to Candy pippins to look like amber

Last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop about apples and preservation. Matt Kaminsky spoke about wild apples and grafting as a practice for preserving and propagating varieties. In addition to sharing a number of apple recipes from this site, my contribution to the workshop was to reflect on how updating recipes is a form of preservation of knowledge and to share this seventeenth-century recipe “to Candy pippins to look like amber” from UPenn Ms. Codex 252 (120r). 

The Recipe
 

to Candy pippins to look like amber
take faire large pipins and pare them and bore a hole
through them and put them in an earthen platter in
the ouen stroueing fine sifted sugar upon them, then
sprinkell A littill rose water upon the suger then
bak them in an ouen lett your ouen be hot as for manhant
you stoppe up the ouen and lett them remane in halfe
an houer then tak them out of the dish and lay
them on a lettis or siue an so lett them remaine dry
2 or 3 dayes then thay will Looke clear as Amber
and be finely candied you may keep them all
the yeare

apple peels

Designed with preservation and storage in mind, this recipe uses sugar, rosewater, and heat to transform the tender flesh of apples in season. The instructions ask you to cook your peeled apples in a hot bread oven “as hot as for manhant” or manchet bread. Then they dry for 2 or 3 additional days before storage.

Before the workshop, I’d been exploring this recipe with the juicy Arlet apple (a personal favorite). I even tested it as a sliced apple recipe – considering the various meanings of “pare” – but decided in the end that the recipe called for whole, cooked apples. (Sidenote: Season some apple chips with rosewater and sugar this fall for a delicious treat.)  At the workshop, Matt suggested using a spongier, less juicy apple variety for this preparation.  After consulting with the vendors from Three Springs Fruit Farm at my local market, I decided to try the recipe one more time with Jonathan apples. 

Updated Recipe 

2 apples
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Peel and core the apples. 

Place the apple on a baking sheet. Sprinkle sugar over apples. Then sprinkle rosewater over the apples.

Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. 

The Results

These apples fall somewhere between a baked apple and a dried, sugared apple. After baking, and especially after sitting out for a few days post-baking, the apples are a rich, golden color.

I ate one apple hot from the oven. It was gorgeously sweet and fragrant from rosewater. After two days sitting out, it was drier, denser, and more deeply flavored. The rosewater scent had dispersed, but it was even tastier.

If I were to test the recipe again, I might bake it longer or at a hotter temperature to see how much moisture I could draw out before resting. I might also add more sugar and rosewater to see how much “amber” effect I could create on the outside of the fruit. If you make any changes to the recipe as you try it out, let me know how it goes!

To make portugal Eggs

This post draws on research from an article that I published in the collection After Print: Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Cultures.

Hannah Woolley was an all-around lifestyle guru who not only wrote cookbooks, but also provided guidance on etiquette, homemaking, interior design. She even advertised her availability for private lessons to supplement her written advice with hands-on instruction. Although this recipe for “Portugal Eggs” comes from UPenn Ms. Codex 785, it was copied into the manuscript from Hannah Woolley’s The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet: Stored with all manner of Rare Receipts For Preserving, Candying and Cookery. Very Pleasant and Beneficial to all Ingenious Persons of the Female Sex (1670). (Just like the recipe for “Lemmon Cakes” that I posted a few years ago when I first began researching this particular receipt book.)

To be honest, I could have used some further guidance from Woolley as I set out to prepare “Portugal Eggs.” I needed to make six sub-recipes in total to assemble this dish and four of these components needed to be made at least a day in advance. Without some modern tricks, such as using powdered gelatin for the jelly, this would have been even more labor intensive. That said, Woolley’s model housewife would have likely had a few of these components in her kitchen already.

This dish is perhaps most at home in a banqueting spread like one of these “Tempting Tables” set forth by Ivan Day. Indeed, it is listed among the many dishes served at the coronation of James II in A Complete Account of the Ceremonies Observed in the Coronation of the Kings and Queens of England (1727). It is visually striking, yet one of the strangest flavor combinations I have encountered so far in this project.

Although I’ve made this all sound very complicated (and it is) read on and let us guide you through one way a cook using Ms. Codex 785 might have prepared Woolley’s elaborate recipe.

The Recipe(s)

MS Codex 785

To make portugal Eggs

Take a very large Dish with a broad brim lay in
it some naples Biscake in the form of a star, then
put so much sack into the Dish as you think
the biscakes will drink up,on then slick them
full with little peices of preserv’d orange, and
green Citron peele, and strow Store of French
Comfits over them of Divers Colours, then butter
some Eggs and lay them here and there upon
the biscakes then fill up the hollow places in
the dish with severall colour’d jellyes and
round about the brim thereof lay Laurell
Leaves guilt with Leaf Gold, lay them slanting
and between the Leaves severall colour’d Jellies.

Hannah Woolley

XXXIX. To make the Portugal Eggs.

Take a very large Dish-with a broad brim, lay in it some Naples Bisket in the Form of a Star, then put so much Sack into the Dish as you do think the Biskets will drink up; then stick them full with thin little pieces of preserved Orange, and green Citron Pill, and strew store of French Comfits over them, of divers colours, then butter some Eggs, and lay them here and there upon the Biskets, then fill up the hollow places in the Dish, with several coloured Iellies, and round about the Brim thereof lay Lawrel Leaves guilded with Leaf-Gold, lay them slanting, and between the Leaves several coloured Iellies,

As both the manuscript and printed recipe make clear, “Portugal Eggs” are much more than an egg dish. When I decided to make this dish I began by deciphering the component parts: biscuits, candied citrus peel, “French Comfits” or sugar coated seeds, jelly, buttered (or scrambled) eggs, and gilded laurel leaves. Since the gilded laurel leaves were for presentation only, I decided to skip the gilding sub-recipe. I did, however, prepare the other five sub-recipes required to assemble the dish.

