Eat and Entertain like Alexander Hamilton
With all the excitement about the book and the play on Alexander Hamilton, there is a lot of interest in his life and times. What was it like to eat with him, the Revolutionary War hero, husband, lover, and family man?
“The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World” by local author Laura Kumin (Post Hill Press, 2017) is a terrific way to learn about Hamilton’s era and try some period recipes so you can eat and entertain just as the founding fathers did. Laura Kumin is the creator of MotherWouldKnow, a popular food blog. She also teaches cooking and food history. She spent 20-plus years as a lawyer before turning to food-related subjects.
Split Pea Soup
Adapted from “Another Green Peas Soup,” Richard Briggs, “The English Art of Cookery”
This mildly seasoned vegetarian pea soup is thick and hearty, a perfect supper for a chilly evening. Hamilton’s family would
probably have served a version with meat in the Dutch tradition. (Elizabeth Hamilton’s family was of Dutch origin and highly influenced by the Dutch traditions that remained prevalent around their Albany home.) The Dutch version, called erwtensoep or snert, typically includes pork products such as a Dutch sausage called rookworst. Instead of croutons, they might have had rye bread topped with Dutch-style, smoked bacon.
2¼ cups or 1 pound dried split green peas
3 medium-large onions (about 1 to 1½ pounds), peeled and chopped
1 or 2 small to medium turnips (about ½ to 1 pound), peeled and chopped
1 large carrot (about 3 to 4 ounces), peeled and chopped
3 cabbage leaves, coarsely cut
1 handful of spinach leaves, tough stems removed
½ teaspoon ground mace
2 pinches ground cloves
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Boil 2 quarts (8 cups) of water. Add the split peas and simmer about 1 hour or until the peas are tender and fully cooked.
Add 1 to 2 more cups of water. Bring the peas and liquid to a boil. Add the vegetables, mace and cloves. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Purée the soup in a stand blender or with an immersion blender and adjust seasonings to taste. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add a bit more water.
Serve topped with croutons.
Fried Sausages and Apples
Adapted from “Fried Sausages,” Hannah Glasse, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”
Any apples that keep their shape will work (e.g., Granny Smith, Yellow and Red Delicious and Fuji) in this recipe. This dish is great for a weeknight dinner; it is quick to prepare and uses just one large pan. It makes a full meal with just a salad and a loaf of crusty bread.
Serves 2 (as a main dish)
½ to ¾ pound thick country or other similarly spiced chicken, turkey, or pork sausage (about 1-inch in diameter)
4 to 6 apples (preferably of mixed varieties) peel, quarter, and thinly slice half the apples; the remaining apples are quartered.
In a large, heavy pan, start the sausages cooking over medium-high heat. As soon as the sausages begin to render their juices, add the thin apple slices. Turn both the sausages and the apple slices so that they brown evenly.
Once the apple slices begin to brown, add the apple quarters, and stir occasionally. After 2 to 3 minutes, cover the pan for a few minutes. That helps the apples soften and brown. It will also allow a bit of liquid to accumulate in the pan. Uncover the pan and continue cooking until the sausages are fully cooked. (The time required to cook the sausages depends on their thickness, typically about 10 to 15 minutes. You can ensure that the middle cooks thoroughly by cutting the sausages down the middle vertically to butterfly them after 10 minutes, laying them flat to continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes.) The thin apple slices will slightly disintegrate into a chunky applesauce, while the quarters will remain whole.
Serve on a platter with the sausages in the middle along with the applesauce, surrounded by the apple quarters.
Adapted from “Soft Ginger Bread,” Mrs. Robert Gilmor’s recipe, Maude A. Bomberger, “Colonial Recipes”
This moist, rich cake is flavorful without being overwhelming. For an easy decorative finish, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. Alternatively, mix 1 to 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar in a bowl with a few drops of lemon juice, water, or milk, and drizzle that glaze over the top, letting it run down the sides of the cake. This recipe proportion is cut in half from the original, which would have made an enormous cake.
Serves 8 to 10 (one 9-inch/23-centimeter round cake, about 2-inches/5-centimeters tall)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
16 tablespoons (or 8 ounces or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup boiling water
1 cup unsulphured molasses
Zest from ½ lemon (about 1 teaspoon zest)
2 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray or butter a 9-inch round pan with 2-inch sides. Put parchment or foil on the bottom and spray again, then put a ring of foil around the sides of the pan and spray or butter the foil.
Whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and the sugars. If using a stand or hand mixer, use medium speed for at least 3 minutes until the butter and sugars are completely combined and whipped until light and airy.
Add ½ cup boiling water to the molasses and stir the mixture until completely combined. Add the lemon zest.
The creamed butter and sugars will be the “base” of the batter. The dry mixture (flour/spices/baking soda), the molasses/water mixture, and the eggs are added as follows: Add approximately half of the flour mixture in three portions to the creamed butter and sugars, alternately with the molasses in two portions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. (There is no need to be precise in measuring.) Once that mixture is combined well, add the second half of the flour mixture with the eggs, with the flour mixture in three portions and the eggs in two. Mix gently until combined well.
Spoon the rather stiff batter into the prepared cake pan. Using a knife or spatula, smooth the batter out, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake rest in its pan for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Well wrapped, this cake will stay moist at room temperature for several days.
Editor’s Note: Find more of Sheilah’s culinary treats at www.cookingwithsheilah.com.