An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Tag: English (page 1 of 1)

Two Medieval Fruit Purees

In May, in between lockdowns I was able to attend my first medieval event in about four years, and it has inspired me to finally post some of the medieval recipes I’ve been working on. When we camp at events in the fourteenth-century ‘village’ breakfast is always a problem. Evidence for breakfast is patchy during the medieval period.

Woman in medieval clothing stirring a pot over the fire, in a medieval encampment

We know that some people certainly ate in the mornings but with ‘dinner’ the main meal of the day eaten mid-morning it can be difficult to know if references to breaking the fast refer to a separate meal or simply the first time people ate during the day i.e. at dinnertime. The first reference to breakfast in English recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1463, when Sir John Howard recorded “exspensys in breffast” on a trip around Suffolk and Norfolk.[1] By 1478 the draft ordinance for the king’s household allowed for “a large breakfast” for the king, queen and anyone waiting upon them.[2]

 

Even for hard-core re-enactors, getting up at 5am to start cooking in order to serve the main meal of the day at 9 or 10am is a hard ask on a weekend. At public events, when one of the main goals is to show people medieval cooking techniques, it is also counter-intuitive to finish most of the cooking before the public have arrived on site. As a result, we normally eat our main meal later in the day, and our hungry peasants definitely require something to keep them going until then.

 

Then there is the issue of what foods to serve. I have searched high and low for breakfast in the late 14th and early 15th centuries but with limited success. The Franklin in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (written c. 1387-1400) loves a “sop in wyn” in the morning – this is bread soaked in wine, possibly sweetened and spiced. The edition of household accounts of Dame Alice de Bryene from 1412-1413 translated by Marian Dale lists breakfast as a separate meal every day[3]. The accounts for breakfast are not separated from the other meals, but daily lists of ingredients suggest it would have been made up of bread, fish (fresh and preserved), meat, and ale/wine.

 

Across the 14th and 15th centuries, the most commonly mentioned foods for breakfast include salt fish, bread, beer and cheese. Fish and beer might work for some people but it is a hard sell for modern tastebuds, and difficult to make work for the range of modern dietary requirements we have on site.

 

One of the ways we deal with this is to make 14th century recipes that are more familiar as breakfast to people today, even though they were not necessarily eaten as breakfast in the past. This can include things like tostees dorees (often interpreted as an early version of French toast), pancakes, gruel or porridge.

 

Pour faire Tostees dorees, prenez du pain blanc dur et le trenchiez par tostees quarrees et les rostir ung pou sur le grail; et avoir moyeulx d’oeufz batuz et les envelopez tres bien dedans iceulx moyeulx; et avoir de bon sain chault et les dorer dedans sur le feu tant qu’elles soient belles et bien dorees et puis les oster de dedans la paelle et mettez es platz, et du succre dessus.[4] – Le Viandier de Taillevant (from a 15th century version, but the original was written c. 1300)

 

To make golden toasts, take hard white bread and slice it into squares and toast it a bit on a grill, and have beaten egg yolks and coat the toasts well. And have good fat hot and cook them in it on the fire until they are beautiful and golden, and then take them out of the pan and put them on plates, with sugar on top.

 

All of these dishes can also be livened up a bit with accompaniments. I’ve been playing around with some different fruit dishes to make breakfasts more interesting and to give some variation. Below you can see medieval crespes (crispy pancakes) with the chardewardon.

 

pancakes with pear puree on a shallow plate with a spoon

The Recipes

 

I’ve picked two recipes for stewed fruit to play around with. The nice thing about these is that they are very easy, but also scalable and pretty flexible when it comes to the type of sweetener, thickener and spices.

 

The first recipe for chardewardon, comes from a mid-fifteenth-century cookbook but appears in a number of versions in different texts. I have made it as a kind of applesauce, but with pears, so it is still quite runny. Some of the other versions mention cooking it in a coffin (pastry crust) to make a kind of pie, or making it like chardequince which is commonly understood to be more like quince paste, so there are lots of different ways you could make this. I made this a little too sweet, so have reduced the amount of sugar and honey here but sweeten it to taste.