But first I needed to find recipes for all these components. This challenge initially puzzled me until I went back to the rare book reading room to inventory the entire manuscript. It seems to me that the compiler or organizer of Ms. Codex 785 might have been assembling sub-recipes for Woolley’s “Portugal Eggs” because the three recipes before it are for jelly and biscuits, two of the key components of the finished dish. All four of the recipes copied from Woolley’s cookbooks are in a single opening – two page spread – in Ms. Codex 785.

Guided by this proximity, I decided to use the recipe for “the best bisket Cakes” from Ms. Codex 785 as they are similar to other recipes for Naples biscuits (see “Artificial Potatoes” and “Bisket Pudding“). I also decided to try the recipe for “Jelly of Hartshorn,” which begins, as the name implies, with a deer’s antler. I started with packaged gelatin instead. For the other two sub-recipes I went farther afield. Although I experimented with Woolley’s own recipe for fennel comfits, I used a tried and true modern recipe for candied citrus peel. Any of these recipes might have made a great individual post, but today we are going to see what happens when they all come together.

1) Biscuits

To make the best bisket Cakes

Take four new laid Eggs, leave out two of the
whites, beat them very well, then put in two
Spoonfulls of Rosewater, and beat them very
well together, then put in a pound of double
refin’d sugar beaten and search’d and beat
them together one hour, then put to them
one pound of fine flour, and beat them
together a good while, then put them upon
plates rubb’d over with butter, and set
them into the Oven as fast as you can
but have a care you do not bake them
too much.

This recipe was relatively straightforward to update. It makes about 24 cookies.

4 eggs (2 whole, 2 whites only)
2 t rosewater
1 lb sugar (2 2/3 c)
1 lb flour (3 2/3 c)
butter or baking spray to coat the baking sheets

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease two baking sheets with butter or your preferred baking spray,

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. I used a hand mixer for this, but a standing mixer would also work well. Add the rosewater to the eggs and continue beating. Add the sugar and beat on a high setting until the mixture starts to look fluffy (about 1 minute). Add the flour in three batches, allowing each to mix in fully.

Shape the dough into rough ovals. I did this by picking up about 2T of the dough and rolling it roughly in my hand. Make sure that you leave about a half an inch between the cookies, as they expand a lot as they cook.

Bake 15 minutes. The bottom of the biscuits should be nicely browned and the top still a little spongy.

Eat immediately with a cup of tea or allow to cool on a rack before storing.

2) French Comfits

Comfits are sugar coated seeds. Since Ms. Codex 785 doesn’t include a recipe for comfits, I turned to Woolley’s cookbook for a guide. Although I adapted Woolley’s recipe to coat fennel seeds in sugar, I could have also used this same method to candy coriander or caraway seeds. When I was at a local store, buying fennel seeds in bulk, I noticed a bag of modern-day comfits on the shelf. I threw some on the final dish for color and I’ve been snacking on them, too.

1/4 C sugar
1/3 C water
1T fennel seeds

In a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.

A) Add the fennel seeds and simmer for 1 minute.

B) Strain the mixture to remove the fennel seeds reserving the sugar syrup. Spread the seeds out on a plate and allow to cool for 2 minutes.

Bring the syrup back to boil and repeat the straining and simmering steps (A and B) as  many times as you like.

I did this three times before the seeds were too sticky to work with. The seeds were sweeter each time they came out of the hot syrup and cooled. Woolley suggests 8-10 coats of sugar. However, Woolley also instructs you to roll the hot seeds in the syrup with your bare hands. In any case, reserve the syrup at the end. I’m excited to add this leftover fennel-infused simple syrup in cocktails.

Allow the seeds to cool completely. Store them for future use.

3) Various Jellies

Inspired by the rich seasonings in the “Hartshorn Jelly” recipe, I prepared a lightly-sweetened jelly infused with lemon and cinnamon. This sub-recipe must be made well in advance because jelly needs to set in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

1 packet Knox Gelatin
1/4 C water
1/4 C sugar
the peel of one lemon cut into strips
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 C water

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 C water in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Place the other ingredients and  3/4 C water in a small saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil. Once the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the mixture smells strongly of lemon and cinnamon. Discard the lemon peel and cinnamon stick. You can do this by scooping them out of the mixture or straining the whole thing and reserving the liquid.

Add the hot, fragrant liquid to the gelatin mix and stir to dissolve. Transfer your jelly mix to a flat-bottomed dish for easy shaping. I used a square, glass storage container for this.

Refrigerate for at least three hours before using.

4) Candied Citrus Peel

Given the complexity of the other components, I decided to candy my orange peel using this straightforward, twenty-first-century recipe.

5) Buttered Eggs

Buttered eggs are just an early modern way to talk about scrambled eggs cooked with butter and cream. You cannot make these in advance, so I have included the sub-recipe in the overall assembly instructions below.

Portugal Eggs

Once your jelly is set, your biscuits are baked, and your citrus peel and seeds are candied, you are ready to begin to assemble a dish of Portugal Eggs. The quantities below amply filled a standard dinner plate.

5 biscuits
3 oz sack (I used brandy, but sherry also works here)
1 T comfits (I used a mix of store-bought and homemade )
3T candied citrus peel
1 batch of buttered eggs (below)
4 T jelly (or more to taste)
2-3 sprigs fresh bay leaves to garnish

Buttered Eggs

2 eggs
3 T butter
3 T heavy cream
twist freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the biscuits in a star-shape on your dish. Pour about 3 oz of a spirit like brandy or sherry as a substitute for sack, a fortified wine. When the biscuits cannot absorb any more liquid, stop pouring. Set aside.

