To make Cordial Pepper Water

I enjoy a well-made cocktail. My delight in trying new mixed drinks — be they zesty, floral, fruity, smoky, refreshing, or bracing — has me on the hunt for interestingly-flavored beverage recipes as I turn the pages of these manuscripts. I pass over many recipes that require distillation or brewing equipment that was commonplace in early modern households: I relish attempting Ramboose, cold posset, sack posset, lemon posset, and cherry brandy.

I’ve been grappling with this recipe for “Cordial Pepper Water” from UPenn MS Codex 1038 since I saw it in June 2017. Alyssa and I have cooked so many recipes from this manuscript that it feels like a tried and true source (see the full list here) . Even so, I found this receipt challenging and disconcerting. I almost gave up on it. I’m glad that I finished the second infusion and shared it with my cocktail-enthusiast friends Sarah and Ryan as well as my spouse Joseph. They were a curious audience and helped me devise the second drink recipe included below.

The Recipe

To make Cordial Pepper Water.
Take two gallons of very good Brandy, and a peck of Poppies and put them
together in a wide mouth’d glass, and let it stand forty Eight hours, then strain
the Poppies out, take a pound of Raisons of the Sun, stone them, and an Ounce
of Coriander Seed, an Ounce of sweet Fennel Seed, and an Ounce of Liquorish
Sliced, bruize them all together, and let them stand four or Eight Weekes
shaking it every day, then strain it off, and Bottle it close up for use.

After reading this recipe, you might say “STOP! This is a recipe for drugs!” And, in a sense, it is. This recipe shares many similarities with other receipts for “poppy water” a soothing concoction of alcohol and poppy flowers that might induce sleep or settle an uneasy stomach. Ben Breen writes about preparing and consuming a similar recipe from Hopestill Brett’s manuscript (UPenn MS Codex 626) which induced a “noticeable glow of wellbeing … attributable to the traces of opiates in poppy seeds.” These tonics are designed to be healthful as well as flavorful.

Early modern recipe books do not distinguish between food and medicine, sustenance and drugs, and I decided to brew this cordial with an eye to its origins as well as its current usefulness. Why does one consume a cocktail after all? To excite the appetite before a meal, calm the stomach afterward, celebrate, induce intoxication.

Our Recipe

I prepared 1/16th of the original amount because 2 gallons of brandy is a lot of brandy to use in an experiment. To sort out the amounts, I used the Manuscript Cookbooks Survey‘s helpful glossary and I’m pleased that the next time I tackle a recipe like this I will have the new Folgerpedia guide on Early Modern Measurements to help me. I also substituted poppy seeds for the poppy flowers (as Breen did). The poppy seeds absorbed almost a full cup of the brandy during the first infusion. This flummoxed me and sent me into a long quandary about whether or not this was a failure or part of the recipe’s design. Ultimately,  I decided it would be better to finish the second infusion rather than to simply throw the brandy away. And I’m happy I made that decision! I also skipped the licorice root (because, I’m ashamed to admit,  I did not realize how easy it was to procure in dried form until the infusion process was already underway.) If you are intrigued by this recipe, I urge you to prepare your own version that embellishes or amends what I describe below.

1 pint brandy
1 2/3 c poppy seeds
1/4 c raisins
1/2 t coriander seeds
1/2 t fennel seeds
[licorice root]

Pour the brandy into a glass bottle, jar, or mixing jug.  Add the poppy seeds. Infuse for two days. Remove the poppy seeds using a fine mesh or cheesecloth strainer.

Pour the infused brandy into a glass bottle or jar. Add the raisins, coriander seeds, fennel seeds [and licorice root]. Let this mixture infuse for 4-8 weeks. (I infused for 5 weeks.) Check and shake frequently.

Strain out the seeds and raisins. (I kept my raisins and plan to use them in muffins, scones, or another baked good sometime soon. )

The Results

This recipe produces a sweet, infused liquor with strong poppy and fennel flavors. To be honest, I found it quite noxious straight up. Joseph, Sarah, and Ryan were not as perturbed as I was by the scent or taste. Noting the raisin flavor, Ryan thought of sweet, fruit-filled, Italian panettone. Sarah suggested we pair it with vermouth and Joseph thought the addition of tonic water might  balance out the rough edges of the (admittedly cheap) brandy that I’d used as a base. After delay, confusion, and a long infusion, here are some cocktails that you can make using Cordial Pepper Water.

