“Freeze or Not”

Roman Punch

Roman Punch

Grate the rinds of 12 lemons, & 2 oranges on 2 lbs of loaf sugar, & squeeze on the juice, cover it, and stand until next day, then strain it through a sieve, add a bottle of champagne & the whites of 8 eggs beaten to a froth. Freeze or not.

The Campbells would receive deliveries of ice frequently. They placed it within their icebox, where it would stay for a relatively long time, keeping the Campbell's food from spoiling.

The Campbells would receive deliveries of ice frequently. They placed it within their icebox, where it would stay for a relatively long time, keeping the Campbell’s food from spoiling.

The recent release of The Gilded Table has all of us here at the Campbell House Museum thinking about food and drink. While looking over Virginia’s original handwritten recipe for Roman Punch, what struck us was that last line: “Freeze or not.” Just how did the Campbells freeze their Roman Punch?

The answer is surprisingly simple. Iced desserts were popular in Europe as early as the 18th century. The desired mixture was simply poured into a sabotiere (also known as a sorbetière), a pewter pot. The pot was then placed into a bucket and surrounded by ice and salt. Some recipes called for stirring the contents occasionally to ensure that it congealed equally, but otherwise, that was it.

The same process could be done with the set of ice cream molds located in the Campbell kitchen today. Once the cream had begun to congeal, it could be placed in the molds, sealed with lard and wrapped in paper, and then surrounded by ice and salt. When it came time for serving, the ice cream would be hard enough to hold its shape. Campbell servants could simply garnish the ice cream with frozen fruit, and Voila!

Chocolate ice cream, sugar cookies, and antique ice cream molds and maker in the Campbell kitchen. Photo from “The Gilded Table”

Frozen foods were very much a luxury food. While these recipes are not necessarily labor intensive (particularly after the invention of the hand-cranked ice cream in 1843), they require ice and ice boxes to work. This meant that only the wealthy could enjoy them, and the Campbells were certainly that.

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