Prepare the buttered eggs. Whisk together the eggs and cream. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the egg mixture and stir the eggs until they are fluffy and cooked through to your preferred texture.

Return your attention to the main plate. Place comfits and candied orange peel on top of the soaked biscuits. You may, or may not, be able to stick your candied peel into the biscuits are the recipe suggests.

Add dollops of the eggs to the plate. In the remaining space, add spoonfuls of the jelly. Arrange the bay leaves around the edge of the plate.

Step back and admire your handiwork.

The Results

If I ever throw a feast using only recipes from this site, I’d make this dish again because it is truly beautiful. I might even spring for some gold-leaf.

That said, it’s one of the strangest flavor combinations I’ve encountered so far in this project. The boozy cookies pair nicely with the candied peel and fennel comfits, but clash with the rich eggs. It made me wonder about the perfect fork-full of this dish — Am I supposed to eat some eggs and then eat some sugary cake? Or am I supposed to eat a bit of everything in one cacophonous bite?

The lemon and cinnamon flavored jelly didn’t compliment any of the other flavors. Since the manuscript and print sources only insist on the various colors of jelly, but not the various flavors, a savory aspic or even an orange-flavored sweet jelly might be a better pairing for the eggs and seasoned cake. Perhaps the housewife or cooks using Ms. Codex 785 to prepare Portugal Eggs may not have used the “Hartshorn Jelly” after all.

This dish of eggs and sweets challenged, perplexed, and delighted me. Only by putting these items on the same plate did I finally grasp the variety, the mélange, intended in Woolley’s receipt copied into Ms. Codex 785. And only by thinking about this as a banqueting dish did it begin to make any sense at all. Banquets are about Concordia discorsvariety, and performance—as are “Portugal Eggs.” I needed to experience the taste, smell, and sight of these eggs, biscuits, jellies, sugar sweets, and decorative laurels to make sense of their place in early modern food culture.

To Pickle Purslane or Littice stalks

Purslane is a bitter, wild, edible plant. In June, I didn’t know what it looked like: Now I see it growing in the cracks of sidewalks and spreading out in abandoned flower pots every time I leave my house for a walk. Today, I’m sharing a recipe “To Pickle Purslane or Littice stalks” with you.

Over the past month, I’ve been doing two things that have me thinking a lot about bitter herbs, weeds, and wild foods: attending the Oxford Food Symposium’s “Herbs and Spices” Conference online; and gardening, weeding, and clearing out raised beds for planting at a community garden in Philly that will supply a kitchen that feeds people in need. At the conference, I was moved by Fabrizia Lanza’s film Amaro (about bitter flavors and foraging practices in Sicilian food culture) and inspired to look for foraged ingredients in recipe books after hearing Gina Rae La Cerva‘s paper about wild herbs in Renaissance cookery. At the garden, we found established asparagus beds thriving under the weeds and transplanted nutritious purslane and dandelion plants into the newly cleared soil. When some stalks broke off in my hands, I took them home at the urging of my fellow gardeners.

2020-07-23 02.38.27

Description: Purslane

After more than six years spent cooking in the archives, I have quite a lengthy list of recipes that I want to test and post here. But sometimes an ingredient sends me back to the books. I located this recipe for pickled purslane by searching recipe books at the Folger Shakespeare Library that have already been transcribed by the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective through classes, conferences, and annual transcribathons. (For instructions on how to search these transcriptions, read this EMROC blog post.) As long-time readers know, I love pickles and I’ve been thinking a lot about preserving food during this long, strange summer spent mostly inside. This recipe book bears the names of Ann Smith –“Ann Smith sen. Her Book October the 10th 1698” — and Thomas Barnaby — “This book was written by Thomas Barnaby sen. of Reading” — and was compiled and used in Reading in the last years of the seventeenth century and the early eighteenth century. (For more information about the manuscript, see this entry in the Manuscript Cookbooks Survey.)

The Recipe

pickled purslane cropped.jpeg

To Pickle Purslane or Littice stalks
First pick your Leaves off then boyle your
stalks pretty Tender in water & salt poure
thatt from them & when they are Cold
putt them into A pott with some venigar
& salt Cover them Close & you may steep them
all the yeare Round

2020-07-23 03.02.47

Description: Purslane stems and leaves with salt on cutting board.

Updated Recipe

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

purslane, approximately 2 cups leaves and stems (100g)
1 t salt, used in two 1/2 t increments
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
a 2-cup mason jar, fresh from the dishwasher or sterilized with boiling water

Pick the leaves from the purslane stalks. Set the leaves aside. Cut the stalks into 3-inch pieces that will easily fit in the jar.

Put the stalks in a small sauce pan with 1/2 t salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes. Pour off the water. Set the stalks aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Put the cooked stalks and leaves in your prepared jar. Add 1/2 t water, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1/2 cup water. The liquid should cover the purslane.

Firmly affix the lid and label the jar. Leave in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Consume pickled purslane within a month of opening the jar.

The Results

The pickled purslane was sharply sour and refreshing. All of the potent bitterness of the raw green was gone. Perhaps this transformation is the desired effect of the recipe – a uniformly sour pickle that can be consumed year-round – but I experienced this taste transformation as a loss. An anodyne flavor took the place of the bitter intensity that I liked in the raw greens. If I pickle purslane again according to this recipe, I’ll cut the vinegar in half and see if more of the original flavor shines through. Nevertheless, pickling is a great way to preserve an abundant ingredient like purslane when it’s at the peak of its growing season.

