Years ago I began researching colonial life with a particular fondness for recipes from the 1700s. At the time I was writing my historical romance series, A More Perfect Union, set in Charleston during the American Revolution and so I wanted to have an all-encompassing view of the life and times. Food is a very natural and important part of survival. You may recall I’ve spent a good deal of time sampling and converting colonial recipes to ones we can enjoy today. In fact, the stewed pears have become one of my hubby’s favorites!
As part of learning about Martha Washington before writing Becoming Martha Washington: A Novel which is planned for release this summer, I tried making sausage and flapjacks that George would enjoy. In fact, Martha included the sausage recipe in her own cookbook.
Before I started, I checked with my hubby to see if he felt brave and daring. After all, while in general we both enjoy the same things, sometimes the recipes don’t turn out as expected. I chose Oxford Kate’s Sausage (1749) and Slapjacks for Ichabod Crane (1796) out of my favorite historical recipe book Our Founding Foods by Jane Tennant. While I realize that 1796 for the slapjakcs is rather late compared to the earlier date for the sausage, I’m guessing that the recipe didn’t change significantly from 1749, just that it wasn’t deemed necessary to write it down before the end of the century because it is such a simple one. But not one I’d have thought of, let me tell you!
I wonder how frequently the Washingtons dined on these sausages. I also wonder if they enjoyed them or adapted the recipe in some way to suit their palates, like I’ve done. For one thing, beef suet is not readily available in the United States today, so I had to find a substitute. I imagine they harvested their own fats/greases when they slaughtered animals on the plantation, so they didn’t face the dilemma of finding an appropriate ingredient.
Let’s start with the sausages. The Tennant recipe called for a food processor, which I do not own, and I’m pretty sure the cooks in Martha’s kitchen didn’t either. A quick online search revealed several other ways to make sausage: 18th Century Recipes: Sausages the 18th Century Way which shares how the British made them, and Smokehouses which included the fact that pigs were only butchered in cold winter months and then their meat smoked. So why does the recipe call for fresh pork? Makes me wonder again about what might have been included in the actual recipe. But my concerns about seasonal availability aside, let’s see how breakfast turned out.
For the sausages I had to make several changes to the original recipe, including shredded butter in lieu of the beef suet, and garlic powder instead of mace. (Mace is a strong spice which neither of us enjoy.) The original recipe called for 2 Tablespoons each of salt and pepper, which I thought was too much, so I cut those back to 2 teaspoons pepper and 1 Tablespoon salt. I bought ground pork and ground beef, both lean, to use; though I could have used venison instead of the beef. The result was very good, and made much more than the recipe said it would. My hubby and I will have many more breakfasts with Kate’s Sausage since the recipe said it yielded 12 and I actually made 26! I could eat only one for breakfast, it was so filling!
After seeing how much sausage I had, I decided to cut the slapjack recipe in two, since the cakes are the size of a medium frying pan. Again, I couldn’t eat a whole one, but I ended up having the second half and another sausage for breakfast the next day. The slapjacks were also good, but I messed up on the eggs when I was halving the recipe and put in 2 instead of 1, which made the batter thicker than optimal. We enjoyed our slapjacks with butter and maple syrup, although George preferred his with honey.
I hope you enjoy the following recipes, and maybe make some adaptations of your own. After all, recipes for me are starting points, something I modify to suit our tastes and preferences.
Betty’s version of “Oxford Kate’s Sausage”
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 lb. lean ground pork
- 1 stick unsalted butter, frozen and shredded
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon ground sage
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
- Blend seasonings together in a small bowl.
- Crumble meats together into a large bowl.
- Sprinkle seasonings over meat.
- Add eggs and shredded butter.
- With your hands, mix together until all ingredients are well blended. Roll sausage out into logs the size of the length and bigness of a finger. Grease a deep frying pan and heat to medium. Add butter to cook the sausage in, be sure the butter is “boiling” before you add the sausage. Cook until brown.
Yield: 26 sausages
Slapjacks (Full recipe)
- 2 cups ground corn meal
- ½ cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Butter to fry
- Maple syrup
- Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add milk, butter, honey and eggs. Mix until well blended.
- Heat frying pan to medium, add butter to fry cakes. Pour about ½ cup of batter into the center of the pan to spread evenly across the heated surface.
- Cook until bubbly, then turn over with a large spatula and cook a minute or two on the other side. Remove from pan and keep warm while frying the rest of the slapjacks using this method.
Yield: 6 slapjacks
What do you think? Want to try these? I love the fact that there is no artificial anything in these recipes, which is one of the reasons I wanted to look into adapting colonial recipes to begin with. To find some new-to-me recipes to add a bit of variety to my diet.
And heads up, folks! Stay tuned for more information about two new historicals I’ll be releasing in June and July. I am really happy to be able to bring these stories to my readers for many reasons which I will share over the next few months. Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!
Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books, including the A More Perfect Union historical romances.
Don’t forget about my latest historical! The first in my new Fury Falls Inn series! Book 2 is planned for release in October 2020…
Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. She has a plan, too. Seduce the young man, who is acting as innkeeper while her father is away on business, into marrying her. He’s handsome and available even though he doesn’t have feelings for her. Marriage is her only escape. Despite her mother’s strenuous objections.
But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. He’s focused on securing his reputation in the hostelry business to make his father respect him. He quickly learns that running a roadside inn in northern Alabama in 1821 means dealing not only with the young woman and her hostile mother but also with horse thieves and rogues.
When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint are forced to face unforeseen challenges and dangerous decisions together in order to attempt to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who doesn’t have any plan to leave…