Strawberr Water.

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

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

The Recipe

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Strawberr Water

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

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

Updated Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

2019-05-10 16.11.31

strawberr water

The Results

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

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Hippocras, or spiced wine

Hippocras is a kind of spiced wine. As Paul Lukacs writes in his book Inventing Wine, wine drinkers at all levels of society in medieval and early modern Europe drank spiced wines, “Spices not only would disguise a wine beginning to turn bad but also could make an otherwise dry wine taste somewhat sweet. And medieval men and women craved sweets. They used cloves, cinnamon, honey, and the like to season” their wines and their foods (43). Wines made before the invention of modern bottling technologies were highly perishable and markedly different from the wines we drink today. According to Lukacs, some were made from raisins and fermented to be sweeter and almost syrupy in texture, others were thin and sour depending on age and style. Fresh from harvest in the autumn, cloudy and fragrant wines were shipped in huge volumes from France, Italy, Germany, and later Spain to wine-consuming countries such as England which did not (at that time) have a local wine industry of its own. Adding spices to these wines as they aged made them more palatable and also added health benefits from the spices themselves. After the wine was infused with spices and sweetener, but before it was served, it was strained through a linen “hippocras bag” to remove the spices and other flavoring. This linen bag was named after Hippocrates, the ancient physician who advised the consumption of spiced wine drinks and was thought to have strained them through his voluminous sleeves.

I’m excited about this post because I developed a hippocras recipe that I think is truly delicious and I learned a lot along the way. After many hours in the reading room at the UPenn library and many more hours clicking through digital images of manuscripts and printed books online looking for Hippocras (or its variant spellings Ipocras , Ypocras, Hypocrass, Hippocris, and Hipocras), I decided to prepare a recipe “To make Ipocras” from Robert May’s The accomplisht cook, a very popular cookbook that was first published in London in 1660. I’ve been thinking about May quite a bit over the last six months and I updated another recipe from this cookbook for the upcoming exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas. (Stay tuned for that recipe!) May’s Ipocras recipe beautifully seasons the wine without eradicating the original flavors. This was especially important to me because I was using a wonderful 2016 Côtes du Rhône made by Clovis thanks to T. Edward Wines. The wine is delicious on its own and I knew, with proper care, it would make a delicious hippocras as well.

Below, you will find May’s recipe, my updated version of it, and quite a few hippocras recipes from manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Clark Library, and UPenn Library. These recipes showcase a range of methods and I’ve including images and transcriptions below. I might make them someday, but feel free to experiment and let me know how things go in the comments.

May’s Ipocras Recipe

To make Ipocras.

TAke to a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinamon, two ounces of slic’t ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream.

Otherwayes.

Take to a pottle of wine an ounce of cinamon, an ounce of ginger, an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, seven corns of pepper, a handfull of rosemary flowers, and two pound of sugar.
Robert May, The accomplisht cook, or The art and mystery of cookery. Wherein the whole art is revealed in a more easie and perfect method, then hath been publisht in any language. Expert and ready wayes for the dressing of all sorts of flesh, fowl, and fish; the raising of pastes; the best directions for all manner of kickshaws, and the most poinant sauces; with the tearms of carving and sewing. An exact account of all dishes for the season; with other a la mode curiosities. Together with the lively illustrations of such necessary figures as are referred to practice. / Approved by the fifty years experience and industry of Robert May, in his attendance on several persons of honour. (London: Printed by R.W. for Nath. Brooke, at the sign of the Angel in Cornhill, 1660), Wing M1391. Photo courtesy of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts. (T3r).
I decided to follow May’s instructions for “Otherwayes … To make Ipocras.” As I show below (and you can see above in May’s first recipe), many Hippocras recipes are intended for white wine, add sack, or use milk or cream during the straining process. May’s “Otherwayes” showcases the characteristics of the original wine as well as the added spices.

May’s Ipocras Updated

1 bottle red wine (ideally an earthy Côtes du Rhône like this one from Clovis)
4 cinnamon sticks
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
2 slices of a whole nutmeg, or 1/4 t ground
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
2 springs fresh rosemary
1/3-1/2 c sugar (optional, I preferred it without)

Combine the wine, spices, and sugar (if using). Cover tightly and let infuse at room temperature for 24 hours before you plan to serve it.

Strain out spices before serving using a metal or cloth strainer.

The first scent that reaches my nose is rosemary, then cinnamon, then the aroma of the wine itself. The cloves, pepper, and nutmeg all appear in the first sip. Within hours of first pouring it, the hippocras was all gone. The neighbors that stopped in to taste it loved it. One likened it to a brandy cocktail. Another thought the spice flavors were similar to Charoset, the fruit paste from the Passover seder. We all preferred the unsweetened hippocras. In this, we are probably unlike May’s original audience who had quite a sweet-tooth.

Other ways to make Hippocras
May’s recipe adds the flavors of spice and sweetness to red wine. Other Hippocras recipes take a range of approaches. I’ve also recently tested Mary Baumfylde’s recipe for White Hippocras from Folger V.a.456 for another essay I’m working on. This recipe uses a “milk punch” method to clarify and strain the hippocras. After the initial infusion, milk is added. It curdles and the curdled milk solids are strained out along with the spices. This made a very tasty drink, but I could not taste any of the characteristics of the wine at the base. These hippocras recipes below are all promising, but all showcase fewer of the original wine’s characteristics due to the addition of lemon juice, other alcohol such as sack, or milk.
This white wine and sack Hypocrass is from Elisabeth Hawar’s recipe book now held at the Clark Library in fMS.1975.003. It is likely that Elisabeth, or another owner, lived in East London as the book includes manuscript directions to places in Shoreditch and Spitalfields.