 

Chardewardon – Take Pere Wardonys, an sethe hem in Wyne or in fayre water; þan take an grynd in a morter, an drawe hem þorwe a straynoure wyth-owte ony lycoure, an put hem in a potte with Sugre and clarifiyd hony, an Canel y-now, an lete hem boyle; þan take it fro þe fyre, an let kele, an caste þer-to ȝolkys of Raw eyroun, tylle it be þikke; & caste þer-to pouder Gyngere y-now, an serue it in manere of Fysshe;*. [For Rys; see Douce MS. No. 53, and the end of this recipe. A. also reads fische.] an ȝif if it be in lente, lef þe ȝolkys of Eyroun, & lat þe remenaunt boyle so longe tylle it be þikke, as þow it had be temperyd wyth þe ȝolkys, in þe maner of charde quynce; an so serue hem in maner of Rys.[5]

 

Take warden pears, and boil them in wine or in fair water; then take and grind them in a mortar, and strain them through a sieve without any liquid, and put them in a pot with sugar and clarified honey and enough cinnamon, and let them boil. Then take it from the fire and let it cool, then add raw egg yolks, till it be thick, and cast thereto powdered ginger, and serve it in the manner of fish [this seems to be a mistake, because the recipe continues with how to make it during lent and instructs you to serve it in the manner of rice]. And if it be in Lent, leave out the egg yolks, and let the remaining boil so long that it it is thick, as though it had been tempered with the egg yolks, in the manner of chardequince, and so serve it in the manner of rice.

chardewardon (spiced pear puree) in a wooden bowl with a spoon.

For the second recipe, I chose a potage of prunes from Harley MS 5401 which is another fifteenth century manuscript with copies of fourteenth century recipes. Even though it is called potage of prunes, the instruction to rub/squeeze them well to wring out the juice makes it clear that we are dealing with plums and not prunes (dried plums) in the modern sense of the word. This came out beautifully, and had a lovely tartness to it in addition to the gorgeous colour. I will definitely be making this again.

 

Potage of Prunes. Recipe prunes & wesh þam clene & frote þem wele in a cop tyll þe juyse be wele wrong oute; þan do it in a pot & put þerto whyte grece & hony or sugure, & boyle it togyder, & þyk it with þe floure of rise or of wastylls. And when it is sothen dress it up in dyshys, & cast þeron powdyr of galingal, & serof it forth.[6]

 

Stewed Prunes. Take plums and wash them clean, and rub them well in a cup until the juice is well wrung out; then put it in a pot and put thereto white grease and honey or sugar, and boil it together, and thicken it with rice flour or breadcrumbs. And when it is softened put it into dishes, and cast thereon powdered galangal, and serve in forth.

bowl of stewed plums with a spoon

[1] “Breakfast, n.,” in OED Online (Oxford University Press), accessed June 28, 2021, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/22928.

[2] Alec Reginald Myers, The Household of Edward IV (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959), 204.

[3] Vincent B. Redstone, ed., The Household Book of Dame Alice de Bryene of Acton Hall, Suffolk : September 1412 to September 1413, with Appendices, trans. Marian Dale (Bungay: Paradigm, 1984), http://archive.org/details/householdbookofd0000unse.

[4] Thomas Gloning, “Taillevent, Viandier (Manuscrit du Vatican),” Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, August 20, 2000, https://www.uni-giessen.de/fbz/fb05/germanistik/absprache/sprachverwendung/gloning/tx/vi-vat.htm.

[5] Thomas Austin, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books : Harleian MS. 279 (Ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (Ab. 1450), with Extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 (London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1888), 12, http://name.umdl.umich.edu/CookBk.

[6] Sam Wallace, “MS Harley 5401,” Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, September 4, 2011, https://www.uni-giessen.de/fbz/fb05/germanistik/absprache/sprachverwendung/gloning/harl5401/MS_Harley_5401_body_annotated.htm.

The Redactions

Chardewardon

1 pear

Enough white wine to simmer

1 tsp honey

1 tsp sugar

1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste

1 egg yolk

1/4 tsp ground ginger, or to taste

 

Peel, core and chop the pear then simmer it in just enough white wine to cover it. When it is very soft, mash it in a mortar then push it through a sieve (or use a food mill). Put back in the saucepan with honey and sugar to taste (I would start with about 1 tsp of each and go from there), and ground cinnamon, bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool (you don’t want to scramble the egg), then whisk in the egg yolk. Return it to the heat and cook gently until it is as thick as applesauce, then stir in the ground ginger.

