• Arrange a centerpiece. Place pine sprigs and fresh or dried cranberries in a glass bowl.
• Compare fresh or dried foods. Buy fresh and dried cranberries (craisins), fresh and dried grapes (raisins), fresh and dried plums (prunes). Compare their taste and texture. Which do you like better?
• Take time to daydream about a trip to New England. What state and/or city would you like to visit? Write to the Chamber of Commerce of that city or state. Ask for travel brochures. Maybe someday you will really travel there.
• Use candlelight just as people did long ago. Read a recipe by candlelight; cook by candlelight; eat by candlelight.
• Take a library trip. Check out a book from the library on the life of a lobster or other seafood.
• Prepare a typical New England meal using a few of the recipes in this chapter. Make Boston Brown Bread and Boston Baked Beans or New England Clam Chowder and Cranberry Cheese Bread. For dessert, try Boston Cream Pie or Maple Apples.
The English people who settled this rugged east coast wanted to name the land after their mother country, England. Much of New England borders the water, so fish and seafood are plentiful.
Wet, marshy areas known as bogs yield tons of cranberries. Evergreen forests cover much of the scenic mountainous land.
The American colonies began in New England. At first, the “colonists”, or the people who settled here, did not have enough to eat. Many of them starved. The Native Americans were very helpful in showing the people what to plant and how to survive.
The early colonists had to work very hard in order to have enough to eat. They grew fruits and vegetables, wheat to grind into flour, and herbs to season their food. They kept cattle and goats for milk, chickens for eggs, and hogs for meat. Hunting for wild game such as turkey, pheasants and deer for their food was necessary. Meat had to be salted or cured as there was no refrigeration. Our present ham and bacon are examples of salted and cured meats.
Fruits and root vegetables were stored in a cellar to keep them over the winter months. Their cellars, called “root cellars,” were often only a hole dug into a hill. If the colonists worked hard and the weather was good, they had plenty to eat.
Foods were cooked over an open fire. The noon meal, often the main meal, consisted of a stew made of meat and vegetables. After the colonists learned how to plant corn, this became a plentiful and useful food product. Ground corn was made into cornmeal and baked into bread and added to other food. Corn fresh off the cob was dried and used in foods all winter.
The early settlers’ pots, pans, and eating utensils were different from the ones we use today. They often shared a plate, generally made of wood. Forks and spoons were wooden, as well, or pewter. Pewter is made of tin and other metals mixed together, and looks like dull silver. Back then, pewter was popular for cups, plates and eating utensils.
Did you ever wonder what it might have been like to be a Pilgrim? I remember one stormy night our family pretended we were Pilgrims. Our older daughter, Emily, was five years old when we decided to eat dinner by candlelight, just as the settlers probably did many times. This was a little scary for Emily, but after she became accustomed to the dimness, she said, “Oh, mommy! Isn’t this pretty? But I can hardly see what I’m eating!” I asked her what she thought people used long ago to cook their food, adding there were no ovens. “A campfire,” she said. I thought that was a good guess. I explained further about cooking in a pot hung in the fireplace.
Johnnycakes were originally called “Journey Cakes,” as travelers would pack them for a trip. They are made with cornmeal. In this recipe, the batter is baked into muffins. Other recipes bake Johnnycakes in a pan, like cornbread, or cook them on a griddle, like pancakes.
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375° F. Children can place paper muffin cups in muffin pan or use shortening to grease muffin pan.
Children can help measure cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar into a large bowl. Stir together with a large wooden spoon.
In a separate bowl, beat egg with a wire whisk. Measure and add buttermilk and vegetable oil to egg. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture; stir with wire whisk until just blended.
A measuring cup works well to spoon batter into prepared muffin cups; fill about 2/3 full.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins
New England Cranberry Cheese Bread
Cranberries are a big business in New England. Did you know there is cranberry soap, cranberry tea and even a dark red glass called cranberry glass? Cranberry bread has a unique sweet and sour taste that is perfect both with a meal or for dessert.
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350° F. Children can grease loaf pan, 9 x 5 x 3 inches.
Rinse and dry orange. An adult can grate orange peel by rubbing orange on a hand grater set on top of a cereal bowl. Turn and rub, turn and rub, grating only the outer peel, the orange part of the peel, as the white part is bitter. Once you have about 2 teaspoons, set aside peel. Next cut the orange in half and use a fork to remove seeds, if necessary. Squeeze orange halves to release juice into a measuring cup. Add water to measure 3/4 cup. Set aside.
Children can help measure flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and orange peel into a large bowl. Cut in shortening with two knives or a pastry blender. Make a well in the center and add the orange juice mixture, cheese and egg. Stir until just mixed. Add cranberries and nuts. Stir until just mixed.
Pour batter into pan. Bake about 65 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let set in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to cool on a rack. Better if aged one day before cutting.
Makes 1 loaf
Boston Brown Bread
In colonial times, soups and stews were cooked in large pots in the fireplace. The food cooked for long periods of time. They even “baked” (actually steamed) bread in a pot, which we now call Boston Brown Bread. This hearty dark bread studded with raisins is similar to gingerbread. See the variation if you want to try baking your bread by the steaming method. Three recipes in this section begin with “Boston,” as the recipes originated in this important port.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup molasses
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 375º F. Grease two 8 x 4 x 1/2-inch or four 6 x 3 x 2-inch loaf pans.
Children can help measure all ingredients into a large bowl. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 35 minutes in 8-inch pans or 25 minutes in 6-inch pans until toothpick inserted in center is nearly clean. Turn bread out of pans onto a wire rack to cool.
Makes 2 loaves
Variation: Steamed cooking method: You will need two 1-pound metal coffee cans, tin foil, string, and a wire rack that fits in deep pan large enough to hold coffee cans when covered. (Make sure there are no sharp edges around the tops of the cans from where they were opened). Tear off tin foil a little larger than the tops of coffee cans. Set aside.
Grease each of the coffee cans with one tablespoon shortening. Place wire rack in pan on stove. Heat water to boiling in a tea kettle or an additional pan.
Children can help mix batter and pour into coffee cans. Place tin foil over top of cans. Tie string around foil to secure. Place cans on rack in pan. Adults need to pour boiling water around cans in pan, adding enough water to come halfway up the sides of the cans. Turn heat on high. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center is nearly clean. Let bread rest for 12 minutes and then turn out of pans onto a wire rack to cool.
Makes 2 loaves