Kidney-bean pufs

I’m excited to tell you about three things today: Kidney-bean pufs (a tasty vegetarian dish), Folger Shakespeare Library manuscript V.b.380 (a recipe book that I’ve been investigating alongside students and collaborators since January), and an upcoming event in Philadelphia (organized by my students).

Kidney beans

As someone who loves eating beans, greens, and other vegetables, I’m always on the lookout for delicious vegetarian recipes in manuscript cookbooks. Kidney-bean pufs caught my eye when I was paging through the manuscript in the library a few weeks ago. I can’t resist a good fritter and I thought (correctly) that they would make a great vegetarian side dish or appetizer for upcoming holiday gatherings.

Beans were a staple of early modern diets, especially for those avoiding meat during the Lent season. In Food in Early Modern Europe, Ken Albala explains the complex class implications of beans and bean-eating. He writes, “…they were associated with poverty, and few sophisticated diners would condescend to eat beans for fear of debasement. For everyone else though, beans were critical for survival. When dried they could last through the winter and be boiled into soups, mashed and cooked into more substantial dishes with many ingredients. They were one of the most frequently eaten foods throughout the early modern period” (27). Necessary, if déclassé, beans were a dietary staple.

Europeans were excited to add new world beans, such as green beans, to their diets alongside old world beans such as fava beans, black-eyed peas, peas, chickpeas, and lentils (Albala 27-8). And, of course, Europeans were not the only people sustained by beans. Michael Twitty’s delicious recipe for akara, black-eyed pea fritters, is a powerful reminder of the food traditions that enslaved Africans brought with them to the Americas (as Amanda Herbert writes in this post for the Folger’s First Chefs exhibition).

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Until recently, my students knew more about the source of this bean recipe – Folger manuscript V.b.380 – than I did. A few years ago, I made a chocolate cream from the manuscript, but, as a group, my students completed a full transcription of the manuscript between January and August. One by one, they have copied out every word on every page. It’s been a pleasure to learn from them and alongside them. They told me about the frequent appearance of the name “anne Western” (a later owner who may have been preparing this manuscript for publication as a printed cookbook), notes about recipe donors and medical authorities, the distinct handwriting of particular users or contributors, the decorated clasps that can hold the manuscript closed, sections that contained more medicinal or more culinary recipes, the wax seals stamped on the book’s cover, and last, but not least, the beautiful calligraphy in the book: the flourishes, lines, and decorations in black and red ink on display in the image above.

A few weeks ago, the students selected recipes for us to cook together and I developed updated recipes that we tested, tweaked, and ate. It is my pleasure to say we’ll be serving Almond Pudding (tartlets) and Knotts (spiced cookies) at our upcoming event in Philadelphia and I’ll be sharing the recipes here soon. We decided to call this event “A Taste of 1677,” the year to which we can date the manuscript’s paper. In addition to learning about the manuscript from prepared posters, digital images of the original manuscript, and conversations with student researchers, we will also invite guests to smell medicinal remedies, handle herbs, taste recreated recipes, and try out writing in secretary hand with goose quills and iron gall ink.

In the meantime, whether you’ve added this event to your calendar or are on the other side of the world, you can try this recipe for puffs.

Original Recipe

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Kidney-bean pufs

anne}
Western

Take a quart of Kidney-beans Boyle them till they be
enough, then drain them & beat them in a Morter; and 6 Eggs
the whites of 3, a pint of Cream, a little yeast & a little drawn
Butter, with fflour to make it of a convenient thickness
then beat them altogether and fry them. G 1712

Anne Western may have been using V.b.380 to organize her thoughts for the production of a printed cookbook or another manuscript recipe book. This specific recipe, like many others, is marked with her name. The recipe is also marked with the year 1712, a rarer feature for this manuscript, that may denote that it was prepared in that year.