 

 

Stewed Plums

5 plums, ripe but still tart

A large knob of butter

1 tbsp honey (ish) (or sugar)

2 tsp riceflour (ish) (or breadcrumbs)

Ground galangal and/or cinnamon/cloves/ginger

 

Wash the plums, then cut them in half and remove the stones. Mash the plums as best you can, then put them with their juice into a pot and add the butter and honey. Boil it together until the plums are very soft and falling apart (continue mashing as you go). Take a little bit of the liquid and whisk it into the rice flour, then stir this mixture into the rest of the plums. Bring to the boil and allow to thicken slightly. Season to taste with the spices you are using.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

 

A Recipe for Ginger Beer, or How to Paint Your Ceiling with Alcoholic Beverages

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

Since I’ve got a bit more time on my hands at the moment, I’ve been busy doing some sewing and trying to get as many unfinished projects done as I can. While I sew, I like to watch something that I’ve seen before so that I can still concentrate on whatever I’m working on.

So there I am, watching ‘Victorian Farm’ and sewing away. It’s the height of the Brisbane summer, so it’s hot and humid. Then suddenly, Peter is making homemade ginger beer and they all drink it and look so cool and refreshed. And so, of course, I had to try making some.

The Recipe

Capture

The recipe for ginger beer that I used from Philp, The Family Save-All, 167.

The recipe comes from ‘The Family Save-All’ which is a mid-nineteenth century cookbook all about using up left-overs and cheap ingredients. I’ve used it before, when I was making potato pudding and it’s a great source for cheap, everyday recipes.

The recipe would make an enormous amount of ginger beer, so even though the recipe warns that making a smaller quantity might make an inferior product, I reduced all the ingredients significantly.

Overall, it produced a very fizzy but quite pleasant ginger beer. I would have preferred a stronger ginger flavour and slightly less sugar but it was very refreshing.In the end, I didn’t measure how alcoholic it was, but do be careful because it certainly gave me a bit of a buzz.

The other thing to watch out for is the level of carbonation. If you bottle it after only four days, it will continue to ferment in the bottles. It’s really important that you put it into plastic bottles and that they get refrigerated. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me with ginger beer exploding all over the ceiling!

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

The Redaction

Ginger Beer

45g ginger
4.85l water
650g sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 tbsp honey
2g lemon essence
1 sachet ginger beer or beer yeast, dissolved in a little water that has been boiled and cooled

1. Sterilise all your equipment. Cut the ginger into chunks, put it in a bag and bruise with a rolling bin.
2. Place the ginger in a large saucepan and add 850ml of the water. Bring it to the boil, and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Stir the sugar, the lemon juice, and the honey into the hot ginger water, then add the remaining water. Bring to the boil, then strain out the ginger and pour into a 1 gallon demijohn. Allow the mixture to cool until it is just lukewarm.
4. Stir in the lemon essence and the yeast. Set up the airlock and allow to ferment for 4 days.
5. On the fifth day, sterilise your bottles, lids and siphoning equipment. Siphon the ginger beer into plastic bottles, while trying not to disturb the yeast residue. Don’t fill the bottles completely, but leave some space at the top. Press out the air from this space, then cap. As the ginger beer continues to ferment, the bottle will expand. Once the bottles are expanded and hard, you must refrigerate them to keep them from exploding.
Note: This recipe isn’t written for beginner brewers. If you haven’t brewed before, then you should consult a basic guide for how to set up your equipment, do the siphoning etc. This guide is for mead, but I really like how intuitive it is, and it covers a lot of the skills you’ll need.

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Ginger Beer (available here)

The Date: 1861

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 5 days

How successful was it?: Other than the one bottle that exploded, it was pretty good. As I said, the ginger flavour wasn’t particularly strong and I don’t know if that was the result of reducing the quantities, or if it just wasn’t very strong to begin with.

How accurate?: The big change that I made was omitting the egg white. It was just going to be too difficult to add 1/14 of an egg white. I imagine that the main purpose of the egg white is to help clarify the ginger beer, so  I think that it would make more of a difference to the way it looks rather than the taste. The other big difference is the type of yeast that I used, and the way that it was introduced. The recipe didn’t specify, but it was probably a liquid yeast taken from the sludge left from beer brewing, rather than a modern dried yeast.

