Instructiones to make Cakes

I’ll be speaking about this recipe (and more) at a free, public, virtual event hosted by The Free Library of Philadelphia on Tuesday December 8th, 7pm EST. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/medieval-life-spotlight-cooking-digital-demonstration-tickets-130045243825

Medieval and Renaissance European cooking was heavily spiced. Until fashions changed in the eighteenth century, wealthy and aspirational households used spices imported from Asia in all sorts of sweet and savory dishes. Cooks flavored dishes with black pepper, long pepper, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cassia, ginger, galangal, and the spice that flavors this recipe, cloves.

Over the past few months, I’ve been discussing cloves, historical recipes, and  how the high price of spices motivated European colonial and imperial ventures with Chef Ange Branca (Sate Kampar).  Next week, we’ll be speaking at this free, public, virtual event hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia in connection with the exhibition “Medieval Life” curated by Dot Porter (UPenn Libraries). Unsurprisingly, our conversations had me reading, looking at recipe books, and cooking.

baked cookies on baking sheet

This recipe for “Instructiones to make Cakes” is from a sixteenth-century English manuscript, UPenn Ms. Codex 823 (22v). The “cakes” made from flour, butter, sugar, and cloves are more like a shortbread cookie than fluffy modern cake. Fragrant with cloves and crumbly, these are delicious cookies are wonderful hot from the oven with a cup of coffee or tea.

Cloves were especially prized in medieval and Renaissance kitchens because of their unique floral flavor. In his wide-ranging discussion of cloves, among other imported spices,  in Out of the East: Spice and the Medieval Imagination, Paul Freedman shows that scholars wrote about the origin of clove trees in the garden of Eden, that cloves were purchased in huge quantities for use in medicines and cookery, and that Portuguese ships were specifically sent to target the clove island of Ternate in 1513 (205). Freedman quotes Tomé Piers, a pharmacist and diplomat, who wrote “Whoever holds Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice” and, consequently, control of the global spice trade (205). While Freedman notes that the Venetian spice trade survived the Portuguese conquest of Malacca, European desire for spices nevertheless drove colonial ventures.

This recipe calls for “iid cloves” (2 d, or 2 pennies, worth of cloves) and thus demonstrates the connection between the price and measurement of spices. Working with Freedman’s book and John Munro’s account of spice prices, I believe the original recipe calls for 6 whole cloves that would have cost 2 pence. For comparison, in the sixteenth century a loaf of bread cost a penny and bread provided far more sustenance than a few cloves. In my updated recipe below, I’ve quartered the recipe from the original and used the equivalent of 1.5 cloves to flavor about a dozen cookies. Even though the original recipe calls for expensive cloves, it uses them sparingly and in balance with the other flavors and ingredients. The sugar in these cookies (which I’ve written about elsewhere), would also have been imported and far more expensive than the flour and butter called for in the recipe. A little bit of clove goes a long way, as anyone who has prepared modern recipes with them knows well.

image of entire manuscript pageMs. Codex 823 was created and used from approximately 1567-1600 and unlike many of the manuscripts that I’ve featured on this site, it is not primarily filled with recipes. More of a commonplace book than a recipe book, this manuscript includes pages of Psalms copied from a Bible or prayer book and a copy of the deathbed statement of Lady Katherine Grey before the final section of medicinal and culinary recipes begins. Although the manuscript is miscellaneous, the recipe section is a familiar blend of medicinal and culinary preparations with a focus on preserving fresh foods. The page above includes the recipe for “cakes” and well as recipes to make vinegar, preserve pears and barberries, and prepare “white pott,” which in this version is rather similar to bread pudding.

