Hot weather refreshment 19th-century style

You know, folks often ask us if we are hot when they are out on a hot day and see us in several layers of clothing with long sleeves, corsets, petticoats, caps or hats on our heads, frock coats, and long knit stockings.  You bet we are!  People were hot in the 19th-century too.  Recently we posted one of my favorite 19th-century poems called “How Very Hot It Is”. It’s a great look at how 19th-century people felt in the hot weather.  Today, we have a little hot weather refreshment for you!

One of our favorite cooling summer beverages here at GCV&M is called “shrub.”  It’s a funny name for a very pleasant and cooling drink.  In the 18th-century shrubs tended to be alcoholic, but with the temperance activities of the 19th-century, most of the shrub receipts I have seen from that time period are of the non-alcoholic variety.  Being a vinegar-based libation, one would expect it to be sour and not pleasant at all, but that could not be further from the truth.  In fact, shrubs, and their cousin “switchel” are quite tasty and act much like a modern re-hydrating sports drink to refresh and revive you during and after physical exertion on a hot summer’s day.  And as you can see from the photo, mine are nearly gone from all this hot weather we have been experiencing!

Shrubs are easy to make at home and require no specialized equipment.  All you need are the berries, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and something to put the finished product into.  That’s it.  This is the perfect time of year to make an assortment of shrubs since there are so many fresh cherries and berries out there just ripe for the picking.  If you do not have access to wild berries, that’s no problem!  Your local farmer’s market or even the frozen food section in your local grocery store will have plenty to choose from.  If you do buy frozen berries (and I have many times in a pinch!), make sure you buy plain berries with no sugar added.  The variety of berries makes no difference. You can even use other fruits like peaches, plums, or pineapple if you like.  The simple receipt is the same for all of them and makes a concentrate that you will dilute with water when you are ready to use it.  Be sure to use the correct amount of sugar so your shrub will be properly preserved without the need to freeze or process in a canner.

Here is a raspberry shrub receipt from The Frugal Housewife, by Lydia Maria Child, published in 1830:

“Raspberry shrub mixed with water is a pure delicious drink for summer; and good in a country where raspberries are abundant, it is good economy to make it answer instead of Port and Catalonia wine.  Put raspberries in a pan and scarcely cover them with strong vinegar.  Add a pint of sugar to a pint of juice; (of this you can judge by first trying your pan to see how much it holds) scald it, skim it, and bottle it when cold.”

Place berries or cherries into a non-aluminum bowl.  Pour cider vinegar into the bowl until it just covers the fruit.  Cover and set it aside for a day or two. (If you need it fast, alternatively, you may just heat the fruit and vinegar to a boil in a large pan and simmer 10 – 15 minutes.)  Strain, reserving the liquid and discarding the spent fruit.  Measure the amount of liquid you have and add it to a large pan.  For each cup of liquid add an equal amount of sugar.  Stir well and bring to a gentle boil.  Skim it if necessary.  Pour into bottles or jars and store in a cool pantry or cupboard until needed. 

TO USE: Stir 2 – 4 tablespoons of shrub concentrate into a large glass of cold water.  More or less may be added to taste.

Questions?  Comments?  How do you keep cool in the summer?  Let us know what you think!

This updated post originally appeared on our blog July 19, 2013


How Very Hot It Is

The recent spell of hot weather we have been having brought to mind the following poem that was published in the Scientific American magazine, Vol.  2 Issue 1; New York, September 26, 1846.  We hope you enjoy it!

How Very Hot It Is

The following lines would have been inserted earlier, but the weather was so hot we could not attend to it.

Did you ever know such weather?

Seven bright burning days together!

Swelt’ring nights and broiling days,

Sultry moonbeams, sun’s hot rays:

No one knows which way to turn him,

All things either melt or burn him;

Half the weight of all the nation,

Is flying off in perspiration,

And every man, and woman too,

As languidly they look at you,

Exclaims, with moist and mournful phiz,

“Dear me! How very hot it is!”

Ladies all languid in muslin array,

Loll upon couches the live long day,

Looking more lovely than we can say—

Though, alas! They are rapidly melting away

“Bring me an ice!” they languidly cry,

But alas and alack! It is “all in my eye”—

For before it reaches the top of the stairs,

It’s turned into water quite “unawares,”

While John with his salver, looks red and stares,

And the moist confectioner inwardly swears,

As he wipes with his apron his long, pale phiz,

“Oh—pooh! How infernally hot it is!”

Oh what a treat ‘twould be to wade

Chin deep in fresh ice and lemonade!

Or to sit a deep marble bowl within,

And camphor gurgling around your chin—

Hissing and sparkling round your nose,

Till you open your mouth and down it goes,

Gulp by gulp, and sup by sup,

As you “catawumpishly chew it up.”

Refreshing your heart and cooling your faces—

Burnt down as they’ve been with all sorts of sauces

Oh, the fellow who thus could lave his phiz

Needn’t care how hot the weather is!

Originally posted to our blog on July 17, 2013.

An Orange Fool Receipt for Dairy Month

In honor of June being Dairy Month, I have an excellent receipt (recipe) to share for an Orange Fool, dating to 1774. A “fool” is traditionally a dessert made of a sweetened custard with stewed fruit swirled in or cooked into the custard, especially gooseberries. Fools get their name from fouler, the French word for “press” or “crush,” referring to the fruit used to make them. This particular receipt uses orange juice – most likely of the Seville orange. Since we are past the season for Seville oranges, you can use any juicy orange.

