June:  “In early summer, every green thing grew very quickly.  The garden lush and full.  In the fields, the corn stood sturdy and tall.  In the woods, the blackberries were ripe and, at the dinner meal, bowls of blackberries and fresh cream were served.  The kitchen was filled with the sweet, syrupy smell of blackberries as the women made blackberry pie and blackberry cobbler, blackberry pudding, and blackberry jam to spread on hard biscuits. For a special treat, Ma mixed a syrup of blackberry juice, vinegar, and precious white sugar and mixed it with cool spring water for the refreshing drink called blackberry shrub.” (By the Seasons) By the Seasons, Cookery at the Homeplace, 1850, TVA’s Living History Farm, Golden Pond, Kentucky



I love blackberries; I think everybody must. Those little black bursts of sweet and tart just explode in the mouth. Last month I found delicious ,.fresh blackberries at Farmer John’s and decided to make blackberry dumplings.

  • 1 quart blackberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or less depending  on how sweet you like the syrup)
  • 12teaspoon salt
  • 12teaspoon lemon zest and a tbs butter
  • Dumplings

  • 1 1cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2teaspoons baking powder
  • 1tablespoon sugar
  • 14teaspoon salt
  • 14teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 23cup milk

Cooking the blackberries:Add all ingredients to a pot and boil gently until the blackberries are tender and juicy.

To make the dumplings: sift together the first 4 ingredients. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the milk.

Bring the blackberries to a simmer and drop in the dumplings by the tablespoon. Do not stir. Cover and cook about 15 minutes until the dumplings are done.


Chocolate Stout Cake

Chocolate Stout Cake

I love King Arthur flour and subscribe to their website for recipes. Back a few months ago, there was a recipe for CHOCOLATE STOUT CAKE and I made it with the American heritage chocolate that is sold at the Visitor’s Center. I made it as a bundt cake and small cake as there was LOT of batter and covered it over with a chocolate ganache glaze that I made on site. The recipe actually makes enough for two to three layers but as this was part of my cooking demo for Trade Days back in sub- zero February, I made a cake I could manage inside the cabin. A few days before the muster, I had told Doug Ledbetter about this recipe and he made it as a Black Forest Cake with strawberry and homemade whipped cream filling and we swapped samples. He didn’t use the Heritage chocolate and while there was a slight difference in flavor, it wasn’t so much that a person would know one from the other.

Altogether, this cake was a winner no matter how you make it. The stout comes through when you eat it warm but once cool, it’s a moist, rich cake with chocolatey goodness and a little bit of “What else do I taste?” I would absolutely make this again with an Irish Cream Frosting.

Here’s the recipe.

Stout and other dark beers are often described as having chocolatey overtones, so this combination might not be as far-fetched as one might initially think. The flavor of this cake is multi-dimensional: the presence of the stout gives it a much more interesting finish; the hops from the beer act as a counterpoint to the sugar in the cake. It’s an incredibly moist cake, too, and its rich, dark color comes mostly from the beer. This recipe makes two tall, imposing layers; be sure your 9″ cake pans are at least 2″ tall, or use 10″ pans if you have them. For a smaller dessert, see the bottom tip, at right.

Hands-on time: 25 mins. to 35 mins.
Baking time: 45 mins. to 50 mins.
Total time: 1 hrs 10 mins. to 1 hrs 25 mins.
Yield: 1 large cake, 16 servings


2 cups stout or dark beer, such as Guinness (ED NOTE: I made sure it was flat and room temperature before I used it.)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
frosting ED NOTE: delicious for St Patrick Day but I also included frosting made with Bailey’s Irish Cream as well.

