November 23, 2015

1850 Scotch Short-Cake Recipe perfect for "Thanksgiving-Day, Christmas or New Years."

Civil War Era Scotch Short Cake Recipe with Zante Currants. Keeps well and good for shipping from the home front to the troops.

I made this recipe as part of a Civil War Christmas display that will be part of a holiday timeline event going on this weekend at Graeme Park in Horsham, PA.  Our display will consist of a package from the home front for the soldiers. I chose this recipe for its seasonality being good for "Thanksgiving-Day, Christmas or New Years," and its ability to travel "in cold weather it keeps well and packed in a tin or wooden box may be sent many hundred miles..."

Not all foods held up the same in transit and people at home were advised not to send perishables to the soldiers. The Sanitary Commission bulletin in 1861 and 1863 advised that those wishing to help the troops send "eggs, sausages, bread or cakes,... jars of jellies and jams" packaged separately from the other goods sent. The bulletin also stated that soda biscuits, fresh and dried fruits, corn-starch, oatmeal, canned meats, white sugar and lemons were always welcomed items. This Short-cake recipe is perfect for mailing. It's flaky, spiced, and the zante currants, raisins made from champagne grapes, give it a holiday flavor. These would be perfect with cider or tea.  

Scotch Short-Cake


- 1/2 Pound Raisins or Zante Currants
- 3 Cups Flour
- 1/2 Pound Butter
- 1 3/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- Sprinkle of Mace
- Citron (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter on the stove top or in the microwave being careful not to burn it, put aside. In a large mixing bowl mix flour, powdered sugar and spices. Add butter a little at a time. Once a dough is formed, mix in zante currants. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick and cut into shape with cookie cutters. Butter a cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes or until golden at the edges.  

Oatmeal Scotch Short-Cake


- 1/2 Pound Raisins or Zante Currants
- 2 1/2 Cups Flour
- 1 Cup Oatmeal, ground
- 1/2 Pound Butter
- 1 3/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- Sprinkle of Mace
- Citron (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter on the stove top or in the microwave being careful not to burn it, put aside. In a large mixing bowl mix flour, oatmeal, powdered sugar and spices. Add butter a little at a time. Once a dough is formed, mix in zante currants. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick and cut into shape with cookie cutters. Butter a cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes or until golden at the edges.

1860s Civil War Era Scotch Short Cake Recipe with Zante Currants. Keeps well and good for shipping from the home front to the troops.

Civil War Era Scotch Short Cake Recipe with Zante Currants. Keeps well and good for shipping from the home front to the troops.

Civil War Era Scotch Short Cake Recipe with Zante Currants. Keeps well and good for shipping from the home front to the troops.

November 14, 2015

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party Post

Hello! October and November have been busy! I can't believe it's already November. There has been
a lot of excitement these last few weeks but now I am looking forward to a relaxed winter. There's a lot that's been going on that just didn't make it to the blog but i'm excited to share them now.         

I always wonder what it will be like to get older. Will I still be able to do the things I love? Will I still have people to share things with? Then I see these sisters at the Chester Historical Preservation Committee Chester Days event who found an intimate spot to drink hot cocoa, help preserve historical structures, and giggle like teenagers.

The first frost like gemstones on the tips of everything.

Had my first try at plowing with oxen. Glad the oxen knew what they were doing, they didn't even need me. 

We have been seeing some crazy murmurations lately. A few days ago we had a group that was so massive and loud it was hard to talk to people only feet away.

Ghost tour of Fort Delaware, a Civil War prisoner of war camp. We didn't see or experience anything at all and were actually just interested in seeing the fort at night. Weren't disappointed. It's still one of my favorite sites.

The 1700s archaeological dig at Newlin Grist Mill has moved from the Trimble pit to the mill house. 

Here the covered mill race is being exposed for the first time since it was covered. 

I did not take a lot of fall leaves photos this year. Went to Jim Thorpe, PA to see the change but after hiking up the mountain we ended up getting snowed on.

Got caught in the rather early first snow of the year.

Weird weather. It was warm and yet snowing. Everything was covered in fog.

You might not have heard but I died of Yellow Fever 7 times during the Halloween event at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. I got better. 

My favorite from a Civil War era photo shoot. The dog knows how to pose, right? 

