An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Tag: Fruit (page 1 of 2)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Capture

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.

bcp_05694h

“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

To Candy Orring Pills

Candied Orange Peels, 17th century recipeI don’t quite know why, but I had kind of assumed that candied orange peel would date to the late 17th century, like jellied marmalades. I was quite surprised, then, to find that candied fruits, and candied peel, are actually quite a bit older.

 

Preserving in a sugary syrup – whether it’s made from honey, wine, grape must, or sugar – is a very effective way of preserving seasonal products. There is a long history of preserved or candied fruits in China and Korea, dating back to the 10th century, and the Romans preserved quinces and other fruits in honey, or in desfrutum (boiled down new wine) or must.[1]

 

Candied citrus in particular was an expensive gift, and an extravagant ingredient during the 14th and 15th centuries.[2] In Medieval Europe, both honey and sugar were used for preserving a range of fruits, herbs, nuts and spices. This late fourteenth century recipe from The Menagier de Paris uses honey:

 

To make orengat, cut the peel of an orange into five segments, and with a knife, scrape off the white pith that is inside. Then soak them in nice, fresh water for nine days, and change the water every day; then boil them in fresh water until it comes to the boil, then spread them on a cloth and let them dry thoroughly; then put them ina  pot with enough honey to cover the completely, and boil over a low fire, and skim it; and when you think that the honey is done (to see if it is done, put some water into a bowl and drop into that water a drop of the honey, and if it spreads it is not cooked; and if that drop of honey holds its shape in the water without spreading, it is done); then, remove your orange peel, and make a layer of it and sprinkle ginger powder on top, then another layer, and sprinkle etc., ad infinitum; leave for a month or longer before eating.[3]

 

In the fifteenth century, Platina suggests that sugar could be used for candying almonds, pine-nuts, hazelnuts, coriander, anise and cinnamon, while honey was better for apples, gourds, citrons and nuts.[4] The Catalan book on confectionary Libre de totes maneres de confits gives both options in most cases, whereas the Italian Libro per Cuoco only uses honey for candying orange peel.[5] Over time, as sugar become cheaper and more widely available, the use of honey became less common.

 

In England, by the sixteenth century, the primary distinction is between wet suckets (stored in syrup) and dry suckets (removed from the syrup and dried).[6] Nearly every published cookbook and private receipt book that survives contains recipes for these kinds of sweetmeats, which would be served in the banquet course at the end of the meal. Sugar was considered health promoting, especially when combined with spices and it was eaten at the end of the meal to promote digestion (for more on this see my post on gingerbread).[7]

 

The range of products which were candied is staggering. Fresh fruits, seeds, spices, green walnuts, marshmallow, angelica, lettuce stalks (sometimes called gorge d’ange or angel’s throat), and eringo (or sea-holly) roots were all fair game. Nor has the tradition completely died out. Many types of dry suckets still survive: in England, particularly around Christmas, baked goods often include candied citrus peel, candied ginger, glace cherries and candied angelica. In France, candied melon is an essential ingredient in calissons while marrons glaces (candied chestnuts) are a specialty of Northern Italy and the Piedmont region. Elvas, Portugal, is famous for its candied greengages. Wet suckets have been less enduring, but you can still buy ginger preserved in syrup.

E11640.jpg

Given how many 16th and 17th century still lives exist showing all kinds of sweetmeats, there are surprisingly few with candied fruits. This early 17th century painting shows a range of candied fruits, both whole and in sections. On the left at the back is what looks like a whole candied citron, slices of another type of citrus, and what might be candied greengages. On the plate in front are candied figs, or maybe small pears. The boxes on the right would hold fruit pastes, and the jars contain fruits preserved in syrup.  Juan van der Hamen, Still Life with Sweets and Pottery, 1627. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipe

