Turnspit and Table

An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Virtual Gatsby Summer Afternoon Picnic

Every September the Art Deco Society of California hosts the Gatsby Summer Afternoon but even though I’ve been living in the Bay Area for the last few years I’ve never made it to one of these huge art deco themed picnics. This year, because of COVID-19, there was a Virtual Gatsby Summer Afternoon which meant that we could run a scaled-down version of our own. We had a great time with some of the neighbours, and won best small picnic!

Being back in Australia, I went with an Australian 1930s theme and nearly all the recipes were recommended for picnics in Australian newspapers during the 30s. Some were surprise hits (cream cheese and walnut sandwiches anyone?) but others like the beetroot mould, not so much.

 

These vintage recipes are a super easy way to get started with historical cooking, and are easy to add into everyday life, but make a really impressive collection when you make a few together. You could also try this recipe for chicken picnic patties that I’ve made before, and read a little about the tradition of picnics in Australia too. If you feel inspired to make some, leave a comment to let me know how it goes! And to get you in the spirit, try listening to this Balboa playlist by John Bell while cooking and/or picnic-ing!

Try some of these recipes and you can have a delightful picnic, just like this stylish 1930s family. Picnic Delights! 1935, The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 2 November, p. 35. ,[Public Domain] via Trove.

The Recipes

Cheese Paste Sandwiches from the Launceston Examiner, 11 Dec 1935

 

“Cheese Paste. – ¼ lb. Butter, ½ lb. cheese grated, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, cayenne pepper. Method: Put butter and milk in saucepan and melt, add cheese, do not stir until cheese is melted. Add eggs well beaten and cayenne. Stir until it thickens, but do not let the mixture boil. Put into jars and cover with oil paper and keep in cool place. Serve hot or cold, spread on biscuits, in sandwiches, or on pastry.”

 

Notes: Like most of the recipes here, I scaled this down since I was making a lot of different recipes. I used 57g butter, 113.5g grated cheddar cheese, 1.5 eggs, 1 tbsp milk, and a pinch of cayenne. Make this the day before you want to eat the sandwiches, and put it in a little jar or ramekin and allow it to set in the fridge. To make the actual sandwiches, spread the paste on lightly buttered bread and if you want you can cut the crusts off. We had plenty of leftovers, and ate it on toast.

sandwiches, cheese biscuits and chicken turnovers made from 1930s recipes

Cucumber Sandwiches from the Yackandandah Times, 3 Oct 1930

 

“Cucumber Sandwich. – Spread some bread and butter with very thin slices of cucumber and a little thick cream mixed with salad dressing.”

 

Notes: for the salad dressing recipe see below. These were simple but delicious!

 

Walnut and Cheese Sandwiches from the Yackandandah Times, 3 Oct 1930

 

“Walnut and Cheese Sandwich. – Cut some slices of thinly-buttered bread, and spread them with a good layer of cream cheese, followed by a thick layer of nuts chopped into small pieces, add a little salt and press the bread together.”

 

Notes: I didn’t expect much of these, but was really pleasantly surprised and they were the first thing to disappear.

 

Cheese Biscuits from the Melbourne Age, 27 Nov 1937

 

“Take ½ oz. butter, 1 oz. flour, ½ oz. grated cheese, salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper. Rub the butter lightly into the flour, then add the grated cheese and seasonings. Make this into a stiff paste with cold water, then roll out on a floured board. Cut into rounds with a two-inch pastry cutter. Brush the biscuits over with beaten egg, and bake in a moderate oven.”

 

Notes: I doubled this recipe and actually could easily have made more, these were my favourites on the day. They’re basically really cheesy little crackers. I used 28g butter, 28g grated cheddar, 56g flour, a little salt, pepper and cayenne, and enough cold water to bring the dough together. Bake them until golden at around 180°C.

mayonnaise of eggs, recipe from 1935

Mayonnaise of Eggs from The Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 Nov 1935

 

Hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, mayonnaise or salad dressing.

Shell eggs; cut in half; shred the lettuce finely and place a little in paper souffle-cases. Arrange an egg on the bed of lettuce. Pack in box. Carry mayonnaise in cardboard screw-top container. When you arrive at destination a little mayonnaise can be poured over the egg.”

 

Notes: It wouldn’t be a vintage picnic without a slightly disturbing mayonnaise recipe. This one couldn’t be simpler, and looks great in little paper muffin cases if you don’t have souffle cups on hand.

Beetroot mould, recipe from 1935

Beetroot Mould from The Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 Nov 1935

 

“One bunch beetroot, water, a little vinegar, 6 cloves, powdered gelatine, salt and mustard, cayenne.

Prepare beetroot by washing it well and leaving the stalks on. Do not cut it in any way or prick it, otherwise it bleeds. Put the beetroot into a large saucepan of boiling, salted water and boil till tender. Drain in a colander. When cold, remove the skin and cut into thin slices. Take one piece of beetroot before cooking, peel it, and boil it in vinegar and water to which salt, cayenne, mustard and cloves have been added. The object of peeling is to extract the color, making the liquid red. Strain it, and to every cupful of liquid add one dessertspoon of gelatine. Stir till well dissolved. Line a wetted mould with the cooked beetroot. Pour in liquid and leave on ice till set. Turn out in the usual way and serve with cold meat.”

Notes: this was so bad it was basically inedible but if you want to give it a go yourself boil 3 whole beets in salted water until tender, drain and cool before peeling and slicing thinly. Boil a fourth, peeled, beet in 1 ½ cups water, 1 cup vinegar, 6 cloves, 1 tsp mustard powder, ½ tsp cayenne pepper and a little salt. Measure the liquid, and sprinkle on one dessertspoonful of gelatine for every 250ml of liquid, stir to dissolve. Line a wetted ring mould with the sliced beetroot and gently pour the liquid on top. Leave in the fridge to set overnight, then dip the mould briefly in a sinkful of hot water to loosen before turning out onto a plate (just a second or two should do it, don’t leave it too long or you will dissolve the jelly!).

I did use mustard powder instead of mustard, but think that it probably should have been English style mustard or something similar. The cayenne and vinegar flavours are very strong so you could certainly reduce the amount of cayenne. Possibly it would be slightly better if served with a fatty cold meat, but I doubt it would ever be good.

Potato salad, recipe from 1937

Potato Salad from the Melbourne Age, 27 Nov 1937

 

“Take 2 cupfuls of cooked potatoes, 1 tablespoonful chopped parsley, 1 teaspoonful chopped onion, ½ teaspoonful salt, a dust of pepper and French dressing. Cook the potatoes in salted water till they are tender, but not squashy. When cool, cut them up, add the parsley, and moisten with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper and toss together lightly. Sprinkle with the onion, and stand in a cool place till they are very cold. This can quite easily be packed in a billy for a picnic.”

 

Notes: this was delightful, with a light dressing unlike creamy potato salads which are so common now. I made the dressing by combining ½ cup olive oil, 16 cup red wine vinegar, ½ tsp icing sugar and some salt and pepper in a small jar. Use new potatoes if you can get them.

cucumber boats, recipe from 1937

Cucumber Boats from the Hobart Voice, 20 Feb 1937

 

“Take three cucumbers, 2 or 3 tomatoes, ½ cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon chopped shallots, lettuce, salad dressing. Chill cucumbers and tomatoes. Peel the cucumbers and cut them into halves, lengthwise, without breaking them. Scald and skin the tomatoes and cut into dice or cubes, drain off the juice. Mix the cucumber pulp, the tomatoes, and the chopped celery, and add a little salt and pepper to flavor. Fill the cucumber halves with this, and pile high. Arrange them on a bed of crisp lettuce leaves. Garnish with curls of celery or some water cress, and serve with a salad dressing.”

 

Notes: these would be quite a fun thing for kids to help make, and for older kids you can set them to making the celery curls to garnish the plate. I used two small Lebanese cucumbers, and you scoop out the seeds in the center before piling them high with filling.

epicurean fruit salad, recipe from 1935

Epicurean Fruit Salad from the Launceston Examiner, 11 Dec 1935

 

“Peel, prepare and dice apple, pear, orange, ½ grapefruit, pineapple, ½ stalk white celery, walnuts cut into dice. Mix all these fruits together lightly. Arrange on lettuce leaves, garnish with a cherry. Serve with a cream salad dressing to which has been added 1 tablespoon whipped cream. – Mrs. H. A. Beasley, Upper Melbourne-street, Launceston.”

 

Notes: this is a kind of sweet/savoury fruit salad and I wasn’t sure how it would go, especially with salad dressing but it was actually very pleasant.

