Monticello Summertime Snack: Ice Cream!

It’s important to look for ways to stay cool in the end-of-summer heat, and at Monticello, the first place that we look is to the past. While Thomas Jefferson’s era did not have the modern amenities we cherish in these warm months, he is credited with the first known ice cream recipe recorded by an American and likely was responsible for the popularization of ice cream within the country—talk about a delicious solution!

Jefferson’s interest in this sweet treat carried over to his relative, Mary Randolph, who is best known for the publication of the influential cookbook The Virginian Housewife, published in 1824. With 22 recipes on the topic, Randolph’s Virginian Housewife dotes on ice cream a surprising amount considering the period. Her cookbook includes recipes for almond ice cream, coffee ice cream, and quince cream, among others.

Feeling rather warm myself, I decided to try making some of these ice cream recipes myself. Although I was at first worried about how well I could handle making recipes from a 19th-century cookbook, I found that they were incredibly easy to make and totally satisfied my sweet tooth!



Chocolate ice cream in Monticello Stemware – Cordial, a Monticello exclusive!


Chocolate Ice Cream

(adapted from The Virginia House-wife)

You will need: 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips; 1 pint of full milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream (depending on how creamy you want it); 3 eggs; one vanilla bean.



1) Put the pint of milk in a saucepan. As you heat it over low, pour in the chocolate chips and the vanilla bean. Be sure to stir this continually.

IMG_98192) When chocolate has dissolved, thicken the mixture with three eggs.

3) Keep on heat until mixture has fully blended, then freeze.


Peach Ice Cream


Peach ice cream on right; served in Monticello Reproduction Patty Pan.

(adapted from The Virginia House-wife)

You will need: 3 peaches, ripe; 1 cup sugar; 1 pint of full milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream (depending on how creamy you want it).


1) Peel peaches, quarter them, remove stones, and place them in a bowl.

2) Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the peaches. With a spoon, chop them very smallIMG_9713 until they become a smooth pulp.

3) Add pint of milk to the mixture and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Stir.

4) Freeze mixture.




Lemon ice cream on left side; served with Twisted Handle Teaspoon!

Lemon Ice Cream

(adapted from The Virginia House-wife)

You will need: 4 lemons, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 pint of full milk, half-and-half, and heavy cream (depending on how creamy you want it).

1) Pare the yellow rind from four lemons and put them with the pint of milk in a saucepan. Boil the IMG_9821mixture, making sure to mix continually, and remove from heat, placing  in the refrigerator until completely cooled.

2) Meanwhile, strain the juice of one lemon and saturate the juice completely with the powdered sugar.

3) When the cream is cold, stir in the juice mixture, making sure that it does not curdle. If the mixture is not sufficiently sweet, add more sugar.

Mirth, Jollity and a Monticello Plum Pudding


By Diane Ehrenpreis, Assistant Curator

Details of how the holiday was observed at Monticello are scarce. I recently made a discovery in a set of Jefferson family letters that takes place at Christmas, and provides insights into the comings and goings of the household.

In December (date), Jefferson’s granddaughter Cornelia Randolph composed a hasty letter to her sister, Virginia Randolph Trist, asking her to send the family recipe for plum pudding as quickly as possible.

VRT to CJR 12 22 60 1

Courtesy of the Nicholas Philip Trist Papers #2104, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While Cornelia’s letter does not survive, her request and its urgency are clear in Virginia’s surviving reply. Virginia’s response, which was written in Philadelphia, is dated December 22, probably in 1860. She says, “I received your letter last night and hope the directions for the pudding may reach you to-morrow morning.” And despite having a sick headache, she transcribed and annotated the recipe so that her sister, who may have been with family in Alexandria, Virginia, could have the plum pudding that they both remembered from their childhood.

Once Virginia had copied out the ingredients, the sugar and flour, bread crumbs from a penny loaf bread, the dozen eggs, the cinnamon and citron, the suet and the brandy, she added one powerful word: “Monticello.” Virginia specifically associated this Christmas pudding with Monticello, and by extension, her Christmas past and present. Perhaps Virginia and Cornelia felt the same way about this exact pudding, as I do about my Nana’s Swedish pepparkakor recipe: it is not Christmas without this food.

