Recipes for 18th Century New Jersey

Fancy Fare

These recipes can be found in "The Ashfield Family Cookbook" from 18th century New Jersey, published and interpreted in Pleasures of Colonial Cooking. The Ashfields were a prominent family from Shrewsbury Township. Isabella Morris Ashfield was the daughter of Lewis Morris, the first royal governor of New Jersey, and compiled family recipes into a cookbook, from 1720 till her death in 1751. Her daughter-in-law Elisabeth Redford Ashfield inherited the book and made additions of her own till she passed in 1769.  The Ashfields replicated many elements of genteel and aristocratic English society, including the recipes chosen for their cookbook.  

In the style of cookbooks at the time, these recipes are quite descriptive but lack the exact measurements of modern recipes. Adapted modern recipes have been provided.

Take your mushrooms and peel them and put them in cold water. Then put them into your stew pan with a whole Onion, a little Salt, and a very little water. Let them stew a good while with a bit of Butter. Then have some yolks of Eggs beaten with a little shred of parsley and green Sives. Take out your Onion and thicken up your Mushrooms with your eggs, So serve them up.  

3-4 tbsp butter
12 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and sauté the mushrooms and chopped onion. When a liquid forms, add the salt.
  2. In a small bowl, beat yolks, parsley, and chives together. Add some of the hot liquid to the eggs and herbs.
  3. Stir the egg mixture into the mushrooms, stirring constantly but gently. Heat until slightly thickened, but do not allow to boil.
NOTE: can be served as a vegetable side, garnish for meat, or with nice toast. 

Take the taile of the lobsters and slitt them in two. Lay them on a gridiron and broyle them on a Cleare fire ill they are hott through, Keeping them basting with butter. Then melt some butter and Squeeze some Juce of Leamons in it, and put the Lobsters in the dish and pour your Sause all over them. Serve them up very hott.

2 lobsters
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs,
1/3 cup melted butter;
2 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Have the lobsters split for boiling. Remove stomach and intestinal tract, but allow the liver and coral to remain in the body cavity.
  2. Lay the lobsters on a broiling pan. Sprinkle the liver with the bread crumbs. Spoon on the melted butter and lemon juice.
  3. Broil the lobsters slowly, 6-8 inches from heat, for 15-20 minutes. Serve up with butter. 

Take 12 pound of a buttock of beef, then take one pound of larding bacon. Cut in some good large lards. Then take some peper and salt and season your lards. Then lard your beef pretty thick and put it in a stew with as much water as will Just Cover it. Season it with peper and Salt, a bunch of sweet herbs, three cloves, two bay leaves. Then cover it very close and let it Stew four hours at least. Then lay it on your dish and take off all the fat from the liquor it is stewed in. Then throw your Liquor over the Beef and Serve it up. 

1—3 lb rump roast,
1/4 lb pork suet,
alt & pepper to taste,
2 whole cloves,
1 bay leaf,
bouquet garni (1 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 tbsp chopped chives, 1/4 tablespoon thyme, and 1/4 tsp marjoram)
  1. From the suet, cut 4—6 larding strips about 3 in. long and 1/4 in. thick, salt and pepper the strips. Use a sharp knife to make slits in the beef and insert the strips.
  2. Bring to a boil enough water to cover the roast. Add cloves, bay leaf, and bouquet garni. When water is at a roiling boil, add roast and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce water to a simmer, cover tightly, & simmer for 2.5—3hrs.
  3. Remove meat from liquid and keep warm; remove seasonings and reduce broth to one cup.4. To serve, slice the beef, arrange on heated platter, and cover with the hot broth. Can also be served cold, thinly sliced, without sauce. 

Simple Fare

The recipes here are found in Primitive Cookery, or the Kitchen Garden Display'd (1769).  This cookbook featured vegetarian fare and many recipes whose ingredients would "not cost above two pence each" - a great cookbook for those on a budget.  The reference to "kitchen gardens" draws attention to the common practice of families maintaining a garden to produce foodstuffs, as well as medicinal herbs, flowers for dyes and crafting, and anything else that could grow and prove useful.

The Hoe Cakes and Salpon are themselves adaptations of dishes prepared by Native Americans. First adapted by colonists, they now have modern interpretations as well.

Dumplins boiled, made with flour, milk or water, only with a little ginger and yeast. When it is boiled, butter it and it is excellent food. 

1.5 cups flour;
1/2 tsp salt;
1-2 tbsp ground, dried ginger;
1/2 package dry active yeast;
warm water;
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Then add 1-2 tbsps. ground ginger. Add more to taste, if desired. Whisk together thoroughly.
  2. In a small bowl, activate yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and set aside. Bring large pot of water to a boil.
  3. Combine yeast liquid and dry ingredients and mix together. Add warm water in 1/4 cup increments until a sticky dough forms. Let sit by warm stove for a few minutes, but not long enough to rise.
  4. Plop spoonfuls of dough into the boiling water; they will initially sink and then spring up. Retrieve with a slotted spoon after several minutes; the result will be a pale, squishy dumpling. Serve with a generous amount of butter. 