November 6, 2015

Choice of a Husband - Choice of a Wife: 19th Century Advice on Love and Marriage

Love and Death the Newlyweds - Hans Thomas 1896

Love is in the air... At least it sure seems that way. I was surprised when I was looking at 19th century recipes and found this lovely section of advice mixed in. Things sure have changed, haven't they?

Excerpts from The Household Cyclopaedia of Daily Wants (1873):

The Etiquette of Courtship.

—It is useless here to attempt any supervision or dictation on "choice" and "selection;" and we can only say that careful but delicate and private inquiry must be mutually made, and an introduction obtained either through some mutual friend, and a relative— as brother, father, or uncle—of the lady. On no account should the introduction be obtained in any other way. There are hundreds of proper and acknowledged means of bringing young people together,—as balls, parties, picnics, &c.—without resorting to any violent or presumptuous methods.

Domesticated habits personal neatness, a sound knowledge of cookery and the other domestic arts, and good taste are above all the merely ornamental accomplishments.

And, as to the conduct of one towards the other, let the young man be sincere, gentle, and considerate, and the girl confiding, single-hearted, kind, and discreet; and their own hearts will tell them better than any set forms or rules how to please and to be just to each other. Let neither be over-warm nor over-cold; let the lady respond to the gentleman's advances, and do no more; and let mutual confidence grow with mutual esteem and love, till the time comes when the man feels he may with some confidence plead his cause with the fair enslaver.

It has been well said that an offer of marriage is the highest and purest compliment a man can pay to a woman; and, therefore, it should be treated with the greatest consideration.

When a proposal is made which cannot, from any real and sufficient reason, be accepted, let the refusal be gentle but firm, and if there be any real bar—as a prior engagement—let it be said delicately, but at the same time unmistakably. Where the cause of the refusal is simply on the account of "lack of love," no definite reason need be given, but the refusal must still be most courteous and gentle. And here a word to the ladies:—More lives have been wasted, more misery and heart-ache caused, more desperately foolish resolves made, and projects carried out, through light and causeless refusals than from all the ill-assorted marriages in the world. It is a woman's duty, when an offer of marriage is made to her, to take all the circumstances of the case into earnest consideration; to weigh every tittle of evidence for and against her lover; to remember that his happiness is doubtless resting on her reply; that of all women he has chosen her; and then, if she feel herself forced to refuse, let her be brief, be candid, be firm, be compassionate.

If she can accept, let her allow no false modesty stay her lips, but, with all delicacy and candour, avow her preference.


"True love’s the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven.

It la the secret sympathy.
The silver link, the silken tie,
Which heart to heart, and mind to mind.
In body and in soul can bind."

No man should content himself with simply an avowal of love, but he should distinctly and in terms oiler; marriage; he may be as eloquent as he pleases, but there must be no possible doubt or misinterpretation of his meaning. A model proposal was that of Verdant Green:—"Patty — my dear Miss Honeywood—I love you I Do you love me?" followed directly by a confidential and loving talk of marriage and future arrangements.

Long engagements are most undesirable, as oftentimes the lady gets weary of the monotonous dullness of her life, shut out, as she must be, from a great deal of the amusement in which her sisters and friends indulge. She is like a picture in a gallery with the ominous word "Sold" upon it; people admire it with a sort of envious restraint, thinking all the time the purchaser had better take it away to grace his own home.

When an engagement has fairly commenced, the gentleman should, by every means in his power—avoiding fussiness and conspicuous attention— endeavour to strengthen in the lady's heart the love and respect for him which caused her to accept his proffered hand. He should let every one see, by his manly and chivalry deference to her lightest wish or inclination, their relative positions; and, at the same time, avoid all appearance of "possession," or of monopolizing her time or thoughts. No woman likes to seem constrained to devote all her attention to her lover, no matter how much she really cares for him. Jet there, however, be no neglect, no broken appointments, no unpunctuality, no paltry excuses: remember that, whatever is apparent, an engaged girl is constantly thinking of her future. And it is natural she should do so, for, notwithstanding all that is said o£ "woman's rights," her position in life is clear and evident; and what higher honour is possible in this world than to be man's helper, to whom he turns at every trouble, whose smile is his best reward, whose kiss his greatest incentive? What brighter prospect is possible than to possess the power to win over by a kind word, and to establish a man wavering between right and wrong?

It is the gentleman's prerogative to urge on the time for the marriage, but to the lady exclusively belongs the right of fixing the exact day. This important point being settled, the domestic arrangements as to the future home of the young couple, &e., are made; and it is usual for the lady's mother to provide the table-linen, house-linen, &e., and the future husband the house and its furniture.