When I read this exchange between sisters, I was struck by how modern the events seemed. I immediately empathized with Cornelia’s evident upset at not being able to find the pudding recipe. Have we not all been there, especially this time of year?  I was also immensely touched at her sister’s reaction to promptly share and send the recipe, despite feeling poorly. And, what about the U. S. Post Office, and the one-day turn-around time, in 1860!

Just as the Internet has changed how we stay in touch, and it has dramatically changed how I do much of my research. I found this letter while reading scans of the family correspondence available online from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I can now sit at my desk and have access to seemingly unlimited primary material, from here and other collections.

Earlier this year, this same collection yielded a reference to the Randolph family looking forward to playing whist and drinking eggnog at a Christmas gathering in the 1850s. While this may seem too late to apply to Monticello, it likely reveals a tradition that the family had kept for quite a while, considering that both whisk and eggnog first became popular in the 18th century. When I saw the recipe for “plumb pudding” and the date of December 22, I knew this was another discovery to add to our Christmas file.

Please enjoy reading Virginia’s version of the Christmas pudding, and do not overlook her helpful hints for making it a success. Do people still boil pudding for an entire day? I am hopeful that some one of you will take time to create this Christmas dish, so do let us know how it turns out.

“Proportions of a plumb pudding”

4 spoonful of brown sugar-

½ lb of currants-

1lb of raisins-

1 lb of suet- (*modern substitute: butter)

3 spoonfuls of flour-

crumb of a penny loaf of bread grated-

12 eggs-

1 nutmeg-


+ cinnamon 1 spoonful-


1 teaspoonful of salt-

1 wine glass of brandy.

The ingredients must be prepared and the pudding boiled a long time…a day’s boiling, it is better for it, but when made with bread it is not so necessary as when made with four + is lighter + more wholesome.

The suet should be grated fine and every string…taken out of it (*modern substitute: cream the butter)-the ingredients carefully and thoroughly mixed.

Virginia house wife recommends rubbing the raisins for pudding and cakes in a little flour to prevent their settling to the bottom, taking care the four should not stick to them in lumps.

 The cloth in which the pudding is boiled should be wet + floured + the pudding tied up…

 Put into boiling water and cover…

 If the pudding is boiled some hours the day before it is wanted it may be again put into the pot the following day + boiled as long as necessary.

 It should be kept in a cool place.


Interested in hearing more about Monticello holiday traditions? Visit monticello.org for information on holiday programming and events.



Mary Randolph’s Cornbread Recipe

“Our breakfast table was as large as our Dinner table; … we had tea, coffee, excellent muffins, hot wheat and corn bread, cold ham and butter,” recalled visitor Margaret Bayard Smith. Jefferson’s notes allude to raising corn for bread and Martha Jefferson Randolph referred to the family being “fond” of Indian, or corn, meal. This is Mary Randolph’s recipe, and almost certainly one of the breads served on Jefferson’s table. Its traditional taste is sure to be a hit with family and friends this holiday season.

Thomas Jefferson and his family ate only two meals a day at Monticello: breakfast, typically at eight, and dinner, in the late afternoon.

Mary Randolph’s Cornbread

1 ½ cups whole milk

¼ tsp active dry yeast

1 tbs lukewarm water

2 large eggs

1 tsp salt

2 ounces unsalted butter

10 ounces fine stone-ground white cornmeal

  1. Scaled the milk over medium heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it proof 10 minutes. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and beat together until smooth, and then beat in the milk, yeast, and salt
  2. Rub the butter into the cornmeal with your fingertips until it is evenly distributed and resembles fine crumbs. Make a well in the center, pour in the liquid ingredients, and quickly stir until the batter is fairly smooth (a few small lumps won’t matter). Cover and set in a warm place until slightly risen and thick with small air bubbles, at least 1 hour and as long as 2 hours.
  3. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 12-cup standard muffin pan and divide the batter among the cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until puffed, golden brown, and set, about 35 minutes. The bread will begin to separate from the edges of the pan when it is done.