2020-08-01 13.33.00.jpg

Description: pickled purslane on a plate.

To Make a Lemon Tart

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to share food experiences at a distance. When we can’t gather together to eat, how can we connect around food for nourishment and joy, to learn and to build sustainable communities? I’ve recently listened to the Gastropod podcast episode “Shared Plates” and eagerly followed posts from Samin Nosrat‘s Big Lasagna virtual dinner party. I’ve been thinking about who is, and is not, invited to the table and supported organizations in my community that are tackling issues of food insecurity and inequality in our food system. There are so many ways to connect, even if many of them are now online.

Today I’m inviting you to a virtual baking competition: The Great Rare Books Bake Off, a friendly contest between the sister libraries of Penn State University and Monash University. There are eight intriguing recipes to try out; four from the collection of each library. An engraved pie pan trophy will be awarded to the library that receives the most social media posts featuring photos of your baked goods tagged with its hashtag: #BakePennState or #BakeMonash. The competition runs July 20-24, 2020 so you have lots of time to read the recipes, shop for ingredients, and get baking. All the details are on the site linked above.

This recipe for Lemon Tart is the oldest one in the competition. As the Penn State lead baker, I encourage you, my Cooking in the Archives readers, to give this one a try and cast your vote in #TheGreatRareBooksBakeOff

2020-07-12 18.02.52

Description: slice of lemon tart and cup of tea

The Recipe

This is my first time working with the Browne manuscript: It’s a new acquisition at Penn State Libraries! I haven’t seen it in person yet, but my colleagues have generously sent me lots of reference photos. It’s in the queue to be digitized and I cannot wait to research it alongside my students.

Here is the information that my Penn State Libraries colleagues wrote up for our Bake Off site: 

The Lemon Tart recipe comes from a handwritten cookbook probably compiled in Camberwell, England, between 1770 and 1846. It consists of two sections: the first section is all written in the same hand between 1770 and 1772. These recipes include transcriptions from printed sources (including Hannah Glasse’s  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747)) and unpublished recipes, all from British cuisine. The second section appears to have been written in the early- or mid-nineteenth century and presents more British recipes in various hands. An inscription reads “Browne, 1827, Camberwell, Surr[e]y.”

I decided to update recipes for both “a crust for Tarts” and “To Make a Lemon Tart” from the Browne manuscript for the Rare Books Bake Off challenge. Neither recipe has been copied from Hannah Glasse’s magisterial cookbook.

A Crust for Tarts p. 37 fol. 19r copy

a Crust for Tarts (p. 37 fol. 19r)

Take a quart of the finest flower a quarter
of a pint of Cream – a quarter and half quarter
of butter – the yolks of two Eggs – a handfull
of sugar Make it into a past – and role it out thin

To Make A Lemon Tart p. 61 fol. 31r cropped

To Make a Lemon Tart (p. 61 fol. 31r)
Take three Clear Lemons andd grate of the
outside rind – take the yolks of 12 Eggs and
six whits beat them very well – squeese in
the Lemons – then put in three quarters of a pound
of fine suger powdered – and three quarters
of a pound of fresh butter melted stir all well
together – put a sheet of past a the Bottom
and sift suger on the top – put it in a brisk
oven three quarters of an hour will bake it

Updated Recipe

Makes one 10-inch tart that can be baked in a pie dish or a fluted tart pan.

Crust

*Feel free to substitute a store-bought pie crust here or your favorite pastry recipe. If you use a store-bought graham cracker crust (or other pre-baked crust), you can skip the blind baking step. 

2 cups/350g flour, additional flour for rolling out the pastry

1 Tablespoon sugar

6 Tablespoons/85g butter

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup – 1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425°F/218°C

Stir together flour and sugar in a large bowl.

Cut butter into small cubes.

Rub butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture is grainy.

Add the egg yolk and 1/4 cup of heavy cream and stir to form a soft pastry. Continue to add heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until all the flour is integrated into the pastry. (I ended up using a whole 1/2 cup in the end.)

Grease a pie or tart dish with butter or baking spray.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Arrange pastry in baking dish.

To blind bake the crust, cover the pastry with foil and fill the dish with baking beans or another weight.

Bake at 425°F/218°C for 12 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F/180°C for 10 minutes. The crust should be golden and set, but not as brown as when a pie is completely finished baking.

Filling

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

Zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

3/4 cup/175g sugar, plus 1 tablespoon to sprinkle on top of the pie

3/4 cup/175g butter, melted

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

Separate the egg yolks, melt the butter, zest and then juice the lemons.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir in the sugar and then the melted butter and mix well.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F/163°C.

Place the pie dish containing the baked crust on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust and scrape any sugar from the bottom of the mixing bowl into the dish.

Sprinkle the top of the lemon custard with sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes until the sugar on the top crisps and browns and the lemon custard is set, but still jiggly.

Cool on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.

The Results

This is a delightfully lemony pie with a flavorful crust. The sugar topping gives each bite a nice crunch, but the pie is only mildly sweet overall. Sharp lemon balances the rich custard and crust.

Warm from baking and cold from the fridge, this pie is going fast in my house. I wish I could share it with friends and I’m glad that I can share the recipe here with you. Let the bake off begin!

To preserve Strawberries

2020-05-30 05.34.30

Description: Strawberries in a bowl.

There are more recipes for preserving fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat in early modern recipe books than there are for cakes. I often gravitate to the cakes – because I love cake – but if I ever cooked one of these recipe books cover-to-cover I would be up to my elbows in pickling brine and sugar.