 

Cream Salad Dressing from the Williamstown Chronicle, 8 Feb 1936

 

“One tablespoon flour, 1 ½ tablespoons butter, 1 egg, ¾ cup milk, salt, cayenne, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 ½ tablespoons sugar, ¾ cup vinegar. Mix all dry ingredients. Add beaten egg, milk, and butter. Cook over boiling water till mixture thickens, then add vinegar gradually, stirring constantly. Strain and cool.”

 

Notes: this was also surprisingly good, with a nice tanginess to it. Cook it in a bain marie, and keep a careful eye on it because the bottom will thicken faster than the rest so you need to keep whisking it to avoid lumps.

almond biscuits, recipe from 1933

Almond Biscuits from the Western Argus, 19 Sep 1933

 

“You will like these biscuits to take with you on your picnics. Cream together ¼ lb. of butter and ¼ lb. of caster sugar. Stir in two well-whisked eggs and gradually add 6 oz. of self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, and ¼ lb. of ground almonds.

Mix well together until a stiff paste is formed. If too moist add a little more flour. Roll out about ¼ in. thick on a well-floured board, cut into small rounds of fancy shapes, put on flat greased tins, brush over with a little beaten egg and milk, and sprinkle with chopped blanched almonds.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave the biscuits on the tins for a little while after taking out of the oven, or they are liable to break when removed.”

 

Notes: I used 113g butter, 113g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 170g self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, 113g ground almonds and some chopped, blanched almonds. These were pretty plain, but good.

Wasgington Sponge Cake, recipe from 1937

Washington Sponge Cake from The Tribune, 5 Nov 1937

 

“This Washington sponge cake is made with ingredients as follows: 1 ¼ cups sifted cake flour; 1 ¼ teaspoons double-acting baking powder; ¼ teaspoon salt; 1 cup sugar; 1 tablespoon grated orange rind; 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk; ¼ cup orange juice; ¼ cup water; raspberry jam. Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift together three times. Add ½ cup sugar and orange rind to eggs, and beat with rotary egg beater until thick and lemon-colored; add remaining sugar gradually, beating very thoroughly; then add orange juice and water. Add flour gradually, beating with rotary egg beater until smooth. Bake in two ungreased 9 inch layer pans in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) 30 minutes or until done. Invert on rack until cakes are cold. Spread jam between layers. Sift powdered sugar over top.”

 

Notes: I thought this recipe was from an Australian newspaper, but it turns out it’s actually from a newspaper based in the Philippines. The main change I made was to grease and line the base of the two pans because I didn’t want to risk them sticking. The cake was good, but very sweet. It might help to add a layer of whipped cream on top of the jam between the layers, in order to cut some of the sweetness. Sift over icing sugar to serve.

 

pineapple julep, recipe from 1939

Pineapple Julep from Good Drinks by Ambrose Heath, first published 1939

 

“Peel, slice, and cut up a ripe Pineapple into a glass bowl, add the juice of two Oranges, a gill of Raspberry syrup, a gill of Maraschino, a gill of old Gin, a bottle of sparkling Moselle and about a pound of shaven ice. Mix and serve.”

 

Notes: warning, this is pretty potent stuff! I made a basic simple syrup with some raspberries, then sieved it to remove the seeds. A gill is about 120ml, so I used half a cup of syrup, half a cup of cherry liqueur, half a cup of gin, ½ a pineapple, 2 oranges, and a bottle of prosecco. Mix and add plenty of ice. I also threw in some borage flowers since I had them and they’re so pretty in drinks.

 

 

 

Recipes from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery

Like many others, baking is providing a lot of comfort for me and my family as the world has been upended around us. But, now that I’ve run the usual gamut of quarantine baking from banana bread to sourdough, I’ve been taking a deep-dive into some historical cookbooks.

This week, that means taking a closer look at recipes from one of my favourite historical cookbooks: Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery. Even though the book is now named after Martha Washington (1731-1802), Karen Hess’ masterful research shows that like many Early Modern recipe books, the manuscript was passed down through several generations with new recipes being added over time. The majority of the recipes were probably copied in the first half of the seventeenth century, and the source they were copied from must have been even older.

The recipes in the book reflect this span of time, during which English cooking was going through considerable changes. Some recipes, like the one for green pease porrage (green pea porridge or purée) hark back to the medieval period in their ingredients and techniques, while others such as a series of gingerbread recipes show an evolution over time (to find out more about gingerbread’s development from candy to biscuit see these posts).

The Recipes

To Make Green Pease, Porrage

Take of ye youngest pease you can get, what quantety you please, & put ym in a little more faire water than will cover them. Boyle ym till they be tender. yn take new milke & make them of what thickness you please. let ym boyle wel together, yn take a little flower and wet it with milke enough to thicken it, & put it in with some spearmint & marrigoulds shread small. when it is boyled enough, put in a good piece of fresh butter, a little salt, & some pepper, If you please, & soe dish [it] up.

Green Peas Porridge

Cook 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas with 1/2 cup water until very soft. Mash the peas, add 1/2 cup milk and bring back to a simmer. Whisk 1/4 cup milk with 3/4 tbsp flour and add to the peas. Stir in finely chopped mint leaves and marigold petals. Add a knob of butter, season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

To Dress a Dish of [Mushrumps]

Take yr firm mushrumps & pill ye scin from them & scrape away all ye red yt grows on ye insyde of them, & pill yr stalks likewise. If you finde them firm, throw them as you doe them into faire water & let them ly 3 or 4 hours, then take them out of ye water & set them on ye fire in a pan. theyr own liquor will stew them. put in an ounion cut in halves and often shake them. As ye water rises, cast it still away till you finde them allmoste dry. Then take out the ounion & put in a little sweet cream yt is thick & shread in some time & parsley, & put in some grated nutmeg, & a little grose pepper, & a little salt, & soe let them boyle, shakeing them well together. & put in A piece of fresh butter, giveing them another shake, & soe dish them up. This is approved, but ye yolks of too Eggs with a [?] cold Creem and thick ym wth it.

To Dress a Dish of Mushrooms

Peel the outer skin off 8 portobello mushrooms, cook in a tiny bit of water in a pan with 1/2 an onion until soft and the pan is nearly dry. Remove the onion, add 1/2 cup of thick cream, some fresh parsley and thyme (or dried), freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To Stew Wardens

Boyle them first in faire water, then pare & stew them between 2 dishes with cinnamon, suger, and rosewater; or wth ye same seasoning you may put them in a pie & bake them

Stewed Pears

Simmer 4 firm pears (wardens if you can get them) in water until soft. Remove from liquid keeping 1 1/2 cups liquid.  Combine the reserved liquid with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 tbsp rosewater, bring to the boil. When the pears have cooled, use a sharp knife to peel them, then add them back to the liquid and boil for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Notes – this was still too sweet for my taste, I would reduce the amount of sugar next time

To Make Cheesecakes

Take 6 quarts of stroakings or new milke & whey it with runnet as for an ordinary cheese, yn put it in a streyner & hang it on a pin or else press it with 2 pound weight. yn break it very small with yr hands or run it thorough a sive, then put to it 7 or 8 eggs well beaten, 3 quarters of a pound of currans, halfe a pound of sugar, a nutmegg grated or some cloves & mace beaten, 2 or 3 spoonfuls of rosewater, a little salt. yn take a quart of cream, & when it boyl thicken it with grated bread & boyle it very well as thick as for a hasty pudding. then take if from ye fire & stir therein halfe a pound of fresh butter, then let it stand till it be allmoste cold, & yn mingle it with your curd very well; yn fill yr coffins of paste & when they are ready to set into ye oven scrape on them some sugar & sprinkle on some rosewater with a feather. If you love good store of currans in them, you may put in a whole pound, & a little sack If you please. & soe bake ym.

To Make Cheesecakes

Mix together 250g fresh cheese (ricotta would do, or you can make your own) with 2 eggs, 170g currants, 110g sugar, some grated cloves, nutmeg and mace, a pinch of salt and 1 tbsp rosewater. Bring 500ml cream to the boil, then stir in 3 handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs and cook until it thickens. Stir 115g butter into the cream and bread mixture and allow to cool before adding to the rest of the filling. Place in a pie case, or make individual small pies, and sprinkle with sugar and rosewater. Bake in a medium oven until the filling is just set.

To Make a Tart of Parsneps & Scyrrets

Seeth yr roots in water & wine, then pill them & beat them in a morter, with raw eggs & grated bread. bedew them often with rose water & wine, then streyne them & put suger to them & some juice of leamons, & put it into ye crust; & when yr tart is baked, cut it up & butter it hot, or you may put some putter into it, when you set it into ye oven, & eat it cold. ye Juice of leamon you may eyether put in or leave out at yr pleasure.