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

References

Philp, Robert Kemp. The Family Save-All, a System of Secondary Cookery. Second. London: W. Kent and co., 1861.

A Plum Tart for Christmastide

 

img_5626It’s quite amazing, how regularly historical recipes will prove you wrong. So often I think that a recipe will just never work, and it’s so tempting to “fix” it by using modern techniques. Once again, however, this 17th century recipe for a Christmas plum tart shows what great results you can get by following the instructions as they are.

This recipe comes from Folger MS v.a.21, fol.146 and was posted on the Shakespeare’s World blog. If you aren’t aware of Shakespeare’s World, you should definitely check it out. It’s a crowd-sourced project which lets you help transcribe recipes and letters from the 16th and 17th centuries.  I think it’s a wonderful example of the digital humanities in action, and that they’ve had so much interest is really great news for future projects. My one beef is that the transcribed pages are not yet available to the public (although this is apparently in the works).

But back to the tart. Folger MS V.a.21 is an anonymous receipt book dated to about 1675, containing both medical and cooking recipes as was common in the 17th century.[1] Although the recipe is called ‘A receipte for damsons to bake at Christmastide or anie other plum’ it’s actually a recipe for preserving damsons or other types of plums, and then rough directions are appended for turning the preserves into a tart. The preserves would be lovely in any number of sweets. Don’t throw out the syrup either! It’s great for making mocktails with some soda water, or add some gin or vodka for a refreshing cocktail.

The Recipe

recipe

Plum Tart Recipe from Folger MS V.a.21, fol. 146. Licensed by Folger Shakespeare Library under CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Take 3 pound of damsons & a lof sugar a pint of water put that sugar & that water into a preserving skillett when it boyleth skimm it cleane Let it a cooling then slit the skin of the damsons put them into the Sirrop let them stand on the fire a stewing 2 howres together then take them vp & let them stand by till the next day then doe as before 2 howres till the last of [quarter of] an howre then let it boyle & when they are cold put them vp into gully pottes for that use this will keep till Christmastide masse when you use them to put them into the Tart made as thin as you can raise it because it must not be much baked put more Sugar into them when you bake them.[2]

I was quite surprised that the plums were put into the syrup whole and with their stones still in. It was tempting to remove the pits, but it’s actually much more efficient to just slit the skins and let them boil. After a while, the plums naturally break into halves and the pits can be cleanly lifted out. This method means that there is very little wastage of the fruit. If you were cooking with the smaller, more fiddly damsons then it would make even more sense.

low-quality

The instructions about how to make the tart are very brief, so I used the recipe for ‘Short and Crisp Crust for Tarts and Pyes’ from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby which is a basic hot water pastry.

SHORT AND CRISP CRUST FOR TARTS AND PYES

To half a peck of fine flower, take a pound and half of Butter, in this manner. Put your Butter with at least three quarts of cold water (it imports not how much or how little the water is) into a little kettle to melt, and boil gently: as soon as it is melted, scum off the Butter with a ladle, pouring it by ladlefuls (one a little after another, as you knead it with the flower) to some of the flower (which you take not all at once, that you may the better discern, how much Liquor is needful) and work it very well into Paste. When all your butter is kneaded, with as much of the flower, as serves to make paste of a fitting consistence, take of the water that the Butter was melted in, so much as to make the rest of the flower into Paste of due consistence; then joyn it to the Paste made with Butter, and work them both very well together, of this make your covers and coffins thin. If you are to make more paste for more Tarts or Pyes, the water that hath already served, will serve again better then fresh.[3]

It wasn’t clear to me if the tart was supposed to be self-supporting, or if it would have been in a tin. With hot water pastry you could probably make it self-supporting, but because I wanted the pastry to be as thin as possible that was going to be difficult. Robert May often refers to pies or tarts being cooked in patty-pans or dishes in The Accomplisht Cook (1671), so it seemed reasonable to use a pie tin.

pippin-tart

Design for the lid of a dish of pippins from The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May (1671) [Public Domain].

I used the same pastry for the lid of the tart, and used a selection of small cutters to make a decorative top. For the style of decoration, I drew inspiration from Robert May’s ‘Dish of Pippins’.[4] If you want to see some truly beautiful tarts in this style, have a look at Ivan Day’s cut-laid tarts. He often does them in puff pastry and cooks them separately, which would make a lovely addition to this tart. However you want to do it, this tart makes a lovely addition to any Christmas table!

