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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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©

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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©

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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)©

ROUEN DUCKS: Their Origins and Qualities©

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America has gone chicken crazy.  Every suburban housewife has 3 hens in the back yard and homesteaders seem to fixate on chickens when we value our other poultry as much, sometimes maybe more, than chickens.

I love our colorful Rouen ducks.  I’m currently caring for seven hatched just two days ago by two Rouen hens.  After a dog and raccoon killed some, our flock had dwindled to three hens and a drake so I’m thrilled to add seven little brown and yellow balls of fluff.

There are two schools of thought as to the origin of the name.  One is that it was bred from wild and tame ducks in the area of Rouen, France, and the other is that Rouen is simply a corruption of the word Rhone or Roan duck.  I had several ancestors that went from Normandy to England with William the Conqueror so I tend to favor the probable Norman origin for them while agreeing the English were, at least in part, responsible for improving them.  Where do these ducks rank in the hierarchy of historic poultry?

First, for the uninformed, what does a Rouen look like?  I can find no better description than the one from “Farmer’s Bulletins” published in 1917.  After noting the duck derived its name from the city in northern France, the author noted it was equal in size and standard weights to the Pekin.  “The eyes are dark brown and the head and upper part of the neck of the male are green, with a white ring around the neck, while the back is gray mixed with green near the neck, shading into a lustrous green near the tail.  The lower part of the body is gray and the breast is claret colored.  The tail and wings are gray and brown mixed with some green, while the wings have a wide purple bar with narrow white bars on either side of the purple, which are exposed when the wing is folded.  The shanks and toes are an orange or orange-brown color.  The duck is barred on the wings similarly to the drake, but the color of the plumage of her body is brown with penciling in all sections.  This breed has very handsome markings…”.

The Rouen was commonly found around Normandy and were taken to Paris where they were plucked and drawn for market.  “The Rouen duck used to pay a duty double that of the dabbling duck.  This difference arose not only from its size, which in fact is larger, but again, on account of the quality of its flesh…The ducks…are finer in Normandy than in any other canton in France.  The English come often to purchase them alive in the environs of Rouen, to enrich their farm-yards…”.  The author went on to say there was quite a lucrative trade in coasting-captains returning to England with a load of ducks which were always sold at a profit.  (1810)

“The large, fine species, called the Rouen duck, suits well in the environs of Rouen, on the banks of the Seine…”, read the opening line in a discussion of this duck penned by Walter Dickson in 1838 and copied by Peter Boswell in “Treatise on the Poultry-Yard”, published in 1841.

The “Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture” said in 1863 that the family of ducks was a numerous one but only the mallard; common farm-yard duck; Aylesbury; Rouen; Musk [“sometimes improperly called Muscovy”]; Black East India Duck, Wood Duck and Mandarin Duck were worthy of discussion.

The author said, “The Rouen Duck has for a long time been as distinguished in France as is the Aylesbury in England.  It is the largest, and, in some respects, the best duck of all our domestic varieties, though less beautiful in form than the Aylesbury.  Its color is pleasing, closely resembling the wild Mallard.  These ducks have broad, clumsily-built bodies, and when highly fattened they are very ungainly in their movements.  They are remarkably quiet, easily fattened, and are most excellent layers of very large eggs, and have no equal for the table in the domestic family of ducks.  The adult Rouen not unfrequently reaches from twelve to fifteen pounds per pair.  They are emphatically a “puddle-duck,” seeming to care less for water exercise than most other varieties….

For amount of care and feed the Aylesbury and the Rouen yield the greatest profit…”.

Saxton wrote in 1859 that the Rouen duck of France was abundant and fine, especially in Normandy and Languedoc, “where duck liver pies are considered a great delicacy”.

The Rouen remained much appreciated as a meat duck into the 20th century.  “Few, if any, ducks fatten more readily.  The flesh is extremely delicious, the Rouen acknowledging few equals and no superiors in this respect.  While they do not mature quite as quickly as the Aylesburys, they attain equal weights.  They are thoroughly hardy…”.  – May, 1891.

