Tag Archives: Icebox

“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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The Missing Pieces

St. Louis Star-Times article from 1941. Click to view larger version.

St. Louis Star-Times article from 1941. Click to view larger version.

Part of what makes the Campbell House Museum so special is its collection of thousands of original furnishings and personal items left behind by the Campbell family. CHM’s originally-furnished interiors are nearly unparalleled in the United States – it’s a special place. But it’s important to note that we don’t have everything. In fact, we’re missing quite a bit. Large pieces of furniture, beautiful works of art and countless papers, books and knick-knacks have left the halls of the Campbell House over the years. The big reason? An auction of the house’s contents that happened in 1941.

Hazlett Campbell died without an heir in 1938, leaving behind a sizable family fortune and an 11,000 square foot townhouse full of beautiful things. While the money was eventually split between distant family members, the house posed a larger issue. Cousins who had inherited the interior furnishings and fixtures of the building opted to auction them off through local auction house Selkirk’s. At this point, the story becomes familiar. A dedicated group from the community banded together, raised funds and purchased back hundreds of items as they passed across the auction block. Most of what you see on tours of the Campbell House today is only here due to the dedication and financial support of these fine folks. But they didn’t get everything. While many of the pieces that “got away” did so because of the group’s financial constraints, others were allowed to be purchased by others because they didn’t neccesarily fit with the foundation’s vision for the Campbell House Museum (still two years away from opening to the public). In the years since, few items have left the house and some have even returned. Here are some of the things that got away…

Click the gallery below to view the slideshow.

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