To Make Hypocrass

Take 3 pints of white wine & a quart of Sack & a
pinte of milk, Sinamon 2 oz Ginger 1 oz of Nutmegs
2/1 an oz beaten of Cloves halfe a pennyworth, 2 t of
powder shuger or else all the spice & shuger must be
steeped in the Sack all night, Red Rose water 6 spoonefull
one bunch of Rosemary & 3 bay leaves lett it run throw
a bagg till it be as clear as rock water

This recipe from Judith Bedingfield’s manuscript at UPenn (Ms. Codex 631) is driven by orange flavors, includes apples (pippen), and uses the milk punch method. The wine infuses with the sweetness and the spices and once the milk is added it curdles. When the curdled solids are removed, the mixture is clarified and flavorful.

To Make good Hippocras, red or White

To Make the Quantity of two Quarts, you must take two Quarts of good French White Wine
or Red Wine is much better if it be of a very good Red: on the said two Quarts of wine you’ll
put a Pound of Loaf sugar, the Juice of two Lemons, seven or eight thin Slices of Sevill
orange peel, if you have any Portugal Oranges you’ll put in the Juice of one, with ten
or twelve Zests, or thin Slices of the Peel of the same Orange. if you have none there needs
none. you’ll  put also on the said two Quarts  of wine one Dram of Cinnamon broke a little
four Cloves broke in two, a Leaf or two of mace, five or six Grains of White Pepper, half
broken, & a small handful of Coriander seeds, also half broken or beaten, half a golden Pippen
or, if small, a whole one, peel’d & cut into Slices, & half a Pint of good Milk: then stir them
well together with a spoon, & strain it through a clear straining Bag,  untill it comes clear;
& when it is very clear & transparent, make it run into a jug or any thing else that you’ll
cover with a strainer (that is named Stamine) & so let it run through that into your jug:
then take, on the Point of a Knife, some musk & Amber Powder. #

Alternatively, this recipe from UPenn LJS 165 uses all sack, a sweet wine from Spain or Portugal and precursor to modern sherry.

Hippocris to make

Take 1/2 a pound of Curran seed 3 ounces of long pepper
6 ounces of Cinamon: 2 Ounces of ginger 1 ounce of Nutm[eg]
a Sprig of Rosemary a Lemon Sliced 6 quarts of of Skimed mi[lk]
but not Sower, 6 pound of cleane suger 6 gallons of sack steep
(but the Milke and suger) in the sack 6 dayes Stir it twice or th[xx]
a day put it into a large Tub & poure in the Milke leasurely th[xx]
stirring the sack very fast putting in the suger into the Tub before
let it run through the bag

Lady Grace Castleton’s recipe book Folger Ms. V.a.600 includes a receipt “To make Hipochras” from a “Lady Cauendishe.” This version includes cardamon and, like the previous examples, starts with white wine and is strained with milk.

To make Hipochras L[ady] Chauendishe 85
Take a pound of white lump sugar, two ounces
of symonan, a quarter of ounce of gingar, &
a quarter of an ounce of cloves, bruse these
spices, & put them with the sugar to steep in
a gallon of good white wine, stir them
well together, & lett them stand all night clos
covered in astone pott, in the mourning putt
halfe a pint of new milk in’t, & lett it run
through a jellye bagg, wetting it first in
milkwringe it out again, Lett it
run through the bag, soo often till it be cliar
taste stronge of the spices, a few cardemum
seedes a mongst the spices will give it agood
taste.

Hippocras took many forms. Enlivened with spices and fruit, enhanced with strong sack, or tempered with dairy, Hippocras recipes were designed to healthfully and deliciously amend premodern wines. Despite what Lukacs and others suggest about early modern cooks using spices to amend spoiled wines, the Castleton and Bedingfield recipes insist on starting with good wines. That way, the resulting spiced wines will be as delicious and efficacious as possible.

Special thanks to Daniel Veraldi and T. Edward Wines for supplying the Clovis 2016 Côtes du Rhône.

 

To Make Marmalet of Pippins

This weekend I had some extra apples and a head cold, so I wanted to make something that felt cozy. Flipping through Judeth Bedingfield’s recipe book, UPenn Ms. Codex 631, I found this recipe To Make Marmalet of Pippins. Apple marmalade? I was intrigued, and I got cooking. (Which really, for me, sums up this project in a nutshell.)

As soon as I saw the cooling marmalade, I thought, wait, this looks familiar… Last December I made Pippins preserved at cristmas, from Catherine Cotton’s recipe book.   This marmalade is, basically, the chopped-up version of those preserved apples, plus more lemon. These two recipe books are contemporaries, probably compiled in the 1690s and early 1700s. The similarity of the two recipes suggests that this method of cooking and preserving apples was probably fairly common at the time, which makes sense: it requires few and readily available ingredients, takes little time, and yields a dish that can be served in a variety of ways.

I also like to imagine that Judeth Bedingfield and Catherine Cotton, whose books have yielded so many recipes for this project, might have been cooking their preserved apples and marmalets around the same time – and here I am cooking them over 300 years later.