Parnsip Tart

Boil 3 parsnips in 1 cup water and 1/2 cup white wine until they are soft. Peel them and mash or blend them. Add 3 handfuls of breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 1 tbsp rosewater and 1 tbsp white wine, 3 tbsp sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Pour into a par-baked tart case, top with some small pieces of butter and bake in a medium oven.

Notes – skirrets are a white root vegetable, and hard to find now, but you could add them in if you had them. It’s possible to get seed to try growing your own if you have a garden. If you want, you can make a decorative top as well by cutting shapes out of a piece of puff pastry the size of your tart. This is baked separately and then laid on top of the tart.

Jane Dawson’s Jockelet (Chocolate) Cream

This week it’s time for the annual transcribathon hosted by the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) and for the first time Stanford is taking part. Each year, people around the world come together to transcribe a hand-written book of recipes from the early modern period. Manuscript receipt books are great to work with because they provide a really intimate look into early modern lives, especially women’s lives. Many households kept receipt books, which were handed down from generation to generation and each new owner would add their own favourite recipes for food, medicines for people and animals, and other household products like ink and soap.

IMG_8093

To celebrate the transcribathon, I wanted to make a recipe from the book we transcribed last year, Jane Dawson’s 17th century receipt book. I was intrigued by a recipe that I transcribed, called Jockelet Cream. One of the best bits of working with early modern cookbooks is figuring out the phonetic spelling that they used – jockelet becomes chocolate if you read it aloud.

Jockelet Cream Recipe

Recipe for chocolate cream from Jane Dawson’s receipt book, V.b. 14, p. 17. Licensed by Folger Shakespeare Library under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Recipe

Jockelet Creame

boyle a pinte of Creame thicken it with an Egge yolke and mill into it two spoonfulls of the powder of Jockelet take it of as it rises to froth in to what you please[1]

 

At first I thought that this was a recipe for a hot chocolate drink, and having recently acquired a Mexican molinillo, I was excited to try my hand at it. A closer look at the recipe, however, suggested that this was more like a custard, thickened with egg even though it still retained the froth typical of early European drinking chocolate recipes.

Molinillo

My new molinillo!

A search for other chocolate cream recipes turned up plenty of similar ones from the seventeenth and eighteenth century: from an anonymous Scottish manuscript, Anna Western’s receipt book, a later addition to Elinor Fettiplace’s receipt book, an early eighteenth century receipt book, Elizabeth Moxon’s cookbook (1764) and Susanna Kellet’s coobook (1780). At the same time, there were lots of other flavoured creams too; lemon and orange were very popular but Susanna Kellet for example has recipes for cinnamon, raspberry, lemon, citron, barley, almond and apple creams.

 

Since receipt books were generally added to over time, sometimes over a number of generations, dating them is often challenging. One recipe in Jane Dawson’s book is dated to 1693, and a late seventeenth-century date is generally consistent with the other recipes. That makes this recipe for chocolate cream relatively early – only a handful of English chocolate recipes are known from before 1700. Lady Anne Fanshawe, the wife of the Spanish ambassador, collected a recipe for drinking chocolate in 1665 and in 1668 the Earl of Sandwich recorded a number of recipes for chocolate including some of the earliest frozen dessert recipes in English.[2] Another recipe attributed to Rhoda Fairfax is probably also from before 1700, and there are two recipes in published cookbooks, one for a beverage and one for ‘Chocolet-puffs’.[3]

In 1702, François Massialot’s The Court and Country Cook (originally published in 1691 as the Cuisinier Roial et Bourgeois) became available with the earliest known recipe for chocolate cream in English.[4]  

 Chocolate-cream.

Take a Quart of Milk with a quarter of a Pound of Sugar, and boil them together for a quarter of an Hour : Then put one beaten Yolk of an Egg into the Cream, and let it have three or four Walms: Take it off from the Fire, and mix it with some Chocolate, till the Cream has assum’d its colour. Afterwards you may give it three of four Walms more upon the Fire, and, having strain’d it thro’ a Sieve, dress it as pleasure.[5]

Taza chocolate tablet

The Jane Dawson recipe is different in a few key ways: first, it doesn’t use any sugar so ends up being quite bitter when made with dark chocolate. Dawson was probably using pre-prepared chocolate tablets which were available in England from the 1650s, and they may have been already sweetened with sugar and possibly spiced as well.[6] The other major difference is that Massialot focuses on boiling the chocolate (a walm is an unknown measurement of time boiling[7]) while Dawson emphasises milling and froth. Did the extra boiling make Massialot’s recipe thicker and more custardy? It’s hard to imagine that it thickened much with only one egg yolk and twice as much cream.

Mujer_vertiendo_chocolate_-_Codex_Tudela

Woman making foamy chocolate by pouring it from one vessel to another from a height. Codex Tudela, fol. 3r, c. 1553. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Making frothy chocolate drinks was something that the Spanish colonizers learnt in Mesoamerica where a frothy head was produced by pouring the beverage from one vessel to another from a height.[8] The Spanish later developed a type of wooden whisk called a molinillo which was rotated briskly by rubbing the handle between the palms, and this technology was taken to Europe along with chocolate itself.[9] Sometimes called a chocolate mill, these wooden whisks could be inserted into elaborate metal or ceramic chocolate pots.

 

800px-Bodegón_con_servicio_de_chocolate_-_Museo_del_Prado

Chocolate tablets for making drinking chocolate in the pot with a molinillo, beside a chocolate cup for drinking it out of, bread and biscuits for dipping. Still Life with Chocolate Service, Luis Egidio Melendez, 1770 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

For such a short, easy recipe, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to Jane Dawson’s chocolate cream. There are all the usual problems of converting measurements, and figuring out how big an early modern egg was, but there is also the question of what the chocolate she used would have been like, and what consistency the final product was supposed to be.

 

Different recipes, or even different interpretations of very similar recipes produce wildly different results. Marissa Nicosia over at Rare Cooking made a chocolate cream that was thick and rich, like pudding. Kathleen Wall’s recipe calls for beaten egg whites producing a lighter chocolate mousse. Amy Tigner’s students made a kind of chocolate custard which is topped with whipped cream for a layered effect. Another possibility is that the recipe is supposed to be served as a hot drink, more like a historical hot chocolate. While I can’t rule that out, other similar but more detailed recipes for chocolate cream do seem to be served cold in glasses, kind of like a mousse.

Although I used the measurements from Dawson’s recipe, I used the instructions from an anonymous Scottish manuscript from 1722 for clarification.

Chocolate Cream

Boil your Cream, & put in as much Chocolate as will colour it of a good brown Colour, & thicken it as thick as good Cream with ye yolk of an Egg well beaten; then with a Mill mill it up that the Froth may be an Inch above your Glasses or above your Cream in the Glasses. Serve this wt your Orange and Lemon Creams, and they are very gentle Creams.[10]

 

The instructions are very similar, but a little more detailed. This recipe suggests that the cream does not thicken very much, just to the consistency of ‘good cream’. That fits with my experience, which was that one egg yolk did not provide a lot of thickening. Again, the recipe emphasises frothiness and while I didn’t get a full inch of froth above the cream, I was able to get the froth to kind of set by putting the foam on top of the cream and letting it cool.

 

Overall, it produced basically what you would expect – a slightly chocolate-flavoured, very bitter, slightly thickened cream which was edible, but not my favourite. I think a little sweetening would have gone a long way, and would be keen to try making it again with a spiced chocolate with cinnamon or chili just to add a bit more interest. I would also add more chocolate, since the flavour was very subtle. It is interesting to wonder whether that is a mismatch between the quantity of Dawson’s two spoonfulls and my own, or whether perhaps she was making the most of a small amount of an expensive ingredient.

Chocolate cream made from a late seventeenth-century recipe

[1] Jane Dawson, “Cookbook of Jane Dawson” (Manuscript, 17th Century), 17, V.b. 14, Folger Shakespeare Library.

[2] Kate Loveman, “The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640–1730,” Journal of Social History 47, no. 1 (September 1, 2013): 27–46, https://doi.org/10.1093/jsh/sht050; Sara Pennell, “Recipes and Reception: Tracking ‘New World’ Foodstuffs in Early Modern British Culinary Texts, c. 1650-1750,” Food & History 7, no. 1 (2009): 11–34, https://doi.org/10.1484/J.FOOD.1.100633.

[3] Pennell, “Recipes and Reception: Tracking ‘New World’ Foodstuffs in Early Modern British Culinary Texts, c. 1650-1750.”

[4] Pennell, 24.

[5] François Massialot and J. K, The Court and Country Cook: Giving New and Plain Directions How to Order All Manner of Entertainments … Together with New Instructions for Confecioners … And, How to Prepare Several Sort of Liquors [by F. Massialot] … Translated Out of French Into English by J. K. (London: Printed by W. Onlye, for A. & J. Churchill, at the Black Swan in Pater-noster-row, and M. Gillyflower in Westminster-hall, 1702), 97.

