Margaret Baker’s sacke possett & fine biskett, or a year with Folger MS V.a.619

It’s an interesting experience to spend months with a single recipe book. This year I collaborated with an undergraduate student, Rachael Shulman, on a year-long research project centered around Margaret Baker’s recipe book which is held at the Folger Shakespeare Library (MS V.a.219). Working with the Early Modern Recipe Online Collective (EMROC) transcription interface maintained by the Folger’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online project (EMMO), Rachael and I began with transcription basics, preliminary readings, and went from there. We transcribed together and separately, we read widely and developed our own projects from the manuscript, and we’re still working on a series of blog posts (stay tuned) and an article from our shared inquiry. This spring, Rachael was awarded an award for Information Literacy by the Pennsylvania State University Libraries for her poster presentation at the annual research fair. It’s been energizing to see this manuscript through Rachael’s eyes as well as my own.

I’m thankful to the Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities program (ACURA) for supporting our collaboration and for funding our trips to the Kislak Center at UPenn and the Folger to look at an array of recipe books. I’m especially thankful to the Folger for allowing Rachael to see Baker’s manuscript in person after she’d spent endless hours looking at it on a computer screen. I’m excited to continue working on this project with Rachael, and other students, in the fall.

While Rachael’s research has focused on Baker’s medicinal recipes (which make up the majority of the volume), I decided to prepare two of Baker’s culinary recipes a few months ago.  I opted for a posset and a biscuit.  Alyssa and I have previously made possets and biscuits, but these versions stood out to me. We’ve made a “Could Posset” and a “Lemon Posset,” but not a “Sacke Posset.” We’ve made the seeded herbal biscuits “Little Cakes” and transformed Naples Biscuits into “Artificial Potatoes” and “Bisket Pudding,” but these “Fine Biskett” seemed like a nice addition to our repertoire.

Recipes

Sacke Possett

To make a sacke possett;
Take one pound of almonds beate them very small
with as much sack as will keep them from oyling
then take one pinte of creme put in your suger into
it sett it one a chafing dish of cols till it be redy
to boyle; then put in your almons sturringe it very
well soe serue it to your table;

Our Recipe

*Quartered from the original

1 c ground almonds
2 T sherry
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar

Combine the almonds and sack in a small bowl.

Put the cream and sugar in a small pot and heat until they almost reach a boil. Stir in the almond-sack mixture.

Serve immediately.

Fine Biskett

to make fine biskett

take 1 pound of fine suger 2 pound of fine flower 8 or
10 eggs put amoungst it a penny worth of anneece seede &
a few coriander seede beat all well in a bason together &
make it up into cakes after it is baked you may cut it in slicee
& candy that wth suger if you please,

Our Recipe

*Quartered from the original

3/4 c sugar (4 oz) plus additional sugar to sprinkle on the biscuits
1 3/4 c flour (8 oz)
2 eggs
1t fennel seeds
1t coriander seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Form the dough into pleasing biscuits. I rolled half the dough into a log and sliced thin cookies. I shaped the remaining dough into cookies.

Place on a baking sheet greased with butter or spray (or covered with baking parchment). Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on the biscuits.

Bake 15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown at the edges.

The Results

Neither of these recipes would make my all time favorites list.

The sacke possett taste like a strange, boozy protein shake. The viscus texture was especially unappealing, although it might have improved if I’d used almond milk instead of the ground almonds I had in my fridge.

I loved the flavorful spices in the fine bisketts, but the dense, floury texture of the biscuit overall showed the lack of butter or cream in the recipe. On the other hand, Rachael prepared a vegan version of this recipe and was very pleased with her results.

The most important part of this process — in the archive and in the kitchen — has been the collaboration between me, my student, and Margaret Baker’s manuscript across time and space.

Let me know if you try any of these recipes and improve on them!

To Make Appel Flitters

 

Who can resist an apple fritter? Alyssa and I are both crazy about the apple fritters at Reading Terminal Market. Dotties, my local doughnut shop, makes a mean vegan apple fritter. These tasty pastries are a highlight of apple picking trips (or at least stiff competition for the apple cider doughnuts). Naturally, I was thrilled when Alyssa added a recipe for “appel flitters” to our cooking list. This one comes from UPenn MS Codex 830, Eliz[abeth?] Kendrick’s recipe book which was signed and dated by its original owner in 1723.