The Rouen’s negative trait, if the reader considers it so, is that its pin feathers are darker than the white Pekin or Aylesbury.  Rouens were supposedly being raised in England by about 1800, but some claim it wasn’t until about 1850 that D. W. [Daniel Waldo] Lincoln of Worcester, Mass. introduced Rouens to the U.S.

This author made a rather thorough search for a period [published in the 19th century] account connecting Daniel Waldo Lincoln to the Rouen duck and found nothing earlier than 1947 when Paul Ives made the statement in his book, “Domestic Geese and Ducks”.  He gave no source for the information, and by his own admission, rather assumed the date to be so based on the fact that he neither found the Rouen shown at the first Boston Poultry Show in 1849 or at the New York State Fair.  He gave no source, or even a hint, for how he connected the duck to D. W. Lincoln.

In the absence of any mid-19th century documentation, this author questions the validity of Lincoln as the first to import the Rouens, yet the statement has been passed on by one author after another with none noting an original source other than Mr. Ives.

Governor Levi Lincoln, called “farmer Lincoln”, when chosen Governor of the Commonwealth in April 1825, was the father of Daniel Waldo Lincoln, mayor of Worcester for two terms.  Daniel, born Jan. 16, 1813, was named for his paternal uncle, Daniel Waldo Lincoln, who died unmarried in April 17, 1815.  His uncle is remembered for his oration for the creation of the Bunker Hill Society in 1808.  Daniel was, “President of B. and A. R. R. [railroad]; killed by the cars at New London, Conn., 1st July, 1880”.  Levi and Daniel were officers of the Worcester Agricultural Society for numerous years.

In closing let’s examine another statement about Rouens from “The Poultry World”.  “To the one who desires to combine hardiness, prolificacy, quiet disposition, excellent table qualities, and exquisite plumage, in a word, great beauty and general utility, the Rouen duck makes a strong bid for favor”.

© – Victoria, Thehistoricfoodie

Sources:

“Saxton’s Rural Hand Book”.  1859.  Richardson, H. D.  “Domestic Fowl and Ornamental Poultry”.  1851. Dickson, Walter.  “Poultry:  Their Breeding, Rearing, Diseases, and General Management”.  1838. A Treatise on the Breeding, Rearing, and Fattening of Poultry”.  1810.  “The Poultry World”.  May, 1891.  Loring, James Spear.  “The Hundred Boston Orators Appointed by the Municipal Authorities”.  1852.  Rice, Franklin Pierce.  “Worcester of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-eight”.  1899.  Ives, Paul.  “Domestic Geese and Ducks”.  1951 edition.  New York.

 

Poultry Parenting©

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Many of our birds here on the little farm have very distinct personalities.   We have our favorites that are almost like our children, others seem totally oblivious to our presence, and a couple have been downright nasty little cusses.  A rooster named Rocky tried to fight us every time we got near him until he went for a swim amidst light fluffy dumplings and rich golden roo…, chicken, broth.    The more personable of the lot know they’re going to live a charmed life and the others are subject to my grandfather’s cardinal rule.  I can still hear him saying, “Do not name the farm animals.  They’ll be coming to supper and they won’t be guests”.

Last year one of our Ameracaunas hatched two chicks which were as cute as could be but seemed to have a mind of their own, squeezing between the wires in their pen and frolicking all around the yard until a quick heavy rainstorm blew up and drowned them.  This year another hen has 3 chicks which we’ve been putting up at night to protect them from predators or another sudden rain storm.  Mama doesn’t quite understand our good intentions and as we’re catching the chicks she launches into a pecking frenzy to let us know they’re her chicks and we’re not welcome.

Last night I forgot to put them into the coop until well after dark.  I’d already put on my nightgown and didn’t feel inclined to get dressed again to run out back to the chicken pen to put them up.  It’s sheltered and can’t be seen from the road so there wasn’t much chance of stories circulating about the crazy chicken lady running around outside in her gown so I bee-bopped on out dressed as I was.