The Recipe

image of recipe in manuscript

Instructiones to make
Cakes

Ffyrst take a quarte of fyne flower a pound of Sugar iid of
Cloves fyne beaten and thereunto put a pound of swete butter & then
worke yt together untyll suche tyme as you shall thincke yt
well wrought & so make yt in cakes & put yt in to the oven
wher manchete or cakes hathe bene baked imedyatelye after the
same ys drawen – And you myt note that to the baking of fyne
cakes a temperate heate myt be in the oven & you myt not
suffer them to stande in the oven tyll they be browne because
they mytt harden and wax browne when they be browne after they have
stand a whyle

Updated Recipe

makes a dozen cookies

½ cup sugar
8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Additional butter or baking spray for the pans

Preheat your oven to 275F. Prepare a baking sheet with baking spray or butter.

Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the flour and cloves mixture to the butter mixture to form a workable dough. It will be crumbly, but will hold together when pressed. The finished texture is like a shortbread cookie and do not worry if your cookies only barely hold together.

Put the cookie dough onto a cutting board. You can either shape the dough into a log with your hands and slice cookies from the log or shape the dough into small cookies by hand. Place the formed cookies on your prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until just firm, but still tender.

Allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan. Serve slightly warm or completely cooled.

to Candy pippins to look like amber

Last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop about apples and preservation. Matt Kaminsky spoke about wild apples and grafting as a practice for preserving and propagating varieties. In addition to sharing a number of apple recipes from this site, my contribution to the workshop was to reflect on how updating recipes is a form of preservation of knowledge and to share this seventeenth-century recipe “to Candy pippins to look like amber” from UPenn Ms. Codex 252 (120r). 

The Recipe
 

to Candy pippins to look like amber
take faire large pipins and pare them and bore a hole
through them and put them in an earthen platter in
the ouen stroueing fine sifted sugar upon them, then
sprinkell A littill rose water upon the suger then
bak them in an ouen lett your ouen be hot as for manhant
you stoppe up the ouen and lett them remane in halfe
an houer then tak them out of the dish and lay
them on a lettis or siue an so lett them remaine dry
2 or 3 dayes then thay will Looke clear as Amber
and be finely candied you may keep them all
the yeare

apple peels

Designed with preservation and storage in mind, this recipe uses sugar, rosewater, and heat to transform the tender flesh of apples in season. The instructions ask you to cook your peeled apples in a hot bread oven “as hot as for manhant” or manchet bread. Then they dry for 2 or 3 additional days before storage.

Before the workshop, I’d been exploring this recipe with the juicy Arlet apple (a personal favorite). I even tested it as a sliced apple recipe – considering the various meanings of “pare” – but decided in the end that the recipe called for whole, cooked apples. (Sidenote: Season some apple chips with rosewater and sugar this fall for a delicious treat.)  At the workshop, Matt suggested using a spongier, less juicy apple variety for this preparation.  After consulting with the vendors from Three Springs Fruit Farm at my local market, I decided to try the recipe one more time with Jonathan apples. 

Updated Recipe 

2 apples
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Peel and core the apples. 

Place the apple on a baking sheet. Sprinkle sugar over apples. Then sprinkle rosewater over the apples.

Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. 

The Results

These apples fall somewhere between a baked apple and a dried, sugared apple. After baking, and especially after sitting out for a few days post-baking, the apples are a rich, golden color.

I ate one apple hot from the oven. It was gorgeously sweet and fragrant from rosewater. After two days sitting out, it was drier, denser, and more deeply flavored. The rosewater scent had dispersed, but it was even tastier.

If I were to test the recipe again, I might bake it longer or at a hotter temperature to see how much moisture I could draw out before resting. I might also add more sugar and rosewater to see how much “amber” effect I could create on the outside of the fruit. If you make any changes to the recipe as you try it out, let me know how it goes!

To make portugal Eggs

This post draws on research from an article that I published in the collection After Print: Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Cultures.

