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.

 

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Marmalaid of Apricocks, a case study in Heat

This post is part of the “Heat” series on The Recipes Project. You can read the editors’ letter here. Like my previous post, it also features a recipe from UPenn Ms. Codex 785.

The early modern hearth and the modern gas stove are rather different technologies for controlling heat. Again and again in my recipe recreation workI encounter complex instructions for managing cooking temperatures on a hearth and try to translate those instructions to my own equipment. To what temperature should I set my oven? How high should I turn up the flame under the pot? What volume of water should I add when boiling water is called for and no volume is specified? How long should everything cook?

Early modern recipes trust that cooks know their hearth and ingredients well. Some recipes are very precise about weight and volume and others read like general concepts on which a cook might improvise as best suits their needs, inclinations, or tastes. Cooking these recipes on a hearth with variable fire types and temperatures demanded a skilled cook who could manage heat effectively.

This is the part of updating recipes that most challenges me: I have a PhD in English, but no formal culinary training. This is also the part of updating recipes where I have been most challenged by others. Members of the historical reenactment and historical interpretation communities have in turn urged me to try these recipes again on a hearth to taste the different flavors the fire instills and chastised me for attempting to cook these recipes without a hearth in the first place. As I grow as a cook and expand this project, I’m going to accept these kind invitations to cook alongside skilled recreators and interpreters. Katherine Johnson’s work in particular suggests what traditional academics can learn by spending time with reenactors and participating in reenactments.  But Cooking in the Archives is a project designed to give all readers a taste of the past: even if those readers possess only the tiniest apartment stove. That’s the kind of stove that I had in my West Philadelphia rental when I launched this site with Alyssa Connell in 2014.

In order to cook these recipes on my stove, I have to determine some basic information: Is this something I should make on the stovetop or in the oven? In a pot, pan, or roasting dish? Is the recipe asking for water and should that water be boiled first or with the ingredients? To answer these questions, I naturally start with the recipes themselves. The phrases recipe writers use for the ferocity or gentleness of the fire are subtle, but informative. Then I look at recipes in modern cookbooks. The “Jumball” cookie mix looked like a shortbread cookie so I started with the oven temperature from a familiar cookie recipe and kept track of the time. These are skills that I learned from baking growing up and cooking for myself while I was in graduate school, but not, exactly, skills that I learned in the academy. Neither humanities course work nor historical recreation holds all the answers for how to, say, make an apricot marmalade from a late-seventeenth-century culinary manuscript in a twenty-first century kitchen.

This recipe “To make Marmalaid of Apricocks” is from Ms. Codex 785 at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania. I’ve prepared quite a few recipes from this specific manuscript, and this recipe, like a few others in the volume, derives from Hannah Woolley’s cookbook The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet (1670). This marmalade is both fragile and delicious. It needs the careful tending outlined in the original recipe. I have attempted to convey this level of care in my updated recipe.

Original Recipe

To make Marmalaid of Apricocks

Take Apricocks, pare them and cut them in
quarters and to every pound of Apricocks
put a pound of fine Sugar, then put your
Apricocks in a Skillet with half the Sugar
and let them boil very tender, and gently, and
bruise them with the back of a Spoon, till they
be like pap, then take the other part of the
Sugar, and boil it to a Candy height, then put
your Apricocks into that Sugar, and keep it stirring
over the ffire, till all the sugar is meted, but
do not let it boil, then take it from the ffire,
and Stir it till it be almost cold, then put it
into Glasses, and let it have the Air of the
ffire to dry it.

The recipe asks you to boil the apricots with sugar until the fruit is so tender that it breaks down into a luscious pulp. Then the recipe instructs you to make a simple syrup of sugar and water and allow the mixture to come to candy height or what we would now call the soft-ball stage. Early modern cooks would have been especially skilled at the subtle art of watching sugar change under the influence of heat. The cook is next told to stir the apricot puree into the hot sugar over the fire and then off the fire until the mixture is almost cold. The final instruction: “and let it have the Air of the ffire to dry it” is the most evocative image for me. The preserved apricots in glass containers glowing in front of the hearth.

This apricot marmalade is delicious on toast, lightly crisped by the heat of a toaster oven or toaster, of course.

Updated Recipe

8 apricots (7 oz, 200 g)
generous 2/3 cup sugar (7 oz, 200 g)
1/3 cup water

Peel the apricots, remove their pits, and cut them into quarters. Cook them to a pulp with half the sugar. The apricots will release their own juices so no water is necessary here. (Approximately 10 minutes.)

Make a simple syrup with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan. Use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature and cook until it reaches candy height/pearl stage 240F on the thermometer. When the syrup has reached this temperature, add the cooked apricots to it. Stir to combine over the heat, but do not allow the mix to boil.