[1] Anonymous, “Pharmaceutical and Cookery Recipes.”

[2] Tobey, “A Christmas Damson Plum Tart Recipe.”

[3] Macdonell, The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, 216.

[4] May, The Accomplisht Cook, Or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery., 243–244.

 unbaked-pie

The Redaction

Christmas Plum Tart

 

For the plums:

900g Plums

300g Sugar

315ml Water
For the Pastry:

70g butter

300ml cold water

290g plain flour

Eggwash or milk

To make the preserves

  1. Place the sugar and water into a large saucepan and heat bring to the boil.
  2. Use the tip of a sharp knife to slit the skin of each plum vertically around the circumference, following the dent in the plum. Place the plums in the syrup, reduce the heat and simmer for two hours. Allow the plums to cool, move them into a bowl with the syrup and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. The next day, return the plums to the saucepan and simmer for an hour and 45 minutes. Turn the heat up and boil for a final 15 minutes. Sterilise a jar and fill the warm jar with the hot plums.

 

To make the tart

  1. Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Place the butter and the water into a saucepan over medium heat, until the butter is melted.
  2. Place the flour into a bowl and spoon in the melted butter from the top of the saucepan. Add enough of the water from beneath the butter to make a pliable pastry.
  3. On a floured board, roll out the pastry while still warm. Lightly grease a 24cm tart tin, and line it with pastry. Roll out the excess again, and cut a circle for the lid. Decorate the lid as desired with a sharp knife or biscuit cutters.
  4. Fill the tart base with the preserved plums. Lay the lid on top and brush the pastry with eggwash or milk. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or cold.

baked-pie

The Round-Up

The Recipe: A reciept for damsons to bake at Christmastide or anie other type of plum from Folger MS.V.a 21 Pharmaceutical and Cookery Recipes (original images available on the Folger website, transcription available on the Shakespeare’s World blog)

The Date: c. 1675

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 4 hours boiling plums, plus an hour for the tart and overnight resting

How successful was it?:  The filling is very sweet, and I was glad that I didn’t add any extra sugar to the tart. I was worried that the filling was too liquid but it ended up being fine and was delicious, particularly when served warm.

How accurate?: I didn’t use damsons and I didn’t add any extra sugar, it was already very sweet. I didn’t keep the preserves for very long, and I would be interested to see how they would last given that they aren’t sterilised in a hot water bath, as most modern preserves are. I’m not sure how accurate the use of the pie tin is, but it certainly worked well. It might be more accurate to use a shortcrust or puff pastry lid, and certainly the decoration was only roughly inspired by the May’s cookbook.

References

Anonymous. “Pharmaceutical and Cookery Recipes.” Manuscript, c 1675. MS V.a.21. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Macdonell, Anne, ed. The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened. London: Philip Lee Warner, 1910.

May, Robert. The Accomplisht Cook, Or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: printed by R.W. for Nath: Brooke, 1671.

Tobey, Elizabeth. “A Christmas Damson Plum Tart Recipe.” Shakespeare’s World, December 24, 2015. https://blog.shakespearesworld.org/2015/12/24/a-christmas-damson-plum-tart-recipe/.

Mastabas, Pyramids and Gumdrops: Cocoa-nut Cakes from Gaskell’s North and South

IMG_3965

My blog has been sadly neglected over the past few months; my thesis, a family wedding, an unexpected trip overseas and just normal life craziness has been getting in the way. I’m afraid that it probably isn’t going to get much better this year, but as an apology here is my entry for the HFF Literary Foods challenge (which was only due a week ago).

 

One of my favourite books is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I like to describe it as Jane Austen with a social conscience; although it is ultimately a romance, the novel is bound up in concerns about class, industrialisation and poverty. Like many other Victorian novels (and indeed earlier English novels), food often isn’t discussed explicitly because it is not in good taste to talk about food too much in public [1]. That being said, there is a lot of food in North and South and the food, or lack thereof is a major device within the novel[2].

 

Luckily for me, there is one scene in particular which mentions an actual dish and it just happens to be one of my favourite sections of the novel in which Mr Thornton, mill-owner and love interest, comes to the Hales’ for tea.

