Salem, Massachusetts lies just north of my home in the vicinity of Boston, Massachusetts on the northeastern coast of the United States. The town is steeped in early colonial history being the location of the famed Salem witch trials. To this day, the infamy of trials remains strong in the minds of New Englanders, and to the thousands of American tourists and foreign visitors who flock to Salem throughout the fall season and Halloween night on October 31st. During this time, many venues are open to visitors who come dressed in all manner of costume to visit restaurants, plays, museums, local merchants, ghost houses, and historical attractions. If you have a chance to come to Salem for a attraction or tour, don’t be surprised if you see revelers dressed as ghosts, goblins or ghoulies, witches, monsters, and vampires. You might even meet up on their fog ridden, supposedly haunted sidewalks or graveyards, the ghosts of hung trial victims or, perhaps, a wandering brain-eating zombie. Revelers abound and children and, adults as well, all enjoy the festivities that are, in thanks, mostly to the witch trials that took place there. Here is a brief, capsulized explanation of the events that took place in those harsh, superstitious times.
In 1692 at what is now Salem, 20 people were put to death and 200 were accused of practicing witchcraft. Hysteria reined in the town and the surrounding area, spreading throughout Massachusetts. It was during those early years of the colony that it was believed that the devil granted those loyal to him the power to cast spells and to bewitch the inhabitants.
In 1628, Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded through a charter with King Charles II of England. The Puritans, through this charter, were given rights to colonize in that area of Massachusetts. The charter was revoked later because of violations, including discriminating against Anglicans and running a mint, among other infractions.
In 1691, resentment ran high among the colonists. Families argued with neighbors over minor disputes, smallpox ran rampant, and problems arose with the local Native American tribes. Add to that harsh New England weather and the populace was ripe for tension.
In the early Winter of 1692, young girls – Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams began having fits (contortions, shaking, screaming and gibbering in what appeared to be some devilish throes of spasms). Soon, other girls in the town also started showing signs of what the local physician deemed to be bewitchment by the devil. Arrest warrants were issued the following month for Sarah Good, an elderly woman, and Sarah Osborn, a beggar, who the girls accused of witchcraft. As time went on more girls joined the hysteria and they too began having uncontrollable devilish fits, with the addition of feeling as if they were being bitten and pinched.
Mary Shelby, a neighboring matron, proposed a counter black magic in the form of requesting that her slave, Tituba, bake a rye cake cooked with the urine of a victim. The cake was to be fed to a dog (a witches agent). Tituba was also being suspected of witchcraft and bewitching of her neighbors. Her baking of the witch-cake made her even more suspect. On February 29th warrants were issued for Tituba and two other woman. Some victims, at this point claimed they saw “witches flying through the mist”. Tituba, in the end, after a trial in a court of ‘oyer’ and ‘terminer’ admitted to being a witch to shift blame from herself and cast doubts on others.
Eventually, when the trials ended nineteen people had been executed, most hung at the Salem Gallows and others pressed by stone until their death. Four of the victims of the witchcraft hysteria perished in prison. Overall, 200 people were accused of witchcraft. At a later date all of the people accused of witchery were exonerated, but the memory still lingers among New Englanders. Today, what remains of the accused and victims are the, perhaps, imagined spirits that roam the streets and byways of modern Salem, Massachusetts.
I am including a recipe that I found locally that is very close to the original used in the early years at Salem and the surrounding locale. This recipe dates from the 1800’s, but I do not know how close in ingredients it is to the original. Fat and calorie content have not been adjusted. It would not do justice to this original to change it. The flavor would just not be the same.
SALEM PUDDING (or WITCHES PUDDING)
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup molasses
1 cup whole milk
1 cup salt pork, chopped very fine
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Sift together the flour and spices. Add in the chopped salt pork and raisins. Mix thoroughly. Dissolve the baking soda in the molasses and then add it to the milk. Mix well until molasses is incorporated. Gradually add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, beating well with electric mixer until well blended. The mixture should be smoother at this point. Pour into large pudding mold of your choosing. A Halloween themed mold would be a good choice. Steam the pudding for 4 hours. Cool the pudding and unmold on fancy ceramic plate. Serve with sauce of your choosing.
(To steam pudding – 1. Find a large pan with tight fitting lid to fit your mold 2. Lightly bunch a large wad of aluminum foil and place in bott m of pan 3. Wrap pudding mold in cheesecloth and place of foil without mold touching pan bottoms or sides 4. Add water up side of pudding mold halfway 5. Cover pan tightly using fitted lid and steam on low heat for 4 hours on low heat or until tester comes out clean 6. Unmold from pan after gently loosening by turning upside down onto platter or plate.)
This can be served with some whipped cream. This is a nice dish for a cold Halloween night dinner.