To Make Marmalet of Pippins

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

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

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

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The Recipe

marmalet

To Make Marmalet of Pippins

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

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Our Recipe
*halved from original

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

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

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

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

The Results

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

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To make Rashberry Cream

This time of year, I go overboard on buying apples. I’m easily lured into trying anything pumpkin-flavored. (Including, regrettably, a viciously nutmeg-heavy pumpkin pie gelato recently.) But even as I stock up on squash and canned pumpkin and apples and more canned pumpkin, I start to miss berry season. I like to use frozen fruit as a bridge through the winter and, since I moved recently and have been slowly stocking the fridge and freezer, I was looking for a recipe that could use some frozen raspberries I just picked up.

Enter the ever-reliable UPenn Ms. Codex 205, with a recipe “To make Rashberry Cream.” (And yes, this is how I’ve been saying “raspberry” since I found the recipe. I sound like Sean Connery. Or like someone doing a really, really bad impression of Sean Connery.) It’s just what I wanted: easy and with minimal equipment, since I’m still settling into my kitchen, and a quick weeknight dessert. This would be lovely with fresh raspberries but doesn’t suffer from frozen. It’s very close to a fool, the traditional English dessert made by folding stewed fruit into whipped cream. This includes egg and is thoroughly stirred together over heat, ending up with a solid pink color rather than the marbled swirls of a fool, but it’s still basically a mix of sweetened fruit and cream. In fact, the fool probably originated in the sixteenth century, so this “cream” seems like a slightly custard-y relative, an easy dessert then as now, using just a few ingredients.

The Recipe

rashberry

To make Rashberry Cream

Take a Pint of Cream, boil it with Sugar, beat the Whites
of 2 Eggs, & one Yolk, then put to them half a Pint
Currant Juice, a Pint of Rashberry; when it is cold put
the Juice and Eggs to it sweeten it to your Taste, set it
over a slow Fire to thicken keep it stirring, when it
boils take it off, & put it in Glasses or Dishes, let it
cool & strew some Sugar over it ~

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Our Recipe

1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar*
1 egg, 1/2 yolk removed
1/4 c. grape juice (or currant juice if you can get it!)
1 c. (1/2 pint) raspberries, fresh or frozen, whole or mashed or pureed or de-seeded, etc.*

Heat the cream and sugar together, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved, about 5 mins. Set aside to let cool. Whisk the egg until frothy, then stir in the juice and raspberries. Add this egg and juice mixture to the cream, stirring over low heat until it starts to boil, about 10 mins. Remove from the heat and pour the cream mixture into serving dishes of your choice. Refrigerate until firm to the touch, covering after the cream has cooled. Serve with sugar if you wish.

*Note: Since the recipe doesn’t specify an amount of sugar, I guessed here, and I liked the results. It’s sweet but not overly so. You can also taste the cream mixture and add more sugar to the fruit and egg mixture, as the recipe suggests.

**Note: How to prepare the raspberries wasn’t exactly clear – at first I thought perhaps whole, but upon another reading the syntax of “half a Pint Currant Juice, a Pint of Rashberry” combined with “put the Juice and Eggs to it” suggested that raspberry juice might be called for. Inspired by fools and because I wanted a little texture (and was afraid the mixture might not set with that much liquid), I let the frozen raspberries thaw and then mashed them with a fork. I liked the way this turned out, but you could also puree the raspberries or strain them if you’re not a fan of seeds. Because this ended up setting fairly firmly, like pudding, I think it would be fine with juice. So if you happen to have raspberry juice, then give that a try and let us know how it turns out!

The Results

This recipe was unsurprising – in a good way. I expected it to taste like raspberries and cream, which it did. I didn’t taste grape but think the juice might have brought out some of the richness of the raspberries, as coffee brings out depth of taste in chocolate. It’s a beautiful pink color, and I liked the raspberry bits throughout. It would be tasty served alongside some crunchy cookies for contrast or even with some additional raspberries on top.

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[My apologies for the iPhone photos. My camera remains at large, somewhere in a stack of boxes.]

to make a florintine

I’ve missed baking. The relentless heatwaves this summer have really cramped my style. To use my sourdough starter, I’ve made almost weekly batches of these waffles because I can’t bear to turn on my oven and bake bread.

Today is marginally cooler and I decided to seize the opportunity “to make a florintine” from a recipe in MS Codex 252. 

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florintine

Alyssa and I have seen many recipes for “florentine” in manuscript cookbooks. This specific recipe is a sweet almond filling baked in a pastry crust.  There are, however, other “florentines” out there. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a florentine as “A kind of pie or tart; esp. meat baked in a dish with a cover of paste” and notes the range of spinach dishes called “florentine” from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day.  (The OED cites a Hannah Glasse recipe which looks like the 252 recipe with added spinach and cheese. )

The Recipe

florintine

to make a florintine

take halfe a pound of the beast Almonds blanch them and beat them as
smalle as the  can with rosse watter ore oring flower watter put in a quater of
a pound of fine sugar beating them well together then take 4 eggs leveing
out the whites, then take a pound of butter and let it be uery good
melt it and then mingle it all together in the butter and soe put
it in to puffe paist

Our Recipe

Our recipe is quartered from the specific proportions in the original and starts with ground almonds. I decided to use rosewater instead of orange blossom water, but feel free to use either.  The original recipe suggests both as options.

