Leni in the new kitchen 2012

So many folks today do not have a grandmother to turn to for cooking or gardening advice– not even an aunt or uncle with kitchen skills. It’s just the simple truth that many of our mothers and grandmothers worked full time jobs for most of the years since World War II. Even in rural parts of the country over the last 60 years farmers and farmer’s wives have come to depend on the supermarket for quick and ready-made foods. In an odd cultural turn around it seems that hands-on kitchen learning is having a resurgence at the very same time there are fewer of us to pass on those very skills.

It’s been my amazing good fortune to have more than 50 years experience cooking and preserving food for my family and friends. So I’m that grandma! Plus I love to show people how to get serious about home provisioning; the goal of always having food for yourself and your family whether they are bound to you by blood or friendship. Because I’m a culinary historian as well as a Grandma through out our time together I’ll be sharing lots of bits and pieces of lore and fact about food across the centuries. No tests-no 250 word essays, I promise.

My skilled and creative late husband built me a kitchen that is wonderful to cook in and especially fun to teach in. It has lots of soapstone counter space, deep cupboards and drawers for my various collections of cooking utensils, numerous shelves for my cookbooks and many windows that look out into our yard and garden with the barn peeking above the trees. This is the setting where you and I and our fellow students will play and learn cooking skills that your grandmother would have been proud to pass on to you!


Along with scheduled events I also offer my classes and history dinners to private groups. Please contact me about scheduling your event.

Click on the To Schedule.. button at the class description to let me know the date/s you are interested in organizing.  

NOTE: Except for the Pressure Canning class where due to safety reasons I prefer all adults, students as young as 12 are welcome (as long as they are willing participants and not dragged kicking and screaming) and if accompanied by an adult.

Directions: I live 16 miles west of Charlottesville, Virginia; and my postal address is Crozet but our house is 4 miles north of White Hall. Go figure!  Living in the country has so many wonderful features but it means that to my new students it can seem a real distance to drive! (For those of us who regularly make the trip to town it is usually a 25 min trip from Barrack’s Road Shopping Center – but we country folk tend to drive like bats out of hell!) LINK to PDF driving instructions.


Half-Hog Butchery with Leni at Indigo House: Saturday, Jan 18, 2020

Join me in my kitchen for a demonstration of butchering a half-hog from start to finish for home use. Participants will see how I break the carcass into its useful parts, and wrap and prepare cuts for the freezer. I will make suggestions on how to cook the cuts, and offer information on the process of making fresh sausage. While this is a demonstration class with little hands on work each participant will slice their own pork chop to wrap and take home.

A hot lunch will be served. Class limited to 8 people. 10 AM – 2 PM $95 

Saturday, Jan 18, 2020

Putting By #1: Hot Water Bath Canning: Summer 2019

Choose a class in July, Aug, or Sept  

It’s the canning season! And I have a feeling the tomatoes and the peaches are going to be beautiful this year! Everybody in this class will have a hands-on canning experience in my farmstead kitchen where I can every season for my own family. Knowing how to can for the future is a skill you will always be glad you have whether you grow your own vegetables or buy local summer produce from farmer’s markets in Charlottesville or the surrounding counties. Along with the directions for peeling and cutting and stuffing fruit in jars our day together will have lots of stories of the history of food preservation as part of the delightful resurgence of saving the bounty of the summer harvest in jars.  You will learn the basics of the boiling water bath method of canning tomatoes and peaches with applesauce replacing peaches later in the season when the peaches are over.  When class is over and the last hot jar is out of the kettle you will leave with full jars to share with family or friends or (if they last) to stash in your pantry. I include a light lunch cause it is a long day of work over a hot stove. Class 9 am-2 pm. 4-8 students. $85 (all fruit/jars included) Saturdays – Aug 17, Sept 28

Saturday August 17

Saturday September 28


Putting By#2  Pressure Canning:

This is the serious side of canning – join the advanced class to learn the use of the pressure canner. Canning chicken, beef or venison stock or meat is a fabulous skill to have under your belt! You will learn about safety, how to use a pressure canner, and what are the best foods to be preserved by this method.  You will process a simple meat stock, and either green beans or sweet corn depending on what is available locally. 