Cordial Pepper Water Fizz

1 oz Cordial Pepper Water
1 c sparkling water or tonic water
2 ice cubes

Combine ingredients in a glass. Sip and enjoy.

Almost Panettone Cocktail (with thanks to Sarah and Ryan)

1 oz Cordial Pepper Water
1 oz sweet vermouth
lemon peel

Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a pretty glass. Garnish with more lemon peel. Sip and enjoy.

 

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To Make sassages​

On a windy Friday in February, I travelled to the Folger Shakespeare Library with brilliant Penn State Abington students who have been transcribing the Carlyon manuscript all year as part of my “What’s in a recipe?” research project. (PSU wrote a great story about our trip here.) I also asked the wonderful Folger librarians and staff to display a range of recipe books for my students to look at. We were all excited to see Mrs. Carlyon’s book of medicines, but  I was particularly excited to meet Mary Baumfylde’s manuscript recipe book in person for the first time.

I’d already transcribed a lot of the book, made this bisket recipe, and chosen a few more recipes to test this spring. Despite having carefully read the description of the manuscript, it’s small size surprised me. Seeing things in person is always best.

Of course, tasting recipes is always best, too. This time, I decided to try Baumfylde’s recipe for sassages (or sausages). I was intrigued that this recipe provided instructions for both cased and uncased sausages. It’s also one of the rare recipes that comes with a specific date: 24 July 1702. Baumfylde’s sassages are delightfully flavored with sage, mace, cloves, and black pepper.

The Recipe
The 24 of july } 1702​​
To Make sassages
Take the lean of a legg of porke
& mince it Very small with​ 4 pou​nd of beef
suet & a good handfull of sage finely
minc​ed this done take Clous mace and
peper of Each a good quantity & as much
 salt as you shall think fitt to season the
meat with 9 or 10 eggs mix all these
together very well then put your meat in
to a stone morter & beat it very well till
you cant per​seve the suet from the meat
you may put the meate into to skins or rowl
them up which​ you please & soe fry them if you
put them into skins parr boyle them​ a very little

The original recipe makes A LOT of sausages. With a whole leg of pork and four pounds of beef suet, it’s a mighty big batch of seasoned meat. Working from the idea that a leg of pork is between 10-14 pounds, I made 1/10 the original recipe and still had loads of sausage mix to eat. I started with a pound of Stryker Farm ground pork and leftover beef suet from making these mince pies. The ground pork likely has a higher fat content than the lean meat called for in the original recipe. If you don’t have beef suet to hand, you can absolutely use bacon or lard in its place and adjust the amount to your taste.

Our Recipe
(makes more than a dozen small sausage patties)
1 lb ground pork
6.4 oz (1 1/2 c) beef suet (either in pellet form or pulverized in a food processor)
1 egg
sage, one small handful chopped (about 1 T chopped)
1/4 t cloves, pre-ground or ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 t mace
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 t salt
Mix all ingredients well in a big bowl.
When you’re ready to cook the sausage, heat a cast-iron or heavy frying pan over a high heat. Add sausage patties and cook for at least five minutes until brown on the outside and cooked through. I did not need to add butter or oil for frying because of the fat content of the sausages themselves. Flip or rotate the sausages so that all sides brown evenly.
Rest a minute before eating.
The Results
My British spouse, Joseph, loved these sausages. They reminded him of classic British pork sausages and other dishes like pork pie that are flavored with mace and clove. My parents thought they were delicious, too. But, alas, they weren’t my favorite. I think something about the mace, cloves, and beef fat tricked my tastebuds and made me anticipate sweetness, not savory flavors.
That said, they were a big hit. I bet they’d be good encased, too.

To Make bisket​, a recipe from the Baumfylde manuscript

Later this spring, I’m flying to Los Angeles to participate in a workshop entitled “Transcribing and Interpreting Digital Recipe Manuscripts” at the Shakespeare Association of America annual meeting (SAA). I often attend this conference, but I always go to talk about plays.

