We had such a wonderful time with our visitors on Holly Nights this year!! The rain gave us a 5-hour window to enjoy our Friday night, and we were so excited to see so many visitors come out. This has been a long-standing tradition at Pennsbury Manor for at least 30 years, and both evenings turned out to be beautiful and full of holiday spirit.
We wanted to share some awesome photos of this year’s event:
Putting up the decorations!
Volunteers help offer demonstrations every year, including this fan-favorite – Pomander Balls are made by sticking oranges with cloves and rolling them in a mixture of cinnamin, nutmeg, and other spices
Cooking over the open-hearth for visitors – looks delicious!
Candlelight makes the 17th-century manor house come alive.
William Penn defeats the notorious pirate Captain Kidd in our classic 17th-century Mummer’s Play!
Our awesome blacksmiths working in the warmest spot on site – lucky guys, but try doing this on a hot August afternoon!
Thank you so much to everyone who came out for Holly Nights! We had between 80 and 120 volunteers participating each night (not including all our amazing performers!), so we owe all our success to their dedication and joyful holiday spirit.
Have a wonderful holiday season and we look forward to blogging with you in the New Year!
By Hannah Howard
Photographs courtesy of Tabitha Dardes, PR, and Joseph Long, volunteer
The staff at Pennsbury Manor are scurrying everywhere getting ready for our annual Holly Nights this week, but in reality William Penn’s home would have been quiet and uninterrupted over the holiday season. Quakers did not believe in setting apart certain days as more “holy” than others, so they typically let the 12 days of Christmas pass by uncelebrated.
But we at Pennsbury just can’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate this special season! Our classic Holly Nights, a two-evening candelit event, includes some of our favorite 17th-century traditions that William Penn would have known as a child growing up in England. Our amazing volunteers will be Wassailing the apple orchard, burning evergreens to bless the New Year, brewing beer, cooking a sumptuous feast in the kitchens, and much more!
I thought about writing up a post about some of the holiday traditions Penn would have known, having been raised in a typical 17th-century Anglican family, but Colonial Williamsburg and their partners at the Jamestown Settlement have already done it! Click here to read theiramazing article and pick up some cool ideas for your own holiday merry-making!
By Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator & Costumier
During the 17th Century, what we know as Germany was a hodgepodge of different states disputing everything from religion to politics. With religious persecution and destruction brought about by The Thirty Years War, many Germans were fed up and chose to leave for the New World. But leaving their country behind didn’t mean leaving their traditions – especially when it came to their food!
Map of Western Europe, 1648
The colony of Pennsylvania was appealing to a large variety of people, for it accepted diversity and offered freedom of religion. The first wave of German immigrants purchased about 15,000 acres from William Penn, a tract of land about 6 miles north of Philadelphia. There they founded “Germantown” and were free to prosper without the political disputes of the Old World. As the settlement prospered, many more Germans followed, and soon their population swelled to dominate south central Pennsylvania!
These new inhabitants came with respected farming techniques and prized cooking traditions. The recipes used by these new settlers greatly varied by what regions of Germany they came from. These people, erroneously referred to as the “Pennsylvania Dutch,” rather than the proper “Pennsylvania Deutsch,” became famously known for their hearty meals, heavy in starches and fats. As they mingled with the English, French, and other nationalities living in Pennsylvania, their traditions would intermingle. William Penn was especially fond of the smoked meats Germans favored.
A sampling of seasonal ingredients used for Open-Hearth Cooking at Pennsbury Manor
The majority of these immigrants came here impoverished, so what they ate was determined by what their new land offered. They became well known for their sausages and soups, which were great ways of getting the most from the ingredients available. Even today, local delicacies like Scrapple and Pork Rolls have their roots in the colonial Deutsch culture. With the opportunities William Penn offered in his new colony, German immigrants helped establish the diverse state Pennsylvania has become.
Written by Ray Tarasiewicz, Intern
Fletcher, S. W. Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life 1640-1840. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1971. Print.
“The gardiner is brisk at work. The Peach-Trees are much broken down with the weight of Fruit this Year.”
William Penn’s steward James Harrison reported this good news in October of 1686, but the same could be said of the fall harvest in 2012! Indian blood peaches, radishes, red and yellow cayenne peppers, squash, gourds, and culinary and medicinal herbs have all thrived this year in Penn’s kitchen garden.