All of this leads us to today’s recipe, which comes from Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats (the second half of the Booke of Cookery). This receipt book is typical in that it provides a range of recipes for preserving and candying. The candying section alone has recipes for rose leaves, marigolds, violets, rosemary flowers, borage flowers, eringo roots, elecampane, ginger, orange peel, gooseberries, angelico stalks and roots, and apricots.[8]

 

To Candy Orring Pills

Take Civill orringes & pare them very thin. Then cut them in little pieces, & lay them in faire water a day & a night, & shift them evening and morning. Then boyle them, & shift them when the water is bitter into another water, & continew this till the water & boyling hath made them soft & yt theyr bitterness be gon. Then dreyne ye water from them, & make a thin sirrup, in which boyle them a pritty while. Then take them out & make another sirrup a little stronger, & boyle them a while in yt. Then dreyne ye sirrup from them, & boyle another sirrup to candy heigh, in wch put them. Then take them out & lay them on plats one by one. When they are dry, turne them & then they are done.[9]

 

This is a fairly straightforward recipe for candied orange peels, and indeed modern recipes aren’t dissimilar. The recipe explicitly calls for Seville oranges, which are very bitter (they are still preferred for marmalade) and this explains the soaking and boiling process.

 

What is more unusual, is the way that the peels are removed from each syrup. What is unclear is whether a completely new syrup is made each time, or whether the existing syrup is simply made stronger, either by reducing it, or perhaps by adding more sugar. In the end, I opted to simply use the same syrup, but to boil it down between each stage.

 

For the stages, there are a series of instructions at the beginning of the book which describe each stage. A thin syrup is “will look thin & pale cullered.”[10] A full syrup is a bit stronger, “it will change its culler and looke high cullered like strong beere.”[11] It is not as strong as manus christi height, at which point it will form a thread between the fingers. Hess notes that this is 215F (105C), but this stage would normally be considered a bit hotter at 230-234F or 110-112C.[12]

 

Candy height, which is the final stage required for this recipe is what is now called the large pearl stage. Again, Hess’ temperature of 232F seems a bit low, it’s normally given as 235-239F or 113-115C.[13] Having said that, I have tried it with the temperatures that Hess gives, and they do work. You will just have a more syrupy peel at the end.

 

[1] Vehling, De Re Coquinaria of Apicius, 52; Palladius, The Fourteen Books of Palladius Rutilius Taurus Æmilianus, on Agriculture, 148; Richardson, Sweets, 92; The Korea Foundation, Traditional Food.

[2] Tolkowsky, Hesperides A History of Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits, 150, 166, 269.

[3] Redon, Sabban, and Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy, 218.

[4] Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, 57.

[5] Anonimo Veneziano, “Libro Di cucina/Libro per Cuoco”; Faraudo de Saint-Germain, “Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits. Un Tratado Manual Cuatrocentista de Arte de Dulceria.”

[6] Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 102.

[7] Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, 130–31.

[8] Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, 278–87.

[9] Ibid., 284.

[10] Ibid., 226.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 227; Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 651.

[13] Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, 227; Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 651.

Flegel_-_Stilleben_mit_Gebäck_und_Zuckerwerk

Here is another still life with candied fruit. At the back left, the fruit has clearly been stored in syrup and is still quite wet. It’s hard to make out what the fruit is, but some pears, a lemon, and maybe some melon or gourd. On the plate on the right, the fruit is very dry. This could simply be dried fruit, but it could also be candied fruit. In particular, look in the center, where there is citrus peel holding the dried grapes. Georg Flegel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What can I do with my Orange Peel and Syrup?

 

The easiest thing is to eat it straight, because it is delicious. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but some people might like to roll the peel in sugar, or for a modern option you can dip them in good-quality dark chocolate.