My research is currently bifurcated between writing a book about plays and cooking historical recipes to post here. SAA is a place where I’ve tried out many of my book ideas in small, collegial seminars. This year, instead of drafting a traditional paper, I’ve been transcribing Mary Baumfylde’s manuscript recipe book, Folger Shakespeare Library V.a.456 alongside other workshop participants. And, in turn, I’ve been reflecting on how I got into this seemingly double practice.

Back in the earliest collaborative google doc draft of our first Cooking in the Archives funding proposal, I wrote the sentence “What are recipes if not instructions for cooking?” A play is a script intended for performance, a husbandry manual tells you how to care for animals, a music book is a provocation to song: What is a recipe book if not a repository of possible action? My simple sentence has migrated from word doc to word doc, abstract to conference paper, paper to article. I keep repeating it, because I keep needing to make this point and this sentence keeps working for me.  I think of recipes as culinary scripts both in my personal cooking and my recipe writing here.

Let’s consider this post a partial recreation of the performance of a recipe “To Make bisket” enacted in December 2017.

When I started transcribing Mary Baumfylde’s manuscript recipe book in preparation for the SAA workshop, these biskets intrigued me because they don’t have any butter in them. Dense, chewy, and nicely spiced, these biscuits were a great addition to an afternoon of Ramboose-fueled festivity. Whitney, Sarah, Phil, and Joseph liked these biscuits more than the accompanying drink.

Stay tuned for more recipes from Baumfylde’s manuscript. I’ll be cooking from this book for the coming months. I’m excited about the recipes for stewed mushrooms and cabbage pudding on this page, and pickled walnuts on this page.

The Recipe

To Make bisket
Take th​e​ yelks of 5 eggs & th​e​ whites of 2 beat
them a quarter​ of an hour & in the beating putt
10 spoonfuls of Rose water then strow in a
pound of dubble refine suger finely beaten
and sifted after the suger is in beat it an hour
then take a pound of flower well dried shake
it in still beating it one way then strow in
your seeds carraway or coriander or both if you​
please. drop them in to butterd pans and
bake them

Our Recipe

Halved from the original,  this recipe still made quite a few cookies.

3 egg yolks
1 egg white
1 c sugar
5 t rosewater (or less to taste)
1 3/4 c flour
1 T caraway seeds
1t  coriander seeds

Preheat your oven for 375F.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with rosewater. Add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Stir in the flour and seeds.

Dollop the batter onto  a buttered baking sheet to make small cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown.

The Results

Simple and flavorful, these biscuits are easy to make. They are distinctly chewy and rich from eggs, but not butter. We experimented with larger biscuits and a lower baking temperature, but smaller biscuits and a hotter oven worked better.

It was a good first performance.

Ramboose

What’s in a name?

Back in October I was skimming Twitter and saw the word “Rambooze” for the first time in my life in this tweet from the Shakespeare’s World transcription project. Listed among other drinks in Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.b.363, a late seventeenth-century receipt book, this eggy punch immediately caught my attention. What in the world was Rambooze?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word originates in the seventeenth-century and specifically refers to  an alcoholic drink made with wine, eggs, milk, sugar, and other ingredients. Thomas Blount provides this definition in his 1656 dictionary:  Glossographia, “Rambooz, a compound drink, at Cambridge, and is commonly made of Eggs, Ale, Wine and Sugar; but in Summer, of Milk, Wine, Sugar, and Rose water.” The compiler of the Folger manuscript was on-trend. Additional spellings in the OED include rambuzze, rambooz, rambuze, rambooze, ramboose. These are important because the mark the shift of  the letter “z” into the word “booze” replacing the “s” in the Middle English words “bouse” and “bowse.” Thanks to “rambooze,” we now have “booze.”

With a name like this, I had to give Rambooze a try. Luckily, Whitney, Sarah, Phil, and Joseph were curious to try it, too.