Remove from heat and stir as the mixture cools. Transfer into a clean jar. This amount of apricots and sugar nicely filled an 8oz jelly jar.

Keep refrigerated and eat within two weeks. (You can also properly can this for longer storage.)

The Results 

This recipe captures apricots at their sweetest and juiciest. The two part method protects the fragile fruit from overcooking. My small batch was quickly consumed on all sorts of breads and biscuits.

I realized a few days after making it that refrigeration turns this lovely preserve into a thick paste. When I let it come to room temperature, it was a wonderful, easy to spread texture. This is yet another reminder of the difference between early modern and contemporary kitchens: refrigeration. If you’re planning to serve this at breakfast or tea, take it out of the fridge well in advance. Luckily the heat from freshly toasted bread helps it spread even if it’s straight from the fridge.

To make Green Peas Soop

The farmer’s market is a sea of green: leafy lettuces, hearty kale and chard, string beans, and fragrant herbs. I excitedly scanned the tables and bins for fresh peas. I wanted to make this recipe for “green peas soup” that calls for fresh, young peas.
This recipe is from one of my favorite manuscripts: UPenn Ms. Codex 785. As you’ll see if you click here, I’ve cooked quite a few things from this book. I’ve also written about the inclusion of recipes from Hannah Woolley’s printed cookbooks in this recipe book for the Archive Journal (with Alyssa), on this site here and here, and in a forthcoming article about “Portugal Eggs” that I’m excited to share with you. In fact, as I was working on revisions to that article I skimmed through my “to cook” and realized that stars had aligned and peas would soon be available at the market.
But I couldn’t find them. I waited, I waited some more.  I went to three markets, two road-side farm stands, and three supermarkets. The days of July slipped away as I waited for the sweetest, freshest peas to appear before me. But there were no fresh peas to be had at the market, not even for ready money.  I heaved a deep sigh and bought a bag of frozen peas. At least my cabbage, herbs, spring onions, and marigold flowers were from the farmer’s market.
This soup is delicious: Sweet from the peas and bread, wonderfully fragrant and savory from the mace, pepper, and herbs. Please readers, make it with fresh peas and tell me what you think.
The Recipe

green peas soup

To make Green Peas Soop Lady Hastings 135
Set ouer the Fire 2 Gallons of Spring Water with a French Roll
sliced, boil ’em one hour then take 2 Pecks of Peas & in
Shelling keep the old from the Young, boil the old ones to
a mash in the Liquor then pour it thro a Cullender, rubbing
the Bread & peas till the pulp is all out set it ouer the Fire
again with the Young Peas, a small bunch of Sweetherbs
Six Cloves & 3 blades of Mace & a little whole Pepper & Salt
to make it Savory, while these boil have in readiness
Six Cabage Lettice 2 handfuls of young Spinage half a
handful of young Onions & parsly together, Chop’ em
altogether but not small wash them & dry ’em in a Cloth
put into a stew pan 3 quarters of a pound of Butter let it
boil then put in the Herbs, stew them till they are Tender
then turn it all into the Liquor & let the whole boil 15
minets, then put in some merrigold Flowers & a
quarter of a pound of Butter, let it stand till the Butter
is dissolved, & serve it to Table
Put your Spices & sweet herbs in with the old Peas
Cooking Lady Hasting’s recipe for Green Peas Soop required some reckoning and research.  First, I spent some time on this Folger resource to calculate the volumes and weights in the original and determine how I might reduce the recipe to a reasonable size. Then I investigated whether all marigold flowers are safe to eat or if specific strains are cultivated for culinary uses. Good news: we can safely make all our veggie dishes more brigntly colored and fragrant with marigold flowers.
Last, but not least, the original recipe includes an interesting revision. At first, the recipe instructs the cook to season the pulverized pea and bread mixture with herbs and spices. But a note at the end suggests that you “Put your spices and sweet herbs in with the old peas,” or add the spices and herb bundle when you first cook the peas and bread. Since this specific instruction seemed designed to increase the flavor of the peas, I’ve followed it. Although this change in instruction definitely suggests that someone prepared this recipe, considered the method, and suggested an alteration,  the compiler or user of Ms. Codex 785 may, or may not, be the cook that had this specific insight. The altered instruction is at the end of the recipe, but it is in the same handwriting and ink color as the main recipe. This suggests that perhaps Lady Hastings, or her cook, noted this possible alteration before the recipe was shared with the compiler of Ms. Codex 785. Either way, the peas were strongly flavored with spices and herbs when I used this method.  The suggested change in method shows that this recipe was prepared and adapted by an early modern cook. I always make notes in my cookbooks when I make a change or substitute an ingredient: It’s exciting to see evidence of cooks doing the same thing in the past.
Our Recipe
Makes 2 quarts of soup. Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a starter or side.
*UPDATE: If you are using fresh peas, you might want to set some aside whole to add to the soup with the cabbage. This will give the final soup a mix of whole and pureed pea textures. If you are using a mix of frozen and fresh peas, you might want to cook the frozen in the first step and add the fresh in with the cabbage to replicate the old pea/new pea strategy in the original recipe.*
4 cups water
1 lb shelled peas, frozen or fresh (approximately 3 1/3 cups)
1 slice bread
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon mace
bunch of sweet herbs tied with cooking string – 1 sprig each thyme, mint, oregano, and rosemary
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
4 cups cabbage, sliced
1 cup salad spinach
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup marigold petals (optional)
Bread or rolls to serve (optional)
Combine water, peas, and bread in a large pot. Stir in spices. Add a bundle of herbs. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes until the peas are tender and nicely flavored.
Remove the cooked peas from the stove. Take the herbs bundle out and discard. Puree the seasoned peas and liquid with an immersion blender or in a food processor or standing blender.
In another large pot or lidded skillet, melt the butter. Add the cabbage, spinach, spring onion, and parsley and stir to combine. Add 2 cups of water and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the pea mixture to the wilted vegetables and stir to combine.
Serve in small bowls and garnish each bowl with marigold petals. Serve with bread or rolls for dipping.
The Results
This soup is pure green. I devoured my bowl in minutes and the soup disappeared from the refrigerator within two days. I’m sure my spouse and I will consume the frozen quart in the freezer in short order. Refreshing and satisfying, savory and sweet, satisfying and light, this soup will sate summer and winter appetites alike. I’m sure fresh peas will be delicious here. In the end, frozen peas were just fine when paired with the freshest herbs, greens, and edible flowers.

