The Dean House

The Pantry

Written by Wanda Nelson

Untitled Document

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When you think about how the people might have lived and worked on this farm in the 1800s, you begin to feel that this little room attached to the kitchen was a real luxury! A glance into the kitchen tells you that there is no work space in there---no place to roll out pie crusts, to churn butter, to store large kettles, or to hang necessary utensils. While the woman of the home cooked on the stove in the kitchen, much of the food preparation would have been done here in this pantry room that has a second doorway leading to the dining room.

Name that Contraption

As you look around the pantry, you notice several pieces that seem to defy explanation. What is that little metal tool on the table with the point in the front and the cup on the side? It is a wick trimmer to be used on kerosene lamps and candles The little blades trimmed the charred end of the lamp wick and caught the droppings in the cup. The point at the top helped catch the wick and pull it up through the wick holder on your lamp, or maybe you needed a sharp point to dig the wick out of a burned-down candle.

And what is that circular gadget hanging on the wall? A cherry pitter. Can you imagine pitting enough cherries for a pie with that little tool? That large glass jug with a handle on the top is a butter churn! And what is that earthenware container on the table that is shaped like a bottle, but has a hole in the side and not on the top where you would aspect it to be? It's a Stoughton bottle or a foot warmer. Just fill the hole on the side with boiling water, wrap it in some soft flannel cloth and take it upstairs to warm your bed on a cold winter night.

Cook Books

Like most cooks of her day, the farm wife probably used the "handful" measurement for recipes just put in a "handful of this and a pinch of that." But there are a couple of examples of the cook books she had available when she wanted to make something new or special. For example, "Miss Parloa's New Cook Book", by Estes and Lauriat, 1880, provides recipes for roast rabbit, potted pigeons, pigeons in jelly, roast leg of venison, broiled small birds, larded quail, grouse or partridges if the man in the family had a successful hunting day. There are also recipes for ham dishes, lots of variety of chicken dishes, and instructions on how to cook duck, goose, and turkey. Living on a farm, the housewife probably had all the beef and pork she needed to feed her family well.

In the copy of "Gleaners' Pride Cook Book", someone has written her biscuit recipe on the fly leaf-- For "Emergency Biscuits" combine:2 cups flour, 1/2 ts. Salt, 1 ts. Bkg pdr., 1 T S. Butter. Mix to a thick batter with milk, drop by small spoonsful on greased pans. Bake in a quick oven.


Before the percolator coffee pot came into use, breakfast coffee was boiled in the enamel coffee pot on the stove top. To help make the coffee more clear, an egg was mixed into the grounds and dropped (egg shell and all) into the boiling water. When the coffee grounds settled to the bottom, the coffee was done. Then the pot was pushed to the back of the stove to keep warm for a coffee break later.

Baking Day

The table in the center of this pantry room is surrounded by storage cabinets and shelves for tins, bowls, pans, gadgets and utensils and perhaps some of the jars of preserved fruits. Certainly this table would come in handy on baking day. The table provides a place to knead bread or roll out pie dough, and a place to rest your large crockery bowl as you beat a cake batter with a wooden spoon. Look around to see how many different kinds of baking tins you can find--an angel food cake pan, pie tins, bread tins, and square cake pans. While a farm wife would have farm-produced fresh eggs and milk every day, she would need to purchase large quantities of dry ingredients when she went into town. The flour and sugar would have been kept in large tin bins to help keep the vermin out. And flavorings would have been measured out sparingly from her precious little tins of spice.

Canning or Preserving

Every year, the usual farm woman tended and harvested a large vegetable garden to fill her larder. She probably dug potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables and stored them in a cool dry cellar and kept lots of squash and pumpkins. But she would preserve much of her fruits and vegetables for the winter in the blue canning jars you can find on the stored on top shelves in the Dean House pantry. She probably canned tomatoes, green beans, carrots and onions from her garden; and also many different types of meats that were raised on the farm or brought in by hunters. Also, she probably canned fruits and berries, too. Berry picking was a job she could ask the children to do. There was probably an apple orchard on the farm so she could "put up" applesauce and apple butter for the long winter. She might have canned purchased peaches, pears and cherries in season. All of this food would have been prepared for canning right on this little table. The filled canning jars were capped and sealed with a red rubber ring and then set in a large kettle of water boiling on the little stove behind the door.

A farmer's wife must have felt a great deal of satisfaction when all of her hard work kept her family fed. On a cold winter's night, can you imagine her fixing a dinner by taking down a jar of beef a jar of vegetables, and maybe a jar of fruit from the shelves? Add some fresh homemade bread, and some potatoes from the cold cellar and she could provide a complete and delicious meal--prepared on this table in the pantry.

By Wanda Nelson

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