Orange Fools

To make an orange fool.
TAKE the juice of six oranges and six eggs well beaten, a pint of cream, a quarter of a pound of sugar, a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix all together, and keep stirring over a slow fire till it is thick, then put in a little piece of butter, and keep stirring till cold, and dish it up. [Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery. London: 1774]

Here is a modern translation if the historical version leaves you with a headache:

Orange Fool
6 oranges, juice only (don’t forget to zest the peel and save it for cooking or garnishing first!)
6 eggs, well-beaten
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, or to taste
1 teaspoon of butter
Optional: additional cream, whipped or meringue to top the fool
Optional: orange zest or candied orange peel as garnish

In a large saucepan, whisk together the orange juice, eggs, cream, sugar and spices. Set over medium heat and stir until it is thick.* Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted and incorporated. Set the pan into a basin of cold water and keep stirring the mixture until it is cold. Serve it well-chilled in glasses. Top with whipped cream or meringue and orange zest or candied orange peel as desired.

* You could also make this in the microwave, if you prefer. Just remember to stop it and stir often as it is cooking.

An orange fool

Wouldn’t these look beautiful using blood oranges too? Or search out some gooseberries this summer and try out some traditional gooseberry fool.

These days most fools are simply made by loosely folding stewed fruit or unset (failed) preserves into sweetened whipped cream. You want to see the streaks of fruit and cream separately, so don’t stir them completely together. Chill before serving.

Give it a try and let us know how you like it in the comment section below!

The Top 12 New Things You’ll See in the GCV&M Historic Village this Spring

There is really so much to see and do in the GCV&M Historic Village that it is hard to do it all in just one day. This past winter and early spring, we have once again been busy sprucing up, adding to, and switching a few things around. We are excited to show you, in no particular order, our top 12 picks of all the new changes you’ll see when you visit us this year.

1. A new, partial construction of the hearth, brick oven and chimney at the Campbell House. The circa 1806 house is our “work in progress” that allows us to show visitors the various stages of house building. Stop in and peer down the chimney from the second floor, peek into the smoke chamber or look inside the brick oven to see what it looks like and how it was built.

2. A new accessible ramp at Altay Store and new handrails have been installed at Hosmer’s Inn, Romulus Seminary and Quaker Meeting House.

3. The Brooks Grove Parsonage, Land Office, St Feehan’s Church, and Hamilton House have been or are in the process of being spiffed up with new coats of paint.

4. A new berry garden has been installed behind the MacArthur house. The gardeners have moved the old non-productive fruit garden from the poor soil behind the Foster home to this new location and the fence between the fruit garden and the vineyard has been removed. Growing your own fruit was very popular and this garden will provide our working kitchens with rhubarb, gooseberries, currants and raspberries in season. The fruit was used historically to make puddings, pies, preserves, syrups, and tarts and will be a wonderful addition to our historic kitchen demonstrations.

This new arbor will soon be covered with thousands of tiny white flowers from the Virgin’s Bower clematis.

5. A new “fashionable” arbor now defines and separates the path between the Hyde and Hamilton houses. In the 1870s, with more leisure time and a bit of wealth to show off, people began placing decorative cast iron urns, statuary, armillary spheres, and graceful arbors in their gardens in an effort to mimic fancy European gardens. The era of lawn ornaments was born.

6. New for the spring season only, MacKay Family Dinners have been added to our historical dining opportunities. The MacKay family hosted many notables in their day, from Horace Greeley to Red Jacket, the great Seneca orator and chieftain. It’s no wonder as Mrs. MacKay and Mrs. Hosmer, both of this village, were daughters of the famous innkeeper, Maj. Isaac Smith. Will you add your name to the list of those who have dined in this illustrious home?

Our new heirloom breed of pigs.

7. A new pair of Berkshire pigs has taken up residence at the Pioneer Farmstead. Berkshires are one of the oldest identifiable breeds of pigs going back some 300 years. They were first brought to the United States in 1823 and known for their moist hams and excellent bacon.

8. The Jas T. Norton Print Office will be opening for business in the former Tenant House, adjacent to the Blacksmith Shop. This move brings the print shop into a much larger home, making their work more efficient and allowing us to finally fully assemble our printing press.

Anti-Slavery Fair quilt at the Eastman Boyhood Home.

9. The Anti-Slavery Fair quilt is finally on the frame to begin quilting at the Eastman Boyhood Home. The quilters designed and have been working hard to get this quilt together and on the frame for a few seasons now. Anti-slavery fairs were held in many northern states, often in conjunction with anti-slavery conventions and many handmade items and goods were auctioned off to raise money for the abolition cause.

Our newest potter hard at work.

10. We have a new potter. The very talented Kate Hochbrueckner has joined master potter, Mark Presher, as our second village potter. Kate can be found working in the pottery on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and some Sundays throughout the season.

11. Buck and Dan are now sharing their pasture with Star and Bright. Star and Bright are now big enough to share the pasture with Buck and Dan, our mature yoke of oxen. Having both pairs in one place will help our historical farmers work more efficiently.

The new garden gate at the Pioneer Farmstead

12. A new garden gate has been installed adjacent to the road at the Pioneer Farmstead. This new gate will provide easier access for our visitors to be able to look around inside and see what’s growing.

That’s it for our top 12 picks! We can’t wait for next weekend’s regular season opening to find out what you think of the changes and hear about your favorites. Please tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

Make Bread with Snow!

