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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Cooking: Dinner in A Country Village, Butter Biscuits, and Giveaway!

Last weekend, the coldest weekend we have had yet this winter with wind-chill temperatures in the negative double digits, my husband and I attended an event that we were really excited for at Old Sturbridge Village. If you don’t know about Old Sturbridge Village it is an excellent mostly outdoor living history museum that recreates a New England village from the 1830s. It is located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts and it is a favorite location of mine – I even got married there almost 2 years ago! You can check out more about OSV here.

We have attended pretty much every event that OSV has put on over the last 5 years. The event that we attended last weekend was one of their after-hours events called Dinner in a Country Village. What is so special about this event is that you actually get to cook an entire dinner and eat it family style in the ways of the 1800s in one of their exhibit homes! That is something we have observed before, but never able to actually take part in. I wanted to share our experience with you today and encourage you, if you ever have the opportunity, to not only visit Old Sturbridge Village, but their evening events as well.

So my husband and I arrive around 5 PM, it’s already FREEZING COLD! We met up with one of the costumed interpreters and the other 9 participants. They usually have groups of adults (age 18+) of up to 14 people – but a few had cancelled because of the cold temperatures. We made our way over to Parsonage building where we would be cooking that evening. Everyone broke up into 4 groups – appetizers, baking, vegetables, and meat; my husband and I took on vegetables. Everyone had their tasks and a dish that they were responsible for making. Everything prepared in the old ways and cooked over the open fireplace, hot coals, and in the brick bake ovens. At the vegetable station we made roasted carrots, gourd soup, stewed red cabbage, and fricassee of parsnips. When all the food was done, we set the table, learned traditional table manners, and sat down to enjoy the results of our labors family style. The food was delightfully simple and delicious and everyone glowed with their successes. The complete evening included the following all made by our own hands: potted cheese on common crackers, mulled cider, gourd soup, stewed red cabbage, fricassee of parsnips, roasted carrots, scots collops, roasted stuffed chicken, cranberry sauce, butter biscuits, apple pie with cheddar cheese, floating island, and hot chocolate. After dinner we moved into the parlor for hot chocolate and a dessert which we sat and ate by the fire before heading back out around 10 PM.

Here are a few things I learned from this experience:
  • I really appreciate my immersion blender. While making the gourd soup we had to essentially puree the squash and onions by pressing the simmered vegetable through a colander with a mallet. Oh my word did my arms hurt the next day! It took us a good 20 minutes of trading turns to push all the vegetable through the colander.
  • Being one who is used to following recipes very specifically I had a hard time working from authentic recipes (or receipts as they were called) because they are so vague with their measurements.
  • Cooking over an open fire is hard and hot work. We frequently had to pull out to metal bar suspended over the fire to add or remove the metal cooking pots or to adjust how close to the fire they were. We pulled hot coals out onto the front of the fireplace to place a clay cooking vessel directly onto them and cook via that heat. We baked in the bake oven where you determine the appropriateness of the temperature by sticking your arm into it and counting to a predetermined number.
  • Despite the temperatures outside and lack of modern heating, the kitchen was HOT from the fireplace and oven.
  • Doing anything from fire/candle light is difficult! You have to make sure to not catch you hair on fire and look really closely to see. And we had more candles going than the average household would have on a normal night.
  • Apple pie would have been eaten as part of the meal, which I struggled with. I kept finding myself leaving it for later until I remembered. Adding the cheddar cheese to each bite was AMAZING!
  • The biscuits were the best any of us had ever had and were very easy to make.

We appreciated how difficult it was to cook in these times but also how the food was still very good, not just boring as we had anticipated. It was a great time had by the couples that attended. Here are a few of the photos from the event – we didn’t manage to get photos of all of the food.

L. My husband cooking over the fire.  C. Me chopping veggies.  R. The bake table
Hearth side cooking
L. The dinner table being set.   R. My husband, myself, and mulled cider
OSV also has cooking events that can involve families, called Families Cook, or if you would rather have someone else cook it all for you and you just sit back and enjoy, they have an event called Hearthside Bounty.  You can find out more about their hearth cooking events here.

I would like to share one of the recipes we made with you today, that of the butter biscuits, the favorite of everyone present.

Butter Biscuits
Makes about 8-12 depending on size

Recipe from American Cookery, 1796:

One pint of milk and emptins, laid into flour, in sponge; next morning add one pound butter melted, not hot, and knead into as much flour as will, with another pint of warm milk, to be of sufficient consistence to make soft. Some melt butter in the milk.

Modern Translation from Food Through the Pages:


1 pint milk (2 cups)
1 pint emptins (you can just use a yeast mix)
1 lb. butter
1 pint of milk (2 cups)
Additional flour


1. Mix the half cup milk with the half cup emptins, along with a ½ cup flour to make a sponge. Cover loosely with a dish towel and let sit out overnight. In the morning, your sponge will be larger, bubbly, and, well… spongy.

2. Melt 1 stick of butter into another half cup of milk, and let cool until it’s just warm; if too hot, it will kill the yeast in the sponge. Add to the sponge, and gradually mix in 2 cups flour. At this point, you should have a thick batter. Gently knead in additional flour until the whole mixture comes together into one cohesive mass that is soft but not sticky.

3. Tear off 8-12 pieces of equal size, and gently form into small rounds. You may either place these directly onto a baking sheet, or into the cups of a muffin pan.

4. Bake at 350° F for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are just slightly golden, and the biscuits feel firm to the touch.
Two trays of biscuits and the roasted chickens
These biscuits were absolutely amazing! They are fluffy and more like dinner rolls than biscuits. You could use them as dinner rolls with butter, at breakfast with jam, or even with a fruit compote for a pseudo shortcake. SO good!!

I received 2 complete sets of the receipt cards for the meal we made at the Dinner in a Country Village event – and we really only need one. So I’m going to offer the second set for a giveaway! Make your entries through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway is open to the USA and Canada only and ends February 27th.


Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and anything even remotely cooking related can participate in this event.

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I'll stop back when the rafflecopter starts. I'd love a set of the recipes. We once cooked an entire meal over the fireplace -- a great experience. And, yes, makes you appreciate modern tools. We used electric lights, so we were saved that.

  2. How fascinating! I used to work in a museum that had a living history area to it and I always loved when the staff there would bring us food they had made that day. I never tried to cook over there but I can't even imagine. Sounds like a fun and informative ending and it sounds like got a great meal out of it too! I'll definitely be trying the biscuits!

  3. Wow! That sounds like quite a dinner - and cooking session. Cooking over an open fire? Yikes! Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds amazing.

  4. What fun! Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

  5. I love OSV, we used to stop there every time we drove up to NH from VA. I like their bakery especially. :) Your cooking adventure sounded fun and educational. Hands on history!


  6. Sounds like an awesome way to spend some time.

    I collect kitchen gadgets like most women collect shoes, and this post makes me appreciate them more than I usually do.

  7. Great post! Very interesting and sounds like a fabulous experience and wonderful way to spend a weekend.


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