Lemon Posset

Possets teeter on the divide between medicine and food. These boozy, herbal, and, in this case, creamy, beverages are refreshing drinks on the one hand, and curative concoctions on the other. We made a “Could Possett” in the early days of this project and I decided that it was high time to try another.

This recipe for “Lemon Posset” comes from MS Codex 785, the source of my recent posts about Mutton with Oyster stuffing and Simnel cake.

The Recipe

lemon posset

Lemon Posset
Take a pint & a half of Cream a pint of Birch or
White Wine the juice of one Lemon, pare one half
of the peel thin and steep it all night in the Wine
and grater the other part when you put the Cream
to in the Morning and Sweeten ’em to your taste
work it in a Jug with a Chocolate Mill and take off
the Froth as it rises.

Our Recipe

1 cup white wine (I used Vino Verde but any decent drinkable will work.)
Grated or zested peel of a whole lemon, divided into two batches
Juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 cups cream
1T sugar (add more or less to taste)

Put half the lemon peel and the white wine in a jug. I used a standard 4-cup mixing jug and covered it with plastic wrap. Let this mixture sit overnight to infuse. You can also let it sit for 6-7 hours during the day if you plan to serve this in the evening.

Before serving, add the remaining lemon peel and lemon juice to the jug. Pour in the cream and whisk vigorously. Skim off rising froth or unpalatable debris. (I did not find his necessary.) Taste the posset. Add sugar, I added one tablespoon, until the posset is sweetened to your taste.

Consume immediately.

The Results

Between the wine and the lemon I expected this posset to curdle, like many hot possets do, but it didn’t. It was like a frothy lemon milkshake, a tangy yogurt lassi, or an herbaceous egg white cocktail. It was sweet even before I stirred in the sugar. I wondered what flavors Birch Wine might contribute to its overall flavor. Then I added an ice cube to my glass and sipped it as I cooked other things.

Although I enjoyed sipping my small glass of posset, I still had quite a bit of it left over. Inspired by its texture and flavor, I decided to put the remaining mix in my ice cream maker and see what happened. I’m pleased to report that lemon posset ice cream is delicious. Since I poured the posset mix straight into the frozen bowl without adding eggs or more sugar, the texture wasn’t as lovely as other ice creams I’ve made. That said, I heartily recommend experimenting with posset ice cream as temperatures rise this summer. Tweak the recipe, follow the instructions on your ice cream maker, and let us know what happens!

To stuff a Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters

It’s an in-between time. I’ve finished teaching my spring courses, but I’m still reading final papers, grading exams, and clearing my desk for summer research (and cooking).  The stalls at the farmers’ market have asparagus, rhubarb, and spring greens alongside scruffy apples and potatoes. Spring flowers and green leaves promise warmth, but it’s been a chilly, rainy week. Although I love spring sunshine, a gray Saturday was a perfect opportunity to cook a shoulder of lamb stuffed with oysters.

I found this recipe back in the fall and I immediately knew I wanted to try it. I love lamb, I love oysters, and I’d never eaten anything like this. The recipe is from MS Codex 785 and this manuscript also includes the Simnel I made at Easter and the biskets that formed the base for Bisket Pudding. Compiled in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, MS Codex 785 includes some complex culinary recipes along with standard items (biskets, dumplings, pancakes). This recipe’s combination of meat and seafood, mutton and oysters, is not entirely unusual in early modern culinary manuscripts. Sauces and stuffing rich with anchovies, for example, appear in preparations for chicken and other meats, too.

The Recipe

lamb with oysters

To stuff a Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters

Mince a good many Oysters very small, put to
Them grated bread, some suet mince’d small some
Sweet marjoram and lemmon peele all mince’d
Very small, beaten pepper, and salt if you
Find your oysters make it not salt enough, role
These very well up together in the yolks of eggs
Stuff all the inside of the Mutton very thick
Then have a good quantity of oysters ready
Stew’d against the Mutton is roasted to put
Into your dish for Sauce.

On a frigid day a few months ago, I purchased a frozen shoulder of lamb from the Livengood Farm stall at my local farmers’ market. If they had had mutton (an older sheep), which they sometimes do, I would have bought it instead. It’s often cheaper! I mention all this because until I defrosted the lamb shoulder on Saturday I had no idea what kind of bones were in my roast. In addition to the blade bone, there were also ribs in this roast which is sort of unusual. (Here’s a great YouTube video about how to remove the blade bone from a shoulder of lamb.) After much deliberation about the ribs, and assistance from my spouse Joseph, I decided to stuff, tie, and roast the lamb shoulder with the bones in. This dish will be easier to prepare and serve if you, or your butcher, bone your lamb shoulder before you start. The modern recipes for stuffed lamb shoulder from Julia Child and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall that I consulted in search of cooking times, all suggest starting this way. Here are recipes from Hugh, lamb shoulder roasted whole and stuffed lamb shoulder, and Julia braised stuffed lamb shoulder.