View through a frosty windowpane at Jones farmhouse.
View through the frosty kitchen windowpane at Jones Farm,

Recently, while planning for our upcoming events, I was looking through some receipts (recipes) in both The Monthly Genesee Farmer Magazine and the New-York Farmer, and American Gardener’s Magazine and came across a curious receipt for “Snow Bread” in each one. Huh? Snow bread? Bread made with nothing but cornmeal, a little lard and snow? Would that really work? How would it hold together once the snow melted in baking?

Take a look at the original historical receipt. I will give you a modern take on the recipe to try for yourself at the end.


If the editor of the Genesee Farmer will permit me to occupy a small space in his valuable journal, I will take the liberty to communicate one or two modes to make corn bread. They may be interesting to some of its fair readers, and peradventure assist them to give more variety to the cheer of the domestic board.

This is made by taking a quart of corn flour, and mixing intimately with it a table spoonful of lard. Then take two full quarts of snow and stir it well in the flour with a spoon; pack it close in the pan or oven in which it is to be baked, and submit it to a quick fire. If managed successfully, it will be found to be a far better article of its kind, than the famous snow soap, which attracted so much of the attention of our good housewives some years ago. It is exceedingly light and spongy, and will require nearly three quarters of an hour to bake.

The Monthly Genesee Farmer, Volume 1, No.4, April 1836
A big bowl of fluffy white snow on the Jones Farm doorstep.
A big bowl of fluffy white snow on the Jones Farm doorstep.

Since we here in western New York are <ahem> looking forward to the prospect of a serious winter snow storm this weekend, it seems to present the perfect opportunity to try making some snow bread and see if it really works. I have made many a “pioneer” cornbread in the Hetchler log house over the years, using nothing but fine cornmeal, salt, and water but it makes a very dense, heavy, though filling cornbread. According to the receipt for snow bread, it should come out “exceedingly light and fluffy.”

Work the lard into the cornflour before collecting your snow unless your kitchen is very cold.

Okay, this I must try. I got out my pan and greased it. The receipt doesn’t say to do that, but I know from experience that I need to grease the pan. I got out another bowl and measured in a quart (4 cups) of corn flour.

Next the receipt says to work a “table spoonful” of lard with the corn flour “intimately.” Now, a quart is a quart both then and now but a table spoon is not necessarily a tablespoon at all. In the 19th century, a “table spoon” was whatever spoon you used at the table – more like a soup spoon or small serving spoon today.

I scooped out a spoonful of lard and used the back of my spoon to work the lard into the corn flour until it was all thoroughly crumbly with no evident lumps of lard appearing when I stirred through the flour. That’s about as intimate as it can get, I guess. Now it is time to work in the snow.

Be sure your snow is clean when you gather it. No yellow snow. The cornmeal is the best way to make your cornbread yellow, if you know what I mean.

Working the snow in was a bit more difficult than I thought. Perhaps freshly fallen snow would work better but I was working with snow that had been on the ground awhile and had settled a bit. It worked in but wanted to clump up. I also quickly realized my bowl was too small and had to find a much larger bowl and transfer it over so I could fully mix it in. Keep mixing and kinda chopping the clumps of snow into the corn meal until it is all dispersed and no big lumps of snow are apparent throughout the mixture. Now dump and pack the mixture into the pan well, then get it into your hot oven to bake until it is done.

Wow! It really works. The bread held together and is quite fluffy when compared to ordinary “pioneer” cornbread. It was a little more crumbly than my usual cornbread and definitely could use some salt to alleviate the blandness but otherwise it tastes great too.

Okay, but can snow bread really have been a thing? I guess so. A quick online search brought up numerous receipts and references to snow bread in various publications dated from 1834 through 1882.

If you’d like to try this at home – and I encourage you to do so – here is my modern take on it. I used Indian Head Old Fashioned Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal for mine but any corn flour or floury-textured cornmeal will do. I also added some salt to this recipe since it needs it. If for some reason you don’t want to use lard, you could easily substitute bacon grease or shortening for the lard if you prefer.

Finished snow bread is wonderful with butter!


4 cups very fine cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoon lard
8 cups of clean snow

Preheat your oven to 400°. Grease a metal pan. (A glass pan may crack from the shock of the cold and heat of the oven.) About 9″ X 9″ square or one or two small round cake pans should do it.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal and salt, whisking together until well blended. Using the back of a strong mixing spoon, work the lard (or bacon grease or shortening) into the cornmeal until you cannot discern any bits of fat in the meal and the mixture is all crumbly. Next, quickly work the snow into the cornmeal mixture with the spoon, folding and cutting the snow into the mixture until the whole mixture is a crumbly mass.

Working quickly, dump the mass of “batter” into the greased pan (or divide it between two greased pans if necessary) and pat firmly into the pan with the back of the spoon. It should be about 2 inches thick, although thinner is okay too. Place into a preheated hot oven and bake until the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan and is done; about 40-45 minutes for 2 inch thick batter or 25 minutes if the batter is only 1 inch thick. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes. Cut and serve with butter. Yum!

That’s all there is to it!

We hope you will try this out for yourself and let us know in the comment section below how yours turned out. It would make a fun family experiment with children or grandchildren during the upcoming winter weather and if there is snow on the ground when our Maple Sugar Festival rolls around this March, you might even catch Mrs. Jones in her farm kitchen or one of the women at the sugar shack whipping up a batch of snow bread.

A Syllabub Adventure and A Receipt for the Holidays

“Whipt Syllabub” with no cow involved, from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,
by Hannah Glasse, 1796

Did you ever run across something that was just so interesting or fun that you just knew you had to do it someday? For me, that thing was a very interesting historical receipt (recipe) for “To make a Syllabub from the Cow” and I have waited almost twenty years to finally get to try it out.

