Cooking up the past

This past Saturday, January 29th, 2011, we welcomed 12 new participants to our Open Hearth Workshop: Philadelphia Fare. On this particular morning I was making history by purchasing bagels, Philadelphia cream cheese, and Tastykakes at 6:00am! Now that’s dedication to a Philadelphia theme!  

Open hearth participants hard at work

Making history sometimes takes a bit of recreation! One may need a prescription or recipe, or a “receipt” as they were called in the early 19th century, to figure out how to hold a successful workshop that replicates the cooking methods of the past. Here at the Read House and Gardens we have a strong tradition of specializing in hands-on Open Hearth Cooking Workshops, and I would love to take this opportunity to thank my predecessors who held this position and planned workshops over the past 12 years, since 1998 from what I can tell in our filing cabinet!

Speaking of our filing cabinet I would like to share the menus and themes of the past 9 of those years with our readers, for some this may be a walk down Culinary Memory Lane:



  • Reflector Oven Chicken
  • Planked Fish
  • Beef Stew
  • Squash Cakes
  • Succotash
  • Buttermilk Biscuits
  • Apple Desert
  • Ginger Cookies
  • Churned Butter
  • Mulled Wine


  • Loudoun County Oyster Soup
  • Cabbage-Roasted Fish
  • Roast Beef with Potatoes Under
  • Skillet Sausages
  • Treacle Griddle scones
  • Indian Pound Cake
  • Shrewsbury Cakes
  • Pears Stewed with Ginger Root
  • Vanilla Sauce


  • Bean with Ham Hocks Soup
  • Sally Lunn Bread
  • Cloth (Plum) Pudding
  • Rice Pudding
  • Washington Cake
  • Jumbles
  • Quire of Paper Pancakes
  • Bakes Pears
  • Stewed Apples
  • Roasted Pineapple
  • Wine, Lemon, Hared Sauces
  • Freshly Churned Butter

 2005 A Twelfth Night Feast

  • Dried Pea Soup
  • Sally Lunn with Freshly-churned buttr
  • Roast Goose with Mashed Potato Filling
  • A Ragoo of Oysters
  • Cabbage Pudding with Forcemeat
  • Ham with Redeye Gravy
  • Mashed Turnips
  • Skillet Cranberries
  • Twelfth Night Cake
  • Mincemeat Pie
  • Orange Pudding
  • Tout Crop Cakes
  • Wassail
  • Orgeat

 2006 Frequent Fare

  • Mrs. Tebb’s Beef Soup with Bouilli
  • Colonist’s Oyster Pye
  • Mrs. Peyton Randolph’s Wild Duck
  • Battersea Beef Olives
  • Potato Puffs
  • Carrots Dressed the Dutch Way
  • Mrs. Gray’s Light Biscuits with Freshly-churned butter
  • Roasted Apples with whipped cream
  • Mrs. Cringan’s Cheese Cake
  • Dough Nuts- A Yankee Cake
  • Orange Fritters

 2007 A Slice of Summer

  • Hannah Glasse’s Onion Soup
  • Mary Bolling Bannister’s Forced Beef Roast
  • Martha Washington’s Chicken Frykecy
  • Eliza Leslie’s Lettuce Peas
  • Paul Family Pound Cake
  • Queen Cakes
  • Carolina Apple Snowballs
  • Strawberry Fool
  • Lemon Ice Cream
  • Freshly-squeezed Lemonade

 2008 The Cooks Not Mad

  • Mrs. Read’s Potato Soup
  • To Make a Dish of Curry after the East Indian Manner
  • Planked Whole Fish
  • Beef Steaks with Mushroom Catsup
  • Red Cabbage Dressed after the Dutch Way
  • French Beans Dressed the Dutch Way
  • Sally Lunn Bread
  • Indian Pudding
  • Custard Bread Pudding
  • Coconut Pudding
  • Wilmington Cakes

2009 Puddings and Pies

  • Orange Pudding
  • Winter Squash Pudding
  • Sweet Potato Pudding
  • Chicken Pudding
  • Apple Charlotte
  • Yorkshire Pudding and Roasted Beef
  • Yorkshire Pudding and Roasted Beef
  • Fish Pie

 2010 Hutspot at the Smörgåsbord

  • Knackebröd
  • Svensk Salad
  • Fläskkarré
  • Beef á la Lindström
  • Roasted Tail of Pike
  • Vegetable Hutspot or Rotmos
  • Rödkål
  • Fruktsoppa 
  • Shoe-makers Taert
  • Orange Cake            

 As curator of education, it is my pleasure to look to manuscripts and historic cookbooks to find recipes. One recipe that I found at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania was for “Almond Cheesecakes,” in a manuscript cookbook from 1776 owned by Mary Plumstead, it was the typical scrolling handwriting seeping through both sides of the pages, that we historians struggle to transcribe; the receipt lacked measurement and included ingredients like citron that would be substituted with lemon as it is hard to come by a citron in Wilmington, Delaware in the middle of winter. The lack of measurement made for a fun guessing game on our practice run (a session where just Read House cooking staff try out many recipes and narrow down the menu based on taste, variety, pans available, and techniques). Conveniently, at the practice run we measure and test things and make suggestions for amounts to our participant cooks; with Mary Plumstead’s Almond Cheesecakes we wanted a more precise measure of brandy, what is one glass?! I recorded that over 1 cup of brandy should be placed in the cheesecake (as Mrs. Plumstead advised one glass, so surely that would be the measurement, no?! I thought I saw Judy with the measuring cup place in a full cup, no? NO, she placed in ½ a cup! Surely our next Open Hearth Workshop will have a tastier, if not more sober cheesecake to dine upon! Ah, the trials and tribulations of the open hearth cook!

 This is my second year planning the workshop; and I am excited to begin planning for next year, suggestions for themes and resources are all welcome! Please share your memories of the old workshops, items on the menu, or your suggestions for future workshops in the Comments!


8 thoughts on “Cooking up the past

    1. Thank you, Greg! It is a lot of work, but so very rewarding when the participants enjoy the opportunity to utilize the cooking techniques in our perfect setting, not to mention the dining!

  1. Neat-o, Antoinette! Can’t wait for the February 12 class–it will be my 11th one. It’s addictive…such wonderfully tasty food.

  2. Good job Antoinette!! Do you have the recipes for all these menues? Some look pretty filling with much to eat, not to mention the calories. They all sounded like fun, but also lots of work. Carole

    1. Hi Carole!

      I believe that I have all of the recipes from each year. I can email the recipes from the past 3-4 years and send a photocopy of any prior. Just let me know which ones you are interested in!


  3. I absolutely loved the Open Hearth cooking class that I took part in on January 29th! I signed both my mother and sister up to attend this class with me and we all had an amazing time. It was an experience that I will always remember. I plan on attending another in 2012.

  4. Thank you, Nancy! The theme for 2012 is “The Healthy Hearth” and my research begins this summer! I look forward to getting you and fellow past participants registered as soon as we settle on some dates! 🙂

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