German Puffs

When I read this recipe for “German Puffs” in (perennially interestingUPenn MS Codex 644, I immediately thought of Dutch Baby pancakes. Custardy sharing pancake-popover hybrids are all over food media these days and the proportions of eggs to cream to flour in this recipe looked really familiar. I had to try it.

The German Puffs were fluffy, rich, custardy, and delicious. Their texture and taste was both familiar and unfamiliar.  I’ve become accustomed to that mixed feeling when testing recipes for this site.

Unsurprisingly, this recipe sent me down an internet rabbit hole investigating various Dutch and German puffs, babies, and pancakes. In Pancake: A Global History, Ken Albala excludes this whole group of eggy-battered preparations from the category of pancakes altogether.

Another distinction must be made with the variety of souffle known as Yorkshire pudding, or in the US, popovers, which is made with a batter very similar to that of the pancake, but usually with a greater proportion of eggs, This is always baked in a mould to achieve supreme puffiness rather than the flatness of a pancake. Yorkshire pudding anointed by drippings, and the perversely named ‘Dutch Baby’ or German pancakes (Dutch here meaning Deutsch) must be set aside. (Albala 10)

The fact that the Dutch Baby, the German pancake, and the Yorkshire pudding all need moulds to rise disqualifies them from Albala’s pancake taxonomy.

All this leads me to ask where did Grandmama Franklin find this recipe? (She is likely the compiler for MS Codex 644 and I wrote about her backstory  here) Did she write it down in England? In South Carolina? Learn of it through her global networks in the East and West Indies? Did she read about German Puffs in a printed source? The Oxford English Dictionary and the database of early print Early English Books Online didn’t offer any conclusive results.  The origin of the German Puffs remains elusive, but the dish is delicious.

The Recipe

German Puffs

4 Eggs, 4 spoonfuls of flour, a pint
of Cream, or good milk. 2 oz of butter
Melted in it: beat them well together
& a little salt & Gratd Nutmeg:
Put them in large Cups well
butterd – bake them a quarter of an hou[r]
in an E oven hot enough to brown them.

Our Recipe

I prepared half of this recipe in a greased six-inch cast-iron skillet and the other half in six greased “cups” of a muffin tin. I greatly preferred the result that I got in a skillet and refer to that in the instructions below, but you could also use this to make somewhere between 12 and 24 small puffs. The full amount would work nicely in a larger skillet. The recipe is also easy to halve.

4 eggs
1/4 c flour
1 pint cream
2 oz butter, melted (plus additional butter for greasing the skillet)
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg (A subtle flavor. Increase to taste.)
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 425F. [edit: optional step. Preheat your skillet in the oven.]

When the oven is hot, grease your skillet with butter. Whisk together ingredients in a mixing bowl or large pitcher. When batter is combined, pour it into the skillet.

Bake 30-35 min, until the puff is puffy and golden brown around the edges.

Serve hot. Sprinkle with sugar or other toppings.