This delicious recipe for a strawberry and blackcurrant jam, “To preserve Strawberries” from the Clark Library MS.2012.011, capitalizes on sugar’s potent preserving power (just like this marmalade I posted last year). As sugar prices dropped over the course of the seventeenth century, sweet preservation recipes – rather than sour, vinegary ones –  became increasingly accessible to middle class families. The Hornyold family who began compiling and using this recipe book in the 1660s seem to fit this description. (I made Jasmine Butter from this same manuscript last summer.)

The declining price of sugar obscured what we would now think of as its true costs: Plantation slavery in the Caribbean and the Transatlantic slave trade. As Kim F. Hall’s ongoing work on sugar demonstrates, this prized ingredient in English kitchens both conveyed status to socially mobile families and embedded them in global systems of oppression. Distilling one of Hall’s recent lectures on the subject at the Race Before Race conference in January 2019, Ambereen Dadabhoy writes, “if we talk about women’s cooking cultures in the early modern period, we have to as Professor Kim F. Hall stated, call out the white women who participate in this culture and also uphold a racial regime of bondage and servitude in the plantation colonies and the metropole.” The Honryold household, like all households that consumed sugar in this era, benefited from and perpetuated systems of bondage. Slavery is an unavoidable part of the history of sweets in the seventeenth century.

Jam making was a seasonal, annual activity when fresh fruit was at its peak. This recipe specifically calls for “scarlet strawberries,” but notes that others “will do.” Here the manuscript may be referring to domesticated varieties of wild European strawberries or the recently arrived American wild strawberry fragaria virginiana. This American strawberry is one of the parents of modern commercial strawberry hybrids and it is sometimes called the “scarlet strawberry.” “Strawberries, Scarlet Strawberries,” was a cryer’s call in eighteenth-century London. Preserving fragile foods such as strawberries was crucial for survival during good times and bad times, years of abundance as well as plague. It’s strawberry season in Philadelphia and a wonderful time to make this recipe.

The Recipe

To Preserve Strawberries cropped

To preserve Strawberries –
To a quart of scarlet strawberries, and a pint
of currant juice, you must put a pound of Loaf sugar
bruise the Strawberries well in a pan then add the
Currant juice & the sugar, set it over a Charcoal fire
& let it boil Gently till it jellies, then put it into
pots for use —- any Strawberries will do
But not so well–

The first challenge of making this recipe was trying to find an unsweetened black currant juice without visiting lots of stores. I was able to order this juice made by R.W. Knudsen and have it delivered. Although the black currant juice adds something special here, you could omit it if you can’t find it and cook the jam for a shorter period. The second challenge was that I used a full pint of black currant juice the first time that I tested this recipe and ended up scorching the jam as I tried to reduce it adequately. When I made it again with a quarter cup of juice, the jam came together perfectly. I also consulted Marisa McClellan’s recipes for small batch strawberry vanilla jam and small batch strawberry balsamic jam.

Updated Recipe

Makes 3 cups of jam

1 quart strawberries (4 cups chopped)
455g sugar (scant 2 cups)
1/4 cup black currant juice

Prepare fruit

Cut strawberries into quarters.

Mix the strawberries with half of the sugar (1 cup) and let sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

Make jam

Put a small plate in your freezer.

Prepare your storage jar(s). If they’re not fresh from the dishwasher, rinse them with boiling water.

Put the macerated strawberries and sugar as well as the remaining sugar in a heavy saucepan with ample extra room. If you’re using a candy thermometer, affix it to the side of the pot.

Cook at a high heat and bring the strawberry mixture to the boil. Continue to cook and stir. Add the black currant juice after 15 minutes of cooking. Cook until the jam reaches 220°F and/or when you run a spoon along the bottom of the pan the jam does not immediately flood the space again. (My total cooking time was 25 minutes, but this will vary.)

As your jam nears temperature or the spoon parts it more effectively, put 1 teaspoon on the freezer plate and let sit for 30 seconds. If the jam holds its shape when you tilt the plate, it has set. If the jam is browning quickly or looks set before the temperature reaches 220°F, try the plate test earlier.

Store this small-batch preserve in the refrigerator and consume within two weeks. You can extend the life of your jam by properly canning it or by freezing it.

The Results

The first taste is sweet, then bright strawberry flavor, and finally the deep berry notes from the blackcurrant juice. I’ve been eating this delicious preserve on bread, toast, waffles, and biscuits. Even though I don’t have to wait almost another year to eat a strawberry, I know I’ll savor this peak summer flavor.

Further Reading

Dadabhoy, Ambereen. “After Race Before Race” January 19, 2019. https://ambereendadabhoy.com/2019/01/19/after-race-before-race/

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. “History, Pleasure, Identification: The Case for Early Modern Food Studies.” Race Before Race Conference. Arizona State University, Tempe. 19 Jan 2019. Lecture

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

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

Plague Water

Over the past few weeks, friends, family members, students, and colleagues have been asking me about plague and recipes. Outbreaks of the plague, and restrictive public health initiatives designed to stop the spread of the disease, were a regular feature of life in the early modern period. (I’m not an expert on this topic, but I’ve found these accounts especially engaging: on the history of quarantine in Italy, on the 1665 plague in London, on Shakespeare’s writing during times of plague.)

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Plague correspondingly leaves its marks in manuscript recipe books. During outbreaks, early modern people used “Plague Water” as a preventative and a cure for the disease. Samuel Pepys writes in his diary for Thursday 20 July 1665 — a week when 1089 people died from the plague in London by his account —  “My Lady Carteret did this day give me a bottle of plague-water home with me.” Recipes for “Plague Water” are so common that a single manuscript will often include multiple, different recipes for this healing water. What these recipes have in common is that they require a range of fresh and dried herbs that are infused in alcohol before the water is distilled. Although “Plague Water” likely had antibacterial effects due to its alcohol content, it is unlikely that it stopped the spread of plague as the pestilence was carried by small animals and transferred to humans by infected fleas.

