When is a Bean not a Bean?


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My uncle was a good country gentleman, a veteran of WWII, and what one might call a gentle giant in that he was generally quiet but when he did speak it was worth listening to.  He was the glue that held our family together as my grandfather died young and my uncle assumed the duties of patriarch.  His occupation was simply “farmer”.  He raised cattle, kept chickens, turkeys, guineas, pigs, and grew fields of corn and common, as well as some uncommon, vegetables in his kitchen garden.  Some of what he routinely grew when I was growing up faded into oblivion with his passing so when I rediscover one of his classics it is a little like regaining a piece of my childhood.

One such plant is cucuzzi, aka, edible gourd, Italian edible gourd, etc, but which my uncle called Yard-long bean.  The latter is what I knew it as, so, when I researched it and realized that his bean and the cucuzzi gourd are in fact one and the same I wondered how he came to know it as a bean.  An article from “Popular Science”, May 1920, reveals the plant was known by many as such, sometimes called New Guinea bean.  The article was entitled, “When a Bean Is Not a Bean It’s a Gourd”.  It has sometimes been called snake gourd although the two are actually two different plants.

“This gourd springs up as by magic when the seeds are planted after the danger of frost has passed.  Like the ordinary pole-bean, it will grow whether cared for or not.”  The plant is an aggressive spreader so give it plenty of room then let it do for itself.  Unless sprawling over other vegetables is considered desirable they are best trellised.

A humorous discussion on how an edible gourd came to be called a New Guinea Butter Bean” was found in “Bean-bag” [June 1920].  “All jests aside, the elongated gourd with the funny name is conceded to be a quite acceptable vegetable.  It can be prepared in a score or more ways and finds favor with many appetites…The gourds are at their best when about twelve inches long and covered with a white fuzzy growth”.

The plant’s merits are many.  Cattle, goats, and pigs eat them, poultry eat the seed, seed are easily perpetuated by letting one or two of the gourds grow to full size and harvesting the seed for the next year’s crop, and any that are inadvertently overlooked and get too large to cook can be dried and used for containers or crafts.  In the 60’s and 70’s my mom and aunts made floral arrangements, dippers, and bird houses out of the large dried gourds.

I’ve made out an order for seed from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and by this time next year I’ll be cooking a treat from my childhood and have my very own Mason jar full of dried seed stored away just like Uncle Wallace.

A 1909 book [“The English Vegetable Garden,  1909] spoke of its merits as a vegetable and recommended it for soups and stews.  It can be cooked in any way one would summer squash.  We most often sliced and fried the young tender gourds after a dusting of cornmeal.  After all, we are from the South and you know what they say about us and our frying pans.  Blissful Meals, yall, may your growing season see plentiful rain and sun and may your skillet never be empty.  -Thehistoricfoodie, aka, Vickie Brady.

Queen Victoria’s Poultry Yard©




“Her Majesty’s poultry-yard, at Windsor, is situated in a small pleasure-garden just opposite Frogmore, and being rather for the amusement of rearing fancy fowls and pigeons in the manner of an aviary, than for breeding them for the table, is only, at present, upon a moderate scale.  The hen-house is erected at the back of a high wall, and…is merely a simple, though fancifully-decorated cottage, displaying considerable taste in the architect.  Over the roof is a well-stocked hexagonal erection for pigeons of various race, which are so familiar as to perch upon the person of her Majesty, who feeds them from her hand; in the centre of the building is a small room of entrance, on each side of which are the several compartments for the poultry, with a yard divided into separate courts by wire fences, and no birds can have more snug retreats for depositing and sitting upon their eggs—the nests being tastefully formed of moss, giving them the appearance of bowers; the whole warmed by a heated flue running underneath, and communicating with each cote by gratings.

Here may be seen a curious collection of white Java Bantams, odd little birds, covered with a sort of hairy feather, but laying, it is said, the richest kind of egg; which, however, are not a little difficult to be got, for it seems that no sooner is one layed, [sic]than the whole tribe, even the hen herself, begin pecking at it until eaten up:  yet in this, we imagine, there must be some mistake, or it would be impossible to rear a brood from the parent hen.  There are also some of Sir John Sebright’s celebrated bantams, with their golden speckled feathers, and other small breeds of a rare description.  By way of contrast, there is an enormously large breed of Cochin China fowls, the cock, although very young, weighing upwards of ten pounds, and the hens very prolific of eggs of superior flavor; which, although white when layed, [sic] soon become afterwards speckled.

There are likewise various other sorts of fancy breeds—both fowls and pigeons, of a curious description—all under the care of a man especially qualified for such a charge, as perhaps there are few better acquainted with the habits of the feathered tribes.  He has evidently passed much of his time in the recesses of the woods and forests, trapping birds for sale, and examining their modes of life…

The shrubberies in the garden afford shade enough from the sun, but the fowls should also have shelter from the rain, by a verandah extending along the front from each side of the porch…

We understand it to be the intention of her Majesty to establish a large poultry-yard, for the supply of the royal table, in the breeding and fattening of all sorts of fowls—in the care of which her Majesty takes especial interest; nor can there be a doubt that the introduction of foreign breeds will thus—under the example of her gracious patronage—in the course of time, cause much improvement in the stock of our native species…”

The author went on to extol the virtues of exercise citing the royal couple as an example.  “Those residents of Windsor who are in the habit of taking an early morning walk, to enjoy ‘the cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour,’ in the splendid demesne, proudly crowned by its ancient castle, must have often seen two persons in plain attire, tripping lightly across that pleasant meadow called ‘Datchet Mead,’ in order to visit a farm at the extremity of the Home-park.  These persons are Her Majesty and Prince Albert, pursuing their way to the dairy and poultry-yard, and in their progress sporting with their infants…It is impossible to witness the unaffected enjoyment of the royal couple in this domestic excursion, unalloyed as it is by any restraint of official etiquette…”

Queen Victoria's chicken coop early 20th c photo

Photo taken early 20th century

Murray, John.  “Farming for Ladies”.  1844.  London.

America’s Greatest Problem: We’ve been off the farm too long


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This article is from Appalachian Magazine.  It carries a powerful message, one that every American should heed.