 

You can also keep your orange peel for baking. Lots of modern recipes contain candied peel, including fruitcake, Christmas pudding, panettone or this delicious spiced honey cake. If you want something historical, try one of these recipes:

 

Eccles Cakes via The Old Foodie

Orange Gingerbread via The Old Foodie

Scotch Short-bread via the Old Foodie

Hot Cross Buns via The Cook and the Curator

Mince Pies via Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways

This updated recipe of Martha Washington’s Excellent Cake via the Chicago Tribune

Skirret Pie via Historic Food Jottings

 

And the syrup? It’s got a lovely, gentle orange flavour which would be perfect for pouring over baklava or awamat (Lebanese doughnuts). You could also use it as a simple syrup in cocktails, or use it for an orange syrup cake.

 

My Redaction

Candied Orange Peels

4 oranges, Seville if possible

2 cups water

225g sugar

 

  1. Slice the top and bottom off the oranges with a very sharp knife. Steady the orange on the now flat bottom, and carefully cut the peel of the knife in vertical sections. Carefully remove as much pith as you want (more pith = more bitter) using either a teaspoon or a knife. Slice the peel into thin slices.
  2. Place the peel in a large bowl and cover with fresh water. Cover the bowl and leave for 24 hours, changing the water after 12 hours. The next day, drain the peels, place them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil, then drain the peels, cover them in fresh water and bring to the boil again. Repeat this once more, for a total of three times, then drain the peels.
  3. In the saucepan, combine the water and the sugar. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a simmer. Add the peel, but try not to stir as this will lead to crystallisation. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the peel.
  4. Heat the syrup to 105C, then add the peel. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the peel.
  5. Heat the syrup to 113C,then add the peel. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Remove the peel from the hot syrup and lay them on racks to dry. Once dry, remove them and store them in an airtight container.

 

 

 

Note: you can collect orange peels over time, and keep them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Simply defrost them when you want to use them, and continue with the recipe. If they have been frozen, it is much easier to scoop out the pith with a spoon.

 

 

The Round-Up

 

The Recipe: To Candy Orring Pills from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweemeats

The Date: 17th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 2 days

How successful was it?: I was really happy with how they turned out. They’re very moreish wish a pleasant residual bitterness from the pith.

How accurate?: I didn’t use Seville oranges, which would have been more bitter, and might have needed more pith removed. I also am not sure whether using the same syrup and just making it stronger was the right approach or not.

Candied Orange Peels, 17th century recipe

References

The Korea Foundation. Traditional Food: A Taste of Korean Life. Seoul: Seoul Selection, 2010.

Anonimo Veneziano. “Libro Di cucina/Libro per Cuoco.” Translated by Thomas Gloning.

Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800, 2000. http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/frati.htm.

Faraudo de Saint-Germain, Lluis. “Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits. Un Tratado Manual Cuatrocentista de Arte de Dulceria.” Boletin de La Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona 19 (1946): 97–134.

Hess, Karen. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats. Reprint edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Palladius, Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus. The Fourteen Books of Palladius Rutilius Taurus Æmilianus, on Agriculture. Translated by Thomas Owen. J. White, 1807.

Redon, Odine, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy. Translated by Edward Schneider. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Richardson, Tim. Sweets: The History of Temptation. Random House, 2004.

Young, Carolin C. “Stages of Sugar Syrup.” In The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, edited by Darra Goldstein, 650–53. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. 5th ed. Suffolk and Rochester: Boydell Press, 2005.

Tolkowsky, S. Hesperides A History of Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits. London: John Bale Sons & Curnow LTD, 1938.

Vehling, Joseph Dommers, trans. De Re Coquinaria of Apicius. Chicago: Walter M. Hill, 1936. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Apicius/1*.html.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Historical Recipes for Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons, one from a 12th century recipe and one from a 13th century recipe

The February Mastery challenge from Food in Jars is all about salt preserving. Probably the most common foods that were salted historically were meat and fish, but these are specifically excluded from the challenge. Instead, I’ve gone with classic preserved lemons.