The  oysters delayed me for a while. I didn’t want to shell-out for “a good many” gorgeous raw oysters only to chop them into a stuffing. But I also found the cooked and canned options vexing.  I’ve purchased many cans of boiled clams over the years to bulk out a favorite pasta dish, but at first I could only find small, expensive cans of smoked oysters. I wasn’t sure if the smoked oyster flavor and texture would work in this dish. After some supermarket sleuthing, I found a can of boiled oysters and a small container of stewing oysters at a Reading Terminal Market fishmonger stall. I was finally ready to cook.

Although the oysters make this stuffing distinct, I could certainly taste the marjoram and lemon. Marjoram, a member of the oregano family, pairs wonderful with rich meats like lamb. I used grated beef suet in my stuffing because I had some in the freezer from when I made minced pies, but butter will certainly work in its place.

The end of this recipe mentions an oyster sauce. I added a few oysters to the roasting pan assuming that they might cook in excess lamb fat and form the basis of a wonderful gravy. However, the stuffing soaked up all the lamb’s juices and the pan oysters were desiccated. (They  had a jerky-like flavor and consistency and, honestly, they were delicious.) Since I didn’t have any extra oysters on hand, I did not attempt to serve this roast lamb with an oyster sauce. I’ve draft a provisional recipe for this garnish below if you’re interested in trying it. Next time I will buy more oysters!

Our Recipe

butcher’s twine
1 shoulder lamb or mutton (mine weighed 2 lbs, including bones)
8-12 oz raw or cooked oysters, chopped (I used an 8 oz can of boiled oysters and 3 oz of fresh, stewing oysters. If you have abundant, cheap, fresh oysters available to you, by all means use those instead!)
2 cups stale bread, chopped into small pieces
3T breadcrumbs
10 T beef suet, grated OR 8 T butter, cut into small pieces and left to come to room temperature
2 T fresh marjoram, roughly chopped (2T fresh oregano will also work. In a pinch, 2 t dried oregano might be a decent substitute if you can’t find fresh.)
Zest of one lemon
1 t ground black pepper plus more for coating the roast
3 egg yolks
Salt to taste
*oyster sauce to serve

Clean and prepare your lamb or mutton shoulder for stuffing.

Preheat your oven to 425F.

If you are using fresh chopped oysters, you may want to saute them in butter for a minute before adding them to the stuffing mix. This stuffing is not cooked before use like many modern stuffings.

Prepare stuffing. Mix bread, breadcrumbs, suet, chopped oysters, marjoram, lemon zest, and pepper. Taste test to see if you need more salt. Mix with egg yolks to soften. If your stuffing is dry and isn’t combining in glorious squishyness, add more butter or another egg yolk.

Stuff the lamb shoulder. Using butcher’s twine, tie the roast at one-inch intervals and place it in a roasting dish. Dress the lamb with pepper and salt. I added a few whole oysters to the pan and balls of leftover stuffing.

Roast at 425F for a half hour to brown the meat. Then turn the oven down to 325F and roast for another 30-60 minutes (depending on your preference for rare to well-done lamb). My roast needed 50 minutes at 325F. Rest 20 minutes before carving. Serve something green, something starchy, and maybe oyster sauce.

* A speculative recipe for oyster sauce, which I did not make:  Cook 3 oz fresh oysters in 2T butter. Season with marjoram, black pepper, and salt to taste. Serve with the cooked roast.

The Results

The lamb was moist and rich, the stuffing was herbaceous, mineral, and fishy with oysters. Now I want to stuff all the lamb. Joseph and I ate this as an elaborate weekend lunch with roast carrots and turnips, grilled asparagus, and my sourdough bread. It was a perfect, in-between, spring meal. Give this recipe a try on a rainy spring day before the strawberries show up at the market and the summer heat kicks in.

To make a Simnel

Before I moved to England to study a decade ago, I had never heard of a Simnel Cake. When I asked people what it was, I usually got the same response: a light fruit cake for Easter. Needless to say, I was initially baffled by the concept of a “light” fruit cake.  But when I finally tried a Simnel Cake I knew I’d been missing out. It was sweet with marzipan and candied peel, rich with spice, and yes, it was “light.”  Now I always urge my spouse to make one as Easter approaches. We also usually re-watch this clip about Simnel-baking and egg-tossing from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage series, too.

Although the origins of the Simnel Cake are highly debated, the Oxford English Dictionary includes mentions of Simnel from medieval and early modern sources. It’s long been “A kind of bread or bun made of fine flour” and “A rich currant cake, usually eaten on Mid-Lent Sunday in certain districts.” When I saw a recipe “To make a Simnel” in perennial favorite manuscript MS Codex 785, I knew which version of the Easter Simnel I’d be making this year.

The Recipe

simnel

To make a Simnel
Take half a peck of flour five or six whites of Eggs
well beaten a pint and an half of good milk, a quarter
of a pint of Sack, six Ounces of sugar, two pound
of Raisins of the Sun, two pound of Currants
half a pint of good Balme, three Nutmegs a
Race of Ginger, a little pepper, Cloves and Mace
make it into paste boyl it and it.