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This is an opinion article from Appalachian Magazine, written by Jeremy Farley:

This week, our nation celebrated its 240th birthday and though my heart fills with patriotic fervor each time I catch a glimpse of those red stripes flapping in the wind, I can’t help but have those feelings checked by the harsh understanding that America 2016 is a nation in dire trouble.

Far from being the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are now a nation of spineless weaklings ready to be offended at the drop of the hat and often it is the very ones who dropped the hat who are the most offended.

I do not pretend to be an expert on sociology or American history – everything I know I had to learn from my life’s experiences, mostly as a child on a +200-acre beef farm in nowhere Virginia.  The older I get, the more I have come to realize, however, that it was here that I received the type of education no Ivy League institution can come close to offering.  My only regret is that 200 million other American children never had the same opportunities I enjoyed – opportunities to bottle feed a baby calf, drive a truck through an empty field at the age of 5 (alone), spend summers sitting alongside my father inside the cab of a John Deere tractor, begin Christmas morning the same way I began everything other cold and windy winter morning – opening the gates for dad as he unrolled hay for hundreds of hungry animals.

In the year 1790, 90% of the American population were farmers.  By 1850, this percentage had dropped to 64%, and then down to only 21% by the year 1930.  Today, only 2% of the American population serves as farmers.

And though American agriculture is more productive than ever, I’m afraid that as a nation we are beginning to witness the consequences of having raised multiple generations who have never looped a metal chain through a gate or chased lightning bugs through a field of freshly mowed hay.

As a nation, we have allowed Disney to convince our children that all animals are cute and cuddly, then wonder why dozens of people get killed each year attempting to take selfies with grizzly bears, cougars and copperheads.

As a nation, we have replaced the garden hoe and watering bucket with an Xbox and cell phone, then wonder why our “children” refuse to move out at the age of 30.

As a nation, the vast majority of our families have never even came across an injured bird, let alone taken the time to nurse one back to health, then we wonder why a generation has been brought up to have no respect for nature or its Creator.

While our forebears were busy praying for rain, we have come to regard the water that falls from the sky as being a cursed object — unaware that it is the rain that keeps us fed each day… All sunshine and no rain makes a barren desert, but hardly anyone realizes this in 2016 America; which is why so many never find peace during their darkest days.

There was a time when Americans consumed bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, fried eggs and a big glass of milk each morning — and yet they rarely got fat.  Why? Because after eating such a hardy breakfast, they went out in the fields and spent the next thirteen hours fixing fences, hanging gates, delivering calves, killing, yes, killing predators, and harvesting food.

Farm work is dirty, tiring, sometimes cruel and always difficult; which is exactly why the percentage of Americans who engage in this work has declined with every generation.

Yet, it was this type of upbringing that allowed a nation to produce men and women who pulled together to fend off the forces of Hell in the Second World War, explore the heavens, eradicate disease and tap the ocean depths.

Sadly, those farm children are dying off the scene each day. They have been replaced by “men” who have never gotten dirt under their fingernails and purchase overpriced coffee as a status symbol.

I’m not so foolish to believe that all of our ills could be solved by a trip back to the farm, but I am confident that if a few more people had the type of upbringing I enjoyed, the world would have a lot more common sense!

“Men In Denim Built Our Country…Men In Suits Destroyed It.”

What to do With Loads of Summer Squash©



I have been blessed with an abundance of yellow squash this year and yet I hold my breath for fear insects will destroy my vines and my crop along with it.  I have sprayed the base of the plants to control squash bugs and once they were killed I began destroying any eggs I found to prevent a second hatch.


I am harvesting from one row of summer squash, but I have two more rows that should be producing by the time this row has played out.   I haven’t harvested any of the Pennsylvania Crookneck squash yet.  I’ve put several quarts in the freezer from which I will make squash casseroles, soup, and fritters, and since I want to get the most out of the fresh ones while they last, I took a quick peek at squash recipes from days gone by.

Having grown up in the South the first thing I think of is slices breaded in cornmeal and fried nice and golden brown, but for a change I discovered we really like them breaded in Jiffy cornbread mix.  An old method that is still excellent is to dust the slices with salt and pepper, dip them into beaten egg, and then into bread crumbs before frying.  Panko bread crumbs are a welcome change and the slices can be baked in a hot oven until the squash is tender and the crumbs brown for those who want to avoid the oil in frying.  There’s always squash sautéed in butter, with or without onions.


2 lbs. summer squash

½ lb. well-flavored cheese

Pepper, ½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¾ cupful of milk

Corn flakes or cracker crumbs

1 tablespoonful of butter

Boil the squash until tender, drain, put into a deep baking dish.  Add the cheese, reserving a little to go on top.  Add salt and pepper, the eggs which were beaten just enough to combine the white and yolk, and the milk.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Cover with crushed corn flakes or crackers and dot with butter.  Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until the top is brown and the mixture firm.


2 cupfuls of hot, steamed squash

¼ cupful of butter

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoonful of salt

1/8 teaspoonful of pepper

1 ½ cupfuls of half milk and cream

2 beaten egg yolks

2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Force squash through a sieve, add the brown sugar, butter, salt, pepper, milk, cream, and egg yolks beaten.  Fold in the beaten egg whites and place in a buttered baking dish.  Bake at 350 until firm and lightly browned.


Mix fine flour with half its bulk of stewed squash or pumpkin, and add milk enough to make a thick batter, about a cup of milk to each cup of squash.  Cook on a griddle.


Pare, boil, and sift a good dry squash.  To one quart of the squash pour on two of boiling milk, and then stir in two cups of sugar, two spoonfuls of salt, one of cinnamon, one grated nutmeg [1/2 to 1 teaspoon], and five well-beaten eggs.  Line deep plates with plain paste, fill with the mixture, and bake one hour in a moderate [350] oven.  The pies look nice to boil a stick of cinnamon in the milk instead of using ground.

For those who find winter squash hard to cut and peel, this may be the recipe for you.

WINTER SQUASH.  The small Hubbard squash is best for baking.  Saw the squash in halves; scrape out the soft part and the seeds.  Put the halves in the oven, and bake about three-quarters of an hour, or until tender.  Serve in the shell.  Help out by spoonfuls.

WINTER SQUASH WITH ROAST MEAT.  Pare, and cut in long slices, about 1 ½ or 2 inches thick.  Cook in a dripping-pan with a roast.  Baste when the meat is basted.  It is nice baked in a pan by itself with meat drippings.