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The Recipe

marmalet

To Make Marmalet of Pippins

Take to a pound of sugar a pound & half of pippins which must be choped
with a knife & put into the sugar with a pint of water they must boile as fast as
possible & when it is allmost boiled enough put in a Little Lemon Peel which must
be first boiled in 9 or 4 waters & when its Cleer enough which will not be soe till it
hath stood off the fire a while you must put in a little Juice of Lemon after which
it may have one boile /

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Our Recipe
*halved from original

1/2 lb. (1 1/8 c.) sugar
3/4 lb. apples (about 2 small-medium apples), peeled or not, and chopped*
1/2 pint (1 c.) water
1″ wide strip of lemon peel, boiled in 4 changes of water and chopped finely**
juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine sugar, chopped apples, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to full boil and keep cooking, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 mins. (The marmalade might want to boil over near the end, so keep an eye on it.) Remove from the heat and let cool for at least 15 mins., until apples are amber-colored and clear. Add lemon juice and cook over low heat just until simmering.

*Note: I wasn’t sure whether or not to peel the apples. The recipe didn’t specify, but perhaps peeling would have been obvious to seventeenth-century marmalet makers? So I partially peeled the apples, which were originally destined for applesauce and a bit dinged up to begin with. In the finished product, the peel was barely noticeable, so next time I’ll probably skip this step. However, if you’d like a very smooth marmalade, there’s no harm in peeling the apples.

**Note: Somewhat inexplicably, the recipe suggests you boil the lemon peel in “9 or 4″ changes of water. I chose 4. And while I boiled a few strips just in case, I found that one strip about 1″ wide and 2” long provided enough lemon flavor.

The Results

While I liked the preserved apples, I liked this marmalade version even better! The slightly bitter peel cuts some of the sugar, though it’s still very sweet, and this would be lovely spread on bread, an English muffin, or (if you’re like me and make a beeline for them in Trader Joe’s) a crumpet. I was glad I halved the recipe, since it yielded enough for a half-pint jar plus a crumpet slathering; that’s more than enough for me to go through for one batch, but it would easily scale up. I will make this again, especially since a small jar would make a nice holiday gift. I might play with zesting a lemon to see if I can get the same taste without the thicker rind, or with chopping apples even more finely. (I assumed they would cook down a bit, but they largely retained their original shape.) I might also throw in a cinnamon stick or maybe some star anise while the mixture is cooling.

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Pancakes Two Ways

Today is Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, and a wonderful day to eat pancakes! We’ve prepared two pancake recipes from MS Codex 631 – and like those rice puddings we made a few months ago, they’re curiously different. This time, we chose two pancake recipes from the very same page of Judeth Bedingfield’s recipe book (1730s and 40s). Alyssa was intrigued by the recipe for rice pancakes and Marissa took charge of the conventional “pancake.” We keep coming back to this manuscript because of Bedingfield’s comprehensive collection and her tendency to include multiple recipes for the same dish. (Check out the rice pudding, potato pudding, Potingall cakes, “Peas Pods” of Puff Paste, and perennial favorite Carrot Pudding from Bedingfield’s book.)

The Recipes

pancakes

To Make Rice Pancakes
Take a pound of Rice & Boyle it very tender then take it off the fire & pour it into
a pott & Cover it very close till it be cold then take 3 pints of new milk & let it boyle
then put in 3 quarters of a pound of butter put these with the rice & mix it well together
till the rice be so small you can hardly perceive it & beat 12 eggs 10 (so?) of the whites & a
little salt then stirr it well together & when your pan be hott fry them without butter &
serve them up with sugar

To Make Pancakes
Take a pint of Cream, half a pound of Clarifed butter clear’d of beat 4 eggs whites
& yolks three spoon fulls of flower well dryed stir these together & put the Cream & butter
to them, with a little salt and nutmegg, when all is well mingled together cover
it close and let it
stand half an hour near the fire then heat the frying pan hott & put a sheet of white paper
at the bottom of the pan then turn it out a pon a plate

Our Recipes

Rice Pancakes

Like Marissa’s “Pancakes” below, these are thinner and eggier than modern American pancakes. The rice adds an interesting taste and texture: they turn out like rice pudding in crêpe form.

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I quartered the original recipe and it made about 18 pancakes using a 1/4 c. measure. (I lost a few along the way when flipping them went awry, as seen below.)

1/4 lb. (heaping 1/2 c.) rice*
3/4 pint (1.5 c.) milk
3 tbsp. butter, diced
3 eggs (1 whole egg + 2 whites)
pinch salt
sugar (powdered or granulated) for serving

*Note: I used Arborio rice because it’s what I had; anything you have handy should work as well.

Cook rice according to instructions; drain and then cool completely in a covered container.

Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off heat and add butter, stirring so that butter melts. Add milk mixture to rice and mix it well. (The original directs you to mix it until the “rice be so small you can hardly perceive it.” I stirred and stirred but could still perceive the rice, so then I wondered if this suggested some mashing? I blitzed the mixture a few times with an immersion blender to break up the rice a bit, though you could skip this step.)

With a hand mixer, stand mixer, or (if feeling in need of an arm workout) by hand, whisk two egg whites until frothy. Stir whole egg into rice mixture, then whites and a pinch of salt.