From the start, I wasn’t sure how much this would taste like a “light fruit cake” without the marzipan and candied peel showcased in modern recipes. But the recipe seemed straightforward except for that “half a pint of good Balme.” Ivan Day’s historical baking guide suggests that liquid “balme” in baking recipes often refers to liquid “barm,” or the yeasty scum on the top of home-brewed beer. This barm would have been full of wild beer yeasts. It leavened the bread and imparted funky fermented flavors. Researching this ingredient led me to treat this recipe for Simnel as a rich yeast bread.

Our Recipe

Our version of the Simnel receipt is quartered from the original recipe and makes two hearty loaves. I hand-kneaded this bread, but a standing mixer with a dough hook should also do the trick. Since this is a yeast bread, make sure you budget for an hour and a half of rising time! Alternatively, you can prepare the dough in advance. Keep it in you fridge overnight, allow it to return to room temperature for about an hour or so, and then bake it.

It was fun to pour a favorite local beer into this dough. I used Yards “Brawler,” an English mild style session beer,  but other lagers and pale ales will work as well.  Feel free to experiment with other beers and let us know if they impart unique flavors to the bread. I also used brandy in place of the sack, but sherry is an equally good substitute.

4 1/2 C flour (1.75 lb)
1/4 C sugar (1.5 oz)
1 t yeast
1/2 t nutmeg, freshly grated or ground
1 t ground ginger
1/4 t black pepper, freshly ground or pre-ground
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t mace
1 1/2 C raisins (1/2 lb)
1 1/3 C currants (1/2 lb)
3/4 C milk
2 egg whites, beaten
1 C beer
1 oz sack

Mix the dry ingredients — flour, sugar, yeast, spices — in a large, sturdy bowl. Add the raisins and currants.

Add the milk to the dry mix and stir it in. Add the eggs and continue stirring. Add the beer and the sack. The mix should resemble a rough dough that you can shape into a ball. If it’s too wet to handle, add a little more flour by the tablespoonful. Alternatively, if it’s too dry, add water, milk, or beer by the tablespoonful to soften it.

Knead the dough on a floured surface for five minutes until the dough is smooth. It should look glossy and consistent. Don’t worry if the raisins and currants keep falling out of the dough! Just fold them back in. Shape the dough into a ball.

Place the dough into a bowl greased with butter, baking spray, or oil. Set in a warm place to rise for about an hour and a half. This dough doesn’t rise dramatically because of the huge amount of dried fruit mixed into it. The dough is ready to bake when it springs back when poked.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Grease two baking sheets with butter, baking spray, or oil. I shaped my dough into two, round, free-style loaves, but you can also bake it in a well-greased rectangular or circular baking tin.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the loaves are nicely browned on top and bottom. When you turn them over and tap the bottom, the bread should make a hollow sound.

The Results

This is a delicious, spicy, fruity bread.  It reminds me more of spiced, English hot cross buns than the modern simnel cakes I’ve eaten. The pepper keeps catching me off guard as I eat slices with tea whilst grading a huge pile of midterms and papers. The beer, milk, and eggs add a sweet richness to the bread that I’d normally expect from a loaf of challah. It makes great toast and I anticipate it freezing well, too.

To make a seed cake

So, I chose to make this particular recipe because 1) I had all the ingredients on hand, and 2) it looked easy. I admit it – no loftier goals than that. But isn’t ease and convenience how we often choose recipes? And perhaps the same applied for this cake’s original cooks. After all, we don’t always have the inclination (or eggs) to make a “rich cake” that requires 24 eggs. But a simple cake that requires only four ingredients? No wonder Catherine Cotton included this recipe in her book.

This “seed cake” comes from one of our favorite volumes, Catherine Cotton’s UPenn Ms. Codex 214. We’ve seen seed cakes come up in other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century recipe books, so it seems safe to say that seed cake was probably fairly common at the time. Interestingly, this recipe would have yielded quite a large cake: halved, it more than filled an 8″ round, so this would have been cake for a crowd.

IMG_4867

The Recipe

seed cakes

To make a seed cake

Take the whites of 8 eggs beat them very well then
put the yolks to them & beat them very well together then
put to it a pound of sugar beat & sifted very fine & beat
it for half an hour then make it a little warm over the
fire & after that put in 3 quarters of a pound of flower
very well dryed a quarter of an ounce of carraway seeds
stirr it well together & put it into the pan it will take 3
quarters of a hour to bake it /

Our Recipe
(halved from the original)

4 eggs, separated
1 heaping c. (1/2 lb.) sugar
1 1/4 c. (6 oz. or 3/8 lb.) flour
1.5 tsp. (1/8 oz.) caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9″ round pan or other baking dish.*

In a standing mixer or with a handheld mixer, beat eggs whites until stiff but not dry. Then add egg yolks and beat until mixture is uniformly yellow and still fluffy. Add sugar and beat at medium speed for about 10 mins., or until light and shiny.* Scrape down bowl and stir in flour and caraway seeds with a spatula.

Bake for 45-50 mins., until top is dry and firm to the touch. Cool in pan 10 mins., then run a knife around the edges to loosen it and turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

*Note: I used an 8″ round pan and, as you can see, barely escaped a cake batter overflow disaster. 9″ would be safer.

**Note: I actually forgot the next step, to “make it a little warm over the fire”! This didn’t seem to detract from the final outcome, but you might set the mixing bowl briefly over a double boiler if you’d like to be thorough!

