to friy oyesters

2019-04-13 17.19.46

to fry oysters

Lately, I’ve been reading M.F. K. Fisher’s Consider the Oyster. Raw, cooked, dangerous, and delicious, Fisher celebrates this humble bivalve in glorious prose. In her chapter “The Well-Dressed Oyster,” she surveys the triumphs and pitfalls of cooking and seasoning oysters. It’s worth quoting at length:

Probably the next simplest way to cook an oyster, and the one most commonly accepted in restaurants, it to fry him. It is too bad, since the method can be good, that so many chefs dip their oysters in a thick and often infamous batter, which at once plunged into the equally obscene grease, forms a envelope of such slippery toughness that the oyster within it lies helpless and steaming in a foul blanket, tasteless and yet powerfully indigestible.

Firm chilled oysters rolled quickly in crumbs and dipped into good fat for almost no time at all, and then served quickly on hot plates with an honest tartar sauce or lemon slices can be one of the best dishes anywhere. (Daunt Books edition, 2018, 24)

When I revisited this recipe “to friy oyesters” from UPenn Ms Codex 252, I was certain I could accomplish the latter: fresh oysters, good fat, a seasoned crumb, and a quick fry. Indeed, it took far longer to shuck the oysters from the fish market than to cook this recipe.

The Recipe

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to friy oyesters

Beat 2 eges with a littell bread
nutmeg and peper and sallt dip in
your oyesters and fry them broun
with freash butter

I was first intrigued this simple recipe when I was setting up the social media accounts for this project back in 2014. This humble receipt has graced the @rare_cooking Twitter avatar ever since. It is written on a small slip of paper that was once pinned into the manuscript – take a look at the pin holes above and below the text. Although the receipt is written on a scrap, the handwriting and inconsistent spelling are similar to one of the manuscript’s dominant hands.

There are many early modern English recipes that call for oysters as an ingredient or showcase oysters on their own. In the culinary tradition, they straddled the boundary between cheap protein for working people and a luxury food associated with seduction. Samuel Pepys writes about eating oysters again and again, sometimes from “my old oyster shop.”

In this simple recipe, the oyster stands on its own. Seasoned with nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and frazzled in butter, these fried oysters are truly delicious.

Updated Recipe

6 oysters, shucked
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1-2 eggs
1/8t nutmeg
1/8t pepper
1/8t salt
2T butter (for frying)
Sliced lemon

Combine the breadcrumbs and seasoning in a shallow bowl.

Beat 1 egg in a shallow bowl. If one egg does not coat all your oysters, you may need to add a second egg.

Heat a cast iron skilled (or your preferred frying pan) on high for 2-3 minutes. Reduce to a medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt and foam.

Dip the oysters in the beaten egg and then the seasoned breadcrumbs. Put each dipped oyster straight into the frying pan. Do not crowd the oysters. Cook for 2-3 minutes and flip each oyster mid-way through to allow both sides to brown.

Eat immediately. Dress with lemon to your taste.

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I’m glad that I have a new way to cook and eat this glorious mollusk.

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Seed Cake inspired by Thomas Tusser

 

This post presents the fourth and final recipe from a series of updated recipes that I developed for the Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019). You can also find a version of this post on the Folger’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog.

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Photo by Teresa Wood

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night the uptight steward Malvolio breaks up Uncle Toby Belch’s midnight revelry and Toby protests with the question, “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” or, in other words, do you think you can really put a stop to all celebratory eating and drinking? (II.iii113). The answer is clearly no. As Julia Reinhard Lupton writes in an essay on Shakespeare and dessert: “To eat cake is to refuse to live by bread alone” (223). Cake was not an everyday food in early modern Britain, and it probably isn’t (or shouldn’t be) for us. Cakes were reserved for celebrations, large or small.

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An example of these special occasion cakes was a “seed cake,” as Thomas Tusser wrote in his wildly popular verse work on farming, husbandry, and housekeeping, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry (1573), in which he advises the British housewife to prepare a seed cake at the harvest.

Wife sometime this weeke, if the weather hold clere,
an end of wheat sowing, we make for this yere.
Remember you therfore, though I Do it not:
The seede Cake, the Pasties, and Furmenty pot. Xjv

After the agricultural benchmark of sowing wheat is completed, likely in September, the housewife should make a seed cake or a pasty (or hand-held pie) or furmenty (a fortified porridge) to mark the moment.

Now for all the agricultural and household information in Tusser’s book, he does not actually include recipes. Thus the great hunt for the perfect seed cake began! Instead of turning to printed sources as I did for Hughes’s Hot Chocolate, May’s Brisket, and Woolley’s Marmalade, I dove into recipe manuscripts. The Folger has the largest collection of manuscript recipe books in the world. These manuscripts are fun, unruly, and the main source of recipes that I’ve updated for Cooking in the Archives. They were compendia of culinary and medicinal recipes kept in early modern households. These books were often used by a family for a century or more and usually reveal a mix of different handwriting and priorities for different generations. Learn more about recipe books as knowledge repositories on The Recipes Project.

When I found this recipe in Folger manuscript V.a.430, Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family, I was excited. Although this recipe book was used between 1640-1750, and thus the seed cake recipe is likely from a hundred years or more after Tusser first published Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, it contains other compelling features that make it a truly delicious find.

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Mrs Berkers Receipt
To Make a seed Cake
Take a pound of Butter, wash it in Rose Water,
then work it with your hand till ’tis as thin as
Cream, then take a pound of flower well Dry’d,
and a pound of double refind sugar finely beaten
Two Ounces of Carraway Seeds, three thimbles
full of pounded mace, Mix all the dry things
together and put them by degrees into the
Butter then mix them well togather then beat
9 Eggs, half the Whites, and 3 or four spoonfuls
of Sack Put these into the other Ingredients, beat
it all well with your hands, having your Oven
ready put your Cake into the hoop and have
a double paper Butter’d to put over it if there
is Occasion
One hour will bake it.