Syllabub is a festive beverage and has such a fun name. Why wouldn’t anyone want to try it? Here at Genesee Country Village & Museum I’ve made several different syllabubs over the years and I love their beautiful color and fluffy, frothy tops. I’ve even made a solid or “everlasting” type of syllabub that is more like a mousse and can be used in making trifle. The “cow version” though, well, making that version just never happened for some reason. Until now.

This week, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and it was finally time to try out the syllabub under a cow. This presented an immediate difficulty in that here at GCV&M, we don’t keep a milch (milk) cow. Fortunately, in my “real life” away from GCV&M, I am a dairy farmer’s wife so that problem was overcome by using a cow in our own barn. I won’t say “easily” because you should have seen my husband’s face when I told him what we were going to do, but he has already put up with my crazy historical receipts and ideas for a couple decades and I did not have to twist his arm too hard.

My daughter in the barn with the bowl of sweetened and spiced red wine.

I also enlisted the assistance of my daughter who works here at GCV&M with our MacKay and Hosmer Dinners, and grew up milking cows.

Incidentally, it is apparent that others in the past also came up against the problem of a lack of a cow in making this syllabub since the authoress of the cook book does give instructions on how to make it at home without a cow if you don’t happen to have one available. Here is the original receipt I used, if you’d like to follow along.

To make a Syllabub from the Cow.

MAKE your syllabub of either cyder or wine, sweeten it pretty sweet, and grate nutmeg in ; then milk the milk into the liquor : when this is done, pour over the top half a pint or a pint of cream, according to the quantity of syllabub you make.  You may make this syllabub at home, only have new milk ; make it as hot as milk from the cow, and out of a teapot, or any such thing, pour it in, holding your hand very high, and strew over some currants well washed and picked, and plumped before the fire.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Excels Any Thing of the …  By Hannah Glasse, 179
Grating a nutmeg into the sweetened red wine base.

First we needed to make the base. I used a cup of red wine made especially for GCV&M out of our heirloom grapes by a wonderful volunteer. I sweetened it “pretty sweet” as directed, using about two rounded serving spoonsful of sugar. I then grated in some fresh nutmeg. (If you have never used a fresh, whole nutmeg before, now is the time to start!) I stirred the wine, sugar and nutmeg until the sugar completely dissolved, and then we headed out to the barn.

Yes, I actually did make my husband and nephew take off their modern jackets and hats to put on handwoven smocks. I couldn’t keep all the modern from encroaching, but I tried.

At first, Ariana wasn’t sure she and the bowl would fit under the cow, or even how to hold the bowl and milk the cow at the same time as she was worried about the cow kicking over the bowl and dumping the contents. This was also apparently a common concern in the past since some of the receipts for syllabub from a cow specify you need a cow that will hold still and not kick the bowl over.

It was about 16° and windy outside so by the time we had gotten the cow in place out of the wind in an end opening of the barn, both the yellowware bowl Ariana was holding and her hands were quite cold. She quickly figured out how to balance the bowl and milk the cow at the same time. Below, you can see the foam beginning to form on the top of the sweetened wine right away.

Since Ariana’s hands were so cold by the time we were able to start, after a few squirts my husband decided to take over and get the job done quickly before we all froze. He got a good stream going fast and the top of the wine was shortly covered with a thick layer of foamy froth, just like it should be.

Some instructions say to only milk in the second half of the milk that comes from the udder since that is the richest portion. We used the last milk from just one quarter to make this bowl of richness.

The bowl of lovely, frothy milk and sweetened wine.

Once you have your bowl of frothy milk, the receipt says it is time to finish the syllabub by pouring on a cup of heavy cream and sprinkling some plumped currants on top.

The finished syllabub ladled into the glasses and topped with a generous spoonful of the froth and currants. They look just like a milkshake to me.

The milk and wine are thoroughly blended in this syllabub version and did not immediately separate out. The foam was fluffy and yet a bit firm, so it was easy to pick up a spoonful and lay it onto the top of the glass. Time to try it out and see how it tastes.

One of the apparent benefits of making it on a 16° day rather than as a summertime beverage is that by the time I had the glasses filled, the syllabub was completely chilled from the freezing cold bowl, glasses, and cold air.

The empty glasses tell it all. This syllabub from a cow was very different from any I have made before. It was reminiscent of a sweet homemade eggnog (minus the eggs) in its milky, creamy texture. The froth was tender and yet somehow firm at the same time. It tasted delicious!

Syllabub looks beautiful in any kind of glasses.

If you’d like to try making your own festive syllabub for a holiday party this season without the fuss of a cow, here is a receipt for a different kind of syllabub that is easy to make and tastes delectable.

Keep in mind that while most receipts for syllabub call for a base of sack, red or white wine, “cyder” (cider), ale, beer, or non-alcohol choices such as verjuice, shrub, or even a citrus whey. If you are averse to using alcohol or want to make a child-friendly version, you can also make them with fruit juice as well. You’ll have to get a bit more creative with the whipped cream part to substitute for any alcohol, but you can just omit it or substitute for more juice, a little vanilla, or even some diluted apple cider vinegar.

To make Whipt Syllabubs.