The Results

Somewhere between a Yorkshire pudding and a souffle, German puffs are a rich and satisfying dish. This is a quick and easy historical recipe that makes a tasty breakfast or brunch dish. I’m excited to try them again with fresh berries or a fruit compote on the side. They are even delicious a day later reheated in a toaster oven or oven.

To make Cordial Pepper Water

I enjoy a well-made cocktail. My delight in trying new mixed drinks — be they zesty, floral, fruity, smoky, refreshing, or bracing — has me on the hunt for interestingly-flavored beverage recipes as I turn the pages of these manuscripts. I pass over many recipes that require distillation or brewing equipment that was commonplace in early modern households: I relish attempting Ramboose, cold posset, sack posset, lemon posset, and cherry brandy.

I’ve been grappling with this recipe for “Cordial Pepper Water” from UPenn MS Codex 1038 since I saw it in June 2017. Alyssa and I have cooked so many recipes from this manuscript that it feels like a tried and true source (see the full list here) . Even so, I found this receipt challenging and disconcerting. I almost gave up on it. I’m glad that I finished the second infusion and shared it with my cocktail-enthusiast friends Sarah and Ryan as well as my spouse Joseph. They were a curious audience and helped me devise the second drink recipe included below.

The Recipe

To make Cordial Pepper Water.
Take two gallons of very good Brandy, and a peck of Poppies and put them
together in a wide mouth’d glass, and let it stand forty Eight hours, then strain
the Poppies out, take a pound of Raisons of the Sun, stone them, and an Ounce
of Coriander Seed, an Ounce of sweet Fennel Seed, and an Ounce of Liquorish
Sliced, bruize them all together, and let them stand four or Eight Weekes
shaking it every day, then strain it off, and Bottle it close up for use.

After reading this recipe, you might say “STOP! This is a recipe for drugs!” And, in a sense, it is. This recipe shares many similarities with other receipts for “poppy water” a soothing concoction of alcohol and poppy flowers that might induce sleep or settle an uneasy stomach. Ben Breen writes about preparing and consuming a similar recipe from Hopestill Brett’s manuscript (UPenn MS Codex 626) which induced a “noticeable glow of wellbeing … attributable to the traces of opiates in poppy seeds.” These tonics are designed to be healthful as well as flavorful.

Early modern recipe books do not distinguish between food and medicine, sustenance and drugs, and I decided to brew this cordial with an eye to its origins as well as its current usefulness. Why does one consume a cocktail after all? To excite the appetite before a meal, calm the stomach afterward, celebrate, induce intoxication.

Our Recipe

I prepared 1/16th of the original amount because 2 gallons of brandy is a lot of brandy to use in an experiment. To sort out the amounts, I used the Manuscript Cookbooks Survey‘s helpful glossary and I’m pleased that the next time I tackle a recipe like this I will have the new Folgerpedia guide on Early Modern Measurements to help me. I also substituted poppy seeds for the poppy flowers (as Breen did). The poppy seeds absorbed almost a full cup of the brandy during the first infusion. This flummoxed me and sent me into a long quandary about whether or not this was a failure or part of the recipe’s design. Ultimately,  I decided it would be better to finish the second infusion rather than to simply throw the brandy away. And I’m happy I made that decision! I also skipped the licorice root (because, I’m ashamed to admit,  I did not realize how easy it was to procure in dried form until the infusion process was already underway.) If you are intrigued by this recipe, I urge you to prepare your own version that embellishes or amends what I describe below.

1 pint brandy
1 2/3 c poppy seeds
1/4 c raisins
1/2 t coriander seeds
1/2 t fennel seeds
[licorice root]

Pour the brandy into a glass bottle, jar, or mixing jug.  Add the poppy seeds. Infuse for two days. Remove the poppy seeds using a fine mesh or cheesecloth strainer.

Pour the infused brandy into a glass bottle or jar. Add the raisins, coriander seeds, fennel seeds [and licorice root]. Let this mixture infuse for 4-8 weeks. (I infused for 5 weeks.) Check and shake frequently.

Strain out the seeds and raisins. (I kept my raisins and plan to use them in muffins, scones, or another baked good sometime soon. )

The Results

This recipe produces a sweet, infused liquor with strong poppy and fennel flavors. To be honest, I found it quite noxious straight up. Joseph, Sarah, and Ryan were not as perturbed as I was by the scent or taste. Noting the raisin flavor, Ryan thought of sweet, fruit-filled, Italian panettone. Sarah suggested we pair it with vermouth and Joseph thought the addition of tonic water might  balance out the rough edges of the (admittedly cheap) brandy that I’d used as a base. After delay, confusion, and a long infusion, here are some cocktails that you can make using Cordial Pepper Water.

Cordial Pepper Water Fizz

1 oz Cordial Pepper Water
1 c sparkling water or tonic water
2 ice cubes

Combine ingredients in a glass. Sip and enjoy.

