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The ‘pickle’ touch at Historic Deerfield

  • Beth Burns, a guide and hearth cook at Historic Deerfield, hands a cone of sugar to Isabel Selgado, 10, of Shelburne Falls. Selgado was with her mother, Meg Salgado, and brother Matthew Salgado, 6. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Trenton Truitt, of New York City, churns heavy cream as Tomoko Ueda, of Tokyo, takes a photo of him with her phone during an open hearth cooking demonstration at Historic Deerfield's Hall Tavern, with the theme of "In a Pickle" which included the process of making pickles and lemonade, Sunday, July 3. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Beth Burns, a guide and hearth cook at Historic Deerfield, pours a mixture of vinegar and spices into a pot with cucumbers to be pickled during an open hearth cooking demonstration July 3. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Isabel Salgado, 10, beside her brother Matthew Salgado, 6, grinds black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle at Historic Deerfield's Hall Tavern during an open hearth cooking demonstration, with the theme of "In a Pickle" which included the process of making pickles and lemonade, Sunday, July 3. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Cucumbers sit in a brine of water and salt which softens them before being pickled, during the open hearth cooking demonstration at Historic Deerfield's Hall Tavern. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Beth Burns, a guide and hearth cook at Historic Deerfield, talks Sunday about the process of pickling during an open hearth cooking demonstration. Using the theme “In a Pickle," it included the process of making pickles and lemonade. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Beth Burns, a guide and hearth cook at Historic Deerfield, transfers cucumbers to a colander and pours out the brine of water and salt they were soaking in as she demonstrates the process of making pickles during an open hearth cooking demonstration, with the theme of "In a Pickle" Sunday, July 3. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Beth Burns, a guide and hearth cook at Historic Deerfield, grates lemon zest as she prepares to make lemonade during an open hearth cooking demonstration, with the theme of "In a Pickle" which included the process of making pickles and lemonade, Sunday, July 3. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt



For the Bulletin
Thursday, July 07, 2016

DEERFIELD — When life gave lemons to early New Englanders, they made lemonade. Literally.

Lemons were likely quite expensive in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but people of that time period stayed cool in the summer by grating off a little lemon zest, hand-squeezing some juice and combining the ingredients with sugar and water. This, according to Historic Deerfield guide and hearth cook Beth Burns, was one of the ways people utilized food when it became available.

Burns hosted a heart-cooking demonstration, titled “In a Pickle,” at 80 Old Main St. on Sunday and explained to visitors how food was used and preserved before the days of refrigerators and supermarkets. She described how sugar was once purchased in coned-shaped hunks wrapped in paper so it would survive the trip from the West Indies. Burns said people used sugar nippers — which give off an aura of a medieval dental tool — to chip off pieces of sugar and granulate it with a mortar and pestle.

Meg Salgado, 10-year-old daughter Isabel and 6-year-old son Matthew were the first to stop by the demonstration and Burns showed them how people churned butter centuries ago.

Burns also explained that people pickled most of their vegetables (as well as eggs) to preserve them to eat during the winter.

She had soaked several small cucumbers in a salt brine overnight and was cooking mustard seeds, allspice and peppercorn in vinegar over a low fire to add the concoction to the cucumbers with dill. She heated the vinegar in a tin bucket, instead of cast-iron pots, to avoid an unwanted chemical reaction and said the cucumbers would typically pickle in stoneware for at least a few days.

“Think about how much work that would be — to have to make everything,” Burns said to Isabel and Matthew.

Burns said people in Deerfield often made their own apple cider vinegar using Roxbury russet apples, which are still grown on trees behind the Stebbins House on Old Main Street.

Burns said the spices used to kick food up a notch came from far-away parts of the world, though many were sold by merchant Elijah Williams, likely near where he lived on Albany Road.

“We have records of his account books, so we know what kinds he sold and what he was selling it for,” Burns said.

You can reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com.