 The Recipe

Ramboose
Take one quart of Rhenish or White Wine three Eggs whites and Yolks
well beaten and strained through a Cotton cloth sugar to your tast
brew them well together with Nuttmeg or Ginger, you may also add as
much Ale or water as you please

Our Recipe
My updated recipe combines the ramboose ingredients with the classic method for preparing an egg white cocktail. Instead of beating everything with a whisk, I used Whitney’s cocktail shaker. Because I’d brought a growler of my favorite beer ever – Tired Hands Brewery’s “Saison Hands” – for us to sip while we tested some recipes, that’s the beer we ended up using to taste the “as much Ale or water as you please” variation. Although I would never call “Saison Hand” an ale in modern classification, early modern beer was an entirely different thing and likely more sour. (Listen to this episode of Gastropod if you’re interested in historical brews.)
serves 4
1 bottle white wine
3 eggs, separated
1 t sugar
nutmeg
1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 bottle ale (optional)
Beat together wine and egg yolks. Strain through cheesecloth (or a paper coffee filter).
Put some ice in a cocktail shaker. Add a cup of the eggy-wine, 1 egg white, 1/4 t sugar, a pinch of the fresh ginger. Shake vigorously and a lovely froth will form. Pour into a fancy glass. (Optional: Add 2-3 oz ale.) Garnish with grated nutmeg.
 
The Results
The resulting beverage was interesting, but strange. Weirdly good eggnog? Eggnog made by a sociopath? Egg wine? We unanimously preferred it with the addition of the “ale.” But I’m not sure if I’ll ever make this one again. All the same, I think “ramboose” is quickly becoming synonymous with “festive gathering” among my friends.
Cheers! Here’s to a new year!

 

to make mince piyes my Mother’s way

This recipe was featured in Jenn Hall’s wonderful article about our project in Edible Philly.

Many of the culinary manuscripts that I’ve paged through in libraries include mentions of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, female neighbors, friends, and correspondents. Among other things, these small notes reinforce the fact that the recipe archive is an archive of women’s knowledge and community. (Many smart people have written about this topic, but these two posts from The Recipes Project about emotion and community come to mind immediately.)

Of course, these notes  always make me think about the recipes that circulate in my own community. I keep my own handwritten recipe notebooks, too. I began to compile the first when I moved to London for a year and wanted to bring recipes with me. The notebook is full of recipes from my mother alongside dishes I’d cooked with friends and roommates in college. These books are part of a larger network of recipes in various material forms: my mother’s recipe box with cards in her handwriting, her mother’s handwriting, her sisters’ handwriting, and the handwriting of new and old friends; the letter I have from my great aunt with her cookie recipe in neat cursive; my notes from the afternoon I spent cooking eggplant parm with my father’s mother because I knew that I was missing crucial steps; printed emails sent from my husband’s family when he wanted to cook a dish from a home. My recipe book is full of attributions: Grandma N’s eggplant parm and my father’s insanely chocolatey variation on her spicy Christmas cookies, Jess’s curried lentils, Joseph’s scones, Grandma O’s soda bread (her mother’s recipe), Erin’s tortilla soup, my family’s favorite chocolate birthday cake, Ruth’s famous zucchini soup recipe that I first made with Bronnie, Rebecca’s salted orange cardamon syrup that I spoon into cocktails at parties, and last (but best represented in my notes) my Mom’s quick meatballs, herb biscuits, stews, zucchini bread, pumpkin pie, and more. This diverse community of women has fed me, sustained me, and taught me how to feed and sustain myself.

I’ve started to collect recipes for mince pies and mincemeats, too. Thanks to my English spouse, Joseph, mince pies are (delightfully) part of my family Christmas now. And this is the second year I’ve added a historical version to the mix. (Here’s the 2015 recipe.) There are still more versions to try.

The Recipe

to make mince piyes my Mother way to make
it in a dishe
take some of the flesshe part of the oxe cheek when it his half boyle
then shreed it with some good beefe sweet about 3 quarters of a pound
halfe a point of Currons a quarter of a pound of ressons stoned
a quarter of one ounce beaten masse and Clouss and beaten Ceniment the
saime quantity a littill salt too spounefulls of sugar ore one and
a halfe too ounces of orring and Lemon pill Candid and put
this in to a dishe with a good pufe past not uery thick
put in to the things a glass of rum

Our Recipe

Savory, rich, and delicious, these mince pies are a welcome variation on the classic British holiday treat. Ox (or beef) cheek is a wonderful braising cut and its inclusion here creates a rich, meaty base for the fruit, spices and rum. Make a batch of mincemeat and prepare fresh pies whenever you have guests coming over. They’re lovely hot from the oven with a nice cup of tea.
The day before I made the mince pies, I whipped up a batch of my favorite pie crust from Orangette, used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen to candy orange and lemon peel, and loosely followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe for braised beef cheeks to cook the meat. Boy did my apartment smell good.