Although this recipe is relatively simple, it raises a few questions about cooking beans and leavening puffs. In the process of updating this recipe I consulted The Spruce guide to dried bean conversions as well as the bean section in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook EverythingI made the recipe with both dried kidney beans and with canned kidney beans. Although I preferred the texture and depth of saltiness in the dried bean version, the canned bean version was also great and much quicker to prepare. In addition, the recipe calls for yeast, but not for letting the puffs rise. I added yeast to one batch and left it out rise on my counter for two hours. I also made an un-yeasted batch. In the end, the batters behaved the same way during frying and the eggs ultimately provided most of the rise to the finished puffs. I’ve left the yeast out in the recipe below, but you are welcome to add it back in and play with longer rising times. Let me know how your experiments go in the comments.

cooked beans versus dried beans

Updated Recipe

1 cup dry kidney beans or 3 cups canned kidney beans (2 15 oz cans)
1 egg and 1 egg white
1/2 c heavy cream
2T butter, melted (plus 2T for frying the puffs)
1/4 c flour
salt
pepper

Dry Beans –  Put 1 c dried beans in a small pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Then add 1/2 t salt and turn down heat to low. Simmer covered, stirring every 15 minutes or so until the beans are tender. For me, this took an hour. It might take as little as a half hour if your beans have spent less time in the kitchen cupboard or on the supermarket shelf. Alternatively, it might take longer than an hour. Once cooked, drain the beans. The cooking liquid can be saved to use in soups and stews.

Canned Beans – Drain and rinse the beans.

Heat a skillet or large frying pan.

Roughly mash the beans in a large bowl with a potato masher or large fork. Add the eggs, cream, and melted butter. Season with ground pepper, any additional flavorings you like,  and, if using canned beans, 1/2 t salt.

Add butter to the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Dollop the puff batter into the skillet using a 1T measure for “appetizer sized” puffs. For larger puffs, use 2-3T batter per puff. Cook for 1 minute on each side until golden brown and slightly crispy.

Serve hot.

Kidney-bean pufs

The Results

Satisfying, lightly fried, and substantial, Kidney-bean pufs are a welcome accompaniment to hearty fall dishes. The browned butter and bean base gives them a nutty flavor. Since their base is fairly simple, you might consider adding another spice to the puff mix such as thyme or coriander.

It would be very easy to make this recipe gluten free by substituting chickpea flour, rice flour, or a gluten-free mix for the wheat flour that functions as a binder. I also think a vegan version could be easily achieved with oil, non-dairy milk, an egg replacement mix, and perhaps the addition of more flour if the mixture isn’t binding as effectively.

If frying fritters or puffs right before company comes over is a daunting prospect, you can make these in advance. I learned long ago from Deb Perleman’s Smitten Kitchen that reheating puffs like these on a baking sheet in a 325F oven before serving is a great party strategy.

I would like to thank the students (past and present) in my What’s in a Recipe? independent study (run through the Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities program); my collaborators Christina Riehman-Murphy and Heather Froehlich; and Shivanni Selvaraj and the PSU Outreach Seeding Change Engagement Grant for supporting my students in their research, event planning, and engagement with  Philadelphia.  

To make India Curry

 

This recipe for “To make India Curry” has been on my “to cook” list for five year and I’m pleased to report that it is a subtle, satisfying, and delicious dish. Mitch Fraas brought the recipe to my attention in 2014 (!) and I’ve been cooking from and researching the manuscript, UPenn Ms. Codex 644 Grandmama Frankland’s recipe book, on and off since early 2015. But until this past spring, I was stumped by the reference to “India mixture” in the recipe. This “India Curry” was missing a crucial element: curry!

The word “curry” – “A preparation of meat, fish, fruit, or vegetables, cooked with a quantity of bruised spices and turmeric” – came into English from the Tamil word “kari” and the Kannada word “karil” that the Portugese rendered as “caril” and early modern English and French speakers called “cari” (OED). Curry powder was sold in London in the nineteenth century, but this recipe is a bit early for “India Mixture” to be sold premixed.  After spending a lot more time with Ms. Codex 644, I realized that the answer had been under my nose all along. There is a Curry Powder recipe in the manuscript that I believe is meant to be used in an array of recipes in the book. It took me a good deal of looking to confirm that this recipe is in the same hand as the other recipes that call for pre-mixed curry powder of some kind. (Reader, you may also be interested in this Gastropod episode about curry that touches on the history of the powdered spice.)