Heat non-stick pan as you would for regular pancakes (medium heat). Pour small pancakes: I used a 1/4 c. not quite filled. Be sure to scoop to the bottom of the bowl, as the rice sinks. Cook until large bubbles form throughout, about 3 mins., then flip the pancake and let brown on the other side.

Serve topped with sugar of your choice.

These turned out to be tastier than I thought they would, actually. They are, however, somewhat fiddly to make, as the batter is thin (no flour) and prone to breaking when you flip the pancake. Keeping the pancakes on the smaller side and letting them brown thoroughly solved this issue. (Mostly.) The rice adds some nice chewiness and a surprising degree of flavor. If you really wanted them to taste like rice pudding, adding a splash of vanilla or almond to the batter could be great. Zest would work too. Plus, they’re a great use for leftover rice, as the recipe can be scaled to however much you have. Many pancaking possibilities!

Pancakes

These pancakes are a precursor to flat, crêpe-like British pancakes and a far cry from fluffy, American pancakes. This doesn’t make them any less delicious than the American breakfast classic, but it’s worth mentioning at the start. These rich pancakes are slightly leavened with beaten eggs and ask to be served with sweet or savory sides.

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I’ve halved the original recipe. It makes 4 pancakes and serves 2. Double, triple or quadruple as you desire!

1/2 c cream
8T butter (1 stick) melted, solids removed, plus 1 T for cooking
2 eggs, separated
3T flour
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt

Combine cream and clarified butter and set aside. Beat egg whites until frothy. I used a hand mixer for this, but a whisk or a standing mixer would also work. Add yolks, then flour, then salt and nutmeg. Finally, stir in cream and butter mix. Let stand for a half an hour.

Heat 1 t butter in an 8-inch pan.  Pour 1/4 of the batter into the pan and allow it to spread out. Cook pancakes for 1 min on each side. (Flipping is easier after the first pancake.) Serve immediately.

These crêpe-like pancakes were deliciously scented with nutmeg and rich with dairy. Served with yogurt and quinces (recipe coming soon), they made a warm and hearty breakfast on a cold morning. Since this recipe does not call for any sugar, it would be easy to take them in a savory direction by serving them with eggs, cheese, fresh sage or dill, or even breakfast meat like sausage or bacon.  I’ll be making these again for breakfast, brunch, and dinner.

Pancake-Off: The Results

A draw! We liked both of these quite a bit. Enjoy either of these pancakes with fresh fruit, yogurt, syrup, honey, nutella, or even preserved apples and apricots. And stay tuned for the recipe for the preserved quinces pictured with Marissa’s pancakes!

Rice Pudding Two Ways 

We wrote a version of this post over on The Recipes Project.

Rice pudding is simple. Neutral in color and mild in taste, rice pudding has a minimal list of ingredients and always pleases a crowd. It’s also familiar – most of us have  encountered rice pudding at one time or another. So, when we kept seeing lists of rice pudding recipes in manuscript recipe books from many centuries, we wondered: why rice pudding? And what, if any, differences were there between past and present versions? So, we decided to make not one but two distinct rice pudding recipes. A rice pudding face-off!

While in the twenty-first century the ingredients required to make rice pudding are pantry staples – rice and sugar are readily available, as is dairy – in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English households, rice pudding was probably a more exotic affair. After all, England does not produce any of its own rice. We asked another question: where did this rice come from?

This sent us on a hunt for early modern England’s rice suppliers. Today, as in the past, the majority of the world’s rice is produced in Asia. Until the later decades of the seventeenth century, England’s rice came from Asia through overland routes or through overseas trade. (For more information, see Renee Marton’s Rice: A Global History and Rice: Global Networks and New Histories, ed. Francesca Bray et al.) The rice that made its way into England’s kitchens in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would likely have come from British colonies in South Carolina. Carolina Gold Rice was developed from African seed stock and is distinct from Asian varieties.* It thrived in the Low Country, anchored South Carolina’s economy, and was largely cultivated by African slaves. Scholars of American history and food are currently debating the theory of “Black Rice,” first proposed by Judith Carney, which argues for the centrality of West African women’s agricultural knowledge to the successful cultivation of rice in the Carolinas. *[Correction: Naomi Duguid pointed out that Carolina Gold Rice is neither from Africa nor indigenous to the Americas. It most likely arrived on a ship from Madagascar or the East Indies. See her book, The Seductions of Rice, on this topic.]

Chefs and food writers often refer to this meeting of cultures, climates, and ingredients as the Carolina Rice Kitchen. Rice was the foundation of a local cuisine and an important export. Non-aromatic but nutty, Carolina Gold Rice was world-renowned. The PBS show Mind of a Chef included this animated history of Carolina Rice in an episode where Chef Sean Brock makes a passionate case for recovering lost food traditions. For more information about Carolina Gold Rice and southern heritage foods, take a look at these resources: Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, the Southern Foodways Alliance, Anson Mills, and food historian David Shields’ new book, Southern Provisions. The recipes we decided to cook for this rice pudding-off were both included in manuscripts from a particular historical moment: the moment when the rice supply-chain changed and Carolina Gold Rice arrived in England’s kitchens.

Our rice puddings come from LJS 165 and MS Codex 631. Each recipe is just one in a cluster of rice pudding recipes, demonstrating cooks’ variations on a base recipe that we’ve seen with other dishes like jumballs and syllabubs.  (Rice pudding could also be turned into other recipes: two rice pudding recipes in MS Codex 631 include instructions for adapting them to almond puddings instead.) For contrast, we chose to cook one recipe that started with whole rice and another that used rice flour as a base.