“Behind the door was another table decked out for tea, with a white table-cloth, on which flourished the cocoa-nut cakes, and a basket piled with oranges and ruddy American apples, heaped on leaves.”[3]

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The Recipe

The cocoa-nut cakes which Dixon, the cook and special confidante of Mrs Hale, has made were made from eggs, sugar and grated coconut. Koivuvaara believes that these were made from eggs, sugar and grated coconut[4]. This lines up with the recipe provided in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. It is also similar to that provided in Miss Leslie’s book, Seventy-five Receipts For Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats (1828) which also contains spices. However, other recipes call only for egg whites e.g. Jennie June’s American Cookery Book (1870), Creole Cuisine (c. 1885) and Eliza Acton’s recipe for ‘Very Fine Cocoa-nut Macaroons’ in Modern Cookery for Private Families (1868). Robert Wells provides quite a different recipe in The Bread and Biscuit Baker’s and Sugar-Boiler’s Assistant (1890) including flour, chemical leaveners, butter and milk. I chose Mrs Beeton’s recipe, but perhaps it would have been more successful if only the egg whites had been used.

 

IMG_3968

Mrs Beeton’s recipe is as follows:

 

COCOA-NUT BISCUITS OR CAKES.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—10 oz. of sifted sugar, 3 eggs, 6 oz. of grated cocoa-nut.

Mode.—Whisk the eggs until they are very light; add the sugar gradually; then stir in the cocoa-nut. Roll a tablespoonful of the paste at a time in your hands in the form of a pyramid; place the pyramids on paper, put the paper on tins, and bake the biscuits in rather a cool oven until they are just coloured a light brown.

Time.—About 1/4 hour. Seasonable at any time.[5]

However, I’m sure that Dixon did a much better job than the melted, collapsing pyramids that I managed. My only solace is that I don’t seem to be alone in having difficulty with this recipe. SJ Alexander over at The Queen’s Scullery had a go at the same recipe a few years ago, and said “Shaping the coconut was not even remotely possible, and the eggs migrated out of the coconut haystacks to form custardy pools around the macaroons’s ankles, which turned crispy in the oven. When they came out, they tasted delicious, but fell apart the minute I tried to move them off their tray. The funny thing was that the recipe did not differ greatly from modern coconut macaroon recipes–I’m not sure what went wrong, exactly. Shelling and preparing fresh coconut was a fun experience, and it was noticeably different from preshredded coconut from the store.”[6]

 

Mine seemed to hold up a bit better than hers, and I think that’s because I used store-bought desiccated coconut. Desiccated coconut was first produced in 1880 in Sri Lanka, before then it had to be produced at home.[7] Eliza Acton describes how it’s done:

“Rasp a fresh cocoa-nut, spread it on a dish or tin and let it dry gradually for a couple of days, if it can be done conveniently …”[8] Whilst making your own desiccated coconut would certainly be an interesting thing to try, it wasn’t something I had time to do, and other than perhaps giving some insight into the coarseness of the coconut required, I’m not sure that it would make all that much difference.

IMG_3973

The first batch which melted into one big mass

Using the quantities given, I could roughly shape the mixture, but they were more mastaba than pyramid. What I found was that with a bit of extra coconut, I could shape the mixture into pyramids, but when my first batch went into the oven (at 150ºC), they slumped joined together. I had better luck with the last couple, to which I added even more coconut and cooked at a higher temperature (180ºC). This batch also had far fewer on the tray, and so they had room to spread out without touching each other. I’m still not sure though that they are quite the shape that Mrs Beeton was suggesting. They went into the oven as pyramids, and came out as large gumdrops.

 

[1] McWilliams, “‘A Vulgar Care’: Talking about Food in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Novels”; Moss, Spilling the Beans.

[2] see Koivuvaara, “Hunger, Consumption, and Identity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels.”

[3] Gaskell, North and South, 90.

[4] Koivuvaara, “Hunger, Consumption, and Identity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels,” 136.

[5] Recipe 1740 Beeton, Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

[6] Alexander, “Doing Bad Things to Innocent Cucumbers.”

[7] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 201.

[8] Acton, Modern Cookery, for Private Families, 545.

IMG_3979.JPG

The second batch, they held together but I’m still not sure they could really be called pyramids. 