The Recipe

Take a pint of Cream 8 eggs 4 of the whites beat them very well
together then take a peny lofe & grate it in or biskits if you
will put to it a Cofe Cup of good wine and one spoonfull or two of
wheat flower and a little Oringe flower or Rose water then put in
som white sugar Nutmeg & Salt a Cording to your pallit then mix
all thees to geather, lett your batter stand an hour before you use
It then take som pippins and par them and scope all the Core out &
Cut them in thin Sliceis pices then take lard and set it over a sharp fier &
When it is hot dip your slices of pipins in to the batter then in to the
Liquor turn them often straw white suger ouer them and serue
them up

Unlike their complex, pastry cousins, these apple fritters are battered and shallow-fried apple slices. They tasted best when they’d cooled just enough to eat without a burn risk.

Although pippins are a common apple variety in England, they’re much less common here. We used two aging honeycrisp apples I had around. Instead of using bread (penny-loaf) we used sweet, store-bought ladyfingers  (biskits) to bulk out the batter. (We’ve made our own “biskets” before.) You might need to adjust the sugar if you use grated bread. We opted for rosewater over orange blossom water and neutral frying oil instead of lard.

Our Recipe

Even halved, this recipe made enough batter to coat six (or even eight?) apples. We cooked up two in our test and had lots of leftover batter.

1 C heavy cream
4 eggs, (2 whole, 2 whites)
4 ladyfingers, crumbled
1/3 C white wine
1 T flour
1 t rosewater
2 T sugar
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
apples, peeled cored, and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1/3 C neutral oil (like canola) for frying

Whip together the cream, egg whites, and eggs in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the crumbled ladyfingers, wine, flower, rosewater, sugar, and spices. When the cookies are soft, add this mix to the cream mix and stir to combine. The batter will be somewhat clumpy. Let it sit for an hour.

After the dough has rested, prepare your apples. In a sturdy, high-sided pot, heat your oil. (We used a dutch oven to prevent oil spatter.) Dip apples in the batter and cook in the oil for 1 minute on each side (until the outside is brown).

Consume immediately!

The Results

Spicy, sweet, fried apples: A radical transformation of those apples in the bottom of my fridge. The frying process was fun to do together and could be a nice activity for a rainy weekend afternoon. I think these apples would be especially delicious on top of vanilla ice cream or served with this syllabub.

To make selebub

The day after Christmas I opened my laptop and started transcribing a page of Constance Hall’s recipe book, Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a.20. I did this every day for twelve days as part of an Early Modern Recipes Online (EMROC) holiday Transcribathon. I transcribed sitting next to my sister-in-law,  in the early morning hours before a pre-semester faculty meeting, after yoga, and at the end of a long day of preparation for the Modern Language Association conference. It was nice to pause amidst the festivity, work, and routine to transcribe a few pages of Constance Hall’s book. It’s not that I never complete transcriptions anymore – I transcribe lots of recipes for this site  and other related projects – it’s just that  I usually skim physical or digital recipe books looking for recipes I’m excited to cook, rather than transcribing everything on a page, fussing over abbreviations, musing about alternate spellings, and puzzling through tricky lines. Transcribing daily reconnected me to my research for this project in a new way, honed my skills, and, of course, added many recipes to my long “to cook” list.

hall-cropped

The EMROC blog has a wonderful post with background information about Constance Hall and her manuscript.

Hall’s lovely, calligraphic title page is dated 1672. I decided to try this recipe for “selebub,” or syllabub first because syllabubs were all the rage in the last decades of the seventeenth century when Hall compiled her manuscript.  Alyssa’s “Solid Sillibib” post offers an excellent account of this syllabub craze and she includes many transcribed recipes from other manuscripts as examples of the trend. I’m also tipping my hat to Gina Patnaik and Lili Loofbourow whose epic quest to make a birch whisk to stir their syllabub over at The Awl still leaves me in awe.

The Recipe

syllabub-cropped

To make selebubbe
Take 2 quarts of cream and sweet[en]
it and put it in to a bason and squise
in to lemons in to it and on of the p[eel]
put in a quarter of a pint of sack and
put in one drop of oring flower water
take out the lemon whip it with a cl[ean]
whiske and put it in your glasses halfe
this will fill seauen

Our Recipe

Since the recipe notes that it will fill seven syllabub glasses half full (serving seven), I quartered the recipe. These proportions produced a quart of syllabub. I also guessed on the sugar and used sherry for the sack.

