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19th Century Cooking

Did you ever wonder about cooking in the days of “Teacups and Lies” or “The Rippling Effect?” Much of it was done in cast-iron Dutch ovens on the hearth of the brick fireplace. Spices, like salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg, had to be ground by hand with mortars and pestles. Butter had to be churned from fresh milk.


The diet included homegrown fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy products, and meats that could be raised or shot in the wild. Depending on the water sources nearby, there might be fish or other kinds of seafood.


By the late 1800s, more women were using woodburning stoves, making the cooking process more manageable. Still, food preparation took up the major part of a woman’s day while the men were out farming or hunting.


Here’s a recipe for APPLE PANDOWDY, a dish that was popular in the late 1800s both in the United States and Canada. Thanks to Yankee Magazine for the recipe. (I added comments in italics.)


For the Crust



1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

3 to 5 tablespoons ice water




First, make the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt until well combined. Sprinkle the butter cubes on top and use your fingers to work them in (you want to rub your thumb against your fingertips, smearing the butter as you do). Do this until the mixture looks like cornmeal with some pea-sized bits remaining. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water on top and stir with a fork until the dough begins to come together. If needed, add another tablespoon ice water (you shouldn’t need much more). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times. Gather the dough into a ball, then press into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Note: At the Crust and Crumb Bakery, Kate Reese would have used the icebox.)


For the Filling



8 large firm-tart apples (about 4 pounds) such as Granny Smith or Northern Spy, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling




Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set a rack to the middle position. Arrange the apples in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (Kate would have used an iron skillet or a Dutch oven) with sides at least 2 inches high. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. In a small bowl, stir the maple syrup with 1/2 cup water and pour over the apples.


On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a rectangle about 9 inches wide, 11 inches long, and 1/4 inch thick. Using a knife or pizza cutter (Kate never heard of pizza), cut into squares roughly 3 inches across. Arrange the squares over the apples, making a concentric pattern, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake the pandowdy until juices are bubbling and the pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to gently press the pastry down into the juices so it’s mostly (about 80% submerged) Return the pan to the oven bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the pastry is nicely glazed and the sauce has thickened.





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