This recipe “To make Plague water” is from Folger Shakespeare Library Ms. V.b.380 and, from what I’ve seen, a typical recipe for this preventative tonic. I’ve been researching this manuscript alongside a team of undergraduate researchers and librarian colleagues since early 2019. (See related posts here.) The paper in the manuscript dates from 1667 and accordingly this recipe for “Plague Water” was collected, saved, and perhaps prepared in the aftermath of the 1665-1666 plague.

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55 To make Plague water.
Take Rue, Agremony, Wormwood, Selandine, Red Sage,
Balm, Mugwort, Dragons, Fetherfew, Burnett, Sorril,
Tormentil, Scordium, Cardus-Benidictus, Dittanter, Bittany, Mary-
-golds, Scabius, Peniroyal, of Each half a pound, Rosemary
one pound, a quarter of a pound of Angellico leaves, a good
quantity of Elingcompane roots: Cowslips, Marygolds, Burage
Clovegilly flowers, of each a good quantity, Anniseeds & Corrander
of each 2 ounces, strip and pick all your herbs, then cut them
very small and put them in a vessell close cover’d, put to them​
3 Gallons of sack or white wine and 2 quarts of Brandy
stirr it 2 or 3 times a day for 2 or 3 days together, then
distill them in a Cold Still or Limback.

Unfortunately, I can’t test this recipe for you.* Even if I could correctly identify, purchase, or forage for these herbal ingredients, I don’t have distilling equipment – a cold still or an alembic – at home. I also cannot recommend that you prepare this recipe yourself as a number of the ingredients are now known to be toxic. For example, “Peniroyal” or Pennyroyal, an herb that I’ve seen listed in many medicinal recipes, causes liver damage.

Ultimately, recipes for “Plague Water” offer us an insight into the medical landscape of early modern England. In times of sickness and in health, households would collect medicinal recipes from members of their local and extended social networks seeking out efficacious cures for immediate use or future preparation.** Households would consult printed texts, such as Nicholas Culpeper’s ground-breaking English Physitian published in 1652 to seek out medical information (this page includes a list of plants mentioned in Culpeper’s book). Household members would gather herbs, purchase ingredients, and distill healing waters in the home. My students are often surprised (and intrigued!) to learn that family members would, essentially, test new medicines on their sick relatives. Indeed, recipe manuscripts are a unique repository of medical practice within the household in times of plague and prosperity.

*If, however, you find yourself in Minnesota, you might be able to taste some Plague Water made in a collaboration between Tattersall Distilling, Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) and the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

** My discussion of recipe collection practices here draws on Elaine Leong’s recent monograph Recipes and Everyday Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and the Household in Early Modern England (Chicago, 2018).

I’d like to thank Joseph Malcomson for the helpful discussion of Nicholas Culpeper and medicinal plants that shaped the final form of this post.

Meringues – To Make Lemmon (or Chocolett) Puffs

Quite a few recipes are labeled “puffs” in seventeenth and eighteenth-century recipe books. Last month, I was (wistfully) looking through the notes that I took on Clark Library manuscript fMS.1975.003 during my residential fellowship last summer and realized that a recipe for puffs that I’d flagged looked markedly like modern recipes for meringues. The instructions describe whipping egg whites and sugar until “light and stif” and baking the puffs on sheets of paper. In my non-historical baking life, I love making Yotam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous, giant rosewater and pistachio meringues and I knew I needed to give this recipe a try.

“Lemmon” or “Chocolett Puffs” uses the alchemy of eggs and sugar to showcase imported citrus and chocolate. The original recipe begins with instructions for lemon-flavored puffs, but then includes an option to make a chocolate variation in a note at the end. Like the recipe for “The Ice Cream” that I tested this summer, this recipe for puffs is from Elisabeth Hawar’s late-seventeenth-century London manuscript. The contents of this manuscript coincide with a drop in commodity prices for sugar, citrus, and chocolate. This was due to an increase in cultivation on plantations in the Americas worked by enslaved African laborers. Lower prices made these luxury items more accessible to middle-class consumers in England. (Read more about these commodities via the links.)

The Recipe

Lemon Puffs cropped

To Make Lemmon Puffs
Take a pound of Double refined shugar sarted very fine
2 Large Lemmons, scrape the Rhind of them very small &
rub it well into the sugar, then beat up the whites of
3 eggs with a twigg, and as the froath rises putt it into
the shugar, by a litle att a time, rub it up the side of
the bason till you find it light and stif enough to
drop, or sc[xx]e it upon papers, then sett them upon papers
into the Oven aftr after bread bake them pale.

Chocolett puffs are the same only putt in Chocolett
instead of Lemmons as much as you think fitt
a litle serves.

One can do amazing things with whipped egg whites and sugar. As I stood in my kitchen with my hand-held electric mixer, I was grateful that I didn’t need to use a twig to beat my egg whites as the original recipe instructs. That said, I did find that the proportions of eggs whites and sugar needed to be adjusted to achieve the stiff peaks that I knew I needed to produce a luscious meringue – crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. After some trial and error, I ended up liking the texture best with six egg whites to a full pound of sugar. Feel free to experiment with fewer egg whites – the original recipe calls for three – and let me know how it goes!

Updated Recipe

This recipe made about two dozen puffs.