Hannah Woolley was an all-around lifestyle guru who not only wrote cookbooks, but also provided guidance on etiquette, homemaking, interior design. She even advertised her availability for private lessons to supplement her written advice with hands-on instruction. Although this recipe for “Portugal Eggs” comes from UPenn Ms. Codex 785, it was copied into the manuscript from Hannah Woolley’s The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet: Stored with all manner of Rare Receipts For Preserving, Candying and Cookery. Very Pleasant and Beneficial to all Ingenious Persons of the Female Sex (1670). (Just like the recipe for “Lemmon Cakes” that I posted a few years ago when I first began researching this particular receipt book.)

To be honest, I could have used some further guidance from Woolley as I set out to prepare “Portugal Eggs.” I needed to make six sub-recipes in total to assemble this dish and four of these components needed to be made at least a day in advance. Without some modern tricks, such as using powdered gelatin for the jelly, this would have been even more labor intensive. That said, Woolley’s model housewife would have likely had a few of these components in her kitchen already.

This dish is perhaps most at home in a banqueting spread like one of these “Tempting Tables” set forth by Ivan Day. Indeed, it is listed among the many dishes served at the coronation of James II in A Complete Account of the Ceremonies Observed in the Coronation of the Kings and Queens of England (1727). It is visually striking, yet one of the strangest flavor combinations I have encountered so far in this project.

Although I’ve made this all sound very complicated (and it is) read on and let us guide you through one way a cook using Ms. Codex 785 might have prepared Woolley’s elaborate recipe.

The Recipe(s)

MS Codex 785

To make portugal Eggs

Take a very large Dish with a broad brim lay in
it some naples Biscake in the form of a star, then
put so much sack into the Dish as you think
the biscakes will drink up,on then slick them
full with little peices of preserv’d orange, and
green Citron peele, and strow Store of French
Comfits over them of Divers Colours, then butter
some Eggs and lay them here and there upon
the biscakes then fill up the hollow places in
the dish with severall colour’d jellyes and
round about the brim thereof lay Laurell
Leaves guilt with Leaf Gold, lay them slanting
and between the Leaves severall colour’d Jellies.

Hannah Woolley

XXXIX. To make the Portugal Eggs.

Take a very large Dish-with a broad brim, lay in it some Naples Bisket in the Form of a Star, then put so much Sack into the Dish as you do think the Biskets will drink up; then stick them full with thin little pieces of preserved Orange, and green Citron Pill, and strew store of French Comfits over them, of divers colours, then butter some Eggs, and lay them here and there upon the Biskets, then fill up the hollow places in the Dish, with several coloured Iellies, and round about the Brim thereof lay Lawrel Leaves guilded with Leaf-Gold, lay them slanting, and between the Leaves several coloured Iellies,

As both the manuscript and printed recipe make clear, “Portugal Eggs” are much more than an egg dish. When I decided to make this dish I began by deciphering the component parts: biscuits, candied citrus peel, “French Comfits” or sugar coated seeds, jelly, buttered (or scrambled) eggs, and gilded laurel leaves. Since the gilded laurel leaves were for presentation only, I decided to skip the gilding sub-recipe. I did, however, prepare the other five sub-recipes required to assemble the dish.

But first I needed to find recipes for all these components. This challenge initially puzzled me until I went back to the rare book reading room to inventory the entire manuscript. It seems to me that the compiler or organizer of Ms. Codex 785 might have been assembling sub-recipes for Woolley’s “Portugal Eggs” because the three recipes before it are for jelly and biscuits, two of the key components of the finished dish. All four of the recipes copied from Woolley’s cookbooks are in a single opening – two page spread – in Ms. Codex 785.

Guided by this proximity, I decided to use the recipe for “the best bisket Cakes” from Ms. Codex 785 as they are similar to other recipes for Naples biscuits (see “Artificial Potatoes” and “Bisket Pudding“). I also decided to try the recipe for “Jelly of Hartshorn,” which begins, as the name implies, with a deer’s antler. I started with packaged gelatin instead. For the other two sub-recipes I went farther afield. Although I experimented with Woolley’s own recipe for fennel comfits, I used a tried and true modern recipe for candied citrus peel. Any of these recipes might have made a great individual post, but today we are going to see what happens when they all come together.