SQUASH CROQUETTES.  Mix a pt [pint] of mashed squash with ½ a cup of bread crumbs, a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper to season.  Heat thoroughly, shape into croquettes, dip in egg and crumbs and fry in deep fat.

STUFFED SUMMER SQUASH.  Hollow out center of squash.  Fill with dressing made of bread crumbs, celery, boiled ham, onion, summer squash cut from centers.  Season with butter, celery, salt, cayenne, etc.

SQUASH SOUP.  To one quart of thoroughly cooked pumpkin or squash allow two quarts of milk, plenty of butter, pepper, and salt.  Serve with toasted bread.  [This soup can be improved upon by topping each bowl with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheese, and/or a bit of crumbled cooked bacon].

Blissful Meals, yall.  Enjoy those bumper crops while you can for soon we’ll be emptying those Mason jars and dipping into our freezer stash.  – Thehistoricfoodie©, aka, Vickie Brady.


Callahan, Genevieve Anne.  “Sunset All-western Cook Book”.  1933.  “What to Eat, and How to Cook It”.  1874.  Parloa, Maria.  “Appledore Cook Book”.  1880.  Rorer, Sarah Tyson.  “Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book”.  1886.  Owens, Frances.  “Mrs. Owens’ Cook Book.  1903.  “The Cook County Cook Book”.  1912.  “Twentieth Century Cook Book”.  1914.  “Vaughn’s Vegetable Cook Book”.  1898.

A Look at Various Breads©




In 1809, “A Dictonary , Spanish and English, and English and Spanish”, defined tortilla simply as “a little cake”.

“Tortillas, which are a sort of cake made of Indian corn, are a general article of sustenance in Mexico.  They were prepared in precisely the same way as at present before the conquest of that country.  The maize, of which the tortillas are composed, is first parboiled, to cleanse and soften the grain, and then, in a quantity sufficient for the day’s consumption, is left to cool.  For the purpose of crushing or mashing the maize, the women have a large square block of black lava, or basalt, about two feet in length and sixteen inches broad, which stands on two, three, or four legs, so arranged as to give it a gentle slope.  There is a very slightly-elevated rim on either side, and the great solidity and weight keep the stone steady, while the operator bruizes [sic] the maize with a long stone, not unlike a rolling pin, which is held at each end, and so moved that it crushes the grain to paste, and at the same time pushes it down to a bowl placed ready to receive it.  This process is gone through once, twice, or more, according to the fineness required; and, where great care is taken it is passed through a fine sieve.  A lump of this paste is then taken, and patted skillfully between the hands until it becomes as thin as a light pancake; and the great art consists in thus flattening it out without breaking the edges.  The cake is then laid on a smooth plate of iron or flat earthenware, which is placed over some charcoal or wood embers, and kept at a certain heat; here, first one, and then the other side of the tortilla, receives a toasting, and great care is taken that it should not be at all browned.  The grand object in the latter part of the process is to serve up the tortillas hot and hot, as fast as possible, in a clean napkin; and a slow eater who begins his first tortilla, will find twenty or thirty piled up in a smoking heap at his elbow, long before he has made any progress with  his dinner.  The making of tortillas is so important an art, that in the houses of respectable people a woman, called from her office “tortillera,” is kept for this express purpose; and it sounds very oddly to the ear of a stranger, during meal-times, to hear the rapid patting and slapping which goes forward in the cooking-place until all demands are satisfied.”  – “The Young Gentleman’s Book”.  1832. London.

Church noted the presence of someone to bake tortillas during a meal so that they were always hot and fresh.  “When stale, the tortilla not only loses its elasticity, but becomes hard, dry, and tasteless as a chip”.  He described the “chile Colorado” referred to earlier as a sauce of red pepper and tomatoes cooked with a little lard, and sometimes with jerked meat and described the manner of smearing this paste between two tortillas and rolling them into a thick round sandwich.  Church, William Conant.  “The Galaxy”.  June 1868.

Thomas Jefferson Green, likewise, referred to the tortilla as, “a cake of bread made of Indian corn, about the thickness of upper leather, and quite as pliant”.  He wrote that it served the Mexicans as bread and also as knife, fork and spoon, the eater using his thumb and first two fingers to form a spoon shape with which food was dipped up and placed in the mouth.  “At every dip the spoon shape disappears”, or was eaten and a new piece used for the next bite.  – “Journal of the Texian Expedition Against Mier”.  New York.  1845.

Edward Thomas Stevens described the difference in texture of tortillas made in Mexico and those made in Central America.  Taylor described the former as “soft and leathery” whereas Stevens found those made in Nicaragua “hot and crisp”.  Brantz Mayer described Mexican tortillas as, “tough buckskin-like victuals”.  Stevens noted that tortillas could be purchased on the street from an Indian woman and chile to go in it from another, but his use of the word “Indian” referred to native peoples of Central America and not native people of the U.S.  “ Flint Chips:  A Guide to Pre-historic Archaeology”.  London.  1870.

No references were found of natives in the U.S. making tortillas.  James Henry Salisbury noted they boiled the maize and ate it with fish or venison “instead of bread”.  – “History and Chemical Investigation of Maize, Or Indian Corn”.  Albny.  1849.

Carver penned an excellent description of Indian bread which is vastly different from Mexican tortillas.  “Among this people [Indians of North America] I ate of a very uncommon kind of bread.  The Indians, in general, use but little of this nutritious food:  whilst their corn is in the milk, as they term it, that is, just before it begins to ripen, they slice off the kernels from the cob to which they grow, and knead them into a paste.  This they are enabled to do without the addition of any liquid, by the milk that flows from them; and when it is effected, they parcel it out into cakes, and enclosing them in leaves of the basswood tree, place them in hot embers, where they are soon baked.  And better flavored bread I never ate in any country”.  – Carver, Jonathan, Capt. “Three Years Travels Throughout the Interior Parts of North America”.  Charlestowne.  1802.

Bailey spoke of savages from the Rocky Mountains who came down to St. Charles who had never eaten bread prior to their encounter with the whites.  Napier, James Bailey.  “Sketches of Indian Character”.  1841.