NOTE: Ginger can be replaced with any dry, finely ground spice or seasoning, or excluded altogether. Sugar and cinnamon can be used for sweet dumplings. 

Dry pease boiled and seasoned with butter and salt and pepper, is food fit for a laboring man.

1 pint of split peas (or whole dried green peas);
1 pint of water; 
salt & pepper;
1 bundle of mint;
3 tbsp butter;
  1. Combine peas and water in a pot, bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil until peas are very tender, about 20 minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Roll a ball of butter in flour, about 3 tbsp until well covered. Drop into hot peas. It will melt.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1 quart of milk or water, or desired amount, and replace over heat.
  4. Cook for another 15 minutes or so, until nicely thickened.  

NOTE: This recipe tastes and smells much better than it looks! To expand or reduce, use a 1:1 peas to water ratio. Mint can be dropped in on the twig, or as leaves in mesh tea infuser.

Originally made by indigenous Americans, these simple cakes became a staple meal for enslaved people, farmers, and others of limited means.

5 cups white cornmeal;
warm water or milk;
cayenne pepper*
  1. Start with 5 cups of white cornmeal in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add warm water or milk until cornmeal has a runny pancake batter texture. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste, if desired.
  3. Fry in a greased pan and flip once lightly browned. Can also be baked.

NOTE: For sweeter cakes, swap the pepper for sugar, molasses, honey or maple syrup.  

A Lenape dish, this recipe courtesy of the Delaware Tribe.

3.5 cups flour;
1/2 teaspoon salt;
lukewarm water;
3 tsp baking powder;
grease (or cooking oil)
  1. Mix flour, salt, and lukewarm water until  pancake batter texture is achieved. Let stand while  heating enough grease for deep-frying.
  2. In a large mixing pan, pour a sizeable portion of flour and make a deep depression. Pour a small amount of thin batter into the mix and knead until the dough thickens. It should feel like biscuit dough.
  3. Make round cakes, about 5 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick.
  4. After testing the grease with a small piece of dough, drop cakes into the hot grease to fry. Remove cakes with tongs or a spoon—do NOT puncture with a fork!  


A good ending to a fine meal.

The Art of Cookery  (1770) by Hannah Glasse contains many representative recipes of the period, including the apple frazes recipe below. This may be due to Glasse's frequent updates of the book throughout her life, as well as her alleged penchant for plagarizing or "lifting" recipes from others who had come before her.

American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons contains the pound cake recipe below, and the book itself marks an important milestone in English language cookbooks. Previous cookbooks in America were British books written in Great Britain for a primarily British audience. Cooks in America using these books had to make do with what was available to them, adapting methods and substituting ingredients on their own. Simmons, however, was an American writing for Americans, and uses American products and language throughout, explicit in the subtitle "adapted to this country, and all grades of life."

Cut your apples in thick slices, and fry them of a fine light brown; take them up, and lay them to drain, keep them as whole as you can, and either pare them or let it alone; then make a batter as follows: take five eggs, leaving out two whites, beat them up with cream and flour and a little sack; make it the thickness of pancake-batter, pour in a little melted butter, nutmeg, and a little sugar. Let your batter be hot, and drip in your fritters, and on every one lay a slice of apple, and then more batter on them. Fry them of a fine light brown; take them up, and strew some double refined sugar all over them.

3 tbsp butter, divided;
1 large apple, cored and cut into thick circular slices;
3 whole eggs + 2 yolks;
1/2 cup cream;
1/2 cup flour;
1 tsp sherry (OR apple cider vinegar);
1/2 tsp nutmeg;
1/4 cup sugar 
  1. Fry the apples in about 1 tbsp of butter, until brown and softened.
  2. Beat eggs and combine with the rest of ingredients, including a tablespoon of butter.
  3. Pour a small amount of batter onto pan. Place apple on top. Pour additional batter to cover apple. Flip when almost cooked through.
  4. Serve warm with a sprinkling of sugar or maple syrup.

NOTE: Consider adding cinnamon to the batter or topping, or serving with a scoop of ice cream! 

One pound sugar, one pound butter, one pound flour, one pound or ten eggs, rose water one gill, spices to your taste; watch it well, it will bake in a slow oven in 15 minutes.

NOTE: These were likely baked as cookies or as cakes in small cups. 

1 lb butter, softened;
1 lb flour;
9 large eggs;
1/2 cup rosewater (optional);
spices (optional)
  1. Combine softened butter and sugar, cream together until soft and fluffy. Whisk eggs  in a separate bowl on high until very fluffy. The air in the eggs will leaven the cakes.
  2. Gently combine both mixtures and gradually sift flour; fold in gently to keep air in eggs. Add rosewater and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, if desired.
  3. For small cakes, bake in lined cupcake pan for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. For cookies, drop batter on lined pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are firm. 

Morristown National Historical Park

Last updated: January 10, 2023