First, it relies on whipped egg whites as a rising agent. Other seed cake recipes are leavened with ale barm, the yeast that collects on the top of freshly brewed beer. Brewing and baking were intimately interconnected, and the seed cake that Tusser was thinking about may well have been leavened this way. Even though I bake with a sourdough starter every week, adapting recipes that call for ale barm is especially tricky business. Instead, this seed cake shows what incredible things eggs can do.

This recipe also calls for caraway seeds and rosewater, two ingredients that were widely used in sweet and savory dishes in the early modern period and could have been produced close to home. Caraway grows in the Northern European climate, and householders distilled the petals of their roses into rosewater and used this flavoring in many dishes where we would now use vanilla extract. As Rebecca Laroche and Jennifer Munroe explore in their ecofeminist scholarship on Shakespeare and recipe books, early modern gardens were dynamic sites and recipe writers and users were aware of what was available and in season (112).

 

Tusser advises his ideal housewife to make a seed cake to mark the harvest, and, as the proliferation of seed cake recipes in the manuscript and printed recipe archive attests, housewives didprepare seed cakes, to mark the harvest or other occasions. Seed cake is a rich buttery treat, scented with rosewater and sack (sweet Spanish wine), spiced with caraway and mace, and best served with a cup of warm tea (in my opinion). The ingredients for this delicious recipe are local – (rosewater, caraway, flour, butter, eggs – as well as imported – mace, sugar, and sack. The caraway in it is potent, but totally delightful. The other flavors give it a wonderful scent. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, rich with butter, and wonderfully leavened by the eggs. Tusser inspired a delicious celebration.

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INGREDIENTS

1 cup flour
7 teaspoons caraway seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon mace
1 stick butter, room temperature (8T)
1 teaspoon rosewater
1⁄2 cup sugar
3 eggs (1 whole, 2 whites separated from yolks)
1 tablespoon sherry

PREPARATION

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment. Stir together flour, caraway seeds, salt, and mace. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, rosewater, and sugar, either by hand or with a mixer. Stir in the whole egg and sherry, then add the flour and spice mixture. Set aside. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites until they hold their form. Fold the whites into the cake batter very gently, maintaining the fluffiness of the whites even if it means the batter looks clumpy. Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Place it on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and set in the middle. A cake tester will come out clean when it is completely cooked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the springform pan.

NOTES

Serve warm or room temperature with tea, coffee, fresh fruit, or preserves. This recipe is easy to double. You can also prepare smaller cakes by baking in a greased muffin pan and adjusting your baking time to 15 minutes.

 

Learn More

Di Meo, Michelle and Sara Pennell, eds. Reading and Writing Recipe Books, 1550-1800. (Manchester University Press, 2013)

Laroche, Rebecca and Jennifer Munroe, Shakespeare and Ecofeminist Theory (Bloomsbury, 2017) especially Chapter 4, 105-130.

Leong, Elaine. Recipes and Everyday Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and the Household in Early Modern England. (University of Chicago, 2018).

Lupton, Julia Reinhard. “Room for Dessert: Sugared Shakespeare and the Dramaturgy of Dwelling.” in Culinary Shakespeare: Staging Food and Drink in Early Modern England, eds. David B. Goldstein and Amy L. Tigner (Duquesne University Press 2016), 199-224.

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Photo by Teresa Wood

This recipe was developed by Marissa Nicosia for the Folger exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019), produced in association with Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute.

Special thanks to Amanda Herbert and Heather Wolfe for their help.

Making Marmalade with Hannah Woolley

This post presents the third recipe from a series of updated recipes that I developed for the Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019). You can also find a version of this post on the Folger’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog.

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Photo by Teresa Wood

Citrus and sugar: What could be more precious than marmalade?Oranges and other citrus cultivars come from the mountainous parts of southern China and northeast India. They were prized for their beauty, scent, and medicinal properties in this region long before Europeans saw, smelled, or tasted an orange. As Clarissa Hyman writes in Oranges: A Global History, “In India, a medical treatise c. AD 100 was the first to mention the fruit by a term we recognize today. Naranga or narangi derives from the Sanskrit, originally meaning ‘perfumed from within’” (10). The three original citrus cultivars were the citron (prized for its thick, fragrant peel), the pomelo, and sour oranges, called China or Seville oranges in early modern England. Easily hybridized, these three cultivars are the origin of all modern citrus varieties. Soldiers returning from the Crusades brought citrons and sour oranges home with them. In the early modern period, sweet oranges, sour oranges, lemons, citrons, and exotic varieties like bergamot and blood orange were widely cultivated in Southern Europe and by wealthy gardeners who build special hot houses, or orangeries, further north.

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Photo by Teresa Wood

Shakespeare provocatively references oranges in his often troubling comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Claudio is misled by Don John into believing that his betrothed, Hero, has been unfaithful. In a fit of anger, he sends her back to her father calling her a rotten orange: “There, Leonato, take her back again. / Give not this rotten orange to your friend” (IV.i.29-30). Earlier in the play, witty Beatrice likens Claudio himself to an orange in lines that foreshadow Claudio’s jealous rage. She calls him “civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion” because, like the “Seville” orange referenced in her pun on “civil” he can be sweet or sour, loving or jealous (II.i.287).