1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
tips from our bakers
If you’re using salted butter, decrease the salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon.
If you’re buying Guinness in cans (they list 14.9 ounces on the label), use 1 can and make up the difference in volume with water.
If you’re making 2 layers, be sure your 9″ cake pans are at least 2″ deep. If they aren’t that tall, use three 8″ layers instead
The batter for this cake weighs 5 pounds, 15 ounces or 95 ounces. If you have a scale, a two layer cake should have 2 pounds, 15 1/2 ounces of batter in each pan. For a 3 layer cake, each layer should weigh 1 pound, 15 1/2 ounces.
If you have access to chocolate disks or chips that are pure chocolate, they’ll melt more quickly when making the frosting. We used a bit of leftover tempered chocolate in the photos for this recipe. (Ed. Note: You can temper chocolate to make it shiny by adding a small amount – 1/4 block of paraffin. I use beeswax, myself)
For a somewhat less imposing (smaller) cake, downsize the ingredients as follows: 1 1/2 cups each beer and butter; 1 cup cocoa; 3 cups each flour and sugar; 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder; 1 teaspoon salt; 3 large eggs; 2/3 cup sour cream. Bake in two 9″ round pans, at 350°F, for 35 minutes. Frost with Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting, with the optional espresso powder added. This downsized version also makes 30 standard-size cupcakes; bake them for 18 to 22 minutes, then remove from the oven, cool, and frost.


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8″ or two 9″ cake pans, and line them with parchment paper circles. Be sure your 9″ pans are at least 2″ deep.

2. For the cake: Place the stout and butter in a large, heavy saucepan, and heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the cocoa powder.

3. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

4. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

5. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream.

6. Add the stout-cocoa mixture, mixing to combine.

7. Add the flour mixture and mix together at slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again for 1 minute.

8. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans. (See tips section for hints on weighing out the batter if you have a kitchen scale.)

9. Bake the layers for 35 minutes for 8″ pans, or 45 to 50 minutes for 9″ pans, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out of their pans and returning to the rack to finish cooling completely before frosting.

10. For the frosting: Place the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan.

11. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the mixture is completely smooth.

12. Stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate until the icing is spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

13. To assemble: Trim one cake layer to have a flat top, if necessary (otherwise the layer will crack when you place it upside down on your cake plate).

14. Line the edges of a serving plate with parchment or waxed paper to keep it clean, and then place the layer upside down on top. Spread 2/3 cup of the icing over just the top of the layer.

15. Top with another cake layer, top side down, and repeat the process. If you baked three layers, add that one also.

16. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Remove the parchment or waxed paper. Sprinkle with shamrock sugar decorations, if you have them.

If you want to see pictures, check out their website:


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
3 -4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, blend together cream cheese, butter, and Bailey’s. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well until it’s all incorporated. Use immediately. The frosting will harden in the fridge, so plan on bring it back to room temperature if you must refrigerate it before frosting

Orange slices after 4 boilings, being candied with sugar and water.

Orange slices after 4 boilings, being candied with sugar and water.

I have read that candied citrus peels was a very popular confection of the 18th century. Certainly, there are quite a few recipes that call for candied peel but you can’t buy them . Because they were period candy, I decided to make them with what was left of about 9  navel oranges I had left from Old Christmas.I peeled all of the oranges and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge for a few days. This way, I was able to cut much more of the white away without ripping the skin and it made this batch oh so much  than others I had made. The recipe for candying goes as follows:

9 oranges ( or less) , scrubbed, peeled into quarters

4 cups granulated sugar, divided

1 cup water

Remove as much of the pith as possible and cut into 1/4 inch strips. Put them in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil them 15 minutes, Drain and rinse. repeat this process 4 times as it removes the oils that make them bitter.

While you are doing this, mix 3 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water, bring this to a boil , then lower to medium and stir. This makes a simple syrup and is slightly thick.

After the last boil, add the rinsed skins to the syrup and bring back up to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

In the 18th century, they let the slices steep in the syrup for a day or two so I took them out of the pot and put them in a non reactive crock for two days.