Choice of a Husband.—

As few ladies are privileged to initiate proposals in reference to spouses, directions may only be given with respect to the acceptance of offers. Do not encourage the advances of a gentleman who is believed to have jilted a lady; yon owe this to your sex and to society. Never believe any one whose protestations of love are intense at first sight; you may better judge the sentiments of the man who loves you by his manner than by his words. Should a gentleman select you for attentions in preference to others, you are justified in recognizing his kindly disposition; with a little encouragement he is likely to become your lover. Do not coldly reject the advances of any respectable person who honours you with his proposals; the timid suitor may prove a most worthy one, and anyhow you owe an acknowledgment of courtesy to all who indicate towards you respect, or friendship, or affection. Your good sense will teach you to prevent any one whom you do not intend to marry prosecuting his advances so far as to necessitate your giving him a repulse. If a handsome present is sent you by a gentleman whom you cannot accept as a lover, return it at once, with a frank expression of your appreciation, accompanied by a regret that you cannot retain so valuable a gift. In general you may look with favour on those gentlemen whom your papa invites frequently to his table, and mamma rejoices to introduce to her evening parties. If a suitor is known to be intemperate, or is understood to be fast in his habits, reject his offers, and on no account lie entrapped by his professions of reformation. He is not a hopeful lover whose tastes even verge on dissipation. His habits may improve, but do not stake your happiness upon the chance. Do not despise a lover because he is poor,~ but if he is poor and lacks application, he will not suit you as a husband. "I propose to marry your daughter," said a young medical practitioner to a citizen who had amassed a fortune by industry. "Marry my daughter, sir? What have you got to keep her with?" "My lancet only," said the young physician, "but I mean to use it." "You shall have her," said the father, struck by the young man's expression of decision.

Let our young lady readers attend to these parting hints. 

1. Let your accepted lover be some years your senior ; you will respect him all the more hereafter. 

2. Do not marry a vulgar rich man; he will not elevate you much in the social world, and any little advantage in this way will be more than negatived by your having to endure manners which are unpleasant to you. 

3. Break off an engagement with a suitor who proves of fitful humours— cheerful to-day, and moody or morose to-morrow. How could you spend a lifetime with one of moods so variable! These are too often premonitory of chronic ailment, some disease of the brain.

Choice of a Wife.—

Marriage is the most important step in life. An imprudent union is the cause of lifelong misery, while a judicious alliance is the greatest of temporal blessings. He who marries rashly is a fool. Early marriages are to be recommended where the parents of both parties are satisfied, where there are proper means of support, and where the young lady is of prudent and economical habits. As a rule, a man under twenty-one should not venture upon matrimony, and no time has been lost should he not marry till thirty. In choosing a wife, every man should be guided by such counsels as these:

1. Remark the lady's temper. No extent of accomplishments will compensate for the lack of amiability. A lady who answers her mother petulantly will prove a thorn in her husband's pillow. If she quarrels with her companions at school, she will certainly scold her servants and vex her children. If she is susceptible of slights before marriage she will after it be liable to jealous humours and other unpleasant freaks. 

2. Beware of flirts. A girl who bids for admiration, and has smiles for every one, should be met upon her own terms. Marriage with the heartless is not to be thought of. 

3. Never dream of marriage with one of extravagant habits. A clergyman bent on marriage dined with a friend who possessed three marriageable daughters. Before dinner he had been at a loss as to which of the young ladies he should propose to. Towards the close of the meal cheese was produced, and each of the three sisters took a portion. Before eating, the first pared her morsel, the second scraped hers, and the third took the cheese just as it was. The visitor was no longer at a loss: he proposed to the lady who, cleanly without being extravagant, scraped her cheese. Let every suitor carefully remark as to his admired one's views concerning domestic expenses and personal attire ; if in the parental home she is heedless of outlay, he may be satisfied that her profusion will be boundless when she is admitted into her own. 

4. The lady who exhibits sordid inclinations is unsuitable as a wife; she would introduce meanness at your family hearth, and your friends would not invite her to their homes. If the object of your affections has a wise father and a discreet mother, you may make your proposals with full confidence that, should your suit prevail, your future partner will be "a crown to her husband."

Hamilton, Alexander VanCortland. The Household Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts and Daily Wants. Springfield: W.J. Holland &, 1873. 310-313.