Almost Panettone Cocktail (with thanks to Sarah and Ryan)

1 oz Cordial Pepper Water
1 oz sweet vermouth
lemon peel

Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a pretty glass. Garnish with more lemon peel. Sip and enjoy.

 

to make mince piyes my Mother’s way

This recipe was featured in Jenn Hall’s wonderful article about our project in Edible Philly.

Many of the culinary manuscripts that I’ve paged through in libraries include mentions of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, female neighbors, friends, and correspondents. Among other things, these small notes reinforce the fact that the recipe archive is an archive of women’s knowledge and community. (Many smart people have written about this topic, but these two posts from The Recipes Project about emotion and community come to mind immediately.)

Of course, these notes  always make me think about the recipes that circulate in my own community. I keep my own handwritten recipe notebooks, too. I began to compile the first when I moved to London for a year and wanted to bring recipes with me. The notebook is full of recipes from my mother alongside dishes I’d cooked with friends and roommates in college. These books are part of a larger network of recipes in various material forms: my mother’s recipe box with cards in her handwriting, her mother’s handwriting, her sisters’ handwriting, and the handwriting of new and old friends; the letter I have from my great aunt with her cookie recipe in neat cursive; my notes from the afternoon I spent cooking eggplant parm with my father’s mother because I knew that I was missing crucial steps; printed emails sent from my husband’s family when he wanted to cook a dish from a home. My recipe book is full of attributions: Grandma N’s eggplant parm and my father’s insanely chocolatey variation on her spicy Christmas cookies, Jess’s curried lentils, Joseph’s scones, Grandma O’s soda bread (her mother’s recipe), Erin’s tortilla soup, my family’s favorite chocolate birthday cake, Ruth’s famous zucchini soup recipe that I first made with Bronnie, Rebecca’s salted orange cardamon syrup that I spoon into cocktails at parties, and last (but best represented in my notes) my Mom’s quick meatballs, herb biscuits, stews, zucchini bread, pumpkin pie, and more. This diverse community of women has fed me, sustained me, and taught me how to feed and sustain myself.

I’ve started to collect recipes for mince pies and mincemeats, too. Thanks to my English spouse, Joseph, mince pies are (delightfully) part of my family Christmas now. And this is the second year I’ve added a historical version to the mix. (Here’s the 2015 recipe.) There are still more versions to try.

The Recipe

to make mince piyes my Mother way to make
it in a dishe
take some of the flesshe part of the oxe cheek when it his half boyle
then shreed it with some good beefe sweet about 3 quarters of a pound
halfe a point of Currons a quarter of a pound of ressons stoned
a quarter of one ounce beaten masse and Clouss and beaten Ceniment the
saime quantity a littill salt too spounefulls of sugar ore one and
a halfe too ounces of orring and Lemon pill Candid and put
this in to a dishe with a good pufe past not uery thick
put in to the things a glass of rum

Our Recipe

Savory, rich, and delicious, these mince pies are a welcome variation on the classic British holiday treat. Ox (or beef) cheek is a wonderful braising cut and its inclusion here creates a rich, meaty base for the fruit, spices and rum. Make a batch of mincemeat and prepare fresh pies whenever you have guests coming over. They’re lovely hot from the oven with a nice cup of tea.
The day before I made the mince pies, I whipped up a batch of my favorite pie crust from Orangette, used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen to candy orange and lemon peel, and loosely followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe for braised beef cheeks to cook the meat. Boy did my apartment smell good.

half a braised beef cheek (6oz)
4.5 oz  suet (beef fat)
1/2 lb currants
1/4 lb raisins
1 1/2 t mace
1 1/2 t ground cloves
1 1/2 t cinnamon
2 T sugar
2 1/2 oz candied lemon and orange peel (mixed)
1/3 c rum

Prepare the mincemeat:

Shred or chop the beef into small pieces. For an even mix, make sure these pieces are smaller than your raisins. Grate the suet on a box grater or in a food processor so it is also in small pieces. Combine the beef and the suet in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the currants, raisins, spices, salt, sugar, candied peel, rum and set aside.

Make pies:

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Roll out the pastry. Using a pastry cutter or drinking glass, cut circles. I used a 2 5/8 in (68 mm) pastry cutter to make nice little pies. Make sure you have an even number of circles so that you have bottoms and lids for all your pies.

I used my handy mince pie pan to make a batch of 12. You can easily make mince pies on a baking sheet by shaping the top piece of pastry over a mound of mincemeat. I think the full amount of mince would make 4 dozen little pies (or even more).

Grease your pan. Put 1 T mincemeat on/in each bottom. Place a lid on each pie. Push down the edges of the pastry to seal. Poke a few air-holes in the lid with with a fork. I brushed the top with an egg wash for a golden crust, but this step is optional.

