Cooking in the Past

This page highlights a selection of 18th and 19th-century cookery, all prepared using woodstoves, hearths, and brick ovens.


Cottage Pie, similar to Shepherds Pie except that Cottage Pie is made with beef, not lamb. This is the dish I prepared for my Hearth Cooking Exam to become a certified hearth cook at Pickering Museum Village. It was prepared in the log cabin. The dish involved boiling, frying, and baking, and the result was delicious.


Crumpets, these were made at Pickering Museum Village using the cook stove in the hotel. The most memorable part of this dish was how much the batter rose, so much so it overflowed the jug it was in.


Reflector Oven Chicken is something I cook on a regular basis. It is the best way to roast a chicken, the result is always a juicy bird with the added flavor of wood smoke, and a super crispy skin.


Roasted Cheese, known to be a favorite food of author Jane Austen. It involves pounding together a mixture of cheese, dry mustard, cooked egg yolk, cayenne pepper, and sherry.  The mixture is pressed on slices of bread and toasted. This is always a crowd pleaser.


Fritters were cooked using whatever food you had at hand. These were made at Scarborough Museum using apples. While making them, two lucky things happened. I cracked an egg with a double yolk, and then while they were cooking one slipped off the griddle, which I was told means you get to make a wish.


Black Bun is a traditional Scottish fruit cake that is wrapped in a crust to help preserve it. This one was made for the Gibson House Museum 2016 Hogmanay Dinner.


Traditional Sally Lunn Bread, a recipe I found in The Civil War Cookbook. It produced a light, slightly sweet bread, perfect for a ploughman’s lunch.



Cucumber Vinegar from a recipe found in the personal recipe book of Eliza Holmes Gibson which now is located in the archives of Gibson House Museum.



Jumbles, a sweet little biscuit that is boiled and then baked. They have the texture of a soft pretzel.



Mincemeat Pie, made with beef and suet rendered from beef fat. It is no secret that mincemeat used to contain some type of animal protein. The finished product tasted like mincemeat with an undertone of beef.



Orange Ice made in an ice cream churn. All it required was fresh orange juice and some sugar. It was a perfect summer treat to serve to guests who were visiting the museum.



Potato Scones, a Scottish staple!



Salsify was a popular root vegetable in the Victoria Era. We grow it in the Gibson House Garden and serve it each year at our fall fair.  It is also referred to as oyster plant because some people think it has a slight oyster taste to it. To prepare, peel it, par-boil it, and finish it in a frying pan with lots of salt, pepper, and butter.



Soda Bread is something I am continually baking at work. Quick and easy and delicious with hand churned butter.



Hop Yeast – Before the advent of commercial yeast, people had to find alternative yeast sources to make their bread. Beer balm was popular, but you could also make yeast using a combination of mashed potatoes and hops flowers as is pictured here. This mixture would capture wild yeast in the air and start to ferment. The video shows the mixture after sitting overnight, and the bubbles let me know I have active yeast and can proceed with baking.



Waffles or Wafers, made using a cast iron waffle iron. I made three receipts to compare results. Mrs.Dodds 1833 recipe was my favorite.



Excellent Hot Tea Cakes is one of my favorite recipes from 1855 edition of The Canadian Settlers Guide by Catherine Parr Traill.  With or without raisins, they bake up soft and fluffy and are the perfect carrying device for butter and jam.



Ham– This is a ham I butchered and smoked in one of my classes. I brought it to work to cook it in the reflector oven. It was the best ham I ever tasted.



Cornmeal Gems – The gems that are nice and round were baked in a bake kettle. The gems that are sloped were baked in a reflector oven.


Bottle Jack – This is a bottle jack I purchased at an antique market and it is my favorite piece of equipment. Enjoy this video of a chicken being roasted on the jack.


Fried Apple Fritters

These are always a favorite with guests.