According to Pennsbury’s gardener Mike Johnson, this is due in part to the recent restructuring of the garden’s fences. While Penn’s original garden covered about two acres of his estate, the smaller area has allowed the garden staff to protect the plants from pests and to interpret seventeenth and eighteenth-century garden activities more effectively for visitors.
You may be asking yourself, “What happens to all those fruits and vegetables?” Just as in Penn’s time, nothing goes to waste! Harvested crops will be used in cooking demonstrations, educational programs, and seed-saving for future planting.
Let’s follow the path of the dipping gourd, which has yielded a particularly plentiful harvest this year. From the garden, the dipping gourds will make their way into storage to dry until next summer. At that time, our summer campers will remove the seeds and return them to the gardener so they can be planted. Once the seeds are removed, each gourd will be fashioned into a ladle-like tool used for watering plants. In a time when metal watering cans were expensive, being able to grow one’s own irrigation tools was certainly a favorable alternative.
Dried gourds make excellent dippers for the cistern. Gourds and thumb-pots are favorite 17th-century tools kids can use as they water the garden’s many plants.
2012 was also a “hot” year for red and yellow cayenne peppers. Growing cayenne peppers has given the garden staff an opportunity to interpret contradicting horticultural ideas, as not everyone on the estate would have eaten them. African slaves living at Pennsbury had their own culinary culture and probably would have cultivated cayenne peppers as a food source. However, the Penn family and Pennsylvania’s other English residents would have considered them to be primarily ornamental plants with some medicinal and culinary value. For example, cayenne pepper and other spices would have been added to hot chocolate for an exotic burst of spicy flavor.
The fall harvest is well under way and will continue for the next few weeks. On your next visit to Pennsbury, take a walk through the garden and reflect on the efforts of our gardeners, past and present. They cultivated food for the table, medicine for those who were sick, and even tools for future growing seasons. Autumn is the perfect time to celebrate their achievements!
Our fellow museum bloggers over at Winterthur just posted a great article on the popular Posset Pot, a commonly-shared drinking vessel which had its own unique beverage concoction.
A couple years ago, one of our interns posted a Collections Featurette on one of the posset pots in the Manor House, so I was excited to see more examples from the Winterthur collection, which is located just outside Wilmington, Delaware. Some look very similar to ours, but some feature amazingly detailed and ornate decorations on the sides and lid. They also posted a recipe for the posset, which might be worth a try! Visit their blog at the link below to learn more about this fashionable 17th-century tradition:
Last month our Open-Hearth Cooks demonstrated the cooking traditions of the Netherlands, previewed in an article we posted about Dutch foodways.
Now we turn our attention to another highly influential culture, one that has been closely intertwined with the English for centuries: France!
For many years England and France shared many of the same trends and traditions, from food to fashion. This began to change around the mid-17th Century. Many in England began looking to the French as the trendsetter of the age, mostly for the upper class. Even as their countries waged war against each other, the English were often reluctant to give up French trends in the name of patriotism!
French cuisine began to move away from the heavily spiced and sweetened meals they had long enjoyed, and began returning to a focus on the more natural flavors of produce and meats. All varieties of salads and sauces appeared during this time. Salads featured the fresh vegetables and flowers of the season, and were often dressed with toppings including various meats, eggs, and oil. Check out Colonial Williamsburg’s recipe for a “salmagundy!”
The new trend in French cooking also spurred changes in table etiquette. Meals began to be served in courses, rather than platters being laid out on the banquet tables for immediate consumption. The use of utensils also became more common place, along with the use of more restrained table manners. Though the French remained a small minority in colonial Pennsylvania, their influence on English culture translated into an influence on the population of William Penn’s colony.
I’d like to share a fascinating video our site director, Doug, just emailed my way. Here at Pennsbury Manor, we talk a lot about life on a late 17th-century farming estate. We offer a wide variety of demonstrations and plant and harvest an authentic kitchen garden every year, but don’t have the staff or visitation to offer a full-scale agricultural recreation. Which is why I find this video series so fascinating!! Click the link to watch the first episode of this 12-episode series where historians work on a real Welsh 17th-century farm for a year: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xqprv1_e1-tales-from-the-green-valley_lifestyle
Techniques may have evolved slightly by 1683 when William Penn settled at Pennsbury Manor, but not much if at all. The work recreated on this circa 1620 farm is a great way to imagine how early Pennsylvania colonists were surviving!
*No copyright infringement intended, used for purely educational purposes*