Mama was doing her usual fierce pecking on my hand as I caught two of the chicks then the third chick decided to make a break for it.  I was weaving and bobbing around the chicken pen trying to catch that last chick without mama getting too feisty when I felt this tug from behind.  Mama had come up behind me, grabbed on to the hem of my gown, and with all the strength she could muster started flopping around trying to pull me away from the chick.  Imagine, if you will, a grown woman with two chicks in one hand and a net in the other trying to catch this one wayward chick with Mama yanking and pulling on the hem of my gown.  I was torn between laughing and admiring her mothering skills.  I’m sure the story about the crazy chicken lady would have been suitably embellished to reflect the incident had anyone actually seen what was going on.

I finally caught the chick and put the three of them inside the coop, mama hen strutted up the gangplank pleased as punch with herself thinking she’d taught me not to mess with her babies, and I fastened the door and headed back inside thinking to myself how a mama chicken can be so protective of her babies when there are people who aren’t as good a parent as she.     © Blissful Meals Yall, visit again soon.  The Historic Foodie

A Little Look at my Garden©

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Some time back I posted a series of articles on various vegetables I was researching for this year’s garden and I thought it might be interesting to post an update on what I actually did end up planting.  So far all is well – my plants are up and doing well.  The weather has been good for the deep South although the temperatures are creeping up with a 95 degree heat index yesterday.  With the heat usually comes a decrease in the amount of rain we see and I’ve already watered the garden once.

We probably tripled the size of the garden from last year and instead of doing the whole thing with a shovel and broadfork we had someone plow it for us.  That let me expend my labor on seeding and weeding instead of breaking up the soil.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t done in time for early things like sweet peas and potatoes.

I chose Country Gentleman and Silver Queen corn and planted it as far away from each other as possible.  We staggered the plantings so the corn is varying heights and hopefully will be harvested over a longer season.  I have enough seed and space for perhaps another 10 rows and will put that out over the next 2 or 3 weeks.

Country Gentleman

The Blue Lake green beans look good as do the Fordhook limas.  I did two plantings of these to extend the harvest so while the first are about 5 inches tall, the others have yet to sprout although after watering, that should happen by the middle of next week.

I planted 3 rows of Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash that seem to be doing well.  I bought seed from Landis Valley but also saved the seed from squash we purchased at an Amish market when we were there over Christmas.  I decided to save the purchased seed and plant the seed from the squash and I do believe every seed sprouted.  There are pies in our future providing the bugs leave some and I keep them watered.

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Image of PA crookneck squash from the Seedsavers website.

I put out 60 tomato plants hoping to be able to can and freeze enough for the year so that we avoid the bad nasties in purchased canned tomatoes.  They were chosen for hot weather and disease resistance.  I have 6 Atkinson I bought and the rest are Big Boy and Better Boy that I started from seed.  They are blooming so I have the bacon and fixings ready for my first BLT.

I planted a row of Aunt Molly’s ground cherries or husk tomatoes if you prefer that have yet to sprout but if for some reason they don’t I have enough seed to replant.  I’m waffling in my decision as to whether to wait or reseed.

There is a row of salsify and a row of scorzonera.  The latter, which was referred to as viper’s grass in times past, is pushing through the soil surface and from its appearance it is easy to see how it got that name.

I had asparagus, but I’m waiting for it to be established better before cutting any.  I had about a 50% grow rate on my Jerusalem artichokes.  I’m not sure why only about half sprouted.  Moles or armadillos could be the culprits or perhaps the tubers weren’t as healthy as they should have been when they went in the ground.  I will probably harvest them and replant the bulk of them so as to amass a larger bed for next year rather than cooking them up this winter.

A couple of kinds of cucumbers and a few radishes are tucked away here and there, all up but not ready to harvest.

The basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary, shallots, and elephant garlic are in raised beds surrounded by chicken wire to keep hungry geese, chickens, and guineas from helping themselves.

There are baby ducks, chicks, rabbits, and a single gosling that have hatched so we butchered some of the older chickens and a couple of drakes last weekend and put them into the freezer.  Our ratio of roosters and drakes was higher than it should be so this helped to correct that and give the hens a break.  The roast duck followed by a nice barley vegetable soup made from boiling down the rest of the duck was pretty good.

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As always, gentle reader, I leave you with the wish for Blissful Meals!  ©  – Victoria, the Historic Foodie, thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com.