October 31, 2015

1880s Fortune Telling by Moles

Happy Halloween! Through my library travels I came across a book that was no doubt a product of the spiritualism movement of the 1880s and I thought it would be fun to highlight some passages for Halloween. It's called the Witches' Dream Book and Fortune Teller and it's the 19th century guilty pleasure equivalent of those "who was your dog in a past life" quizzes that your friends all do on facebook.

This book gives "practical dream advice," such as if you dream of bacon, it "denotes the death of some friend or relation and that enemies endeavor to do you mischief,"
and if you dream of baking it is a sign of "an ill housewife, who lies dreaming in bed, when she should be doing her business." Sometimes dreams are listed as meaning different things to different genders, such as,  dreaming of a hairy chest means profit for men while it, sadly, means the loss of a husband for a woman.

This book also includes advice on how to tell the future using cards, palms, dice, dreams, dominoes and weirdly, skin moles. I had heard of moles being used to denote witches in the 1600s and I have heard of moles as being thought of as the spot where a person had been mortally wounded in a past life but I had never heard of fortune telling by moles.

Now being the skeptic I am I turned right to the mole page to find out my fate. It starts at the top of the body and works its way down. I finally hit "Mole on right thigh." I have a mole on my right thigh! Let's see what it says. "A mole on the right thigh shows that the person will become rich and also fortunate in marriage." I can live with that! Oh wait. It's not on my right thigh, it's on my left thigh. Darn. Lets see what that one says. "A mole on the left thigh denotes that the person suffers much by poverty and want of friends, as also by the enmity and injustice of others." Too bad. :)

Happy Halloween, again! I hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday and found "fortune telling by moles" as fun as I did! I'd be interested in hearing what people think of this and before anyone asks, I hear having a mammalian burrowing mole for a pet denotes an adventurous outlook on life, whether or not it is on your left thigh, right thigh or shoulder. :)    

October 29, 2015

18th Century Crab Apple Verjuice Recipe

Verjuice is acidic juice typically made from unripe grapes or crab apples. It gained popularity in the Middle Ages and was popular throughout the 1700s as a sauce, glaze or pickle.| Easy recipe | World Turn'd Upside Down

Verjuice (or verjus) is acidic juice typically made from unripe grapes or crab apples. It gained popularity in the Middle Ages and was popular throughout the 1700s as a sauce, glaze or pickle. The flavor is milder than vinegar and is good when used in the place of lemon juice in recipes. The name comes from the French "verjus" or "green juice" and both terms are used throughout the 18th century. 

This verjuice recipe can be made with crab apples or unripe grapes. Crab apples are much easier to come by in Pennsylvania. The result is an amber colored liquid instead of the "green juice" you would get from grapes but is delicious nonetheless. When I was younger, I was told to pick crab apples when they were black and the crows started to eat them.  The farther along your crab apples are, the easier they will be to mash and remove the stems. The recipe says to pick the crab apples in October although many of our trees were finished long before. 


-Crab Apples (a pound of crab apples will yield about 1 cup of juice.)
-Sterilized Bottles 


Make sure your bottles are sterilized. Let your crab apples soak in a vinegar water solution to clean them before you remove the stems. You do not have to peel the crab apples. If you have a wine press or juicer, juice the crab apples. (I do not have a wine press or anything similar, so I minced my crab apples in a food processor. I then put the minced crab apples in a cloth and squeezed out the juice by hand.) Bottle your juice and cover with a cloth or cork loosely. Leave room at the top for the juice to ferment.  Keep in a dark cupboard.

Verjuice is used both fresh and fermented. Most 18th century recipes note that it is ready to use 2 weeks to a month after it is bottled. Some recipes call for distilling after juicing but it is not necessary. 

Crab apple verjus verjuice recipe 1700s

Colonial recipe Crab apple Verjuice reenacting
Colonial recipe crab apple verjuice

I was luck enough to be given some crab apple vinegar by a friend so I've been having fun tasting them both every few days to see how they differ. When I first read about crab apple verjuice I was unsure of how the process differed from making crab apple vinegar. When making vinegar you ferment the skins, fruits and juice together for verjuice it is just the juice. The verjuice also appears darker in color.

Disclaimer: Fermenting, bottling and canning all require safety food procedures. Make sure you are up to date before attempting to make verjuice. As with all historical recipes, try at your own risk.