Le Detachement portrays Canadian habitants of the 1750s serving with la milice. Members from Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, Massachusetts, and beautiful West Virginia, participate in living history events in North America that interpret the culture of the French colonial period. Our organizational structure (see below) is simple. We welcome anyone who can be dedicated to what we try to accomplish. Find us at the French and Indian War programs at Fort Niagara (New York) in July, Fort Meigs (Ohio) in August, Algonac State Park (Michigan) in September, or other events.
The purpose of Le Detachement is to preserve and accurately interpret the history of New France. This purpose will be pursued by portraying, in living history or other history programs, Canadian habitants c.1740-1760. Specifically, members of Le Detachement will portray Canadian militia in service with the military forces of New France.
1.) Le Detachement will attain and maintain the highest degree of accuracy in appearance and activity appropriate to the program or activity in which it is involved.
2.) Le Detachement will advocate and support quality history programs.
3.) Members will support activities of Le Detachement.
4.) Members will support other members in any and all activities of benefit to Le Detachement.
All members agree to adhere to the clothing and equipment guidelines.
All members agree to adhere to the general interpretation plan and specific interpretation plans.
All issues will be decided, preferably, by consensus. When necessary individual issues/questions will be decided by member vote, three-quarters of the total membership constituting a quorum, three-quarters of the total vote needed to decide the issue or question.
Offices, committees, other aspects of formal (business) structure will be instituted as needed with a fixed time limit for the office, committee, or other.
One or more members will be elected to serve as contact person(s) and/or agent for Le Detachement.
Membership is open to any individual agreeing to, and acting in, conformance to the purpose, goals, requirements, and structure of Le Detachement.
THE OFFICIAL COOKING GUIDE FOR POOR CANADIAN MILITIA AND THEIR CLOSEST FRIENDS, par Le Detachement
(Note: This was produced for the members of Le Detachement. Please do not reproduce it in any manner without permission.)
"Let's be more correct." You asked for it so step up to the fire. Please note that this is a cooking guide not a cookbook. The recipes are for beginners. What we are searching for is the base of 18th century Canadien cooking. Then we can be innovative. Anyone who is confused with the basics please ask questions. In fact, communication and cooperation in this, as with all aspects of our activity, will make our efforts more successful.
In Niagara's kitchen
Bread is central to eighteenth-century French North America cuisine. If you have never made bread, be not afraid, it is simple. Although there are numerous factors that can affect bread, if you use fresh ingredients and protect the dough from getting a chill while rising, you will succeed.
French bread is basic. The ingredients for two loaves:
1 packet of yeast
2 cups of warm water
6-7 cups of flour (mixed flours if you wish)
1 Tablespoon salt
Put the water into a small bowl. The water should be on the high side of warm. Take care that the bowl does not cool the water. Sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the water and set aside.
Measure your flour into a bowl or other container and mix in the salt. Grease another bowl for the dough to rise. This bowl should be of generous proportions. Another bowl should be readied for mixing the dough. If you want sweetener put a couple of tablespoons of sugar or honey in the mixing bowl. Flour your breadboard.
If you have taken about ten minutes to get all this ready the yeast has probably soften to a gray scum on top of the water or maybe has become bubbly. Transfer this to the mixing bowl. Add three cups of flour to the liquid and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add more flour, one half cup at a time, and stir until you can stir no more.
Turn the dough out on the floured breadboard. Flour your hands and start working the remaining flour into the dough. Keep this up until the dough is very stiff and when you press lightly on it with a finger tip it springs back. One technique for kneading is to karate chop the dough in the middle and fold the dough over. Do whatever works for you but work the dough.
Take the dough and form it into a ball by folding it. Put the dough upside down into the greased bowl so the top gets greased and then turn it over. Cover the bowl with a towel and set it in a draft-free area to rise. It should about double its size in an hour.
After the first rising, punch it down to expel the air, and set the dough on the breadboard. Now, make the decision, one loaf, two loaves, four mini loaves, eight large sandwich buns, baguettes, etc. Just about anything is historically right. Keep in mind that an unbroken crust seems to preserve the bread so plan according to how it will be used. It seems best to finish the loaf in one meal. Anyhow, cut the dough into the size and number you want.
Common bread was not baked in pans. Form your loaf round, oval, long and skinny, whatever, and place it on a greased baking sheet (you can do this on cornmeal if you wish). Allow room between loaves as they will spread. Cover all with a towel and return to the rising place. Let it rise another hour. (Remember to preheat your oven to have it ready when the second rising is complete.)