Joseph Taylor wrote that the bread of New England Indians and, “many other parts of America” was made of maize and called “weachin”.  It seems doubtful he saw them eat much bread as he went on to say they, “boiled it whole in water, till it swelled and became tender, and then they fed on it, either alone, or eat it with their fish and venison, instead of bread”.  – “The Wonder of Trees, Plants, and Shrubs Recorded in Anecdotes or A Description of Their Wonderful Properties…”  London.  1823.

In a treatise published in 1841, is found mention of North American Indians pounding maize to make a, “sort of cake”, which they bake by means of hot cinders.  This serves them, and, indeed occasionally the Anglo Americans, as a substitute for loaf or leavened bread…”  There was no mention of flattening it as one would with a tortilla.  – “The Guide to Trade:  The Baker Including Bread and Fancy Baking”.

Let’s touch on the modern day Native American fry bread before we go our separate ways.  This food is passed off as authentic at practically every re-enactment period, however, there is no indication that this was made prior to the reservation period.  It was produced from the limited supplies they received in an effort to produce as much food as possible from as little as possible.

“Fried bread” referred to more than one product.  Throughout the 19th century there are numerous mentions of frying bread, for a process in which bread was diced, or cut it into fanciful shapes, and browned in butter to serve with soup.  Bread crumbs were prepared in a similar manner to serve on top of various dishes.  Recipes for French toast were also sometimes titled Fried Bread in 19th century cookery books.

A recipe for Fried Bread similar to modern Navajo fried bread was published in Mrs. Chadwick’s “Home Cookery:  A Collection of Tried Receipts, Both Foreign and Domestic” in 1853, but the index contained nothing that might be construed as Native American food.  It is this author’s belief that the fried bread recipe was copied from other books published during that time on East Indian food, thus the word “foreign” in the title.

Fried bread is mentioned five times in “Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book”, 1860, however this book was certainly written about the country India and not North American Indians.

The following was penned by Mrs. Marcus Whitman who accompanied her missionary husband on his travels and to the Oregon territory.  “Our dinner consisted of dry buffalo meat, turnips, and fried bread which was a luxury.  Mountain bread is simply coarse flour and water mixed and roasted or fried in buffalo grease.”  Those lines were most likely written in 1843 when Whitman led the first large group of wagons west from Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho because his wife did say the meal in question was taken at Fort Hall.  She went on to elaborate on the fort’s builder, appearance, and history.  Whitman died in 1847.  – Humphreys, Mary Gay.  “Missionary Explorers Among the American Indians”.  1913.  NY.

Assumptions are not acceptable proof of an item’s history so one must ask if the inhabitants of Fort Hall who served the dinner were preparing foods they’d seen Indians in the area making or also just making what they could from supplies on hand.

Blissful Meals, I leave you with the following recipes to tempt you in your kitchen endeavors.  – Thehistoricfoodie, aka, Vickie Brady.  ©

TO FRY BREAD TO SERVE WITH SOUP.  – Acton, Eliza.  “Modern Cookery in all its Branches”.  1858.  Cut some slices a quarter-inch thick, from a stale loaf; pare off the crust, and divide the bread into dice, or cut it with a deep paste-cutter into any other form.  For half a pound of bread put two ounces of the best butter into a frying-pan, and when it is quite melted, add the bread; keep it turned, over a gentle fire, until it is equally coloured to a very pale brown, then drain it from the butter, and dry it on a soft cloth, or a sheet of paper placed before a clear fire, upon a dish, or on a sieve reversed.

FRIED BREAD, VERY NICE.  Mrs. Chadwick.  Make a sour-milk cake, put in just saleratus enough to foam the milk, then melt a piece of butter the size of an egg in a great spoonful of hot water.  Salt to taste.  It must only be made just stiff enough to roll out.  Fry in lard, as you do symballs.

MRS. HILL’S FRIED BREAD PUDDING.  Knight, S.  “Tit-Bits”.  1864.  One pint of milk, three eggs, a little salt, and flour enough to make a thin batter.  Cut a stale (baker’s) loaf in slices; half an hour before using, place the sliced bread in the batter.  It must be removed carefully when ready to cook, and fried as griddle cakes; to be eaten with sauce.

Got Tomatoes? Make Preserves©


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Photo (public domain) from Wikipedia, melba toast, goat cheese, and tomato preserves

I have 60 tomato plants out this year in three varieties – Big Boy, Better Boy, and Atkinson – so unless the horn worms find them or in spite of regular watering the drought and blistering sun render them incapable of setting fruit I should have enough to preserve.  We enjoy home-made soups and stews so a good portion of them will be canned or frozen, perhaps I’ll try my luck with the dehydrator, and then preserves could be made from any remaining fruit.  I envision a toasted bagel and cream cheese topped with tomato preserves and if I’m feeling particularly decadent some crispy bacon on the side.


The earliest published receipt this author found for tomato preserves was the mid-1840’s, but mixtures under different names were published much earlier.  The Oct. 31, 1828 issue of the “New England Farmer” contained a receipt entitled “Towit of Tomatas”.  The housewife was to take a pint of tomatoes and a pound of fine sugar and reduce them in the same way as any other jam [cooked until thickened], then add the juice of a lemon.  “This makes a very good to wit.”

Mary Randolph’s “The Virginia Housewife” contained a form of the preserves called Tomato Sweet Marmalade in 1836.


Half of the author’s garden, some of the tomato plants in front (before staking)

Randolph’s Tomato Marmalade was made from stemmed green tomatoes stewed and rubbed through a sieve, and the pulp combined with pepper, salt, pounded cloves, and garlic.  It was stewed thick, “keeps well”, and was considered an excellent seasoning.  Her sweet tomato marmalade instructed the housewife to add loaf sugar to the tomato pulp and stew until it was a stiff jelly.  It isn’t clear if the salt, pepper, and garlic were used in the sweet version.

“Tomatoes Preserve.—Mr. Editor—The tomato is favorably mentioned in your last number:  it is a valuable vegetable.  But I do not recollect, that in the variety of uses to which it has been applied, your paper assigns it any place among the different species of preserves.  As we are deprived this season of that pride of the fruit of Georgia, the peach, it may be of service to housekeepers to know that the tomato forms a most admirable substitute for the peach as a preserve.  The flavor is almost precisely the same—it looks as well, and is altogether an excellent article for the tea table.