Original Recipes

 

Cap[tai]n Pearse

To make India Curry
Cut 2 Chickens in small pieces,
wash them very clean, then let them
simmer a very little while in water
while they simmer fry a few onions
Brown in Butter: Then put the
Chickens with the water they simmerd
in into a stew pan, put to them
the fried onions, & one tea spoonfull
of the India Mixture, & a tea spoonful
of Mushroom powder: & when stew’d
enough Serve up. with a plate of
Rice boild in the following manner.
Wash & pick y[ou]r Rice very clean
Then put it into y[ou]r Sauce pan
with a very little water over a slow
fire, when the Scum rises,  Skim
it clean, then cover it up close
& let it boil very slow, when t[is]
done enough turn it out in
a Bason, press out the water &
Then Turn the Bason over a Dish
& let it come up in the shape of
the Bason.

To make Curry Powder
Of pounded Turmeric 1 Tea spoonful
Of pounded Dunia one Tea spoonful
Of pounded Red pepper one tea spoonful
Of pounded Ginger one knob
Of pounded Onions 2 chattachs of
Garlic a tea spoonful of pounded
No ( Bay leaves 2 leaves

The curry powder is more of a curry paste since it includes fresh onion and garlic. In my updated version, I used fresh ginger and powdered turmeric because that’s what I had to hand, but I’d love to hear from anyone who tries fresh turmeric here. Dunia is an English transliteration of the Hindi word for coriander. I’ve also used ghee – butter with the solids removed – to sear the chicken before boiling as the original recipe instructs. Ghee is a traditional ingredient in Indian cuisine and I had some to hand. I did not try the trick for molding the rice into a dome because it was pretty crazy in my kitchen already, but I’d love to see results if you do! Finally, I used a whole chicken here because that’s what I tend to buy and, of course, what the original recipe calls for. You could also use a mix of chicken thighs, legs, and boneless breasts. I’ve included instructions for making chicken stock as well as stock comes in handy for this recipe and so many others.

 

Updated Recipes

Curry Paste

1T powdered turmeric
1T coriander seed
1 T red chili pepper flakes
1 2-inch knob ginger, peeled
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves

Chop the ginger, onion, and garlic into small pieces. Either blitz in a food processor or bound with a mortar and pestle until a (somewhat) smooth paste forms. (I mixed my batch by hand and there were still some visible pieces of onion.)

Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Use within a month.

Chicken Curry 

(Serves 4 if accompanied by rice and cooked greens)

1 chicken, fresh or defrosted (or equivalent, mixed precut chicken)
1T ghee (or neutral cooking oil)
2 onions
2T butter
1T curry paste
1/2 cup mushroom broth (made from mushroom powder or dried mushrooms)
1t salt

Cut up the chicken so you have two leg/thigh pieces, two breasts, and two wing pieces. Slice two onions.

(Optional: Put the chicken carcass, any innards that may have come with the chicken, and the tops of your onions in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer while you make the curry. You can use this very flavorful stock in place of chicken cooking water later in the recipe and you can even use this stock to make your mushroom broth. Alternatively, you can make a batch of chicken soup or fill your freezer with about a gallon of stock.)

Heat ghee or neutral cooking oil in a large skillet or frying pan. Sear the chicken on both sides, 1 minute per side. Depending on the size of your chicken, you may need to do this in batches.

Heat 2T butter in the same pan and cook the onions on a medium heat for 15 minutes until brown and soft. While the onions are cooking, put the seared chicken pieces in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Then turn the temperature down, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Prepare your mushroom broth while the chicken and onions are cooking.

Remove the chicken from the water, reserve the cooking water, and place the chicken pieces in the skillet with the onions. Add the curry paste by coating one side of the chicken pieces with it. Sprinkle the salt over the chicken. Pour in the mushroom broth and two cups of the chicken cooking water (or optional stock from your stockpot). Simmer for 5 minutes, flip the chicken pieces, and simmer for 5 more minutes (or until the chicken is fully cooked).

Serve with cooked rice and  greens for a full meal.

 

The Results

Since the curry paste is added so late in the cooking process, the flavor is mild and floral. When I ate the curry for lunch it was tasty: When I served it to my spouse Joseph for dinner with a side of cooked mustard greens it was even better. Later in the week, the flavors were even more potent, but still floral. This is a great dish to make ahead.