MORE VARIETIES OF HEIRLOOM CORN©

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As I’m choosing the vegetables that will get planted in my garden this year I’m adding my insane research results to the blog.  I’ve chosen Silver Queen and Country Gentleman for my corn this year and I’m happy with those choices for now.  The other varieties below will get planted eventually, but a couple at a time.  This will finish my walk down the heirloom corn garden path.  [Maybe]

Bear Paw.  A popcorn created by Glenn Thomson of Vermont and grown between 1930 and the mid-1960’s.  It was served in the Vermont exhibition of the World’s Fair.  It is available today.  Plants are about 4 to 5 ft.  The ears are flattened and split at the silk end, some said resembling a bear paw. An ear can actually split into more than two resembling a crude hand shape.  While it isn’t as old a variety as the rest of the list, I’ve included it because of its uniqueness. It is available from Seed Savers Exchange, cherrygal.com, etc.

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Black Mexican.   “If you have never tried Black Mexican corn you should do so…It is said to contain a higher percentage of sugar than any other variety.  The only thing against it is its appearance.  The fresh kernels are a beautiful blue-black, but in the pot they lose their life and luster.  The cooked ears are about as unattractive as black bean soup, but the flavor is delicious beyond words”.  – “Country Life in America”.  July 1904.

Some period sources said it was not preferred by 19th/early 20th century market growers because the corn turns from white to very dark as it ages and customers could tell if it wasn’t at its prime by the color.  It is very interesting to see the color change.  Others found that it crossed too easily with other corns, though there was no real discernible difference.  “There is no evidence, however, that this variety crosses more readily than others, but when crosses of Black Mexican and other varieties do occur, the effects are more readily seen.”  ““Bulletin”.  Issues 183-191.  Dept. Ag.  1911.  Corbett, Lee.  “Garden Farming”.  1913.

The name is misleading.  It was apparently first bred in New York, probably from Iroquois Black Puckers.  Some period sources dated it from 1864, but it was found by this writer earlier in the Essex Agricultural Society’s “Transactions” in 1857.    “Several collections of excellent sweet corn were exhibited by S. A. Merrill, of Salem, and others, but among them all we did not find any specimens of the Black Mexican.  Of ten varieties which we tested the past season, this was decidedly the sweetest.  The ear is rather below the average size and matures somewhat late, the kernels when ripe being of a rich, dark, purple color, but when in the milk but slightly tinged with purple…Black Mexican is prolific, will bear close planting, and we can confidently recommend it to the gardeners and farmers of Essex”.

In 1866, Fearing Burr called it, “Black Sweet, or Mexican.  Slate Sweet” and said it was sweet, tender, and well flavored, “remains a long period in condition for use”, and aside from its color which some found objectionable was well worth cultivation.  Black Mexican was offered by James J. H. Gregory of Marblehead, Mass. In his 1863 catalog.

It is available today from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Victory Seed, and others.  Seed may be Aztec Black or an Aztec Black cross.

Country Gentleman.  “Very desirable”.  Still available today.  See previous post.

Country Gentleman

Golden Bantam.  Stalks 4 ft.  5 in. ears.  Tender skin on the kernels.   Golden Bantam was featured in the Burpee catalog in 1902. In the 1903, W. A. Burpee Farm Annual said William Chambers of Greenfield, Mass.  grew this corn long before his neighbors had ripe corn for their tables but would never sell seed.  Mr. Chambers died ca. 1891 and his corn was grown and the seed kept pure by Mr. J. G. Pickett, also of Greenfield.  E. L. Coy of New York, who was a friend of W. Atlee Burpee, was served some Golden Bantam at a meal when visiting in Greenfield.

Mr. Coy purchased all the seed he could from Mr. Pickett and sent them to Mr. Burpee claiming it was the sweetest and richest corn he’d ever eaten.  It was Burpee who named the variety when he released it to the public in 1902, otherwise it should rightly be called Chambers’ Sweet Corn.

Mr. Chambers is thought to have bred his corn from seed obtained by James J. H. Gregory of Marblehead, Mass which was called Golden Sweet.  Golden Sweet was a cross between a yellow field corn and Darling’s Early, possibly the first named sweet corn variety.  Golden Bantam is still available while  Golden Sweet and Darling’s Early have fallen by the wayside.