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Photo by Teresa Wood

In 1493, on his second voyage to the Americas, Christopher Columbus brought bitter oranges to Haiti (Hyman 19). Oranges thrived in the Caribbean, and by the late seventeenth century, the time when Hannah Woolley was rising to prominence as a Restoration lifestyle guru, American oranges were being shipped to Britain. This influx of oranges reduced their price and made oranges accessible to a larger portion of the population. Nell Gwynn sold oranges and sweets to theater-goers before she became an actress, and before she became the mistress of King Charles II. Naval bureaucrat and diarist Samuel Pepys writes about buying a whole box of China oranges on 16 February 1659/60. The popular London tune has the bells of St. Clement ringing out “oranges and lemons” when ships laden with citrus docked in the harbor (Hyman 90-1).

Woolley’s marmalade captures the flavors of exotic citrus while it’s fresh, and she can only do so through the preservative power of sugar–now also widely available to upper- and middle-class British people for the first time. Kim Hall’s work on sugar and status in the early modern era rightfully insists that women’s aspirational confectionary work deeply implicated them in the labor conditions of enslaved people of African and Caribbean descent who worked in orange groves and sugar cane fields halfway around the world. It is only these global systems of exploitative labor and overseas shipping that would allow an accomplished lady to prepare a citrus marmalade.

The accomplisht ladies delight is a work which took advantage of Hannah Woolley’s fame and popularity. This book was published in 1684 after Woolley’s death and capitalized on the success of Woolley’s Queen-like closet, first published in 1670 to great fanfare. However, the book’s recipe for marmalade is rather similar to marmalade recipes in The Queen-like Closet, a work that we can confidently attribute to Woolley.

To make Marmalade of Lemmons and Oranges. You may boyl eight or nine Lemons or Oranges, with 4 or 5 Pippins, and draw them through a strainer; then take the weight of the pulp altogether in Sugar and boyl it as you do Marmelade of Quinces, and so box it up. (A9r)

Boil citrus to soften it; boil pippins (or apples) to add pectin, sweeten and preserve using sugar; store carefully. Making marmalade takes time and attention. Now, at least we can use a candy thermometer to determine when the mixture has hit an ideal temperature instead of only watching the sugar change color and texture. A crucial “plate test”—seeing if preserves stay solid on a cold plate—was part of Woolley’s marmalade recipe in The Queen-like Closet,and it’s an important step in my recipe as well. Spread your marmalade on hot toast or a warm baked good and enjoy.

INGREDIENTS

1 orange
1 lemon
1 apple
Sugar (3+ cups)
Water (4+ cups)

EQUIPMENT

Baking scale
Candy thermometer

PREPARATION

Weigh the fruit on a scale. Measure out an equal weight of sugar. If less than a pound of fruit, use 4 cups of water. If more than a pound of fruit, increase to 5 cups of water. Cut the citrus into slices 1⁄8 inch thick and then quarter them. Peel, core, and cut the apple into thin slices. Put the fruit and water into a 3 quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer for 40 minutes. Put a small plate in your freezer. After 40 minutes, gently stir the fruit. The apple slices will be soft and should break down when touched. The citrus fruits will have softened. Place your candy thermometer in the pot. Add the sugar, stirring constantly as the fruit breaks down, the mixture thickens, and the marmalade takes on a light caramel color. Cook until the temperature reaches 240°F (soft ball stage or candy height). As your marmalade nears temperature, put 1 teaspoon on the freezer plate and let sit for 30 seconds. If the marmalade holds its shape when you tilt the plate, it has set. If the marmalade is browning quickly or looks set before the temperature reaches 240°F, try the plate test earlier. Put your set marmalade in a clean pint jar.

NOTES

Serve the marmalade with bread, scones, muffins, or biscuits. Store this small-batch preserve in the refrigerator and consume within two weeks. You can extend the life of your marmalade by properly canning it or by freezing it. You can make more marmalade by increasing the amount of fruit and adjusting the sugar and water and cooking times accordingly.

Learn More

Hall, Kim F. “Culinary Spaces, Colonial Spaces: The Gendering of Sugar in the Seventeenth Century,” in Feminist Readings of Early Modern Culture: Emerging Subjects, eds. Valerie Traub, Lindsay Kaplan, and Dympna Callaghan (Cambridge University Press, 1996), 168-90.

Hall, Kim F.“Sugar and Status in Shakespeare” Shakespeare Jahrbuch145 (2009): 49-61.

Hyman, Clarissa.  Oranges: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books, 2013).

MintzSidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1986.

This recipe was developed by Marissa Nicosia for the Folger exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019), produced in association with Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute.

Special thanks to Amanda Herbert and Heather Wolfe for their help.

Robert May’s Braised Brisket: British Beef, French Style

 

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This post presents the second recipe from a series of updated recipes that I developed for the Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019). You can also find a version of this post on the Folger’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog.

The British are known for their beef. Although poultry, lamb, pork, game, fish, and shellfish abound in British cookery books from the early modern period, beef stands out. Beef is also a perennial refrain in Shakespeare’s works: The Duke of Orleans mocks King Henry’s army’s distress in the middle of Henry V by saying they are “out of beef”; Shylock ponders the difference between a pound of human flesh and that of “muttons, beefs, or goats”; Prince Hal addresses Falstaff with the moniker “sweet beef”; and in Twelfth Night louche English suitor Sir Andrew Aguecheek proclaims, “I am a great eater of beef” (Henry V III.vii.155; Merchant of Venice I.iii.172; 1 Henry IV III.iii.188; Twelfth Night I.iii.82). Both as sustenance and cultural signifier, cooking and eating beef was associated with British identity in the Renaissance.

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Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook was first published in 1660 and went through multiple reprint editions in subsequent years. On the title page he promises recipes “for the Dressing of all Sorts of FLESH” and in the pages of this cookbook he certainly delivers. Under the engraved portrait of the chef, a few verses promise that May will provide “in one face / all hospitalitie” of the nation and his recipes will inspire “tables” groaning with “Natures plentie.” For British chefs this certainly meant how to prepare tempting beef dishes.