I’d like to thank Joseph Malcomson for taste-testing and helping me figure out if the recipe called for dunia or mentioned a merchant (bunia).

Lemmon Cream

Luscious lemon cream does not necessarily require “cream.” The gorgeous texture of this lemon cream is the product of eggs, lemon juice, low heat, and gentle stirring. Emulsification creates a delectable, tart, floral pudding.

 

I had the pleasure of testing this recipe using Clark Library lemons with the help of guests at an event earlier this summer. (The same event where we tested The (Rosewater) Ice Cream.) The original recipe is from Margarett Greene’s recipe book (f MS.1980.004), dated 1701, now held in the Clark collections. 

The Recipe

Lemmon Cream.jpg

Lemmon Cream
Take the white of 7 & the Yolke of 3 Egg, beat them very well & put to
them the Peel of one & juice of two Lemmons Stir it Soundly & put
in half a porringer of Rosewater & the like Quantity of fair
water, Sweeten it to your Tast, then Straine it & sett it on th
Fyre, & keep it Constantly Stirring untill it bee as Thick as
as you desire to have it.

After reading this recipe (and a few recipes for Lemon Cream in other books), I decided to follow a method similar for making Lemon Curd. I also investigated porringers, early modern cups that varied somewhat in volume. Food historian Ken Albala uses 3/4 cup as an approximate porringer measure in one of his accounts of recipe reconstruction and I followed his lead (81).

 

Updated Recipe

7 eggs (7 whites, 3 yolks)
2 lemons (zest 1, juice 2)
¼ c rosewater
¼ c water
½ c sugar

Zest one lemon into a small mixing bowl. (You can also peel the lemon and finely chop the peel.) Add the juice of the lemon that you zested and the juice of a second lemon. Add the rosewater and water. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Transfer the mixture into a saucepan.

Separate seven eggs. In a large bowl, combine seven egg whites and three egg yolks. Add the eggs to the lemon mix. 

Over a low heat, whisk the lemon cream as it thickens for approximately 20 minutes.

Chill before serving.

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lemon cream

The Results

Sharp with lemon, fragrant with rosewater, and just sweetened enough with sugar, this lemon cream delighted Clark Library guests, fellows, and staff alike. Although it does require some attention on the stove and careful egg-separating, its relatively easy to prepare.

When I make this again, I’ll chill it in a prepared graham-cracker crust.

Jasmine (Jessimin) butter

This recipe only has two ingredients – jasmine flowers and butter. When I first read the recipe in the Hornyold family manuscript at the Clark Library (MS.2012.011), I knew that jasmine was blooming in the garden outside. It was the perfect occasion to try it.

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Jessimin butter

The Hornyolds were a well-established Catholic family. They began keeping this recipe book in the 1660s and a few of the recipes included show connections to their religion through mentions of feast and fast days and references to the liturgical calendar, such as this recipe “To pott mushrooms to keep till Lent.”

Although “Jessimin butter” does not appear to be connected to the family’s confessional identity, it does include seasonal notes. Ideally, this recipe should be made with “the first may-butter” and, of course, freshly flowering jasmine. I highly recommend that you make this butter when jasmine is in bloom.

The Recipe

Jasmine butter.jpgJessimin-butter.
Take some of the first may-butter, & wash it out of
the salt & buttermilk;, then spread it thin on 2 pewter
dishes fill one dish with: Jessimin-flowers & cover it with
the other; you must change the flowers every day
or 2, & now & then take off the butter, & lay it on again.
when you find it perfumed enough, put it up in pots.

 

Updated Recipe

1/2 cup butter (I used Kerrygold cultured, salted butter)

1 cup jasmine flowers, loose

Two plates with rounded edges that can hold material between them

Divide the butter in half as slice it thinly. Spread, place, or arrange the butter onto the two plates.

Put the jasmine flowers on top of the butter on one plate. Cover with the other.

Rest at room temperature overnight.

Spread on hot toast in the morning.

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Jessimin butter

Infused with the heady scent of jasmine, the butter delighted my senses as I spread it on my morning toast. I could smell the flavor much more than I could taste it.