2 c cream (1 pint)
1/3 c sugar
half a lemon: peel cut into long strips, then juiced
2 T sherry (for the sack)
1/4 t orange blossom water
Optional: extra grated zest (orange and/or lemon) to serve

Stir together the cream, sugar, lemon juice, sherry, and orange blossom water. Add the lemon peel. Let sit for 1 hour.

Remove the lemon peel. Whisk until a stiff foam forms using a standing mixer, a handheld mixer, or a whisk. Serve in small glasses or bowls.

The Results

The most decadent whipped cream I’ve ever tasted: This is my best effort at describing the syllabub. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s slightly boozy, but grounded by the acidity of the lemon and the unavoidable creaminess of the, well, cream.

I want to spoon it over chocolate ice cream. I want to spread it on dense, rich cake. I want to serve it with poached or roasted fruit. Basically, I want to eat it in the least seventeenth-century way possible. I’m not especially interested in sipping or spooning it from a glass. I’m curious to see what happens with the rest of the batch over the weekend.

to make (lamb) Cuttlets

Lamb dishes will always have a special place in my heart. From this stuffed shoulder I made last spring to these stuffed eggplants from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem that I’m preparing for a gathering next week, I’m always eager to try new lamb recipes. So when I saw this receipt for lamb “Cuttlets” in MS Codex 252, of course I was immediately intrigued.

The Recipe

lamb cutlets

to make Cuttlets
take a neck of mutton and cut it Rib from rib then beate them flatt
with a cleaver throwing one some salt and pepper, grate crust of
french bread be sure it tis not burnt for it will be bitter and throw it
one and broyle them, for your sauce take some grauey squese in some
Lemon mince one oynion and put in heat it over the fire and soe put it one
the cutletts

This recipe is relatively straightforward: season and cook your meat, make a delicious sauce, serve. Lamb is a perfectly fine substitute for mutton.

Lamb neck is a cheap and flavorful cut. Sold whole or cut into rounds, it’s perfect for stewing or braising. Despite my love of lamb, I wasn’t familiar with this specific cut when I purchased a frozen lamb neck from the Livengood Farm stall at my local farmers’ market intending to make these cutlets. As took the defrosted meat out of the refrigerator and looked at my recipe notes, I was immediately confronted with a home butchery challenge. How was I going to cut this neck into cutlets!? Thanks to aid and encouragement from my spouse Joseph and our handy, heavy-duty, serrated bread knife, I managed to separate two “cutlet” rounds from the neck. (I slow-cooked the rest of the neck whole in flavorful stock and it was delicious.) To keep this cutlet recipe quick and easy, make sure you ask your butcher to  cut you some nice bone-in rounds or boned neck fillets.

Our Recipe

Makes two cutlets. 1-2 cutlets per person would make a nice serving.

2 lamb neck fillets
2T bread crumbs (unseasoned)
1/2 onion
2T butter
2+ T flour
2T-1/4 c stock (I used homemade chicken stock. Feel free to use whatever you have around.)
2T lemon juice
2T parsley, chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Turn on your broiler.

Finely mince the onion and sauté in butter. Leave this cooking on a low heat as you prepare and broil the cutlets.

Coat the lamb cutlets with breadcrumbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put them in an a roasting dish that you are also comfortable using on the stovetop and place under the broiler to cook. (I used a skillet.) Cook for 5 minutes and then turn the cutlets over and cook for another 3-5 minutes. 8-10 minutes total cooking time. Remove the cutlets from the pan.

Transfer the butter and onion mix into the lamb cutlet roasting pan or skillet. Add flour to the pan and stir to make a roux . Add stock to the pan little-by-little and stir to make a thinner gravy. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the cutlets, pour the sauce on top, sprinkle with parsley. Consume immediately.

The Results

Flavorful lamb, crisp breading, zesty  gravy: this dish is a warm, rich, and comforting treat. Next time I might add sage to the sauce as it cooks. Serve alongside some baked squash, roasted brussels sprouts, or a simple salad.

Carraway Bunns

When I was conducting research at the Folger Shakespeare library in June, I saw this recipe for “Carraway Bunns” in Mary Hookes’s manuscript recipe book V.b.342. I love caraway. I love buns, rolls, scones, biscuits, popovers, and trying out yeasted bread recipes (like these “Oven Cakes“). As I prepared to cook “Almond Jumballs” with paleography students at the Folger, I added this recipe to my running list along with the “Snow Cream” I tried in July.

img_5107

Last week I wanted to bake something warm, buttery, and doughy. (I felt a little bit like the woman in this Onion article.) As I transcribed this recipe, I realized that it was rather similar to my mother’s recipe for Herb Biscuits. Her rich rolls appeared on our Thanksgiving table smelling of sage, onion, and speckled with celery leaves. Seasoned with caraway instead, these buns were just the thing. Like a rich, yeasted biscuit (or scone), these buns are an excellent accompaniment to hearty fall dinner or a luscious snack with afternoon tea.

