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.

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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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Snow cream

It’s hot. The city of Philadelphia declared an excessive heat warning. Despite my undying love of summer, I’m thinking about snow.

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When Heather Wolfe, Sarah Powell, and I were selecting a recipe to cook with the paleography class at the Folger Shakespeare Library last month, Sarah added this recipe for “Snow cream” from Mary Hookes’s manuscript recipe book V.b.342 to our list. (Check out the Almond Jumballs we made here.) In my heat frenzy yesterday afternoon, I went digging through my email to track down the citation. The manuscript includes entries from circa 1675-1725 and was signed by Mary Hookes in 1680. It begins with an alphabetical index and contains a range of household recipes including perfumes, preserves, and cakes. I have much more work do to on this manuscript, but yesterday I had snow on the brain and decided to give this recipe a try. Rosewater flavored whipped cream? Almonds and strawberries? How could this be anything but delicious?

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The Recipe

snow cream

snow cropped, page 2
Snow cream
Take six quarts of cream season itt with Rose-
watter & sugar putt itt in to a pan, & take a whiske
and cutt offe the ends, & shake the whiske, too & ffrow,
in the Pan off cream, till itt rise like snow, then
take offe the snow with a skimer letting the cream
drayne from itt, then putt itt in to a Bason, the

bottom off itt being cover’d with currence, or strabarys,
& slis’d Almonds, continew shaking the whisk till
you have enough to ffill the bason, & ever as
you use itt, Take itt offe with the skimer.

Whipped cream makes snowy drift on a base of nuts and summer fruits, such as currants and strawberries. The name “snow” makes this relative of fool, berries and cream, and even strawberry shortcake seem unfamiliar. Recipes for snow are common in seventeenth-century recipe books and usually include both cream and eggs. The Oxford English Dictionary defines snow, as a cookery term, as A dish or confection resembling snow in appearance, esp. one made by whipping the white of eggs to a creamy consistency.” Ken Albala’s The Banquet includes examples of “snow” stiffened with rice flour, seasoned with rosewater, and served alongside other sweet and savory dishes. (He also gestures to the role of dairy dishes like snow in the development of ice cream recipes. We promise that when we find an ice cream recipe we’ll make one for you.)

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Our Recipe

I used a hand mixer to whip my cream. This tool, as well as modern dairy processing methods, decreased the need for skimming mentioned in the original recipe. I started with one cup of cream instead of six quarts. The recipe below serves three-four people, six quarts of whipped cream would feed a crowd.

1 cup cream
2T sugar
1/2t rosewater
1 cup strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/4 cup almonds, slivered or roughly chopped

Line a serving dish with the strawberries and almonds.

Put the cream and sugar in a sturdy bowl. Using a hand-held mixer or a large whisk, whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Stir in the rosewater.

Add the whipped cream to the serving dish in large dollops.

Serve immediately.

The Results

Cool, sweet, and fresh, snow cream was exactly what I wanted to eat. Tufts of cream drenched the berry and nut base. The crunch of the almonds, the floral note from the rosewater, and the tang of the strawberries make for a chilly summer dessert. I could close my eyes and imagine snow.

I’d love to try this with black or red currants (and if you do I hope you will let us know). Feel free to substitute in any fresh berry or sliced fruit. Try a different nut or a mix of seeds. Swap out rosewater for orange blossom water or vanilla. This simple, refreshing dessert is highly adaptable in the modern kitchen.

Stay cool, dear readers, and let us know how  you fix your “Snow cream” this summer.