The Results

I’m always curious to try a recipe that we see come up, with minor variations, across multiple recipe books. But I didn’t have extraordinarily high hopes for this cake – eggs + sugar + flour + caraway seeds? I expected something blandly palatable, mildly sweet, perhaps dense and a little dry.

Instead, I ended up with something between a pound cake and an angel food cake: sweet without being cloying, moist, nicely chewy, with a sweet crackly crust. Hello, seed cake! Welcome to the rotation – I’ll be making this one again. And while the simplicity of the recipe is part of its charm, it also means that there’s plenty of room for experimentation with extracts, zest, different seeds in different amounts, perhaps even finely chopped dried fruit or miniature chocolate chips. Wrapped well, it stayed moist for several days. And it’s a lovely cake to have with tea or coffee.

IMG_4865

To presarue quincis to by in gilley

These preserved quinces, like the preserved apples and apricots, will be a delightful accompaniment to the pancake recipes we posted last week.

When I was in kindergarten, our class held an alphabet feast. Each of us was assigned a letter of the alphabet and tasked with providing a food whose name began with that letter. The “A” student could bring apples, the “P” student could bring pie, as the “Q” student I faced a great challenge. But, as always, my brilliant and resourceful mother had an idea: Quince Jam. I’m not sure I had ever tasted quinces before that day when we finally found a jar of imported Quince Jam after visiting what seemed like every specialty store in the western towns of Essex County, NJ. The “Q” student in the the other class may have had an easier time making quiche than hunting for quinces, but I think that my mom and I came out on top. My classmates and I ate quince jam on saltines sitting cross-legged on the classroom floor, or at least that’s how I remember it. I don’t think I tasted quince again until the man who is now my husband poached them in wine for dessert one cold winter evening in London.

Recalcitrant and inedible in their raw state, quinces have long inspired fear and love among cooks. Amanda E. Herbert shows how a gifts of “Marmalade of Quinces,” or other sugared fruits, circulated in a female social network in her book Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern England. Local, hearty English quinces were softened and tempered with boiling and the extravagant use of imported sugar. Preserved quinces shared between women demonstrated generous consumption of expensive sweeteners and inborn feminine skills at taming the unruly quince. Molly Wizenberg’s recent post on Orangette reflects a twenty-first-century view of this very same issue and offers a great, simple recipe for taming and tenderizing this “esoteric fruit.” Since that early encounter and more recent reintroduction, I’m hooked on quinces. I’ve been making Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Sticky Quince and Ginger Cake for years now, Nigella Lawson’s Quince Meat is my household’s standard mince pie filling (or at least it was before  these came along), and I’ve long admired quince-whisperer Nigel Slater’s recipes.

This recipe from UPenn MS Codex 252 instructs cooks in a complex method for preserving quinces in a gelatinous liquid thickened with sugar and pectin from apples and the quinces themselves. Our recipe, below, is a bit simpler.

The Recipe

preserved quinces

To presarue quincis to by in gilley    X

Take thicke rind quincs and pare them uery thin and lay them
in water ther or four dayes then boyle them tender in fare water
then take them out of that water and put them into a pane of could
water all the night next day tak them up and dry them with a fare cloth and
put them into as much clarefide sugar as will couer or them and so
Let them boyle lasurly in that sugar now and then tosng them to take
then Let the stand in a nerthen pan till the next moring then set
them on the fire agane and when you se them louke cleare and tender
pouer them into a woden sive and let the surup drop from them then
put a quarterne of apele water and a pound of frish sugar into that serup and
one it will make your quincis in quiking gelley

Despite the lengthy description of cooking methods in this recipe, it is easy to streamline and requires very few ingredients. A quick search on Early English Books Online reveals many uses of “apple water,” or water in which apples have been boiled, in culinary and medicinal recipes. For this recipe, it seems to add pectin to the preserving liquid.

Our Recipe

1 quince
1 apple
3/4 c sugar (to use in 1/4 c and 1/2 c quantities)
6 c water (to use in 2 c quantities)

1 jar (if you plan to can these or prefer to store them in a jar)

*These proportions yield 1 ball jar of stewed quinces in sweet liquid. This can easily be doubled or tripled to preserve more fruit.*

Peel and core a quince. Slice it thin.  Soak in two cups of cold water overnight (or for a few hours depending on what suits your schedule).

Drain the quince from the soaking water and put in a pot with 1/4 c sugar and 2 c water. Bring to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer to cook the quince “leisurely” until soft. (I let my quince simmer for about two hours while I was doing other things.) Using a colander, strain out the quinces and discard the cooking liquid. Set quinces aside.

Either during the last half hour of cooking the quinces, or after, prepare a jar and make the apple water/preserving liquid.

Fill your jar with boiling water and then discard. Put the quinces in the jar.

Roughly chop an apple, skin core and all. Put the apple in 2 c water in a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for a half hour.  Remove the apples and add 1/2 c sugar to the cooking liquid. Boil until the sugar dissolves. Pour this liquid into the jar with the quinces. Let cool before covering.