TAKE a quart of thick cream, and half a pint of sack, the juice of two Seville oranges or lemons, half a pound of double-refined sugar, pour it into a broad earthen pan, and whisk it well ; but first sweeten some red wine or sack, and fill your glasses as full as you choose, then as the froth rises take it off with a spoon, and lay it on a sieve to drain ; then lay it carefully into your glasses till they are as full as they will hold : do not make these long before you use them.  Many use cyder sweetened, or any wine you please, or lemon or orange whey made thus : squeeze the juice of a lemon, or orange into a quarter of a pint of milk ; when the curd is hard, pour the whey clear off, and sweeten it to your palate ; you may colour some with the juice of spinage, some with saffron, and some with cochineal (just as you fancy).

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Excels Any Thing of the …  By Hannah Glasse, 1796

Modern version:

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup cream sherry
juice and zest of half a lemon
red wine, sweetened with sugar to taste

In a mixing bowl combine cream, sugar, sherry, lemon juice and zest. Whisk the mixture until soft peaks form.
Fill your glasses 1/4 to 1/2 full with the sweetened red wine. Gently spoon the whipped cream onto the wine in the glasses. Enjoy!

Note: This can be made somewhat ahead, covered and chilled until serving. It yields enough for 6-8 servings or more, depending on the size of your glasses. The glasses I used for the photo at the top of the page hold about 1/3 cup when filled just shy of the rim. The receipt made enough to easily fill 12 of those little glasses.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and yours!

We hope you enjoyed this historical adventure. If you try either of the syllabubs, we’d love to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments below.

Jelly Molds and a Recipe for Your Thanksgiving Table

In late October, we were gifted a wonderful collection of 137 jelly molds.  It was the greater part of a lifetime collection that was donated to us by Wendy B. White and could not have come at a more opportune moment as we were just getting ready to host our Domestic Skills Symposium and one of our speakers would be presenting on “Before There Was Jell-O.”

RF Molds1 cropped
Table display with a few of our new molds and some the jellies made in them.                            Photo by Ruby Foote

Jellies in the 19th century – what we would think of as “just jello” today – were considered very elegant and showstopping dishes due to the tremendous amount of time it took to make them.  Jellies were generally served by the upper classes because those were the people who could afford a large kitchen staff to spend the hours necessary for boiling down and clarifying collagen-rich calves feet or pig’s ears, and things like harts-horn (antlers), isinglass (sturgeon swim bladders), Irish moss (seaweed), barley, oatmeal, or other foodstuff to make beautiful and perfectly transparent gelatin.  The gelatin was used clear or could be colored with things like cochineal, egg yolks, chocolate, and even what we consider paint pigments today, such as sap green.


Naturally in order to properly show off your affluence, you also needed a fancy mold to shape the jelly with.  What good is a crystal clear jelly if you can’t see it in a bowl?

Elaborate molds could be had in tin, copper, and earthenware.  Did you want to mold a castle?  You could buy a mold for it.  A lovely bunch of asparagus?  An exotic pineapple?  A fish swimming on top of the jelly?  A dog lovingly gazing at you?  Yes, there were molds for all those and more.  Just about anything you might fancy was shaped into a mold and available for purchase.

RF Molds4
Top to bottom:  Blancmange colored with cochineal, cream, and chocolate in a temple mold; lemon flummery in a pea pod mold; chocolate cream in a poinsettia and Christmas tree mold surrounded by individual molds of chocolate cream and lemon flummery.

Molds DB
From top to bottom: A pineapple mold in lemon flummery;, a fish swimming mold and a cameo style mold in blancmange colored with cochineal.

Times have changed and we now have inexpensive boxes of gelatin that only require boiling water and a few minutes stirring to make the jiggly dessert, but if you’d like to try one of the easier historical receipts (recipes) for your Thanksgiving table, here is one we tested and served at our recent Domestic Skills Symposium.  We backed off the wine and egg yolks a little and added a touch more sugar for modern tastes in our version. We also substituted modern plain gelatin packets for the isinglass the original receipt calls for.  It is a delicate dessert with light and refreshing flavor and texture.


Original receipt:


Beat and open 2 ounces of isinglass, put it into a bowl, and over it a pint of boiling water ; cover it up till it is almost cold, then add a pint of white wine, the rind of one lemon, the
juice of two lemons, the yolks of eight eggs, well beaten, and sweeten it to your taste ; then put it into a tossing pan, and continue stirring it.  When it boils, strain it ; and when almost cold, put it into moulds or cups.

From: Every Woman Her Own House-keeper; Or, The Ladies’ Library: Containing
the …, By John Perkins, 1796


Modern version:

Yellow Flummery
Yellow Flummery in a “pea pod” mold

Yellow Lemon Flummery, as adapted by GCV&M

Makes 4 cups

In a large bowl, sprinkle 2 packets (or 2 tablespoons) of plain unflavored gelatin over the surface of 1 cup Chardonnay or a sweet white wine. Set aside to soften for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine: 3 cups water, the juice of 2 lemons, 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste), and 5 egg yolks (well beaten). Use a vegetable peeler to thinly pare the rind of 1 lemon and add to the other ingredients in the saucepan. Heat, stirring all the while, over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove it from the heat, and strain it to remove the lemon rind and any undissolved bits of lemon pulp and egg yolk.

Combine the lemon/egg mixture with the wine and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. You can tell if the gelatin is completely dissolved by dipping a clean spoon into the mixture. If you see any granules clinging to the spoon, keep stirring.

Pour the flummery liquid into a clean mold and set in a cool place for 8 to 24 hours.

To un-mold, set the mold in a bowl of hot water for just a few seconds. Dry the outside of the mold quickly and place serving plate upside-down on top of the mold. With one quick motion, holding the plate and mold together, turn over. Remove the mold and garnish your beautiful dessert.

