As a child, Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia was one of my favorite places to visit. Although the ride was painfully long, the humidity in the Tidewater region ghastly during the summer months, it was still an extremely fun and unique destination, even for children. I feel it’s the historical version of Disney World.
The best part about Colonial Williamsburg for me would have to be its four taverns that “recreate the tastes, smells, and sounds that eighteenth-century visitors to Williamsburg and townspeople experienced.” Over the years I’ve eaten at all of them, each one with their own special charm and offerings. And so of all the cookbooks I own, my Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook would have to be among my most cherished ones. I’ve had it for over a decade and have numerous favorite dishes. Back in high school, most of our Christmas dinner menu came from this cookbook. I got in the mood the other day for some good old American fare and so we ate colonial southern.
I always mention the dessert last so I thought this week I’d include it first. For dessert I made King’s Arms Tavern Pecan Pie. Using a store-bought crust, this was almost effortless to make.
King’s Arms Tavern Pecan Pie
1 store-bought pie crust
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl beat the eggs lightly with the sugar. Beat in the salt, corn syrup, melted butter, and vanilla. Spread the pecan halves over the bottom of the pie crust and pour the filling over. Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake until the filling is firm in the center, 40-50m minutes. Cool before serving.
We both love the HBO series Boardwalk Empire and on last week’s episode the African American dish Hoppin’ John was mentioned. I discovered there was a recipe for it in the cookbook and had this as our side dish. It’s nothing but a mixture of rice and black-eyed peas and the cookbook notes that “in the south, eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is said to bring good luck throughout the year.
For our main dish I made Chowing’s Tavern Salmon Cakes. These were quite simple to make and in case you’re not a real fish person, the tomato sauce that accompanies them does reduce the fish taste and makes it comparable to a veggie burger.
To accompany the salmon cakes, I made Sally Lunn bread, possibly my favorite recipe in the book. I discovered that I don’t own a Bundt pan only a tube pan, but from past experiences, a Bundt pan makes the bread that much prettier in presentation. It’s great at breakfast too as many mornings in the past we toasted some and had it with eggs.
Sally Lunn, named for a young woman who sold her breads on the streets in 18th century Bath, England, was very popular in the colonial South. The story goes that a respectable baker and musician bought Sally’s business and wrote a song about her. The crumbly bread has become a Virginia favorite. Serve warm with softened butter.
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups flour, divided
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
3 large eggs
In a small saucepan, combine the milk, shortening, and 1/4 cup water. Warm over medium-low heat until a thermometer reaches 120 degrees F. (The shortening does not need to melt.)
In a large bowl, blend 1 1/3 cups of the flour with the sugar, salt, and yeast. Blend the warm liquids into the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour and the eggs. Mix well. The batter will be thick but not stiff. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.
Grease a 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan. Beat the dough down with a spatula or electric mixer set on low speed. Turn into the prepared pan, cover, and let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown. Run a knife around the center and outer edges of the bread. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.
Julie is a librarian by day, die-hard travel fanatic and writer by night. When she’s not traveling, she’s either testing out a new recipe or being a foodie in Pittsburgh. If you're interested in seeing where she travels to or what she makes next, follow along via the links below!