[6] Loveman, “The Introduction of Chocolate into England.”

[7] Oxford English Dictionary, “‘walm, n.1’.,” n.d., https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/225353?rskey=DBFOk1&result=1&isAdvanced=false.

[8] Marcy Norton, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008).

[9] Amanda Lange, “Chocolate Preparation and Serving Vessels in Early North America,” in Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage, ed. Louis E Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2009), 129–42.

[10] “‘Large Collection of Choice Recipes for Cookrie, Pastries, Milks, Sauces, Candying, Confectionating, and Preserving of Fruits, Flowers, Etc’, Dated Dumfries, 1722.” (1764 1722), MS 10281, transcription and image available on https://www.nls.uk/year-of-food-and-drink/february.

 

The Redaction

 

Jane Dawson’s Chocolate Cream

473 ml (cream

1 egg yolk, beaten

2 tablespoons of dark chocolate, finely grated

 

  1. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add a little of the hot cream to the beaten egg yolk and whisk, then return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk into the rest of the hot cream. Heat gently until it thickens slightly.
  2. Dissolve the grated chocolate into the hot cream, and whisk well to form the froth. Pour the liquid into your glasses or moulds, and top with the froth. Carefully move to the refrigerator and allow to cool.

IMG_8101

Carolina Snowballs Re-do

Carolina Snowballs, recipe from 1858

Way back in 2015 I made a late nineteenth century recipe for Peach Snowballs from Mina Lawson’s The Antipodean Cookery Book. Even though the peaches tasted great, the rice didn’t form a homogeneous layer the way that it is supposed to (for good examples see Savoring the Past and World Turn’d Upside Down).

Peach Snowballs, recipe from 1895

Not very successful peach snowballs

These snowballs are sometimes called Carolina Snowballs, because they were made with Carolina gold rice, grown in Carolina and Georgia. This kind of rice is no longer widely available, but in recent years has been resurrected by the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation (and sold by Anson Mills) so I’ve been meaning to try this recipe again using the proper type of rice.

 

The story of Carolina Gold is well beyond the scope of this blog post (a good place to start is Karen Hess’ The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection) but it is impossible to write about this rice without acknowledging its deep entanglements with slavery (for which see Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene).

 

By at least 1690, rice was being raised in South Carolina and plantation owners made their fortunes by exploiting the experience that enslaved West African workers had of growing rice.[i] West African men brought expertise in constructing complex irrigation systems to control the level of water in the rice fields. The knowledge of how to grow the rice, as well as how to make and use the equipment necessary for processing came from the women who had traditionally cultivated and prepared the rice in West Africa.

 

Wet rice cultivation, as practiced in South Carolina and Georgia, was extremely profitable at the expense of enslaved workers’ health. Conducted knee-deep in murky water under an unrelenting sun, the work itself was exhausting, dangerous and never-ending. The water harbored a host of threats including snakes, alligators, parasites and biting insects which spread diseases like malaria.[ii] As Jennifer Morgan points out “Rice is among the most onerous and labor intensive food crops, and the duration of the growing season and the dangerous and repellent nature of the work placed it at the extreme end of any continuum of forced agricultural labor in the early Atlantic world.”[iii]

African style rice pounder

African style rice pounder at the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana

As in Western Africa, rice came to play a central role in the diet of the South, from the homes of the labourers themselves to the wealthiest tables where it was cooked, of course, by enslaved African cooks and African American domestic servants. The complex cuisine that resulted was a combination of West African and European traditions, creating a distinct style of rice cookery. As historian Michael Twitty enumerates, this includes:

“chicken pilau, breads, puddings, rice cakes, crab fried rice—rice as the necessary accompaniment to barbecue hash, okra soup, crawfish étoufée, and red beans, as they had in Saint-Domingue/Haiti—and sugar and rice for a quick breakfast; all come down to us through the centuries as legacies of this heritage. So also have soups made with peanuts or peanuts and oysters, benne (sesame seed) and hot-pepper sauces, crab gumbos, and a battery of food with which the only acceptable accompaniment is rice cooked perfectly, with every grain steamed, separate and distinct.”[iv]

 

One of the maybe surprising results of this cuisine in the Carolina snowball. Possibly descended from the French bourdelot , an apple wrapped in pastry and boiled or baked, the snowball is an apple (or more rarely another type of fruit) wrapped in rice and boiled in a pudding cloth.[v]

 

What is really surprising is the longevity of this recipe; Hess quotes a recipe from The Lucayos Cook Book which might date back to as early as 1690, although the provenance of this manuscript isn’t great and it is unclear where the original is.[vi] At the very least, a recipe for Carolina Snow Balls in the eighth edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery published in 1763, and similar recipes continued to be published well into the 1920s.[vii]

 

Probably the reason for this extraordinary perseverance is that this recipe is about as cheap and easy a dessert as you can make. While rice was an expensive and exotic product in the medieval period, it became considerably more available in the Early Modern period – exports from South Carolina alone increased from 10,407 pounds in 1698 to more than 72 million pounds in 1774.[viii]

 

As the price of rice dropped, this kind of dessert became much more achievable for middle class consumers (such as Glasse’s readers). The short list of ingredients, the simplicity of the method, limited equipment required, and the hot, filling result would all have appealed to housewives and cooks needing a sweet dish.

 

[i] Henry C. Dethloff, “The Colonial Rice Trade,” Agricultural History 56, no. 1 (1982): 232.

[ii] Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (New York, NY: Amistad, 2017), 240.

[iii] Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2004), 162.

[iv] Twitty, The Cooking Gene, 262.

[v] Karen Hess, The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1998), 146.

[vi] Hess, 144–45.

[vii] Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the Kind yet Published … To Which Are Added, by Way of Appendix, One Hundred and Fifty New and Useful Receipts, and a Copious Index, 8th ed. (London: Printed for A. Millar [and others], 1763), http://archive.org/details/b30502500.

[viii] Dethloff, “The Colonial Rice Trade,” 234.

 

The Recipe

Capture

The version I’m following is from The Housekeeper and Gardener (1858) by Rebecca Upton. This is one recipe were it does really make a difference to have the right type of rice. On his blog, Kevin Carter suggests that medium grain rice is best but the Carolina Gold, which is a long grain rice, worked well for me (but other long grain rice did not). Make sure, if buying Carolina Gold that you buy the variety called Carolina Gold and not the brand Carolina Rice produced by Riviana Foods.

 

The recipe calls for two spoonfuls of rice, but how much is that? Two tbsp didn’t feel like enough to me, but I think that the 100 g I put in was maybe a little too much (James Townsend suggests ½ cup or about 115 g). The trickier bit is getting the rice evenly distributed, and smaller apples might help here.

IMG_8111

The Redaction

Carolina Snowballs

 

Per Snowball

1 large apple

Orange and lemon (approx. ¼ peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon) finely chopped peel, or grated zest

80-100 g Carolina gold rice

 

 

For Sauce (for 1-2 apples)

55 g butter

30 ml white wine

1 ½ tbsp sugar

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground nutmeg

 

  1. Core the apple(s). Place a clean pudding cloth in a bowl, with the cloth hanging over the edges of the bowl.Put a spoonful of the rice in the bottom of the cloth, then place the apple on top. Put the citrus peel inside the hole left by coring the apple(s). 2. Add the rest of the rice around the apple, then gather the corners of the cloth and tie the pudding up. Leave a little room for the rice to expand, but not too much so it doesn’t get soggy. The actual knot should be tight. Massage the rice around the apple so that it is spread evenly.
  2. Place the pudding in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. When the pudding is done, carefully remove it from the saucepan and dip it in cold water for a few seconds. Place the pudding in a bowl, cut off the string and carefully unwrap it. It may help to place another bowl on top and flip it, since the base normally looks better than the tied end. Serve with warm sauce.

 

Plum Cake/Early Black Bun for Twelfth Night

Years ago on a trip to Scotland I picked up a copy of Maw Broon’s But an’ Ben Cookbook. Inspired by a weekly comic strip produced since the 1930s, the But an’ Ben Cookbook is a kind of imaginary scrapbook collated by the extended Broon family at their holiday house with recipes cut from newspapers and magazines, donated by friend and family members, or scribbled on the back of whatever paper was nearby. Interspersed with comics and helpful hints, the book is a fascinating window into mid-century Scottish cookery.

Plum cake recipe from 1740, but made in the style of Black Bun

I think that this book is probably the first place I encountered both Hogmanay and black bun. Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration of the New Year, and black bun one of the traditional foods exchanged and eaten at this time of the year.[i] It’s particularly popular as a gift for first-footing, brought by the first visitor (preferably male, tall and dark-haired) to cross the threshold it is believed to bring good luck to the household.

