Garden Diary - March 2016

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Open Hearth Cooking at Howell Living History Farm
Saturday, 5 March 2016

Mention of another event at Howell Living History Farm today sent me trudging down a muddy lane, across a foot bridge, past the maple syrup sugar shack and over to the Justice John Phillips house, built circa 1765. And very glad I did.

Margaret Quinn is cooking, explaing, and entertaining her enthralled audience.

To my eys, the hearth was apparently whitewashed at some point but is now blackened with soot. Margaret explained that it has a trammel hook (allows the cook to adjust the height of a pot above the fire) but does not have a pot crane. Instead at some point in the past it had a lug-pole, a freshly-cut pole of green wood suspended between two ledges high up in the chimney. Pots and kettles could be hung from the lug-pole, which would periodically need to be replaced when the one in use eventually dried out from the rising heat and became brittle.

She is roasting a spitted chicken on a string. Twist, it rotates, winds itself up and then unwinds while rotating in the opposite direction. It is not the flames that cook it, but the heat given off by the glowing coals. Fat drips into the cast iron pan set below it. Do you think this would be more of a rural technique or something for town? Don't know why but I assume in town the cook would use a tin reflector oven.

Busy at her work, Margaret is making what she amuses the children by calling "frog soup!" The winter has been mild enough that the spinach plants not only survived, they are a good size. Diced mushrooms and onion, sauteed. Mixed with fine crumbs rasped off stale bread and bound with an egg. A spoonful rolled in a bright green spinach leaf, then gently poached in a little rich vegetable broth. Delicious!

The large Dutch oven on the hearth is filled with lard. Now heated, and with the oliebollen yeast dough sufficiently risen, it is flicked by spoonfuls into the hot fat, to fry golden brown.

Dusted with nutmeg and a little sugar they are a flavorful treat.

For a more "modern" winter kitchen event go to the Winter Kitchen

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