Bake mince pies for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  For a festive touch,  sprinkle  with powdered sugar before serving.

The Results

With the perfect mix of sweet, spice, fat, and booze, these mince pies are a decadent holiday treat. What a lovely dish to inherit from a mother, a loved-one, a community, an archive.

To boile Chickens on sorrell sops.

I snipped the last leaves of sorrel off the plant on my porch this morning. We’re on the verge of the first frost in Philadelphia and I’m harvesting the last of my summer herbs. I used leaves from this same plant for the delicious savory snack “Sorrell with Eggs” over the summer.

I’ve had this recipe for “Chicken on sorrell sops” bookmarked for ages. It’s from one of the oldest manuscripts in the UPenn Kislak collection, MS Codex 1601, and Alyssa and I made “A tarte of green pease” from it a while back.

Cooked chicken, toasted manchet bread croutons, and sorrel sauce sounded like the perfect combination for a chilly fall day.

The Recipe

To boile Chickens on sorrell sops.
Truss your chickens & boile them in water
& salt, verie tender, then take a good
handfull of sorrell & beate itt stalke &
all, then straine itt & take a manchet
& cutt itt in sippetts & drye them before
The fire, then putt your green brouth
vpon the coules, season itt with sugar
& grated Nutmegg, & lett itt stand vntill
itt bee hott, then putt your sippetts into a
dishe, putt your Chickens vpon them &
poure your sawce vppon that & serue itt.

Our Recipe

I’ve taken some liberties to update this one. I used chicken legs for this recipe because I love them and I had them around, but you could use a whole chicken. I roasted the chicken following a favorite Mark Bittman recipe, but you could boil it as the original suggests. For the “manchet” bread, I used pan levain from my local bakery, but you could use any bread. To create more delicious sauce, I added stock to the sorrel and seasonings. If I had more sorrel, or peak summer sorrel, it might have produced a juicier sauce all on its own.

6 chicken legs
butter, salt, and pepper for roasting
2 slices pan levain, cut into croutons
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t salt
grated nutmeg
6 sorrel leaves, finely chopped

Heat your oven to 450F. Put your chicken legs in a roasting dish with butter or olive oil skin side up. Season them with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 min. Flip the legs over, bake for about 10 minutes. Flip the legs a third time so the skin side is up once again. Put the croutons on a baking sheet and put them in the oven as well. Bake everything for another 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the bread begins to brown.

When you put the bread in the oven, heat your stock to almost boiling in a small saucepan. Lower the head and add the sugar, salt, nutmeg, and sorrel. Turn the head down, but keep this sauce warm until you are ready to use it.

To serve, layer the bread pieces on a plate or platter. Then arrange the chicken on top. I also poured the pan drippings over the chicken and bread. Finally, pour on the sorrel sauce.

The Results

I knew I liked the sound of this recipe the first time that I read it, but it is a delicious, comforting dish. A deconstructed chicken with sauce-soaked croutons and herbs, this chicken recipe is perfect for a fall day. My apartment is toasty and smells like chicken. I’m about to go back for seconds.

 

 

To make fine pippen Tarts

Today it feels like fall on the east coast. The Philadelphia weather on Wednesday reminded me of September heat-waves in California (when I made this lemonade), but today, apparently, fall is here. In September I braved the weekend heat to pick apples at Linvilla Orchard and, as usual, I bought lots.  So I went through my “to make” list in search of apple recipes and saw this recipe for “fine pippen Tarts” from UPenn MS Codex 785.  (I’ve cooked from this manuscript a lot: check out our new manuscript and library tags to see what archives we’ve been cooking.) It took me a little while to get into the kitchen to try this recipe (the heat, the big talk I gave, grading), but these pippin tarts are truly fine.

Recently, my “to make” list has been a decidedly mixed bag.  I started to make this Cordial Pepper Water and I had so much trouble with the poppy infusion that I’m not sure if a recipe will ever make it to this site. (I have a half bottle of very, very poppy-flavored  brandy sitting on my kitchen rack right now.) On the other hand, I started working on some holiday recipes. I’m excited to share these mince pies with you soon.

In the meantime, I think we should eat and talk about delicious apples. They’re sharp, crisp, floral, sweet, and sometimes even savory. My farmer’s market has a wide range on offer. So does Linvilla Orchard a half hour away. But yesterday I took a ride to the Brandywine valley and found some apples that are a bit closer to British pippins at North Star Orchard. These Rubinette apples are similar to the classic variety Cox’s Orange Pippin. Eaten raw, these are dense and fragrant. It seemed like a shame to cook them so I saved a few to snack on throughout the week. Luckily, cooking only enhanced these natural qualities.

