Rachel Wharton of Edible Manhattan traveled to Long Island City, Queens to the kitchen of Sarah Lohman, a historical gastronomist who took on the task of making ice cream from 1890.
The frozen dessert is made in an old-fashioned mold and comes from a 19th century cookbook, one of many Lohman collects in her quest to recreate meals from the past.
“One of the very first projects I worked on, I found a menu from the 1880s. It was a diet for a family of six on a very restricted budget,” recalls Lohman. “And the book was actually published during the Depression, during the panic of 1873, and it was essentially what a tenement family would eat in a week if they had very little money. So I found this menu, and like I always think, I wonder what it would be like to do that.”
Lohman blogged about the experience on her website FourPoundsFlour.com.
“And I was cranky, and hungry, and people loved it,” says Lohman.
While Lohman sticks to the recipe, she says she’s flexible with the process.
“We’re not going to cook on an open hearth in my Queens kitchen,” she says. “I mean, I’m not a stickler for process because I want people to feel comfortable doing this in their own kitchen. I don’t want them to say, oh I can’t do that, I don’t know how to do that. It’s cooking!”
Still, some things you don’t want to try at home, like maybe the oldest recipe on record.
“It's called nettle pudding, but is kind of like a meat weed ball, is what we dubbed it,” Lohman says. “It’s basically flour and foraged greens boiled with a ham hock.”
Luckily most of Lohman’s research tastes pretty good, like her old-fashioned chestnut ice cream.
“This is the first time I’ve made it, so it could be a disaster; we’ll find out,” she says. “But, to me, I’m more of a student of history and not an expert. I’m always learning, and finding out what’s going to happen is part of the thrill.”
For more information on Lohman check out her blog or go to ediblemanhattan.com.