Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ben Franklin's Top Ten Food Connections

We can learn a lot about Benjamin Franklin just reading about the food (and drink) he enjoyed. At every era in Franklin's life, there is a food connection that provides insight.

In 1723 Boston-raised runaway Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia as an ill-dressed seventeen-year old. He walked the streets looking for work and lodging and he was first noticed by Deborah Read, the woman he would marry seven years later. At the time he was carrying loaves of bread tucked under his arms. He had expected to purchase a few pocket-sized biscuits, instead he had been amazed at how much his few coins would buy. Find a link to Ben's Boston biscuit here.

On his first trip to London (1724-26) journeyman printer Benjamin was called the "water American" by his fellow workers because he wouldn't drink beer for breakfast as they did. He persuaded some of them to join him for healthy meals of hot cereal instead as a way to save money and be stronger.

Franklin devised 200 terms for drunkenness including "Bewitched" and "As Dizzy as a Goose." He printed them as The Drinker's Dictionary in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1727. Throughout his life he  enjoyed wine and punch. Near the end of his life he reflected: "For my own part I find I love company, chat, a laugh, a glass and even a song as well as ever and at the same time relish better than I used to do the grave observations and wise sentence of old men's conversations." Perhaps his most famous quotations about alcohol is commonly quoted as being about beer. Actually he wrote about wine: "Behold the ran which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy."Click here for the post with an excellent alcoholic punch

During the 1740s Franklin tested his electrical theories and the power of electricity on chickens and turkeys, converting the fowls to dinner. He claimed that those birds "ate more tender than usual." For a tasty Franklin-era turkey hash follow this link.

When Benjamin Franklin led troops during the French and Indian War in a 1756 action in northeastern Pennsylvania, his wive Deborah sent delicious dishes including roast beef, veal, and minced pie for him to share with his fellow officers.

Franklin wrote three dozen sayings about food in his Poor Richard's Almanacs over the 25 years he wrote and published the annual book. Most of them, such as "To lengthen thy life, lessen they meals" focused on temperance and moderation.

Franklin recognized the cultural and personal value of growing food. He made it an important part of his vision for the institution that would become the University of Pennsylvania. The students should be taught "everything that is useful" including "a little gardening, planting, grafting, inoculating, &c. to be taught and practiced."

During his years as a representative of the Pennsylvania colony in London (1757 to 1775) Franklin cooked his own breakfast hot cereal and chocolate in small pots on top of the heating stove in his rooms. He even had a special pot designed for stove-top cooking of a chicken. He liked it so much that he had it brought to him surreptitiously from England to France during the American Revolution. His wive Deborah sent a wide variety of American foods for Benjamin to enjoy in London-- smoked venison, hams, cornmeals and flour, apples, and cranberries. Here's a link to a delicious, easy cranberry pie.

Franklin's French household accounts for 1783 show that he entertained, or at least was feeding, a lot of people. Among the more than 150 different kinds of fresh foods purchased there were dozens of different kinds of fruits and vegetables. The butcher's bill accounted for 9,162 pounds of beef. They purchased at least a chicken a day. And the kitchen bought 2,330 apples, one of Franklin's favorite fruits.

In 1785 diplomatic hero Benjamin Franklin returned from France to the now United Sates of America.  Two years later follow attendees to the 1787 Constitutional Convention cooled off from the heat of the summer and discussions with casual refreshments under his garden's huge mulberry tree.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Ben Franklin's Super Dishes Bowl You Over with Big Game Taste.

Boston of Philadelphia?
Which of his hometown teams 
would Ben Franklin have chosen? 

The Winner was Philadelphia. 
As the eagles soared to
a closely fought victory. 

Benjamin Franklin about age 50 when he
served the British Army

Benjamin could cheer for Patriots.
After all Boston was where he was born and lived until he was 17.

Or the Eagles might be the natural choice.
Franklin was perhaps the most prominent Philadelphian before, during, and after the American Revolution.

Whichever team he might cheer for Benjamin Franklin certainly would be a convivial host.

Franklin enjoyed wine, beer, punch, and good eating throughout his life. During the early days of the French and Indian War,  Ben and his son William equipped the picky-eating British officers for "tailgating" with meals on the go.  He made up special saddle-bag picnics which the red-coated troopers could eat as their wagons, cannon, and men moved through the Pennsylvania wilderness.

Those saddlebag rations included ham, cheeses, pickles, mustard, biscuits to supplement the cornmeal and preserved "cold cuts" of the day-to-day rations.

Perfect foods for Franklin Game Day Menu:
See recipes below or click through links.

18th Century Corn Cakes (recipe below) with Pulled Pork
Meat and Cheese Tray with Ben's Boston Biskets
Tasty Stuffed Pork Loin (recipe below)
Super Meat Balls (recipe below)
Cranberry Tart
Arrack Punch
       Franklin believed in drinking alcohol in moderation.
       A little of this tasty punch goes a long way.