Indeed, we were intrigued, even surprised, to see rice flour in an eighteenth-century recipe. More and more modern cookbooks are exploring a wide range of flours, but what was the place of rice flour in early modern cooking? Rice flour (often “rice flower” or “flowre”) was used as a thickening agent in a range of early modern dishes. Seventeenth-century print cookbooks like The Compleat English and French Cook (1690) and Joseph Cooper’s The Art of Cookery (1654) both call for rice flour in “Cream with Snow” (sweetened cream thickened with rice flour and eggs, then topped with more cream). They also use rice flour in Almond Cream and Rice Cream, as does The Compleat Cook (1694), which also provides a recipe for “Custard without Eggs” using rice flour. The Gentlewomans Cabinet Unlocked (1675) tells how to make Rice Milk. Other rice flour puddings can be found; some add chopped dates and/or currants to the mixture, while others top the pudding with a pastry crust. The use of rice flour as a thickening agent continued well into the eighteenth century: print cookbooks like A Collection of above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery (1714), The Court and Country Confectioner (1770), and Amelia Chambers’ The Ladies Best Companion (1775?) often use rice flour in cheesecakes and in the filling for chocolate tarts.

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The Recipes

A whole grain rice pudding from LJS 165.

rice puding

Rice Puding
A quart of Creame a pound of Rice 2 Eggs, Orangado a
1/4 of a pound, Cinamon a quarter of a pound an Ounce, a
little Rosewater & Ambergreese some grated bread 3/4 of a
pound of suger some Marrow boyle Salt in the Creame

Apparently it is still trendy to flavor rice pudding with cinnamon and orange because a quick search turned up this Food Network recipe. I made two small changes to this recipe: I halved it (and it still made a huge amount) and I didn’t add aromatic ambergris and bone marrow to the mixture.  In retrospect, I also wonder if a combination of milk and cream might work better here than cream and the water I added to stop the rice from sticking. After all the talk about Carolina Gold Rice, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I tried this recipe with Jasmine Rice instead. It’s what I had to hand and it worked, although I’m sure Carolina Gold Rice would add a distinctly nutty flavor to the pudding.

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar (3/8 lb. or 165 g.)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. rosewater
1/4 tsp. salt
3-4 strips of orange peel
1 cup and 2 tbsp. rice (1/2 lb. or 225 g.), preferably Carolina Gold Rice
1 egg
1 small piece of bread, grated. Or 2 tbsp. bread crumbs.

Heat the cream, sugar, and seasonings: cinnamon, orange peel, and rosewater.
Add the rice and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 45 min-1 hour until the rice is tender. Stir frequently (every 5-10 minutes) to keep the rice from sticking. Add additional water if the  liquid is very low and the rice is still hard.
When the rice is cooked, stir in the egg and bread. Cook for 5 more minutes.

 

Rice flour puddings from MS Codex 631.

rice flour pudding

To Make a Rice Pudding

Take six ounces of Rice flower a quart of milk set them over [th]e fire & stir them well
together while they are thick, then put in half a pound of Butter six eggs one nutmeg sweeten
it to y[ou]r tast, Buter y[ou]r Dish that you Bake it in /

I halved this and used ground nutmeg because that’s what I had; otherwise, I followed the original recipe closely.

3 oz. rice flour (~1/2 c.)
2 c. milk
1 stick butter, diced
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter/spray a 9″ pie dish or similar baking dish. Combine the rice flour and milk in a saucepan; cook over low-med. heat, whisking frequently. The mixture will thicken quite suddenly, so be attentive! Off the heat, stir in the butter, eggs, nutmeg, and sugar. Bake for 40 mins., until top is puffed and golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temp.

 

 The Results

Our rice pudding-off was a success! These rice pudding couldn’t look or taste more different. The “whole grain” rice pudding  from LJS 165 is toothsome, with surprising depth of flavor from the caramelized  sugar and rosewater. The cinnamon adds a spicy note, but the orange flavor is harder to identify. We might switch out the rosewater for orange flower water next time. (If you are not a fan of rosewater, you can probably leave it out altogether.) This rice pudding is especially thick. Even before we added the egg and the grated bread the mixture was already dense. The eggs and bread may have been intended to add bulk to the dish, as rice was certainly more expensive than stale bread!

The rice flour pudding, on the other hand, is fairly bland. Nutmeg is the primary seasoning; even the strong notes of nutmeg don’t cut just how creamy this pudding tastes. (Note: some more sugar or some honey might be welcome. However, this doesn’t seem meant to be overly sweet, unlike the whole grain version.) It reminded us of buttermilk pie and South African milk tart, with an even firmer baked texture. It would form a good base for other tastes: served with fresh or stewed fruit, for instance, or with additional flavors added to the pudding.

In the eighteenth century, rice pudding represented the world in a bowl. Rice from West African seeds was cultivated in American soil by enslaved Africans in the Carolinas and shipped east across the Atlantic to England. The sugar probably came from the Caribbean. Nutmeg and cinnamon from places like the Moluccas made their way west through Asian and European ports. Oranges imported from Seville and other warmer climates scented the dish. The eggs, milk, cream, and bread are the only ingredients early modern cooks would have been able to source locally. These ingredients rely on both trade and labor – their production depended on plantation agriculture and their presence in England came from a highly developed global transport network. It’s not as if these structures don’t underpin many – if not all – of the recipes we’ve cooked so far. However, paying particular attention to this single ingredient, rice, has  challenged us to consider how ingredients entered early modern kitchens in the first place, even before they became the recipes in a household manuscript.