Directions:–Take good ripe tomatoes—peel them and preserve them with good brown or loaf sugar.  If not peeled they burst, and do not retain the consistency so much desired by housekeepers, though they are very good without peeling.  I give you this, at this time, that the industry of the fair hands about your flourishing town may profit by it, before Jack Frost shall cut off their hope from this new source of table ornament and luxury.  “The Gennessee Farmer”, Aug. 1834, as quoted from the “Southern Planter”.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Preserve:  Take six pounds fruit, five pounds sugar, a bag containing two large tablespoons of ground ginger, and cook till quite thick.  Allow one lemon, sliced, to every quart can of preserve.  It can be cooked with the tomato or sliced into the can as it is being filled.  – “Good Housekeeping”.  August, 1904.


Date and original source unknown.  Clippings found online at the Milwaukee Public Library digital collection of historic recipes.

Tomato Preserve.  8 qts ripe tomatoes (after peeled and sliced), 4 qts sugar, 3 lemons sliced very fine; boil down tomatoes and lemons before adding the sugar.  – “The Warren Cook Book.  1920.

Historic Recipe File, Milwaukee Public Library

Green Tomato Preserve.  To one pound of fruit use three-quarters of a pound of granulated sugar.  Allow one sliced lemon to two pounds of fruit, first tasting the white of the lemon to be sure it is not bitter.  If bitter [as most are], use the yellow rind [zest], grated, or shaved thin, and the juice.  Put the sugar on with just water enough to melt it, add the tomato and lemon, and cook gently until the tomato is tender and transparent.  Cut the tomatoes around in halves, and then quarter the halves.  This shape is preferable to slices.  This will keep without sealing, but it is better to put it in small jars, as it is so rich that only a little is wanted at a time.  – “The American Kitchen Magazine”.  Sept. 1898.

Tomato Preserve.  4 lbs. green tomatoes, sliced, 2 lemons, 2 ½ lbs. sugar, 3 or 4 small pieces gingerroot [sic].  Cook until rich preserve.  – “Woman’s Club of San Matco”.  1909.

About the only thing that has changed in these receipts in recent years is the process of putting them up.  Directions:  After boiling  a spice bag containing 1 Tablespoon mixed pickle spice and a 1 ½ inch piece of ginger, sliced, with 4 cups sugar, 2 medium lemons, seeded and sliced, and ¾ cup water for 15 minutes, add 6 cups peeled tomatoes (quartered or sliced if large), boil until the tomatoes are transparent.  Let set in a cool place from 12 to 18 hours.  Heat jars in hot water and heat water for processing the jars.  Transfer cooked tomatoes and lemon slices to a glass or stainless steel bowl and set aside using a slotted spoon.  Discard spice bag.  Bring syrup to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add reserved tomatoes and lemons.  Bring back to a boil and boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and skim off foam.  Ladle hot preserves into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace.  Wipe the rim clean.  Place the tops on the jars until fingertip tight and process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude.  Remove jars and cool.

As always, Blissful Meals yall, from thehistoricfoodie, Vickie Brady.  thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com©


Memorial Day Message


My last post was a tongue-in-cheek look at country life and some of the situations we’ve encountered.  It was exaggerated but based on real adventures.  Anyone dreaming of making a similar move should know it can be hard work if you want your place to be productive, but the rewards are worth it.  I love sitting out on the porch with my morning coffee enjoying the peace and quiet and watching the birds begin their daily routine.

The crack about dreams of our lawn looking like something from House Beautiful was just that – a joke.  I do love flowers and color and plant various roses, bulbs, and blooming shrubs hoping that someday I’ll be able to look out and see something blooming almost year round, but beyond that, we are far too busy to worry about manicuring the lawn.  One of the positives of aging is realizing what is important in life and letting go of what isn’t.  That means spending time with my husband and watching our little piece of Heaven come back to life as we continue to update the house and reclaim the property.  Our time is limited and I’m all too aware that life should be fun, therefore, the grass may need cutting and the floors may need sweeping, but I’ll be admiring the flowers and ignoring the grass and dust.

I had one comment on the piece and it was from a nice lady that seemed concerned about our dog because we had tried having her on a lead, albeit a very long one that allowed her access to almost the full width of the property which is considerable.  It was our hope that as she aged she’d settle down and stop killing poultry, but when we realized that wasn’t going to happen I found her a good home.  She’s now living with a very nice gentleman on a large cattle farm where she can run and play as much as she wants without a chicken in sight.  He has a male Aussie that is trained to work cattle and he is certain that because the dogs are so smart and have natural herding tendencies he can train her to emulate him and also become a working dog.

I trust everyone enjoyed Memorial Day but also remembered why we celebrate it.  We attended the memorial service at a nearby national cemetery and I was humbled and honored to be the wife of a retired Marine who claims six brothers who were Marines.  The cemetery is located in a picturesque country location and is the same sort of peaceful setting we chose to spend our life.  It is probably where our bones will be laid to rest when the time comes.  So much sacrifice has been made by so many for this country.  I hope everyone took a few moments to reflect on that and remember loved ones.  The afternoon was spent indulging in a rare nap and watching movies with the most wonderful man I know.  Life is good.  Life is better in the country.    – Vickie Brady, aka, thehistoricfoodie.



LIVING THE GOOD LIFE; or, Small Farm Adventures©


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When some acreage was purchased and the subjects of our discussion began to traverse the path toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle they weren’t entirely clueless, as one of the party had some memory of growing cotton on a grandfather’s 67 acres of rocky hillside and an uncle’s somewhat smaller cattle farm, yet there have been times when both were beside themselves observing the mindless antics of the critters who are in charge.

One can only laugh when thumbing through a magazine or book written by someone who has amassed a whopping three hens in a suburban back yard and feels capable of advising all of humanity on how to “farm”.  That scenario is about as ridiculous as small-holders like the subjects of our narrative are to some corporate farm like Tyson.  A book about gardening with chickens comes to mind.  That author and her requisite three hens enjoy a bucolic life in which she plants flowers and shrubs and is adored for her beautification projects by her tiny flock.

This author’s kind and generous husband gave her that book at Christmas, both envisioning their homestead looking like something from the glossy pages of House Beautiful in no time, only to realize that poultry of any kind looks at such plantings and has one thought, and one thought only, in their pea-sized brain – eating it.   As they wandered about seeing nothing but stems, scratched up turf, and contented free-range poultry, they knew editors weren’t coming to photograph their place and the book was tossed in a pile where it will resurface some day when they set aside a day to spruce up a bit.