The Recipe

carraway-bunns

To make Carraway Bunns         32
Take two pound of fine flower, & three quarters of a pound
of fresh butter crumble the butter very small in the flower went
It with milke bloud warme, & Good Ale yeast halfe a pinte
Att least, Two Eggs well beaten when it is Made into a paste
lett it stand halfe an hower to rise before the fier, then take it
& spread it abroade worke halfe a pound of Carraway comfits
in it & cast in a little white sugar Make them up into Bunns
Lay them vpon paper, & Bake them quick when they are hard
Att Bottome then they are Enough.

The recipe calls for caraway comfits, or sugar coated caraway seeds. I’ve made fennel comfits before (see below), but coating these small seeds in sugar syrup is tricky, fiddly work that I wasn’t up for last week. I used regular caraway seeds instead and increased the sugar.

Our Recipe

While Alyssa wrapped up things at work and walked over to my place for our cooking date, I put together this rich dough and left it near the warm oven to rise. (I was roasting some broccoli for dinner.) Halved, the recipe made 5 small buns and 6 large buns.

3 1/3 c flour (1lb)
12 T butter, room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 c warm milk
1 envelope yeast
1/2 t salt (possibly increase to 1t)
1 egg, beaten
1t caraway seeds (possibly increase to 2t) OR caraway comfits
1T sugar

Heat milk. Sprinkle in yeast and let stand for two minutes.

Combine the flour and butter. You can do this in a mixer with a dough hook or in a sturdy bowl. Add the yeasty milk, then the egg, then the salt and dough should form. *Next time I will incorporate the sugar and caraway seeds in this initial mix.* Either keep running the mixer or turn the dough and any unincorporated bits out onto a floured board and knead for a few minutes. When the dough is smooth, cover with a towel and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Punch down the dough and sprinkle in sugar and caraway seeds. *This is what I did with the test batch, but next time I’ll add these earlier.* Form buns and put on a greased baking sheet. I left these to sit for a few minutes before baking, next time I might give them a second rise of an hour or so.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bottom and top are both golden brown. Make a pot of tea while they’re baking. Devour.

The Results

Delicious, dense, buttery “buns.” They have the crumb of a good biscuit or scone from the butter and a hint of fluffiness from the yeast. But some bites were full of caraway and others were sharply sweet. Next time I’ll incorporate the seeds and sugar from the start.

I think there are a lot of ways to adapt this recipe as well. If you don’t like caraway, use fennel or sage or celery salt or orange zest. If you want to make these sweeter, increase the sugar and consider adding an egg wash and sprinkling sugar and seeds on the top to make a tasty and stunning crust. I’ll be keeping this one on my list.


 

to make a florintine

I’ve missed baking. The relentless heatwaves this summer have really cramped my style. To use my sourdough starter, I’ve made almost weekly batches of these waffles because I can’t bear to turn on my oven and bake bread.

Today is marginally cooler and I decided to seize the opportunity “to make a florintine” from a recipe in MS Codex 252. 

img_5083

florintine

Alyssa and I have seen many recipes for “florentine” in manuscript cookbooks. This specific recipe is a sweet almond filling baked in a pastry crust.  There are, however, other “florentines” out there. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a florentine as “A kind of pie or tart; esp. meat baked in a dish with a cover of paste” and notes the range of spinach dishes called “florentine” from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day.  (The OED cites a Hannah Glasse recipe which looks like the 252 recipe with added spinach and cheese. )

The Recipe

florintine

to make a florintine

take halfe a pound of the beast Almonds blanch them and beat them as
smalle as the  can with rosse watter ore oring flower watter put in a quater of
a pound of fine sugar beating them well together then take 4 eggs leveing
out the whites, then take a pound of butter and let it be uery good
melt it and then mingle it all together in the butter and soe put
it in to puffe paist

Our Recipe

Our recipe is quartered from the specific proportions in the original and starts with ground almonds. I decided to use rosewater instead of orange blossom water, but feel free to use either.  The original recipe suggests both as options.

