10th Massachusetts, authenticity, Bennington, Brigade of the American Revolution, common people, common soldier, cooking, Enos Hitchcock, food, hearth cooking, history, living history, Research
Camp cooking can get old. Stew, sigh. Bread, sigh. Cheese, sigh. Apples, sigh.
Don’t get me wrong: all of the above are delicious today. Historically, New England troops are all about cheese and cider, and have much to say about the quality of beef, but menu can be repetitive and lacking in challenge.
Ever since I had boiled flour pudding at Coggeshall Farm, I’ve wanted to make it since I so much enjoyed the texture.
When I found it mentioned by Enos Hitchcock, I was particularly excited.
1777 May 24
Dined upon flowr puding & Venison Steak.
Flowr puding? I love that guy! But there it is, documented, even if eaten by the officers and not the private soldiers. It’s common enough that I think it likely almost everyone knew how to make it. The trick would have been getting hold of eggs and milk, which is easy enough for me, if not for the soldiers of 1777. Fortunately, as we drove down Cottrell Road headed for home, a flock of Plymouth Rock chickens crossed the road in front of us: there were the eggs, at least in our time.
The method I had tried at home worked: I beat three eggs and four spoons of milk in my tall redware mug, and added the liquid slowly to the flour and salt mixture. The whole mixture went into a cloth bag, which I tied with a string and boiled in the smallest kettle, not want to risk any damage to the beef stew. I’ll test the works at home on my nearest kin and willing victims before I loose it upon a regiment and hungry guests.
Although the pudding was a strange shape, it cooked up quickly in about 45 minutes, had a firm texture and a satisfactory enough flavor. I would have liked it to rise a bit more, which is an argument either for beating the eggs with a fork in the confined cylinder of the cup, or risking the splash of the whisk in a bowl, or, finally, for a smaller whisk.
Still, not too bad for expanding the camp cooking repertoire of Things That Can be Boiled and Eaten.
Nancy N said:
I’m about to show my deep ignorance here–not fried? Were cast iron pans not available to or too expensive for the masses? My mom used to make corn fritters for us, using flour, milk, eggs and corn kernels. They were great camp food, either breakfast or a little side dish for dinner. Possible?
Thanks for the recipe and your posts about historic camping requirements. If I ever dip my toes into the reenactment world, I at least will have some first hand reporting to help me make good decisions!
For the most part, soldiers are cooking in tinned kettles, initially sheet iron kettles, and not cast iron. It’s risky to fry in tinned kettles as the tinning can melt, so boiling is the easiest, safest, method of cooking.
The tinned kettles are far lighter than cast iron, which is why they were issued and used. Joseph Plumb Martin describes marching with a kettle, and finally setting it down and not picking it back up, so weight was a real issue.
One of the members of the regiment has a fry pan made from a shovel, but we did not deploy it. In theory, with salt pork on hand, or fat trimmed from beef, one could fry in grease on a shovel, but mostly I think you’d be searing meat on it. (I missed that demonstration at Putnam Park, as there was a swim meet…)
Jonnycakes or fried corn meal mush would certainly be plausible in some form (or hoe cake, or soldiers’ bread baked on a stone or wooden slab), but I like the boiling. I’d like to get as much into one kettle as possible, just to minimize what we carry.
Nancy N said:
Thanks so much for the history. I had no idea. But of course nobody would want to march very far with a frying pan!