monticello-fruit-butter-gift-basket-202Serve this delicate and delicious bread with Smithfield Virginia Country Ham, a real southern favorite. This cooked country ham is aged and smoked, but for only about half the curing time. Tender and lean, each mouthwatering bite leaves a mild, smoky and less salty taste on the palate. If you prefer a sweeter pairing, Monticello Sweet Potato Butter goes wonderfully with cornbread. This delicious, creamy spread is made of sweet potatoes, sugar, spices and citric acid, with no preservatives. It’s made for us in Frederick County, Virginia at a family-owned farm and cannery started in 1828.

diningatmonticelloFor more historic recipes, check out Dining at Monticello. An inviting view of the renowned hospitality offered at Thomas Jefferson’s table. Ten essays discuss topics such as the groceries and wine imported from Europe, the recent kitchen restoration and the African Americans who participated in Monticello’s rich food culture at every stage. Seventy-five delicious recipes from Jefferson family manuscripts, updated by Editor Damon Lee Fowler, are authentic to the period and accessible to today’s home cook.


Jefferson’s Wine Jelly Recipe

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk, & restorative cordial.”                      

-Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, Aug. 17, 1811

We have reams of material on the food and cookery of Thomas Jefferson’s day in Virginia–much of it recorded by Jefferson himself. In addition to all of his garden book references of food coming “to table,” Jefferson made endless accounts of household provisions and numerous culinary observations in his Memorandum books. The recipe below is one of 10 he wrote out in his own hand.

Wine jellies were once considered delicate and rare confections. Traditionally made from gelatin extracted from calves’ feet, today this elegant dish can be simplified with ordinary gelatin.

Wine Jelly


Three different styles of Monticello jelly glasses are known (above). Following Jefferson’s death, Martha Randolph’s inventory noted “21 cut & 3 plain jelly glasses.”

Serves 6

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

4 cups water

2 cups Madeira or dry sherry

3 cups water

3 large egg whites, shells reserved

1 cup sugar

3 envelopes granulated gelatin

1 cup cold water

  1. Pare the rind from 2 of the lemons in long pieces with a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife. Juice the lemons and strain into a 2-quart saucepan. Add the rind, spice, and water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the Madeira or sherry and let it cool.
  2. Beat the egg whites until frothy. Crush the shells and beat them into the whites. Stir this into the wine mixture, return it to medium-low heat, and bring it slowly to a simmer. Meanwhile, wet a large piece of muslin (un-dyed plain cotton fabric), wring it out thoroughly, and line a wire strainer with it. Set this over a bowl that will just hold the strainer near its rim.
  3. When the egg has solidified and floated to the top, push it to one side and check the clarity of the liquid. If it is clear, skim most of the egg away and ladle the liquid into the trainer. Leave it to slowly drip into the bowl. (This takes some time, so be patient and do not stir or agitate it.) The liquid that drips through the strainer should be perfectly clear.
  4. Clean the saucepan and return the clarified liquid to it. Bring it back to a simmer over medium heat, stir in the sugar until dissolved, and simmer until the liquid is clear again. Meanwhile, put the gelatin in a large bowl and stir in the cool water. Let soften for 10 minutes and stir in the hot liquid. Continue stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved and the liquid is somewhat cooled. To speed up the cooling process, set the bowl in an ice bath and stir constantly until it is cold but not yet beginning to jell.
  5. Pour it into small, stemmed glasses or shallow champagne goblets, cover and chill until set, about 4 hours. Alternatively the jelly may set in a shallow pan, then be broken up with a spoon or knife, and spooned into stemmed glasses.

Serve this classic delicacy with traditional Monticello stemware. These glasses, with their clean forms and exquisite engraving, speak volumes about Jefferson’s taste for fine design. Jefferson purchased a great deal of glassware between 1767 and 1821, but very little survives. The Shop at Monticello’s reproduction stemware is based on a rare original and is made of mouth-blown full lead crystal, cut and etched by hand with a sprig and wheel band. Slight variations among the glasses are hallmarks of handmade glass.

diningatmonticelloFor more historic recipes, check out Dining at Monticello. An inviting view of the renowned hospitality offered at Thomas Jefferson’s table. Ten essays discuss topics such as the groceries and wine imported from Europe, the recent kitchen restoration and the African Americans who participated in Monticello’s rich food culture at every stage. Seventy-five delicious recipes from Jefferson family manuscripts, updated by Editor Damon Lee Fowler, are authentic to the period and accessible to today’s home cook.