There is a host of published information on how to hatch your way to riches, the problem being that some of the information is more apt to produce rags than riches.  First one must collect the eggs and pray the male half of the flock has not only enjoyed his time with the ladies but has successfully fertilized her eggs.  One tries to amass enough eggs to fill the incubator all the while counting the days before putting them in to insure they remain viable.  The old adage, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch”, was surely penned by a poultry farmer because no matter what you do some of the eggs are never going to hatch.  Others will pip only to breathe their last before fully breaking out of the shell or just not be strong enough to thrive.


For those hatched by a setting hen, there is the threat of a sudden rain storm that can drown young chicks, or a myriad of dangers that can befall chicks too small to remain confined in the wire pen with mama hen.  Careful now should you decide to take the chicks, for their own good, of course, because mama has been known to put up quite a fight to keep her babies.  A five pound hen becomes a veritable flying force when she’s latched on to a coat-tail and begins tugging away to prevent the human from reaching her babies.


Eventually, the long awaited day arrives, albeit sometimes two to three days later than these three-hen-keeping, would-be  writers tell you to wait, and chirping is heard coming from inside the incubator.  Looking in, tiny beaks are seen chipping away at their earthly confinement, ready to clumsily crawl around over the as yet un-hatched eggs with dizzying effects on their slower siblings.

After giving stragglers another couple of days, our farmer counts his chicks, goslings, poults, or ducklings and imagines crispy-skinned, golden brown, roasted duck or steaming parsley-laden chicken and dumplings, not to mention the eggs.  Oh, the eggs – there’s fried, scrambled, poached, deviled, and pickled.  The kitchen island sags under the heavy burden of baked goods our farmerette has pulled from the oven, all delicately risen with the inclusion of a generous supply of those farm-fresh, free-range eggs.

roast goose

Neither half of our dynamic duo has as yet realized that hatching is merely the beginning of raising poultry.  No one expects perfectly healthy chicks to wade around and lollygag in the watering dish, get chilled, and die in an amazingly short time or to be trampled by other chicks too stupid not to huddle en masse.  Soon the phrase about not counting one’s chickens becomes a grim foreboding note in their book of poultry care.



Young Pekin & Rouen ducks

All goes well, though, for the most part, and our happy couple begins to fully embrace farm life with its endless supply of fresh air, cool breezes, romantic dimly-lit outdoor meals, and sessions quietly talking about first one thing and another, all cuddled up, as the gentle breeze slowly rocks the hammock strung between two wild olive trees.  Just when they think they’d burst if their bubble got any bigger, a masked bandit stealthily sneaks in one night to wreak havoc on their precious sleeping birds.  Walt Disney did  farmers a disservice when he portrayed raccoons as cute and adorable.  He left out the part about how they can rip out a full-grown duck’s throat for the pure pleasure of it and leave it laying to breath its last writhing in agony or how it will kill a hen and drag it up a tree to lodge it between the trunk and a limb just to watch from afar to see how long it will take the humans to look up in the tree for the missing, formerly healthy, chicken.

Farmer and farmerette decide they’ll have no more of these shenanigans and put out big bucks for a protector for their flock, one that comes with a pedigree and is the cutest ball of fur ever to set foot on the little homestead, only to watch said ball of fur learn to suck eggs and exhaust the birds by trying to herd them into an imaginary coral for hours on end.  When more birds are dying from these antics than were killed by the raccoons, our loving couple decide the dog must be confined so that it can still alert them to the presence of coons, foxes, coyotes and such, but remain far enough away from the beloved flock that she cannot do them harm.


The fancy schmancy electronic collar was about as useless as ice on the frozen tundra so the farmer dons his cap and off they go to the mercantile to buy reels of cable, hooks, clamps, screws, lag bolts, rope, pulleys, a collar, chain and about anything else they can spend good money on, and head back home to rig up an apparatus to confine this high-priced protector of chickens.  The cable is attached to two pine trees some 10 feet off the ground so that our couple need not fear being decapitated while wandering around in the dark of the night, and because they love this dog, the length of the run can best be measured in acre lengths rather than in running feet.

With the coming of spring our couple’s thoughts turn to tilling the soil and putting up succulent vegetables to enjoy through the coming year.  They plant, weed, sow, hoe, chop, hill, and work until they fairly limp back to the house, all the while mouths watering thinking about fresh sliced tomatoes, fried okra, creamed corn, green beans with ham hocks, ice cold watermelon, and salads galore made with crisp cucumbers, colorful peppery radishes, and more of those juicy diced tomatoes.  Their spirits soar as they begin to harvest some of their vegetables, but slowly begin to wane as they see holes eaten through beet and cabbage leaves.


It isn’t long before squash bugs, cabbage loopers, and giant “foot-long” tomato horn worms are plucked off vines and fed to the ducks and geese to try and save these precious plants.  Long gone are any thoughts of pure organic produce, and farmerette begins to pour over ads in magazines looking for flame-throwers or anything that can be sprayed or powdered on the plants to annihilate the flying, creeping, or crawling vegetable-terrorizing garden pests.

Lest we forget, now might be a good time to point out that God is Good, but Mother Nature has a nasty sense of humor as evidenced by days of heavy rain followed by weeks of drought, corn-flattening wind, and a blazing sun so hot the chickens begin to lay boiled eggs.  Farmer and farmerette join one hose after another to reach from faucet to sprinkler to supply life-giving cool water from a 185 foot deep well in order to produce rain artificially only to find themselves replacing the pump which, it seems, was too old to stand up to the demands of such watering.

Gentle reader, do not despair for as long as the mercantile remains stocked with hoes, shovels, broadforks, hatchets, hammers, hoses, lumber, nails, hedge trimmers, chain saws, wheelbarrows, garden wagons, paint, brushes, bulbs, seed, potted plants, Pyrethrin, sprayers, waterers, feeders, fertilizer, pelletized lime, tomato stakes, wire fencing, fence posts, clamps, hoses, extension cords, scratch feed, layer pellets, starter grower, grower finisher, cracked corn, Alpo for the fur ball, rawhide chews, and the like, our happy couple will continue to live the life of Riley, occasionally even finding time to cuddle up in that hammock and look up into the kaleidoscope of color the sun makes shining on the leaves rustling in the breeze.  Life is Good.