After two days, I drained the slices and spread them out of drying racks with parchment paper underneath to catch the drips. I laid waxed paper over the racks as the slices need to dry for 3 days total. On day two into the drying, while they were still tacky, I put a cup of sugar in a pan and rolled the slices in the sugar to cover them on both sides and let them dry for the final day. When they were dry, I put them in a sealed plastic container and they will keep for months.

I have made orange cookies with Triple Sec instead of vanilla and the candied peels chopped up in the food processor and they were delicious. I found an interesting recipe from the HISTORY IS SERVED site of Colonial Williamsburg that I would like to try. It’s called “TO MAKE ORANGE LOAVES” and is a different  take on candied peels.

A totally different approach to cake and fruit. Sugary and rich, this recipe reverses the practice of mixing candied fruit into cake, instead putting cake into candied fruit.

18th Century

Take your orange, and cut a round hole in the top, take out all the meat, and as much of the white as you can, without breaking the skin; then boil them in water till tender, shifting the water till it is not bitter, then take them up and wipe them dry; then take a pound of fine sugar, a quart of water (or in proportion to the oranges), boil it, and take off the scum as it rises; then put in your oranges, and let them boil a little, and let them lie a day or two in the syrup; take the yolks of two eggs, a quarter of a pint of cream (or more), beat them well together, then grate in two Naples biscuits, or white bread, a quarter of a pound of butter, and four spoonfuls of sack; mix it altogether till your butter is melted, then fill the oranges with it, and bake them in a slow oven as long as you would a custard, then stick on some citron, and fill them up with sack, butter and sugar grated over.

Glasse, Hannah, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple,” 1796.

21st Century

  • 6 medium oranges
  • 1 lb. sugar
  • 1 quart water
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 4 oz. cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp. sherry
  • Sponge cakes or white bread — the equivalent of two large muffins in size
  • For topping: 3 oz. each of citron and candied orange peel and a sauce of 2 Tbsp. each of Sherry, melted butter and sugar heated and mixed together.
  1. Take your oranges and cut off the tops of each about one fifth the way down from the stem.
  2. Scoop out the inside of the orange as best you can including the white. If you use a small tea spoon and hold the orange in your palm, it will be easier to scrape it out.
  3. Boil the orange shells and lids in the water until tender but not folding or falling apart.
  4. Take them out, let them cool some and pat them dry gently with a cloth.
  5. Take half or more of the water the oranges were boiled in, add the sugar and bring to a boil in a medium stew pan.
  6. While it is boiling add the orange shells and lids and let them boil a few minutes.
  7. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool.
  8. Put the oranges and water in a covered container and set them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to saturate with the syrup, stirring them a couple of times a day.
  9. When they have saturated you are ready to fill them.
  10. In a mixing bowl, beat your eggs very well, add the cream, cake crumb, butter and sherry. Mix this together well with a spoon.
  11. Gently fill your orange shells with this “cake” mixture.
  12. Bake the oranges and their lids in a 350° oven for close to half an hour or more. They should not get dark brown on the outside, but a deeper orange color. The “cake” should bake as well.
  13. After coming from the oven, place the chopped citron and candied orange peel on top of each cake. After heating up the sherry, butter and sugar sauce spoon that over each cake to let it soak in. Send them to the table with lids on or next to them on the plate.

Ivan Day, noted expert wrote a wonderful article about the confectionary arts . It definitely bears reading.

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Chad Bogart, Jason and J.C. savoring my delicious APPLE DUMPLINGS.

Every month I try to make something special for the members of the militia and the last thing that curled their toes was APPLE DUMPLINGS. Hannah Glasse, my go-to gal, had a lovely receipt that I adapted just a little. I guess one could say I made it “another way”. She writes:

“Make a good paste, pare some large apples, cut them in quarters and take out the cores very nicely. take a pievce of crust and roll it round enough for one apple. If they be 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 your apples be large, they will take about 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.”