Take a Cocktail Break & Try a Peach Shrub

Imagine sipping on vinegar on a hot August afternoon. Sounds gross, right? Not during Jefferson’s time! The vinegar-flavored beverage, better known as a “shrub”, was the drink of choice during the summers in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The concoction often included soaking fruits such as peaches or strawberries in vinegar for around two weeks.

While shrubs may seem a drink of the past, they are reemerging in bars across America. Today, we give the colonial-era drink extra fizz and milder flavor by diluting it with sparkling water or ginger ale. In this particular shrub recipe, we combine Jefferson’s favorite tree fruit, peaches, and the staple herb of the summer, basil. Take a little time and give it a try. Who knows? This classic might be your new favorite!

peachshrub1Peach Shrub Syrup or “Drinking Vinegar”

1 pound peaches

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup white wine vinegar

20 fresh basil leaves, torn

Fresh lavender

  1. Cut the peaches into 1-inch pieces, removing the pit. Place in a nonreactive bowl. Add the sugar and toss until dissolved. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 days. Check after one day to make sure the sugar has dissolved. If not, toss the peaches and sugar again and reseal with plastic wrap.
  2. Add the vinegar, torn basil leaves, and lavender and stir to combine. Recover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 7 days.
  3. Strain the peach mixture over a medium bowl with a fine-mesh strainer. Strain twice to ensure all the contents are removed from the liquid. Transfer to a jar fitted with a lid and store for up to 4 months.

peachshrub2Peach Shrub Summer Drink

Serves 1

1 cup sparkling water

3 ounces peach shrub

Splash of lime juice

2 ounces vodka (optional)

Basil leaf for garnish

Lime wedge

1. Fill large glass up with ice.
2. Add the water, peach shrub, lime juice, and vodka. Stir to combine.
3. Garnish with a basil leaf and lime wedge. Enjoy!

MonticelloRecipe_BlogKaty Woods is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she studied psychology. Though always an avid foodie, it was not until Katy came to UVa that she fell in love with the local food movement. Through an internship at Monticello during her third year at UVa, Katy was inspired by Jefferson’s ingenuity to cultivate crops and introduce French cuisine to the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century. Since this experience, Katy has demonstrated Jefferson-era recipes for the Heritage Harvest Festival and continued to adapt Monticello classics for modern cooks.


Crispy Pickled Green Beans with Mary Randolph’s Pepper Vinegar

Although few recipes from Thomas Jefferson’s household survive, in 1824 Mary Randolph, Jefferson’s daughter Martha’s sister-in-law published The Virginia Housewife, a cookbook that we believe contains many recipes Jefferson enjoyed. There was much contact between the Monticello family and Mrs. Randolph in the ten years before Jefferson’s death, so it is likely that Monticello dining inspired Mary. One intriguing recipe we are left with is Randolph’s pepper vinegar, a spicy component that can be used in contemporary refrigerator pickles.  With summer party and picnic season is in full swing, pick your favorite local ingredients and try a jar or two of these quick Crispy Pickled Green Beans using Mary Randolph’s Pepper Vinegar for that extra kick.

pepper-vinegarMGMMary Randolph’s Pepper Vinegar

1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar

1 ½ cups white distilled vinegar

6 to 8 ancho chile peppers or peppers of your choice

  1. Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to 2 cups.
  2. Remove and reserve the chile peppers. Set the pepper vinegar aside to cool.


pickled-beans-jarMGMPickled Green Beans

Makes 1 jar

½ pound fresh French green beans

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon “Cabernet Sauvignon” peppercorns from the Herb and Spice Wine Pairings Set

Fresh dill

¾ cup Mary Randolph’s pepper vinegar

½ cup water

2 garlic cloves, smashed once

2 peppers reserved from the vinegar

1 teaspoon local honey


  1. Place the green beans right side up in a clean Mason jar.  Add the salt, peppercorns, and a couple sprigs of dill.  Set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, garlic cloves, peppers, and honey to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Boil for two minutes.
  3. Remove the garlic cloves and peppers and add to the Mason jar.  Carefully pour the brine into the Mason jar.
  4. Place lid on Mason jar and refrigerate for seven days until ready to eat.