The Redaction

Cocoa-nut Cakes

290g sugar

2 large eggs

170g desiccated coconut, plus enough to make into a mouldable paste (about 5 tbsp more)

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Whisk the eggs until pale and frothy. Gradually whisk in the sugar to make a thick, silky batter. Stir in the coconut. Try to shape a dessert-spoonful into a pyramid. If the mixture is too soft, add more coconut, until they will hold the shape nicely.
  3. Place the pyramids on the baking tray, leaving lots of room between them. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Cocoa-nut Biscuits or Cakes from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management  (available at http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10136/pg10136-images.html).

The Date: 1861

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins.

How successful was it?: The first batch melted into one shapeless mass, and while they tasted great (like coconut ice but crunchier) the fell apart when you lifted them. The second batch held their shape much better, thanks to extra coconut and you could even lift them up.

How accurate?: I wonder if including the egg yolk was a mistake, because a lot of the other recipes just use the egg white beaten to stiff peaks. I think that would help hold the shape better. I didn’t grate and dry my own coconut, but I do think that the coconut should be dried and not used fresh. At the same time, I don’t know exactly what texture of coconut should be used, mine was quite fine and maybe it should have been coarser.

IMG_3976.JPG

Bibliography

Acton, Eliza. Modern Cookery, for Private Families: Reduced to a System of Easy Practice, in a Series of Carefully Tested Receipts, in Which the Principles of Baron Liebig and Other Eminent Writers Have Been as Much as Possible Applied and Explained. London: Longman, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1868.

Alexander, SJ. “Doing Bad Things to Innocent Cucumbers.” The Queen’s Scullery, January 28, 2010. http://thequeenscullery.com/2010/01/28/doing-bad-things-to-innocent-cucumbers/.

Beeton, Isabella, ed. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. London: S.O Beeton, 1861.

Cunningham Croly, Jane. Jennie June’s American Cookery Book. New York: The American News Co., 1870.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. London: Penguin Books, 1994.

Hearn, Lafcadio. La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes, from Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous for Its Cuisine. New Orleans: F.F. Hansell & Bro. Ltd., 1885.

Koivuvaara, Pirjo. “Hunger, Consumption, and Identity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels.” University of Tampere, 2012. http://tampub.uta.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/66893/978-951-44-8780-4.pdf.

Leslie, Eliza. Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1828.

McWilliams, Mark. “‘A Vulgar Care’: Talking about Food in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Novels.” In Food and Language: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking 2009, edited by Richard Hosking, 227–36. Great Britain: Prospect Books, 2010.

Moss, Sarah. Spilling the Beans: Eating, Cooking, Reading and Writing in British Women’s Fiction. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage. South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2012.

Wells, Richard. The Bread and Biscuit Baker’s and Sugar-Boiler’s Assistant. London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 1890.

 

 

 

 

‘Pies, hot pies!’

15th century chewets

I’m still catching up with some of the challenges from the Historical Food Fortnightly, but I’ve cooked all but the bonus challenge and the Celebratory Food from back in December so I’ll get them written up as soon as I can.

This recipe is for the Snacky Snackables challenge, and it’s something that I’ve been wanting to make for a while now – chewets. Cheap, fully self-contained for low mess, good for using up off-cuts and leftovers, easily bulked out with some veg and no cutlery required – pies make the perfect on-the go lunch or quick snack. Chewets are just a type of small pie, something like a modern pork pie, and they appear in many of our earliest English cookbooks.

A page from Ulrich von Richental's 15th century The Chronicle of the Council of Constance. Note the oven on wheels, that's real fast food! See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A page from Ulrich von Richental’s 15th century The Chronicle of the Council of Constance. Note the oven on wheels, that’s real fast food! See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pies were sold piping hot and ready to eat by street-peddlers from at least the 13th century. According to Martha Carlin, cookshops and street vendors primarily served the poor in large, over-populated towns where cheap lodgings didn’t always have a fire for cooking, let alone an oven for baking.[1] The cries of the peddlers, tempting their customers in, are recorded in collections or in literature, such as the following from Piers Plowman:

“Cooks and their knaves cried ‘Pies, hot pies!
Good pork and good goose! Come, dine! Come, dine!’