These easily made corn cakes are a delicious Franklin-era treat that
fit right in to our tailgating and game day snacks

18th Century Corn Cakes 

1 cup water
1/4 cup cornmeal--regular, stone or coarsely ground
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon flour
1 large egg, well beaten
up to another tablespoon water  if necessary

Note: there isn't any leavening in this recipe

In a medium saucepan bring the water to a slow boil. Gently and very gradually sprinkle in the cornmeal and salt, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer until the water is completely absorbed, stirring frequently. Coarsely ground meal will take longer to absorb the water. Set aside to cool. Stir in the flour followed by the beaten egg. Add more water bit by bit if batter seems too stiff. Drop batter onto hot griddle as for pancakes. Cook until the bottom side is browned and the top looks dry. Flip and continue cooking until browned on both sides.

These delicious cakes have a soft interior and are wonderful hot off the griddle or at room temperature as a wrap for pulled pork or other meats.

Makes 8 4-inch cakes.

Adapted from Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, 1796

Tasty roast pork loin is stuffed with mixture
of parsley sage, mace, nutmeg and pepper.

Ben Franklin's Super Game Stuffed Pork Roast

3-4 pound boneless center cut pork loin -- about 3 inches in diameter
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley ( or 2 tablespoons dry)
1/2 cup minced fresh sage (or 2 tablespoons dried rubbed sage -- not ground)
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 slices uncooked bacon, minced
1 cup water
1 cup white wine 
1/4 cup vinegar
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup mild molasses for glaze

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the parsley, sage, pepper, mace, and nutmeg.  Add the bacon and mix well. 

Cut a spiral into the meat so that it will look like a jelly roll when finished. Start at the long side of the loin and make a slice about an inch deep all the way down the length of the meat. Turning the loin as you cut to keep the one-inch thickness, continue slicing into the interior of the meat so that you end up with a flat piece of meat. Spread the herb, spice, and bacon mixture on to the now flattened pork roast. Roll the meat back up and tie with 100% cotton kitchen sting.

Line a 9-by13-inch baking pan with a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Put the meat in the middle of the foil. Add water, wine, vinegar and bay leaves. Carefully bring up the sides of the foil, sealing the meat in a foil packet.

Bake until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 155 degrees F. about 35 to 40 minutes per pound. Check with a meat thermometer.

Turn off oven and preheat broiler on low. Make a glaze by mixing 1/2 cup of the cooking juices with 1/2 cup molasses. Discard the rest of the cooking liquid or reserve to moisten meat if desired. Pour the glaze over the meat. Return to oven about 8 inches below the pre-heated broiler. Cook until the roast is lightly browned.  Watch carefully as the molasses mixture can burn quickly. Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Adapted from "How to Collar a Pig" Eliza Smith, The Complete Housewife, Williamsburg Edition, 1742.

Super Meatballs

2 large egg yolks lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound coarsely ground beef, 80% lean
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for coating
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl combing egg yolks and seasonings. In a large bowl add this spice egg mixture to the ground beaf and mix. Form into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Roll them in flour and shake off the excess. Place on the prepared baking sheet, spray lightly with more cooking spray, and bake until lightly browned about 15 to 20 minutes..

Makes about 2 dozen meatballs, each about 1 inch in diameter.

Serve with cole slaw and dressing made from mayonnaise, which was unknown in Franklin's kitchen, to mimic an 18th-Century cooked sauce.

Meatball Sauce 

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated horseradish
dash nutmeg

Mix together and use as a spread or dipping sauce for meatballs. Store unused sauce in the refrigerator.

Adapted from "Forcemeant," Joan Doak manuscript, The Art of Cookery, 1762

Copyright Rae Katherine Eighmey 2018 All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Resolutions Benjamin Franklin's Way

Chestnuts, shown here roasting on an open fire, were some of the pounds
of delicious foods Benjamin Franklin's French kitchen ordered up for the
holiday season celebrations at the end of the American Revolution

As he had for the preceding seven years, Benjamin Franklin spent Christmas 1783 in France.  Franklin and his guests would have been in high spirits. The peace treaty ending the American Revolution had been signed by all parties. Soon the nation's first diplomat and his grandsons Benny and Temple would be able to return to the rest of the family in Philadelphia.

On an earlier trans-Atlantic journey from London, 23-year old Benjamin Franklin considered the errors, not the successes of his life so far. He used the two-month voyage to take stock. From that contemplation he drew up what came to be called his Book of Virtues -- a daily checklist of thirteen areas of behavior. At first he made his tallying checkmarks in a paper notebook. However, rotating through the pages every thirteen weeks, the paper began to wear out as he erased his entries to start his notations anew. Recognizing that this would be a lifelong practice, Franklin purchased a memorandum book with ivory pages. He inscribed his goals with ink making them permanent and he then could continue marking his daily accomplishments, or failures, with an easily erased lead pencil.

