It’s going to be a cold and possibly snowy weekend come the February muster. I want to make some 18th century rib sticking faire and what coukd be better than roasted chicken and dumplings. I found this wonderful blog about the subject and can’t resist reprinting it here.

Thehistoricfoodie's Blog

During the first Great Depression, (as opposed to the one we’re enjoying now), dumplings were a Southern staple.  The dumplings were pretty much the same, but the meat in the pot varied from the standard chicken to squirrel, rabbit, bits of ham, and whatever else happened to be available.  They were basic but filling.

Our 18th century ancestors enjoyed them for the same reasons our grandparents did – they were inexpensive, filling, and could be made quickly with whatever tidbits the cook had at her disposal.

John Day referenced eating a dish of dumplings in 1608 but gave no indication of how they were prepared, and diarist Samuel Pepys did not fail to mention dumplings with a boiled calves head in 1663.  (In the days when no part of the animal was wasted heads routinely went into the pot)

H. Pitman who referred to himself and his brother as…

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If barley be wanting to make into malt,
We must be content and think it no fault,
For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.

English ditty, 1630

George Washington’s recipe for Small beer from his notebook

Wandering around the internet, I came upon George Washington’s recipe for small beer. He wrote the receipt in his notebook in 1757 while he was a colonel in the Virginia Militia. I guess being a young guy with a dry whistle, he was fiddling around trying to come up with a decent daily beer.  Of course as a whiskey maker, Washington had no peer, owning one of  the most productive  whiskey distilleries in Virginia. As a general,  Washington boosted his troops’ morale with a daily ration of rum. “The benefits arising from the moderate use of strong Liquor,” he explained, “have been experienced in all Armies and are not to be disputed.”

If someone in the militia is intrepid, perhaps he (or she) might want to try this receipt and share the product with the rest of us. I found this receipt at the New York Public Library


To make Small Beer

Take a large Sifter full of Bran Hops to your Taste. “” Boil these 3 hours. Then strain out 30 Gallons into a Cooler, put in 3 Gallons Molasses while the Beer is scalding hot or rather drain the molasses into the Cooler & strain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. Let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm. Then put in a quart of Yeast if the weather is very cold, cover it over with a Blanket & let it work in the Cooler 24 hours. Then put it into the Cask “” leave the Bung[hole] open till it is almost done working “” Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.

George Washington. “To Make Small Beer.” From Washington’s Notebook as a Virginia Colonel, 1757.
The New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division.

Let us sing our own treasures, Old England’s good cheer,
To the profits and pleasures of stout British beer;
Your wine tippling, dram sipping fellows retreat,
But your beer drinking Britons can never be beat.
The French with their vineyards and meager pale ale,
They drink from the squeezing of half ripe fruit;
But we, who have hop-yards to mellow our ale,
Are rosy and plump and have freedom to boot.

Source: English drinking song, circa 1757

Sherri Hyder. Premier Colonial Chef

Sherri sent these colonial recipes for Rabbit made in the colonial kitches. Sounds very interesting.

Jugged Hare or Rabbit

Cut into Joints one Hare or two Rabbits.  Dust with Flour and fry until brown.  Put into Stew-Pan and add-one onion, one Turnip, two Celery Stalks, small Bunch of Parsley, small slice of Lemon-rind, two cloves, two Bay-leaves, one Blade of Mace, three Peppercorns, one half Teaspoon salt.  Fill Stew-pan with boiling Broth and simmer for three Hours.  When cooked, take out Pieces of Meat and keep hot.   Make Force-meat Balls of the following – four Tablespoons Breadcrumbs, one and a half Tablespoons ground Suet, one teaspoon parsley, one half teaspoon each of Thyme and Marjoram, pinch of powdered Mace, one half teaspoon grated Lemon, Salt and Pepper to taste, four Tablespoons chopped Ham or Veal.  Mix well, moisten with Broth and add one Egg, well beaten.  Roll in flour and cook in boiling Broth for fifteen Minutes.  Skim out and set aside with meat to keep hot.  Thicken Gravy with Flour, pounded Livers and one Tablespoon red Currant Jelly, Juice of one lemon, two wine glasses of red Wine (preferably Port).  Parboil and skin one cup of chestnuts.  Heat all together very thoroughly with Meat, Force-meat and serve.  (Old recipe, c-1780, Richmond, Va) from The Williamsburg Art of Cookery