 

Many people writing about black bun, however, suggest that it was initially associated with Twelfth Night (celebrated on either the 5th or 6th of January depending on when the counting begins). It’s unclear what the historical basis for this claim is, but black bun does certainly have a strong association with the Christmas period. The name black bun is only attested in 1898, and earlier versions were known as ‘Scotch bun’ (which was advertised to bring Christmas cheer) or ‘Scotch Christmas bun’[ii],

scotch christmas bun 1

scotch christmas bun 2

Recipe for ‘A Scotch Christmas-Bun’ from The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, 1862 (512-513)

Basically identical to other early modern recipes for plumb cake, what distinguishes black bun is that the fruit cake is covered in a layer of dough or pastry. While modern recipes for black bun now call for a rich fruit cake to be wrapped in pastry, as you can see from this recipe (which was taken almost word for word from the recipe for ‘A rich half-peck Bun’ in Mrs Frazer’s The Practice of Cookery, Pastry etc.[iii]) older recipes use a yeasted dough for both the filling and the plain cover.

nsl plumb cake

Recipe for plumb-cake from the ‘Culinary and household receipes of the Fletcher of Saltoun family’. Licensed by the National Library of Scotland under CC-BY-NC-SA

Mrs Frazer’s recipe from 1791 is generally given as the oldest for black bun, but the National Library of Scotland has a recipe for a plumb cake in an 18th century receipt book from the Fletcher family of Saltoun which also leaves aside part of yeasted dough to make a cover.[iv] Helpfully, the recipe notes that it was taken from Mrs Johnston’s Receipts for Cookery and Pastry Worke 1741.[v] Indeed, the very first recipe in Mrs Johnston’s receipts for all sorts of pastry, creams, puddings, custards, preserves, marmalets, conserves, geillies, syrops, wines etc published in 1740 is the same recipe for plumb cake.[vi] Mrs Johnston, in turn, took the first 92 pages of her cookbook from Mrs McLintock’s receipts for cookery and pastry-work published in Glasgow in 1736, the first cookbook known to have been published in Scotland.[vii] This means we can push the date back nearly 60 years, and it seems plausible that even earlier versions exist in manuscript sources.

img_20190101_143054564

The Recipe

 

The first challenge in redacting this recipe was working out what the measurements would mean in today’s values. Many recipes for plum-cakes from this time period are enormous, meant to feed a household that included a large extended family, their servants and retainers, and any visitors who happened to be in the area. I used a helpful table from the Scottish Archive Network to convert the measurements into metric, although it’s worth noting that in many cases there were multiple options (e.g. is it the Troy or the Tron pound?) so the measurements I came up with are by no means definitive. Turns out though, that my measurements were off by quite a bit. Although I initially only used one egg since modern eggs are probably larger than those in the past, I used two and then added quite a bit of warm water to make a stiff dough.

 

Then I had to figure out how much to reduce the recipe by. The original recipe asks for nine litres of flour and just shy of ten kilograms of dried fruit; much as I love fruitcake there was no way I was making the whole cake! I ended up dividing all the ingredients by seven, which still produces a large cake, so you may want to reduce it even more.

 

The National Library of Scotland website had noted that cordecidron was quince paste, but that didn’t seem very likely to me and a bit of research shows that it is an old Scottish word for citron peel which makes much more sense.[viii] For the both the orange peel and the citron peel I assumed that they meant candied peel, which is what is normally used in plum-cake recipes. Even after reducing the recipe massively, I didn’t have more than 700g of candied peel so I just put in what I had. Obviously that is less accurate, but given how much difficulty I had getting the fruit worked into the dough it was something that I was glad of later. It’s amazing to think that people did this for 7 times the amount of dough!

 

Finally, what shape should the dough take? Does it need time to rise? Does it need a tin or hoop to support it? And how long does it take to cook? I’m still not really sure about the answer to any of these. Modern buns tend to be circular or loaf-shaped and are cooked in tins. The rectangular loaf-shape is probably modern, since loaf-tins seem to be a 19th century invention. Mrs Frazer’s recipe suggests binding it in paper, which would presumably give a softer form than a metal tin, while a note in the Dods recipe says “They should be baked in a dome-shaped fluted mould or Turk’s cap, but look still more imposing at holiday-times, formed like large, respectable, old-fashioned household loaves.”[ix] The two moulds would probably give an effect like a bundt cake, while old-fashioned household loaves may refer to something like a cob loaf. What I can tell you is that my tin method didn’t work very well, because the bun didn’t have enough room to expand and split. Given how stiff the dough is, I would be tempted next time to just shape it into a cob loaf and bake it on a tray.

img_20190102_140956547

Splitting from the tin – not ideal

The Redaction

Plum-Cake, or Early Black Bun

1.9 kg of flour (something went very wrong with the calculations here, and as treaclemine helpfully pointed out the actual amount should be less than a kilogram, say around 684g of flour)

142 g butter

2 eggs

71 g sugar

2 tsp yeast mixed with 2tbsp warm water

2 tbsp brandy

585g currants

113g candied peel

140g almonds

2g cinnamon

2g nutmeg

2g cloves

2g caraway seeds

 

  1. Mix together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Put flour in large bowl and rub in butter until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs then add to the flour with the yeast and the brandy. Add enough warm water to bring together to form a stiff dough. Take a quarter and put to one side, covered with a damp towel.
  4. In a large bowl mix together the fruit, almonds and spices, then mix into the 3/4 of the dough. This is quite difficult because of how stiff the dough is and how much dough there is. When you can no longer knead the entire dough, it helps to take small handfuls of dough and press them into the fruit to incorporate more of the mixture.
  5. Roll out the 1/4 of the dough into a very large, thin circle (approx. 12 inches round), thinner at the edges. Put the fruit dough in the middle and shape into a rough circle (if you are using a tin, make sure that the circle will fit the tin). Wrap the dough up around the filling, pinching at the top like a dumpling.
  6. Grease the tin or baking tray, and place the bun in, seam side down. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F, then bake for about 90 minutes or until knocking on the bun produces a hollow sound.

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Plumb-Cake (identical recipe available here)

The Date: 1740

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 2 hours

How successful was it?: It was very dry, a bit similar to bad pannetone but with more fruit. It wasn’t too sweet, which was great, and the occasional pop of a carraway seed was a nice addition to the usual fruitcake flavours.

How accurate?: There are so many things that were unclear here, and the texture just didn’t seem quite right so probably not very.

 

References

[i] Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food (OUP Oxford, 2014), 85.

[ii]

“Black, Adj. and N.,” OED Online (Oxford University Press), accessed January 6, 2019, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/19670; Galignani’s Messenger: The Spirit of the English Journals. 1825,2 (Brière, 1825), 562; Christian Isobel Johnstone, The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, by Margaret Dods. [&c.]., 1862, 512, http://archive.org/details/cookandhousewif01johngoog.

[iii] Mrs Frazer, The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Pickling, Preserving, &c: Containing Figures of Dinners, from Five to Nineteen Dishes, and a Full List of Supper Dishes; Also a List of Things in Season for Every Month in the Year, and Directions for Choosing Provisions: With Two Plates, Showing the Method of Placing Dishes Upon a Table, and the Manner of Trussing Poultry, &c (Peter Hill, Edinburgh, and T. Cadell, London, 1791).

[iv] “Culinary and Household Receipes of the Fletcher of Saltoun Family” (Receipt Book, 18th Century), MS 17853, National Library of Scotland, https://digital.nls.uk/recipes/browse/archive/105410479#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0.

[v] “Culinary and Household Receipes of the Fletcher of Saltoun Family.”

[vi] Mrs Johnston, Mrs. Johnston’s Receipts for All Sorts of Pastry, Creams, Puddings, Custards, Preserves, Marmalets, Conserves, Geillies, Syrops, Wines, Wet and Dry Confections, Biskets, Sauces, Pickles, and Cookery, after the Newest and Most Approved Method (Edinburgh: [s.n.], 1740), 3, http://find.galegroup.com/ecco/infomark.do?&source=gale&docLevel=FASCIMILE&prodId=ECCO&userGroupName=stan90222&tabID=T001&docId=CB3326959443&type=multipage&contentSet=ECCOArticles&version=1.0.

[vii] Johnston, Mrs. Johnston’s Receipts for All Sorts of Pastry, Creams, Puddings, Custards, Preserves, Marmalets, Conserves, Geillies, Syrops, Wines, Wet and Dry Confections, Biskets, Sauces, Pickles, and Cookery, after the Newest and Most Approved Method note in Eighteenth Century Collections Online database.