 

Although now something of a favourite with hipster cafes, preserved lemons have a very long history. The 14th century traveller Ibn Battuta described eating them at a meal in Mogadishu, as well as in Kerala, India later in his travels[1]. Talking about the meal he ate in Mogadishu sometime between 1327 and 1330, he wrote:

 

Their meat is generally rice roasted with oil, and placed in a large wooden dish. Over this they place a large dish of elkūshān, which consists of flesh, fish, fowl, and vegetables. They also roast the fruit of the plantain, and afterwards boil it in new milk: they then put it on a dish, and the curdled milk on another. They also put on dishes, some of preserved lemon, bunches of preserved pepper-pods salted and pickled, as also grapes which are not unlike apples, except that they have stones. These, when boiled, become sweet like fruit in general, but are crude before this: they are preserved by being salted and pickled. In the same manner they use the green ginger. When, therefore, they eat the rice, they eat after it these salts and pickles.[2]

 

Preserved lemons from a 12th century recipe

The Recipe

There are two recipes for making these preserved lemons that I’ve been able to find. One was written down by Ibn Jumay, Saladin’s doctor. This 12th century recipe is the one that I used, and very similar to modern recipes:

 

Take lemons that are fully ripe and of bright yellow color; cut them open without severing the two halves and introduce plenty of fine salt into the split; place the fruits thus prepared in a glass vessel having  a wide opening and pour over them more lemon juice until they are completely submerged; now close the vessel and seal it with wax and let it stand for a fortnight in the sun, after which store it away in a cool place for at least forty days; but if you wait still longer than this before eating them, their taste and fragrance will be still more delicious and their action in stimulating the appetite will be stronger.[3]

 

There is also a recipe in the 13th century cookbook ‘Kitab al-Wusla ila al-Habib’ or ‘The Link to the Beloved’.

 

Take lemons, slice them crosswise and fill them with crushed salt. Then press them into a bowl and leave for two nights for them to soften. Then press them very strongly into a glass jar, squeeze lemon juice to cover and pour it over them, and seal with oil. Their flavor keeps well.[4]

 

The process of making either of these recipes is very simple, and it’s definitely worth having a jar in your fridge (keep them refrigerated after opening) to add a fresh lemony flavour to tagines or salads. I don’t know how mine have turned out yet, because I’ve got to wait another 40 days, but I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Preserved lemons from a 13th century recipe

What To Do With Preserved Lemons?

If you’re looking for something historical to do with your preserved lemons, why not try this recipe for Madira from ‘A Baghdad Cookery Book’?

 

Cut fat meat into middling pieces with the tail; if chickens are used, quarter them. Put in the saucepan with a little salt, and cover with water: boil, removing the scum. When almost cooked take large onions and leeks, peel, cut off the tails, wash in salt and water, dry and put into the pot. Add dry coriander, cummin, mastic and cinnamon, ground fine. When cooked and the juices are dried up, so that only the oil remains, ladle out into a large bowl. Take Persian milk, put in the saucepan, add salted lemon and fresh mint. Leave to boil: then take off the fire, stirring. When the boiling has subsided, put back the meat and herbs. Cover the saucepan, wipe its sides, and leave to settle over the fire, then remove.[5]

 

Alternatively there are lots of recipes (many are translated on the Medieval Cookery site) in Lancelot de Casteau’s ‘Ouverture de Cuisine’ from 1604 which call for ‘limon salé’ such as this recipe for sturgeon:

Prennez vne piece d’esturgion bien nettoyée, rostie & fricassée dedans le beurre ou huyle d’oliue, puis vous prendrez vinaigre, & vin autant d’vn que d’autre, & le mettez boullir, vn limon salé par tranches, du saffran, du poiure, fueilles de laurier, rosmarin, mariolaine, racine de rafanus stampee, vne petite poignee de coriandre: estant boully iettez tout chaud sur l’esturgion, & le gardez ainsi bien couuert.[6]

[Take a piece of sturgeon well cleaned, roasted and fricasseed in butter or olive oil, then take equal amounts of wine and vinegar and set them to boil with a sliced, salted lemon, some saffron, some pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, marjoram, pounded radish root, a little handful of coriander: when it is boiling, pour it over the sturgeon and keep it well covered.]