My brisket recipe updates May’s recipe “To stew a Rump, or the fat end of a Brisket of Beef in the French Fashion” for use in a twenty-first-century kitchen. The following text is from the 1685 edition, but the recipe is also in the first edition from 1660 (I3vI4r).

To stew a Rump, or the fat end of a Brisket of Beef in the French Fashion

Take a rump of beef, boil it & scum it clean, in a stewing pan or broad mouthed pipkin, cover it close, & let it stew an hour; then put to it some whole pepper, cloves, mace, and salt, scorch the meat with your knife to let out the gravy, then put in some claret-wine, and half a dozen of slic’t onions; having boiled, an hour after put in some capers, or a handful of broom-buds, and half a dozen of cabbidge-lettice being first parboil’d in fair water, and quartered, two or three spoonfuls of wine vinegar, as much verjuyce, and let it stew till it be tender; then serve it on sippets of French bread, and dish it on those sippets; blow the fat clean off the broth, scum it, and stick it with fryed bread. (K2r-K2v)

In the French Fashion

You may be asking why I’ve turned to a recipe with the descriptor “in the French Fashion” after talking about the British and their beef. Importing wine from France was a long British tradition. May’s recipe specifically calls for “claret-wine” or French Bordeaux especially made for export to the European market. As Paul Lukacs explains in Inventing Wine, in the fourteenth century British demand for claret was so high that the British imported eighty percent of Bordeaux’s exports. Desire for French claret was “so strong that the Bordeaux wine fleet sailed twice a year—first in the fall, when the ships were filled with as much of the new harvest’s wine as they could carry, and then again in the spring when they transported what was left.” Anglo-French relations had quite a few high and low points between the fourteenth century and the seventeenth century when May was writing. Nevertheless, French claret was a mainstay of British drinking and eating culture.

Moreover, stewing or braising beef in wine was an effective way to transform tough cuts like “rump” or “brisket” into tender stews. In Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat explains the science behind these slow braises. Put simply: the acidic compounds of wine and the low-slow heat tenderize the tough muscle by breaking down its collagen proteins. The addition of acidic capers, wine vinegar, verjuice, and cabbage later in May’s recipe amplifies the potency of the cooking medium. As chef Fergus Henderson shows in his Nose to Tail Eating, it is a very British thing to make use of the whole animal and to use the most effective cooking techniques to render each cut into a delicious dish. A British “Accomplisht Cook,” like May, must make do with the ingredients and methods available to him even if they are, in many ways, French.

Ingredients

2 pounds brisket
2 cups sliced yellow onion
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1⁄2 teaspoon whole cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon mace
1 bottle red wine (750 ml; ideally, French claret or Bordeaux)

4 cups sliced cabbage
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons capers
1⁄2 baguette or other bread

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Pat the brisket dry and then place it in a large pot fitted with a cover. Add onions, salt, black peppercorns, whole cloves, and mace. Pour in wine, cover, and place in the oven for 1 hour. After the brisket has cooked for 1 hour, carefully flip it over. After it has cooked for 1 1⁄2 hours, add cabbage, vinegar, and capers. Check it at the 2 1⁄2 hour mark. It should be tender when poked with a fork. If not, give it more time. If the cabbage is crowded, rearrange as necessary for even cooking. To serve, cut your bread into cubes and arrange them on a platter. Remove the brisket and set it on a cutting board to rest. Remove the cabbage and onions and place them on top of the bread. Reduce remaining cooking liquid for ten minutes until it thickens. Slice the brisket thinly, and place on top of the cabbage, onions, and bread. Pour the reduced sauce over the whole dish. Serve immediately.

Notes

This satisfying dish will serve four to six people. The cubes of bread that May calls “sippets” are a common ingredient in meat dishes from this period. They efficiently and deliciously soak up the rich, flavorful sauce.

Learn More

Albala, Ken. Food in Early Modern Europe. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003, especially pages 164–184.

Appelbaum, Robert. Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture and Food among the Early Moderns. University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Wall, Wendy. Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen.University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015,especially pages 35-38.

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This recipe was developed by Marissa Nicosia for the Folger exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019), produced in association with Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute.

Special thanks to Amanda Herbert and Heather Wolfe for their help.

 

Hot Chocolate, William Hughes’s “American Nectar”

This post presents the first recipe from a series of updated recipes that I developed for the Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019). You can also find a version of this post on the Folger’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog.

When pirate botanist William Hughes wrote about his adventures with plants in the Americas, he devoted an entire section of his book The American Physitian (1672) to “The Cacao Nut Tree,” which he distinguished from all other American plants. Hughes paid particular attention to the properties and the preparation of chocolate. In the opening of the section “Of the making of Chocolate into a Drink,” he calls the beverage “the American Nectar.”

 

By calling hot chocolate the “American Nectar” Hughes invoked the idea that chocolate was a drink consumed by deities, and pleasurable for those mortals lucky enough to sample it. Chocolate was a revelation to European colonizers. A decade before Hughes published his book, Henry Stubbe called chocolate the “Indian nectar.” British writers repeatedly appealed to its almost otherworldly properties.

Although there are no references to chocolate in Shakespeare’s works, there are quite a few references to nectar. Most poignantly, the potent flower that Puck wields in A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains a powerful nectar that intoxicates the anointed with powerful feelings of love (Act II, scene 2). A powerful nectar is equal parts pleasure and danger: Hughes chose an evocative moniker for his hot chocolate.