“The name and fame of Golden Bantam Corn is known everywhere.  It has the call in summer when fresh corn is on the market.”  Carpenter’s Golden Sweet was a later improvement of Golden Bantam.  – Blackmore.  “Merchant’s Manual of Advertising”.  1921.  See also:  “Vegetables of New York”.  1934.

Howling Mob.  C. D. Keller of Toledo, Ohio developed this corn and named it because he said customers were so anxious to get it at markets they became a “howling mob” when it was offered for sale.  Not much is found on Mr. Keller other than classified ads for seed sales.  Howling Mob was introduced in 1905 and remains available today from R. H. Shumway.  It grows to 6 or 7 feet and ears are 8 to 9 inches long with 12 to 14 rows of kernels.  This corn came very close to being lost.

Stowell’s Evergreen.  See previous post.

Bloody Butcher.  This is a beautiful dark red corn, the color of which was likened to blood.  Some accounts say it was being grown at least as early as 1845, but this writer found no mention of it earlier than the 1870’s.  In 1919, Lamkin claimed Colby Bloody Butcher was grown in Missouri for the “past 25 years” – which would have been sometime around 1894.

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Bloody Butcher, from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange website

It is a dent corn and a tall one reaching 10 to 12 feet.  It supposedly produces two to six ears per stalk.  The cobs vary in color from pink to red.  It is primarily used for flour, grits, or meal but can be eaten when young and fresh.

“Bloody Butcher is a name applied to corn having a deep-red grain.  The cap, or rather the crown, end of the kernels varies in color for the different varieties, but are usually lighter in color than the remainder of the kernel.  The Colby Bloody Butcher is the only variety of this class that has proved to be an outstanding one…As a rule Bloody Butcher corn is not any more productive than corn of any other color”.  – “Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture”.  1921.

Hickory King.  This dent corn is available in white or yellow.  It is well known in the South as a hominy corn.  “Hickory King corn was originated by A. O. Lee, Bartee, Va.  I understand that there is a railroad station called Hickory near his place which furnishes the name of this reliable variety…The Hickory King corn is remarkable for having the largest kernels and the smallest cob in proportion to depth of kernels…”.  – Eyck, Albert.  “Corn”.  1914.

Leaming’s.  Jacob Spicer Leaming [1815-1885] of Clinton Co., Ohio is credited with developing this yellow dent corn.  His ancestors are outlined in a “Report” published by the Ohio Corn Improvement Assoc. in 1910 and that source was also an account of the development of his corn.  The article from which the Association quoted was published by his son in 1888. His corn was so much appreciated that the publication says, “the best part of him is still above ground, and the memory of him grows green each year in a thousand tasseled fields”.

Mr. Leaming’s father, Christopher, was growing corn with the help of his sons, one of whom was 10-year old Jacob Spicer Leaming, by 1826.

“In 1855, Mr. [Jacob Spicer] Leaming was driving a wagon in Hamilton County and stopped at a wayside corn field to ask some men husking corn in the field if they might sell him enough corn to feed his horses.  He was so impressed with the corn that he bought a bushel of corn for seed.

He first planted the corn in 1856 and spent some 30 years improving it.  After his 1856 crop was harvested he shared seed with several neighbors and the seed became known as Leaming’s corn.

Jacob was awarded a silver medal for his corn at the Paris World’s Fair in 1884.  He died the following year.  In 1900 Jacob’s son, Peter D. Leaming, took a bronze medal at the Paris Exposition for his seed corn – the corn his father developed.

Leaming’s corn, probably the Improved Leaming, is rare, but available today from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Neal’s Paymaster.  William H. Neal bred this variety from Tennessee Red Cob.  “An interesting story was published recently in a Tennessee newspaper relative to the manner in which W. H. Neal, of the Maple Dale Farm, Wilson county, Tennessee, had developed since 1898 what is known as Neal’s Paymaster corn, said to be largely responsible for the excellent yield in that state this year.”  The experts at the Tennessee Agricultural Dept. recommended it for Tennessee and other states.  – “The Seed World”.  Dec. 16, 1921.   It is available from Sandhill Preservation.

