Tag Archives: food history

Getting Started on the New Book

(Image can be found here)

After much (much!) delay, including the completion of my PhD, my move to Atlanta to start my job as Rare Books Curator at Kennesaw State University, and many other adventures, I’m finally finding a free moment to start on the second book in the MM series. One of the approaches I considered in this book was seeing what from Markham’s text could be applied to urban container gardening, and given that I live in an apartment without an in-ground garden space, that looks like the path I’ll be pursuing. One sticking point is the limited amount of sun in my yard, but that’s something Future Julia gets to deal with (lucky her).

For now, I’m starting to research the new book, beginning with a quick revisit to English Housewife, and moving on to Markham’s Farewell to Husbandry, Or, The Enriching of All Sorts of Barren and Sterile Grounds in our Kingdome, To Be as Fruitfull in all Manner of Graine, Pulse, and Grasse (at least we know Markham likes to keep his titles short and to the point). EEBO has put some of their online resources into print, so I’ll be looking at a printed reproduction of this book (unlike Best’s reprinting of English Housewife, which reprinted the text itself, this book is just the scans of the original text, so has all the printing quirks commonly found in books of this era).

The book is also going to include some recipes made from locally-sourced produce, so I can talk about how some of these English recipes might look in Georgia, and how they do and don’t mesh with farm-to-table approaches to food. Imported food was definitely a component of the early modern English diet, although less so in the country where residents were farther from central markets. Markham encouraged frugality to a greater extent than many of his peers, so he pushed his readers to maintain a kitchen garden and use food scraps for compost and animal feed. Part of the reason he could encourage this was because he targeted country gentry rather than city dwellers like myself, who have to be a bit more creative with where and how they grow their own food. If you’re very lucky (or I’m feeling very adventurous), I might play around with comparing some recipes and gardening approaches from other contemporary authors with Markham. Or maybe that will wait until book number 3!

Finally, I’m hoping to acquire (through purchasing or donations) books to build up our collection of English cookery manuals at the Bentley, particularly since English books are one of our focus areas. I’m also hoping to collaborate with culinary programs and other food-focused folks to do work around historic foodways, so some of that may be appearing on the blog too. It feels good to be back!

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MM Book Now Available!

There has been a bit of radio silence on the blog for a few months, but with very good reason: I’ve just published Modernizing Markham as a book! All the recipes are there, along with the historical discussions and some additional goodies that aren’t on the blog. As an added bonus, I’m donating a portion of my profits to the Center for the Book, which gave me tons of support and guidance as I worked on the project.

To order a copy, you can share the ISBN (available on the Candle Light Press website) with your favorite local bookseller, or you can order it online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  I’m also having a release party on December 14th at the Spaceport Bar (in the back of Waterworks), so if you’re in the Tallahassee area, stop by and get your copy signed if you would like!

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Boiled Chicken

Well, dear readers, it’s my final recipe for this project, and the only meat dish that’s a part of the banquetting menu. I’ll be back to post updates on the calligraphed book that I’m making and the e-book/print on demand book over the next few months, and I’d love to hear from readers about your experiences with my blog and my versions of the recipes! This final one is for boiled chicken (which sounds less than appetizing but believe me, it’s pretty good). Here’s Markham’s take on ‘an excellent way to boil chickens’ (from page 79 of Best):

If you will boil chickens, young turkeys, peahens, or any house fowl daintily, you shall, after you have trimmed them, drawn them, trussed them, and washed them, fill their bellies as full of parsley as they can hold; then boil them with salt and water only till they be enough: then take a dish and put into it verjuice, and butter, and salt, and when the butter is melted, take the parsley out of the chickens’ bellies, and mince it very small, and put it into the verjuice and butter, and stir it well together; then lay in the chickens, and trim the dish with sippets, and so serve it forth.

I chose this dish because it was one of the few that addressed how to prepare chicken (a much more affordable option in our local store). Most recipes dealt with fish/seafood, lamb, and waterfowl, with the occasional mention of capon and pork. The main preparations seem to be based in boiling the meat or roasting it on a spit. I had hoped to make this dish with capon but alas, at over $30 a bird in our local store, chicken seemed the more appealing option. Unlike today, verjuice (from red grapes) seemed to be popular on both poultry and darker meats. This recipe, like many of the meat recipes (although not all), seemed easy: most involved flavoring/stuffing the meat and then placing it in boiling water or on a spit before plating with a sauce. I was a little nervous about using something stuffed in the bird in a sauce (fear of raw chicken juices) so I cooked the chicken a bit longer than it probably warranted. Mine was a small chicken, so adjust as necessary based on the size of your bird!