The Results

Now, these preserved quinces did not  last long in my kitchen. (I eating them with pancake, ice cream, yogurt, cake, etc.) I cleaned my jar with boiling water, but I did not properly can these. If you want to can a batch of these, Marisa McClellan has great advice over here on Food and Jars and in her cookbooks.

Unfortunately, the syrup did not become jelly. I think this is partly because the original recipe instructs cooks to discard the pectin rich quince cooking water. On the other hand, perhaps my apple water could have been prepared more effectively. Luckily, the non-jellied liquid made an awesome syrup for the pancakes. Let us know if your quinces jelly!

Pancakes Two Ways

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

The Recipes

pancakes

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

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

Our Recipes

Rice Pancakes

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

IMG_4853

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve topped with sugar of your choice.

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

Pancakes

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

IMG_4566

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

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

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

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

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

Pancake-Off: The Results

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

Pippins preserved at cristmas

In the happy flurry of holiday baking and cooking, sometimes a simple recipe is welcome. I came across these preserved apples while on the hunt for gingerbread recipes in Catherine Cotton’s recipe book, UPenn Ms. Codex 214. The recipe is in the same handwriting as those for ginger-bread and gengerbread that we experimented with – and really liked – here, so it probably dates to the late 1690s or early 1700s. All these “Pippins preserved at cristmas” require is a few apples, some sugar, a lemon, and water. Whether you make this simple dish or enjoy your own seasonal favorites, we hope you are having a lovely holiday season.

The Recipe

pippins preserved

Pippins preserved at cristmas

Take Pare them & cut them in the midle & take out thire cores
weigh a pound of them and a pound of fine sugar & put to it
a pint of water set the sugar & water on the fire & boyle it a
quarter of an hour then put your pippins into that surrop
& boyle them as fast as you can till they look clear then
squeez in a lemmon & let it be ready to boyle after the
limon is in then put them into glasses for your use /

IMG_4840

Our Recipe

1 lb. apples (~2), peeled, halved, and cored
1 lb. (2 c.) sugar
1 pint (2 c.) water
juice of 1 lemon

Combine sugar and water in a med. saucepan and bring to a boil, cooking for 15 mins.

Add apples and cook them at a steady boil, turning the apples occasionally. (They might want to boil over, so keep an eye on them.) Cook for about 45 mins., until apples are translucent and your kitchen smells delightful. Add the lemon juice and cook for another minute or two. Serve warm or refrigerate.

The Results

These apples are not complicated to make – or to eat! I used up a few apples that were kicking around my crisper after the last round of applesauce, I think a macintosh and a fuji. Both fell apart a bit while cooking, which didn’t bother me, but if you’d like the apples to stay in their halves, a harder variety like a granny smith might work nicely.  The end result tastes of very, very sweet apples, almost honey-like in their intensity. You probably wouldn’t polish off a large bowlful of these. (Which perhaps explains the relatively small yield of this recipe? Perhaps the preserved apples might have been used to flavor other dishes, or have been eaten sparingly on their own for a little taste of something sweet.) I topped them with my favorite maple yogurt to cut through some of the sweetness. With a cup of tea, they made a great breakfast for me and my sweet-tooth.

And while we’re a few days past December 25, as Marissa reminded me, on Christmas day in 1662 Samuel Pepys’ wife was ill, so they celebrated with take-out mince pies and she started making her own “Christmas pies” the next day. Pull a Mrs. Pepys and make these “Pippins preserved at cristmas” well into January.

IMG_4844

To make minceed pyes

I fell in love with mince pies in London on a cold December day. British winters are shockingly raw, wet, and dark to an American visitor accustomed to sharp, east coast wind and bright winter light. These sweet, spiced pies warmed me to my core. Traditional British holiday festivity is full of warmth and spice to combat the cold, the dark, and the damp. The mince pie that converted me was made by my spouse, Joseph,  who also helped me prepare this recipe for “minceed pyes” from Ms. Codex 214, Catherine Cotton’s recipe book that also led us to three interesting gingerbread recipes.

Although most mince pies today start with a base of raisins, currants, and occasionally apples and quinces, mince pies traditionally began with meat. The meat was flavored by these additional fruits, not the other way around. This recipe begins with a “neats tongue,” a calf or beef tongue. Gervase Markham’s starts with a leg of mutton. A mince pie recipe that I considered preparing from MS Codex 252 uses ox cheek. This nineteenth-century cookbook published in Boston even has a mince pie recipe that starts with tongue. I swallowed my reservations, took the trolley to Reading Terminal Market in Philly, and ordered a beef tongue from a butcher.