When I shared the butter with colleagues at the library, they were struck by how strong the scent was after one night. They were also eager to take some home.

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Jessimin butter

The Ice Cream.

Elisabeth Hawar wrote her name in the front of her recipe book and dated her collection 1687. She also wrote two addresses in the Shoreditch and Spitalfields East London neighborhoods inside the front cover. These tantalizing biographical and geographical details link her manuscript, now held at UCLA’s William Andrews Clark Library (fMS.1975.003), to the thriving mercantile communities of London’s East End in the aftermath of the Restoration and the Great Fire.

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When I first saw this book in the reading room, I was equally excited about her recipe for “The Ice Cream.” In the five years that I’ve been testing recipes for this site, I’d never tried a receipt for ice cream even though I experiment with modern ice cream whenever the temperature rises above 85F each summer.

The Recipe

Clark, ice cream 1.jpgClark, ice cream 2.jpg

(37) The Ice Cream./
Take a quart of good Cream sweeten it with
sugar Rosewater or what you please you must have
little tin things which are made on purpose for Ice
cream, first put your Cream into the tin things, do the
cover close on then, & do it up close with butter
about the edge of the cover then take 4 ll [pounds] of ice
lay clean Cloth on the ground & with a hammer
break the Ice in pieces then have some Roach Allom
& bay salt strew this on the Ice beat the Allom small
Then have an earthen pot, put some of the Ice in the
bottom of the pot, then put in the tin things with the
Cream, & lay all the Ice about them that they may
stand fast in the pott, & cover them all over with Ice
then lay the Cloath over the pot which the Ice was
broken on, so set in a Cold celler let it stand one
hour then take it out of the tin panns, put it on silver
plates so serve it up./

The original recipe describes a detailed method for sealing the flavored cream in “tin things” that were especially made for ice cream, breaking the ice and using salt to alter its temperature, and chilling the cream in an “earthen pot” in the cellar. Since the recipe does not describe churning – which radically changes the crystallization of the frozen cream – the texture would have been rather different than the churned, updated version below. If you recreate the recipe using the original method, please let me know how it goes in the comments!

Tasting my updated recipe, below, you might notice that the ice cream has a slightly different texture than some of your favorites. Modern American ice cream falls into two main camps – custard-based (which includes eggs) or cream-based (which is egg-free). This recipe is cream-based and when I was reworking the proportions I used Melissa Clark’s recipe for egg-free ice cream as a guide. (I also may have texture on my mind because I’ve been editing a series on the topic for The Recipes Project with Amanda Herbert.)

Updated Recipe

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3 T rosewater
3/4 c sugar

Heat cream and milk in a sauce pan. Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add rose water.

Put mixture in the refrigerator to chill for approximately 30 minutes, or until the mixture is no longer warm to the touch.

Use ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s specifications. (For my KitchenAid ice cream maker, this involves freezing the bowl for 12+ hours before using and churning the ice cream on “stir” for 20 minutes.)

Put the mixture into a container to chill in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Results

Subtly flavored with rosewater and sweetened with sugar, this ice cream is simple and refreshing. If you have an ice cream maker and some lead-time, it’s a perfect dessert for a summer gathering.

I was thrilled to share this recipe with participants in the Clark’s “Antique Ice Cream Social” event last month. During the test-tasting, a few participants who expressed a general dislike for rosewater found that this recipe passed muster. It didn’t taste “soapy” or overly perfumed. (You can watch a clip of me talking about ice-cream making here.)

 

Frittars of Eggs and herbes 

This version of this post first appeared on the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare and Beyond blog.

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Frittars of eggs and herbs

Food is intimately connected to climate and season. It was for Shakespeare and his contemporaries: It is for us today. Beautiful, local produce is once again available in the northeast now that spring is turning into early summer.

In Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, Berowne insists that all things have their season “At Christmas I no more desire a rose / Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled shows, / But like of each thing that in season grows (1.1.109-111). Roses do not thrive in winter; snow should not fall in May; Berowne appreciates all things in their proper season. In a recent New York Times article on food, diet, and climate, the authors concur about eating seasonally: “Anything that’s in season where you live, whether you buy it at a local farmers’ market or at a supermarket, is usually a good choice.” Early modern farmers and cooks often used almanacs to determine when it was the best time to harvest, preserve, and consume particular foods. (Read more about almanacs in this post by Katie Walker and learn more about diet regimes from Ken Albala’s book Eating Right in the Renaissance.)

