Monthly Archives: October 2010

Quince Marmalade

Today I’m making something I’m a little more familiar with cooking: marmalade! I found a website where you can order quinces, although because shipping of perishable goods is pretty hefty, I want to make sure I use them in a recipe with a high chance of success (thus increasing the likelihood that I will get to try my quinces in a finished dish!) Quince was one of the most popular fruits in Markham’s day–it appearsed probably more often than any other fruit in The English Housewife, and that holds true for the other books I’ve looked at as well. Its history goes back to ancient times, and although they aren’t especially common now in the U.S., they are a popular addition to recipes in several global cuisines. The fruit is useful in these sorts of preparations because of its high pectin content, which allows the marmalade to thicken considerably. Markham’s recipe (pg 112 of Michael Best’s book) goes as follows:

Marmalade of Quinces Red

To make red marmalade of quinces; take a pound of quinces and cut them in halves, and take out the cores and pare them; then take a pound of sugar and a quart of fair water and put them all into a pan, and let them boil with a soft fire, and sometimes turn them and keep them covered with a pewter dish, so that the steam or air may come a little out; the longer they are in boiling the better colour they will have; and when they be soft take a knife and cut them cross upon the top, it will make the syrup go through that they may be all of a like colour; then set a little of your syrup to cool, and when it beginneth to be thick then break your quinces with a slice or a spoon, so small as you can in the pan, and then strew a little fine sugar in your box’s bottom, and so put it up.

He also has a recipe just below it for “Marmalade white:”

To make white marmalade you must in all points use your quinces as is beforesaid; only you must take but a pint of water to a pound of quinces, and a pound of sugar, and boil them as fast as you can, and cover them not at all.

The quinces I received are huge (about a pound each), so I used one for each type of marmalade.


Large quince fruit prior to cooking.

Red Marmalade

As per Markham’s instructions, I peeled the quince, halved it, and cored it. The peels are thin, so you can use a vegetable peeler unless you prefer working with a knife. Markham urges readers to let the quince boil for as long as possible to develop the color, so I planned on simmering them for about 2 hours. This marmalade is very easy to make, and like the strawberry conserve I made a while back, it’s something you can have on the stove without attending to it constantly. Here is the recipe for those who wish to try it:

Red Quince Marmalade

1 lb quince(s)

2 1/4 c sugar

4 c water

  1. Peel the quince using a knife or vegetable peeler, cut it in half and remove the core.
  2. Place in a medium saucepan with the water and sugar.
  3. Simmer over a low heat, loosely covered, for about 2 hours. Turn fruit occasionally during cooking.
  4. After the first half an hour, take a knife and made two perpendicular cuts on the outside of each half.
  5. Once most of the water has evaporated and the fruit is in a thick syrup, use a spoon or potato masher to break the quince apart into evenly distributed bits.
  6. Allow to cool.

White Marmalade

The only difference between this and the preparation method above is that it is cooked quickly to prevent the red color from developing. The raw quince fruit has a light, cream-colored flesh, and so in this instance we are trying to preserve that color rather than allow the reactions to occur that turn cooked quince red (see a blog post with a brief explanation of that process here). The water is reduced by half so that it evaporates more quickly.

White Quince Marmalade

1 lb. quince

2 cups water

2 1/4 cups sugar

  1. Peel, halve, and core the quince.
  2. Combine the halved fruit in a pot with the water and sugar.
  3. Boil rapidly until a thick syrup develops (about 30 minutes), then break down the fruit with a spoon or potato masher to desired smoothness.
Quince marmalade

The finished white and red marmalades.


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Try and Try Again

If you remember from last week, I tried two times to make Paste of Genoa (pg 116 in Best) using apples. I suspect part of the reason for my failure lies in the fact that our produce today is different from what it used to be: I am still trying to find good sources that will explain how vegetables and fruits looked in the 17th century, but from what I’ve read in other sources it seems that apples were much smaller. Today, I am trying this paste (again) using Red Bartlett pears, which seemed to be the most firm variety available at the Co-op. Here’s a reminder of the recipe:

To make a paste of genoa, or any other paste.

To make paste of Genoa, you shall take quinces after they have been boiled soft, and beat them in a mortar with refined sugar, cinnamon, and ginger finely searced, and damask rose-water  till it come to a stiff paste; and then roll it forth and print it, and so bake it in a stove; and in this sort you may make paste of pears, apples, wardens, plums of all kinds, cherries, barberries, or what other fruit you please.

I am also implementing what I learned from the last attempts in the hopes that it will produce the paste-y texture I seek!