 

The Recipe

mince pies

To make minceed pyes

Take a neats tounge parboyle it and mince it very small
put to it a pound of beefe suit and 2 pound of reasons
of the son stoned and minceed very small a quaarter of
a pound of sugar the peal 2 lemmons cut small a little
cloves & mace and nutmeg a quarter of clarret a little
salt mix all this together with 6 or 8 pipings smally shred
and two pouund of currants or as many as you see feet
for your past take a pound and quarter of flower a pound
and a half of butter and put it into water and seet it on
the fire & let it boyle make the past & put in half a pound
of lofe sugar finely beaten & mix it in the flower put in the
yolks of 4 eggs & the whites of 2 so worke it up and
as you fill them put in canded orange & green sittorn
finely cut such as you eate hot when they come out of the
oven put in sume butter & white wine

The recipe begins with instructions for preparing a rich mincemeat: parboiled tongue, grated beef suet (or beef fat), raisins, sugar, lemon peel, pipings (or apples), and currants seasoned with clarret (red French wine from Bordeaux), cloves, mace, nutmeg, and salt. In many ways, this ingredient list is similar to modern recipes for mince pies — fruit, suet/fat, booze, spices, sugar, and citrus. But then there’s that tongue. Tongue is, of course, a staple of many cuisines, but I’d never prepared one before. Luckily Joseph has never balked at an offal challenge and helped me by brining and parboiling the tongue following Fergus Henderson’s recipe from Nose to Tail Eating. This process adds at least three days of brining and three and a half hours of slow boiling to the overall cooking time. Another food blogger has reconstructed the recipe with great photos of the method here.

Once the mincemeat is ready, this recipe calls for an interesting method of pastry making and a final round of seasoning with candied orange and “sittorn” peels (lemon peel), butter, and white wine. Between the lengthy tongue preparations, ingredient sourcing, and making the candied peel, I decided to prepare my favorite pie crust from Orangette instead of trying out this pastry method as well. Although this was really born out of fatigue and convenience, there’s another more pressing reason, too: Early modern pie crusts weren’t always meant to be eaten. In many cases they simply served as a semi-edible container that would preserve meat and other ingredients during extended periods of storage. Ken Albala discusses this in a recent essay where he re-reads Hamlet’s famous statement that  the baked meats from his father’s funeral were served at his mother’s wedding. Sure, Gertrude may have remarried quickly, but baked meat pies were designed for long storage all the same. The instruction to add butter and wine at the very end also tipped us off that this pastry might fundamentally be utilitarian because sealing meat pies with hot fat and alcohol was part of the preserving method. I’ve included an updated version of the pastry recipe below and I plan to revisit it in the future (pastry off?), but we wanted you to have mince pies in time for Christmas!

Our Recipe

Ingredients

Mincemeat:

Our recipe is quartered from the original, but we’ve included the original amounts [in brackets] as they were given in the recipe.

1/2 lb beef or calves tongue, parboiled and chopped. (The tongue we purchased weighed  three pounds. We added 1/4 lb of tongue to half the mincemeat mix.) [1 neats tongue]
1/4 lb (4 oz.) suet (beef fat) [1 lb] substitute in butter or vegetable shortening for a vegetarian version)
1/2 lb (1 1/2 c) raisins [2 lbs]
1/2 lb (1 1/2 c) currants [2 lbs]
2 apples, peeled and chopped very small [6-8 apples]
1/4 c sugar [1/4 lb]
zest of half a lemon [zest of 2 lemons]
1 c claret (or other red wine) [1 quart claret]
1/2 t mace
1/2 t ground cloves
1/4 t nutmeg, ground or grated
1/4 t salt
1/2 c candied orange and lemon peel (We used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen to make ours from two clementines and one lemon.)
1/3 c white wine
2 T butter, cut into small pieces

Pastry:

This is the full recipe. As we discussed above, we made our favorite pie crust from Orangette because of tongue fatigue.

1 1/4 lb flour
1 1/2 lb butter
water
1/2 lb sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks

Method

Prepare the mincemeat:

Mix together tongue, suet, raisins, currants, apples, spices, lemon zest, sugar, and claret and set aside. Right before you make the pies, add the candied peel, white wine, and butter.

Prepare the pastry:

*We didn’t test this part of the recipe. Feel free to use your favorite pie crust like we did.*
Put your flour in a bowl. Heat the butter and water in a small saucepan until it comes to a boil. Pour into the flour and stir until a dough forms. Add the sugar and eggs. Mix until your have a workable pastry.

Make pies:

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Roll out the pastry. Using a pastry cutter or drinking glass, cut circles. We 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.

Butter two-three baking sheets. Put 2 t mincemeat on each bottom. (Remember to add the candied peels, white wine, and butter to the mincemeat just before!)

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. We 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. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve if you want these to look especially festive.

This recipe made 25 mince pies with enough leftover mince meat to make another full batch.

The Results

These mince pies are delicious: spicy, fatty, and subtly sweet. We divided our mincemeat into two batches, one with and one without the tongue. The pies with the tongue were deeply meaty, but the currants, raisins, and apples held their own to compliment the umami flavors. The pies without tongue were very fruity. They tasted really similar to mince pies I’ve made before from Nigella Lawson’s recipe, which includes quinces in the mix. (There’s a version of that recipe on this blog.)

Next time, I’ll add more mace, cloves, and nutmeg. I might add the candied peel and white wine to the mincemeat from the beginning.  On the other hand, I might leave out those last 2 T butter which felt extraneous. We also have a ton of leftover mincemeat in the fridge. I’m excited to see how the next batch tastes after the flavors marry for a bit longer. There’s a Christmas tree that needs trimming and there’s nothing like eating holiday baked goods and making the house merry.

