Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Treat with Abe and Mary Lincoln


Abraham and Mary Lincoln 
in photographs taken in Springfield in the late 1850s

One of my favorite parts of doing the research for my book Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen was the discovery that the successful lawyer would come home and put on "his blue apron" and help his wife Mary prepare dinner for their three boys. He also stopped by Springfield's community pasture to bring home the family cow for milking.

There are so many ways to learn about our nation's sixteenth president. And as Valentine's Day is upon us I am delighted to think again of their love story. Mary was a headstrong, vivacious young woman. Abraham was a busy lawyer. They met at the Springfield home of her older sister who was married to the son of the former governor of Illinois. Soon they were seen as a couple and dances. He said, "I wanted to dance with her in the worst way." She responded, commenting on his dancing experience, "and he certainly did!"

For the next twenty-six years Abraham and Mary worked together through successes and family tragedies including the death from illness of two of their four sons. I think Mary was Abraham's intellectual equal. She was smart and politically savvy. She had a strong temper which he calmed with humor and kindness, or tried to anyway.

Food is another avenue to studying Lincoln's life and the life of his family. I found dozens of great recipes in my study, tested them, and then settled on just more than fifty for the book.

This easy ice cream is one of my favorites. It is more than half berries and their juices. So the eating experience is uniquely delicious--a mixture of the crystalline texture of Italian ice and creamy ice cream. You can make it even if you don't have an ice cream freezer. Mary may have had the use of one for their June strawberry parties. The grocery store ledger of their account lists "salt for ice cream" as one of the purchases.

Like many in Springfield, Abe and Mary had "strawberry parties" 
to delight in the fresh berries of the season. 
This recipe from that era is made with half crushed berries and half cream 
for a delightful and delicious eating experience. 

1850s Strawberry Ice Cream

4 cups fresh strawberries
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups full-fat cream
1 cup milk

Wash the berries and remove the green stems. Crush them, or chop finely. Mix with sugar and set aside for an hour, stirring, so that the berries will release their juice. Combine with the cream and put in the refrigerator freezer to chill. You can then churn following the directions for your ice cream freezer, or continue to freeze in the refrigerator until frozen, stirring every hour or so. Whichever method you use, you will need to thaw this slightly to enjoy. 

Makes about 2 quarts of churned ice cream 

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

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