Lately I’ve been writing a piece about recipe manuscripts and William Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale. I’m reading and transcribing a unique early seventeenth-century recipe book from the library of Prince Henry Frederick (1594-1612). The description of the manuscript in the Indiana University, Lilly Library catalog (where it is now held) and the Manuscript Cookbooks Survey description concur that the manuscript was likely created circa 1610 around the time of Prince Henry Frederick’s investiture as Prince of Wales. The young prince died of typhoid fever a few years later in 1612 when he was 18.
The majority of the recipe books that I’ve cooked from and written about on this site are from later in the seventeenth century or the eighteenth century. As I’ve been researching and writing, I’ve noted a number of recipes from the Prince Henry manuscript that I look forward to sharing with you. Today, I want to start with this recipe “ffor a cold.” Although this recipe appears in the “Chirurgery” section of the manuscript, I thought it also had culinary potential when I first read it. I was right.
ffor a Cold.
Take Garleeke and seeth it in
two or three waters and when
it is very softe then take it vpp
and mingle it with yealowe suger
Candy well together and eate of
this when you goe to bedd five
or six nighte together.
I was immediately intrigued by the combination of cooked garlic and sugar because I love roasting garlic to reveal its natural sweetness. As Sarah Lohman writes in the “Garlic” chapter of her wonderful book Eight Flavors, “A clove of garlic, the part of the plant we cook with most often, is actually a leaf: a storage vessel that packs away energy for the next growing season. The energy stored in the cloves is in the form of sugar — specifically fructose — which is why a clove tastes sweet when it is cooked slowly and caramelizes when roasted” (150).* Now I had never mixed garlic with sugar before and ground it into a paste, but memories of garlic ice cream recipes and sweet braises with garlic came to mind.
In the early decades of the seventeenth century, English cooks were more interested in garlic’s medicinal properties than its culinary potential. In Food in Early Modern Europe, Ken Albala explains that outside of Southern Europe, garlic eating was associated with the lower classes and with medicinal preparations. He writes, “The therapeutic virtues of garlic were also recognized from an early date, and as the ‘poor man’s theriac’ or medicine, it was recommended for those who could not afford more expensive spices. But it was also thought to be difficult to digest, which is why, they claimed, it causes bad breath” (34-35). It’s curious to me that a manuscript from the elite household of the Prince of Wales would take note of humble remedies like this one alongside heavily spiced preparations. A perfume recipe follows directly after this cold cure and would have been prepared and used to ward off miasma, or bad air, associated with diseases like plague.
Gerrard’s Herbal, however, persuasively claims that the warming humoral properties of garlic are especially well-suited to disperse a wet, sniffly, drippy cold symptoms as “Garlic is very sharp, hot, and dry, as Galen saith.” The Herbal also notes “But if it be boiled in water until such time as it hath lost his sharpeness, it is the less forcible, and retaineth no longer his evil juice, as Galen saith” and thus the boiling diminishes the abrasive properties of garlic. Boiled and sweetened with “yealowe suger” — similar to Demerara sugar — this garlic concoction is both a tasty medicine and a culinary treat.
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
Boil the garlic in water until tender, approximately 20 minutes. (I put three cloves of garlic in cold water in a small pot. I brought the water to a boil, reduced the temperature, and let is simmer for 5 minutes. I drained off the water, let the garlic rest for a bit and then repeated the process and simmered the garlic for 15 minutes. I did this to honor the “two or three waters” instruction in the recipe, but I doubt that the results would be different if I had simply simmered the cloves for 20 minutes.)
Mash the garlic with sugar.
Eat before bed for five or six days to treat a cold. Spread on a cracker or toasted bread to enjoy non-medicinally.
The resulting garlic paste tasted like extra-sweet caramelized garlic cloves that had been slowly roasted in an oven. If I did have a cold, the sugar would help this medicine go down. I enjoyed it spread on a cracker and I think it would be delicious on a piece of hearty, toasted bread. It is worth noting, however, that garlic breath is an inevitable side effect whether this recipe wards off a cold or simply delights the palate.
*For a preview of Lohman’s garlic chapter, see this post on The New York Academy of Medicine Blog, but for the longer story (near and dear to my heart) about garlic, Italian immigration, and the post-Julia-Child garlic boom as French cooking trends swept through America, you need to read her book.