1/2 C ground almonds
1t rosewater (or orange blossom water)
1/4 C sugar
1 egg yolk
8 T unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 batch pastry (Use your favorite pie crust recipe here. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter a pie dish. Roll out your crust and put it in your prepared pie dish.

In a large bowl stir the ground almonds, rosewater, and sugar together. Add an egg yolk and stir with a whisk to combine. Add the melted butter and stir with a whisk to combine. Pour the almond mixture into your prepared crust. Trim or roll excess pastry to make the edges neat.

Bake for 30 minutes until the almonds and crust are golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The Results

My British spouse Joseph looked at finished product and asked if I had made Bakewell tart. This was a great guess. The “florintine” from MS Codex 252 is similar to a Bakewell tart but it lacks that iconic layer of fruit compote underneath the almond filling.

This is a sweet, buttery, nutty tart. The rosewater is a mild note amidst the other deep flavors. With Bakewell tart on my mind, I spread some raspberry jam on my second piece and liked it even better.  Serve this with fresh or cooked fruit or preserves.

To pickle Cucumbers

I love pickles. I devour jars of them so quickly that I rarely have any in my fridge. I make platters of quick-pickled cucumbers, beets, cauliflower, and fennel for parties. I’m always tempted by the spicy pickled green beans that this one stand sells at the farmers’ market. Last week I realized that for all the pickled vegetable recipes in manuscript cookbooks, we’ve only prepared one so far (these delicious “Pickled Tamatas“) and I made it my business to change that.

I cannot think of a single manuscript cookbook without a recipe for something pickled. In an economy of thrift, pickling is an excellent way to save seasonal produce. Since I’ve been working on an article about other recipes from MS Codex 785, I decided to try a pickle recipe from this manuscript. (See my posts on “Lemmon Cakes” and “Bisket Pudding” for more information about Restoration-era lifestyle guru Hannah Woolley and MS Codex 785). I was also intrigued by the inclusion of thyme in this one.

The Recipe

pickled cucumbers

To pickle Cucumbers

Boyle your Vinegar with some long pepper,
and all Sorts of Spice, a little Salt, Thyme, and
Dill, lay your Cucummers into the pot, and
pour on your pickle boyling hot, and Couer
them up very Close, and set it by, and do so
for two or three days.

This recipe is very straightforward. Slice your cucumbers, prepare a spicy brine, rest, and eat. [UPDATE: The original recipe does not instruct you to slice the cucumbers, I sliced mine out of habit and because used a single-medium sized, slicing cucumber and I needed it to fill my jar! Feel free to use smaller kirby cucumbers here and skip the slicing.]

Long pepper was the only new ingredient for me. According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia (linked above), long pepper is a flowering vine with small, flavorful fruit. Although the plant is similar to the Piper nigrum, or standard black pepper, the individual fruits are far spicier. This spice is often used in South Asian cooking, but I was unable to locate any. Instead, I substituted in a small amount of red chili flakes to add some peppery heat. Let us know if you use long pepper, chili pepper, or black pepper when you make these pickles! I’ve made some suggestions in the recipe below.

 

Our Recipe

These proportions fill a single, 2-cup mason jar. Double, triple, and quadruple if you have a glut of cumbers on hand!

1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced (Peel or don’t peel as per your preference) [Per the update above, feel free to use different kinds of cucumbers and slice, or don’t slice according to your preference and ingredients.]
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh dill
1 c white wine vinegar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t chili flakes (or some long pepper, or 1/4 t pink or black peppercorns)

Put the sliced cucumber in the mason jar with the fresh thyme and dill.

In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil. Add the salt and stir until combined. Add the chili flakes.

Pour the spicy brine over the fresh vegetables. Firmly affix the lid and label the jar. Leave in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Consume pickled cucumbers within a month of opening the jar.

pickled cucumbers

pickled cucumbers

The Results

After three days in the refrigerator, these pickles are salty, spicy, sharp, and crisp. The  dill and thyme add depth to each bite. These pickles are not going to outlast the weekend!

Since the brine is very strong and I’m really making these as refrigerator pickles, rather than shelf-stable canned pickles, I might reduce the amount of vinegar in the brine and try a 1/2 c vinegar and 1/2 cup water brine instead. In addition, the original recipe also mentions “all Sorts of Spice.”  I only included spices that were listed in the recipe in this batch, but I wonder how cloves, mustard seeds, or caraway seeds would change the taste of these pickles. I may have to start another batch.

Let us know if you experiment with this recipe!

 

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve topped with sugar of your choice.

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

Pancakes

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

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!