Claire observes that the food of the 18th century is either very fresh and very good… or very, very, bad. Preservation methods were limited to what could be stored in root cellars or springhouses, drying, salting, smoking, using fermentation, and, with a nod to cheese, molds.  Cheese is milk’s attempt at immortality! 18th century recipes reflect certain realities of life before refrigeration, but also economies practiced to make every bit of food stretch as far as possible.

Recreating the flavors of the 1700s involves more than just teasing apart an old recipe. If the recipe calls for “squash” a variety introduced in 1870 is not going to produce the same flavor in the dish as a variety available in 1770. Flour was stone ground, and sifted to separate the rougher grind from the fine, and wheat flour was stretched by adding cornmeal, rye, oat, or buckwheat. Spices were dear, to be used carefully, but also had a completely different consistency to what we’re familiar with today (see the experiment with ginger),  sugar was kept under lock and key… and almost everything was cooked over an open fire.

But it is well worth the effort to recreate the flavor of the past. It’s pure geeky fun to bite into a loaf of bread made from a sourdough starter alive over 225 years ago. With period recipe books and some sleuthing we can recreate the flavor of the 18th century. Come along and see what Claire meant when she said “it could be very good…”

We do have an special section on 18th century vegetable gardening, if you want to plant heirloom varieties for the full time travel experience.

18th Century Spices: Ginger

18th Century Spices: Ginger

While I haven’t fallen through any stones lately I have 18th century days. And this was definitely one of those days.  Fresh ginger root is, along with lemons, one of those basics we just expect to find in the grocery.  In fact, it is one of those items you’d have expected to find in a marginally stocked store
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A Taste of the 18th Century: Spruce Gum

A Taste of the 18th Century: Spruce Gum

Here’s something to chew on: Outlander’s characters will encounter every major development in chewing gum.. from chewing resins in the 18th century, to chicle based gums during and prior to WWII, to the butadiene-based synthetic rubber which has been used to make gum since the 1960s… all within the first three books. It must be a uniquely
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18th Century Ginger Beer.. the improvement on Lizzie’s Hellbrew

18th Century Ginger Beer.. the improvement on Lizzie’s Hellbrew

The 18th century householder was on a first name basis with two things rarely found in a modern kitchen: patience, and active yeast fermentation. Since this is New England, and New England is not a warm and cozy place a good 8 months out of the year, chances are your average householder was quite friendly with
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An 18th Century Gardens ‘scape

An 18th Century Gardens ‘scape

Yet another adventure we can blame on Outlander.. this time we find ourselves in the 18th century garden armed with.. garlic. At Castle Leoch Claire, having landed unceremoniously in the 18th century, finds herself put to work in the garden planting garlic.  Garlic is one allium, or member of the onion family, I haven’t tried growing in my
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18th Century Pocket Soup and other portable comestibles

18th Century Pocket Soup and other portable comestibles

The whole world is counting down the days to the release of Diana’s latest in the Outlander series: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and I’m among the lucky ones who have a ticket to the book’s launch in Seattle.  Which means I’ll be journeying from Vermont clear across the country to Seattle. A perfectly mind-boggling distance,
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Signs of Spring in the 18th Century: Hot Cross Buns

Signs of Spring in the 18th Century: Hot Cross Buns

Once they were one a penny, or two a penny, but that was two centuries ago. Given the passage of time, the price, now one for two dollars, sounds both dear, and quite reasonable.  And so every spring, the week or two before Easter,  we go looking for hot cross buns. If we were in
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Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts: To make a Soup

Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts: To make a Soup

Sometime in the 18th century a clever soul decided if the dish was titled “The New England Boiled Dinner,” this might do something to enliven a meal of meat boiled in broth with root vegetables. Alas, as my California bred husband would morosely tell you.. it didn’t. The New England Boiled dinner is a towering
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Soup from the cellars: Vermont Farm Cheddar Cheese Soup

Soup from the cellars: Vermont Farm Cheddar Cheese Soup

Yesterday I reached into the potato bin and pulled out my last two potatoes.  The nice thing about running out of potatoes around Groundhog Day is they’re still as firm and crisp as when pulled them from the soil four or more months ago.  By April potatoes start turning soft and sprouting. The bad thing
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To make a Ragou of Veal or Lamb

To make a Ragou of Veal or Lamb

There’s no denying the convenience and overwhelming abundance of the meat case at the grocery store.  The large market to the north of us has a case running half the width of the store, refrigerated meats on one side, frozen on the other, and that doesn’t include the fish or deli counters.  Truely it is unlikely
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A Lemon in Winter: Sunshine From a Crate

A Lemon in Winter: Sunshine From a Crate

Vicki, a fellow enthusiast from the Compuserv Writer’s Forum, has sent me a box of Meyer’s lemons from her backyard tree, and the experience of picking up a box of lemons at the post office was likely quite similar to what my great great (great great..) grandmother would have experienced in 1781 had a cousin
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Time Travel with Lemons: Recipes for Lemon Curd