Baking is quick and hot. The oven should be at least 425 F, some recommend a higher heat, and some start at a higher heat and turn it down after ten minutes. All will work if you watch so the bread does not burn. The baking time is 25 minutes. This, of course, can vary 5 minutes either way depending on the oven. The bread is done if you get a hollow sound when you tap on the bottom with a finger tip or knuckle.
A note on crusts. Those traditional French bread crusts are achieved with moisture. A pan of boiling water in the lower part of the oven and spraying the bread with a mist of water every few minutes during the first fifteen minutes of baking should work. There are other factors in your particular environment that will affect this.
CAUTION: AUTHORITIES HAVE SAID THAT YOU NEVER SLICE BREAD, ALWAYS TEAR IT.
Biscuits (Hardtack, from Les Cerises)
Mix flour and water with a dash of salt into a thick dough. Roll this dough out to about a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out individual biscuits. Make as many as you can by recycling the left over dough from your cuttings. Use a fork and prick holes in the biscuits. Bake in the oven at 375 to 400 degrees for about 1 hour. The shape of eighteenth-century hardtack is in question.
Sea Biscuits or Hard Tack
This recipe is based on a description from a journal of a Hessian Officer on a transport ship coming to America in 1776. He describes sea biscuits as small round cakes of whole wheat, 4 to the pound. This works out to about 6 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Take whole wheat flour and mix it with heated honey. Add water, a little at a time, until thick and well mixed. Kneed it as making bread. Pound it out very well. Roll it flat to 1/4 inch and then using a 6 inch bowl, cut out the biscuits. Put them on an ungreased cookie sheet and poke holes in them. Place in an oven at 350 degrees and bake until golden brown. Let them cool and dry for several days. Do not put them in an air tight container. If there is any moisture in the cakes they will mold. Make sure they are dry and they will last for years! They are good to eat plain. When cooking a stew or pea soup, break up some biscuits and add them to the pot. Another way is like the Prussian Army did in c.1740. They boiled the biscuits in salted water until it was soft like a bread pudding. Add raisins or other dried fruit for taste!
Galette (from Max)
Here is a simple recipe for galette. Traditional gallette en graisse
is deep fried in lard.
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons oil
Add enough water to get a bread dough consistency. Mix the ingredients well, and then knead them for about ten minutes. Lightly oil and heat a frying pan. Form the dough into cakes about 1/2 inch thick and dust them lightly with flour. Lay the cakes in the hot frying pan. Shake the pan now and again to keep the gallette from sticking. Press down on the cakes with a flipper to flatten them as they cook. When the bottom crust is a golden brown colour, turn the cakes. Turn them several more times before they are done, pressing them down each time. When they are cooked, you can spread butter, honey or jam on the gallettes. They even taste good plain. Bon appétit
Pancakes are also correct.
Trying to hurry home to dinner.
POTAGE ou SOUPE
Potage means porridge as well as soup so it well may be that the difference between potage and soupe may be consistency. Now add stew to confuse the terminology further. What this is all about is a one-pot meal of vegetables and/or meat and, perhaps, fruit. The question is not how it is made, we cannot be sure about that, but rather what is in it. First and foremost, fatty pork was used for a stock flavor. Probably beef bones and fish scraps served the same purpose. The type, quality, and quantity of meat added to the pot was dependent on availability. This would have included the common domestic farm animals, wild game, and fish (fresh and salted). The vegetables included onion, of course, cabbage, turnip, parsnips, carrot, beans, peas, lentils, celery, maize, asparagus, and squash. Potatoes were fodder for the English and other animals. Stews may have included apples or other fruits. Herbs were grown and dried and, undoubtedly, used fresh. Peter Kalm mentions wild ginger being used.
The only warning on soupe is that different foods cook at different rates. Certainly you want things cooked to the point of safety but this may mean other items in the pot will be undercooked or overcooked to the point of vanishing. Some items such as beans and peas can be soaked overnight and thereby will cook quicker. Vegetables cooked soft can be mashed and stirred with the stock to make a thick base. It is hard to make a bad soupe but with planning you can make a good one.
Corn Soup (from Max)
This is the Oneida version of Iroquois corn soup. The ratio of corn to beans is about 2:1 but you may suit your preferences. Do note that the corn kernels swell up to about twice their size and a little goes a long way. As many old recipes go, it uses eyeball measurement. Prepare it several times and you will know what you like. It is at the least, an all day cooking event, but you can prepare the corn ahead of time and cook the beans and meat the next day.