That was a good start so I made a sweet paste of 2 cups sifted flour, 1/4 cp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup softened butter and the same of lard, 1 egg and milk enough to moisten . I peeled and cored 6 smallish gala apples, rubbed them down with brown sugar and butter and stuffed them with a mixture of butter, brown sugar, raisins and nuts. I wrapped each one in paste just like Hannah said. Instead of boiling them, however, i baked them in a dutch oven for about 45 minutes and OH MY GOD! they were Beautiful!!! The crown was making a sauce of sugar, port and butter and pouring it over each serving. LIP MAKING GOOD!!!

Fig Cookie : Cuchidahti (picture courtesy of Italian Desserts)

I know, I know; I hear you thinking “This is the 18th century frontier. There’s no Italians, no Bufana, no St Francis of Assisi live nativity scene (well, Martin Luther liked  the idea and made it his own so maybe there’s a little bit of a connection). I made some cuchidahti tonight and it reminded me of my Great Aunt Rose’s cookies. Here’s how it goes:

Ingredients: (makes about 3 doz. You will have left over filling and will probably need to make another batch of dough but you can always turn left over dough to sugar cookies .

Pastry dough:

2 large eggs at room temp

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp lemon zest, the same of orange zest (I use tangerine)

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (if you’re thinking of fat, use 1 stick margarine and half stick butter), room temp


9 ounces dried mission figs (Dole- about a bag and a half), stems discarded

1/2 cp raisins

3/4 cp honey

1/3 cp orange juice OR one whole orange cut into pieces, skin and all (I do the latter)

1 tbs nutmeg  (some people use cinnamon instead- your preference)

1 tsp lemon zest grated

1/4 cp Amaretto or light rum (if orange juice, reduce to a glug; if whole orange, go with the 1/4 cp)

1 cp chopped walnuts or hazelnuts

1 large egg, beaten for egg wash

To make:

The dough: Wisk eggs and vanilla in a bowl to blend. Mix the flour, sugar, the zests, and salt in a large bowl. Chunk out the butter and add , rubbing it into the flour until the butter is small and grainy. Add the egg mixture and mix with a fork until the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a ball ;it will be kind of dry at first but will incorporate as the butter disperses. Divide the dough into 2  and flatten into disks- wrap with plastic and refridge for an hour.


The Filling: Add the figs, orange chunks, raisins to food processor and pulse to finely chop. Pulse in spices, honey, rum or Amaretto and orange juice (if using). Scrape the paste into a bowl and stir in the nuts.


Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. You’ll be baking one sheet at a time on the middle shelf.

Roll 1 disc of dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 + inch thick. Cut with 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Refridge the scraps while you assempble the cookies. Wash with egg and put  a small spoonful of fig in the middle. Fold the dough over and pinch to seal.  Don’t worry about fig over flow- just clean up the edges. Brush egg over tops and  Bake about 18 minutes until pale golden brown. While the first sheet is baking, Repeat the process with the 2nd disc and scraps.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack.  Some people make a confectioner’s sugar glaze and drizzle over them and then use colored sugar or sprinkles but I like them plain as the pastry is delicious and the sweet of the fig and honey is just enough.

Before you read about Hasty and Figgy Pudding, click here to get you in the mood:

Merry Christmas, figgy pudding and all!

Hasty Pudding and Figgy Pudding were used interchangeably in the  “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” carol. This is from the Jane Austen cookbook.

Break an egg into fine flour, and with your hand work up as much as you can into as stiff a paste as possible [the size of the egg and dryness of the flour make it impossible to give quantities, but go on adding flour till the egg rubs into fine crumbs].  Add milk boiling, and put in a little salt, some rose water, or orange-flower water, a few drops put to your taste, some butter, and keep stirring all one way till it is thick as you would have it, pour it oute and when it is in the dishe stick it all over with littel bits of butter, and beaten cinnamon over.�


Sweet and Steamy Christmas Pudding aka Figgy Pudding


Snipped Calymyrna figs.
Snipped Calymyrna figs.
For a dramatic presentation, you can serve the Christmas pudding aflame.