Encountering chocolate in early modern cookery books offers evidence of Britain’s troubled colonial past. Accounts of chocolate drinking, recipes listing chocolate among the ingredients, and casual references to chocolate all bear witness to the material and informational exchanges between indigenous peoples and European colonizers in the Americas. Theobroma cacao is a fragile equatorial plant and the seeds that we process into chocolate products are not, on first sight, obviously edible or the source of the dizzyingly delicious chocolate delights available today. Indigenous Americans prepared a range of healthful and delicious beverages with chocolate. Europeans only learned to consume chocolate by mastering highly specialized indigenous knowledge.

When I set out to make William Hughes’s hot chocolate, I was presented with a wealth of possibilities for how to sweeten, thicken, enrich, scent, spice, and spike my drink. Here is a list of all the ingredients that Hughes reports that indigenous peoples and European colonizers put in their hot chocolate:

…chocolate, milk, water, grated bread, sugar, maiz [corn flour], egg, wheat flour, cassava, chili pepper [hot and sweet varieties], nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, musk, ambergris, cardamom, orange flower water, citrus peel, citrus and spice oils, achiote [annatto seed], vanilla, fennel, annis, black pepper, ground almonds, almond oil, rum, brandy, [and] sack.

Some of these preparations could serve as a meal replacement, others as an energy drink, and yet others as a healing tonic to soothe the body. These possibilities are all present in indigenous American usage and Hughes catalogs them for his British readers. As you prepare your own hot chocolate using this recipe, season to taste. Let your own spirit of adventure and personal tastes guide you as you season your mix and prepare a warming cup.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients

This recipe makes 2 cups of hot chocolate mix.

1⁄4 cup cocoa nibs
3 1⁄2 ounces or 100 grams of a 70% dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped
1⁄2 cup cocoa powder
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄4 cup breadcrumbs or grated stale bread (optional for a thicker drink)
1⁄2 teaspoon chili flakes (substitute 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon for a less spicy drink)
Milk (1 cup of milk to 3 tablespoons of finished mix)

Preparation

Toast the cocoa nibs in a shallow pan until they begin to look glossy and smell extra chocolatey. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, blender, or mortal and pestle. Blitz or grind until ingredients are combined into a loose mix. Heat the milk in a pan on the stove or in a heatproof container in a microwave. Stir in three tablespoons of mix for each cup of heated milk.

Notes

Hughes lists many other ingredients that indigenous Caribbean people as well as Spanish colonizers added to their hot chocolate. Starting with a base of grated cacao, they thickened it with cassava bread, maize flour, eggs, and / or milk, and flavored it with nutmeg, saffron, almond oil, sugar, pepper, cloves, vanilla, fennel seeds, anise seeds, lemon peel, cardamom, orange flower water, rum, brandy, and sherry. Adapt this hot chocolate to your taste by trying these other traditional flavorings.

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Photo by Teresa Wood

LEARN MORE

The information and ideas in this post about chocolate and the knowledge exchanges between Europeans and indigenous Americans are inspired by Marcy Norton’s Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World  (Cornell University Press, 2008).

See also:

Kuhn, John, and Marissa Nicosia, “Early Modern Euro-Indigenous Culinary Connections: Chocolate,The Recipes Project.

Nicosia, Marissa, and Alyssa Connell, “Chacolet,The Collation blog, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Tigner, Amy, “Chocolate in Seventeenth-Century England, Part I,” The Recipes Project.

This recipe was developed by Marissa Nicosia for the Folger exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas (on view Jan 19–Mar 31, 2019), produced in association with Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute.

Special thanks to Amanda Herbert and Heather Wolfe for their help.

Announcement: Updating Recipes for the “First Chefs” Exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library

This summer I tested recipes for braised beef, hot chocolate, marmalade, and seed cake in my sweltering Philadelphia kitchen. I was developing updated recipes for the First Chefs exhibition that opens at the Folger Shakespeare library later this month. My recipes will be available on recipe cards at the exhibition and I’ll also be giving a public lecture. I’m excited to share these recipes here and on the Shakespeare and Beyond blog in the coming months! Stay tuned. As always, thank you for reading and cooking.

EXHIBITION: First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC. January 19-March 31, 2019. Pick up recipe cards with my updated historical recipes when you visit the exhibition! Links to posts about each recipe will be up on Cooking in the Archives and Shakespeare and Beyond in the coming months.

LECTURE: “Cooking in the Archives: Developing Recipes for the First Chefs Exhibition.” The Folger Shakespeare Library. Washington, DC. February 2019. This lecture is part of the Free Folger Friday series. Information and tickets here.

Hippocras, or spiced wine

Hippocras is a kind of spiced wine. As Paul Lukacs writes in his book Inventing Wine, wine drinkers at all levels of society in medieval and early modern Europe drank spiced wines, “Spices not only would disguise a wine beginning to turn bad but also could make an otherwise dry wine taste somewhat sweet. And medieval men and women craved sweets. They used cloves, cinnamon, honey, and the like to season” their wines and their foods (43). Wines made before the invention of modern bottling technologies were highly perishable and markedly different from the wines we drink today. According to Lukacs, some were made from raisins and fermented to be sweeter and almost syrupy in texture, others were thin and sour depending on age and style. Fresh from harvest in the autumn, cloudy and fragrant wines were shipped in huge volumes from France, Italy, Germany, and later Spain to wine-consuming countries such as England which did not (at that time) have a local wine industry of its own. Adding spices to these wines as they aged made them more palatable and also added health benefits from the spices themselves. After the wine was infused with spices and sweetener, but before it was served, it was strained through a linen “hippocras bag” to remove the spices and other flavoring. This linen bag was named after Hippocrates, the ancient physician who advised the consumption of spiced wine drinks and was thought to have strained them through his voluminous sleeves.