[viii] “Cordecedron N.,” Dictionary of the Scots Language (Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd., 2004), http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/cordecedron#.

[ix] Christian Isobel Johnstone, The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, by Margaret Dods. [&c.]., 513.

Two Vintage Passionfruit Recipes for Using Up a Glut

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

I spent August at home in Brisbane and our passionfruit vine was loaded down with fruit. There were so many little bulbs of deliciousness that I racked my brain trying to figure out what to do with them all. That means, of course, searching Trove for historical recipes to test.

I’m not sure it’s generally very well known that Australia has a proud baking tradition (although people overseas do comment on the Australian sweet tooth) but many of Australia’s most iconic treats are baked: lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, gems cones, pumpkin scones, damper, even pavlova.

While many of the baked goods were variations on European traditions, such as gingerbread, sponge cakes or scones, Barbara Santich argues that what makes Australian baking unique was the proliferation of variations.[1] She suggests that sweet recipes took up a much larger proportion of 19th and early 20th century Australian cookbooks compared to contemporary English cookbooks, perhaps two or three times as many.[2]

The warm growing conditions facilitated this experimentation; sugar was cheaply available, especially as the Australian sugar business took off, and fruit was abundant. Two tropical flavours, in particular, came to the forefront: coconut and passionfruit. While passionfruit is now most commonly used as a topping for pavlova, it was also used as a filling or icing for cakes, and made into jams, jellies and butters, puddings, slices, pies, biscuits, creams and flummeries.

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

The Recipes

The first recipe I decided to make was a 1939 recipe for Passionfruit Custard Slices. The slice, a rectangular slab of baked goodness that’s cut into slices, is a highlight of Australian baking.  No country bakery is complete without vanilla slice – a thick layer of vanilla custard sandwiched between crisp, golden pastry. Passionfruit slice is a variation on this, with a passionfruit icing on top of the upper layer of pastry.

What makes this recipe different is that it doesn’t use a real custard for the filling. Instead, you make a white sauce which is then enriched with sugar and egg yolks. I was pretty wary of this, since it didn’t sound like it would be thick enough, or particularly tasty. However, because it’s not very sweet it does a really good job of balancing out the extremely sugary icing.

Passionfruit Custard Slices

INGREDIENTS: 1/2lb. Puff, rough puff or flaky pastry.

FOR CUSTARD: 1 tablespoon butter, 1 heaped tablespoon flour, 2 egg yolks, 1 cup milk, 1 or 2 passionfruit.

FOR ICING: 1/2lb. Icing sugar, 2 passionfruit.

Method: Roll prepared pastry square or oblong in shape, place on baking tray, brush surface with egg white, then cook in hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, decreasing heat when well risen and lightly brown. Lift on wire cooler, and, when cold, split in two layers. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and blend smoothly, cook for a minute, then add milk, and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Stir in sugar, egg yolks, and cook without reboiling the custard. Stir until cool, add passionfruit pulp or strained juice, then spread one layer of pastry with custard and cover with other layer. Mix sifted icing sugar with passionfruit pulp or strained juice, forming a smooth icing. Pour over pastry surface and when firmly set, cut into slices.[3]

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

Another staple of passionfruit desserts is the moulded jelly or pudding. A flummery is basically a jelly made with a substance such as cream or milk to make it opaque. They have a long history, dating back to at least the 17th century when it was made with oats or wheat, but have mostly disappeared now. Flummery still survives in some Australian households as ‘jelly whip’, a cheap, mousse-like dessert in which evaporated milk is whipped into nearly set jelly. This version from 1933 is even cheaper, and is dairy free, because it uses flour rather than a dairy product to make the jelly opaque.

Passionfruit Flummery

Soak 1 tablespoon gelatine in 1 cup cold water for 2 hours, then add 1 1/2 cups sugar. Mix 1 tablespoon plain flour with 1 cup cold water, the juice of 2 oranges and 1 lemon. Put all on fire together and bring to the boil, remove, and when nearly cold add the pulp of 6 passionfruit, and beat till thick and white.[4]

My flummery separated, I think maybe because the jelly wasn’t cold enough when I whipped it. It was still OK, with a layer of plain jelly on the bottom and then a layer of flummery with the texture more like marshmallow fluff or something like that. The main problem was just that the jelly was wayyyyy too sweet.

[1] Barbara Santich, Bold Palates (Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2012), 193.

[2] Santich, 190.

[3] “PASSIONFRUIT,” The Sun, January 8, 1939.

[4] “Delicious Passionfruit Recipes,” The Northern Star, August 3, 1933.

Passionfruit custard slice, recipe from 1933

The Redactions

Passionfruit Custard Slice

225g puff, rough puff or flaky pastry

2 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon butter

1 heaped tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

2 passionfruit

For the icing:

225g icing sugar

2 passionfruit

 

  1. Heat the oven to 190°C. Roll the pastry into a square or oblong, place on baking tray and brush the surface with the beaten egg white.
  2. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, decreasing heat when well risen and lightly brown. Place on a wire rack to cool and, when cold, cut in half to make two layers.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and whisk to blend. Cook for a minute, then add the milk bit by bit, and stir until the mixture boils and thickens.
  4. Stir in the sugar and egg yolks, and cook without boiling the custard. Stir until it is cool then add the pulp of two passionfruit.
  5. Spread the custard on one layer of pastry, and add place the second layer of pastry on top.
  6. To make the icing, mix the sifted icing sugar with the pulp from the remaining two passionfruit to make a smooth icing. Pour over the pastry surface. Refrigerate until it sets then cut into slices.

 

Passionfruit Flummery

1 tbsp gelatine

2 cups cold water

1 ½ cups sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

2 oranges, juiced

1 lemon, juiced

6 passionfruit

 

  1. Dissolve the gelatine in 1 cup of the water, then add the sugar.
  2. Mix the flour with the remaining cup of cold water and the orange and lemon juice.
  3. Mix the gelatine and the juice mixture together in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Remove the mixture and allow to cool.  When nearly cold add the passionfruit pulp and beat it until it is thick and white.

 

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

References

“Delicious Passionfruit Recipes.” The Northern Star. August 3, 1933.

“PASSIONFRUIT.” The Sun. January 8, 1939.

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates. Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2012.

 

Soyer’s Oxtail Soup

 

Alexis Soyer

Alexis Soyer, frontispiece engraving from A Shilling Cookery for the People, 1855, public domain.

A few years ago, I read Relish: The Extraordinary Life of Alexis Soyer, Victorian Celebrity Chef by Ruth Cowen, and now Alexis Soyer seems to pop up everywhere I turn. He was an amazing man, one of the first celebrity chefs (complete with his own line of cookbooks and product endorsements) but also an inventor and entrepreneur. Although in his restaurant he mostly cooked for the wealthy and famous he was also involved in philanthropic projects including setting up soup kitchens in Ireland during the Great Famine and working with Florence Nightingale to reform army cooking during the Crimean War.

Soyer's Kitchen at Scutari Barracks

Alexis Soyer’s Barrack Hospital kitchens in Scutari, Turkey during the Crimean War. Wood engraving. Licensed by the Wellcome Collection under CC BY.

Soyer also produced several cookbooks with recipes for cheap, simple and nutritious recipes that poor people could make at home, or that charities or institutions could make in bulk. These included Soyer’s Charitable Cookery; Or, the Poor Man’s Regenerator Dedicated to the Benevolent, for the Benefit of the Labouring, and Poor Classes of the United Kingdom (c.1847) and A Shilling Cookery for the People: Embracing an Entirely New System of Plain Cookery and Domestic Economy (1855). While the tone of his writing is self-aggrandising and patronising, Soyer evidently put a great deal of effort into the recipes and considered the equipment that people had, the ingredients they could afford, and their experience with cooking.

The Recipe

The first chapter in the A Shilling Cookery for the People contains 37 recipes for soups, stocks and gravies ranging from the extremely simple rice soup (rice boiled in broth) to the aspirational ‘Good White Mock Turtle Soup’. Needing only a heat source and a pot, these soups were adaptable to both older styles of fireplace cookery and the modern stoves. The recipe that I decided to make ‘Ox Tail Soup in Baking Pan’ would have required an oven, but there is another very similar version available for making it on the stove.