What surprised us most about making these dueling rice puddings was not the questions of culinary and  economic history they raised up, but the true difference in taste. In both, the taste of the rice remains – even through the single note of nutmeg in the rice flour pudding and the dense combination of flavors in the rice grain pudding. The taste difference, furthermore, is deliberate: the presence of multiple rice pudding recipes – similar but distinct – within the same manuscript recipe book indicates attempts to explore the versatility of this ingredient, to incorporate other flavors into a recipe that has one umbrella name but many flavorings and techniques. We’d be curious to taste these again using heritage rices, direct descendants of the Carolina Gold Rice these cooks and their contemporaries would most likely have used. In both cases, we were able to follow the ingredients and techniques fairly closely (minus ambergris and marrow), so what we tasted in our dueling rice puddings seems, to us, a likely descendant of these puddings as they were originally prepared.

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To Make a Potatoe Pudding

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Recently, Marissa and I faced off … over rice pudding. We each made a different eighteenth-century rice pudding recipe and compared results, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming crossover post here and on The Recipes Project.  (Spoiler: we declared a draw.)

A few of the early modern recipe books contain handy tables of contents, but most don’t, and obviously none are text-searchable (if only!), so hunting for a specific recipe like rice pudding can prove a challenge. Judeth Bedingfield’s recipe book (UPenn MS Codex 631) from the 1730s and 40s has become one of my go-to sources because of its comprehensiveness – and sure enough, it turned up not one but four rice pudding recipes. In this hunt for rice pudding, I was reminded of the astonishing range of other puddings in her book: orange (x3), “green quaking” (with spinach), carrot (x2), apple, potato, caraway, oatmeal (x2), calves’ foot, hasty, barley, marrow (x2), “quaking,” “shaking,” green, liver, white (x3). A pudding bonanza! We made Bedingfield’s carrot pudding early on in the project and still count it among our favorites, so I was ready to try another one. I chose potato because I was curious to taste it – curiosity is the driving force in most of my early modern recipe selections!

The Recipe

potatoe pudding

To Make a Potatoe Pudding

Take one pound of Potatoes, Boyle them till they peel, pound them in a morter, melt half a
pound of butter, a quarter of a pint of sack, put into them, take six eggs, leave out half [th]e
whites, sweeten it to y[ou]r tast, stirr it all together, grate a Little nutmeg in it when you bake it
butter y[ou]r Dish very well, three quarters of an hour will bake it /

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Our Recipe
[halved from the original*]

1/2 lb. potatoes (about 1 large), peeled and cubed
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick), melted
1/4 c. white wine
3 eggs, separated (3 yolks, 1.5 whites)
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter or spray a small baking dish (or ramekins)**.

Boil potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork (about 10 mins). Transfer to a food processor, then add the melted butter, white wine, egg yolks + whites, and nutmeg. Pulse until completely smooth. Pour mixture into baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 mins, until top is puffed and golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temp.

*Note: Why do we halve most of these recipes? Because they often make a large quantity, because usually we’re feeding just a few people, and, most importantly, because they’re experiments. Neither of us wants to waste ingredients, so wherever possible, we make a smaller quantity to see how it turns out.

**Note: I used a 6.5″ square Corning Ware casserole “borrowed” (um, several years ago) from my mom, who received it as a wedding gift in the 70s. The pudding layer was fairly shallow in this small dish – probably too shallow for an 8″ square – so ramekins would work nicely too.

The Results

Carrot pudding still comes out the winner for me in our Great (and ongoing) Pudding Experiment, but potato pudding was interesting. While the carrot pudding recipe includes a specified amount of sugar and candied peel AND instructs the cook to sweeten it to taste, this one simple directs the cook to sweeten it to taste. The white wine and nutmeg produce a flavor profile not quite sweet or savory (especially given that the recipe doesn’t call for any salt), so how much sugar you add can alter the taste considerably. It tastes recognizably of potatoes – in fact, I’d perhaps try this with sweet potatoes, since I really like their natural flavor – and bakes up quite firm, more so than the carrot pudding. I’d had enough after a few bites. The potato plus some tang from the wine plus the earthiness of the nutmeg didn’t quite add up to something I’d be eager to try again. But it’s very easy to make and requires few ingredients, making it a simple dish to prepare. This ease might explain the prevalence of all varieties of pudding in early modern cooking – they’re easy, usually inexpensive, and can be scaled to large quantities. Stay tuned for the rice pudding report!

Potingall/Portugal Cakes

This recipe has also been featured in the Washington Post, in Sarah Kaplan’s wonderful article on our project.

Check it out here.

Like the fantastic Desart Cakes, these Potingall Cakes caught my eye because of their intriguing name and relatively simple ingredient list. Unlike the Desart Cakes, which are what we would call cookies, these are little cakes. And pretty tasty ones at that.

