Collar Beef

Although so far our adventures in archival cooking have been mostly meatless, the recipe books in Penn’s collections contain many interesting preparations for meat, poultry, and fish. From a recipe to “Stew a Hare” to instructions for how to make “English Bacon” and “Pickle Pigeons,” these recipe books reveal a no-waste, “nose to tail” approach. Most either use the whole animal in a single preparation or preserve meat for future consumption. However, many of these recipes do not lend themselves to modern, apartment cooking (especially during the Philadelphia summer). Alyssa and I were thrilled to find this relatively simple recipe for “Collar Beef,” or braised flank steak seasoned with fresh herbs, in Ms. Codex 252. Collar Beef is a flavorful and relatively inexpensive recipe for red meat.

collar beef

The Recipe

To make Collar Beef
Take a thinn flank of beefe lay it water three houres
then take it out of the water and salt it well with spanish
salt and let it ly in the salt 1 dais then wash it clene water
uery well then take a Roleing pin and beat it well littell
then with a knife cut the inward side of it crosse then strue
som pepper nutmegg cloues an mace an beat them small
and strew it on the inside of it then take som sauory
time sage an bay leaues shred them uery small an strew
them ore the spice then roll it up an bind it uery hard with
a pack thred then put it into an Earthen pott fill it up
with Clarett and bak it

The flank steak is prepared with salt, dressed with a mix of savory herbs, rolled and trussed with string, and braised in red wine. “Clarett” was (and still is) a common name for red Bordeaux wines in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England. We used an inexpensive Bordeaux blend. Instead of soaking our steak for three hours and then salting it for a full day, we salted ours for a few hours before we began cooking. At the advice of our butcher, we also did not pound the steak with a rolling pin; instead, he butterflied the cut for us. We couldn’t find the herb “sauory” in our local markets, but we both thought it would be a nice addition to the spice mix to try it if you have it on hand! We also decided to add dry bay leaves to the wine instead of including fresh bay leaves in the roll as they are not always kind to the stomach.

Our Recipe

* Adjust seasoning based on quantity of meat and taste.

1 lb flank steak, boned and butterflied

butcher’s string

2 T fresh thyme, chopped

3 T fresh sage, chopped

1 t ground pepper

1/4 t ground mace

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t cloves

2 bay leaves

2 cups red wine

salt

A few hours before cooking, lightly salt the flank steak and allow it to rest at room temperature. Wash off any remaining salt and pat the meat dry before proceeding with the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Open the butterflied steak and rub the inside with the dry herbs. Close the steak, then spread the layer of fresh herbs on top. Roll the flank steak (we rolled width-wise, to create a shorter and fatter roll than rolling length-wise) so the herbs are encased inside. Tie the steak in 2-3 places with string.

Place the prepared steak in a dutch oven with a lid. Pour in the wine and add the bay leaves. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes (or until the steak is cooked to your liking.)

Slice into rounds to serve.

 

The Result

“Collar Beef” was intensely flavored with wine and herbs. The method of salting and braising the tenderized the notoriously tough flank steak. We found that the central slices were the most balanced. Next time, we might add some chopped garlic and parsley to the herb mix.

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Pease Pods of Puff Paste (or small fruit pies in disguise)

Even in cooking, appearances can be deceiving. Following a long tradition of performative food preparation from the ancient world through Tudor banqueting, early modern cooks sometime playfully disguised food as other food. We tried a recipe for “Pease Pods of Puff Paste” from Ms Codex 631 – a recipe that in fact contains no peas at all! These sweet little pea-pod-shaped, hand-formed fruit pies were easy to make and very tasty.

pease pods

The Recipe

Pease Pods of Puff Paste

Take some puff paste & role it out thin & lay in some cherries or any other preserv
-ed fruit in the fashion of pease & fashion your crust like pease pods & cut them with
a rowell & fry them with fresh butter then strew sugar on them & serve them up

This is a very simple recipe enlivened by creative presentation. Puff pastry and fresh or preserved fruit are combined to mimic peas nestled in their protective pods. We used fresh cherries from our local farmers’ market because we thought that they would create the distinctive pea-bumps the recipe strives to recreate. A “rowell” is a wheel or disc that would have been used to cut the pastry; to streamline the process and in an (ultimately somewhat futile) effort to prevent messy overflow, we cut the pastry into smaller squares and rolled each one around a line-up of cherries. Finally, instead of frying our pastry pods in butter, we baked them in a low oven for even cooking.