1) Biscuits

To make the best bisket Cakes

Take four new laid Eggs, leave out two of the
whites, beat them very well, then put in two
Spoonfulls of Rosewater, and beat them very
well together, then put in a pound of double
refin’d sugar beaten and search’d and beat
them together one hour, then put to them
one pound of fine flour, and beat them
together a good while, then put them upon
plates rubb’d over with butter, and set
them into the Oven as fast as you can
but have a care you do not bake them
too much.

This recipe was relatively straightforward to update. It makes about 24 cookies.

4 eggs (2 whole, 2 whites only)
2 t rosewater
1 lb sugar (2 2/3 c)
1 lb flour (3 2/3 c)
butter or baking spray to coat the baking sheets

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease two baking sheets with butter or your preferred baking spray,

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. I used a hand mixer for this, but a standing mixer would also work well. Add the rosewater to the eggs and continue beating. Add the sugar and beat on a high setting until the mixture starts to look fluffy (about 1 minute). Add the flour in three batches, allowing each to mix in fully.

Shape the dough into rough ovals. I did this by picking up about 2T of the dough and rolling it roughly in my hand. Make sure that you leave about a half an inch between the cookies, as they expand a lot as they cook.

Bake 15 minutes. The bottom of the biscuits should be nicely browned and the top still a little spongy.

Eat immediately with a cup of tea or allow to cool on a rack before storing.

2) French Comfits

Comfits are sugar coated seeds. Since Ms. Codex 785 doesn’t include a recipe for comfits, I turned to Woolley’s cookbook for a guide. Although I adapted Woolley’s recipe to coat fennel seeds in sugar, I could have also used this same method to candy coriander or caraway seeds. When I was at a local store, buying fennel seeds in bulk, I noticed a bag of modern-day comfits on the shelf. I threw some on the final dish for color and I’ve been snacking on them, too.

1/4 C sugar
1/3 C water
1T fennel seeds

In a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.

A) Add the fennel seeds and simmer for 1 minute.

B) Strain the mixture to remove the fennel seeds reserving the sugar syrup. Spread the seeds out on a plate and allow to cool for 2 minutes.

Bring the syrup back to boil and repeat the straining and simmering steps (A and B) as  many times as you like.

I did this three times before the seeds were too sticky to work with. The seeds were sweeter each time they came out of the hot syrup and cooled. Woolley suggests 8-10 coats of sugar. However, Woolley also instructs you to roll the hot seeds in the syrup with your bare hands. In any case, reserve the syrup at the end. I’m excited to add this leftover fennel-infused simple syrup in cocktails.

Allow the seeds to cool completely. Store them for future use.

3) Various Jellies

Inspired by the rich seasonings in the “Hartshorn Jelly” recipe, I prepared a lightly-sweetened jelly infused with lemon and cinnamon. This sub-recipe must be made well in advance because jelly needs to set in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

1 packet Knox Gelatin
1/4 C water
1/4 C sugar
the peel of one lemon cut into strips
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 C water

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 C water in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Place the other ingredients and  3/4 C water in a small saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil. Once the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the mixture smells strongly of lemon and cinnamon. Discard the lemon peel and cinnamon stick. You can do this by scooping them out of the mixture or straining the whole thing and reserving the liquid.

Add the hot, fragrant liquid to the gelatin mix and stir to dissolve. Transfer your jelly mix to a flat-bottomed dish for easy shaping. I used a square, glass storage container for this.

Refrigerate for at least three hours before using.

4) Candied Citrus Peel

Given the complexity of the other components, I decided to candy my orange peel using this straightforward, twenty-first-century recipe.

5) Buttered Eggs

Buttered eggs are just an early modern way to talk about scrambled eggs cooked with butter and cream. You cannot make these in advance, so I have included the sub-recipe in the overall assembly instructions below.