MonticelloRecipe_BlogKaty Woods is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she studied psychology. Though always an avid foodie, it was not until Katy came to UVa that she fell in love with the local food movement. Through an internship at Monticello during her third year at UVa, Katy was inspired by Jefferson’s ingenuity to cultivate crops and introduce French cuisine to the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century. Since this experience, Katy has demonstrated Jefferson-era recipes for the Heritage Harvest Festival and continued to adapt Monticello classics for modern cooks.

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

gardenfogThomas Jefferson actively sought out new varieties of  vegetables and cultivated them in his garden at Monticello. During his retirement, he marked his days with time spent in the gardens.  Jefferson wrote about his pastime to Charles Willson Peale, an artist, in an August 20, 1811 letter.

“no occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, & no culture comparable to that of the garden. such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, & instead of one harvest a continued one thro’ the year. under a total want of demand except for our family table I am still devoted to the garden. but tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

As the summer begins to heat up, try this crisp salad filled with tasty heirlooms. This fresh take on tradition is inspired by Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden and is sure to make your next neighborhood BBQ or family gathering a success.


Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

1 ½ cups 1-inch cubed watermelon

2 Heirloom tomatoes, any variety, sliced vertically

¼ cup thinly sliced red onion

¼ to ½ cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled

¼ cup fresh basil, roughly torn

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


    1. In a large bowl, lightly toss the watermelon, tomatoes, and onion together.  Refrigerate.
    2. Thirty minutes prior to serving, add the goat cheese, basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Add variety to your garden and your palate by growing your own ingredients! Seeds from Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden, including  Moon and Stars Watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, Sweet Basil, and Red Wethersfield Onion seeds, are available online and in store via the The Shop at Monticello.

For fun summer project, try making the goat cheese for this recipe on your own with garden-fresh herbs–it’s easy with the Urban Cheese Craft DIY Cheese Kit.

MonticelloRecipe_BlogKaty Woods is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she studied psychology. Though always an avid foodie, it was not until Katy came to UVa that she fell in love with the local food movement. Through an internship at Monticello during her third year at UVa, Katy was inspired by Jefferson’s ingenuity to cultivate crops and introduce French cuisine to the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century. Since this experience, Katy has demonstrated Jefferson-era recipes for the Heritage Harvest Festival and continued to adapt Monticello classics for modern cooks.

Heirloom Okra and True Virginia Gumbo

In Notes on the State of Virginia, begun in 1781, Thomas Jefferson recorded that the gardens of his native state “yield musk melons, water melons, tomatoes, okra, pomegranates, figs, and the esculent plants of Europe.” It wasn’t until 1809, however, that Jefferson began to plant okra on an annual basis at Monticello.

Jefferson experimented with this African native. He generally planted okra in late March or early April. In 1817, for instance, he noted its planting in Monticello’s Vegetable Garden on April 2 and its arrival at table on July 28, over sixteen weeks later. In 1813, Jefferson edged his “square,” or plot of tomatoes with okra – a rather unusual combination of plant textures.











When Southern Living’s “Grumpy Gardener” Steve Bender visited Monticello, he was delighted to see Cow’s Horn Okra, an heirloom variety with distinctive curved fruits, still growing in the Vegetable Garden today. Bender says okra is the “quintessential southern vegetable” and that Jefferson popularized many of today’s culinary southern staples.

okraA member of the mallow family, okra is both tasty and beautiful with large, handsome yellow flowers. The young fruiting pods were often combined with tomatoes for soups in Jefferson family recipes. Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, left a recipe for okra soup, in effect “gumbo,” marking the early Africanization of the cooking of Virginia gentry. Gumbo works as a compelling metaphor for Monticello’s garden:  a rich blend of American native vegetables grown by American Indians like lima beans and cymlins mixed with South and Central American discoveries adapted by both northern (potatoes) and southern (tomatoes) Europeans, and tied together by an African plant, okra.