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Tennessee Red Cob

Luther Hill sweet corn.  Luther Hill developed this about 1902 in Sussex Co., New Jersey.  Mr. Hill was the horticulturist at Rutgers University.  Luther Hill Sweet was used to breed Silver Queen corn.  It can produce two years per stalk.  It is rare, but available today from the Sustainable Seed Co. and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  It has a short ripening period allowing for quick processing for the freezer.

Gaspe Flint.  Supposedly documented by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and named for the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec.  The plants reach to only about 2 ½ feet with cobs about 4 inches.  It is available from Heritage Harvest Seed Co. and Sherck’s Heirloom Vegetables, Plants, & Seeds.

Japonica Striped Maize, aka Japanese corn.  This is a beautiful corn with striped white and pink in the leaves.  It was touted as new in 1867 by the “Magazine of Horticulture, Botany, and All Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Rural Affairs”.  The seed was brought from Japan by Thomas Hogg. – “Genetics Laboratory Manual”.  1918.

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From the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange website.  Why not order today?

“American Agriculturist” printed a piece on the corn in March 1866 saying Hogg sent the seed to his brother from Japan.  The author said when the plants were about two feet high they were also streaked with rose color in the leaves but claimed the pink dissipated as the plants got older.

“The Japanese corn has a very peculiar appearance, the leaves being striped with white”.  – “Report”.  Vol. 18-20.  1893.

“A variety of Japanese corn has been successfully grown for several years on the grounds of Cornell University.  While it produced good sized ears, it is not so valuable as the ordinary variety under cultivation.  Its distinctive feature is that its leaves are striped similar to ribbon grass”.  – “The Cultivator & Country Gentleman”.  March 14, 1895.

Seed are available from several sources including Heritage Harvest Seed.

Tom Thumb Popcorn.  The earliest origins of this yellow variety are unknown, but it was found in the “Annual Report” of 1889.  It was featured in John Lewis Child’s catalog 10 years later in 1899.  Plants are said to be very productive but a diminutive 2 feet tall with ears about 2 to 3 inches.  Childs recommended it for city or village lots where space was limited.  It is available from Heritage Harvest Seed.

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Truckers Favorite.  Trucker’s Favorite is an heirloom dent corn.  The December 1913 issue of “The Southern Planter” noted that Mr. Charles G. Diessner had received 2nd prize at a fair for his Truckers Favorite corn.  Mention of it was found in 1905 in a publication by the University of Maryland, “Control Series”.

“There is no early garden corn so extensively grown in the South as Trucker’s Favorite corn.  It is much hardier than any sugar corn and can be planted weeks earlier, and is ready for the table or market in about 70 days.  Although not a sugar corn, it makes the finest roasting ears.” – T. W. Woods Seed Co.  1938.

It can be eaten fresh or dried for flour or meal.  Sources describe it as heat tolerant, thus its popularity in the hot humid South.  Seed are available from My Patriot Supply, Sustainable Seed Co., Gurney’s, St. Clare’s Seeds, etc.

May your soil be fertile, your crop abundant, and your meals truly blissful, Vickie (The Historic Foodie).  ©

In Search of the Shakebag Fowl

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Malays Fowls by Jean Bungartz for ‘Geflügel-Album’, 1885

In studying chickens one cannot merely search for the modern name of the chicken to know what early sorts were like as names sometimes came about after a group of fowl were improved upon enough to merit some distinction.  I invite you to join me as I travel down the path in search of an intriguing bird known as the Shakebag fowl.

Numerous sources from 1800-1810 state that the fowl got its name from being held in a bag while the owner cried that he would take any comers who wished to pit their cocks against his in a cock-fight.  The chicken was kept in a bag, out of sight, so the competitors could not judge the size and disposition of the bird they’d be pitted against.  At the start of the match the bag would be turned upside down and the bird “shaken” out thus they came to be called Shakebag fowl.  As one would imagine, Moubray classed the Shakebag as a game chicken and their breeder was described in 1853 as being an enthusiastic cock-fighter.  – Dixon, Edmund Saul & Kerr, J. J.  “A Treatise on the History and Management of Ornamental and Domestic Poultry”.  Philadelphia.  1853.

