Turnips and carrots, For a ffridays dish of meat

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

Turnips

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

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

Original Recipe

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

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

Updated Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

turnips

The Results

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

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Toast: for the weakness of the back

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

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

The Recipe

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

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

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

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

toast

Updated Recipe

serves 1-2

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

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

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

Eat immediately.

To Order Mushromes

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

Updated Recipe

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

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

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

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

Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

to order mushromes

The Results

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

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

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 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!

To make selebub

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

hall-cropped

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

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

 

The Recipe

syllabub-cropped

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

Our Recipe

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

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

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

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

 

The Results

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

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

 

Carraway Bunns

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

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

The Recipe

carraway-bunns

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

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

Our Recipe

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

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

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

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

Preheat the oven to 350F.

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

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

The Results

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

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