Indian corn, available on the Oneida Settlement or at Six Nations (White hominy can be substituted for the Oneida corn if you cannot get the proper corn, but it doesn't taste the same.)
a chunk of salt pork
1 or 2 pounds of ground or chopped venison or moose
salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Pour in 4 cups of corn kernels. When the water again reaches boil, pour in two good handfuls of baking soda. The corn will turn a bright orange. This is leaching the corn, a process that would have used potash in older times. Let the corn boil for 4 or 5 hours. The cooking process may take longer depending on how dry the corn is, but you will know it is done when the kernel has swelled considerably and you can easily remove the hard, dark centre from it.
While the corn is cooking, bring a second pot of water to a boil. Pour in 2 cups of uncooked red beans. Chop and add the salt pork. Slowly boil until the beans are soft and the salt pork has cooked down. Let the water reduce. When the beans are done pick out any chunks of fat. When the corn is cooked, remove it from the heat and rinse it in cold water a number of times. Pick out as much of the dark bits and insides of the kernels as you can. Rinse the corn extremely well.
We like to add meat to the soup, so while the corn and beans are boiling, I cook 1 or 2 pounds of venison or moose with a large chopped onion. Add garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh or dried parsley and basil to taste. Cook the meat slowly, adding enough water to cover the meat well and make a good, rich broth. When all the ingredients are cooked and the corn is rinsed, mix them together in a large pot and let them simmer and hour or so to blend the flavours. Serve with fry bread or gallette.
We can speculate about the particulars of 1750 Canadian pea soup. Yellow peas seem to be traditional. It can be made simply by putting dried peas (split peas might work better but may not be correct) in a pot, cover them with water (an inch above the peas), and slowly simmer them until it can be eaten. Add water as it thickens and at the end to reach the desired consistency. It will fill you but it is boring.
Start with about a pound of meat (less if modern fatty salt pork) ham or a quality sausage. Brown the meat in the bottom of the pot with a couple of sliced onions. Add a pound of dried peas, cover well with water, simmer, adding water as needed, until you can eat it. If you wish add some vegetables like celery and or carrots do it when the peas begin to get mushy, this is also garlic* time. Give this about a half hour at least. If you want to herb it do that about ten or fifteen minutes before declaring it done, basil, oregano, and savory (in strict moderation) are nice.
Fancy pea soup requires that the pea hulls be removed when the peas break down enough to do it. This is supposed to eliminate the resulting gas when eaten. In this case it is more of a broth soup. Letting the soup thicken with the hulls is probably a potage. A tablespoon or two of dry mustard is supposed to quell the gas problem, hey, it might work. Do not dare to serve this without some very good bread.
*Garlic. Justin Wilson says that if garlic is cooked in hot oil (sautéed) it looses its flavor. There may be truth in this.
Take your stew, put it in a pie crust, bake it until the crust is done and viola, tourtière. OK, this probably offended all of Quebec. Also, it is tradition that meat pies only contained meat and maybe onion. Here are the basics, be creative.
Take 1-2 pounds of meat, pork or a mixture, cook it in 3/4 cup of water with onion, celery (if not a strict traditionalist), a bay leaf, salt, pepper, savory, rosemary and some cinnamon for an hour and a half over medium heat adding more water as necessary then remove the bay leaf and stir in 1/4 cup of rolled oats. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm and put it into a pie crust, put the top on so it looks like a pie and bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then 375 for another 25 minutes (estimate, when the crust is done get it out).
Spit, grill, fry, or boil, any kind of meat. No brainer, huh?
Crawfish were eaten in Canada.
There was a dovecote at many French sites.
VEGETABLES AND SUCH.
Rice was issued to the troops so we can assume it was available to the general public. Probably wild rice was used where available.
Vegetables can be cooked or eaten raw.
Pumpkins are described by Kalm as oblong, round, flat, or compressed, and crooked-neck. Obviously we are dealing with squash. This was cooked by roasting slices (and adding sugar to eat), and baking. Also pancakes were made from flour and boiled pulp, boiled pulp was eaten mixed with milk, and pudding and tarts were another use and soup, of course,
Herbs and Vegetables from Kalm
white cabbage, onions in variety and leeks, red onions being the most popular vegetable, several species of pumpkins, melons, wild chicory, lettuces, wild endive, several kinds of peas and beans, Turkish beans, carrots, cucumbers, red beets, horseradish, radishes, thyme, marjoram, turnips in abundance, parsnips sparingly, few artichokes, root cabbage, watermelons, white pulp (most common) and red pulp.
