Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table
While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.
“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792
Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon
In the matter of eating & drinking George Washington was temperate. For breakfast he ordinarily had tea & Indian cakes with butter & perhaps honey, of which he was very fond. His supper was equally light, consisting of perhaps tea & toast, with wine, & he usually retired at nine o'clock. Dinner was the main meal of the day at Mount Vernon, & usually was served at two o'clock. One such meal is thus described by a guest: "He thanked us, desired us to be seated, & to excuse him a few moments.... The President came & desired us to walk in to dinner & directed us where to sit, (no grace was said).... The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettice, cucumbers, artichokes, etc., puddings, tarts, etc. etc." The General ordinarily confined himself to a few courses & if offered anything very rich, he would protest, "That is too good for me." He often drank beer with the meal, with one or two glasses of wine & perhaps as many more afterward, often eating nuts, another delicacy with him, as he sipped the wine.
Apple pie seems to have been a favorite of George Washington. In an August 1779 letter from West Point inviting friends to dine with him, he noted that they might be treated to an apple pie “[The cook] has had the surprizing luck to discover that apples will make pyes,” the general wrote.
Apple trees grew in abundance at Mount Vernon, with Newtown Pippins being among the most popular there. When fresh apples were not available, the fruit was ordered by the barrel to be stored for winter use.
One of the most valuable tools in the Mount Vernon kitchen was Martha Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy...By a Lady. Martha's copy is in the Library at Mount Vernon. Hannah Glasse's (1708–1770) The Art of Cookery...was first published in 1747. It was a bestseller for a century after its first publication, dominating the English-speaking market. It was published in America from 1805.
Mrs. Washington may have owned a number of cookbooks, but her 1765 edition of Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery and a manuscript cookbook (now at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) are the only ones known to survive. The manuscript book (under the title Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery) is a very early compilation of 16th and 17th century receipts and came into Martha's possession at the time of her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis who died in 1757.
1 recipe Common Pie Crust
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
5 to 7 tart apples, such as Newtown Pippin or Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; peels and cores reserved
About 3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
6 whole cloves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced into small pieces
Make a Common Pie Crust.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the pie-crust dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick, and place in a lightly greased pie pan, gently pressing it into the pan. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Combine the lemon juice with about 3 cups of water in a large bowl, and add the apple slices to prevent them from darkening. Cover and set aside.
Cover the reserved apple peels and cores with water, add the mace and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid. Discard the peels and cores, and return the liquid to the heat. Add 1 cup of the sugar and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.
Thoroughly drain the apples from the acidulated water. Put one layer of the apples in the prepared pie shell. Dot with cloves, and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the sugar. Add another layer of apples, packing them densely and piling them high. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Carefully pour 2 cups of the reserved apple liquid over and around the apples.
Put on the top crust, tucking it in and around the edges of the bottom crust, folding the bottom edges up over the top piece of dough and then pinching together to seal. Cut several slits in the top crust, and dot with butter.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are thick and bubbly. Remove the pie to a wire rack, and cool thoroughly before slicing.
Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.