half a braised beef cheek (6oz)
4.5 oz  suet (beef fat)
1/2 lb currants
1/4 lb raisins
1 1/2 t mace
1 1/2 t ground cloves
1 1/2 t cinnamon
2 T sugar
2 1/2 oz candied lemon and orange peel (mixed)
1/3 c rum

Prepare the mincemeat:

Shred or chop the beef into small pieces. For an even mix, make sure these pieces are smaller than your raisins. Grate the suet on a box grater or in a food processor so it is also in small pieces. Combine the beef and the suet in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the currants, raisins, spices, salt, sugar, candied peel, rum and set aside.

Make pies:

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Roll out the pastry. Using a pastry cutter or drinking glass, cut circles. I used a 2 5/8 in (68 mm) pastry cutter to make nice little pies. Make sure you have an even number of circles so that you have bottoms and lids for all your pies.

I used my handy mince pie pan to make a batch of 12. You can easily make mince pies on a baking sheet by shaping the top piece of pastry over a mound of mincemeat. I think the full amount of mince would make 4 dozen little pies (or even more).

Grease your pan. Put 1 T mincemeat on/in each bottom. Place a lid on each pie. Push down the edges of the pastry to seal. Poke a few air-holes in the lid with with a fork. I brushed the top with an egg wash for a golden crust, but this step is optional.

Bake mince pies for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  For a festive touch,  sprinkle  with powdered sugar before serving.

The Results

With the perfect mix of sweet, spice, fat, and booze, these mince pies are a decadent holiday treat. What a lovely dish to inherit from a mother, a loved-one, a community, an archive.

To boile Chickens on sorrell sops.

I snipped the last leaves of sorrel off the plant on my porch this morning. We’re on the verge of the first frost in Philadelphia and I’m harvesting the last of my summer herbs. I used leaves from this same plant for the delicious savory snack “Sorrell with Eggs” over the summer.

I’ve had this recipe for “Chicken on sorrell sops” bookmarked for ages. It’s from one of the oldest manuscripts in the UPenn Kislak collection, MS Codex 1601, and Alyssa and I made “A tarte of green pease” from it a while back.

Cooked chicken, toasted manchet bread croutons, and sorrel sauce sounded like the perfect combination for a chilly fall day.

The Recipe

To boile Chickens on sorrell sops.
Truss your chickens & boile them in water
& salt, verie tender, then take a good
handfull of sorrell & beate itt stalke &
all, then straine itt & take a manchet
& cutt itt in sippetts & drye them before
The fire, then putt your green brouth
vpon the coules, season itt with sugar
& grated Nutmegg, & lett itt stand vntill
itt bee hott, then putt your sippetts into a
dishe, putt your Chickens vpon them &
poure your sawce vppon that & serue itt.

Our Recipe

I’ve taken some liberties to update this one. I used chicken legs for this recipe because I love them and I had them around, but you could use a whole chicken. I roasted the chicken following a favorite Mark Bittman recipe, but you could boil it as the original suggests. For the “manchet” bread, I used pan levain from my local bakery, but you could use any bread. To create more delicious sauce, I added stock to the sorrel and seasonings. If I had more sorrel, or peak summer sorrel, it might have produced a juicier sauce all on its own.

6 chicken legs
butter, salt, and pepper for roasting
2 slices pan levain, cut into croutons
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t salt
grated nutmeg
6 sorrel leaves, finely chopped

Heat your oven to 450F. Put your chicken legs in a roasting dish with butter or olive oil skin side up. Season them with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 min. Flip the legs over, bake for about 10 minutes. Flip the legs a third time so the skin side is up once again. Put the croutons on a baking sheet and put them in the oven as well. Bake everything for another 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the bread begins to brown.

When you put the bread in the oven, heat your stock to almost boiling in a small saucepan. Lower the head and add the sugar, salt, nutmeg, and sorrel. Turn the head down, but keep this sauce warm until you are ready to use it.

To serve, layer the bread pieces on a plate or platter. Then arrange the chicken on top. I also poured the pan drippings over the chicken and bread. Finally, pour on the sorrel sauce.