The gumbo recipe below was attributed to Martha Randolph in her daughter Virginia Randolph Trist’s manuscript and edited for modern use by Damon Lee Fowler in Dining at Monticello. The recipe is derived from classic African “long-pot” cooking and served with rice as per West African tradition. For authenticity, try this soup with fresh okra, truly vine-ripened tomatoes, and an all-natural, grain-fed chicken weighing no more than three pounds.

Okra Soup

Serves 18 

4 quarts water

1 pound young okra (each 2 to 3 inches long), trimmed and slice

1 large white onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cups fresh lima beans, or 1 package (10 ounces) frozen lima beans, thawed


  whole black pepper in a pepper mill

1 chicken (3 ½ pounds), cut up as for frying, setting aside the back and neck for another use

4 ounces salt pork, sliced about ¼ inch think and blanched

2 large sprigs each fresh parsley and thyme, tied together in a bundle with kitchen twine

1 pound (about 3 medium) pattypan or yellow summer squash, trimmed and diced

5 medium tomatoes, blanced, peeled, cored, and diced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 rounded tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

3 cups cooked white rice

  1. Bring the water to a simmer in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Stir in the okra and onion and return to a simmer. Reduce the heat as low as possible and cook at a bare simmer for 1 hour. Add the lima beans and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the beans are just tender.
  2. Season liberally with salt and a few grindings of pepper and add the chicken, salt pork, herb bundle, and squash. Raise the heat briefly to return to a simmer, lower it once more, and cook at a bare simmer until the chicken is fully cooked, about 1 hour. Add the tomatoes and continue simmering for another hour. Remove from the heat and discard the salt pork and herb bundle. The soup can be made ahead and cooled, covered, and refrigerated. When chilled (about 6 hours or overnight), remove and discard any fat that surfaces. Otherwise, let it cool until all the fat settles to the top, and skim it off.
  3. When ready to serve the soup, return it to a simmer over medium heat, Knead together the butter and flour in a small bowl and stir it into the soup, simmering until lightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Serve it in warmed bowls with a whole piece of chicken in each bowl and about ¼ cup of white rice spooned into the center of each serving.

Jefferson and Apples

Of the many fruit species Thomas Jefferson cultivated in his Monticello gardens, his collection of apple trees were one of his most consistently successful crops. Peter J. Hatch,  the Director of Monticello Gardens and Grounds for over 34 years, said, “The apple was a standard, every-day fruit at Monticello…Jefferson’s cultivation of the apple was exceptionally discriminating as he concentrated on only four varieties.” Jefferson’s eight-acre Fruit Garden, called the “Fruitery” in Jefferson’s Memorandum notes, yielded a wide variety of fruit trees and special fruit plants. Included within the Fruitery was the North Orchard, a grove of about two hundred apple and peach trees. These trees were propagated from seed, which often resulted in interesting variations that remained unnamed and were unique to Jefferson’s garden.

With Jefferson’s favorite apple trees cultivated by the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants and featured at The Shop at Monticello, you can plant your own Fruitery. Each hardy variety produces a unique and delicious fruit that you can enjoy year after year.

Roxbury Russet

apple_roxburyrussetDescription: Vintage variety. Semi-dwarf, deciduous fruit tree. Grows 10 to 12 feet high. Extremely productive variety, stores well through the winter.

Taste: The fruit has a greenish skin and a crisp, tart taste which ripens in early fall. Great for eating fresh, cooking, homemade cider and juice.

History: Jefferson planted several “Roxbury Russet” trees in Monticello’s South Orchard in 1778, referring to them as “russetings” because of the distinctive flaking russets on the skin of the fruit. These were one of the more popular apple varieties in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Albemarle Pippin

albemarle-pippin-apple-tree-malus-cv-3[1]Description: Heirloom variety. Limited distribution in United States. Semi-dwarf, deciduous fruit tree. Grows 1o to 12 feet high. Stores well during cold months in a cool cellar or refrigerator.

