Saturday, January 12, 2013

English Christmas Baking - PART 1 - Making the coffin

From Sally L., historical interpreter:

Even though it's now January, we want to show some of the projects we did in December on the farms. We get so busy with our Christmas Lantern Tours and all our other programs, so we are glad to finally share these with you!

On our 1630s English farm, we are demonstrating Christmas baking. We are making mincemeat pyes to be cooked in the bake oven. We used to interpret the 1690s on the farm, and we just recently switched to an earlier time period, so we are still in the process of changing things over to the 1630s. This is the method we've used for the past many years. We combine 3 receipts- two from The Accomplisht Cook, by Robert May, first written in 1685, and one from The English Housewife, by Gervase Markham, first written in 1615.

Mincemeat pyes are key to the Christmas celebration. It was an English custom to try to eat twelve pieces of mincemeat pye from twelve different pyes to insure good luck for the next twelve months of the year. Christmas bake day is especially a hub of activity. The goodwife (lady of the house), daughters, and servants would be bustling about preparing mincemeat pyes, plum pudding, and making a very large quantity of wassail. We made all of these, but we will discuss the latter ones at a later time! Today, two staff members, one adult volunteer, and three jr. interpreters are all helping with the Christmas baking of the mincemeat pyes.

These are the three receipts we combined to make the mincemeat pyes.
Below, is our mix of beef, currants, raisins, candied lemon peel, suet, and then all the spices you cannot see- cloves, mace, nutmeg, salt, pepper and caraway seed.
Next, rye flour and whole wheat flour are mixed together. These two flours will help make the pastry container, called a coffin, very strong.
 Now, we add plain hot water, and additional hot water containing melted lard into the flour mixture.  
Here is a close up of coffin mixture as we stir it, and me mixing the two flours, the water, and the lardy water together to make a malleable dough.
After it forms a nice dough that isn't crumbly, we roll out the coffin mixture. The ideal crust should be at least 1/4 " thick. 
Rebecca is using a plate as a template to trace around to make the bottom of the coffin an even circle
Here we are making the walls, again rolling the dough about a 1/4" thick, and then using the rolling pin as a template for the height of the side pieces.  
 Now it's Kayla's turn to try...
Make sure you wet the bottom of the coffin where you plan to attach the sides. Water acts as the "glue" for attaching the pieces together.
We pick up the sides and attach them to the base of the coffin. Pinch/bend a little of the side in, and then attach it to the base where the "glue" is.
 More bending and attaching.....
A close up of the coffin.
 Two coffins under construction......
We are all hard at work!
We put a tab on the coffin side. We did this to reinforce where two side pieces connect. This really helps the coffin to hold the meat mixture inside and not leak!
 Rebecca with her completed coffin and ready for the next step!
Kayla and Sally putting finishing touches on another coffin.
Now, the coffins are ready to be filled. Join me next time, and check back soon for Part II- filling up and covering the coffins, and baking the pyes! Until then!

1 comment:

  1. that,s great kayla such a good place to visit