The Results

I knew I liked the sound of this recipe the first time that I read it, but it is a delicious, comforting dish. A deconstructed chicken with sauce-soaked croutons and herbs, this chicken recipe is perfect for a fall day. My apartment is toasty and smells like chicken. I’m about to go back for seconds.

 

 

To make fine pippen Tarts

Today it feels like fall on the east coast. The Philadelphia weather on Wednesday reminded me of September heat-waves in California (when I made this lemonade), but today, apparently, fall is here. In September I braved the weekend heat to pick apples at Linvilla Orchard and, as usual, I bought lots.  So I went through my “to make” list in search of apple recipes and saw this recipe for “fine pippen Tarts” from UPenn MS Codex 785.  (I’ve cooked from this manuscript a lot: check out our new manuscript and library tags to see what archives we’ve been cooking.) It took me a little while to get into the kitchen to try this recipe (the heat, the big talk I gave, grading), but these pippin tarts are truly fine.

Recently, my “to make” list has been a decidedly mixed bag.  I started to make this Cordial Pepper Water and I had so much trouble with the poppy infusion that I’m not sure if a recipe will ever make it to this site. (I have a half bottle of very, very poppy-flavored  brandy sitting on my kitchen rack right now.) On the other hand, I started working on some holiday recipes. I’m excited to share these mince pies with you soon.

In the meantime, I think we should eat and talk about delicious apples. They’re sharp, crisp, floral, sweet, and sometimes even savory. My farmer’s market has a wide range on offer. So does Linvilla Orchard a half hour away. But yesterday I took a ride to the Brandywine valley and found some apples that are a bit closer to British pippins at North Star Orchard. These Rubinette apples are similar to the classic variety Cox’s Orange Pippin. Eaten raw, these are dense and fragrant. It seemed like a shame to cook them so I saved a few to snack on throughout the week. Luckily, cooking only enhanced these natural qualities.

The Recipe

To make fine pippen Tarts
Take a pound of flour and half a pound of butter a
little sugar rul it in very small, wet it with Cold
water, and two Eggs, make it into a Paste, roul it as
thin as you can, and Couer your pattyes, then take
henlish pippens and pare them and cut them in
round slices, then lay a lay and two Spoonfulls of
fine Sugar beaten and some Orange peel Chop’d
Small and a lay of pippins and a lay of Sugar and
lid them as thin as you can, and take care in breaking
them, when they are bak’d, take them out of your
pattyes and open the lids, and put into every one
of them a spoonfull or two of Orange or Lemmon
Juice strain’d then put down the lids & take a feather &
some burnt butter lick over the lids, and sift some fine
Sugar our them, you must not Couer your pippens, as
you cut them put them into fair water

This recipe delights me in a few ways:  pippins, the use of fresh orange peel and juice, a feather pastry brush, and a very tasty pastry recipe. I’m also curious about the moniker “henlish pippens” to describe this apple variety. Anyone out there have any ideas?

Our Recipe

*Halved from the original, this recipe makes 12+ small tarts.

Pastry
1 3/4 C flour (1/2 lb)
1T sugar
3/4 t salt
1 stick butter (8T, 1/4 lb)
1 egg
4 T water

Filling
2 apples
1T sugar (1/4t per tart)
zest of half an orange

Garnishes

1 T butter
1 T orange juice (1/4 t per tart)
Powdered sugar.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Make the pastry. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Chop the butter into small pieces. Work the butter into the flour mix until a fine meal forms. Add the egg. Add the water one tablespoon at a time. Using your hands and/or a spoon, work the mix until it holds its shape as a ball. It will still feel dry to the touch.

While the pastry rests in the fridge or at a cool room temperature, peel, core, and slice the apples into rounds.

Roll out the pastry. Using a pastry cutter or drinking glass, cut circles. I used a 2 5/8 in (68 mm) pastry cutter to make nice little tarts. Make sure you have an even number of circles so that you have bottoms and lids.

Grease your pan. Lay out the bottom pieces. I used my handy mince pie pan to make a batch of 12. You can easily make these pies on a baking sheet by shaping the top piece of pastry over a mound of seasoned apple. (You can also make more pies from this amount of pastry and filling. I had both leftover.)