The Cooking Process

I boiled the pears until they were just soft enough to be mashed, hoping this would keep any excess water from them. I then strained them, put them back into the pan, and mashed them. Last time, I let the apples sit in the strainer for about 5 minutes while I used the back of a spoon to press any excess moisture from them. This time, I did that several times to make sure I get all the water out that I could. I measured out equal weights of sugar and fruit pulp and combined them, but ran into the same problem I ran into with the apple paste, where the sugar would start dissolving right away (see photo below).

Pear soup, even after adding 2 cups of sugar.

Pear soup, even after adding 2 cups of sugar.

I thought I would have to scrap this recipe, until it occurred to me that I could have just put all this fruit in the food processor from the beginning, and that would make a much finer fruit pulp than I would be able to do by hand with a plastic potato masher. I put the sugary pears into the food processor, then strained them again (bringing me down to about 1/4-1/3 cup of pear pulp). I added more sugar along with the ginger, cinnamon, and rose water, and it seemed like it *might* be turning into paste. Sugar still dissolved, but it dissolved less, and I was able to get it into the mold well enough.

The last time I did this, I tried to bake the paste very slowly, and discovered that all it did was make a sugary soup in my oven which was very unpleasant to clean. To avoid a repeat performance, I baked it in the mold (it was still a little too soft to just shape in the mold and then bake) on high to see if that would help. The answer is: no, it does not. Still got the same bubbly soup. It confirms my suspicions that the pears and apples we find commonly today are just not close enough to reproduce this recipe. You’ll notice that Historic Food’s Quince Recipe page has these decorative pastes made from quinces, so it may be that I would need to use those. The quince paste is also very thin, and I was unable to get either the pear or apple pastes to be wafer-thin in my pan. After three tries, I think it’s safe to say that fruit pastes and I are not going to meeting again anytime soon, so I’ll be moving on in the coming weeks to try other recipes. Sorry Markham.

Kitchen scale

Weighing out fruit pulp on the kitchen scale.


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Want More Markham? Other Published Resources

I have found quite a few good articles on Markham’s The English Housewife so far, and have discovered that since his own writing spanned so many disciplines, he invites study and criticism from a number of modern disciplines including history, medicine, and literary criticism. For those looking for a few extra resources, or to approach the text from different perspectives, these are a great place to start. It should be noted that most of these articles do not focus exclusively on Markham, but instead situate his work within a larger discussion along with other writings.

Knoppers, Laura Lunger. “Opening the Queen’s Closet: Henrietta Maria, Elizabeth Cromwell, and the Politics of Cookery.” Renaissance Quarterly 60 (2007): 464-499. (This article talks about the portrayal of powerful women in cookery manuals that were produced after Markham’s. What struck me the most was the author’s discussion of the Cromwells as the focal point of The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth. The author notes that, while early manuals like Markham’s applauded frugality and country living, this later book marks those behaviors as a mockery (pg 487). )

Leong, Elaine. “Making Medicines in the Early Modern Household.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 82, vol. 1 (2008) 145-168. (While Markham is mentioned only in the briefest of terms, the subject matter of this article reminds us of a very important part of The English Housewife that is not being explored in my project. That is the matter of healthcare, which was a major part of the housewife’s duties. Markham spends a lot of time talking about how to create and use treatments for a staggering array of ailments, many of which involve herbal compounds that are consumed or placed on the flesh. There is also a part for surgery, as the housewife may have needed to perform a procedure to help with injury or disease. )

Martin, Meredith. “Interiors and Interiority in the Ornamental Dairy Tradition.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 20, vol. 3, (2008): 357-384. (This article deals with Markham’s writing on dairies, a part of The English Housewife, in great depth. Martin uses Markham’s work as a way of discussing women in the English dairy. She also relates the attributes Markham encourages in the housewife of purity, patience, gentleness, delicacy, and charity to later conduct books’ classification of ‘good’ women. (pgs 358-359). She also reminds us of the role of servants: while Markham’s work was directed toward literate middling and upper-class women, this dairy work would have been done largely by female servants, with the housewife herself performing more of a supervisory function (pg 359). )

Wall, Wendy. “Why Does Puck Sweep?: Fairylore, Merry Wives, and Social Struggle.” Shakespeare Quarterly 52, vol. 1 (2001), 67-106. (Wall provides an insightful look into gender in early modern England, and while I recommend reading the whole article, there are a couple notes from it that are particularly relevant to this project. First is her note on page 77, where she notes that the first English cookbook was addressed to elite male readers, but that subsequent books, including Markham’s, moved toward addressing women. Her footnotes also provide great references for tracking down other contemporary cookery book authors, whom I will be mentioning in the ‘about’ section).