NOTE: If you prefer a stronger wine flavor, you can increases the wine by 1 cup and reduce the water by 1 cup.  Be sure to taste and see if you like the level of sweetness and add sugar by the teaspoonful until it is to your taste.


That’s it!  Please let us know if you tried it and what you thought.  We’d love to hear from you.

Announcing the 2018 Cooking with Maple Contest Winners!

We just love our maple here at Genesee Country Village & Museum!  We have so much maple-y good fun in our Nature Center’s sugarbush, our 19th century sugar camp, the exciting and new modern sugarhouse, our pancake breakfast, and our lively, 8th annual Cooking with Maple contest.

2018 Contest entries of maple foods arranged in a display.
Contest entries display.

This year the Cooking with Maple judges were challenged to rate a wide variety of maple-based foods ranging from Maple Macarons, Black Bear Maple Bourbon Marinated Steak, Maple Lemon Raisin Pie, Savory Maple and Rosemary Spiced Nut Mix, to Maple Mousse.

Judges sampling the maple entries
The contest judges hard at work.


Grand Prize winner Chris Heschke with his pottery prizes
Grand Prize winner Chris Heschke.



This year’s GRAND PRIZE goes to Chris Heschke of LeRoy, NY with his Maple Caramel Bacon Crack Bites. As the grand prize winner, Chris received a hand-thrown Maple Sugar Festival 2018 platter by our own master potter, Mark Presher.



Here is the complete list of winning entries:

Child under 12 Class (1st Place winners received a $10 gift certificate to our Flint Hill Store, 2nd Place winners receive a bottle of freshly ground cinnamon from Stuart’s Spices)

Brother and sister winners
Brother and sister prize winners, Thomas and Catherine McLaughlin with their gift certificates and cinnamon from Stuart’s Spices.

1st place: Naomi Nov of Churchville, NY; Maple Macarons
2nd place: Thomas McLaughlin of Hemlock, NY; Maple Sandwich Cookies 

1st place: Catherine McLaughlin of Hemlock, NY; Maple Mousse



Youth 12 – 17 Class (1st Place winners received a $10 gift certificate to our Flint Hill Store, 2nd Place winners receive a bottle of freshly ground cinnamon from Stuart’s Spices)

Young lady with her winning cake
Elizabeth Brentlinger with her winning Lemon Maple Apple Cake.

1st place: Elizabeth Brentlinger of Clifton Springs, NY; Maple Nut Spice Cookies

1st place: Elizabeth Brentlinger of Clifton Springs, NY; Lemon Maple Apple Cake

1st place: Elizabeth Brentlinger of Clifton Springs, NY; Maple Lemon Raisin Pie

1st place: Elizabeth Brentlinger of Clifton Springs, NY; Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites


Adult Class (1st Place winners received a hand-thrown redware syrup/cream pitcher made by our own Mark Presher, master potter, 2nd Place winners receive a bottle of freshly ground Volcanic Blend from Stuart’s Spices)

1st place: Mary Birchenaugh of Holley, NY; Maple Walnut Breakfast Cake
2nd place: Gail Fowler of Spencerport, NY; Maple Syrup Cake with Maple Buttercream Frosting

Woman with winning bar cookies
Stacy Cobo with her winning NYS Maple Syrup Bars.


1st place: Janell Nov of Churchville, NY; Maple Cut-out Cookie with Maple Icing
2nd place: Stacy Cobo of Springville, NY; NYS Maple Syrup Bars
3rd place: Gail Fowler of Spencerport, NY; Maple Sandwich Cookies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling


Volunteer woman in costume with winning tarts
GCV&M volunteer, Pam Friedler with her winning Maple Butter Tarts.


1st place: Gail Fowler of Spencerport, NY; Maple Pecan Pie
2nd place: Pam Friedler of Ontario, NY; Maple Butter Tarts
3rd place: Betsy Forjone of Hilton, NY; Maple Pumpkin Pie

1st place: Chris Heschke of LeRoy, NY; Maple Caramel Bacon Crack Bites
2nd place: Camille Anne Martina of Scottsville, NY; Savory Maple and Rosemary Spiced Nut Mix
3rd place: Mary Birchenaugh of Holley, NY; Sourdough Maple Cheddar & Fennel Scones

1st place: Mary Birchenaugh of Holley, NY; Toasted Walnut Maple Caramels
2nd place: Cheryl Weber of Caledonia, NY; Maple Sugar Waffles with Candied Pecans
3rd place: Nancy Keating of Caledonia, NY; Maple Pumpkin Bread

Thank you to everyone who entered! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year.

Another huge thank you to this year’s judges, Sarah Santora of Livingston County News; WYSL Radio talk show host, Michael Warren Thomas; Chef Cyndi Lewandowski; Amy LaGambino of Stuart’s Spices, and Nancy Brach of Brach’s Machines in Batavia.  We so appreciate you giving up your time to help us pull the contest off!

The 2018 judges and contest organizer
2018 Judges from left to right: Nancy Brach, Sarah Santora, Cyndi Lewandowski, Amy LaGambino, Michael Warren Thomas, with maple contest coordinator Deanna Berkemeier.


The Changing Faces of Saint Nicholas

In honor of today being Saint Nicholas Day, we have reprised this blog post we first published five years ago today, on December 6, 2012.