Fill each pie with apple rings. Given the proportions of my mince pie pans, I ended up breaking my rings a bit. Season each tart with 1/4 t sugar and grated orange zest.

Place a lid on each pie. Push down the edges of the pastry to seal. Poke a few air-holes in the lid with with a fork.

Bake tarts for 15 minutes until golden brown. (Check them at 10 minutes and see how they’re faring.)

While the pies are baking, let 1 T butter sizzle to a golden brown in a small sauce pan.

When the pies are out of the oven and on a cooling rack, open the lids with a butter knife and pour 1/4 t orange juice into each pie. Replace the tops and brush with brown butter.

Sprinkle  with powdered sugar before serving.

The Results

Delicious pure-apple flavor beautifully enhanced with citrus. Although I love my classic apple pie with cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and a handful of cranberries (my mother’s genius addition), this recipe is a beautiful combination of flavors. I think the orange brought out the floral notes and acidic sharpness of the pippins.

I tried the tarts with and without the additional orange juice and prefer them without. (My spouse Joseph liked the orange juice flavored tarts better.) Feel free to add the juice or leave it out. On the other hand, the brown butter glaze added a fabulous, nutty note so don’t skip it.

The pastry was also delicious on its own. I’ll definitely be making it again when I come across recipes that simply request pastry, but don’t provide specifics. This one is delicious and as easy to make as my modern go-to.

Finally, this would make a lovely large pie instead of individual tarts. This would save you a lot of prep time and allow you to really layer the rings (which my pan did not allow).

Whether you can find pippins or not, whether you’ve picked too many apples at an orchard or are excited to see them in your supermarket, let us know if you try this perfect fall recipe.

Sorrell with Eggs – For a Plate.

I wanted a snack. I have a planter of herbs growing on my porch. I also wanted to post a new recipe here. Luckily, UPenn MS Codex 1038 has a simple, tasty recipe for “Sorrell with Eggs.”

I first started cooking with sorrel after watching a lot of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage series. This strong, spicy herb is fantastic with eggs and dairy. (Find more of Hugh’s sorrel recipes here.)

The Recipe

Sorrell with Eggs – For a Plate.
Take Two handfuls of Sorrell wash’d and Pick’d, put it in a Saucepan
with a little bit of Butter, a Dust of Flower, a little Pepper and Salt, a
Scraped Nutmeg, Stew all these a Quarter of an hour before you use it,
pour to it two or three spoonfuls of drawn Butter, and Garnish it with
hard Eggs, cut in Quarters one End of the Quarter on the Sorrell
And the other in the side of the Dish.

Lemony sorrel leaves are cooked with butter and spices, sauced with clarified butter, and served with a hardboiled egg. The note “For a Plate” and the final instructions for garnishing suggest that this dish would have appeared on a banquet table among other cold, highly-seasoned dishes.

Our Recipe

2T butter (to clarify, for serving)
1 cup sorrel leaves, washed and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1T butter (for cooking)
1t flour
1/4 t freshly ground pepper (2-3 grinds)
1/4 t salt
1/8 t ground nutmeg (2 scrapes from a whole nutmeg)
2 eggs, hardboiled

Prepare your drawn (or clarified butter). Heat 2T butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Let cool. Skim off any foam from the top. Discard any solids at the bottom. (Martha Stewart can help you make a bigger batch to serve with boiled lobster here.)

Hardboil your eggs. (I like Heidi Sawnson’s mini recipe from Super Natural Every Day: Cover eggs with water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs cook more in the water for 7 minutes, then cool in cold water before peeling.)

Put the remaining 1T butter in a small pan over a low heat. Add the sorrel, flour, and spices. Stir to combine. The flour will thicken the sauce to form a light gray. I added a little water during cooking to thin out the mix. When the sorrel is cooked down and the mix smells good, remove from heat. This took about five minutes for me.

Plate individual servings of the sorrel mix on small plates. Add the butter. Peel and cut your egg into quarters. Artfully arrange your egg quarters so the one end is on the sorrel mix and the other end is on the plate. Season your egg with freshly ground pepper to taste. Take a photograph because it’s so pretty. Snack away.