2 cups sugar (1 lb)
6 egg whites
lemon zest
cocoa nibs, finely ground, or cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 225F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs and place the whites in a large bowl. Beat until just frothy with mixer.

Slowly add the sugar to the eggs. You can do this in batches or maintain a slow stream with a mixer running.

Beat until the mixture is glossy and will hold a stiff peak on a spoon or beater. The time this takes will vary widely depending on your eggs and sugar and the temperature and humidity of your kitchen. When in doubt, keep beating. Given the amount of sugar in this meringue, it is very unlikely that you will over-mix the meringues.

When you have achieved stiff peaks, add the flavoring.

For lemon meringues: Zest two lemons. Add most of the zest to the mix. Sprinkle the remaining zest over the top of the meringues.

For chocolate meringues: Grind 2T cocoa nibs. Cocoa powder should be a reasonable substitute here. Add most of the ground cocoa nibs to the mix. Sprinkle the ground cocoa nibs over the top of the meringues.

For a batch that is half lemon and half chocolate: Divide the meringue mix into two bowls. Use the zest of 1 lemon to flavor and decorate meringues from one bowl and 1T ground cocoa nibs to flavor and decorate meringues from the other.

Dollop meringues onto the paper-covered baking sheets. Leave space in between for expansion. Sprinkle with zest or cocoa nibs.

Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes until the meringues are hard on the outside and still soft in the center. Remove from the baking sheets and allow to cool completely. Meringues can be stored in an air-tight container for a few days.

The Results

Crunchy and yielding, these meringues have a delightful texture. The flavors are subtle: the citrus zest is first a smell and then a faint taste; the cocoa nibs add a nutty chocolate flavor that varies bite-to-bite. When I shared these with friends, I was asked if rosewater was one of the flavorings because of the floral smell of the citrus. I might increase the flavorings next time, but sometimes a subtle delight is best.

meringues – lemon or chocolate puffs

Almond Pudding

What is pudding?

When I discuss Renaissance food with my American college students, the word “pudding” inspires memories of sweet, creamy dessert (often eaten from a plastic tub with a peel-off top). The question of pudding as a recipe category was at the front of my mind when I first prepared this recipe for Almond Pudding with Penn State Abington students last fall. (We also tested Knotts and then baked both recipes for our public event “A Taste of 1677.”)

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If I’m talking to a British audience, “pudding” is a far more capacious category of desserts. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first and oldest definition of the word is more aligned with the modern-day British delicacy “blood pudding,” than anything you might want to sweeten the end of your meal: “A stuffed entrail or sausage.” By the later half of the seventeenth century, English recipes for “pudding” might be sausages, steamed cakes, or pastry crusts filled with custard, cooked fruit, or rice and cream.

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This recipe for Almond Pudding appears in an opening of Folger MS V.b.380 with quite a few other puddings. Each of these pudding recipes – Marrow, Rice, Carrott, Orange, and Almond –  includes a flavorful filling that is baked in a pastry crust. Almond Pudding has far more in common with a modern day tart or pie than a sausage or Jello snack.

The Recipe

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Take one quart of Cream, and a quart of Milk, and 12 Eggs
beat yolks whites and alltogether, in a Kittle over the fire, and keep
it stirring till ’tis curdled like a Cheese, then Strain the whey from
it, and put half a pound of Butter to it, and break it small, when
cold put in half a pound of Almonds beaten very small, with a
grain of Musk, or some Orange flower water, half a pound of
Sugar, and a little Sack, 2 Ounces of Orange & Lemmon, and one
Ounce of Cytron, put paist under and over it, ’twill be an
hour in bakeing.

The first time I tested the recipe with students, we scalded the cream, milk, and egg mixture until it curdled and attempted to strain out the whey. Barely any liquid dripped out of the mix and we were left with a stinky mess. Working from the assumption that this first step is designed to address issues with dairy that has not undergone homogenization and pasteurization, I decided to make the mix again and skip the straining step. The resulting filling was luscious and delightfully scented with orange and lemon.

Updated Recipe

Quartered recipe makes 20 little tarts with one batch of pastry for a double-lidded pie. (I tested this with both store-bought pie crusts and with Mark Bittman’s classic recipe.)

1 cup cream
1 cup milk
3 eggs
4 T butter
1 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup sugar
Zest 1 orange
Zest 1 lemon
1 T orange flour water
pastry for a double-lidded pie (homemade or store-bought)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin or mince pie tins.

Beat dairy and eggs over a low heat until warm, but not curdled. Add butter. Set mixture aside to cool for 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix ground almonds, sugar, citrus zest, and orange flour water. Stir into the egg and dairy mix.

Roll out and cut pastry into bases and lids. (I used a 3-inch cutter for the bases and either a 2-inch or small star for the lid.) Arrange bases in your baking tins. If you’re using a muffin tin, the pastry will not completely cover the base and sides of the cups.

Fill each cup 3/4 full with custard. Add tops. (You might need to bake these in two batches)

Bake for 20 minutes. The pastry should be nicely browned and any visible custard should be slightly wobbly.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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This recipe comes from my year-long investigation of Folger Shakespeare Library manuscript V.b.380 alongside students and collaborators. 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.  

How to Make Knotts

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

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A plate of beautifully baked cookies is a wonderful thing. It is a welcoming gesture for guests, it signifies a holiday or a special meal, and it is a demonstration of a baker’s skill at making something pleasing to the eye and the palate. In Shakespeare’s England, bakers in elite households prepared sugar sculptures, confectionary, marzipan, and sweet doughs shaped into knots, twists, and letters.