1810 NY Hist. Society St Nicholas

In honor of Saint Nicholas Day and our ongoing Yuletide in the Country tours, we thought you might be interested to see a little of the evolution of Saint Nicholas in the first half of the 19th-century. The first American rendition of Saint Nicholas bears no resemblance whatsoever to our modern idea of Santa Claus. Drawn by the artist Alexander Anderson for the NY Historical Society in 1810, this image is of a stern but benevolent Saint Nicholas, his bishop’s scepter in hand. On the right are two children, their stockings hung from the mantle beneath them. The good little child has a full stocking and holds a toy. The naughty child cries as he looks down on his stocking full of switches.1821 Sante Claus from book: The Children's Friend

Next comes an image of “Sante Claus” from an 1821 child’s book entitled “The Children’s Friend”. Here Santa is looking a little more friendly, but if you notice his sleigh is full of “rewards” for good children, while the story tell us that Sante Claus… “left a long, black, birchen rod, Such as the dread command of GOD, Directs a Parent’s hand to use, When virtue’s path his sons refuse.” Hmmm…..

And finally, for this post anyway, we have 1848 Boyd Saint NicholasSaint Nicholas as he appeared in 1849, the same date our Yuletide in the Country tours are set in this year. The drawing, below right, was done by T. C. Boyd for the 1848 edition of “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” St. Nick is still pictured holding a stick as a remnant of his bishop’s scepter, but now it is used by the “jolly old elf” to hold the bundle of toys with which he fills all the stockings. Gone is the stern St. Nicholas who requires children to be good and earn their gifts as rewards. He has been transformed into a twinkle-eyed, rosy- cheeked, cherry-nosed, merry little elf.Our Saint Nick

If you have not made your reservations to come out and join us this year on one of our candlelit tours through Christmas of 1849, please consider doing so. Reservations are required and slots are filling up fast for these last two weekends! I promise you will not be disappointed, and you might even catch a glimpse of our own “jolly old elf” in one of the scenes. Ho! Ho! Ho!

That These Dead Shall Not Have Died in Vain

Historical Interpreter, Anneliese Meck

For our first post on the new blog, we have a contribution by a special guest blogger.  Anneliese Meck is a historical interpreter and interpretation office assistant, and honors both her Chinese and American heritages through historical clothing construction and living history at the Genesee Country Village & Museum.

The Chinese Soldiers of the American Civil War

As the cries of battle, cannons and musket fire once again resound through the historic village, echoing in the hearts of soldiers, civilians and spectators alike during our annual Civil War Reenactment, we hope that, in the words of President Lincoln, “these dead shall not have died in vain.”  Though small in number, the Chinese who fought for freedom in this “new country,” with the promise “that all men are created equal,” will not be forgotten, nor their contributions unnoticed.  Asian Americans have served in the armed forces of just about every major American conflict since the War of 1812, demonstrating a deep commitment and patriotic spirit for the country they consider home, despite legalized discrimination and exclusion.  Few may know of the roles of the Chinese in the American Civil War, but with primary sources like military records and photographs, and through the continued efforts of historians and Civil War buffs, we are uncovering a heroic history and redefining diversity in war.

The Chinese in America, 1513–1860

To understand how the Chinese came to enlist in the American Civil War, a brief historical context detailing their migration and settlement in the United States is necessary.  After nearly a century of isolation, the Chinese established trade relations with the Portuguese in 1513, beginning a long, complicated relationship with Europe and contact with the Americas.  Chinese shipbuilders of Spanish Manila galleons or naos de China, “China ships,” and sailors were employed in the thriving trade route between Manila and Mexico, operating from around 1565 to 1815 (Kwok).  Chinese silks, porcelains and jewelry were exported in exchange for New World gold and silver.  Around the same time, in the 1700s, the British East India company landed in Canton (Guangzhou), which became the center of trade by 1760.

In the mid-1850s, with Canton under British and French occupation, Chinese men were sought after as a cheap labor source, serving as sailors, cooks and stewards upon ships along the Eastern American seaboard.  Some even decided to settle in ports such as New York City as an 1856 New York Times Article evidenced, estimating around 150 “Chinamen in New York,” mostly employed as sailors (Heaver).  That mention, along with the number of young boys adopted by missionaries and sea captains to be raised in America, accounts for most of the recorded presence of Chinese on the East Coast.  While on the West Coast, the international gold rush of 1849 sparked a diaspora, with more than 250,000 young Chinese men hoping to strike riches in California’s gim san or “gold mountain” (Shirk).  Rather than prosperity, they quickly discovered a deep-seated, anti-Chinese climate, and were forced out by discriminatory measures like the Foreign Miners’ Tax.

The Chinese in the Civil War

Corporal Joseph Pierce

To the surprise of most Americans today, 58 Chinese men, out of a total of 200 identified as living on the East Coast at the start of the war, voluntarily enlisted in both the Union and Confederate armies to fight for the same causes as their black and white compatriots.  Many hoped for legitimacy and citizenship in exchange for loyalty and service to a country they considered their own.  Accounts of valiant efforts in many major battles as well as service records exist, showing that three Chinese soldiers were even promoted to corporals in all white units.  This included both Corporal Joseph Pierce of the 14th Connecticut regiment, who fought at Antietam and Gettysburg during Pickett’s Charge, and Corporal John Tommy of the 70th New York regiment, Co. D, who also fought at Gettysburg and lost all four limbs in the crossfire.