 

Our Recipe

These instructions are for 6 “Pease Pods.” Adjust fruit and pastry amounts as needed.

1 sheet puff pastry (store-bought or homemade)
18 cherries (or a similar amount of other fresh or preserved berries)
flour (for rolling out pastry)
sugar (for sprinkling)

In advance, defrost store-bought puff pastry or prepare homemade puff pastry. (We used store-bought, but for homemade Marissa prefers Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Rough Puff Pastry,” duplicated here.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or greasing it with butter.

Wash and pit the cherries. Roll out the puff pastry until it’s thin but still workable. Divide sheet into 6  rectangles with a knife. Place three cherries in a line down the center of each piece and wrap pastry to form a “pea pod.”

Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes, until pastry is puffy and golden.

 

The Result

They really did look like pea pods on their way into the oven, but the puffiness of the pastry pod overwhelmed the pea-like qualities of the cherries within. This may have been caused by our modern store-bought puff pastry, our use of fresh (larger) rather than preserved (smaller) cherries, our decision to roll the pastry around the berries instead of enclosing the berries between a top and bottom layer of pastry, or our choice to bake, rather than fry, the prepared pods. We’re curious to see if you, dear readers, produce more pea-pod-like results with this same recipe!

Although out of the oven these little pies did not look like pea-pods, they were very tasty, easy to prepare, and a great way to transform fresh summer fruit into a quick dessert. We think the addition of a simple egg wash would improve their presentation. Served with whipped cream, a summer fool, or ice cream, “pease pods” would add a sweet ending to any July or August meal.

Carrot Pudding

Carrot cake is generally a crowd-pleaser. But carrot pudding? When we found this recipe in UPenn Ms. Codex 631, we were intrigued. We also wanted to try a pudding simply because we’ve found so many of them in early modern recipe books. Puddings may have been the eighteenth-century equivalent of the recent cupcake craze.

This two-volume recipe book is dated 1730 (vol. 1) and 1744 (vol. 2) and belonged to Judeth Bedingfield, though it contains the handwriting of multiple persons. The carrot pudding recipe comes from the first volume, which includes not only other recipes for cooking – pickled pigeon, for instance, “quaking pudding,” quince cream, and many more – but also for making various kinds of wine and cordials and for household remedies for ailments like colic. It provides a wonderful example of the range of recipes that early modern recipe books can include. (In fact, stay tuned for when we make our way through some of its other recipes in Ms. Codex 631!)

carrot pudding

The Recipe

To make a Carrot Pudding    Mrs Bransby Kent[xxx]

Take six Carrots not to large boyl them well & as many pip[pins]
with the juce of one lemon & four sugar rouls beat them very
well in a Marble Mortor Mix with these a pint of cream
& three Eggs Sweeten it to your tast Bake in a dish with pu[xxx]
& put in Cittern & Candid Oringe

The corner of the recipe is damaged, but comparing this to other contemporary carrot pudding recipes confirms the “pippins” in the ingredients. “Cittern” is not defined in the OED as anything other than a stringed instrument, so unless the writer was garnishing this pudding with a very surprising ingredient, “cittern” probably means citrus, probably candied or preserved. We could have tracked down candied peel for the “Candid Oringe” but concluded that zest would impart a similar taste. If you happen to have candied peel readily available to you, 1) we’re jealous, and 2) it would probably be great here.

In our modern kitchens, we’re used to pulling out granulated sugar rather than the sugar loaves or rolls that early modern cooks would have used. But Marissa happened to have some minimally-processed “panocha” cane sugar rolls in the pantry that we wanted to try here. We ended up grating a fraction of one roll – hard work for just a sprinkling of sugar! Rather than continuing the arm workout, we used primarily granulated cane sugar.

 

Our Recipe

{We were somewhat unsure of how much we would enjoy carrot pudding, so we halved the recipe. And even though we did enjoy it, this amount still works well, as it fills two-thirds of a standard pie dish. We also added cinnamon and ginger because we suspected that they’d work here, and they do; any spices you would add to a pumpkin pie would also work.}

3 carrots, peeled and chopped roughly

2 apples, peeled and chopped roughly (*we used Macintosh apples but might try a tarter variety like Granny Smith next time)

1/4 – 1/3 c. sugar (start with 1/4 and add more if necessary)

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

scant 1/2 pint heavy cream

2 eggs

zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350F; butter a pie dish or other ovenproof dish.