I’m excited about this post because I developed a hippocras recipe that I think is truly delicious and I learned a lot along the way. After many hours in the reading room at the UPenn library and many more hours clicking through digital images of manuscripts and printed books online looking for Hippocras (or its variant spellings Ipocras , Ypocras, Hypocrass, Hippocris, and Hipocras), I decided to prepare a recipe “To make Ipocras” from Robert May’s The accomplisht cook, a very popular cookbook that was first published in London in 1660. I’ve been thinking about May quite a bit over the last six months and I updated another recipe from this cookbook for the upcoming exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas. (Stay tuned for that recipe!) May’s Ipocras recipe beautifully seasons the wine without eradicating the original flavors. This was especially important to me because I was using a wonderful 2016 Côtes du Rhône made by Clovis thanks to T. Edward Wines. The wine is delicious on its own and I knew, with proper care, it would make a delicious hippocras as well.

Below, you will find May’s recipe, my updated version of it, and quite a few hippocras recipes from manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Clark Library, and UPenn Library. These recipes showcase a range of methods and I’ve including images and transcriptions below. I might make them someday, but feel free to experiment and let me know how things go in the comments.

May’s Ipocras Recipe

To make Ipocras.

TAke to a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinamon, two ounces of slic’t ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream.

Otherwayes.

Take to a pottle of wine an ounce of cinamon, an ounce of ginger, an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, seven corns of pepper, a handfull of rosemary flowers, and two pound of sugar.
Robert May, The accomplisht cook, or The art and mystery of cookery. Wherein the whole art is revealed in a more easie and perfect method, then hath been publisht in any language. Expert and ready wayes for the dressing of all sorts of flesh, fowl, and fish; the raising of pastes; the best directions for all manner of kickshaws, and the most poinant sauces; with the tearms of carving and sewing. An exact account of all dishes for the season; with other a la mode curiosities. Together with the lively illustrations of such necessary figures as are referred to practice. / Approved by the fifty years experience and industry of Robert May, in his attendance on several persons of honour. (London: Printed by R.W. for Nath. Brooke, at the sign of the Angel in Cornhill, 1660), Wing M1391. Photo courtesy of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts. (T3r).
I decided to follow May’s instructions for “Otherwayes … To make Ipocras.” As I show below (and you can see above in May’s first recipe), many Hippocras recipes are intended for white wine, add sack, or use milk or cream during the straining process. May’s “Otherwayes” showcases the characteristics of the original wine as well as the added spices.

May’s Ipocras Updated

1 bottle red wine (ideally an earthy Côtes du Rhône like this one from Clovis)
4 cinnamon sticks
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
2 slices of a whole nutmeg, or 1/4 t ground
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
2 springs fresh rosemary
1/3-1/2 c sugar (optional, I preferred it without)

Combine the wine, spices, and sugar (if using). Cover tightly and let infuse at room temperature for 24 hours before you plan to serve it.

Strain out spices before serving using a metal or cloth strainer.

The first scent that reaches my nose is rosemary, then cinnamon, then the aroma of the wine itself. The cloves, pepper, and nutmeg all appear in the first sip. Within hours of first pouring it, the hippocras was all gone. The neighbors that stopped in to taste it loved it. One likened it to a brandy cocktail. Another thought the spice flavors were similar to Charoset, the fruit paste from the Passover seder. We all preferred the unsweetened hippocras. In this, we are probably unlike May’s original audience who had quite a sweet-tooth.

Other ways to make Hippocras
May’s recipe adds the flavors of spice and sweetness to red wine. Other Hippocras recipes take a range of approaches. I’ve also recently tested Mary Baumfylde’s recipe for White Hippocras from Folger V.a.456 for another essay I’m working on. This recipe uses a “milk punch” method to clarify and strain the hippocras. After the initial infusion, milk is added. It curdles and the curdled milk solids are strained out along with the spices. This made a very tasty drink, but I could not taste any of the characteristics of the wine at the base. These hippocras recipes below are all promising, but all showcase fewer of the original wine’s characteristics due to the addition of lemon juice, other alcohol such as sack, or milk.
This white wine and sack Hypocrass is from Elisabeth Hawar’s recipe book now held at the Clark Library in fMS.1975.003. It is likely that Elisabeth, or another owner, lived in East London as the book includes manuscript directions to places in Shoreditch and Spitalfields.

To Make Hypocrass

Take 3 pints of white wine & a quart of Sack & a
pinte of milk, Sinamon 2 oz Ginger 1 oz of Nutmegs
2/1 an oz beaten of Cloves halfe a pennyworth, 2 t of
powder shuger or else all the spice & shuger must be
steeped in the Sack all night, Red Rose water 6 spoonefull
one bunch of Rosemary & 3 bay leaves lett it run throw
a bagg till it be as clear as rock water

This recipe from Judith Bedingfield’s manuscript at UPenn (Ms. Codex 631) is driven by orange flavors, includes apples (pippen), and uses the milk punch method. The wine infuses with the sweetness and the spices and once the milk is added it curdles. When the curdled solids are removed, the mixture is clarified and flavorful.

To Make good Hippocras, red or White

To Make the Quantity of two Quarts, you must take two Quarts of good French White Wine
or Red Wine is much better if it be of a very good Red: on the said two Quarts of wine you’ll
put a Pound of Loaf sugar, the Juice of two Lemons, seven or eight thin Slices of Sevill
orange peel, if you have any Portugal Oranges you’ll put in the Juice of one, with ten
or twelve Zests, or thin Slices of the Peel of the same Orange. if you have none there needs
none. you’ll  put also on the said two Quarts  of wine one Dram of Cinnamon broke a little
four Cloves broke in two, a Leaf or two of mace, five or six Grains of White Pepper, half
broken, & a small handful of Coriander seeds, also half broken or beaten, half a golden Pippen
or, if small, a whole one, peel’d & cut into Slices, & half a Pint of good Milk: then stir them
well together with a spoon, & strain it through a clear straining Bag,  untill it comes clear;
& when it is very clear & transparent, make it run into a jug or any thing else that you’ll
cover with a strainer (that is named Stamine) & so let it run through that into your jug:
then take, on the Point of a Knife, some musk & Amber Powder. #

Alternatively, this recipe from UPenn LJS 165 uses all sack, a sweet wine from Spain or Portugal and precursor to modern sherry.