Taste: The fruit flesh is greenish-white, juicy, crisp, tart, and with a fine aroma. Considered one of the best keeping apples.

History: The “Albemarle Pippin” was one of Jefferson’s two favorite table apples. He planted as many as 50 Albemarle Pippins in the Monticello Fruitery between 1769 and 1814. Benjamin Franklin reputedly introduced the variety into England as an example of superior American fruit.

Esopus Spitzenburg

esopus_spitzenburgDescription: Semi-dwarf, deciduous fruit tree. Grows 12 to 15 feet high. Bears handsome red apples which ripen in late autumn.

Taste: Fruit features a firm, juicy yellow flesh with a delicious, brisk, rich flavor. Particularly excellent for baking pies.

History: The “Esopus Spitzenburg” was Jefferson’s other favorite apple variety. He planted 32 of these trees in the Monticello Fruitery between 1807 and 1812. This apple variety is still considered one of the world’s finest today.

Hewes Crab

Hewes' Crab or VaCrabApple.sjDescription: Hardy fruit tree that can be grown as an ornamental. Grows to eight feet. Yields small rounded fruits of a dull red streaked with green, which ripen in early autumn.

Taste: Fruit produces a delicious cinnamon-flavored cider that is both sugary and pungent. Considered the finest cider apple by apple connoisseurs.

History: This was the most common fruit variety grown in eighteenth-century Virginia. Jefferson planted his entire North Orchard exclusively with this variety from which several batches of homemade cider were made over the years.


Made at Monticello

Even if you don’t grow your own, you can still bring ‘apples’ to your table! Monticello Handcrafted Apple Spoons are created from branches pruned from apple trees in Monticello’s Orchard. The spoons are beautiful and functional, perfect for serving salad or a delicious fruit cobbler dessert.

Our collection of fruit butters are the perfect addition to a breakfast or lunch spread. Wonderful on biscuits, toast, and sandwiches, Monticello’s Apple Butter, Peach Butter, and Strawberry Butter are staff favorites. Our fruit butters contain no preservatives and are truly versatile spreads.

Monticello kitchen records reveal that apple cider was a staple beverage at most meals. Jefferson’s extensive apple orchards were vital to the production of his homemade cider. The non-alcoholic Monticello Sparkling Cider is reminiscent of the third president’s preferred beverage.

For more information on Jefferson and apples, check out these staff favorites:

Apples of North America is brimming with beautiful portraits of heirloom and modern apples of merit, each accompanied by distinguishing characteristics and common uses. As the view broadens to the orchard, you will find information on planting, pruning, grafting, and more. The exploration of the apple culminates with an overview of the fruit’s transformative capabilities when pressed, fermented, cooked, or dried.

The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello details Jefferson’s extensive Fruitery and orchards. Jefferson cultivated over 170 kinds of temperate fruits; this book explores his methods and research that helped him become a successful fruit farmer.

The Best Apples to Buy and Grow provides plenty of information on growing and cultivating apples in your backyard, as well as tips on purchasing and cooking with apples. It’s handy to take along when visiting farmer’s markets and roadside stands, and will help buyers choose from the bounty of treasured heirloom breeds and tasty new types.



Cool Season Garden Fresh Salad

saladSalads were an important part of Jefferson’s diet; he engineered his famous vegetable garden so that he could cultivate salad greens and dressings year-round even through the somewhat unpredictable, sometimes unforgiving Virginia climate. He records in his garden notes planting several cool-season greens such as orach, endive, and nasturtiums, all of which graced Monticello’s dinner table during the winter months. Monticello salads probably included a mixed bouquet of greens which were gathered early in the morning, laid in cold water or laid on ice to ensure freshness, and removed just before dinner was served.

monticellostore_2272_160583216The late winter and early spring months are the perfect time to plant your own cool season garden fresh salad. Several cool season greens do not require much garden space to flourish and grow very well in containers. Additionally, a mix of varieties may be grown at once within a small space, making a windowbox the perfect mini-garden for your fresh garden salad. The Shop’s Natural Willow Windowbox  and Natural Willow Veggie Planter are a stylish and effective way to grow herbs and salad greens in a compact space.