Portugal Eggs

Once your jelly is set, your biscuits are baked, and your citrus peel and seeds are candied, you are ready to begin to assemble a dish of Portugal Eggs. The quantities below amply filled a standard dinner plate.

5 biscuits
3 oz sack (I used brandy, but sherry also works here)
1 T comfits (I used a mix of store-bought and homemade )
3T candied citrus peel
1 batch of buttered eggs (below)
4 T jelly (or more to taste)
2-3 sprigs fresh bay leaves to garnish

Buttered Eggs

2 eggs
3 T butter
3 T heavy cream
twist freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the biscuits in a star-shape on your dish. Pour about 3 oz of a spirit like brandy or sherry as a substitute for sack, a fortified wine. When the biscuits cannot absorb any more liquid, stop pouring. Set aside.

Prepare the buttered eggs. Whisk together the eggs and cream. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the egg mixture and stir the eggs until they are fluffy and cooked through to your preferred texture.

Return your attention to the main plate. Place comfits and candied orange peel on top of the soaked biscuits. You may, or may not, be able to stick your candied peel into the biscuits are the recipe suggests.

Add dollops of the eggs to the plate. In the remaining space, add spoonfuls of the jelly. Arrange the bay leaves around the edge of the plate.

Step back and admire your handiwork.

The Results

If I ever throw a feast using only recipes from this site, I’d make this dish again because it is truly beautiful. I might even spring for some gold-leaf.

That said, it’s one of the strangest flavor combinations I’ve encountered so far in this project. The boozy cookies pair nicely with the candied peel and fennel comfits, but clash with the rich eggs. It made me wonder about the perfect fork-full of this dish — Am I supposed to eat some eggs and then eat some sugary cake? Or am I supposed to eat a bit of everything in one cacophonous bite?

The lemon and cinnamon flavored jelly didn’t compliment any of the other flavors. Since the manuscript and print sources only insist on the various colors of jelly, but not the various flavors, a savory aspic or even an orange-flavored sweet jelly might be a better pairing for the eggs and seasoned cake. Perhaps the housewife or cooks using Ms. Codex 785 to prepare Portugal Eggs may not have used the “Hartshorn Jelly” after all.

This dish of eggs and sweets challenged, perplexed, and delighted me. Only by putting these items on the same plate did I finally grasp the variety, the mélange, intended in Woolley’s receipt copied into Ms. Codex 785. And only by thinking about this as a banqueting dish did it begin to make any sense at all. Banquets are about Concordia discorsvariety, and performance—as are “Portugal Eggs.” I needed to experience the taste, smell, and sight of these eggs, biscuits, jellies, sugar sweets, and decorative laurels to make sense of their place in early modern food culture.

To make India Curry

 

This recipe for “To make India Curry” has been on my “to cook” list for five year and I’m pleased to report that it is a subtle, satisfying, and delicious dish. Mitch Fraas brought the recipe to my attention in 2014 (!) and I’ve been cooking from and researching the manuscript, UPenn Ms. Codex 644 Grandmama Frankland’s recipe book, on and off since early 2015. But until this past spring, I was stumped by the reference to “India mixture” in the recipe. This “India Curry” was missing a crucial element: curry!

The word “curry” – “A preparation of meat, fish, fruit, or vegetables, cooked with a quantity of bruised spices and turmeric” – came into English from the Tamil word “kari” and the Kannada word “karil” that the Portugese rendered as “caril” and early modern English and French speakers called “cari” (OED). Curry powder was sold in London in the nineteenth century, but this recipe is a bit early for “India Mixture” to be sold premixed.  After spending a lot more time with Ms. Codex 644, I realized that the answer had been under my nose all along. There is a Curry Powder recipe in the manuscript that I believe is meant to be used in an array of recipes in the book. It took me a good deal of looking to confirm that this recipe is in the same hand as the other recipes that call for pre-mixed curry powder of some kind. (Reader, you may also be interested in this Gastropod episode about curry that touches on the history of the powdered spice.)