Benjamin carried this journal with him on his journeys, even during his time in France. Years after his death his French friends and admirers recalled, "We touched this precious booklet, we held it in out hands! Here was the chronological story of Franklin's soul."

Benjamin Franklin's Book of Virtues goals are here in abbreviated form:

1. Temperance
2. Silence--avoid trifling conversation
3. Order--let all things have their place and time
4. Resolution--make goals and accomplish them
5. Frugality--waste nothing
6. Industry--always be employed in something useful
7. Sincerity--think innocently and justly
8. Justice--don't wrong others with your actions
9. Moderation in all things
10. Cleanliness
11. Tranquility--do not be disturbed by small things or unavoidable accidents
12. Chastity
13. Humility

Frugality--Waste Nothing was one of Franklin's lifelong resolutions demonstrated here with
Cucumbers Picked in Slices and Shallow Pan Apple Marmalade
from Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin Chapter 2 Lifelong Lessons Learned Around the Dinner Table
and Apricot Marmalade from Chapter 12 A Kitchen View of the Year of Peace.

Franklin promoted his virtuous ideals in the pages of his Poor Richard's Almanac. He wove his sayings through the almanac listings of astronomical conditions. Frugality was one of his key considerations. As was the importance of pickles to healthy eating. He wrote: "Squeamish stomachs cannot eat without pickles." And the corollary: "Hunger is the best pickle."

                                                    Cucumbers Pickled in Slices

3 cucumbers, about 8 inches in length
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Piece of fresh ginger root, about 2 inches by 1/2 inch, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

Wash the cucumbers and cut them into slices, about 1/8-inch thick. Peel the onion, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Layer the cucumber and onion slices in a nonreactive bowl, sprinkling salt between the layers. Cover and let stand in a cool place for 24 hours.

Drain off the accumulated juices. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables and let stand in a cool place for 4 hours.

Drain the vinegar into a saucepan, add the mace and peppercorns, and bring to a boil. Divide the cucumbers and sliced fresh ginger between two hot, sterilized pint canning jars. Carefully pour the boiling vinegar over the cucumbers. Put lids and screwbands on the jars and let stand in a cool place for 2 or 3 days, shaking occasionally. As the original 1717 recipe said: "In two or three days they will be fit to eat." Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Makes two pints.

Adapted from "Cucumbers Pickled in Slices," T. Williams, The Accomplished Housekeeper, and Universal Cook, 1717.

Copyright 2018 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fall in Love with a Benjamin Franklin Era Cranberry Pie

We're used to cranberries commonly filling a tasty, tart relishing niche at holiday tables.  For Benjamin Franklin and his London friends the classic American berry, largely unknown in England, brought a bit of Colonial tartness to the dessert tray. This easily made pie will delight your guests as well.

Benjamin Franklin would spend nearly two decades in London in the years before the American Revolution. While there he rented rooms from widow Mrs. Margaret Stevenson and her daughter Polly. They became a surrogate family and grew close to Benjamin's wife Deborah and daughter Sally back home in Philadelphia. Goods were shipped back and forth across the Atlantic. Fine fabrics, clothing, and household goods from London for the Franklin women and special homemade treats for Benjamin and the Stevensons.  Deborah sent smoked venison, Philadelphia biscuits, barrels of apples and cranberries which were enjoyed by all. The Stevenson English kitchen had never seen cranberries and was quite taken by the tart richness of this native American fruit.

Benjamin Franklin was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters by the
University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 1759. With the
recognition came the title of "Dr. Franklin."

As agent for Pennsylvania Franklin lobbied for colonial interests.  He also met with scientists and philosophers with whom he had corresponded for years. His company was widely sought and he spent many an evening in social and scientific clubs.

This cranberry tart is among several Franklin's London-era recipes in Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin Chapter 9 Relishing the Best of Both Worlds -- British Culture, American Ingredients and Chapter 10- Becoming an American Revolutionary in London--Studying the World and Longing for the Essential Taste of Home.  

Cranberry Tarts

One 12- to 16-ounce package fresh cranberries
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 recipe Basic Short Pie Crust (follows)

Make the Cranberry Filling:
Wash and pick over cranberries. Combine them with brown sugar, lemon juice, and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium hear, stirring constantly, until the berries burst, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and cloves. Set aside to cool.

Make the Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
4 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water

Put the flour into a medium mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small bits and then use a pastry cutter or two knives in a "crisscross" action to cut the butter into the flour so that the mixture looks like dry oatmeal. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the water over the mixture and stir with a fork to combine into a ball of dough that just sticks together. If the mixture is too dry add additional cold water a little at a time.