Hippocris to make

Take 1/2 a pound of Curran seed 3 ounces of long pepper
6 ounces of Cinamon: 2 Ounces of ginger 1 ounce of Nutm[eg]
a Sprig of Rosemary a Lemon Sliced 6 quarts of of Skimed mi[lk]
but not Sower, 6 pound of cleane suger 6 gallons of sack steep
(but the Milke and suger) in the sack 6 dayes Stir it twice or th[xx]
a day put it into a large Tub & poure in the Milke leasurely th[xx]
stirring the sack very fast putting in the suger into the Tub before
let it run through the bag

Lady Grace Castleton’s recipe book Folger Ms. V.a.600 includes a receipt “To make Hipochras” from a “Lady Cauendishe.” This version includes cardamon and, like the previous examples, starts with white wine and is strained with milk.

To make Hipochras L[ady] Chauendishe 85
Take a pound of white lump sugar, two ounces
of symonan, a quarter of ounce of gingar, &
a quarter of an ounce of cloves, bruse these
spices, & put them with the sugar to steep in
a gallon of good white wine, stir them
well together, & lett them stand all night clos
covered in astone pott, in the mourning putt
halfe a pint of new milk in’t, & lett it run
through a jellye bagg, wetting it first in
milkwringe it out again, Lett it
run through the bag, soo often till it be cliar
taste stronge of the spices, a few cardemum
seedes a mongst the spices will give it agood
taste.

Hippocras took many forms. Enlivened with spices and fruit, enhanced with strong sack, or tempered with dairy, Hippocras recipes were designed to healthfully and deliciously amend premodern wines. Despite what Lukacs and others suggest about early modern cooks using spices to amend spoiled wines, the Castleton and Bedingfield recipes insist on starting with good wines. That way, the resulting spiced wines will be as delicious and efficacious as possible.

Special thanks to Daniel Veraldi and T. Edward Wines for supplying the Clovis 2016 Côtes du Rhône.

 

Turnips and carrots, For a ffridays dish of meat

Half of the cookbooks in my house are out. They’re opened to enticing recipes and stuffed with paper bookmarks. My spouse and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and our imaginations are running wild. Thankfully, we’ll have some help from guests with crucial dishes.

Turnips

Since the early modern recipe books that I’m researching are from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, they do not dwell on Thanksgiving in the same way that they celebrate holidays like Christmas or even seasonal changes associated with planting and harvest. These recipe books show the slow importation and integration of ingredients from the Americas such as chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes, rice, and, of course, sugar, but you won’t find cranberry sauce or pecan pie. These family manuscripts do, however, include many dishes that would be welcome on a Thanksgiving table. I’ve been looking back over recipes on this site for carrot pudding, caraway buns, macaroni cheese, and stewed peas that will compliment the yams, green beans, and turkey.

This turnip and carrot side dish that I found in Lettice Pudsey recipe book, now  Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a.450, fits the bill. Pudsey includes the date 1675 in her cookbook and the recipes in it are a range of late seventeenth-century favorites. These savory and flavorful root vegetables make a delicious dish to be served with roast meat or on its own.

Original Recipe

For a ffridays dish of meat : /
tack turnipes whit & cleane washed; & if you pleas a
carriot or tow amongst them ffinely minced: putt them
into a dish with butter uppone a chafing dish of coles: then
beatt seauen or eight Egges togather very well: & stire them
with the turnipes until the beegin to harden: & thereto
putt uiniger & peper : /

Turnips sometimes get bad press, but they’re packed with flavor and grow wonderfully throughout Europe and Asia where they have been cultivated for ages. Deborah Madison’s brilliant cookbook Vegetable Literacy and my spouse’s roasting efforts have taught me to love these humble root vegetables. Vinegar elevates this dish and harmonizes the flavors. The butter and eggs compliment the turnip’s sharp flavors and the carrots add sweetness. To learn more about how our carrots became sweet and orange, listen to this fascinating episode of the Gastropod podcast that blew my mind earlier this month.

Updated Recipe

I roughly halved the original recipe to make this in a small casserole dish. This dish can easily be prepared in advance. It reheats beautifully in an oven or microwave.

3 turnips
2 carrots
3T butter
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1t apple cider vinegar (or other light vinegar)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Prepare a buttered casserole dish.

Clean and peel the turnips. Cut them in half and then in pieces. The number of pieces will depend on the size of your turnips, but the resulting pieces should be bite size.

Clean the carrots. Peel them if you prefer to do so. Cut into rounds 1/4 inch thick.

Put the vegetables in the prepared dish. Season with pepper and salt. Dollop the butter on top of the vegetables. Pour the eggs over the dish evenly and allow to settle amongst the vegetables.

Bake for about 50 minutes until the eggs are starting to set and the vegetables soften. Add the vinegar. Cook about 20 minutes more until the dish is golden and bubbling and the vegetables are tender when poked with a fork.

turnips

The Results

This is comfort food: rich, flavorful, sweet, savory, and satisfying. The eggs and butter mollify the turnips without disguising their distinct tang. Carrots and vinegar add brightness to a dish that would otherwise be stodgy. These turnips and carrots would stand up alongside roast beef, a cooked chicken, pork sausages, or even, roast turkey.