This recipe comes from the first volume of UPenn Ms. Codex 631, dated 1730. (This two-volume collection has become one of our favorites.) “Potingall” is probably a stand-in for “Portugal,” since the recipe closely resembles the fairly common recipe for “Portugal cakes” found in many seventeenth- through nineteenth-century cookbooks. Getting “Potingall” from “Portugal” doesn’t seem unreasonable: the two words are visually similar, and the writer copying the recipe into Ms. Codex 631 could have been working from another recipe that was difficult to read or itself mistaken. (Like an eighteenth-century game of telephone!) “Portugal” named a type of orange in the period and might refer to the recipe’s use of orange flower water. However, Portugal cakes’ name more probably relates to one of their ingredients: sack, a sweet, fortified white wine originally produced in Portugal.

The Recipe

potingall cakes

To Make the Potingall Cakes

Take a pound of flower well dryed & a pound of Loafe sugar beat fine searce them
both & mingle them together, then take a pound of Butter & wash it well in rose water
or orange flower water, then work it well in your hand till it be all very soft & then strew
in your sugar & flower by degrees tell (i.e. till) it be half in, still working it with your hand, then put
in 6 yolks of eggs & 5 whites & beat them up with two spoonfulls of sack, then by degrees
worke in the half of the sugar & flower & when your oven is hott, then pick wash & dry a
pound of Currants over the fire, your pans must be ready Buttered, then fill them half full
& scrape double refine sugar on them, Let your oven be pritty hot & set up the Lead

Our Recipe

[Note: I halved the recipe because these cakes taste best within one to two days.]

1/2 lb. all-purpose flour

1/2 lb. granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 lb. [2 sticks] unsalted butter

1 tsp. rosewater or orange flower water*

2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk

1 tbsp. sherry**

scant 1/2 lb. currants

optional: sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter, coat with cooking spray, or line your pans.***

Mix together flour, sugar, and salt; set aside.

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer****, cream the butter and flower water until light and fluffy.

With the mixer running at low speed, blend half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture; scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs and sherry, then mix at low-medium speed until combined; scrape down the bowl again. With the mixer at low speed, add the rest of the flour mixture; mix until the batter looks uniform. Add the currants and mix at low speed until they are distributed evenly.

Spoon batter into your pans (a cookie scoop works nicely here) and even out slightly with a buttered spatula. The cakes won’t rise much during baking but bake best as smaller cakes, so fill madeleine pans to the top, mini-cupcake pans nearly full, and cupcake pans 1/2 to 3/4 full. Optional: lightly sprinkle granulated sugar on top. (This adds a slight sparkle to the cupcakes but isn’t essential to their taste.)

Bake until cakes are firm to the touch at the center and golden brown around the edges. (A toothpick inserted into a cake should come out clean.) This will take around 12-14 mins. for mini-cupcakes, 14-16 mins. for madeleines, and 18 mins. for cupcakes. Let cool in pans for 3-5 mins., then remove onto cooling racks.

NOTES:

*Note on flower water: I tried these with both rosewater and orange flower water; I preferred the rosewater version because the flavor was subtler, but both flavorings played nicely with the currants.

**Note on sherry: I replaced sack (a sweet, fortified white wine) with the similar and more readily-available sherry. If you prefer a non-alcoholic cake, orange juice or white grape juice (or water) would most likely be a fine substitute. Raisins could also substitute for currants in a pinch.

***Note on pans: This recipe works best as small cakes: cupcakes, mini-cupcakes, or madeleines, for example. Use whatever combination of pans you’d like. The recipe yields approx. 18-32 cakes: 12 large madeleines (filled with 3 tbsp. batter each) + 6 cupcakes / 12 small madeleines (filled with 2 tbsp. batter each) + 10 cupcakes / 24 mini-cupcakes + 8 cupcakes.

****Note on mixing: In the spirit of updating this recipe to modern kitchens, I used a stand mixer rather than blending the dough by hand. However, the original method would also work – and be satisfyingly messy.

The Results

These are not light and fluffy cakes. They’re moist and dense, like a weightier muffin, with a rich flavor from the flower water, sherry, and currants. I liked them best as madeleines because that shape provides the highest edge-per-bite ratio – the crisply browned edges are particularly tasty. They also made an excellent snack alongside our old favorite, carrot pudding.

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Pease Pods of Puff Paste (or small fruit pies in disguise)

Even in cooking, appearances can be deceiving. Following a long tradition of performative food preparation from the ancient world through Tudor banqueting, early modern cooks sometime playfully disguised food as other food. We tried a recipe for “Pease Pods of Puff Paste” from Ms Codex 631 – a recipe that in fact contains no peas at all! These sweet little pea-pod-shaped, hand-formed fruit pies were easy to make and very tasty.

pease pods

The Recipe

Pease Pods of Puff Paste

Take some puff paste & role it out thin & lay in some cherries or any other preserv
-ed fruit in the fashion of pease & fashion your crust like pease pods & cut them with
a rowell & fry them with fresh butter then strew sugar on them & serve them up

This is a very simple recipe enlivened by creative presentation. Puff pastry and fresh or preserved fruit are combined to mimic peas nestled in their protective pods. We used fresh cherries from our local farmers’ market because we thought that they would create the distinctive pea-bumps the recipe strives to recreate. A “rowell” is a wheel or disc that would have been used to cut the pastry; to streamline the process and in an (ultimately somewhat futile) effort to prevent messy overflow, we cut the pastry into smaller squares and rolled each one around a line-up of cherries. Finally, instead of frying our pastry pods in butter, we baked them in a low oven for even cooking.

 

Our Recipe

These instructions are for 6 “Pease Pods.” Adjust fruit and pastry amounts as needed.