Mylander, Jennifer. “Early Modern ‘How-To’ Books: Impractical Manuals and the Construction of Englishness in the Atlantic World.” The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 9, vol. 1 (2009) 123-146. (Mylander deals with Markham’s writings in great depth as she discusses how they circulated across the Atlantic to find their way into Colonial American homes. Both Markham and Nicholas Culpeper, who wrote somewhat later, promoted self-sufficiency, and both of their books were amongst those that were shipped to the Americas (and which the Mylander says were considered indispensable to colonists of all classes, on page 124). While Mylander does discuss the English Housewife, it is in the context of his larger body of work, particularly in showing how that work promoted ‘English-ness,’ but also how the agricultural practices in his other books did not fit with the new world).

While not relevant to this project, per se, Markham wrote a sizable number of other texts on horsemanship, soldiery, hunting, and agriculture; he even wrote some fiction earlier in his life. Those texts are referenced in a number of scholarly articles that may be of interest, including:

McMullin, B.J. “Early ‘Secular’ Press Figures.” The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 10, vol. 1, (2009): 57-65.  (Mentions ‘A Way to Get Wealth’ and ‘Cheap and Good Husbandry’).

Golz, David. “Diamonds, Maidens, Widow Dido, and Cock-a-diddle-dow.” Comparative Drama 43, vol. 2, (2009): 167-196. (Mentions ‘The Dumb Knight,’ a work of fiction by Markham. There are many other articles out there that talk about his fictional writing within the context of contemporary literature).

Kelly, Ann Cline. “Gulliver as Pet and Pet Owner: Conversations with Animals in Book 4.” ELH 74, vol. 2 (2007): 323-349.   Landry, Donna. “The Bloody Shouldered Arabian and Early Modern English Culture.” Criticism 46, vol. 1 (2004): 41-69.    (These talk a bit about Markham’s horsemanship manuals, of which he had many).

Benson, Sean. “‘If I do prove her haggard’: Shakespeare’s Application of Hawking Tropes to Marriage.” Studies in Philology 103, vol. 2 (2006): 186-207. (This text mentions Markham’s book, Country Contentments, especially its advice for falconers.)

Mullett, Charles F. “Gervase Markham: Scientific Amateur.” Isis 35, vol. 2 (1944) 106-118. (While this article is significantly older than the others, I like it because it gives an overview of Markham’s different writings and their subject matter).

Wall, Wendy. “Renaissance National Husbandry: Gervase Markham and the Publication of England.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 27, vol. 3 (1996) 767-785. (This article talks about Markham’s writing as a whole, and particularly focuses on his definitions of English agriculture as being unique from that of other countries. This is a very useful article, and I’m sure I’ll cite bits of it later on. Even if the scope is a bit different from that of this project, I definitely recommend it as a go-to source for Markham researchers).

I’m sure there are a ton more articles that talk about Markham, and that I didn’t mention here. Obviously there’s Michael Best’s edited version of The English Housewife, but because I have spent quite a bit of time with it already I don’t want to list it as a ‘new resource!’ If there is a citation that I failed to include, please put it in the comments! It would be great to give readers as many resources as possible for learning more about Markham.

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Apple Paste

One of the recipes in Markham’s book is for ‘Paste of Genoa.’ The recipe is found on pg 116 of Michael Best’s edited version of the text:

To make a paste of genoa, or any other paste.

To make paste of Genoa, you shall take quinces after they have been boiled soft, and beat them in a mortar with refined sugar, cinnamon, and ginger finely searced, and damask rose-water  till it come to a stiff paste; and then roll it forth and print it, and so bake it in a stove; and in this sort you may make paste of pears, apples, wardens, plums of all kinds, cherries, barberries, or what other fruit you please.

To see some beautiful examples of what these pastes look like, spend some time on Historic Food. Unfortunately, I am having a really tough time sourcing quinces, although I finally found a place that sells them here. It’s good news for the quince marmalade I want to make in the future! Quinces are related to pears, and so I considered using pears in this recipe to try to emulate the texture, etc. I may do that at some point, but I decided instead to use apples (which Markham also says will work in this recipe) because our local orchards produce some great varieties that I’m looking to add into more of the food I prepare.

If you looked at the Historic Food site, you will see that these pastes were put in molds before baking to create elaborate shapes. I actually have a pan I got at a second hand store that will be absolutely perfect for this, and I am really excited to use it.