Boil carrots for ~8 mins. or until tender; add apples for last 2 mins.

In food processor or blender, puree carrots, apples, sugar, zests, cinnamon, and ginger. Then add cream, eggs, and lemon juice; blend until smooth.

Pour carrot mixture into dish and bake 30-40 mins., until set. (It will be slightly more wobbly than baked pumpkin pie filling.)

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

The Result

Very orange. And surprisingly pleasant: the apples, citrus, and spices balanced the vegetal base of the carrot. The consistency was somewhere between a pumpkin pie filling and a flan: firm enough to hold its shape when sliced, but jiggly enough that a few dollops ended up on the floor between pie dish and plate. (Oops.) We might bake it in a pie crust next time, or add another apple to the mixture, or perhaps roast the carrots and apples before pureeing them for additional depth of flavor. Adding some pureed carrots to a pumpkin pie base might also work well.

We assume that there will inevitably be a few recipes in this project that we make out of curiosity, gulp down a taste or two, agree that it’s “interesting” (with air quotes), and then continue on with our culinary lives, never to make it again. But carrot pudding does not make that list.

Could Possett

CookingArchives-4092

Photo by Carley Storm Photography http://www.carleystormphotography.com

In the heat of the Philadelphia summer, we’ve been on the lookout for refreshing beverage recipes to prepare alongside hearty, early modern fare. “Could Possett,” a boozy herbaceous lemonade, hit the spot.

This recipe comes from UPenn Ms. Codex 252, an all-purpose household manuscript that was in use between 1600 and 1710. Food recipes are intermixed with medicinal recipes throughout the manuscript.

The Recipe

could posset

To make Could Possett

Take a pint of white wine a quarter of a pint of the Rose water
4 spounefulles of verges the Juice of one greate lemmon put into and halfe
the yellow rind of that Lemmon put into the Liqour with branch of
Rosemary and alitle amber greese and musk put as much sugar
into this as will sweetten it accordinge to your Likinge stire and
brew these together at Lest a quarter of an hower

Just as Ms Codex 252 is a mix of medicinal and culinary recipes, so too does the “Could Possett” straddle the categories between comestible and cure. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth informs the audience that she has incapacitated King Duncan’s guards by contaminating their posset: “The surfeted Groomes doe mock their charge / With Snores. I haue drugg’d their Possets” (1623). Robert Herrick’s poem “To Phillis to love and live with him” promises a beloved posset, among other delicacies: “Thou shall have Possets, Wassails fine, / Not made of Ale, but spiced Wine” (1648). The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “posset” as a “drink made from hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or other liquor, flavoured with sugar, herbs, spices, etc., and often drunk for medicinal purposes.” Recipes for “ordinary plain wholesome posset” and “sack posset” in Ms Codex 252 fit this description well. Our “could possett” recipe does not call for hot, curdled milk, but it does bear a resemblance to some of the other medicinal waters in the volume.

This recipe calls for a few relatively exotic ingredients. “Verges,” or “verjuice,” is a sour beverage made from immature grapes that is still available today, but somewhat difficult to find. We found our posset to be quite tart without adding the verjuice. “Amber greese,” or ambergris, and musk are both more associated with scent and perfumery these days than with beverages, although they were widely used in punches and tinctures in the early modern era. We debated adding angostura bitters instead, but decided that the rosemary and rose water were sufficiently flavorful on their own. Since wine was far sweeter in the seventeenth century than it is today, we used a fairly sweet prosecco that we had on hand as as the base alcohol for the drink. It also added some festive bubbles! For a tasty, alcohol-free version of this recipe, substitute a liter of sparkling water, tonic water, or fine ginger ale for the wine and adjust the sugar accordingly.

Our Recipe

serves 8

1 bottle white wine, on the sweet side (still or sparkling)

1/4 cup rose water

juice of one lemon

peel of half a lemon, cut into long strips

4 sprigs of rosemary

1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste)

Mix the ingredients in a large serving jug or punch bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste to check sugar levels and adjust as needed. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

The Results

A tart, highly quaffable summer beverage. It looks lovely in the glass and stands up to flavorful food. We sipped it alongside Maccarony Cheese  and a side of bitter greens. The wine and lemon flavors dominated, while the rosemary and rosewater added fresh, vegetal notes. This is a great recipe for a summer picnic, barbeque, or dinner party.