Private Woo Hong Neok

Eager for liberation, some of the Chinese enslaved through the Pacific slave trade, much like their African American counterparts, hungered for a better life and enlisted in the Union army.  Thomas Sylvanus, or Ah Yee Way, escaped from slavery in Baltimore fought at Gettysburg and survived a nine-month incarceration at Andersonville, the notorious Confederate prison camp.  Woo Hong Neok, one of the few Chinese granted citizenship before the war, also identified with the Union cause.  He enlisted with the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Co. I, stating that he “volunteered on June 29, 1863 in spite of the advice of my Lancaster friends against it, for I had felt that the North was right in opposing slavery.  My friends thought I should not join the militia and risk my life in war, for my own people and family were in China and I had neither property nor family in America whose defense might serve as an excuse for my volunteering” (Shirk).


At the same time, at least five Chinese Americans have been identified by name as sympathizers of the Confederate cause.  Most famously, cousins Christopher and Stephen Bunker, the sons of prosperous slave-owning farmers in North Carolina, fought to protect their family’s interests, as well as Henry William Kwan of the 12th Virginia Battalion of Light Artillery, Co. B.  There are even records of Chinese enlisted with the Avegno Zouaves Company I of the 14th Louisiana Infantry (Kwok).

Other important roles included an unidentified number of Chinese sailors, stewards and cooks serving in the Union navy during the blockades of Southern ports.  Several names include Thomas Smith, a sailor listed onboard the USS Potomac, John Akomb, a steward on a gunboat, and William Hand, the first Asian American to enlist in the US Navy in 1863.  Unfortunately, historians will never know an exact number of the Chinese in the American Civil War, but their collective contributions to the war efforts were unarguably “far above our poor power to add or detract” (Lincoln).

Discrimination After the War

Though the battles of the Civil War may have ended in 1865, the fierce fight for legitimacy and equality for many minorities, including the Chinese, continued as wartime promises were broken.  The heroic contributions of Chinese soldiers and sailors were only rewarded with racial discrimination and measures like the Naturalization Act of 1870 and Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which largely prevented Chinese immigration by making citizenship illegal.  These laws were passed in direct violation of an earlier Congressional act from 1862, promising U.S. citizenship to any honorably discharged veteran of foreign born status.  Deprived of citizenship, the Chinese were also ineligible for army pensions, voting and property rights, as Civil War veterans like Edward Day Cohota found when denied a homestead with his American wife and six children.  In an official statement, Cohota wrote that he had “fought in the country’s service as a solder” and “served in its regular army for which I was retired for continued honorable service for over 30 years, and I believe that I, if anyone, have earned the right to be pronounced a citizen of the United States and enjoy all of its rights and privileges” (Heaver).  His protests, however, and the deep betrayal of his adopted country were dismissed.

Reduced to poverty, most of the Chinese immigrants of the 19th century were segregated into Chinatowns, operating laundries and restaurants, or were exploited as cheap “coolie labor” along the transcontinental railroad.  Those escaping the Pacific slave trade found it only replaced by strong anti-Asian sentiments, legalized oppression, and, in some instances, physical beating, robbing and killing.  A once proud veteran of Antietam and Gettysburg, Joseph Pierce had to deny any association with his ethnic origin for fear of expulsion, or worse.  In fact, he was so successful in his repression, that his descendants were unaware of their Chinese heritage.

A Lasting Legacy

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which forbid the naturalization of Chinese-American immigrants, remained in law until 1943, and it took another twenty years to formally abolish all restrictions based on race and national origin.  More recently, in 2008, former U.S. representative Michael Makoto Honda lead Congress to pass a joint resolution, which finally recognized the sacrifices made by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the American Civil War and posthumously awarded honorary citizenship (Smith).  This decision was a historic, first step towards a more substantial recognition of Asian American contributions, ensuring that, despite centuries of institutionalized prejudices and the denial of citizenship, their service to the country will never be forgotten.

At the Genesee Country Village & Museum, we strive to recognize and celebrate the heroism of all American soldiers – black and white, blue and grey, and now Asian, alike.  Continuing our mission to inspire excitement and curiously about a richly diverse past, we hope that you will join in our commemoration of the Civil War on the 15th and 16th of July, 2017.



1)    “1860sClothing” – a picture of Anneliese Meck in 1860s clothing, photograph courtesy of M. Meck.

2)      “CorporalJosephPierce” – Corporal Joseph Pierce of the 14th Connecticut Infantry Regiment, Company F, a Chinese Union soldier who fought at the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg.  Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

3)      “PrivateHongNeokWoo” – Private Woo Hong Neok of the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, Company I.  Photograph by Dr. Thomas P. Lowry and Michael Musick, via the Association to Commemorate the Chinese Serving in the American Civil War.


Works Cited

Corporal Joseph Pierce. Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, Accessed 12 July 2017.

Heaver, Stuart. “The Chinese Soldiers Who Fought in the American Civil War.” Post Magazine, 14 July 2016, Accessed 12 July 2017.

Hong Neok Woo. Association to Commemorate the Chinese Serving in the American Civil War, Gordon Kwok, Accessed 12 July 2017.

Kwok, Gordon. “Association to Commemorate the Chinese Serving in the American Civil War.” Association to Commemorate the Chinese Serving in the American Civil War, 18 Jan. 2009, Accessed 12 July 2017.

Lincoln, Abraham. “The Gettysburg Address.” 19 Nov. 1863. Abraham Lincoln Online, 2017, Accessed 12 July 2017. Address.

Shirk, Willis L., Jr. “Woo Hong Neok: A Chinese American Soldier in the Civil War.” Civil War Pennsylvania 150, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 16 July 2015, Accessed 12 July 2017.

Smith, S. E. “The Secret History of Chinese-American Civil War Soldiers.” This Ain’t Livin’, 14 Feb. 2017, american_civil_war_soldiers/. Accessed 12 July 2017.