The Recipe

To make fine pippen Tarts
Take a pound of flour and half a pound of butter a
little sugar rul it in very small, wet it with Cold
water, and two Eggs, make it into a Paste, roul it as
thin as you can, and Couer your pattyes, then take
henlish pippens and pare them and cut them in
round slices, then lay a lay and two Spoonfulls of
fine Sugar beaten and some Orange peel Chop’d
Small and a lay of pippins and a lay of Sugar and
lid them as thin as you can, and take care in breaking
them, when they are bak’d, take them out of your
pattyes and open the lids, and put into every one
of them a spoonfull or two of Orange or Lemmon
Juice strain’d then put down the lids & take a feather &
some burnt butter lick over the lids, and sift some fine
Sugar our them, you must not Couer your pippens, as
you cut them put them into fair water

This recipe delights me in a few ways:  pippins, the use of fresh orange peel and juice, a feather pastry brush, and a very tasty pastry recipe. I’m also curious about the moniker “henlish pippens” to describe this apple variety. Anyone out there have any ideas?

Our Recipe

*Halved from the original, this recipe makes 12+ small tarts.

Pastry
1 3/4 C flour (1/2 lb)
1T sugar
3/4 t salt
1 stick butter (8T, 1/4 lb)
1 egg
4 T water

Filling
2 apples
1T sugar (1/4t per tart)
zest of half an orange

Garnishes

1 T butter
1 T orange juice (1/4 t per tart)
Powdered sugar.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Make the pastry. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Chop the butter into small pieces. Work the butter into the flour mix until a fine meal forms. Add the egg. Add the water one tablespoon at a time. Using your hands and/or a spoon, work the mix until it holds its shape as a ball. It will still feel dry to the touch.

While the pastry rests in the fridge or at a cool room temperature, peel, core, and slice the apples into rounds.

Roll out the pastry. Using a pastry cutter or drinking glass, cut circles. I used a 2 5/8 in (68 mm) pastry cutter to make nice little tarts. Make sure you have an even number of circles so that you have bottoms and lids.

Grease your pan. Lay out the bottom pieces. I used my handy mince pie pan to make a batch of 12. You can easily make these pies on a baking sheet by shaping the top piece of pastry over a mound of seasoned apple. (You can also make more pies from this amount of pastry and filling. I had both leftover.)

Fill each pie with apple rings. Given the proportions of my mince pie pans, I ended up breaking my rings a bit. Season each tart with 1/4 t sugar and grated orange zest.

Place a lid on each pie. Push down the edges of the pastry to seal. Poke a few air-holes in the lid with with a fork.

Bake tarts for 15 minutes until golden brown. (Check them at 10 minutes and see how they’re faring.)

While the pies are baking, let 1 T butter sizzle to a golden brown in a small sauce pan.

When the pies are out of the oven and on a cooling rack, open the lids with a butter knife and pour 1/4 t orange juice into each pie. Replace the tops and brush with brown butter.

Sprinkle  with powdered sugar before serving.

The Results

Delicious pure-apple flavor beautifully enhanced with citrus. Although I love my classic apple pie with cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and a handful of cranberries (my mother’s genius addition), this recipe is a beautiful combination of flavors. I think the orange brought out the floral notes and acidic sharpness of the pippins.

I tried the tarts with and without the additional orange juice and prefer them without. (My spouse Joseph liked the orange juice flavored tarts better.) Feel free to add the juice or leave it out. On the other hand, the brown butter glaze added a fabulous, nutty note so don’t skip it.

The pastry was also delicious on its own. I’ll definitely be making it again when I come across recipes that simply request pastry, but don’t provide specifics. This one is delicious and as easy to make as my modern go-to.

Finally, this would make a lovely large pie instead of individual tarts. This would save you a lot of prep time and allow you to really layer the rings (which my pan did not allow).

Whether you can find pippins or not, whether you’ve picked too many apples at an orchard or are excited to see them in your supermarket, let us know if you try this perfect fall recipe.

Sorrell with Eggs – For a Plate.

I wanted a snack. I have a planter of herbs growing on my porch. I also wanted to post a new recipe here. Luckily, UPenn MS Codex 1038 has a simple, tasty recipe for “Sorrell with Eggs.”

I first started cooking with sorrel after watching a lot of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage series. This strong, spicy herb is fantastic with eggs and dairy. (Find more of Hugh’s sorrel recipes here.)

The Recipe

Sorrell with Eggs – For a Plate.
Take Two handfuls of Sorrell wash’d and Pick’d, put it in a Saucepan
with a little bit of Butter, a Dust of Flower, a little Pepper and Salt, a
Scraped Nutmeg, Stew all these a Quarter of an hour before you use it,
pour to it two or three spoonfuls of drawn Butter, and Garnish it with
hard Eggs, cut in Quarters one End of the Quarter on the Sorrell
And the other in the side of the Dish.

