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THE JEREMIAH SULLIVAN BAKE OVEN AND SMOKEHOUSE

The Jeremiah Sullivan House
Madison, Indiana

Bread has always been a vital part of the diet of mankind and early Madison was no exception. This reconstructed bake house fills the gap in our presentation of Sullivan’s early domestic situation Since the basement cooking kitchen does not have any baking facility, it seems reasonable therefore, to assume a separate bake house on the property.

This beehive oven -so named because of its dome shape: is based on several local examples that have survived. It makes use of a flue that runs from the back of the oven, over the oven dome, and into the chimney to the left -a “squirrel tail”.

The oven bricks were heated by building a fire inside the oven itself and, depending on what type of wood was used, the process took from one to two hours. Hard woods, for example, make a very hot fire and less time would be needed than if soft yellow pine were used. After sufficient heat had been generated, the remaining coals and ashes were raked out and thrown down into the “ash pit”; the cavity below the oven.

How did the early Madison cook know when he oven was hot enough? The author of the American Frugal Housewife, Mrs. Child, explained in one of the most widely used handbooks of early America “If you are afraid your oven is too hot, throw in I little flour and shut it up for a minute. If it scorched black immediately, the heat is too furious; if it merely browns, it is right.

Leavening for bread took two forms in the early 1800’s. The simplest was using a bit of dough from a previous baking -what today we call “sourdough” The other was yeast which was usually made at home by boiling some grains of hops or rye and bottling the results, where fermentation began.

After the dough was kneaded and left to rise in the dough trough, it was made into loaves and left to rise again before baking. Quite often the loaves were set directly on the oven floor using the “peel”, the long handled paddle, but tin loaf pans were also quite common by the early 1800’s. Baking generally took about one half hour.

Here is an old recipe, adapted for present -day cooks, for Sally Lunn, a bread that has been popular for almost 200 years.

  • 1 pkg. dry yeast

  • 3 tbsp. sugar

  •  ¼ cup warm water

  • 2 eggs

  • ¾ cup warm milk

  • 1 ¼ tsp. salt

  • 6 tsp. butter

  • 3 cups flour

In a small saucepan, warm the milk and water to 110 degrees. Combine it with the dry yeast and set it aside until the yeast dissolves. Cream the butter and, sugar and eggs, beating well. Add the yeast mixture Combine the salt and flour and add them gradually to the batter, beating until smooth.

Cover and let rise until double, about an how Beat down and place batter in a 9” tube pan. Let it rise until double and then bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve warm.

THE SULLIVAN SMOKEHOUSE

The Smokehouse contains a number of hams and sides of bacon cured in a way common to the Madison area in the early nineteenth century. Hog, butchering was done in the winter, since the cold weather prevented the growth of bacteria which spoiled the meat. Each piece of meat was rubbed with a mixture of salt, saltpeter, and sugar although molasses was often used instead of sugar since it was less expensive. This salting was done every day and took from two to six weeks, depending on the size of the ham or bacon. Each piece of meat was then hung up over a smoky fire of hickory, oak, or apple wood for a period ranging from a few days to several weeks, again depending on the size of the individual piece of meat as well as the flavor desired.

Once cured in this manner, pork could be preserved almost indefinitely and still be ready to cook, even two or three years later.

For more information write:

Historic Madison, Inc. 500 West Street Madison, Indiana 47250 812-265-2967

E-mail Historic Madison Inc.