1/2 C ground almonds
1t rosewater (or orange blossom water)
1/4 C sugar
1 egg yolk
8 T unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 batch pastry (Use your favorite pie crust recipe here. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter a pie dish. Roll out your crust and put it in your prepared pie dish.

In a large bowl stir the ground almonds, rosewater, and sugar together. Add an egg yolk and stir with a whisk to combine. Add the melted butter and stir with a whisk to combine. Pour the almond mixture into your prepared crust. Trim or roll excess pastry to make the edges neat.

Bake for 30 minutes until the almonds and crust are golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The Results

My British spouse Joseph looked at finished product and asked if I had made Bakewell tart. This was a great guess. The “florintine” from MS Codex 252 is similar to a Bakewell tart but it lacks that iconic layer of fruit compote underneath the almond filling.

This is a sweet, buttery, nutty tart. The rosewater is a mild note amidst the other deep flavors. With Bakewell tart on my mind, I spread some raspberry jam on my second piece and liked it even better.  Serve this with fresh or cooked fruit or preserves.

To pickle Cucumbers

I love pickles. I devour jars of them so quickly that I rarely have any in my fridge. I make platters of quick-pickled cucumbers, beets, cauliflower, and fennel for parties. I’m always tempted by the spicy pickled green beans that this one stand sells at the farmers’ market. Last week I realized that for all the pickled vegetable recipes in manuscript cookbooks, we’ve only prepared one so far (these delicious “Pickled Tamatas“) and I made it my business to change that.

I cannot think of a single manuscript cookbook without a recipe for something pickled. In an economy of thrift, pickling is an excellent way to save seasonal produce. Since I’ve been working on an article about other recipes from MS Codex 785, I decided to try a pickle recipe from this manuscript. (See my posts on “Lemmon Cakes” and “Bisket Pudding” for more information about Restoration-era lifestyle guru Hannah Woolley and MS Codex 785). I was also intrigued by the inclusion of thyme in this one.

The Recipe

pickled cucumbers

To pickle Cucumbers

Boyle your Vinegar with some long pepper,
and all Sorts of Spice, a little Salt, Thyme, and
Dill, lay your Cucummers into the pot, and
pour on your pickle boyling hot, and Couer
them up very Close, and set it by, and do so
for two or three days.

This recipe is very straightforward. Slice your cucumbers, prepare a spicy brine, rest, and eat. [UPDATE: The original recipe does not instruct you to slice the cucumbers, I sliced mine out of habit and because used a single-medium sized, slicing cucumber and I needed it to fill my jar! Feel free to use smaller kirby cucumbers here and skip the slicing.]

Long pepper was the only new ingredient for me. According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia (linked above), long pepper is a flowering vine with small, flavorful fruit. Although the plant is similar to the Piper nigrum, or standard black pepper, the individual fruits are far spicier. This spice is often used in South Asian cooking, but I was unable to locate any. Instead, I substituted in a small amount of red chili flakes to add some peppery heat. Let us know if you use long pepper, chili pepper, or black pepper when you make these pickles! I’ve made some suggestions in the recipe below.

 

Our Recipe

These proportions fill a single, 2-cup mason jar. Double, triple, and quadruple if you have a glut of cumbers on hand!

1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced (Peel or don’t peel as per your preference) [Per the update above, feel free to use different kinds of cucumbers and slice, or don’t slice according to your preference and ingredients.]
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh dill
1 c white wine vinegar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t chili flakes (or some long pepper, or 1/4 t pink or black peppercorns)

Put the sliced cucumber in the mason jar with the fresh thyme and dill.

In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil. Add the salt and stir until combined. Add the chili flakes.

Pour the spicy brine over the fresh vegetables. Firmly affix the lid and label the jar. Leave in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Consume pickled cucumbers within a month of opening the jar.

pickled cucumbers

pickled cucumbers

The Results

After three days in the refrigerator, these pickles are salty, spicy, sharp, and crisp. The  dill and thyme add depth to each bite. These pickles are not going to outlast the weekend!

Since the brine is very strong and I’m really making these as refrigerator pickles, rather than shelf-stable canned pickles, I might reduce the amount of vinegar in the brine and try a 1/2 c vinegar and 1/2 cup water brine instead. In addition, the original recipe also mentions “all Sorts of Spice.”  I only included spices that were listed in the recipe in this batch, but I wonder how cloves, mustard seeds, or caraway seeds would change the taste of these pickles. I may have to start another batch.

Let us know if you experiment with this recipe!