Pleasant tidings yall!  Vickie, aka thehistoricfoodie,© – thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com

WILLIAM RANKIN: Producer of Poultry and Prize Holsteins©



William Rankin was to goose farming what his brother, James, was to duck farming, both men were recognized as authorities on the subject of breeding, hatching, and marketing poultry.

It is not known exactly when the African goose first arrived in the U.S., but William Rankin claimed to have become acquainted with the African goose in 1859 when some landed at Essex, Mass.  When asked about them in 1897, William had been raising the geese for some thirty years.  He also knew of geese landing by a Provincetown, Mass. vessel.  The geese were scattered about west of Boston and were exhibited under the name African.  Fortunately for poultry historians and breeders, William kept detailed records and was able to refer to them when asked about his hatching practices.

The African goose has the knobbed head like the smaller Chinese goose, but weighs roughly twice as much making it more desirable for the table.

He claimed the African geese were better layers than Toulouse or Emdens and discussed the increased laying ability of his flock over the years.  “When I was a boy my father used to say, ‘If you raise ten goslings from a goose, you are all right’.  Now we feel that we ought to raise from twenty-five to thirty”.

He made fantastical claims as to how long the geese would live.  This author has no plausible explanation for his exaggerated statements when in modern times we only expect a goose may live for 10 to 20 or 30 years.  The reader will observe later in this article, however, that there was a time when William left the farm and pursued a teaching career before returning to farm life.  Perhaps this absence led to some confusion about the age of particular geese.

Rankin was quoted by a number of publications as saying he purchased almost 30 years prior a wild gander that had been owned by the same family for 50 years.  He also claimed to know of a goose in Boxford, Mass. that had been the property of one family for 101 years, dying after being kicked by a horse.  “In former times it was not uncommon for the farmer’s daughter, on her wedding day, to receive, among her other gifts, a goose from the old homestead, to become her property and accompany her to her new home.  In some instances such geese were kept for many years, perhaps far beyond the life of the young lady to whom it was presented”.

“When sexes are equal geese pair and become very much attached to their mates, seldom proving unfaithful…Should the gander be separated from his mate and placed with another he will seldom accept the new one so long as the old mate is anywhere within hearing distance.

William disapproved of “mongrel” geese, that is, breeding two different varieties to produce an offspring that was of only half the gene pool of each type parent and more than likely not having the full attributes of either.

He recommended colonies consisting of three geese to each gander and housing the geese in covered boxes about two feet square.  “Put some fine cut straw and a nest egg in each box, and have each goose lay in her own box….Feed each colony near their nests, to teach them that is their home and when they are not to be molested.”

He fed his geese a mixture of boiled cabbage, turnips, or potatoes mixed with cornmeal.  “Give them all they will eat of this, with a good feed of corn once a day while laying.  Keep ground oyster shells by them all the time [for calcium and grit]”.

“When they begin to lay, take their eggs as soon as convenient and with a pencil write on the eggs the date, colony, goose, and number, as No. 1, 2, 3, and so on, so that at the end of the laying season you know how many eggs your goose lays; and then, should she be very productive, mark her as one you want to serve by punching a hole in the web of her foot—colony 1, one hole; colony 2, two holes, etc.  With this method, after a few years, you will secure for yourself a lot of first class producers.  Now one reason for doing this is because you want to set your first laid eggs first, because the fresher the egg the more vigorous the gosling, the stronger and more liable to live”.

William had good advice for relocating a goose’s nest.  “Keep your geese laying.  Should you see one line her nest to set, take her and shut her up for a few days, and she will forget it and soon commence another litter.  Always have them lay two litters, letting them set on part of the last litter.  After the hens set about two weeks, I take all the infertile eggs, noting on my book from what colony they are taken and the goose, so that any mistake in mating is readily discovered.  If not in time to correct this year, I am prepared the next.  One making a low average I discard.  After getting a good goose, keep her.  I never knew one too old.  My oldest are my best”.

He felt ganders from one to six years old were the best producers.  He left them in the nest with the goose for 36 hours then put them on a green plot where the grass was young and tender.

This author fully intends to put into practice some of William Rankin’s advice, especially dividing up our nesting space to make more, but smaller, nests, and prompting the geese to lay a second clutch of eggs before trying to hatch them.

William Rankin, son of William and Isabelle (Smellie) Rankin, was born Nov. 12, 1833 in Glasgow, Scotland, he died May 4, 1904 at Brockton, Mass.  He left Scotland with his mother to join his father in Massachusetts when but two years old.  The senior William Rankin emigrated to Mass. in 1835 and settled in Rochester.  There he was superintendant of the Randall farm for many years until able to purchase his own farm.  He served as county commissioner of Plymouth County, Mass. and was known as a practical agriculturist descending from a long line of Scottish farmers named William.  The family name of William continued in use for at least three generations after him.  The elder William sold the farm and lived out his twilight years with his son, William.

William, the son, suffered a broken leg at the age of 17 after which he was compelled to find less physically challenging work and settled on that of teacher.  He eventually gave that up as well and took up dairying, producing milk for the Brockton market and became famous throughout New England for his purebred Holsteins before he took up poultry farming.

He married Catherine J. Smith on July 5, 1860, and had six children:  Isabelle, Sarah Ann, Lawrence, William Johnson Rankin, Katherine, and Sabin.  They are buried in the Village Cemetery in Easton, Mass.  Sarah Ann was named after her grandmother, Sarah Ann Johnson Smith and Sabin Mann Rankin was named after his grandfather, Sabin Mann Smith.  Sabin Rankin died young.

William Johnson Rankin worked on his father’s farm before becoming an engineer in a shoe factory, a position he held for six years before returning to the farm to, again, work with his father.  Upon William [II] Rankin’s death, his sons, William Johnson and Lawrence, became partners in running the former’s cattle and poultry farming operation.  Like their father, both men are found in the Holstein-Friesian Herd-books and other publications.  – Copyright.  Vickie Brady, (Thehistoricfoodie) ©

Sources: “Report of the Agricultural Experiment Station”.  1897.  “American Poultry Advocate”.  Feb. 1913.  “The Poultry Herald”.  Oct. 1900.  “Reports”.  Rhode Island Board of Agriculture.  1897.  Obituary of William Rankin.  “Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts”.  1912.  Obituaries.  Poultry magazines, various.

