Peas, Glorious Peas!

The ingredients for this dish are simple, fresh and delicious.


Each spring Historic Foodways staff highly anticipate the arrival of one of our most favored vegetables- the garden pea. Wesley Greene’s Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way, states that the green pea was one of the most fashionable of all garden vegetables for 18th-century Virginia gentlemen to grow. Thomas Jefferson held a yearly competition with his neighbor to see who could harvest them first.  In 1707, Englishman John Mortimer lamented, “The great inconveniency that doth attend them is that their extraordinary sweetness makes them likeable to be devoured by Birds.” It’s a lament familiar to most gardeners. According to research conducted by Tiffany Fisk, apprentice in Historic Foodways, peas may have been around as early as 9750 BC. “Most people were eating dried peas rather than fresh ones,” …

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Posted: February 6th, 2018 in Side dish, Vegetables

Puff vs. Rough: Exploring 18th Century Puff Pastry


The Accomplish’d Housewife; or, the Gentlewoman’s Companion, 1745

Puff Paste, or pastry as we know it today, can be found in literally hundreds of published and non-published cookery books during the 18th century. Though the proportion of butter and eggs differ, what does not is the technique of working the butter into the dough to produce butter filled layers of dough that will crisp when baked.

So what the difference between a puff pastry and a rough puff? Rough puff is a modern short-cut method of cutting the butter into the flour to form a lump of dough full of butter chunks. This mass is then rolled out and folded in a series of turns, just like a puff. But a true puff will have a small addition of butter to the dough, not all at once.  A …

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Posted: January 17th, 2018 in Research and Foodways News

A Boiled Plum-Pudding


From A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas, by Charles Dickens, 1843.

Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in…Hallo. A great deal of steam. The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastry cook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

It is this passage from Dicken’s famous story that help cement the plum pudding …

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Posted: December 18th, 2017 in Dessert, Main dish | 3 comments

Move the Pumpkin Pie!

People have always had celebrations of Thanksgiving: from the Continental Congress proclaiming the first Thanksgiving in 1777, to the final adaptation in 1941 of the third Thursday in November as our National American Holiday. It is both relatively modern and quietly ancient at the same time. These events would have been as individual as those who chose to celebrate them. One could give thanks for so many things- a substantial crop yield, the return to health of a loved one, a good investment, the birth of a child, to celebrate or to promote the coming year’s crops, on and on and on.

Though we don’t celebrate what visitors know today as a modern Thanksgiving at either of our kitchens, the manner in which we dine on this national holiday is as close as modern Americans will come to an 18…

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Posted: November 20th, 2017 in Research and Foodways News

Special Programming Schedule to Highlight a Wide Variety of Interests in 2018

The Historic Foodways Staff is proud to present our schedule for special programming for 2018.  These programs highlight staff specialties, interest and showcase our on going research and study projects. Mark the dates and join us!


A Cook’s Walking Tour

Wednesday March 14, 2018

Wednesday April 18, 2018

Wednesday Sept 12, 2018

Wednesday Oct 17, 2018

1:00- 2:00 p.m.


Guests visiting our historic sites see lovely, pristine homes in fair order. But, did you ever wonder about the messy parts of life? Take a guided tour with a member of Historic Foodways to explore the often private world of food preparation in an 18th century city. Guests will visit a variety of original out buildings and sites, including smoke houses, dairies, kitchens and bake ovens.  Learn what it was like to live and work as a cook …

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Posted: November 6th, 2017 in Research and Foodways News | 2 comments

To Make Mince Pies the Best Way

Mincemeat pies are a medieval Christmas tradition. Typically, mincemeats are made up several months in advance to allow the flavors to merge. The ever-present alcohol and sugar was a way to preserve meat. By the late 18th century the meat component had become optional.


Mince meat tarts make a fine addition to the Governor’s table. This version is full of apples, candied peels, almonds, spices and sugar.




To Make Mince Pies the Best Way


From The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by Hannah Glasse, 1776 edition

Take three pounds of suet shred very fine, and chopped as small as possible; two pounds of raisins stoned, and chopped as fine as possible; two pounds of currants nicely picked, washed, rubbed and dried at the fire; half a hundred of fine pippins, pared, cored …

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Posted: October 12th, 2017 in Dessert, Side dish | 2 comments

Crocant Covers, a Flight of Fancy for your Dessert Course

A fancy pastry cover might also be served with a fancifully decorated sugar plate, this one complete with a crest.



By Charles Alan Welsh, Intern, Historic Foodways

When dinning with a Royal Governor it is just as important to eat with one’s eyes and nose, as with one’s mouth. Fanciful desserts of sweetmeats, sugar and pastry, such as a crocant, were a way to delight dinners while showing off the power and wealth of the host.  Though not hard to create, a pastry dome crocant would take time and effort to produce.


A Crocant


From The Lady’s Magazine; Or, Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex …, Volume 4, 1773, G. Robinson

When you make sweetmeat tarts, or a crocant tart, lay in the sweetmeats, or preserved fruits either in glass or china patties that are small, …

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Posted: October 12th, 2017 in Dessert | 2 comments

The Making of a Journeyman

Colonial Williamsburg offers a very unique and historically accurate Apprentice program as part of Historic Trades. Apprentices are required to complete a series of projects and research in order to attain status of Journeyman, including Historic Foodways. Our apprentice program is made up of five levels, with each level requiring us to prepare twenty five different recipes, a minimum of five times, or until they were deemed correct. Over the course of those five levels that equates to a 125 different recipes, with a minimum total of 625 individual dishes. Not all of the recipes are a dish that is placed on display, but are condiments such as English ketchup or a strong stock called a cullis, which are vital to our cooking.   There is also required reading, research projects, special event planning and participation, presentations and lectures, in-house and …

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Posted: September 12th, 2017 in Research and Foodways News | 4 comments

Pistachio Creams

Pistachio creams

What modern people would recognize as cooked custards or puddings we here in the 18th century call creams, which would be found in the dessert course of an elegant dinner. Creams came in a variety of flavors: chocolate, orange, lemon, almond, apple, and more. If you froze them they would become iced creams.

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Posted: June 6th, 2017 in Dessert | 4 comments

The Long Journey of Pepper Pot Soup

pepper pot

Today we are looking at the strange culinary journey of Pepper Pot, exploring the distances it covered and the evolution of recipes for this humble soup. Along with this post you will find Historic Foodways’ adaptation of a Caribbean version of Pepper Pot soup to contrast with the Philadelphia version that you can find in our summer issue of Trend & Tradition magazine.

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Posted: May 5th, 2017 in Main dish | 1 comment