Taverners unto them told the same tale:
`White wine of Alsace red wine of Gascony,
Wine of the Rhine, of Rochelle to help settle your meat!’”[2]

 

The Recipe

The recipe that I used comes from MS Harley 5401, a 15th century manuscript. It is a very simple recipe which uses left over chicken, but it is a bit unusual because the chewets are fried instead of baked.

Chewets, before being fried. As you can see, I made two different shapes to see which one worked better. I liked the flatter shape better, but it was harder to form and had more of a tendency to fall apart during cooking.

Chewets, before being fried. As you can see, I made two different shapes to see which one worked better. I liked the flatter shape better, because it cooked faster and more evenly, but it was harder to form and had more of a tendency to fall apart during cooking.

“Chewets. Recipe pe draghtis of capons or of hennes & shop pam small. Take & cast powdyr of gynger & cloes, pepyr & salt, & put pam all in a lityll cofyn & close it abowne, & fry hym in fresh grece, & serrof pam forth .ij. in a dysch.”[3]

The filling was simple to do, just mix some shredded chicken with spices, but the pastry was more problematic. There are several different camps among food historians and re-enactors when it comes to medieval pastry. Some people think that the pastry was simply not eaten, others that it was made only from flour and water but was still eaten, others that it must have included fat or eggs. The problem is that recipes from the time assume that people know how to make pastry and only mention diversions from the norm e.g. using chestnut flour or adding saffron. You can see two different interpretations of the evidence here and here.

For my pastry I used one of Eulalia Piebakere’s redactions for a boiling fat pastry, which is itself based upon Savouring the Past’s recipe for a Standing Paste Pie Crust. Not having done enough research myself (although I do mean to do more) I haven’t really made up my mind about the fat/no fat issue, although I do think that at least some of the crusts must have been eaten, otherwise why add chestnut flour or saffron? I also think that it makes more sense if hot pies being sold as street food had edible crusts. It’s hardly a convenience food anymore if you have to remove the crust and scoop out the insides.

The Redaction

100g plain flour

30g wholemeal flour

21g of butter

21g of lard

1/4 cup water

Salt

1 chicken breast, cooked (or any bits of cooked chicken left over from a roast or boiled chicken)

Pepper and salt

1/4 tsp ginger and cloves

Lard, to fry

  1. Put the butter, lard and water in a small saucepan and heat until it is just about to boil.
  2. Place the fat and a pinch of salt into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the hot fat and water, then mix it until it comes together as a ball.
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth, and split the dough in quarters. From each quarter remove a walnut sized piece for the lid, then shape the chewet cases using either this method or this method (the first is probably easier to make, but you will need more fat to get it to cook properly, the second is a bit more fiddly but give a flatter pie that is easier to cook).
  4. Shred the chicken breast and stir in the spices. Season to taste. Share the filling between the pie cases. Roll out the lids and, using a little water to moisten the edges, place on the chewets and pinch around the edge to seal.
  5. Heat the lard in a frying pan, saucepan or wok. The amount of lard needed will depend on the shape of your pan, and the height of your chewets. Essentially the melted fat should reach about halfway up the chewet. Test that the lard is hot enough by putting a little pastry in the pan and see if it sizzles. When the fat is hot, add the chewets and cook until golden brown. When the bottom is done, flip the pies over very carefully and fry the other side.
  6. Drain the fried chewets on kitchen paper and serve hot.

15th century chewets

The Round-up

The Recipe: Chewets from MS Harley 5401 (available here)

The Date: 15th century

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: About 1 hour.

How successful was it?: Very tasty, and it was much easier to make the cases and to fry the pies than I was expecting.

How accurate?: The biggest issue is the pastry, and without doing a lot more research I’m not sure how accurate it was. There are a lot of different opinions about medieval pastry amongst historians and re-enactors, including a basic divide over whether it was eaten or not.

[1] Martha Carlin, Food and Eating in Medieval Europe (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998), 31–51.

[2] William Langland, The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman, ed. Rachel Attwater, trans. Donald Attwater and Rachel Attwater (London: J.M Dent & Sons Ltd., 1957), 6.

[3] Constance Hieatt, “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary,” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 58.

Bibliography

Carlin, Martha. Food and Eating in Medieval Europe. Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998.

Hieatt, Constance. “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary.” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 54–69.

Langland, William. The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman. Edited by Rachel Attwater. Translated by Donald Attwater and Rachel Attwater. London: J.M Dent & Sons Ltd., 1957.

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