 

Max Rumpolt’s ‘Ein New Kuchbuch’ has a recipe for stewed beef which requires ‘gesalzene limonen’, while ‘The Complete Cook’ contains this recipe for Capon Larded with Lemons

 

To boyle a Capon larded with Lemons.

Take a fair Capon and truss him, boyl him by himselfe in faire water with a little small Oat-meal, then take Mutton Broath, and half a pint of White-wine, a bundle of Herbs, whole Mace, season it with Verjuyce, put Marrow, Dates, season it with Sugar, then take preserved Lemons and cut them like Lard, and with a larding pin, lard in it, then put the capon in a deep dish, thicken your broth with Almonds, and poure it on the Capon.[7]

 

[1] Czarra, Spices.

[2] Batuta, The Travels of Ibn Batūta, 56–57.

[3] Quoted in Tolkowsky, Hesperides: A History of the Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits, 132–134.

[4] Quoted in Perry, “Sleeping Beauties.”

[5] Arberry, “Al-Baghdadi, A Baghdad Cookery Book (1226 A.D./623 A.H.),” 41.

[6] Gloning, “Lancelot de Casteau, Ouverture de Cuisine, 1604.”

[7] W.M., The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chyrugregy, Preserving, Candying and Cookery.

img_5792

The Recipe

Preserved Lemons

Lemons

Sea salt

Olive oil (for sliced lemons)

(Note that these are not exact measurements and will depend on how big your jar is and how big the lemons are)

 

Instructions for whole preserved lemons

  1. Wash the lemons well. Slice down into halves without cutting through the bottom. Repeat at 90 degrees to make quarters.
  2. Put salt in the bottom of a sterilised jar. Layer the lemons in the jar with salt in between the layers. Squash salt down into the cuts of the lemons. Once the jar is full, add another layer of salt on top.
  3. Fill the jar with the juice of extra lemons so that the lemons are totally covered. Put the lid on tightly and leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking the jar gently every few days to distribute the salt. After the fortnight is up, place the jar in a cupboard and wait for 40 days before using. Refrigerate after opening

 

Instructions for sliced preserved lemons

  1. Wash the lemons well. Slice the lemons thinly.
  2. Put salt in the bottom of a sterilised jar. Layer the lemons in the jar with salt in between the layers. Once the jar is full, add another layer of salt on top. Cover and leave for two days.
  3. Fill the jar with the juice of extra lemons so that the lemons are totally covered. Cover with a layer of oil.

 

img_5800

Bibliography

Arberry, A.J, trans. “Al-Baghdadi, A Baghdad Cookery Book (1226 A.D./623 A.H.).” Islamic Culture 13 (1939): 21–47 and 189–216.

Batuta, Ibn. The Travels of Ibn Batūta: With Notes, Illustrative of the History, Geography, Botany, Antiquities, Etc. Occurring Throughout the Work. Translated by Samuel Lee. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Czarra, Fred. Spices: A Global History. Reaktion Books, 2009.

Gloning, Thomas. “Lancelot de Casteau, Ouverture de Cuisine, 1604.” Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800, May 14, 2006. http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/ouv3.htm.

Perry, Charles. “Sleeping Beauties.” LA Times. March 30, 1995. http://articles.latimes.com/1995-03-30/food/fo-48657_1_use-pickled-lemons.

Tolkowsky, Samuel. Hesperides: A History of the Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits. London: J. Bale, Sons & Curnow, Limited, 1938.

W.M., The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chyrugregy, Preserving, Candying and Cookery. London: printed for Nathaniel Brooke, 1655.