Berries, dried or fresh, with a little cream whipped with a little maple sugar or syrup would be nice. Other fruits are good especially as a pie.
Kalm says sliced cucumbers were eaten dipping in salt or with cream. Cheese was used for dessert. There was a variety of cheeses in France, many having familiar names, brie, gruyère, etc. but are these the same varieties which bear the names today? He mentions a cheese made on I’le d’Orleans that is pressed in quarter pound rounds.
A priest in Quebec had white walnuts coated with sugar, pears and apples with syrup, apples preserved in spirits of wine, small sugared lemons, strawberry preserves, and angelica root
A tradition today that may well have been used back then is a sugar pie. Mix a cup of brown sugar, tablespoon of flour, a tablespoon of butter and 4 tablespoons of cream. Pour the mixture into a pie crust, do a lattice top if you want, and bake a 400 for 30 minutes. You will need a sweet tooth for this. You could probably add a hint of maple syrup. One pie serves 64. These things are sweet!
Of course you will need a wafer iron.
A wafer batter:
Dissolve 1-1/4 cup honey OR sugar in 1 cup water. Gradually beat enough of this into 2 cups of flour until it is the consistency of heavy cream. Beat in 1 egg and then add 2 Tablespoons melted butter. Heat an oiled/greased iron and adjust consistency of the batter until you get the wafer you want.
Another (undocumented) possibility if there is leftover rice, add some sugar, cream/milk, butter, and raisins and call it rice pudding. As mentioned previously, cheese was also used as a dessert.
Kalm said the Canadian habitant drank water. You think maybe they did not want to share the Calvados when he was around? Wine and brandy were available but expensive. The priests at Quebec served several sorts of wine. Wine and brandy were sometimes watered down.
A version of beer was made from a mash of wheat and corn, called bouillon. Spruce beer was available. Kalm says that Canadian spruce beer is different than that made by the English. Chocolate and coffee were used at breakfast. Cider was not common, usually a curiosity for the rich. At fort St. Frederic the commandant gave Kalm a drink of water mixed with maple syrup.
A quart of cheap strong red wine, add a half cup of sugar, some cinnamon, two pepper corns, orange peel, a pinch of mace, an ounce or two of lemon juice, and four cloves. Let stand at least an hour and then strain through cloth until clear. Bottle and leave it alone for at least a few days.
MISC. STUFF FROM KALM
bread loaves were oval, soup with bread in it, salads, butter, if used, was salted at the table, walnuts, fresh or pickled, almonds, raisins, hazelnuts, currants, cranberries preserved in treacle, milk with sugar, pepper on the table, the common farmer's butter, if used, is made from sour cream, a common dish was boiled milk with sugar and bread added, mustard
MISC. FROM CADILLAC’S 1711 DETROIT INVENTORY
pepper, aniseed or anise seed, white and red vinegar, cloves, nutmeg.
FOOD RELATED ITEMS FROM THE ACCOUNT BOOK OF THE HURON MISSION AT DETROIT 1740, BY DE LA RICHARDIE, JESUIT MISSIONARY
Wheat, wine, Indian corn, tallow, flour, brandy, peas, oats, cows, deer, turkeys, bastards (probably bustards), swan, ducks, bear's ham, partridges, beavers, pork, turnips
End of Father de La Richardie's account
CONTINUATION OF THE BOOK OF ACCOUNTS OF THE HURON MISSION ON ILE AUX BOIS BLANCS FROM THE 30TH OF JULY 1746
bear's grease & tallow, hens, eggs, 1 Illinois cow named La blanche, 1 cow called La Commandante.
FROM A LIST OF COMMODITIES IN CANADA
(From a microfilmed manuscript in the National Archives of Canada)
Local produce: beef, veal, mutton, bacon, butter, dried fish, turkey, chicken, partridge, eggs, cabbage, onions, peas, beans, lentils, oats, apples.
Imported: olive oil, pepper, sugar, coffee, salt, wine, brandy.
Most historic sites sell cookbooks and there are quite a few available from Quebec. Members of Le Detachement have a modest collection of these. If you are looking for specific recipes, ask. Be very careful with recipes from the current volumes as many are "descended" from traditional cooking and have been amended in a few or many ways. Although it contains a few recipes and is about continental France, SAVORING THE PAST, THE FRENCH KITCHEN AND TABLE FROM 1300-1789, by Barbara Ketcham Wheaton (New York: Touchstone [Simon and Shuster] 1985) is very useful.