Toast: for the weakness of the back

I visited the Folger Shakespeare Library a few times over the summer to develop updated recipes for an upcoming exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas. I cannot wait to share these recipes with you this winter. If you live in DC or plan to visit, make sure you check this out!

As I looked at printed books and manuscripts that had been selected for display in the exhibition, I had the pleasure of revisiting Margaret Baker’s recipe book, Folger V.a.619. I’ve previously worked on this book with undergraduate researchers and I wrote about it here. Reading through the manuscript again, I noticed a medicinal recipe that looked decidedly scrumptious: toasted manchet bread with egg and spices. As a devotee of toast in all its glorious forms, I knew I had to test this one.

The Recipe

This recipe is “for the weakness of the back” and calls for bread, egg yolk, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  These spices are known for their warming and energizing qualities. From my preliminary research on humoral medical treatments, I gather that the cinnamon and nutmeg might strengthen a phlegmatic patient by warming the body and reducing phlegm. The instruction to eat this first thing in the morning might help the patient disperse phlegm that had accumulated in the back of the body overnight.

for the weakness of the back
take 2 tostes of manchets the take the yolke of a new lead egge
and spread itt uppon the tosts and flinge uppon itt the powder of
sinemen and nutmegge and let the party eate of it first in the
morninge

I tested this recipe on a chilly morning and quickly devoured a slice with a cup of coffee. Somewhere between French toast and cinnamon toast, the combination of the rich egg yolks and the warming spices was delightful.

The original recipe calls for raw egg on toasted bread sprinkled with spices. I assume that bread toasted on a hearth would be quite hot and would interact with the yolk. Cooking mine in a skillet on a conventional stove, I opted to add butter and cook the eggy side of the bread, too. This is a recipe I would love to try again on a hearth or open fire. I hope some of you do so and tell me about it in the comments!

toast

Updated Recipe

serves 1-2

2 pieces of bread
2 egg yolks
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
1 T butter

Heat a heavy pan and add the butter. (I used a cast ion skillet.) Toast one side of the bread in the butter, then flip.

Mix the egg yolks with the spices. Spoon over the first, toasted side. Flip when the bottom is toasted and quickly cook the eggy side.

Eat immediately.

To Order Mushromes

Last week, I spent a few hours typing up recipes that were originally written in a  lovely, erratic cursive in Jane Dawson‘s cookbook. Dawson’s manuscript cookbook is held at the Folger Shakespeare Library, but I was transcribing recipes into readable pixels alongside students and colleagues on my campus as well as participants located all over the country and around the world. This year’s  “Transcribathon” was both successful and energizing.  We completely transcribed Dawson’s book and, as you may remember from my previous discussions of early modern handwriting, this is not a small achievement. Participants were also inspired to try some of Dawson’s recipes in a Cook-Along. Both the original transcription event and subsequent cook-along were organized by the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective, ie. EMROC.
How could I say no to a Cook-Along? Although the coordinators suggested trying a recipe for Lemon Wafers, I was intrigued by a mushroom recipe that I’d transcribed: “To Order Mushromes.” First of all, the recipe sounded tasty. Mushrooms with onions, herbs, and spices? What could be more delicious and comforting as the temperature dropped and the autumnal equinox came and went? But I was also intrigued by Dawson’s use of “order” as  a culinary verb. I imagined regimented mushrooms aligned in neat rows on a cutting broad or chopped into impossibly regular slices.  Of course, none of these senses of “order” operate in Dawson’s recipe. Instead, as the Oxford English Dictionary informed me, Dawson was using an obsolete definition, “To put in order or readiness (for a purpose); to make ready, prepare,” that was often used in culinary contexts. This lovely dish is not especially orderly, but it is a wonderfully simple preparation for mushrooms.
Original Recipe
To order Mushromes
Take mushrums pill them & wash them well in salt & water then
put them in a pewter dish with a little water sume sweet hearbs an
onyon; some mace cloves & whole peper, let them stew betwixt
two dishes about half an houre: then put to them some strong
broth mixed with yolkes of Eggs & sarve it up
Slowly cook the mushrooms with seasonings. Then flavor the rich broth with stock and egg yolks. A simple and delicious mushroom preparation.  I decided to use the “sweet herbs” sage and thyme because both are going wild in my container garden right now.

Updated Recipe

16 oz baby Bella mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, sliced
thyme, 8 sprigs fresh
sage, 2 sprigs fresh
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t mace
1/4 t cloves
2 c water
1 c broth (vegetable or meat based)
2 egg yolks

Chop the mushrooms and onion. Put these vegetables, the fresh herbs, seasonings, and water into a heavy pot and place on the stovetop.

Cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Then remove the lid and simmer for an additional 18 minutes. Remove the herb stalks with tongs. Add the broth and simmer for 5 minutes.

While the broth simmers, temper the egg yolks with some of the cooking liquid. This should help prevent the yolks from cooking instead of thickening your broth. Remove the pot from the heat and slowly and gently add the egg yolks.

Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

to order mushromes

The Results

Easy, satisfying, and endlessly adaptable, Dawson’s recipe for ordering mushrooms makes a wonderful main or side. I could imagine serving this alongside polenta or freshly baked biscuits. I can see myself pairing this with braised collards or a kale salad. I would eat this alongside a delicious roast chicken and creamy mashed potatoes. Dawson’s mushroom recipe is vegetarian friendly as long as you use a strong vegetable broth and you can easily make it vegan by leaving out the egg yolks.

A confession: As you might have noticed from the photos, my egg yolk turned into scrambled egg in the hot liquid despite my best efforts. Luckily, I’d planned to eat my mushrooms with toast and eggs for lunch.