2 young chickens
Cold boiled ham, sliced thick
Stuffing for chickens
1 tbs. browned flour
Draw, wash and stuff a pair of young fowls, Cut enough large, thick slices of cold boiled ham to envelop these entirely, wrapping them up carefully, and winding a string about all, to prevent the ham from falling off. Put into your dripping-pan, with a little water to prevent scorching; dashing it over the meat lest it should dry and shrink. Invert a tin pan over all, and bake slowly for one hour and a quarter, if the fowls are small and tender–longer, if tough.
Lift the cover from time to time to baste with the drippings–the more frequently as time wears on. Test the tenderness of the fowls, by sticking a fork through the ham into the breast. When done, undo the strings, lay the fowls in a hot dish, and the slices of ham about them. Stir into the dripping a little chopped parsley, a tablespoonful of browned flour wet in cold water; pepper, and let boil up once. Pour some of it over the chickens–not enough to float the ham in the dish; serve the rest in a gravy-boat.
From Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: The convoluted directions about dripping-pans, inverted tin pans, etc., reflects the fact that the majority of households still did their cooking in front of an open-fire hearth. Directions for a modern oven would just be to put this in a covered pan and bake.
As previously-cooked ham dries out with great speed, heed Mrs. Cornelius’ advice about frequent basting. The note advising placement of the meat “on a hot dish” is very common in recipes of the period. Central heating was as yet unknown, so rooms tended to be much colder in winter than is common today. Additionally, the kitchen was often some distance from the dining area so as to avoid the reverse problem of overheating in the summer.
Therefore a meat sizzling hot from the hearth but put onto a cold dish in the wintertime was apt to be barely warm before it ever reached the dining room, and stone cold by the time it got to the diners’ plates. A domed lid over the serving dishes, today considered just a sign of ostentation, was another means of dealing with this problem.