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Sweets were an occasion for British women to not only show that they were excellent bakers, but that they were masters of other handicrafts such as sewing and writing. In her book Pens and Needles: Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England, Susan Frye explores the deep and pervasive connection between sewing and writing in Renaissance culture. She writes, “Women from a variety of backgrounds created needlework pieces that placed accepted subjects in every room, that helped to clothe themselves and their families, and that declared the family’s social status, even as they may be read as personal and political expressions” (116). A woman’s style of knotting thread and creating samplers, or needlework pictures, was an indication of her class and taste. It was as individualized as handwriting. Likewise, as Wendy Wall shows in her book Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen, handwriting and needlework were connected to culinary skill. Although elite women employed cooks in their households, the lady of the house might personally participate in the preparation of finely shaped delicacies. Recipes that instructed cooks to shape soft dough or marzipan into “knots,” asked bakers to draw on their experience knotting thread as well as writing “knots,” meaning elaborate circular flourishes or majuscule and miniscule letterforms (Wall 143).

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Over the course of Shakespeare’s lifetime, sugar went from being an incredibly expensive ingredient, imported overland from Asia, to a more widely used seasoning. Kim Hall’s scholarship on sugar and status in the period demonstrates that British women’s increased use of sugar implicated them in the systems of commerce and colonialism that kept people of African and Caribbean descent enslaved as laborers in sugar cane fields in the Americas. As these systems persisted in the century after Shakespeare’s death, sugar became cheaper still and more widely available to upper and middle class British people. A manuscript whose inception we can date to 1677, Folger manuscript V.b.380, shows a range of beautiful flourishing and handwriting as well as many recipes for spectacular sweets.

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Original Recipe

How to Make Knotts,” draws on a cook’s skill in shaping dough, writing, and sewing. The “Knotts” here are sweet cookies flavored with rosewater and caraway seeds. Although this flavor combination may sound unfamiliar, it is delicious and it was not uncommon in the period. Earlier this year, I prepared a delicious Seed Cake recipe with the same two dominant flavors.

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How to Make Knotts

Take a pound of flower and halfe a pound of shuger
and 1/2: pound of butter and :2: whits and one yealke of Eggs
a Little rosewater and a few Caraway seeds mingled
all to gather and make them all into a past and then
make them into knots and lay them upon paper and
so past bake them

Updated Recipe
Makes 24 cookies

1 cup, 2 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks butter (1 cup), room temperature
3 eggs (2 whole and 1 yolk)
1 tablespoon rosewater
3 1/3 cups flour (plus extra flour for shaping)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with baking parchment or greasing them with butter or baking spray.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs and rosewater and stir to combine. Mix in salt, caraway, and flour to form a dough.

Shape into knots, twists, and letters on a lightly floured surface.

Bake 20-25 minutes.

This recipe comes from my year-long investigation of Folger Shakespeare Library manuscript V.b.380 alongside students and collaborators. 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 Ginger Bread

This gingerbread recipe is not for the faint hearted. Potent ginger, molasses, caraway, and citrus flavors blend sweet and savory, spicy and floral. This is not necessarily surprising. Heavily spiced treats are a British holiday tradition (take a look at these mince pie and gingerbread recipes I’ve made in the past). Gingerbread recipes are remarkable for their strong flavors and interesting designs. Seventeenth-century moulds for figures and patterns — like these on Ivan Day’s Historic Food website — demonstrate the decorative potential of this cookie dough. Whether gingerbread was sold at a Christmas market or prepared for display and consumption in the home, it was meant to be both flavorful and beautiful.

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Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This early nineteenth-century English gingerbread mould, from the Victoria and Albert Museum, depicts a king and queen standing side-by-side. Others moulds from the period depict swaddled infants, winged figures, shepherds, St George, the Agnus Dei, fashionable ladies with fans, and fruit baskets. Although gingerbread men or houses are our culinary commonplaces in the twenty-first-century, historical gingerbread recipes and moulds reveal a range of other shapes.

Original Recipe

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To Make Ginger Bread
8
Take one Peck of flower a quarter of a pound
of ginger a quarter of a pound of Carraway
seeds one ounce of coriander seeds bruise the seeds
Tenn Eggs Tenn pound of Treakcle one pound of
Orange & one pound of Cittern bake them in a
Slow Oven
{anne
Western
Zk G

In the seventeenth century, treacle could refer to a range of sugar syrups of varying viscosity and flavor intensity from what a British baker would now call “golden syrup” to modern treacle and American blackstrap molasses. These syrups were a byproduct of sugar processing, and were widely available because of their use in the thriving rum industry and their connection to slavery and colonial trade routes.

I prepared 1/12 batch of the original recipe using American molasses and made more than two dozen gingerbread stars! The original amounts are a monumental undertaking either for sale, large-format gingerbread displays, or a grand celebration.

Updated Recipe

3 1/3 c flour
2T ground ginger
2T candied ginger, chopped small
1T caraway seeds
1t coriander seeds
1/3 c candied orange peel, chopped small
1/3 c candied citron
1 egg
1 1/4 c molasses (American bakers) or treacle (British bakers)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with baking parchment or grease with butter or spray.

Mix gingerbread ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out until 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes and/or stamp with designs.

Bake 10-15 minutes. The bottoms will feel set, but the cookies will still be soft.

Cool on racks for 10 minutes.

The Results

This gingerbread is packed with flavor and could be easily be stamped, shaped, or used to construct a house, figure, or any other monument you might dream up. The molasses dominates any bite that does not include a bit of citrus. If I were to make this again, I might swap out half of the molasses for honey or a lighter syrup.

This recipe comes from my year-long investigation of Folger Shakespeare Library manuscript V.b.380 alongside students and collaborators.