A recipe book held at the Folger attributed to a Mrs. Knight from the eighteenth century lists “garden stuff in season” for the months of May through December (W.b.79, 54). Knight was concerned with what was in season in her garden and when it would be available to cook and preserve.

garden stuff in season, cropped

W.b.79, 54

may: asparagus colliflowers silesia lettice cucumbers
peas bean artichokes scarlot strawberries kidney beens
Distill herbs this month
June: as above with dutch cabbagas melons young onions
carrots parsnups seleisia & cass Lettice
Jullys: pease beans kidney bean colliflowers cabbages
artickoes cabbage lettice & then sproonions cucumbers
carrots turnups musk mellons wood strawberrys
August: cabbages and their sprouts colliflower Articokes
cabbage lettice carrots onionspotatoes turnups some beans
peas & kidney beans reddishes horse raddish onions
cucumbers for pickling garlick melons

In her list for May, she notes that asparagus, lettuce, and strawberries are in season. She also remarks that this is the ideal month to distill herbs into tonics and waters for medicinal and culinary uses throughout the year. All the items for May are still in season in June and they are joined by melons, young onions, and Dutch cabbages. In August, she notes that cucumbers for pickling are ripe and, perhaps, that pickling should commence to preserve those vegetables.

When I have an abundance of fresh herbs and vegetables, I often make fritters or frittata to quickly transform seasonal ingredients into something tasty and nutritious. Deb Perelman writes on Smitten Kitchen that a dish of zucchini fritters was inspired by “the zucchinis that seem to be growing in my fridge this summer; I never remember buying them but they’re always around.” I was excited to see a recipe for “Frittars of Eggs and herbes” in another Folger recipe book from the seventeenth century attributed to Lettice Pudsey (V.a.450, 2v)

The Recipe

128527

Frittars of Eggs and herbes
Take persle peneriall and Margerum the quantity
of a handfull finly choped put to them vi egges
a littell grated Bread and three or fouer sponfull
of Melted Butter beate them all togeather and
season itt with Salt and Suger Cloues and Mace
beaten then frye itt as yow doe a tansy & soe serue itt

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Frittars of eggs and herbs

Richly spiced with mace and clove and full flavorful fresh herbs, this savory fritter recipe is easy to prepare and satisfying as a main or side dish. When you have abundance of herbs and eggs to hand, this fritter will make good use of them. Serve with a bright salad, radishes, grilled asparagus, or other seasonal vegetables prepared simply.

A tansy, like a fritter, was an omelet-like egg dish that often included the herb tansy that also gave it its name. I tested this fritter mix as small fritters (about ¼ cup of the mix per fritter) and as a single, large fritter (rather like a frittata). Both were delicious. I’ve provided cooking instructions for both variations below. You might consider adding additional seasonal vegetables and reducing the amount of bread accordingly. The original recipe calls for “a littell grated Bread” and I decided to use chopped stale bread, instead of store-bought bread crumbs, for texture and binding. As small fritters and frittata, the batter soaked the bread and held together beautifully. I also left out the pennyroyal. Although it was used in early modern medicine and is still used in herbal remedies today, it can be toxic to humans and is far more difficult to procure than parsley and marjoram.

Eating seasonally requires culinary creativity. It is just this kind of creativity that Pudsey and Knight demonstrate in their recipe book and cooks today continue to explore and reinvent. By paying attention to what was growing in the garden, when it was ready to pick, and what might be done with it, Knight could make the most of her harvest. Since late spring and early summer is, in Knight’s account, a good time for harvesting and distilling seasonal herbs and Pudesy’s simple “frittar” recipe lets that abundance shine.

Updated Recipe

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side.

