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.

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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

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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

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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.

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Description: pickled purslane on a plate.

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.

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.

Kidney-bean pufs

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

Kidney beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Recipe

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Kidney-bean pufs

anne}
Western

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

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

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

cooked beans versus dried beans

Updated Recipe

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

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

Canned Beans – Drain and rinse the beans.

Heat a skillet or large frying pan.

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

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

Serve hot.

Kidney-bean pufs

The Results

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

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

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

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

Frittars of Eggs and herbes 

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

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Frittars of eggs and herbs

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

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

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

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W.b.79, 54

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

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

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

The Recipe

128527

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

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Frittars of eggs and herbs

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

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

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

Updated Recipe

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side.

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

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

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

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

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

To make many small fritters

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

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

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

Serve immediately.

To make one, large fritter

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

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

Slice and serve immediately.

 

Seed Cake inspired by Thomas Tusser

 

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

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Photo by Teresa Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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INGREDIENTS

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

PREPARATION

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

NOTES

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

 

Learn More

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Teresa Wood

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

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

Making Marmalade with Hannah Woolley

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

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Photo by Teresa Wood

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

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Photo by Teresa Wood

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

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Photo by Teresa Wood

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

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

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

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

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

INGREDIENTS

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

EQUIPMENT

Baking scale
Candy thermometer

PREPARATION

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

NOTES

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

Learn More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the French Fashion

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

Preparation

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

Notes

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

Learn More

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

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

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

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

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