 

Snow cream

It’s hot. The city of Philadelphia declared an excessive heat warning. Despite my undying love of summer, I’m thinking about snow.

2016-07-07 15.22.22

When Heather Wolfe, Sarah Powell, and I were selecting a recipe to cook with the paleography class at the Folger Shakespeare Library last month, Sarah added this recipe for “Snow cream” from Mary Hookes’s manuscript recipe book V.b.342 to our list. (Check out the Almond Jumballs we made here.) In my heat frenzy yesterday afternoon, I went digging through my email to track down the citation. The manuscript includes entries from circa 1675-1725 and was signed by Mary Hookes in 1680. It begins with an alphabetical index and contains a range of household recipes including perfumes, preserves, and cakes. I have much more work do to on this manuscript, but yesterday I had snow on the brain and decided to give this recipe a try. Rosewater flavored whipped cream? Almonds and strawberries? How could this be anything but delicious?

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The Recipe

snow cream

snow cropped, page 2
Snow cream
Take six quarts of cream season itt with Rose-
watter & sugar putt itt in to a pan, & take a whiske
and cutt offe the ends, & shake the whiske, too & ffrow,
in the Pan off cream, till itt rise like snow, then
take offe the snow with a skimer letting the cream
drayne from itt, then putt itt in to a Bason, the

bottom off itt being cover’d with currence, or strabarys,
& slis’d Almonds, continew shaking the whisk till
you have enough to ffill the bason, & ever as
you use itt, Take itt offe with the skimer.

Whipped cream makes snowy drift on a base of nuts and summer fruits, such as currants and strawberries. The name “snow” makes this relative of fool, berries and cream, and even strawberry shortcake seem unfamiliar. Recipes for snow are common in seventeenth-century recipe books and usually include both cream and eggs. The Oxford English Dictionary defines snow, as a cookery term, as A dish or confection resembling snow in appearance, esp. one made by whipping the white of eggs to a creamy consistency.” Ken Albala’s The Banquet includes examples of “snow” stiffened with rice flour, seasoned with rosewater, and served alongside other sweet and savory dishes. (He also gestures to the role of dairy dishes like snow in the development of ice cream recipes. We promise that when we find an ice cream recipe we’ll make one for you.)

IMG_5016

Our Recipe

I used a hand mixer to whip my cream. This tool, as well as modern dairy processing methods, decreased the need for skimming mentioned in the original recipe. I started with one cup of cream instead of six quarts. The recipe below serves three-four people, six quarts of whipped cream would feed a crowd.

1 cup cream
2T sugar
1/2t rosewater
1 cup strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/4 cup almonds, slivered or roughly chopped

Line a serving dish with the strawberries and almonds.

Put the cream and sugar in a sturdy bowl. Using a hand-held mixer or a large whisk, whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Stir in the rosewater.

Add the whipped cream to the serving dish in large dollops.

Serve immediately.

The Results

Cool, sweet, and fresh, snow cream was exactly what I wanted to eat. Tufts of cream drenched the berry and nut base. The crunch of the almonds, the floral note from the rosewater, and the tang of the strawberries make for a chilly summer dessert. I could close my eyes and imagine snow.

I’d love to try this with black or red currants (and if you do I hope you will let us know). Feel free to substitute in any fresh berry or sliced fruit. Try a different nut or a mix of seeds. Swap out rosewater for orange blossom water or vanilla. This simple, refreshing dessert is highly adaptable in the modern kitchen.

Stay cool, dear readers, and let us know how  you fix your “Snow cream” this summer.

 

Cooking Almond Jumballs at the Folger Shakespeare Library

It’s time that we talk about paleography – the study of  handwriting. (Bear with me, we’re also going to make Almond Jumballs!) Without specialized training, Alyssa and I wouldn’t be able to read the historical recipes that we cook, research, and write about on this site. The archive of early modern manuscript recipe books is written in a mix of the two most common styles of handwriting:  secretary hand and italic hand.

Can you read these two recipes? The first hand has more italic features and the last one is a classic secretary hand.

If you’re looking for more resources, this website hosted by Cambridge University has a great online tutorial and the Folger Shakespeare Library hosts a resource guide here.

If you liked the experience of grappling with historical scripts, we encourage you to participate in Shakespeare’s World, a community transcription site developed by Zooniverse and the Folger’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online project.

