Colonial Cookery and Customs for Kids at the Wilton Historical Society This Month: Sailors’ Duff


Making Sailors: ‘Duff’ c.1917 Sir Frank Brangwyn 1867-1956 Presented by the Ministry of Information 1918

The term “duff” is a northern English pronunciation of the word “dough,” and the association with sailors is presumably because it could be made with basic ingredients in even the most spartan ship’s galley. A simple boiled pudding, early versions contained little more than flour, water and perhaps some dried fruit, resulting in a heavy, filling portion. Over time, the dish has evolved into a dense, rich cake flavored with molasses, and topped with a whipped cream sauce. This month, children who attend the program will be making a tasty updated version of Sailor’s Duff. Museum Educator Lola Chen will be teaching the class.

Every month, the Colonial Cookery and Customs for Kids workshop at the Wilton Historical Society teaches kids in grades 4 – 8 a Colonial “reciept” (recipe) used in the Connecticut region. While the food is prepared, they hear about Colonial manners, morals and way of life. The workshops feature relatively simple dishes made with local, seasonal ingredients. The recipes used will be adapted for modern kitchens. This is done for safety reasons, and also so that the attendees can recreate their meals at home. All participants will sample their own cooking and take home recipe cards – as well as any leftovers! The children will learn how a Colonial kitchen would have operated, in order to appreciate the modern conveniences we take for granted. Previous sessions have made bannock cakes, pease porridge, pickles, an amulet of green peas, apple tansey, fairy butter, pumpkin bread, cranberry shortbread, and New Year’s “Cakes”.

Members: $10; Non-members $15. Space is limited — please register by contacting or call 203-762-7257.

Did You Know?
According to Dr. Edward Cutbush in his Observations on the Means of Preserving the Health of Soldiers and Sailors, (Philadelphia: Fry and Krammer, 1808), “the puddings, generally made by the men, are almost as hard as a thirty two pound shot; if they receive no nourishment from them, it is certain they cannot complain that they have not something in their stomachs that they can feel; and sometimes, among those whose digestive powers are weak, violent pains of colic are the consequence.” Regardless of the dangers to one’s digestive tract, cut into slices and served with molasses, duff provided a welcome respite from salt meat and biscuit.