 

 

FIJ Marmalade Mastery Challenge

Grapefruit marmalade, recipe c. 1905

Once again, it has been absolutely ages since I’ve posted anything. Unfortunately, the Historical Food Fortnightly isn’t happening this year but don’t worry. This year, Marisa McClellan over at Food in Jars is running a challenge encouraging people to master different types of preserving. Given that food preservation was so important for historical cooks, I thought I’d give it a go. The January challenge was to make marmalade and I’m too late to enter the official challenge (gee, what a surprise!) but my marmalade is done.

 

We’ve got some really lovely grapefruit available at the moment, they’re super sweet and juicy. Because I had all these grapefruits, I didn’t want a mixed fruit marmalade recipe, but pure grapefruit recipes were actually quite hard to find.

The Recipe

In the end, I stumbled across this recipe from the Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2 which was published around 1905.

 

No. 3 GRAPEFRUIT MARMALADE –

Take four large fruit, slice thin and remove seeds; for each pound of fruit add one pint of water. Let stand twenty-four hours; boil twenty minutes until tender; stand again twenty-four hours. For each pound of fruit add one pound of sugar and boil till jellied.[1]

 

The cookbook was one of a series published in the early 20th century by the LA Times Newspaper. They collated recipes from readers and entrants into their recipe competitions, and many are attributed to particular people.

 

This is a whole fruit marmalade, which means that it contains the whole fruit. On the upside, using the whole fruit means that you get more product and that there is very little waste. On the downside, it makes the marmalade very bitter. I quite like marmalade, but I’d have to say that this is really a bit too bitter for my taste. It makes for a bit of a conundrum because the marmalade smells so good that you want to eat more and more of it, but then you get hit by this medicinal aftertaste that makes you regret the decision.

 

Luckily, the marmalade is going to be great as a glaze for roast meat so it will get used eventually. I’ve also used it to make this ricotta tart, which isn’t historical but does have a very medieval flavour profile with the ricotta, pine nuts and orange water (rosewater makes a good substitute too).

[1] The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2, 74.

Grapefruit marmalade, recipe c. 1905

The Redaction

Grapefruit Marmalade

4 grapefruits, ripe

Water

Granulated sugar

 

  1. Scrub the outside of your grapefruit well to remove any wax. Slice them as thinly as possible, removing the ends with no flesh and any seeds. Weight them and place them in a large bowl with 475ml of water for each 450g of fruit. Cover and place in refrigerator for 24 hours.
  2. The next day, transfer the fruit and water to a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for 20 minutes or until the grapefruit rind is soft. Allow to cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.
  3. The following day, weigh the fruit mixture. Place it in a large saucepan with an equal weight of sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil and cook until it is jellied. You can test for set by putting a small spoonful on a cold saucer. If you push it with your finger and the top of the jelly wrinkles, then it is ready (for full instructions see Food in Jars).
  4. Spoon into sterilised jars and cover.

 

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Grapefruit Marmalade from the Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2 

The Date: c. 1905

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?:3 days

How successful was it?: I had a lot of difficulty getting it to set, even when the temperature was at 105˚C. In the end, it didn’t set the first time that I bottled it. I boiled it up again the next day and it eventually set very nicely. I’ve had this problem with marmalade before, more so than with other jams. Apparently I’ve still got a while to go before I can claim to have mastered marmalades!

How accurate?: Given that the recipe is so simple, I’d say it’s pretty accurate. The biggest difference is probably to do with the variety of grapefruits which would have been used in California in the early 1900s. Presumably grapefruits have been bred to be sweeter over time, and they certainly have been bred to have less seeds. I also wasn’t sure if the slices where the right shape, or thin enough. Perhaps they should have been semi-circles instead, and that might have allowed for thinner slices.

Grapefruit marmalade, recipe c. 1905

References

The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2. Los Angeles, California: The Times-Mirror Company, 1905.

 

 

 

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/.

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