheesecake recipes, including this one…




To make Cheesecakes.

Take 6 quarts of stroakings or new milke & whey it with runnet as for an ordinary cheese, then put it in a streyner & hang it on a pin or else press it with 2 pound weight. then break it very small with your hands or run it through a sive, then put to it 7 or 8 eggs well beaten, 3 quarters of a pound of currans, half a pound of sugar, a nutmeg grated or some cloves & mace beaten, 2 or 3 spoonfuls of rosewater, a little salt. then take a quart of cream, & when it boyl thicken it with grated bread & boyle it very well as thick as for an hasty pudding. then take it from the fire & stir therein halfe a pound of fresh butter, then let it stand until it be almost cold, & then mingle it with your curd very well; then fill your coffins of paste & when they are ready to set into the oven scrape on them some sugar & sprinkle on some rosewater with a feather. If you love good store of currans in them, you may put in a whole pound, & a little sack If you please. & soe bake them.

-Hess, Karen. Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery. C 106.


This is very different from the “traditional” New York Cheesecake, but still absolutely delicious. According to Robert May in his book, The Accomplisht Cook, in 1685, these images below are how you could form your cheesecakes. No pie plates here, they would either be free-form pies, or they would have used a pie mold.



Being the daredevil I am, I chose the triangular option, because when making 17th century cheesecake why would you do it the old boring circle way? Next we need a special occasion to make this, because a treat like this would have been rare in 1627 New Plimoth. Thankfully Mary Warren and Robert Bartlett got married this past Saturday!

Here’s what it looked like coming out of the modern oven….



Our sources say that once presented and shown off you cut it up in lozenges sized pieces and eat!


Those square pieces on their plates are the delectable cheesecake. Photo Courtesy of Miriam Rosenblum

Here's Martha getting her cheesecake fix. Photo Courtesy of Miriam Rosenblum






























A great time was had, and all had good belly cheer.

Eat Like A Pilgrim: Bill of Fare

April 17th, 2012 by KM Wall

and a few other notes…….

There are no forks, just spoons and knives and fingers – be sure to wash you hands before the start of the meal!

Napkins are a good size and belong in your lap, or for the men if they so choose, over the left shoulder.

The table has a tablecloth, because eating off of bare wood is for hogs at a trough.

Salt and bread are placed on first – they are the least hospitality. They will also be the last things removed.
This bread is known as cheate bread. It is made from wheat that hasn’t been sifted; that is, whole wheat flour. In the 17th century there is also white bread (sifted flour) and brown bread (sometimes dried pease or dried beans were ground and added to the unsifted flour). Cheate is the common household bread. In New England cornmeal is added as well as wheat.

A platter of grapes, prunes (dried plums) and cheese are set to daintily eat while conversing.

A sallet of cucumbers is a salad made from cucumbers, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and a little sugar. Salads are more like condiments then side dishes in the 17th century; they add flavor and variety to the meal.

The commonest drink in early New England is water. The Wampanoag name for Plymouth is Patuxet, meaning place of many springs.

Turkey is served with a sauce of onions and breadcrumbs. (Sauce for Turkie)

Squash is served stewed (Stewed Pompion).

Indian Pudding is called that because it uses Indian, or corn meal. (Indian Pudding)


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