To make the Cranberry Tarts:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface to 1/8-inch thick. Cut into circles large enough to fit into and up the sides of your muffin tins. For my standard tin with cups about 2 1/2-inches across I cut circles 4 inches in diameter. Spoon the cooled cranberry filling into the pastry-lined cups. Leave room at the top for the filing to bubble up as it cooks. Bake until the crust is browned, about 20 minutes.

Makes 10 tarts, each about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1-inch deep.  Or filling will make an 8-inch pie baked at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes and then at 350 degrees F. for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

Adapted from "Cranberry Tart," Mrs. Margaret Dods, The Cook and Housewife's Manuel, 1828.

Franklin image from the US Capitol painted by Capitol artist Constantino Brumidi.

Copyright 2107 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Partying for Social Good Ben Franklin Style

Share delicious caraway-flavored treats and a very tasty, yet light punch
from Franklin's table to yours.

For many of us the holiday season brings special opportunities to share. Toy collections, red kettles, church and community outreaches of all kinds are welcome signs of the season.

Throughout his life Benjamin Franklin combined social activities with social activism. Although he composed "drinking" songs which he shared at his Junto philosophical club and the members enjoyed each other's company, the principle purpose of the group was to do good. The name of the group may have come from the Latin "juncta juvant" which translates "joined together, they assist." From those associations which began when he was in his early 20s and lasted throughout his life, Franklin and his peers did accomplish much for the good of the city and the nation to come. They founded the Philadelphia's first fire company. The members were to keep buckets at hand ready to put out fires in their center city neighborhood. He developed a fire insurance company as well. Under the group's auspices Franklin started the nation's first subscription library. And with fellow member John Bartram, American's leading botanist,  Franklin started the American Philosophical Society.  Both the Library and Philosophical Societies still support intellectual investigations today.

Statue of the socially active Franklin
from the nation's Capitol.
Franklin sought colonial unity as early as 1756 when he joined other colonial leaders in Albany, New York. There he presented his plan for mutual military support. He proceeded his appeal publishing what is considered to be the first American political cartoon in his Pennsylvania Gazette, urging the colonies to join forces of risk death of self-rule. The delegates often met over a tasty cup of Arrack Punch--recipe below. 
Benjamin Franklin published this political cartoon
urging the colonies to join for united security. 

 Caraway seeds add an intriguing flavor good
with wine or tea or even accompanying ice cream.

Junto Jumbles

The Philadelphians who were members of Benjamin Franklin's intellectual club, the Junto, met on Friday evenings when it would have been customary to enjoy some sort of light supper. These seeded treats, a cross between a cookie and an English biscuit, might have made an appearance as well. Aniseed tastes a bit like licorice. The seeds can be quite pungent and therefore these treats taste best when they have mellowed for a day two in a sealed container.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/16 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter
2 to 4 teaspoons aniseed
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet(s) or line with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking soda. Use a pastry cutter or two knives in a "crisscross" action to cut the butter into the flour mixture so that it looks like dry oatmeal. Stir in the aniseed and then the egg yolks. Gradually stir in the water until you have a firm dough that you can knead easily without crumbling. Break off balls of dough, about the size of golf balls; you should have about 18 balls. Roll them under your palms into 7-inch-long "pencils" and then form these into loose knots or coils. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light brown and firm to the touch, about 25 to 30 minutes. These keep for days in a sealed container.

Makes about 18 Jumbles.
Adapted from period sources.

The recipe for this tasty punch comes from Chapter 8 Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin
 --General Benjamin franklin  Provisioning British Soldiers--Considering Colonial Unity

                                                                   Arrack Punch

This light and refreshing punch was described in 1771. Pehr Osbeck, Olof, Toren, and Carl Gustave Ekeberg wrote in A Voyage to China and the East Indies "The punch which is made for the men in our ship, was heated with red hot iron balls which were thrown into it."  Without the alcohol, this is a a very nice and light lemonade. With the Arrack van Oosten, the punch packs a bit of a kick.

4 cups water
2 cups sugar
6 thin-skinned lemons, referable organic
1 cup Batavia Arrack van Oosten or other East Indies sugarcane spirits

One day before you want to serve the punch combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Wash the lemons and slice into 1/8-inch-thick rounds, or thinner. Add the lemon slices to the sugar syrup and allow to steep overnight in a cool place.

When ready to serve: add the Arrack. Serve in punch cups to a dozen friends. If you wish to serve this warm, gently heat the base, remove from heat and add the Arrack.

Adapted from "Arrack Punch," Pehr Osbeck, Olof, Toren, and Carl Gustave Ekeberg, A Voyage to China and the East Indies, 1771.

Benjamin Franklin statue carved by Hiram Powers was installed in the Senate wing of the US Capitol in 1862
Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.