So, what does a cool season garden fresh salad look like? The Shop at Monticello offers a variety of cool season salad greens and vegetable seeds that are perfect for growing in your backyard or windowsill garden.


Step 1: Start with your base greens

monticellostore_2268_118790903[1]Arugula makes for a nice base green, and its tangy flavor adds zest to a basic salad or sandwich. The green was important in early American diets for its nutrients and flavor and can be used in salads or mixed into pasta and rice dishes. It grows best in cool weather and grows quickly, making it a cool season garden staple.


monticellostore_2272_203463744Spotted Aleppo salad lettuce is an heirloom variety of lettuce that was grown in colonial America and remained popular until the 1870s. Its bronzy-red speckled leaves mark it as one of the more distinct varieties of lettuce, and its ability to withstand cool temperatures makes it a cool-season garden staple. Spotted Aleppo is a tender and flavorful base green that supports and enhances the flavors of your favorite fresh garnishments.

monticellostore_2268_121766716[1]The Prickly-seeded spinach is a smooth and triangular-leaved spinach that continues to grow over a long growing season. Records indicate that Thomas Jefferson sowed this variety of spinach in 1809 and 1812 as both a spring and fall crop. Spinach has been long regarded as an extremely healthy substitute for traditional lettuce, and tastes great eaten raw or cooked into other dishes.

monticellostore_2268_119217498[1]Brown Dutch lettuce is believed to have been Thomas Jefferson’s favorite lettuce variety. It was sowed twenty-seven times in the Monticello Kitchen Garden between 1809 and 1824. The lettuce yields large, floppy outer leaves with a reddish tinge. It is best sowed in very early spring, making the months of February and March the perfect time to plant them in your cool season garden!


Step 2: Garnish with flavor

early-scarlet-globe-radish-3For a pop of color and flavor, cultivate Early Scarlet Globe radish seeds in your cool season garden. Radishes were regularly grown in the Monticello Kitchen Garden for use in salads and other vegetable dishes. It is a nineteenth-century variety noted for its bright scarlet skin and crisp white flesh.


monticellostore_2268_82466846[1]Nasturtiums are an edible, flowering plant that will brighten up any basic salad. They were grown in Jefferson’s kitchen garden and later became a staple in nineteenth century ornamental gardens. Both the nasturtium flower and leaf may be used as unique garnishments on your cool season salad. Jefferson also liked to use nasturtium seeds as capers when the pods were young.

tom-thumb-pea-7[1]Of his entire repertoire of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, the garden pea was one of Jefferson’s favorite plants. Garden peas enjoy cool, moist growing conditions; at Monticello, gardeners sow the Tom Thumb Pea in the beginning of March for a crop in early May.



Step 3: Dress for Success

monticellostore_2268_38868277Dining at Monticello reports, “Jefferson annually imported olive oil for its use at Monticello and saw ‘sallad-oil’ as ‘necessary of life,’ noting ‘what a number of vegetables are rendered eatable by the aid of a little oil.’” Surviving recipes of Monticello salad dressings indicate that Jefferson often combined garden herbs with oils and vinaigrettes for a simple yet savory dressing. Many herbs grow well during the cool season, particularly thyme, sage, sesame, and fennel. One of Jefferson’s recipes entitled “To Dress Salad” leaves room for the inclusion of a variety of herbs and greens according to the season. The only ingredients needed are vinegar, pepper, salt, and olive oil.

“To Dress Salad”- adapted from Dining at Monticello

  1. Put the vinegar, a small pinch of salt, and several generous grindings of pepper in a salad bowl and beat with a fork until the salt is dissolved.
  2. Gradually beat in about 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a little at a time, in a steady thin stream, beating constantly until emulsified. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and oil as needed.
  3. Add the greens and herbs to the dressing and toss lightly to coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings again, toss.