James Rankin’s Maplewood Farm©



Scotsman, James Rankin, was one of the first large scale Pekin duck breeders in the U.S. and his Maplewood Farm grew from a collection of run-down buildings and appurtenances into one of the most well known and profitable farms in turn of the century New England.

James Rankin was born Dec., 20, 1830 in Glasgow City, Scotland and died in Easton, Mass on Dec. 13, 1914.  He purchased Maplewood Farm in 1876.  It is unknown at what age he left Scotland and settled in Mass.

In his obituary was found:  “For more than forty years of his active business life he was prominently identified with the poultry industry, and, to the older members of the fraternity, was known as the ‘Father of the Pekin Duck Industry in America…He made his start with ducks shortly after the close of the Civil War, and about 1876 came into prominence as the inventor and manufacturer of a successful incubator and as an advocate of artificial hatching and rearing of both chickens and ducks.”

Rankin’s incubators were sold for a quarter of a century before high manufacturing costs forced him to concentrate on other areas of production.  After he stopped manufacturing them for sale he continued to use his incubators in his own duck ranching enterprise.  He was a contributor to the poultry press and because he was considered an expert in practical poultry husbandry, his book “Duck Culture” became the standard treatise undergoing numerous editions.

Rankin operated his business until the age of 77 when he passed it over to a young man in his home town who sought to emulate his success.  He died at age 84.  Perhaps the greatest thing that can be said of him is that he was always willing to talk with and instruct younger men interested in pursuing a living breeding and selling poultry.  “He leaves a host of friends among the poultry fraternity and not a few of them owe some small measure of their success to his kindly advice and counsel.”

Having paid just homage to Mr. Rankin, let’s take a look at his farm in its heyday.  In 1906 Maplewood Farm was home to 1,100 head of prime young breeder ducks and on an average year some 25,000 to 35,000 ducks were taken to market in a season.  His breeders were chosen from the growing pens before the remaining ducks were taken to be fattened for market.  “Only the choicest and most vigorous, healthy specimens are selected”.  His breeding hens were chosen in a like manner.

Some of his advice seems contrary to that published today, but this author has found the older books to be more helpful than the plethora of articles and books published today by individuals who have acquired a few birds and decide they are expert enough to publish advice for others to follow.

He believed in keeping hatching eggs cool while waiting to go into the incubator recommending a temperature between 40 and 50 degrees.  He claimed the eggs could be held up to three or four weeks before setting them as opposed to the one to two weeks advised today.  “Eggs lose vitality rapidly when exposed to a temperature above 75 degrees and are seldom fit for hatching when kept for more than three or four days at this temperature…Only well formed, medium-sized eggs with sound shells are used for hatching.  As a rule the fresher the eggs the better for incubating purposes but entirely satisfactory results have been obtained from one month old eggs, when they have been properly kept.”  He did not turn the eggs prior to incubating them.

His eggs were turned twice per day beginning on the morning of the third day of incubation, taking care not to jar or shake the eggs.  The incubation temperature was kept at 102 degrees, “with a thermometer on a live egg until the animal heat begins to get well established which is on or about the fifteenth or sixteenth day, when the heat is allowed to go to 103 degrees…”.  He candled the eggs on or about the twelfth day and again on about day 24 after which any non-viable eggs were disposed of.

On about the 24th day he placed a layer of burlap over the incubator’s metal mesh trays and the eggs and burlap were sprinkled with warm water to raise the humidity inside the incubator.  On the 26th day the moisture was increased, the machine closed and remained so until after hatching when the ducklings were put into the brooder.

Anyone who has raised ducklings knows the biggest negativity is their propensity for dropping food which then becomes wet when they drink and dribble water producing a foul stench unless the brooder is cleaned every 2 to 3 days.  Mr. Rankin had an ingenious method of avoiding this problem.  First, the only water he provided was for drinking, not bathing.  His watering troughs sat on a wooden frame covered with wire mesh above a trench dug in the ground so that as the ducks drank and naturally dribbled water, it fell through the mesh into the hole.  When it began to take on an odor, the frame and trough were placed over a newly dug trench and the previous hole was refilled with dirt.

“The water founts are galvanized iron and are placed on a wire cloth fastened on to a board walled pit at a level with the earth floor of the run so that any water slopped is quickly drained away and does not mess up the brooder house”.

Rankin and his hired hands fed the ducks twice a day a mash made from three parts heavy wheat bran, one part low grade flour, and one part corn meal mixed with five per cent beef scrap, three per cent fine grit, and all the green food they would eat, usually corn fodder, clover, alfalfa, oat fodder, or green rye cut fine.  His layer feed consisted of equal parts of wheat bran and corn meal with ten per cent beef scrap, twenty per cent low grade flour, ten per cent boiled turnips, mangel beets or potatoes, fifteen per cent clover, rowen or alfalfa, green rye or refuse cabbage cut fine with three per cent grit.  “The mash food is never cooked and is always mixed with cold water”.

When the ducks had gone to market or been sold the ground for the pens was turned and planted in rye, clover, alfalfa, corn or other crops.  They grew enough on those spaces to feed the ducks during the growing season while putting away enough mangle beets, turnips, and cabbages to feed the breeder ducks through the winter.  “Rye is kept growing the year round.  Clover, alfalfa and corn fodder are grown in large quantities.  Fresh cut, green corn fodder is considered one of the best green foods for ducks of all ages”.

James Rankin sold eggs and breeders and took huge numbers of green ducklings to market.  “Green” was a general term for poultry which meant “young”, that is 8 to 10 weeks old.  Mr. Rankins preferred to market his fattened ducks at 10 weeks.

James wasn’t the only member of the Rankin family involved in large scale duck and poultry production, his brother William Rankin of Brockton sold ducks and geese at markets in Boston.  William, three years older than James, was also born in Glasgow, Scotland.

  • “Successful Poultry Keeping”.  Rankin, James.  “Natural and Artificial Duck Culture”.  Numerous magazines published between 1905 and 1915.

Blissful Meals and Happy Incubating, Vickie (Thehistoricfoodie)©