Sunday, March 6, 2022

Plants to Food - Washington's Mt Vernon - Fairy Butter


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.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…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

Outside 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.

Fairy Butter

This simple dessert sauce makes a tasty accompaniment to gingerbread—either dotted onto the surface before serving or passed around at the table.

The recipe here was adapted by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump from one by Elizabeth Raffald in which she suggested letting the sauce “stand two or three hours” before rubbing it “through a cullendar upon a plate; it looks very pretty.” English author Maria Eliza Rundell (1745-1828)  included this recipe under the title Orange Butter in her 1808 cookbook, A New System of Domestic Cookery, noting that it pairs well with “sweet biscuits.”


4 large hardboiled-egg yolks

5 teaspoons orange-flower water

4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (preferably superfine)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened


Mash the egg yolks with the orange-flower water. Add the sugar, and mix to a smooth paste.

Work in the butter until the mixture is smooth, and set aside in a cool place for 2 to 3 hours.

Press the butter through a strainer into a small serving bowl. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website,