 For a dramatic presentation, set a match to the finished Christmas pudding …
For a dramatic presentation, you can serve the Christmas pudding aflame.
And serve it aflame.

 And serve it aflame.
And serve it aflame.

Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking: From My Home to Yours, created this recipe for figgy Christmas pudding for All Things Considered.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

12 plump dried Calymyrna figs, snipped into small pieces

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dark rum

1/3 cup cognac or brandy

1/2 cup raisins

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 (packed) cup brown sugar

2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (made from about 8 inches of baguette)

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup dried cherries

1 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup brandy, cognac or rum, to flame the pudding (optional)

Softly whipped, lightly sweetened heavy cream, vanilla ice cream or applesauce, homemade or store-bought, for serving (optional)

Getting ready:  You’ll need a tube pan with a capacity of 8 to 10 cups — a Bundt or Kugelhopf pan is perfect here — and a stock pot that can hold the pan. (If you’ve got a lobster pot, use that; it’ll be nice and roomy.) Put a double thickness of paper toweling in the bottom of the pot — it will keep the pudding from jiggling too much while it’s steaming. Spray the tube pan with cooking spray, then butter it generously, making sure to give the center tube a good coating.

Put the figs and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and, keeping an eye on the pan, cook until the water is almost evaporated. Add the cognac or brandy, rum and raisins and bring the liquids back to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, make sure it’s in an open space, have a pot cover at hand and, standing back, set the liquid aflame. Let the flames burn for 2 minutes, then extinguish them by sealing the pan with the pot cover. For a milder taste, burn the rum and brandy until the flames die out on their own. Set the pan aside uncovered.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt and keep at hand.

Working in a mixing bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs and brown sugar together until well blended. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the bread crumbs, followed by the melted butter and the fig mixture (liquids included). Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and gently mix them in — you’ll have a thick batter. Fold in the cherries and cranberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Set the pan into the stock pot and fill the pot with enough hot water to come one-half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the baking pan. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot tightly with foil and the lid.

Lower the heat so that the water simmers gently, and steam the pudding for 2 hours. (Check to make sure that the water level isn’t getting too low; fill with more water, if necessary.) Carefully remove the foil sealing the pot — open the foil away from you to protect your arms and face — and then take off the foil covering the pan. To test that the pudding is done, stick a skewer or thin knife into the center of the pudding — the skewer or knife should come out dry.

To remove the pudding from the pan (a tricky operation), I find it easiest to carefully empty the water into the sink, and then carefully ease the baking pan out on its side. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the pudding cool for 5 minutes. Detach the pudding from the sides of the pan using a kitchen knife, if necessary, then gently invert it onto the rack. Allow the pudding to cool for 30 minutes.

If you’d like to flame the pudding — nothing’s more dramatic — warm 1/3 cup of brandy, cognac or rum in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour the warm liquid over the top of the pudding, and then, taking every precaution that Smokey Bear would, set a match to the alcohol. When the flames die out, cut the pudding into generous pieces. Actually, there’s so much fruit in the pudding, the only way to cut neat slices is to make the slices generous.

Serve the pudding with whipped cream, ice cream or applesauce.

Alternatively, you can cool the pudding completely, wrap it very well in several layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. When you are ready to serve, butter the pan the pudding was cooked in, slip the pudding back into the pan, seal the pan with foil, and re-steam for 45 minutes.


Apple Tansey

from The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished
Gentlewoman’s Companion
by E. Smith, published in London, 1754.


To make an Apple Tansey,
Take three pippins, slice them round in thin slices, and fry them with butter; then beat four eggs, with six spoonfuls of cream, a little rosewater, nutmeg, and sugar; stir them together, and pour it over the apples; let it fry a little, and turn it with a pye-plate. Garnish with lemon and sugar strew’d over it.

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