Thursday, November 16, 2017

Culinary Arts, Part II - Colonial Era

It's hard to believe an entire month has passed, and it's time to share Part II of my Culinary Arts post. A quick recap...

In September, I attended a luncheon at my alma mater, East Central Community College (ECCC). The event was hosted by the Culinary Arts program and was part of the students' mid-term exam.

The event was divided into four eras, the Muskogean Era, which I blogged about last month, (Click HERE to read last month's post), the Colonial Era (today's post), and in coming months I'll share photos and recipes from the Civil War and the Civil Rights Eras.

So, let's get started!

The Colonial Period Menu

Colonial Era Food in a Pleasing Display
Left: Peanut Soup with a bowl of peanuts in front, Cover Pottery (sorry!) I'm pretty sure that was the Apple Tansey, Center back: Ranch House Stew & Three Day Buns (basket in rear), Right front: Chicken & dumplings, Far right: Black eyed peas. If you read last month's blog, you'll notice a huge difference in the cookery. Right? According to, the Colonial Period is the period between1607-1776, so cast iron pots, kettles, and skillets were becoming more common and affordable during this time, so the wooden trenchers and cornhusk wraps that were the norm in the Muskogean Era have given way to cast iron.

Students and Guests Lining up for the Feast of the Eras!

Students in Period Garb Serving Their Guests

The Colonial Period Menu with a serving of each dish.

9 o'clock: Apple Tansey; 12 o'clock: Peanut Soup; 3 o'clock: Ranch House Stew; 6 o'clock: Three Day Sourdough Buns

Oh, and Sweet Tea all around, regardless of the era.

Now, let's talk about each of these dishes in turn. The chicken and dumplings were a bit bland but the texture was perfect. Some of us are used to over seasoning in this day and age, so dinner guests would have cleaned their plates. Beans were spicy. I skipped the black eyed peas as I couldn't sample everything, and those are still staples down in Mississippi to this day. I wanted to try the more exotic foods I'd never heard of.

Which leads us to the Peanut Soup and Apple Tansey.

Peanut Soup

I was leery of the Peanut Soup. I just couldn't imagine what that could taste like. However, it was surprisingly good for the small serving that I took. But I'm not sure I would want to eat a huge bowl of it.

When I make soup or stew, my family eats it as a meal. Maybe in the Colonial Era, they ate Peanut Soup as a meal, or possibly they ate it more as an appetizer in small amounts. Also, you'll notice that it was thick... not peanut-butter thick, but mashed potatoes thick. It tasted slightly sweet and peanutty, but not overly so. In the words of Goldilocks, it was "just right". 

Here's Colonial Williamsburg's Cream of Peanut Soup recipe. While it might not be exactly what Mr. Karrh's class served, I daresay it's quite close. And... if you decide to make Cream of Peanut Soup, go to the Colonial Williamsburg site and download your own recipe card.

Image/s Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation or All rights reserved.


In a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened, three-five minutes.

Stir in flour and cook two minutes longer.

Pour in the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Pour into a sieve set over a large bowl and strain, pushing hard on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Return the liquid to the sauce pan or pot.

Whisk the peanut butter and the cream into the liquid. Warm over low heat, whisking often, for about five minutes. Do not boil.

Serve warm, garnished with the chopped peanuts.

Apple Tansey

Apple Tansey as prepared by the ECCC Culinary Arts Students

The Apple Tansey was a nice light dessert, sort of like apple dumplings but not as rich, and in our case, was served cold, not hot. The recipe found at Colonial Williamsburg sounds thicker with more of a pancake texture than the dumpling like deep-dish Apple Tansey the culinary arts students served. Either way, it's a nice sweet compliment to end a meal of Peanut Soup and Ranch House Stew.

To make Apple Tansey, take three pippins, slice them round in thin slices, and fry them with butter; then beat four eggs, with six spoonfuls of cream, a little rosewater, nutmeg, and sugar; stir them together, and pour it over the apples; let it fry a little, and turn it with a pye-plate. Garnish with lemon and sugar strew'd over it. The Compleat Housewife' book, published London in 1754

Rosser 1954 Roger Griffith, Public Domain (Wikipedia)
I was curious where the name Apple Tansey originated from and did more research. Tansy is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant of the aster family, native to temperate Europe and Asia. It has been introduced to other parts of the world including North America, and in some areas has become invasive. It is also known as common tansy, bitter buttons, cow bitter, or golden buttons. The leaves or stalks of the Tansy plant are used as an ingredient when they are young, tender and not fully matured. They are chopped into small bits to be prepared for salads, savory meat fillings and stuffings, egg dishes, custards, and cakes.

While none of the recipes I found contained tansy, based on this description of the herb, it's very likely early versions of the dish did contain tansy, hence the name of the dish.

Click here a printable recipe card for Apple Tansey from Colonial Williamsburg. The Colonial period as well as the Muskogean Era were interesting to me since my Natchez Trace Novel Series is set in the 1790s. My characters are of European, African, Natchezian, and Choctaw descent, so Banaha, Fry Bread, Peanut Soup, and Apple Tansey as well as wooden chargers and the coveted cast iron pots and kettles would be part of their daily lives.

Have you ever heard of Apple Tansey or Peanut Soup? Ever tasted either?

The Promise of Breeze Hill is set in 1791 Natchez Territory. With a wide range of characters with ties to the Spanish, French, British, Choctaw, African, and Irish, the food served would have been a bit more varied than what was available during the Muskogean era. The serving pieces would be more in line with the Colonial era, with cast iron being coveted cookware, but there would still be some overlap from the Muskogean era on the table, especially when the cook was of Choctaw, Chickasaw, or Natchez descent.

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.

Join Pam next month on the 16th for a look into the Culinary Arts of the Civil War Era in the South.


  1. Great post as usual. Watching from the sidelines all these years, your writing thoroughly gave me insights into the journey that has brought you to this well earned, fulfillingness first finale. Congratulations.

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  2. Great post. It's amazing how cast iron is popular once again for the kitchens. A wonderful experience to attend the luncheon at ECCC and eat the various foods.

    1. Marilyn, I've always loved my cast iron skillets. I have two that are seasoned and a couple that need to be. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing your great post! I have heard of peanut soup but I don't think I have ever had it. Now that I have the recipe, I will have to give it a try!

    1. Melanie, I was hesitant, but game to try most anything... well, within reason! :) And, peanut butter pie is a favorite around here, so I knew it couldn't be too bad. :)

  4. Very interesting, Pam. No, I've never heard of either one, so thank you for sharing this.

    1. I know, Anita, both recipes were new to me, too. :)

  5. I'm reading this at breakfast and this food sounds much more appealing than the Cheerios I'm eating! I'd love to try both the peanut soup and apple dish. I've loved your posts about the food. What a unique idea, this food of the ages. I might have to see if our local Fort does anything similar.

    1. Connie, it was fascinating. And Chef Karrh is not only a fine chef and teacher, he created most of the costumes and is a student of history as well. A very well-done presentation that kept us entertained and informed.

  6. I’m going to try peanut soup here in Nebraska. Fun to learn about colonial dining... And I didn’t know tansy was edible. It’s so bright yellow I wonder if the flowers were used in dye recipes...

    1. Stephanie, could be, although some plants lose their color when steeped. Drying might work, though.... hmmm... :) But definitely check out next month's post! We're moving to the Civil War Era and we'll talk about the fascinating ingredients in Red Velvet Cake at the time! :)

  7. The chicken and dumplings sound good!

    1. They were! My husband's aunt was famous around here for her chicken and dumplings. I make them occasionally and mine are hit-and-miss.