Alyssa and I would like to thank Joseph Malcomson for rising to the tongue challenge and helping us devise and prepare this recipe.

To make good Gengerbread

Last week, Marissa and I were very pleased to give a talk on “Shakespeare’s Kitchen” at the Folger Shakespeare Library, part of its Free Folger Friday series. Good timing: the foundations of Shakespeare’s kitchen area at New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon were discovered by an archaeological team (!) just the week before. We cooked up a few new recipes for the event. Now, it’s been suggested that I might be a rabid fan of the Christmas season. I think I’m just enthusiastic. (Typed while looking at the decorated pine branches on my bookshelves [my version of a tree] and listening to Bing Crosby. Ok, fine. Very enthusiastic.) So, we decided to be seasonally festive with these recipes. Along with the (awesome) hot chocolate mix that Marissa will be sharing soon, we investigated early modern gingerbread.

For the gingerbread mission, I turned to a new – to us – recipe book: UPenn Ms. Codex 214.  Both the front and back covers are embossed with the original owner’s name, and the inscription includes a date, so we know that the book originally belonged to Catherine/Catharine Cotton and was compiled starting around 1698. We’ll definitely be revisiting this collection, which contains a range of appealing recipes – including the poached apples I have my eye on next. Cotton’s book turned out to be well-suited to this particular mission, as it contains three gingerbread recipes: one with honey and candied peel, one with brown sugar and milk, and one with treacle and caraway seeds.

Gingerbread as a dessert began appearing in Europe around the fifteenth century, originally as a mixture of breadcrumbs held together with honey and ginger, then shaped using molds. At Queen Elizabeth I’s court, gingerbread was baked into the shape of people and decorated to look like visiting foreign dignitaries – the first gingerbread men! In the late seventeenth century, ginger would have been imported into England (most likely from Jamaica, the Spice Islands, or India) as the whole root, sometimes pickled. That Cotton’s book includes not one but three recipes for gingerbread indicates ginger’s availability and the treat’s popularity by 1698.

IMG_4822

 

The Recipes

CC 45r

To make ginger-bread                               Mrs JT

Take 2 pound of browne sugar put to it a pound and a quarter
of butter & half a pint of milk tset it to the fier and amake it
just warme enough to melt the butter then take sume flower & put to it
and 3 ouncis of ginger so make it up in a stif paste /

CC 43r

To make good Gengerbread                                      P.C.

Take 3 pound of fine flower meix with it a pound
of sugar 2 pound of good honey an ounce and a half
searced Ginger some candyed orange and lemen peils
put all these together melt your honey & mould it well
then make it into littel caks & bake it as soon as you
please but your oven must not be hotter then for Biscakes
mwhen you have done all this let your humble saruant
have good share

 

Our Recipe: “To make ginger-bread”
[quartered from original*]

1 1/4 c. brown sugar
10 tsp. butter
1/4 c. milk
2 c. flour
3/4 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 1″ ginger root)

Combine sugar, butter, and milk in medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, just until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Add ginger, then stir in flour in two batches.

To use immediately**: Scoop dough in tablespoon-sized balls. Flatten slightly with fingertips or bottom of a water glass.

To roll out***: Pat dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Roll to 1/4″ thickness on a floured board and cut out in shapes.

Both methods: Bake at 350F for 12 mins., until bottoms are golden brown. (Tops will look slightly puffed but won’t take on much color.) Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Makes ~2-3 dozen cookies.

*I halved the recipe and ended up drowning in gingerbread cookies – over 50 of them! Quartering the recipe makes for a more reasonable yield, but it can easily be scaled back up if you’re in need of gingerbread for days.

**The recipe implies that the dough can be used right away. However, I’d added enough flour that it was starting to taste bland and the dough was still fairly soft and sticky. I knew I wouldn’t be able to roll it out, so I scooped it into balls and experimented with flattening some of them. The flatter the discs, the better they baked – the scoops left round didn’t have the nice bite that the thinner cookies did.

***”Paste” can stand in for our modern “pastry” in these cookbooks, so it didn’t seem unlikely that the original could have been rolled and cut out. To manage this, I refrigerated the dough, which made it much easier to handle. In fact, it rolled and baked up beautifully – this is definitely my preferred method for this recipe.

Our Recipe: “To make good Gengerbread”
[quartered from original]

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. honey
~1 c. candied peel (2 oranges + 1 lemon), roughly chopped****

Combine flour, sugar, and honey in a large mixing bowl, using a spatula or (as I did) your hands. Add the peel and make sure it is evenly distributed through the mixture. The dough will be very crumbly.

Using a scoop or soup spoon, take about 1.5 tbsp. of dough at a time and squeeze/pat it into a flattened ball. Bake cookies at 350F for 15-18 mins., until lightly browned and fragrant.

****Candied peel is an ingredient we run into frequently in these early modern recipes. As we’ve discussed with some readers, candied peel is readily available in British supermarkets but not in most American ones, so we sometimes end up substituting zest to approximate the taste (if not texture) of the citrus peel. For the gingerbread, however, I wanted to see how the peel would work with the ginger and also thought the sticky peel might help these crumbly cookies hold together, so I made my own using this recipe.