1 sheet puff pastry (store-bought or homemade)
18 cherries (or a similar amount of other fresh or preserved berries)
flour (for rolling out pastry)
sugar (for sprinkling)

In advance, defrost store-bought puff pastry or prepare homemade puff pastry. (We used store-bought, but for homemade Marissa prefers Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Rough Puff Pastry,” duplicated here.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or greasing it with butter.

Wash and pit the cherries. Roll out the puff pastry until it’s thin but still workable. Divide sheet into 6  rectangles with a knife. Place three cherries in a line down the center of each piece and wrap pastry to form a “pea pod.”

Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes, until pastry is puffy and golden.

 

The Result

They really did look like pea pods on their way into the oven, but the puffiness of the pastry pod overwhelmed the pea-like qualities of the cherries within. This may have been caused by our modern store-bought puff pastry, our use of fresh (larger) rather than preserved (smaller) cherries, our decision to roll the pastry around the berries instead of enclosing the berries between a top and bottom layer of pastry, or our choice to bake, rather than fry, the prepared pods. We’re curious to see if you, dear readers, produce more pea-pod-like results with this same recipe!

Although out of the oven these little pies did not look like pea-pods, they were very tasty, easy to prepare, and a great way to transform fresh summer fruit into a quick dessert. We think the addition of a simple egg wash would improve their presentation. Served with whipped cream, a summer fool, or ice cream, “pease pods” would add a sweet ending to any July or August meal.

Carrot Pudding

Carrot cake is generally a crowd-pleaser. But carrot pudding? When we found this recipe in UPenn Ms. Codex 631, we were intrigued. We also wanted to try a pudding simply because we’ve found so many of them in early modern recipe books. Puddings may have been the eighteenth-century equivalent of the recent cupcake craze.

This two-volume recipe book is dated 1730 (vol. 1) and 1744 (vol. 2) and belonged to Judeth Bedingfield, though it contains the handwriting of multiple persons. The carrot pudding recipe comes from the first volume, which includes not only other recipes for cooking – pickled pigeon, for instance, “quaking pudding,” quince cream, and many more – but also for making various kinds of wine and cordials and for household remedies for ailments like colic. It provides a wonderful example of the range of recipes that early modern recipe books can include. (In fact, stay tuned for when we make our way through some of its other recipes in Ms. Codex 631!)

carrot pudding

The Recipe

To make a Carrot Pudding    Mrs Bransby Kent[xxx]

Take six Carrots not to large boyl them well & as many pip[pins]
with the juce of one lemon & four sugar rouls beat them very
well in a Marble Mortor Mix with these a pint of cream
& three Eggs Sweeten it to your tast Bake in a dish with pu[xxx]
& put in Cittern & Candid Oringe

The corner of the recipe is damaged, but comparing this to other contemporary carrot pudding recipes confirms the “pippins” in the ingredients. “Cittern” is not defined in the OED as anything other than a stringed instrument, so unless the writer was garnishing this pudding with a very surprising ingredient, “cittern” probably means citrus, probably candied or preserved. We could have tracked down candied peel for the “Candid Oringe” but concluded that zest would impart a similar taste. If you happen to have candied peel readily available to you, 1) we’re jealous, and 2) it would probably be great here.

In our modern kitchens, we’re used to pulling out granulated sugar rather than the sugar loaves or rolls that early modern cooks would have used. But Marissa happened to have some minimally-processed “panocha” cane sugar rolls in the pantry that we wanted to try here. We ended up grating a fraction of one roll – hard work for just a sprinkling of sugar! Rather than continuing the arm workout, we used primarily granulated cane sugar.

 

Our Recipe

{We were somewhat unsure of how much we would enjoy carrot pudding, so we halved the recipe. And even though we did enjoy it, this amount still works well, as it fills two-thirds of a standard pie dish. We also added cinnamon and ginger because we suspected that they’d work here, and they do; any spices you would add to a pumpkin pie would also work.}

3 carrots, peeled and chopped roughly

2 apples, peeled and chopped roughly (*we used Macintosh apples but might try a tarter variety like Granny Smith next time)

1/4 – 1/3 c. sugar (start with 1/4 and add more if necessary)

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

scant 1/2 pint heavy cream

2 eggs

zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350F; butter a pie dish or other ovenproof dish.

Boil carrots for ~8 mins. or until tender; add apples for last 2 mins.

In food processor or blender, puree carrots, apples, sugar, zests, cinnamon, and ginger. Then add cream, eggs, and lemon juice; blend until smooth.

Pour carrot mixture into dish and bake 30-40 mins., until set. (It will be slightly more wobbly than baked pumpkin pie filling.)

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

The Result

Very orange. And surprisingly pleasant: the apples, citrus, and spices balanced the vegetal base of the carrot. The consistency was somewhere between a pumpkin pie filling and a flan: firm enough to hold its shape when sliced, but jiggly enough that a few dollops ended up on the floor between pie dish and plate. (Oops.) We might bake it in a pie crust next time, or add another apple to the mixture, or perhaps roast the carrots and apples before pureeing them for additional depth of flavor. Adding some pureed carrots to a pumpkin pie base might also work well.

We assume that there will inevitably be a few recipes in this project that we make out of curiosity, gulp down a taste or two, agree that it’s “interesting” (with air quotes), and then continue on with our culinary lives, never to make it again. But carrot pudding does not make that list.