Original Recipes

 

Cap[tai]n Pearse

To make India Curry
Cut 2 Chickens in small pieces,
wash them very clean, then let them
simmer a very little while in water
while they simmer fry a few onions
Brown in Butter: Then put the
Chickens with the water they simmerd
in into a stew pan, put to them
the fried onions, & one tea spoonfull
of the India Mixture, & a tea spoonful
of Mushroom powder: & when stew’d
enough Serve up. with a plate of
Rice boild in the following manner.
Wash & pick y[ou]r Rice very clean
Then put it into y[ou]r Sauce pan
with a very little water over a slow
fire, when the Scum rises,  Skim
it clean, then cover it up close
& let it boil very slow, when t[is]
done enough turn it out in
a Bason, press out the water &
Then Turn the Bason over a Dish
& let it come up in the shape of
the Bason.

To make Curry Powder
Of pounded Turmeric 1 Tea spoonful
Of pounded Dunia one Tea spoonful
Of pounded Red pepper one tea spoonful
Of pounded Ginger one knob
Of pounded Onions 2 chattachs of
Garlic a tea spoonful of pounded
No ( Bay leaves 2 leaves

The curry powder is more of a curry paste since it includes fresh onion and garlic. In my updated version, I used fresh ginger and powdered turmeric because that’s what I had to hand, but I’d love to hear from anyone who tries fresh turmeric here. Dunia is an English transliteration of the Hindi word for coriander. I’ve also used ghee – butter with the solids removed – to sear the chicken before boiling as the original recipe instructs. Ghee is a traditional ingredient in Indian cuisine and I had some to hand. I did not try the trick for molding the rice into a dome because it was pretty crazy in my kitchen already, but I’d love to see results if you do! Finally, I used a whole chicken here because that’s what I tend to buy and, of course, what the original recipe calls for. You could also use a mix of chicken thighs, legs, and boneless breasts. I’ve included instructions for making chicken stock as well as stock comes in handy for this recipe and so many others.

 

Updated Recipes

Curry Paste

1T powdered turmeric
1T coriander seed
1 T red chili pepper flakes
1 2-inch knob ginger, peeled
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves

Chop the ginger, onion, and garlic into small pieces. Either blitz in a food processor or bound with a mortar and pestle until a (somewhat) smooth paste forms. (I mixed my batch by hand and there were still some visible pieces of onion.)

Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Use within a month.

Chicken Curry 

(Serves 4 if accompanied by rice and cooked greens)

1 chicken, fresh or defrosted (or equivalent, mixed precut chicken)
1T ghee (or neutral cooking oil)
2 onions
2T butter
1T curry paste
1/2 cup mushroom broth (made from mushroom powder or dried mushrooms)
1t salt

Cut up the chicken so you have two leg/thigh pieces, two breasts, and two wing pieces. Slice two onions.

(Optional: Put the chicken carcass, any innards that may have come with the chicken, and the tops of your onions in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer while you make the curry. You can use this very flavorful stock in place of chicken cooking water later in the recipe and you can even use this stock to make your mushroom broth. Alternatively, you can make a batch of chicken soup or fill your freezer with about a gallon of stock.)

Heat ghee or neutral cooking oil in a large skillet or frying pan. Sear the chicken on both sides, 1 minute per side. Depending on the size of your chicken, you may need to do this in batches.

Heat 2T butter in the same pan and cook the onions on a medium heat for 15 minutes until brown and soft. While the onions are cooking, put the seared chicken pieces in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Then turn the temperature down, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Prepare your mushroom broth while the chicken and onions are cooking.

