Tonight We’re Going to Pickle Like It’s 1797

We like to keep things light in August. It’s hot. It’s humid. And we’d all prefer to be sitting with our feet up, enjoying an adult beverage and some tasty snacks. To that end, our blog post last August explored a book from our collection that extolled the virtues of drunkards. This year, we turn our attention to the culinary arts: in particular, our 1797 edition of The Accomplished Housekeeper and Universal Cook, written by T. Williams and “the principal cooks at the London and Crown and Anchor Taverns.”

title page

 

First, a word on cookbooks more generally. The earliest cooking volumes found in America were, unsurprisingly, imports from England. Historians generally agree that Amelia Simmons’ 1796 American Cookery, or The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes….Adapted to this Country and All Grades of Life was the first cookbook native to the United States. Salisbury House’s own Accomplished Housekeeper fits into the former category of 18th-century British cookbooks published in London.

Prior to Carl Weeks, who first owned this volume? The inside cover provides a bit of information. First, this cookbook belonged to a gentleman named Samuel Coleby who likely purchased it in 1804. The inscription below also, upon first glance, seems to indicate that Samuel live in Charleston, but closer inspection leaves your correspondent not entirely certain of his location. At any rate, it is clear that Carl Weeks purchased the book in September 1928, perhaps for $12.50 (around $135 in today’s dollars). It also appears that Samuel did not often use the cookbook, as it remains in relatively fine condition today.

 

inside front cover

 

The Accomplished Housekeeper makes for some entertaining reading. Its author rightly puts food safety first, advising the novice cook that, “Before we enter on the practical part of the Cook’s business, it may not be improper to make a few general observations, which are as necessary to be attended to as any part of the culinary profession. The first and most important of all these is cleanliness, not only in their own persons, but also in every article used in the kitchen.”

Well said, T. Williams. Well said.

 

general observations

 

With the fundamentals of good kitchen hygiene in place (who knew that copper vessels and utensils were 18th-century deathtraps?!), the author turned to practical matters of food preparation. We’ve selected a few recipes to highlight below that seem appropriate for late summer cookery. First up: cherry pie and orange or lemon tarts.

 

cherry pie

 

If your palate is more adventurous, perhaps you might give mince pie or partridge pie a whirl.

 

more pies

 

Another summer favorite – homemade ice cream! With apricots “beat fine in a marble mortar”!

 

ice cream

 

Who doesn’t love seafood in summertime? The Accomplished Housekeeper has got you covered. Here’s the best way to pitchcock eels, fricassee oysters, and dress herring.

 

eels oysters herring

 

August offers an abundance of fresh, in-season foods, a phenomena not lost on T. Williams et al. To preempt any seasonal confusion, however, the authors kindly included a list of which foods were generally available during each month of the year.

 

in season_2

 

The authors also encouraged readers to take advantage of these “articles in season,” and included several pages of recommendations for how best to preserve the fruits (and vegetables) of summer. “To pickle cucumbers” is still a common pursuit, though the late eighteenth-century methodology differs a bit from today’s general practices.

 

pickle cucumbers

 

If pickling cucumbers doesn’t blow your hair back, why not try nasturtium buds? Or mackarel caveach? We should note that caveach, or escabeche, is back on trend today. The more things change…

 

pickle nasturtium

 

Are you harboring a secret desire to craft small-batch wines? These recipes are for you.

 

wines

 

Do your culinary plans include carving venison, hare, partridge, pig, or pheasant? If so, be sure to Pin this handy-dandy cheat sheet.

 

carving

If you are adventurous in the kitchen, try out one of these recipes! Let us know if you try your hand at elder wine or pickled nasturtium buds, and we’ll update this post with your photos and comments. Happy cooking!

3 Responses to Tonight We’re Going to Pickle Like It’s 1797

  1. crwhitney says:

    This is fantastic! Old cookbooks are so much fun to browse, though I’m not sure I’d want to try my hand at any of these recipes (pickled nasturtium buds?!). I’ve recently discovered a digital library created by the Michigan State University libraries, in which they have digitized cookbooks from their Special Collections, which range in date from 1798 – 1922. Here is a link to the collection: http://www.lib.msu.edu/branches/dmc/collectionbrowse/?coll=78&par=9
    And here is a link the the Feeding America project: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/

    Amazing that *The Accomplished Housekeeper* actually predates their oldest by a year!

  2. Susan Pundzak says:

    Fascinating. I wonder if there were also cautions about pewter utensils and vessels.

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