Parsley, one handful (approximately ½ cup) leaves and stems, washed and chopped

Marjoram or oregano, one handful (approximately ½ cup) leaves, washed and chopped

6 eggs
2 cups bread, torn or cut into small pieces
4 T melted butter, plus more for cooking
¼ t salt
1/8 t sugar
1/8 t ground cloves
1/8 t mace

Melt the butter. Set it aside and allow it to cool, Chop the greens and bread.

Lightly beat the eggs with a whisk in a large bowl and season with the salt, sugar, cloves, and mace. Stir in the parsley and marjoram. Stir in the melted butter. Stir in the bread pieces with a spoon or spatula.

To make many small fritters

Heat a large skillet, griddle, or non-stick frying pan. Grease with a small amount of butter.

Dollop fritter mix onto the pan using a ¼ cup measure. Do not crowd your fritters. Cook in batches if necessary.

Cook fritters for 2 minutes on one side and then flip them over and cook the other side for 2 minutes. They should be brown, but not burnt; cooked, but not overdone.

Serve immediately.

To make one, large fritter

Heat a 10-inch skillet or non-stick frying pan. Grease with a generous amount of butter.

Pour the fritter mix into the pan. Allow the fritter to cook undisturbed for 4 minutes. Using a spatula (or your preferred plate flipping method), turn your fritter over and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. Test the center with a skewer to ensure that the fritter cooked on the inside when it looks beautifully browned on the outside.

Slice and serve immediately.

 

Strawberr Water.

All of the references to strawberries in Samuel Pepy’s diary appear in June. In 1663, he attended a lovely dinner in Bethnal Green and remarked on the strawberries in his host’s garden: “A noble dinner, and a fine merry walk with the ladies alone after dinner in the garden, which is very pleasant; the greatest quantity of strawberrys I ever saw, and good, and a collation of great mirth.” In 1664, he records “very merry we were with our pasty, very well baked; and a good dish of roasted chickens; pease, lobsters, strawberries.” In 1668, he tipped a boy who showed him around various Oxford colleges in strawberries (costing 1s. 6.d). A few days later, he ate more strawberries in Bristol. A seasonal treat, Pepys noted seeing strawberries growing and eating them in the city and the country alike.

Last weekend, I bought my first local strawberries of the season and devoured them. This recipe for “Strawberr Water” wasn’t on my long list of things to cook, but it beckoned to me from across the page when I consulted a lemonade recipe in Judith Bedingfield’s recipe book, now UPenn Ms. Codex 631. Strawberries are in season where I live and I’m planning to eat as many as possible. Don’t worry: I’ll be making that lemonade sometime soon, too.

The Recipe

resolver-7

Strawberr Water

To a Quart of Water you must have a Pound of Strawberries, Which squeeze in the
same Water; then put in four or five ounces of sugar, & some Lemon Juice; if the
Lemons are large & juicy, one Lemon is enough to two Quarts of Water: all being well
mixed, put it through a straining Bag, then put it in a cool Place, & give it to drink

An early modern agua fresca, strawberry water is refreshing and delicious. The lemon cuts through the sugar and enhances the fresh strawberry flavor.

Updated Recipe

I decided to follow the original recipe’s instruction to strain the strawberries and remove their pulp. The strawberry water stayed nicely blended while I was preparing, sipping, and cleaning up. You might experiment with blending everything in a blender for a pulpier, quicker version of the recipe. However, the pulp might not stay suspended in the water and might gather at the bottom of your pitcher/container. (If you try it this way, please let me know in the comments!)

1 quart water
1 lb strawberries
4 oz sugar (1/2 cup)
juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)

Wash the strawberries, remove their stems, and chop them. Smash the strawberries with a potato masher, heavy spoon, or other promising kitchen tool. Transfer to a wire-mesh strainer and leave to drain. By mashing the strawberries into the strainer with a flat wooden spoon, I produced about 1 cup of strawberry juice.

Stir the sugar and lemon juice into the water until the sugar dissolves in a jug or other large container. Add the strawberry juice.

Serve chilled or over ice. Garnish with mint or lemon.

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strawberr water

The Results

Shockingly pink and delightfully refreshing, this strawberry water would be a big hit for any brunch, picnic, or party. I could see increasing the lemon juice for added sharpness or spiking it with vodka for extra, boozy festivity.

to friy oyesters

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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.

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.