The Results

I will likely make this again. The sharp sorrel is delicious with the buttery sauce and the yielding egg. The nutmeg adds an aromatic note. And, a bonus, the cooking process didn’t take long or make the apartment unbearably hot.

To Make Chocklate Cream

It’s hot out. Each year when swampy summer hits Philly, I start to make a list of recipes that do not require me to turn on the oven. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this recipe for “Chocklate Cream” on the Shakespeare’s World Twitter feed in the midst of many delicious tweets associated with the ongoing Recipes Project “What is a Recipe?” virtual conference. It may be 85F today, but this morning I had milk and eggs in the fridge, chocolate and sugar in the cupboard and this mousse-like pudding only required stirring on the stove.

This recipe is from the Folger Shakespeare Library MS v.b.380. The manuscript is associated with Anne Western and was likely compiled and used in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries.  The few pages I’ve looked at are loaded with recipe attributions and efficacy notes. This particular recipe is accompanied by two names: “{anne Western” in the margin and the source “Mrs Reaps” at the end. The phrase “(probatumest)” or “it is proven” suggests that the recipe was tested and worked well.

The Recipe

To Make Chocklate Cream

Boyle apint of milk then scrape in a quarter
of apound of Chocklate lett it boyle togeather
then take it off & sweaten itt with fine sugger
then beat up 4 youlks of Eggs with one white
very well & strane it in to your milk, then sett it  {Anne
on a Charcole fire keep itt sterring always one      Western
way tell tis thick, then serve it in Chany Dishes
or gelly Glasses Mrs Reaps (probatumest)

This decadent chocolate concoction sets into a nice pudding or mousse texture in small ramekins, my version of the “Chany”/China dishes or “gelly Glasses” suggested in the original. Expensive and richly flavored, a chocolate dish like this would have been a quite a treat. I’ve also written about early modern chocolate recipes here (with Alyssa) and here (with John Kuhn).

Our Recipe

I halved the original proportions and made a batch of 4 generous or 6 slightly smaller servings. I also used a mix of baking chocolate and 80% chocolate (because that’s what I had around) and sweetened the mix to my taste. Add more or less sugar depending on your chocolate selection and your personal sweet tooth.

1 c milk
1/8 lb chocolate (mixed unsweetened baking and 80% dark chocolate, or more to taste) *Revised: Recipe tested with 1/2 lb chocolate*
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Shave or chop your chocolate into small pieces that will easily dissolve in hot milk. (In this heat, chopping worked better than shaving in my kitchen.)

Whisk together your egg yolk and whole egg.

Bring the milk to a boil.

Lower the heat to medium, add the chocolate, and stir. Commit to stirring clockwise or counterclockwise for the entire preparation. The mixture will thicken quickly.

Add your sugar and taste. Add more sugar by the tablespoon or teaspoon to adjust the flavor.

Lower the heat to low and stir in the eggs. Stir until the mixture is consistent and glossy.

Pour into small containers to set and serve (ramekins, bowls, glasses, etc). Allow to cool before eating.

The Results

A rich, tasty dessert that I’ll be making again.  It’s exactly the kind of easy, crowd-pleasing dessert that you can prepare in advance. A bit of vanilla or fresh fruit on the side would take this to a whole other level. Let us know what you try.

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

It’s an interesting experience to spend months with a single recipe book. This year I collaborated with an undergraduate student, Rachael Shulman, on a year-long research project centered around Margaret Baker’s recipe book which is held at the Folger Shakespeare Library (MS V.a.619). Working with the Early Modern Recipe Online Collective (EMROC) transcription interface maintained by the Folger’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online project (EMMO), Rachael and I began with transcription basics, preliminary readings, and went from there. We transcribed together and separately, we read widely and developed our own projects from the manuscript, and we’re still working on a series of blog posts (stay tuned) and an article from our shared inquiry. This spring, Rachael was awarded an award for Information Literacy by the Pennsylvania State University Libraries for her poster presentation at the annual research fair. It’s been energizing to see this manuscript through Rachael’s eyes as well as my own.

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

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

Recipes

Sacke Possett

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

Our Recipe

*Quartered from the original

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

Combine the almonds and sack in a small bowl.

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

Serve immediately.

Fine Biskett

to make fine biskett

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

Our Recipe

*Quartered from the original

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

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

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

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

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

The Results

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

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

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

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

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