Alyssa and I learned how to read medieval and early modern handwriting when we were graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. We both participated in a student-run Paleography Workshop and I took a week-long course with Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library  at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia on “The Handwriting & Culture of Early Modern English Manuscripts.”  These experiences gave us the tools we needed to conduct our doctoral research and launch this project. In addition to providing you with tasty updated recipes and interesting background information, we have always included “semi-diplomatic transcriptions” of the original recipes completed to a high academic standard. Many of these recipes have never been transcribed before and posting them online in this readable form is one of our contributions to the field of historical food studies.

I’m currently in residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library working on my book project, but when my former paleography teacher Heather Wolfe asked me to talk about historical recipes with her Introduction to English Paleography course I jumped at the chance.  I love the “Chacolet” recipe we made this winter from a Folger manuscript and wrote about for the Collation blog. We also had a great time giving a talk at the library last December. Within a few minutes of discussion, Heather and I had settled on a cooking project in addition to a visit to her class. Last week I cooked “Almond Jumballs” from Folger Manuscript V.a.429, fol. 52v with Heather, members of her class, and library staff and interns.  It was a blast!

 

This manuscript contains the handwriting of three (or more) individuals and it was used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Two sets of ownership inscriptions grace the  opening leaves (above).

Rose Kendall
& Ann Cater
there Book
1682

Anna Maria Wentworth
Her Book 1726

The opening pages of the book are beautifully planned and decorated with remarkable calligraphic flourishes. Although the red ink disappears from later sections, the manuscript is neat overall. The index at the beginning seems to have been updated as recipes were added.

The Recipe

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Almond Jumballs

Take a pound of Blanched Almonds, and beate them small in a Morter, putt
in a little Orange fflower, or Rose Water, to keep them from oyling, dry them against
the fire, till they crumble like bread, then boyle as much Sugar to a pritty thick
Syrrup as will make it up like Balls. keep it by you, to make Jumballs when you
please, half a pound will make a great many, put half a pound of the Balls in
a Morter, with three quarters of a pound of Sugar sifted and as just as many
whites of Eggs as will make it so stiffe as not to runn out. when it shall be spouted
with a syringe, for the purpose if you have not that Instrument you may lay them one
Paper in what figure you please but the Sugar almonds and Eggs must be well
beaten togeither. If it should not taste enough of Orange fflower Water you
may put in more as you beat it. sett them in an Oven as hot as for Biskett

This recipe has it all: lots of manuscripts have recipes for “jumballs” (like the one we posted a while back), the script included some tricky letter forms, and the recipe required fairly simple ingredients and methods. We knew we could make it in the Folger’s on-site tea kitchen. While I went into the classroom with a general plan for how to prepare the jumballs (we’d already purchased ingredients, after all!), we did ask the students in the course to consider how they would translate this recipe into actual ingredients and steps. They asked great questions which forced me to rethink my draft recipe both at the start and while we were in the kitchen.

There are two especially interesting things about this recipe. First of all, it instructs you to make a flower-water flavored ball of almond paste from blanched almonds and sugar. Presumably this mix might have been a shelf-stable item. Then, when you’re ready to make the jumballs, the recipe instructs you to pipe the batter through a syringe or otherwise shape them elaborately. Although we made valiant attempts to shape our jumballs, our dough did not cooperate.  We even tried piping it through a plastic glove with a snipped finger since we didn’t have a pastry bag! As a result, the egg measurement in our recipe below asks you to add egg whites one at a time and pay attention to the consistency of the mix.

 

Our Recipe

Makes about two dozen cookies.

1lb blanched almonds or ground almonds
2T orange flower water (or rose water)
3C sugar (1C for sugar syrup, 2C for cookie formation)
4-5 egg whites

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Mix together ground almonds and flower water. Toast the almond mix for about 2 minutes. Remove when the mix starts to brown.

Make a “thick” sugar syrup. Bring 1C sugar and scant 1C water to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. This will produce about 1 1/2C sugar syrup.

Add the sugar syrup 1/2C at at time to the toasted almond mix. At this point you can form the mix into balls and divide into batches (if you prefer).

Raise the oven temperature to 400F.

Put the almond mix balls in a large mixing bowl. Stir in 2C sugar (for the whole amount).

Separate your eggs. You can either whip your egg whites to produce a slightly fluffier jumball or skip this step to create a chewier jumball (see results discussion below). Add egg whites to the almond sugar mix one at a time (approximate if whipped) until your dough is moist and pliable. You should be able to roll a piece of it into a log on a flat surface.