Lemony sorrel leaves are cooked with butter and spices, sauced with clarified butter, and served with a hardboiled egg. The note “For a Plate” and the final instructions for garnishing suggest that this dish would have appeared on a banquet table among other cold, highly-seasoned dishes.

Our Recipe

2T butter (to clarify, for serving)
1 cup sorrel leaves, washed and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1T butter (for cooking)
1t flour
1/4 t freshly ground pepper (2-3 grinds)
1/4 t salt
1/8 t ground nutmeg (2 scrapes from a whole nutmeg)
2 eggs, hardboiled

Prepare your drawn (or clarified butter). Heat 2T butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Let cool. Skim off any foam from the top. Discard any solids at the bottom. (Martha Stewart can help you make a bigger batch to serve with boiled lobster here.)

Hardboil your eggs. (I like Heidi Sawnson’s mini recipe from Super Natural Every Day: Cover eggs with water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs cook more in the water for 7 minutes, then cool in cold water before peeling.)

Put the remaining 1T butter in a small pan over a low heat. Add the sorrel, flour, and spices. Stir to combine. The flour will thicken the sauce to form a light gray. I added a little water during cooking to thin out the mix. When the sorrel is cooked down and the mix smells good, remove from heat. This took about five minutes for me.

Plate individual servings of the sorrel mix on small plates. Add the butter. Peel and cut your egg into quarters. Artfully arrange your egg quarters so the one end is on the sorrel mix and the other end is on the plate. Season your egg with freshly ground pepper to taste. Take a photograph because it’s so pretty. Snack away.

The Results

I will likely make this again. The sharp sorrel is delicious with the buttery sauce and the yielding egg. The nutmeg adds an aromatic note. And, a bonus, the cooking process didn’t take long or make the apartment unbearably hot.

To Make Appel Flitters

 

Who can resist an apple fritter? Alyssa and I are both crazy about the apple fritters at Reading Terminal Market. Dotties, my local doughnut shop, makes a mean vegan apple fritter. These tasty pastries are a highlight of apple picking trips (or at least stiff competition for the apple cider doughnuts). Naturally, I was thrilled when Alyssa added a recipe for “appel flitters” to our cooking list. This one comes from UPenn MS Codex 830, Eliz[abeth?] Kendrick’s recipe book which was signed and dated by its original owner in 1723.

The Recipe

Take a pint of Cream 8 eggs 4 of the whites beat them very well
together then take a peny lofe & grate it in or biskits if you
will put to it a Cofe Cup of good wine and one spoonfull or two of
wheat flower and a little Oringe flower or Rose water then put in
som white sugar Nutmeg & Salt a Cording to your pallit then mix
all thees to geather, lett your batter stand an hour before you use
It then take som pippins and par them and scope all the Core out &
Cut them in thin Sliceis pices then take lard and set it over a sharp fier &
When it is hot dip your slices of pipins in to the batter then in to the
Liquor turn them often straw white suger ouer them and serue
them up

Unlike their complex, pastry cousins, these apple fritters are battered and shallow-fried apple slices. They tasted best when they’d cooled just enough to eat without a burn risk.

Although pippins are a common apple variety in England, they’re much less common here. We used two aging honeycrisp apples I had around. Instead of using bread (penny-loaf) we used sweet, store-bought ladyfingers  (biskits) to bulk out the batter. (We’ve made our own “biskets” before.) You might need to adjust the sugar if you use grated bread. We opted for rosewater over orange blossom water and neutral frying oil instead of lard.

Our Recipe

Even halved, this recipe made enough batter to coat six (or even eight?) apples. We cooked up two in our test and had lots of leftover batter.

1 C heavy cream
4 eggs, (2 whole, 2 whites)
4 ladyfingers, crumbled
1/3 C white wine
1 T flour
1 t rosewater
2 T sugar
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
apples, peeled cored, and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1/3 C neutral oil (like canola) for frying

Whip together the cream, egg whites, and eggs in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the crumbled ladyfingers, wine, flower, rosewater, sugar, and spices. When the cookies are soft, add this mix to the cream mix and stir to combine. The batter will be somewhat clumpy. Let it sit for an hour.

After the dough has rested, prepare your apples. In a sturdy, high-sided pot, heat your oil. (We used a dutch oven to prevent oil spatter.) Dip apples in the batter and cook in the oil for 1 minute on each side (until the outside is brown).

Consume immediately!

The Results

Spicy, sweet, fried apples: A radical transformation of those apples in the bottom of my fridge. The frying process was fun to do together and could be a nice activity for a rainy weekend afternoon. I think these apples would be especially delicious on top of vanilla ice cream or served with this syllabub.