Time Travel with Lemons: Recipes for Lemon Curd

Flora MacDonald recently reviewed Outlander Adventures, and frankly, she found the adventures a bit wanting in redeeming social value. She was also quite critical of the research commenting “Lemons were not “hugely popular” in 18th century cooking. In fact, citrus fruits were a very rare commodity. Do you not recall the scene in which Roger, upon
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Distrust Any Enterprise Requiring New Pans: White Loaf Cake

Distrust Any Enterprise Requiring New Pans: White Loaf Cake

Tis the holiday season.  In the 18th century some households celebrated Christmas with all the tidings of the day, including decorations, gifts, and a holiday feast, while some, of course, did not. In my household the decorations languish in boxes and the trees stay safely outside.  I’m a proper little pilgrim not by any conviction, but
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The Cup Half Full: 18th Century Chocolate

The Cup Half Full: 18th Century Chocolate

There’s so much you can blame on Outlander. For example, my new obsession with hot chocolate.  Had I never found Outlander I would never have found Outlander Kitchen and her interpretation of Hot Chocolate. You’d think, as a denizen of northern New England, I’d have grown up on hot chocolate, and you’d be right.  A day
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Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts for Apple Season

Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts for Apple Season

A friend of mine’s area of expertise was WWII and Depression era cookbooks.  She claimed by studying the recipes of past frugality you could, with a paring knife in hand, poke a hole in time and reach back into your great great grandmother’s kitchen.  Frugality, she contended, was the one thing passed down, generation to
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Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts: Lamb-Pye

Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts: Lamb-Pye

Beef Alamode, the French Way was a rousing success so yesterday I tried another recipe: XXIV: For a Lamb-Pye.  I chose this recipe because it offered variations and because it highlighted something I’ve observed is how language is used in this cookbook.  A “pie” does not necessarily mean “two crusts.”  If there is a top crust to
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Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts: To Make Beef Alamode,The French Way, c. 1736

Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts: To Make Beef Alamode,The French Way, c. 1736

I have been privileged to be able to borrow a copy of Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts for Cookery and Pastry-Work which was the first cookbook ever published in Scotland.  In a previous look at 18th century cookbooks I looked at the use of lemons in 18th century recipes, which examined the myth of lemons and citrus flavors
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Experiments in the Explosive: Blackberry Wine

Experiments in the Explosive: Blackberry Wine

I should preface this by saying I do not care for wine.  In fact, my palate is so undeveloped, and my aversion to wine so strong, that the one occasion when I took a sip of what was supposed to be a nice vintage red and said “oh, this is very good..” the host looked
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Coffee, Tea, and a Recipe for Life

Coffee, Tea, and a Recipe for Life

A friend of mine passed away, unexpectedly and very young, a few months ago.  This was a woman who held down two, sometimes three, jobs to support her family, kept a garden, and was, always, tired. Yet she managed to maintain a certain standard of gracious living, and a blog to go with it.  She
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Colonial Blueberry and Blackberry Cordials

Colonial Blueberry and Blackberry Cordials

I have a confession to make.  I don’t like whisky.  And as if that isn’t bad enough, I don’t care for red wine or brandy either. I’m going to get drummed out of the Outlander Fan Club.  I just know it. Fortunately this year I’m buried under a bumper crop of berries.  The blueberries are
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Bits o’ Bread: Oatcakes, Bannocks, and Biscuits

Bits o’ Bread: Oatcakes, Bannocks, and Biscuits

If you are on one side of the pond bannocks originated in Scotland.  If you’re on the other, bannocks originated with the aboriginal peoples of North America.  If you’re Australian, they are bush tucker.  Bannock is bread cooked on top of a fire and made from whatever grain is indigenous to the area you happen to
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The Other Outlander Bracer: Tea

The Other Outlander Bracer: Tea

Last Night 3 Cargoes of Bohea Tea were emptied into the Sea. This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last Effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire. —John Adams diary entry from December 17, 1773 While whiskey is Claire’s bracer of choice Outlander is awash in
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Outlander Bread Needs Jam: Red Currant Jam

Outlander Bread Needs Jam: Red Currant Jam

“There is nobody who, having a garden, shouldn’t plant a great number of black currant bushes for the needs of their family,” wrote the Abbé P. Bailly de Montaran in 1712. And he added: “Black currant is a fruit that promotes long life in human beings.” I’ve been unable to find out anything about the
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Outlander Inspired: Sourdough Bread Recipe c. 1790

Outlander Inspired: Sourdough Bread Recipe c. 1790

The oldest continuously operating company in the world is Kongo Gumi Co., Ltd., a Japanese construction company. Its 1400 year history makes King Arthur Flour Company‘s paltry 223 year history seem like small potatoes indeed, but King Arthur Flour is one of America’s oldest companies, and has in its inventory the very essence of early
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