Taste the mixture and add additional flower water to taste. (We didn’t add any more at this point.)

Shape your dough into twists, letters, etc. Write your name, make a funny face, shape a flower, and have fun with it! Place your jumball shapes on two or more greased baking sheets.

Bake at 400F for 20 min until the jumballs are lightly browned.

The Results

Fresh from the oven the jumballs were chewy, sweet, and fragrant. A day later they were like hard macaroons. We were pleased with how they turned out. They were nothing like the buttery seed-filled shortbread-like Jumballs Alyssa and I made in 2014. Every recipe book seems to have a receipt for Jumballs and we look forward to exploring more versions with you soon.

Alyssa and I always learn when we cook together, but cooking with a group was a new experience for me. With so many people completing tasks and offering opinions, we collaborated to make a better version of the recipe. For example, we weren’t sure if we needed to whip the egg whites or not before adding them to the almond and sugar mixture. By dividing the almonds into two batches, were were able to try both approaches. After trying and tasting both versions, we decided that the  whipped egg whites added fluffiness, but because of the density of the almond mix they did not add enough buoyancy to make the step absolutely necessary. Others preferred the denser texture of the batch with the normal egg whites. My recipe above includes both options.

Here at Cooking in the Archives we believe that people can learn a lot about early modern recipes by reading them and cooking them. I can’t wait to here what else the Introduction to Paleography students find, try, taste, read, and learn as a result of this training.

Transcription Answers

The first example is from UPenn Ms. Codex 626 (32r) “Hopestill: Brett, Her Booke: 1678”

A sawce for a hare

Rost beef suit in the hares
shred when put in
belley: then bake it when shee is
Rosted and then put the graue
to it and sum butter and stis
Sum nutmig in and salt

The second example is from UPenn Ms. Codex 1601 (7r)

To boile Chickens on sorrell sops.
Truss your chickens & boile them in water
& salt, verie tender, then take a good
handfull of sorrell & beate itt stalke &
all, then straine itt & take a manchet
& cutt itt in sippetts & drye them before
The fire, then putt your green brouth

Lemon Posset

Possets teeter on the divide between medicine and food. These boozy, herbal, and, in this case, creamy, beverages are refreshing drinks on the one hand, and curative concoctions on the other. We made a “Could Possett” in the early days of this project and I decided that it was high time to try another.

This recipe for “Lemon Posset” comes from MS Codex 785, the source of my recent posts about Mutton with Oyster stuffing and Simnel cake.

The Recipe

lemon posset

Lemon Posset
Take a pint & a half of Cream a pint of Birch or
White Wine the juice of one Lemon, pare one half
of the peel thin and steep it all night in the Wine
and grater the other part when you put the Cream
to in the Morning and Sweeten ’em to your taste
work it in a Jug with a Chocolate Mill and take off
the Froth as it rises.

Our Recipe

1 cup white wine (I used Vino Verde but any decent drinkable will work.)
Grated or zested peel of a whole lemon, divided into two batches
Juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 cups cream
1T sugar (add more or less to taste)

Put half the lemon peel and the white wine in a jug. I used a standard 4-cup mixing jug and covered it with plastic wrap. Let this mixture sit overnight to infuse. You can also let it sit for 6-7 hours during the day if you plan to serve this in the evening.

Before serving, add the remaining lemon peel and lemon juice to the jug. Pour in the cream and whisk vigorously. Skim off rising froth or unpalatable debris. (I did not find his necessary.) Taste the posset. Add sugar, I added one tablespoon, until the posset is sweetened to your taste.

Consume immediately.

The Results

Between the wine and the lemon I expected this posset to curdle, like many hot possets do, but it didn’t. It was like a frothy lemon milkshake, a tangy yogurt lassi, or an herbaceous egg white cocktail. It was sweet even before I stirred in the sugar. I wondered what flavors Birch Wine might contribute to its overall flavor. Then I added an ice cube to my glass and sipped it as I cooked other things.

Although I enjoyed sipping my small glass of posset, I still had quite a bit of it left over. Inspired by its texture and flavor, I decided to put the remaining mix in my ice cream maker and see what happened. I’m pleased to report that lemon posset ice cream is delicious. Since I poured the posset mix straight into the frozen bowl without adding eggs or more sugar, the texture wasn’t as lovely as other ice creams I’ve made. That said, I heartily recommend experimenting with posset ice cream as temperatures rise this summer. Tweak the recipe, follow the instructions on your ice cream maker, and let us know what happens!