 

The Results

One winner, one respectable second-place finish! The “ginger-bread” gingerbread was surprisingly flavorful, given its short list of ingredients: there’s a LOT of sugar and butter and ginger in there, but they all meld well together, perhaps mellowed by the addition of milk, and these were neither overwhelmingly sweet nor too gingery. (I might even increase the ginger next time, maybe throw in 1/2 tsp. of powdered ginger to add some bite.) As noted above, I experimented with making these into balls, discs, and cut-out cookies. They all worked, but the cut-out cookies baked uniformly and had a good bite while retaining some softness. I’ll use this method from now on.

The “Gengerbread” gingerbread turned out to be tasty toothbreakers. Because the original recipe suggests melting the honey, I’m guessing that honeycomb might have been used here, and that the wax would have helped as both a binding and softening agent. I didn’t have any honeycomb, but I did have an old(ish) jar of honey waiting to be used – good enough. I had to add slightly more honey than called for to get the dough to hold together. They were still fairly dry and VERY hard. (I made them in two sizes and found the smaller cookies even more difficult to bite into than the larger ones!) Some gnawing was require on the first day, though they softened over the next few days. (And, as was helpfully suggested at the Folger talk, you could put a slice of bread or apple in the container with them to speed this softening process.) I like the candied peel + ginger combination very much – in fact, you taste the honey and the citrus more than the ginger here, which is interesting. I probably won’t be making these exact cookies again because I’m not sure my teeth can handle it, but I might play with adding honey and/or candied peel to some other gingerbread recipes.

Will I abandon the family gingerbread recipe that I make every year? Not a chance. But making these two recipes – I’ll report back on the third once I acquire some treacle – introduced me to some new gingerbread ideas and highlighted the variety available in just one recipe book. And the room to play with different techniques. In this project, not being given a specific method can nerve-wracking – particularly for someone who likes to follow very precise baking instructions. (See: me.) But it’s also liberating. There’s room for creativity, fun, and experimentation in the ambiguity. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is in Cotton’s book. Stay tuned.

 

To stew Pease the French way

When I’m not cooking archival recipes, I eat a lot of greens. Kale, spinach, chard, green beans, peas, escarole, cabbage, broccoli, or lettuce feature in most of my meals. But many of the vegetable recipes in the manuscripts we’ve consulted are for preserving vegetables for future use. We baked peas into a tart and pickled tomatoes, but we’ve featured fewer fresh vegetable dishes, like herb soup and this recipe “To stew Pease the French Way.” Alyssa and I were both excited to find this recipe for peas and cabbage in MS. Codex 644, a manuscript connected to the Frankland family that we’ve turned to for “Cheap Soupe” and “Oven Cakes.” We were also inspired by the note, “Excellent,” under the title.

If you’re looking for a new way to eat your greens, a recipe to use up that partial head of cabbage lingering in your fridge,  or even searching for a last-minute Thanksgiving side, read on!

The Recipe

pease the french way

To stew Pease the French way – Lady Monson
Excellent.
1 quart of young pease. 2 Cabbage Lettuce. A small
square piece of Ham – with a Boquet (which consists of
Thyme – Parsley – & young onions tied up) and a small
piece of Butter – put them into a stew pan, & stew them
for 10 minutes – have ready some boiling water,
add a little at a time, till your pease are quite
tender, after which add a little ButterFlour,
with a little salt & sugar, to your taste – you
must judge the thickness so as you may Eat them
with a Fork. ~ Aug[u]st. 1816 RLS

The bundle of herbs and smoky meat pair beautifully with the sweet peas and the savory cabbage. The addition of a roux thickens the cooking liquid into a delicious sauce.

The source of the recipe, “Lady Monson” may be Lady Anne Monson (1726-1776). Monson traveled to India soon after marrying Colonel George Monson of Lincolnshire in 1757 and spent her last decades living in Calcutta and traveling South Asia collecting botanical specimens. It’s tempting to link the Monsons and the Franklands given their shared history in India and South Asia, but I have not been able to confirm the connection.

Our Recipe

1 quart (4 c.) peas, fresh or frozen
1 large green cabbage, sliced thinly
4 stalks thyme, 4 stalks parsley & 4 scallions, tied up with butcher’s twine
1 slice ham or 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
3 T butter (1 first, 2 for roux)
1/2 c. boiling water
2 T flour
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ham or bacon in butter.
Add cabbage, peas, herb bouquet, water, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
Blend 2 T butter, softened and flour, add slowly to the vegetable mix. Cook for 5 more minutes until the vegetables are cooked, but haven’t lost all their crunch.

(You may need to adjust the cooking time if you are using frozen peas.)

The Results

This is a delicious way to eat your peas. We chopped up the scallion and parsley to garnish our servings and I liked the bites that included the herbs best. You could easily leave out the smoky meat to make a vegetarian version of this dish. Smoked salt or a sprinkle of paprika might add that savory note to a vegetarian version.

We also think this would taste delicious with roast turkey, potatoes, and stuffing, which is why we’re sharing this recipe with you today. Let us know how it turns out, whenever it happens to grace your table!