Ox Tail Soup in Baking Pan – Divide two ox tails, wash them well in cold water, then put them in the pan, with three teaspoonfuls of salt, one of pepper, four cloves, a little thyme, if handy, two good onions; add three quarts of water, two tablespoons of colouring; put on the cover, place it in a moderate oven for three hours to simmer, take off the fat, which save for use, and serve. Half a pound of any vegetable, mixed or not, cut in dice, can be added with advantage.[1]

The recipe for colouring is given later in the book:

A Common Batter – Put in a basin six good tablespoonfuls of flour, which dilute very slowly with one pint of milk, add one spoonful of salt, quarter that of pepper, beat an egg well in it, if used for toad-in-the-hole. A little parsley, chopped onions, or a little spice, makes an agreeable change; it will also make nice puddings, if baked alone, or under a joint in a well-greased tin.[2]

This recipe is pretty straightforward. The oxtails I bought were already cut up but if you’re buying a whole oxtail then ask your butcher to section it for you or you can do it yourself by cutting in between the caudal vertebrae (The Seasoned Cook has a video of how to do this). The benefit of using oxtail is that it’s very cheap, and it tastes delicious if you give it a long, slow cooking. Once your oxtails are ready, just stick everything in a lidded casserole dish, or a baking dish covered with foil and let it simmer for three hours. For the vegetables, I used leek, turnips and carrots but you could also use potatoes, pumpkin, peas, swedes, parsnips or celery.

[1] Soyer, A Shilling Cookery for the People, 16.

[2] Soyer, 164.

 

Oxtail Soup made from Alexis Soyer's 1855 recipe

The Redaction

Baked Oxtail Soup

1 tbsp flour

1/6 cup milk

Parsley, chopped (optional)

2 oxtails, sectioned

Thyme

3 tsp salt, plus additional for paste

1 tsp pepper, plus additional for paste

4 cloves

1 onion, chopped

1 leek, chopped

2 turnips, diced

2 small carrots, diced

3 litres water

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Whisk together the flour, milk, and parsley (if using) until it forms as smooth paste and season with the additional salt and pepper.
  2. Place all of the other ingredients in a casserole dish or a baking tray. Stir in the flour and milk paste. Cover with a lid, or with aluminium foil.
  3. Put the dish in the oven and leave to simmer for 3 hours. Skim off any excess fat. Serve hot with crusty bread or buttered toast.

Oxtail Soup made from Alexis Soyer's 1855 recipe

References

Cowen, Ruth. Relish: The Extraordinary Life of Alexis Soyer, Victorian Celebrity Chef. London: Phoenix, 2008.

Soyer, Alexis. The Gastronomic Regenerator: A Simplified and Entirely New System of Cookery; with Nearly Two Thousand Practical Receipts, Suited to the Income of All Classes. London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Company, 1846.

Soyer, Alexis. Soyer’s Charitable Cookery; or, The Poor Man’s Regenerator. 1847. Reprint, London: Simpkin Marshall & Company, 1884.

Soyer, Alexis. A Shilling Cookery for the People: Embracing an Entirely New System of Plain Cookery

and Domestic Economy. London: G. Routledge & Company, 1855.

 

Making Chicha Part 2 – Experimental Chicha, Two Ways

This is the second part of a two-part series on using archaeology to study alcohol production. To read the first part, click here.

In Central and South America today, the word chicha is used for a range of fermented and unfermented beverages; most commonly it refers to maize beer, but chicha can also be made from other grains, tubers and fruits. Archaeological evidence of chicha has been found at many sites in Peru, and has also been suggested for sites in Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia.

Wari wooden beaker (kero), 7th to 10th century, from Peru or Bolivia. These cups were used for drinking chicha. Accession No. 1978.412.214. Licenced by the Metropolitan Museum under CC0 1.0 Universal.

Wari wooden beaker (kero), 7th to 10th century, from Peru or Bolivia. These cups were used for drinking chicha. Accession No. 1978.412.214. Licenced by the Metropolitan Museum under CC0 1.0 Universal.

There are two main ways in which chicha is produced today: either the corn is either germinated and ground, or it is soaked and then chewed. In either approach, the idea is to use enzymes to start breaking down the starches into sugars for fermentation. If you germinate the corn, the enzymes are produced naturally and if you chew the grain, the enzymes are introduced from your saliva.

Purple corn for making chicha.

Purple corn for making chicha.

I started the experiment with some really beautiful purple corn which I soaked for 24 hours and then spread out on damp paper towel to start germination. Unfortunately, after seven days there were no signs of germination. I decided to try the mastication method with this corn instead, and so I mixed it with a little water and chewed it. Once the grain was chewed, I spat it out and formed little clumps of muko which I left to dry. Once again, however, my chicha making was foiled because the muko went mouldy.

Muko, clumps of chewed up corn for making chicha.

Muko, clumps of chewed up corn for making chicha.

With two failures under my belt, I turned once again to the germination method. This time, the corn that I used had already been malted (soaked and germinated) and roughly crushed. I ground the corn more finely with a rolling pin to produced a mixture of small and medium-sized pieces and a powder.

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Grinding the corn for the second attempt at making chicha.

Once all the corn was ground, the corn was placed in a saucepan and covered with hot water. I put a lid on the saucepan and left it to soak for an hour. After the hour had passed, the corn smelled wonderful, very sweet and malty. I added more water to fill the saucepan and brought the mixture to the boil before lowering the temperature and letting it simmer for an hour.

Bubbles show that the chicha is fermenting nicely!

Bubbles show that the chicha is fermenting nicely! There is no yeast added to the mix, but wild yeasts from the skin of the corn and from the air are used to ferment the mixture. Yeast can also be added by adding some older chicha, or by using equipment which has been inoculated with yeast.

Once the chicha was cool I transferred the liquid and half of the corn to a plastic container. The lid was left on loosely, and the chicha left to ferment. After three days, the chicha was bubbling and smelled sweet and tasted like watery corn.

The final product, which tasted like watery corn.

The final product, which tasted like watery corn.

Throughout the process, I took samples of the corn which can now be compared against archaeological samples. Hopefully having comparative samples like this will allow archaeologists to identify chicha production and consumption from residues found in different vessels.

 

Making Chicha Part 1 – Alcohol and Archaeology

This is the first of two posts on using experimental archaeology to study alcohol production in the past. In this post, I’m going to talk about why archaeologists study ancient brewing and one of the ways that archaeologists identify alcohol on sites in the past. The next post will look at an experimental reproduction of chicha, a type of corn beer, which is used to create comparative material for starch analysis.

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Egyptian model of a brewery. The men on the left are mashing starter while the seated man is bottling the beer. Middle Kingdom, RC 483, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Photo by the author.

In the past few decades, archaeologists have started to pay a lot more attention to alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer. In part, this is because we now have much better techniques for recovering and analysing even very small samples of residues from the inside of brewing containers. At the same time, archaeologists have also started to realise that alcohol plays important social roles and studying the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages can help us answer much bigger questions about state formation, social stratification, gender roles and the domestication of plants.

Traditionally, alcoholic drinks have been studied as part of historical diets mostly as an important source of calories, nutrients and water. Even though that is definitely the case, consumption is always about more than just survival; as Dietler says, “People do not ingest calories, or protein: rather, they eat food, a form of material culture subject to almost unlimited possibilities for variation …”.[1] Which foods we consider edible, what we think of as a complete meal, how we know when and where is appropriate to eat, and the order of foods in the meal all depend on your culture and social position.

Wine press in Shivta, Israel. The remains of processing facilities like this are one of the clearest signs of alcohol production at a site,  but normally archeologists have to combine different types of evidence to make a convincing argument. צילום:ד”ר אבישי טייכר [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Foods are particularly loaded with symbolism because they literally become part of us when we eat them. As such, they help us construct individual and group identities. As an example, just think about how different coffee orders signal different identities. Asking for a coffee in a diner is different from ordering a vanilla soy latte in a keep cup at Starbucks which is different from ordering a single-origin cold brew in a hipster cafe, and each order helps to signal membership in a different group identity.

Brian Hayden has argued that through providing feasts, some people were able to control access to alcohol and so to leverage the group identity that was created by sharing it for political purposes.[2] He suggests that having extra grain at the end of the season allowed some individuals to make alcohol which could then be used to through feasts. When you throw a feast, the people who are invited are then obliged to give something back, either by inviting you to their own feast, or by providing labour or goods in return. This creates distinct classes of people, those who can afford to throw feasts and those who cannot. Different would-be leaders would compete to throw the best feasts, and to control the largest amount of labour (for large building projects like city walls, palaces etc.) or tribute in goods.

An example of a standard Late Uruk bowl from Mesopotamia. It has been suggested that these bowls, which are ubiquitous in this period, were used to distribute rations of grain or perhaps bread. VA 15455 from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

An example of a standard Late Uruk bowl (VA 15455) from Mesopotamia. It has been suggested that these bowls, which are ubiquitous in this period, were used to distribute rations of grain or perhaps bread. Licenced by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE.