Apple paste pan

My copper pan, complete with camel


The process of creating the paste itself is one that I feel warrants a couple side notes. First of all, it suggests beating the boiled apples in a mortar with the remaining ingredients. Unfortunately, my mortar and pestle are rather small, which means that I will either have to work in 5 or 6 very small batches, or I will have to improvise using a larger bowl. I do have some bowls that will work, so perhaps I can use my small pestle with them. Best’s endnotes also bear mentioning here–the first says that Markham’s writing, as well as that of his contemporary, Hugh Platt, recommend using 1/2 pound of sugar for each pound of ‘quince pap.’ Platt’s book, The Ladies Companion, gives a much better description of the technique than Markham: “Set your [paste spread on a] pie plate in a warm oven or stove (upon two billets of wood for to keep it from the bottom of the oven) all night; then on the morrow turn it, and so do it every day until it be dry.” (Best, 266, quoting from Platt, pg 46). To try and emulate this in a modern oven, I’ll set it to the lowest setting (‘warm’ or about 200 degrees). Then I can leave it on today while I’m up so that I can keep an eye on it and make adjustments as needed before letting it continue to dry tonight while I sleep.  More updates to come as the day continues!


So the first step is to boil the apples. Since Markham gives no special instructions about boiling them with sugar or anything, I just chucked them in a pot with some water. I’m using Rome apples because they are cultivated more for cooking than for eating raw (although they are delicious raw as well!) from Apple Cart Orchard in Vinton, IA. I am using five medium-sized apples (not the giant ones in the supermarket), chopped and boiled.

In order to get the correct amount of sugar, I had to use a 2:1 ratio of apples to sugar. This time, my kitchen scale is out and usable! I had about 720 grams (~1.5 lbs) of cooked apples, so I figured I would need to use about 3/4 lb. of sugar to mash with the fruit. Unfortunately, my estimate was wrong (very wrong indeed). I think the big secret with this recipe, were I to make it again, is to not only strain the apples but to mash them and strain the mashed apples before adding the sugar. I made the mistake of adding the 2 1/4 c sugar prior to straining, only to discover that it looked like applesauce. After straining that mixture, I kept adding more and more sugar to make this elusive ‘paste’ Markham was aiming for (I added another 3 1/4 cups) but I actually ran out of sugar before I got to a paste that could be rolled out. The recipe might not be salvageable (we’ll see), but I’m cooking it in the oven at 200 right now to see if I can slowly dehydrate it, and perhaps end up with the same end product that just takes longer to make!

The flavorings I added were definitely on the mark, though, so if nothing else I will have an *incredibly* sweet and delicious mixture. As per Markham’s recipe, I added rosewater (1/8 c), cinnamon (1 tsp), and freshly grated ginger (1 tsp). You can buy rosewater at specialty markets, or you can make it by infusing water with roses by gently simmering. The flavor is deep and complex, which is one of my favorite parts of using these kinds of spices and waters. I left it in the oven for several hours, only to discover that it (not surprisingly) was not going to dehydrate to the paste I needed it to be. So, now I have a pie filling, and I’m en route to the store to get more apples to make it a second time!


So I made the paste a second time! I’ve decided that the problem might be the fruit I’m using: even after squishing all the water out of the apples after mashing them, I still couldn’t get a paste once I added the sugar. So, now I have two batches of pie filling! I’ll have to give it a shot with pears later on.

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The Markham Meal

One of my project committee members suggested that creating a ‘Markham meal,’ rather than a hodgepodge of recipes, would be a good way create a coherent whole from the different items I cook. I agree, and so I’ve been searching for information on the size of meals and the number of dishes involved so I can get a sense of what the final spread will look like!

The first obvious place to look is to Markham himself. While I’m not planning on hosting a banquet (I live in an apartment…) Markham’s “Ordering of banquets” (Best, pg 121) gives us a sense of the variety of foods eaten at this sort of meal:

I will now proceed to the ordering or setting forth of a banquet; wherein you shall observe that marchpanes have the first place, the middle place, and last place; your preserved fruits shall be dished up first, your pastes next, your wet suckets after them, then your dried suckets, then your marmalades and goodinyakes, then your comfits of all kinds; next, your pears, apples, wardens baked, raw or roasted, and your oranges and lemons sliced, and lastly your wafer cakes. Thus you shall order them in the closet; but when they go to the table, you shall first send forth a dish made for show only, as beast, bird, fish, or fowl, according to invention: then your marchpane, then preserved fruit, then a paste, then a wet sucket, then a dry sucket, marmalade, comfits, apples, pears, wardens, oranges, and lemons sliced; and then wafers, and another dish of preserved fruits, and so consequently all the rest before: no two dishes of one kind going or standing together, and this will not only appear delicate to the eye, but invite the appetite with the much variety thereof.