Forcemeat (Forced Meat, Faracement):  Meat chopped fine, spiced, and highly seasoned, chiefly used for stuffing or as a garnish”  Forced meat was quite basic to 17th and 18th century cooking.  The meat was commonly veal but beef, lamb, fowl, tongue, or even pigeon’s livers were also used. “THE BACKCOUNTRY HOUSEWIFE” by Kay Moss and Kathryn Hoffman

Stewed Rabbit

Cut up rabbit and wash it.  Put it in a Stew-pan and season with Salt and Pepper.  Pour in half a Pint of Water, and when this has nearly stewed away, add half a Pint of Port wine, two or three blades of Mace, and a Tablespoonful of flour mixed with a  quarter pound of Butter.  Let it stew gently till quite tender, and the serve hot. (Traditional Virginia Recipe, Prov’d Brookbury, 1938)  from THE WILLIAMSBURG ART OF COOKERY


Cut it in little pieces, lard them here and there with little slips of bacon, season them with a very little Pepper and Salt, put them into an earthen Jugg, with a blade or two of Mace, an Onion stuck with Cloves, and a Bundle of Sweet Herbs; cover the Jugg or Jar you do it in, so close, that nothing can get in, then set it in a pot of boiling Water, keep the Water boiling, and three Hours will do it; then turn it out into the dish, and take out the Onion and Sweet Herbs, and send it to the Table hot.  THE ART OF COOKERY MADE PLAIN & EASY, Hannah Glaasse, 1747

Notes:  can drizzle with wine, and can stir midway through the cooking time.

Larding meat – To cut small incisions in the meat and put in a fat meat to give a lean meat more flavor and fat.

Fricassee:  This Favourite Sauce

“Meats, especially chicken and rabbit, were commonly fricasseed – simmered in gravy until tender and savory. “  THE BACKCOUNTRY HOUSEWIFE


                “Take 2 chickens, or rabbits, skin them and cut them into little pieces lay them in warm water to drain out the blood them lay them in a clean cloth to dry then put them into a stew pan with milk and water Stew them till they are tender then take them out with a fork and strain the liquor, then put them into the pan again half a pint of the liquor & an half a pint of the cream the yolks of 2 eggs half a nutmeg a glass of white wine & a piece of butter rolled in flower keep stirring all together one way..  Stockton ms. (1762-?), Princeton, N.J.”

“You may follow the good advice offered in Maria Rundell’s discussion of this favorite sauce… Yolk of egg is often used in fricassee, but if you have any cream it is better (thickened only with flour)… the former is apt to curdle.”  THE BACKCOUNTRY HOUSEWIFE by Kay Moss and Kathryn Hoffman

Food City had a wonderful sale on Veal chops. I’m not a real fan of veal. My mother made veal scallopini a few years back and I told her it was terrific chicken. She was not happy. Since she likes veal , though, I bought them and looked for a colonial recipe to try. I found a doozy.It’s from the King’s Arms Tavern in Williamsburg. The thyme is beginning to freshen in my little garden and as I like thyme, I doubled this ingredient.  I found the dish to be simple and elegant and excellent with wild rice and fresh greens.

– from King’s Arms Tavern
Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia

Serves 4


  • 4 loin veal chops (10 ounces each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (leave very small mushrooms whole)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup Port
  • ½ cup veal or beef stock


  1. Season the veal chops with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the veal chops, being careful not to crowd the pan, and sear the chops on both sides until brown. Remove the chops from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the celery to the pan, and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and thyme to the pan, and saute for 3 additional minutes. Deglaze the pan with the Port and stock. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Return the veal chops to the pan, and braise uncovered, turning once, for a total of 5 to 8 minutes, or until the chops  reach desired color. Serve immediately, with the vegetables on top.