In other cases, the state produced and distributed alcohol as part of workers’ rations. Because food and drink are so essential to everyday life, controlling access to food and drink is a very effective form of social control.[3] Intensified state control of beer production has been identified in a number of ancient states including Mesopotamia, Egypt and Peru, and would have been a useful tool in centralising state power.[4]

Since alcohol clearly played an important role in ancient societies, it is important that archaeologists study it. However, recognising alcohol brewing and consumption on archaeological sites can be very difficult. For the most part, archaeologists rely on finding multiple lines of evidence, including equipment or installations for brewing, residue analysis, and plant remains. Finding just one of these elements, such as plant remains, might be evidence of lots of different practices but if we can find multiple types of evidence then that makes it more likely that people really were brewing or drinking alcohol there.

One of the ways that we can potentially identify brewing is through starch analysis. Starch grains are often left on tools and equipment that are used for preparing and serving plant-based foods and beverages, including alcohol. Starch analysis can be used to identify the type of grains, rhizomes or tubers that are present and sometimes even how they were prepared. Cooking, for example, causes the grains to burst and swell in distinctive ways although unfortunately, cooking also makes it harder to identify the type of grain!

Incan urpus or storage jar, 15th to 16th century, Met Museum

Incan urpus or storage jar, 15th to 16th century. These jars were used for making, storing, and transporting chicha, among other things. Accession No. 1978.412.68. Licenced by the Metropolitan Museum under CC0 1.0 Universal.

In order to identify the starch grains and the preparation techniques used, it is important for archaeologists to have comparative samples which show what different grains look like, and how different preparation techniques (such as soaking, grinding, chewing, baking, boiling etc.) affect them. In the second post of this series, I’m going to walk you through how I made an experimental batch of chicha to make comparative samples.

[1] Dietler, “Food, Identity, and Colonialism,” 222.

[2] Hayden, “Feasting in Prehistoric and Traditional Societies.”

[3] Pollock, “Feasts, Funerals, and Fast Food in Early Mesopotamian States,” 18.

[4] Hastorf, “Gender, Space, and Food in Prehistory”; Jennings, “A Glass for the Gods and Gift to My Neighbor: The Importance of Alcohol in the Pre-Columbian Andes”; Joffe, “Alcohol and Social Complexity in Ancient Western Asia”; Pollock, “Feasts, Funerals, and Fast Food in Early Mesopotamian States.”

References

Dietler, Michael. “Food, Identity, and Colonialism.” In The Archaeology of Food and Identity, edited by Katheryn C Twiss, Occasional Paper No. 34., 218–42. Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, 2007.

Hastorf, Christine A. “Gender, Space, and Food in Prehistory.” In Engendering Archaeology, edited by Joan M Gero and Margaret W Conkey, 132–59. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1991.

Hayden, Brian. “Feasting in Prehistoric and Traditional Societies.” In Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, edited by Polly Wiessner and Wulf Schiefenhovel, 127–47. Providence: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Jennings, Justin. “A Glass for the Gods and Gift to My Neighbor: The Importance of Alcohol in the Pre-Columbian Andes.” In Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History, edited by Gretchen Kristine Pierce and Áurea Toxqui, 25–45. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2014.

Joffe, Alexander H. “Alcohol and Social Complexity in Ancient Western Asia.” Current Anthropology 39, no. 3 (June 1, 1998): 297–322. https://doi.org/10.1086/204736.

Pollock, Susan. “Feasts, Funerals, and Fast Food in Early Mesopotamian States.” In The Archaeology and Politics of Food and Feasting in Early States and Empires, 17–38. Springer, Boston, MA, 2003. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-306-48246-5_2.

 

 

Wartime Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

In a total coincidence, it is both jam month in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, and the Recipes Project Virtual Conversation month. If you haven’t been following along with the conversation, check it out because there are loads of really interesting things going on covering all types of recipes in all periods.

 

One of the projects that I’ve been really interested in is the series of videos by Simon Walker called “Feeding Under Fire”. In each video, Simon recreates a dish that soldiers would have eaten during World War 1, and contextualises it with information about nutrition, supply lines and what was happening on the home front.

 

The second video in the series (see it here) was all about the important role that jam played in soldiers’ diets. The recipe that he used was for plum and apple jam, which seems to have been the most common type of jam sent to the front lines. Even though Simon wasn’t very happy with how his jam turned out, it inspired me to make a WW1 era jam too.

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A recipe for the ubiquitous plum and apple jam, from the Southland Red Cross Cookery Book, 1916.  

In Australia during the First World War, there wasn’t rationing like there was in Britain. Food prices rose rapidly, and the State and Federal governments had only mixed success in setting prices for staple food. With complete control over the sugar industry, it was easier to restrain the market. When sugar prices rose overseas, the Australian government banned exports, in order to maintain sufficient supply at home.[1]

 

Because sugar was available in greater quantities, and generally for a lower price than in Europe, it was easier for Australian home cooks to keep making jam. Large quantities of jam were made to be sent to Australian soldiers overseas, often in packs of treats sent by the Red Cross or the Australian Comforts Fund.

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“Special Effort – 2 tons of jam made by the Cobar Ladies Jam Club”. World War I – Cobar, NSW. Courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

Commercially made jam was available too, and it featured prominently in the meals provided to Australian soldiers. A large surplus of tinned jam was also sold to the British and American armies. In total, the export of jam during the war was 40 times as large as in the pre-war years.[2] As in England, much of this jam seems to have been plum and apple, but sometimes more unusual varieties appeared too.[3] According to Barbara Santich, the Imperial forces bought nearly 2,000 tons of Queensland pineapple jam![4]

 

Strawberry jam doesn’t seem to have been very common, presumably because strawberries are expensive to buy and comparatively low yielding. Some newspapers published recipes for mock strawberry jam, made with rhubarb and raisins (I also like this recipe from the Second World War which uses tomatoes and strawberry flavouring).

 

Still, strawberry jam was clearly available. In 1940, Colonel J. Travers suggested that it should be given to all soldiers, because he recalled that “During the last war, we were usually issued with strawberry jam only before a fight … but there seems no reason why these men should not have strawberry jam at other times.”[5] It’s not hard to imagine the excitement that a jar of strawberry jam would have caused, nestled in a comfort box with warm socks and a bit of cake. It was a taste of home, and a welcome distraction from the monotony of bully beef and hard tack.

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

The Recipe

This recipe was published in The Farmer and Settler, a NSW newspaper in January 1915.

Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe

Personally I prefer this method of making, as it does not mash the fruit: – Strawberries that are to be used for the purpose of this jam must be gathered after two or three days of dry weather. The berries should not be over-ripe.

The usual method is to lay the fruit and the sugar in alternate layers in the preserving pan, and to boil the jam very gently over a medium heat until it jellies when tested in the usual way. Three-quarters of a pound of sugar per pound of strawberries is generally sufficient, but if the berries do not appear to be particularly sweet, five pounds of sugar to each six pounds of strawberries will be a better proportion.[6]

 

If you want a jam with large pieces of fruit in it, this method of layering the fruit and sugar works really well. However, the proportion of sugar to fruit is quite high, so the final result is very sweet. It is also a very soft set jam, almost a syrup, because strawberries are low in pectin and there is no pectin added to the recipe.

[1] Scott, Australia during the War, XI:646–48.

[2] Ibid., XI:544.

[3] “War With Jam On It: As It Seems to Veterans.”

[4] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 254.

[5] “Strawberry Jam for the Soldiers.”

[6] “Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe.”

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

The Redaction

Strawberry Jam No. 2

Strawberries

Sugar

 

  1. Hull your strawberries, and weigh them. Measure out 3/4 of that weight in sugar (so if you have 400g strawberries you need 300g sugar).
  2. Take a preserving pan large enough to fit all your strawberries and sugar. Place half the strawberries in the bottom of the pan and spread them out to make an even layer. Put half the sugar on top, followed by the remaining strawberries and the rest of the sugar. For large quantities you may want to increase the number of layers.
  3. Slowly heat the mixture, without stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. Then cook the jam over medium heat until it set using the wrinkle test (it will be about 105C). Pour the hot jam into sterilised jars and seal.

 

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe (available here)

The Date: 1915

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 45 mins.

How successful was it?: It’s very sweet, with a strong strawberry flavour. I really like the large pieces of strawberry, but I found the set too syrupy for my taste.

How accurate?: The main difference would probably be in the bottling process, although I suppose that there could also be differences in the type of strawberries and sugar. Overall, though, it’s a pretty good approximation.

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

References

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage. South Australia: Wakefield

Press, 2012.

Scott, Ernest. Australia during the War. Vol. XI. The Official History of Australia in the War of

1914-1918. Sydney, Australia: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1936.

“Strawberry Jam for the Soldiers.” Sydney Morning Herald. January 12, 1940.

“Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe.” Farmer and Settler. January 5, 1915.

“War With Jam On It: As It Seems to Veterans.” Worker. January 23, 1940.

 

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

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