Sweets to the Sweet

Reporter in Residence
Monroe Mouse
JanFeb12
It certainly is nice to have some time to relax here at the Mansion after all the hustle and bustle in December.

Even Sarah Spider was a little unnerved by the activity. However, when I encouraged her to visit the luncheon dessert table in the dining room she was absolutely delighted by what she saw. A table laden with every dessert imaginable was just enough to make her reminisce about her own baking experiences. She went on for quite some time about the delicacies she prepared during the Christmas season.

Of course, I was amazed that such delectable delights could have been prepared in a Colonial kitchen. She also recounted how Mrs. Stroud reminisced on the tables set for Christmas in the homes of wealthy Philadelphians.

Sweetmeats were always a part of the dessert table. These delicacies began as a way of preserving fruit and/or nuts with sugar. Sugar acts as a preservative and the process of making candied fruit or nuts may have aided in keeping some food items past the point when they would naturally decay.

Although sweetmeats were extremely desirable, they were not found in the homes of most Colonial families during the holiday season. This is not difficult to believe when the amount of sugar needed in their preparation was so great.

It is possible that Daniel Stroud brought back sugar cones on his trip to Philadelphia, but in all likelihood maple syrup and honey were the everyday sweeteners in homes in rural areas.

Sarah assured me that delicate desserts were made in the Stroud kitchen. The warm oven at the end of a baking day was the perfect temperature for delicate meringues.

Certainly, Mrs. Stroud would have welcomed the opportunity to serve these to her guests at afternoon tea. All members of Colonial families would have waited expectantly for the ginger cookies to come from the oven.

The imported spices were expensive and the clever cook would find ways to use them sparingly with local ingredients to achieve the sweet treats for young and adult alike.

Source: Staib, Walter. City Tavern, Baking & Dessert Cookbook. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2003.