Remove the chicken from the water, reserve the cooking water, and place the chicken pieces in the skillet with the onions. Add the curry paste by coating one side of the chicken pieces with it. Sprinkle the salt over the chicken. Pour in the mushroom broth and two cups of the chicken cooking water (or optional stock from your stockpot). Simmer for 5 minutes, flip the chicken pieces, and simmer for 5 more minutes (or until the chicken is fully cooked).

Serve with cooked rice and  greens for a full meal.

 

The Results

Since the curry paste is added so late in the cooking process, the flavor is mild and floral. When I ate the curry for lunch it was tasty: When I served it to my spouse Joseph for dinner with a side of cooked mustard greens it was even better. Later in the week, the flavors were even more potent, but still floral. This is a great dish to make ahead.

I’d like to thank Joseph Malcomson for taste-testing and helping me figure out if the recipe called for dunia or mentioned a merchant (bunia).

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

resolver-7

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.

to friy oyesters

2019-04-13 17.19.46

to fry oysters

Lately, I’ve been reading M.F. K. Fisher’s Consider the Oyster. Raw, cooked, dangerous, and delicious, Fisher celebrates this humble bivalve in glorious prose. In her chapter “The Well-Dressed Oyster,” she surveys the triumphs and pitfalls of cooking and seasoning oysters. It’s worth quoting at length:

Probably the next simplest way to cook an oyster, and the one most commonly accepted in restaurants, it to fry him. It is too bad, since the method can be good, that so many chefs dip their oysters in a thick and often infamous batter, which at once plunged into the equally obscene grease, forms a envelope of such slippery toughness that the oyster within it lies helpless and steaming in a foul blanket, tasteless and yet powerfully indigestible.

Firm chilled oysters rolled quickly in crumbs and dipped into good fat for almost no time at all, and then served quickly on hot plates with an honest tartar sauce or lemon slices can be one of the best dishes anywhere. (Daunt Books edition, 2018, 24)

When I revisited this recipe “to friy oyesters” from UPenn Ms Codex 252, I was certain I could accomplish the latter: fresh oysters, good fat, a seasoned crumb, and a quick fry. Indeed, it took far longer to shuck the oysters from the fish market than to cook this recipe.

The Recipe

to-fry-oysters.jpg

to friy oyesters

Beat 2 eges with a littell bread
nutmeg and peper and sallt dip in
your oyesters and fry them broun
with freash butter

I was first intrigued this simple recipe when I was setting up the social media accounts for this project back in 2014. This humble receipt has graced the @rare_cooking Twitter avatar ever since. It is written on a small slip of paper that was once pinned into the manuscript – take a look at the pin holes above and below the text. Although the receipt is written on a scrap, the handwriting and inconsistent spelling are similar to one of the manuscript’s dominant hands.

There are many early modern English recipes that call for oysters as an ingredient or showcase oysters on their own. In the culinary tradition, they straddled the boundary between cheap protein for working people and a luxury food associated with seduction. Samuel Pepys writes about eating oysters again and again, sometimes from “my old oyster shop.”

In this simple recipe, the oyster stands on its own. Seasoned with nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and frazzled in butter, these fried oysters are truly delicious.

Updated Recipe

6 oysters, shucked
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1-2 eggs
1/8t nutmeg
1/8t pepper
1/8t salt
2T butter (for frying)
Sliced lemon

Combine the breadcrumbs and seasoning in a shallow bowl.

Beat 1 egg in a shallow bowl. If one egg does not coat all your oysters, you may need to add a second egg.

Heat a cast iron skilled (or your preferred frying pan) on high for 2-3 minutes. Reduce to a medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt and foam.

Dip the oysters in the beaten egg and then the seasoned breadcrumbs. Put each dipped oyster straight into the frying pan. Do not crowd the oysters. Cook for 2-3 minutes and flip each oyster mid-way through to allow both sides to brown.

Eat immediately. Dress with lemon to your taste.

2019-04-13 17.27.29

I’m glad that I have a new way to cook and eat this glorious mollusk.

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.

 

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.