Large pressure canners became a tool of the prosperous farm kitchen as early as 1917.  But the pressure cooker, as we know it today, was perfected for home use in the late 1940s.  It allowed cooks to prepare meals quickly and when used as a canner to put up low-acid vegetables and meats in safety. Pressure canning is a skill any serious cook will want to know. Light lunch included. Class 9 am to 2 pm. 4-8 students $85 (all ingredients /jars included) Dates TBA

NOTE: Class #1 or previous experience with the boiling water bath technique is necessary to take Class #2


Flat Breads – Pita and Onion Naan

Join in to create – and eat – examples of some of the most ancient of breads created throughout human culinary history; pita and onion naan.  Some of these breads are baked and some are griddle-fried but all are simple and fun.  Unleavened and lightly yeasted breads make great additions to meals of soup or salads, summer or winter.  We will also create a fresh hummus to enjoy with our fresh breads. You will take home samples of your goodies and copies of recipes to continue in that baking tradition. Our creations will be our lunch!  Class 9 am to 2 pm. 4-8 students $85


Yeasted Breads:

Producing a beautiful sandwich loaf is the ambition of many a family cook and that is our goal in this class.  Whether a simple loaf or one dotted with sprouted grain, a braided eggy Challah, or a French-style baguette students will mix, knead, form and bake a variety of loaves to take home along with recipes for more baking.  A light lunch is included. Class with be from 9 am – 3 pm. 4-8 students $85


Mexican Tamales: Tamales are part of ancient Mexican cuisine.  Following the tradition of countless Mexican American families we will gather around the table to laugh and stuff and fold to ready our bean and chicken filled tamales for the steamer. On a side burner we will concoct a the red sauce that goes so well with them.  There is always enough for each student to enjoy for our savory lunch and to take home samples of your hand-crafted tamales to share with family and friends.  The recipes for the fillings, red chili sauce, and the masa dough mixture will help you recreate this wonderful menu at home. 4-8 students $85 per person


The Aztecs, the Spanish and Us: Hand Made Chocolate Craft: 

Our day will be spent exploring all things chocolate.  We start our day by making a basic chocolate paste using authentic New World ingredients and the same lava-stone tools as the Aztecs; the metate and the mano. The fabulous smells will knock you out! The Aztec rulers drank their chocolate dark and bitter but after 1530 the Spanish added sugar and spices creating a drink for the European aristocracy.  We will sample it both ways. After our Aztec-inspired sit-down lunch of turkey sauced with mole and beans and homemade tortillas we head back to the metate to add European inspired spices and sugar to create that modern sweet essence we all love to drink and nibble.  Everyone will take home a sample of our class chocolate production.  Consider this class as a gift for a chocolate loving friend or family member! NOTE: Because the cost of ingredients like cocoa bean and vanilla are so influenced by the international market the class fee can vary. Please go to the contact page for class price and to make reservations.


Historic Cooking from The Virginia House-wife: 1824 recipes for the modern cook

We will cook seasonal recipe/s while learning of the lives of the antebellum cooks (slave and free), the duties of mistresses of antebellum households, the technology of cookery in the early 19th century, ingredients of the era, and styles of presentation.


Southern Foodways: A Journey:

Long before the 1960s invention of the phrase ‘soul food’ black cooks were primary innovators of the Southern plantation culinary tradition; in this class we’ll prepare our own hominy and cornbread, explore a variety of traditional greens, prepare candied yams, and cook a Southern-style chicken or pork dish.  Having cooked our lunch together you will leave with the recipes for those dishes to add to your repertory.


Dairy: making butter, ghee, yogurt, and fresh ricotta cheese.

Raising chickens for eggs and meat: from ordering ones first hatchery chickens to putting home raised dressed birds in the freezer.