Yep. Lots of stuff. But doable! All the dishes are going to be chosen from the recipes available in Markham based mostly on 1. my budget and 2. what I can find in Iowa. For those confused by the terminology above, you’ll be pleased to know that Best’s edited version has a glossary and extensive endnotes.

Here’s a list of the different courses, with some definitions, to give you a sense of what I’ll be doing (I’m going by the order in which they’re carried to the table, in case you were wondering):

  1. Beast/Bird/Fish/Fowl for show: There are a ton of recipes for meat and fish in the book, so I may even try one fish dish and one meat dish.
  2. Marchpane: Marzipan. Markham has a recipe ‘to make the best marchpane’ (which you can gild, if you desire), that is on pg 116 of Best.
  3. Preserved fruit: I need to do some more research to figure out whether he means preserved whole fruits or whether the conserve I made counts in this category.
  4. Paste: A paste of fruit and sugar that’s been baked. Markham’s recipe for ‘a paste of Genoa, or any other paste’ (pg 116) will probably fit the bill.
  5. Wet sucket: Fruit in syrup. There’s a recipe for suckets made from half-ripe fruit (page 120) that I might try, especially in the middle of winter when we get those awful half-ripe oranges at the grocery store. At last, a use for them!
  6. Dry sucket: Candied fruits/flowers. The recipe on pg 120 ‘To candy any root, fruit, or flower’ seems the obvious choice, and I do really like candied flowers. That recipe, apparently, is based upon another by Sir Hugh Platt, and so I might look at both to get  better sense for what I’m doing.
  7. Marmalade: Like today’s marmalades. There’s one for oranges on page 117, and if I can track down some quinces, the marmalade on page 112 would be fun to try.
  8. Comfits: sweetmeat or candy. With the number of sweet recipes in the book, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one.
  9. apples, pears, wardens: these can be baked, raw, or roasted, so the current plan centers around roasting them or perhaps baking them into a pastry. (Wardens, by the way, are cooking pears, according to Best’s index). Also oranges and lemons sliced, although the jury is still out on how I plan to prepare those.
  10. Wafers: I know I’ve seen recipes for wafers, but cannot remember what exactly they entail (nor were they to be found in the index or glossary). I’m sure they’ll be delicious. Wafers are a very thin, crisp, and sweet cookie-like food.
  11. Another dish of preserved fruit!

There will be a lot of sugar in my diet in the coming months–you’ll notice that nearly all of these dishes would be things we would associate today with sweets/desserts. Also notice the lack of any ‘sallats’ (salads), and the fact that only one meat dish is present. That, in fact, is why I chose this menu over the others on the following pages. The ‘great feasts’ are out of my budget and not really feasible. The great feast menu includes multiples of each of these dishes: sallats (grand, green, boiled, and compound), fricassees, broths, roast meats (starting with ‘the greatest first’), then hot baked meats, cold baked meats, carbonadoes, wild fowl, land fowl, and fish in various preparations. The ‘more humble feast’ suggests 16 meat dishes interspersed with sallats, fricassees, and quelquechoses, for a total of about 32 dishes (Best, 121-124).  Some of that food sounds delicious, but in order to stick with a meal in my budget, I’m sticking with the more sugary stuff and the one meat dish. Perhaps I’ll get the chance to try more!

Let the cooking commence!


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Getting the Ball Rolling

So this project has been evolving for a while, but now it’s finally starting to pick up steam to a point where I can start posting more often! Since I’ve originally crafted this idea, it’s grown quite a bit. I am still going to be testing recipes from Gervase Markham’s book, The English Housewife (first published in 1615), and I will still be sharing what I learn with you on this blog.

I’m also very excited about the tangible portion of the project, which has evolved into a fun little side project in and of itself. As you might remember from the ‘about’ section, I’m going to be calligraphing and binding a small pamphlet-style book that will include the recipes I write about on here. After talking with my Center for the Book committee, we’ve expanded this even further! Now, it’s going to include the recipes and illustrations (think an old-timey Mollie Katzen cookbook), along with a print-on-demand version including information from the blog and extracts from the original Markham text. I am also looking into making an e-book version, and I hope to make that accessible across as many platforms as possible (I just published my research blog on the Kindle store, and I’m hoping to do that with this blog too!)

I would love to hear feedback from blog readers on this: what could I do to make this type of project more interesting from the reader’s perspective? Are there other new (or old) media you think this type of project would be a good fit for? How do you think using digital media assists in our understanding of these older texts?

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