They are often discussed when observing the Dorking which most agreed descended from crosses with the Shakebags.  Dickson said, “It is very probable that this large breed is a cross between the Malay, or shack-back [shake-bag,] and the game variety.”  Another writer put forth the same hypothesis in the “Scottish Quarterly Journal of Agriculture”, vol. VI, p. 381.  Dickson’s wording seems to indicate that the Malay and the Shakebag were one and the same.  – “The Cultivator”.  Vol. 6.  Feb. 1849.

Bennett tells us he has no doubt.  The Shakebag fowl possessed too many points of affinity with the Malay for him to doubt the association.  The plumage of the cock was described as extremely brilliant and gaudy.  In 1850 he claimed the first presence of these fowls he had knowledge of in the U.S. were imported by Mr. John L. Tucker of Tremont House in Boston.  He did not give a date for the importation.  At the time of that writing Mr. James S. Parker of Samoset House, Plymouth supposedly had Shakebags among his fowl but pronounced them exceedingly rare in this country, this being the only importation Bennett was aware of.

English writers disputed Bennett’s claim regarding Misters Tucker and Parker saying instead that Moubray had declared the breed already extinct “for some years” in 1816 – some 34 years before Bennett’s statement of seeing them in the U.S in 1850.  They thought the fowl that Tucker and Parker possessed were average dunghill fowl.  – “The New England Farmer”.  Vol. 2.  June 8, 1850.

“The average weight [of the Shakebag] is from eight to fourteen pounds.  The hens are good layers, and the eggs have every mark of the East Indian origin of the race, being dark-colored and large yolked.  The cocks are remarkable for their prowess”.  – Bennett, John C.  “The Poultry Book”.

Richardson said, “A good many years ago, there used to be a variety of fowl much in request in England, called the ‘Shakebag’, or the ‘Duke of Leeds’ fowl’, his grace, of that name, about sixty or seventy years ago having been a great amateur breeder of them.  These fowl were as large as the Malays, but differed from them in the superior whiteness and tenderness of their flesh, as also in their very superior fighting abilities”.  Calculating back from 1847 he was saying the duke was breeding the Shackbags between 1772 and 1787.  Note the use of the words “used to be” strengthening the claim they were already extinct by 1847.  – Richardson, H. D.  “Domestic Fowl:  Their Natural History…”.  Dublin.  1847.

The “New England Farmer”, June 8, 1850, noted that the Shakebag had been extinct for a good many years, but if speculation on its crosses is accurate, some of its traits live on in fowl by other names.  Not all breeders agreed with the Malay being used in the cross.  Some authors felt the Shakebags were crossed with the Java rather than Malay.  – Tucker, I.  “The Pictorial Cultivator”.  Aug. 1850.

Moubray wrote in 1816, “The only one I ever possessed was a red one, in 1784, weighing about ten pounds, which was provided for me, at the price of one guinea, by Goff, the dealer, who then lived upon Holborn Hill, in London, and who, at the end of two years, received him back at half a guinea, having allowed me, in the interim, three shillings and sixpence each for such thoroughbred cock chickens as I chose to send him”.  The Duke of Leeds, or Shakebag, fowl was already said to be rare prompting its cross with the Malays and other breeds.  The Malay cross retained the size of the bird, but the flesh deteriorated in color and delicacy of flavor.  – “Moubray’s Treatise on Domestic and Ornamental Poultry”.  London.  1854.

To understand the crossing, it may be helpful to know the same source included under the name Malay fowl known as the Jersey Blue, the Bucks County, and “Boobies”.

Since the only illustration found of the Shakebag was questioned as to its accuracy when published in the mid-19th century, this writer proposes no physical description of the shape or coloring of the birds other than to imagine the color to have been similar to some sort of modern game bird and based upon period descriptions to note they were bigger than an average game chicken.  Perhaps someone else has found a better description and will comment on it.  Blissful Meals yall – Victoria Brady (The Historic Foodie).  Please do not circulate articles from the Historic Foodie blog, in all or in part, without permission and without quoting the source. ©