-1 whole chicken (mine was a hair under 3 lbs)
-kitchen twine, for trussing
-salt
-1 cup light red wine (a Cabernet Sauvignon would be good here)
-2 tbsp butter
-1 bunch parsley

1. In a large stockpot, bring to a boil enough water to cover the chicken (I probably used ~8 cups) and some salt (I probably used 2-3 tbsp).
2.Take the bunch of parsley and cut of the stems.
3. Holding the bunch tightly, push it into the chicken cavity as far as it will go (leaving too much stem sticking out will make it more difficult to truss the chicken).
4. Truss the chicken.
5. Place the chicken into the boiling water and cook until the chicken is done (it springs back when you touch it and the juice runs clear). Set aside until it is cooled just enough to retrieve the parsley stuffing.
6. In a saucepan, bring the wine to a simmer with 1/2 tsp salt. Add the butter and continue gently simmering.
7. Meanwhile, chop the parsley finely and add to the sauce.
8. Pour the sauce over the chicken in a serving dish.

Well, that’s it for my final project recipes–thanks so much for coming along for the ride! I hope I’ve made these historic recipes seem a little more accessible and encouraged you to branch out and try a few. If you have, I’d love to know about it!

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Interview in the Indiana Food Review

This past week, the Indiana Food Review published an Op-Ed piece by doctoral student Ellen Ireland called “Romanticizing the Historic Diet.” Ellen interviewed me about the Markham project and Robin Danek about her experience trying a paleo diet. Although the projects are very different, she does a great job of talking about how (and why) we feel a desire to revive historic food traditions: in my case, to explore the recipes in order to better understand the past, and in Robin’s case, as a part of leading a healthy lifestyle. I really enjoyed the article and I’m excited Ellen asked me to be a part of it! Blog readers/Twitter followers, I’d love to know what you think, both about the article and about reviving historic diets!

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Wet Suckets (or, candied orange peels)

‘Wet sucket’ is one of the more unappetizing culinary terms I’ve run across, but Markham and his contemporaries would have understood it as referring to fruit in syrup. The Oxford Companion to Food indicates that wet suckets and dry suckets (candied fruit) appeared in England in the early 17th century, right around the time Markham would have been compiling The English Housewife. They were made using fruit, but also vegetables, roots (like Angelica root), and nuts. Markham’s recipe may require a bit more adaptation than the other ones I’ve worked with, both because of size and ingredients.

Here is Markham’s recipe for suckets (from Best, pg 120):
Take curds, the parings of lemons, of oranges or pomecitrons, or indeed any half ripe green fruit, and boil them till they be tender, in sweet wort; then make a syrup in this sort: take three pound of sugar, and the whites of four eggs, and a gallon of water; then swinge and beat the water and the eggs together, and then put in your sugar, and set it on the fire, and let it have an easy fire, and so let it boil six or seven walms, and then strain it through a cloth, and let it seethe again till it fall from the spoon, and then put it into the rinds of fruits.

There are quite a few terms in there that may be worth explaining: wort (or sweet wort) is “the liquor made by an infusion of malt in water, from which beer and ale are fermented” (Best, 312). As awesome as I think home brewing is, I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, so I don’t have the actual malt water that they need. My internet browsing suggests (and please correct me if I’m wrong!) that wort is the substance you have prior to adding the hops. I don’t have any malt here (and I suspect not all my readers keep it around either), so I’m going to cheat (I know, and I’m sorry). Malt is just a sprouted grain using in brewing and distilling, and while I don’t have any wort laying about, I do have malt whiskey. I know it’s not the same, but I’m hoping that adding a little bit of it to the water will be close-ish to the flavor Markham was going for. The amount of sugar Markham asks for is pretty steep too (almost 7 cups) which may warrant halving the recipe to keep me from having to buy more bags of sugar. A few other terms in the recipe you may not know are pomecitron (which, as far as I can tell, is a member of the citrus family although I haven’t found a really thorough description yet), swinge (to whip or beat), and walm (boil). I haven’t found any modern recreations of the wet sucket, so I played it by ear when determining how thick my syrup should be. Since I’m making the fruit in syrup today (and not regular suckets, which are more like hard candy) I won’t want the syrup to completely harden when it cools!

There are a couple things to point out when doing this recipe: first of all, you want to heat the egg white mixture slowly and stir it often so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. Also, don’t whisk it too vigorously (like I did in the beginning) or you’ll end up with fluffy meringue on top of your syrup. If you do get a couple bits of egg that harden, just scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Markham suggests straining the mixture, which leads me to believe that this might be a problem inherent in the recipe. When you’re finished, you’ll have a really thick syrup (egg white has been used as a thickener in foods and binder in all sorts of things, including photographs). Just toss your fruit in there and toss to coat, then put it in a jar!

For the peels:
4 oranges
1/4 whiskey
2 c water

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips of orange rind, being careful to not get too much of the bitter white pith. Cut into bite sized pieces (1/4″-1/2″ long).
  2. Boil the whiskey and water in a saucepan and add the orange peels. Boil until tender (about 10 to 15 minutes). (Sidenote: I also prepared some ginger this way since I had a lot of syrup.)
  3. Drain.

For the syrup:

2 egg whites
8 cups water (make sure its cold or room temperature)
3 1/2 cups sugar

  1. Whisk egg whites into water until incorporated.
  2. Heat slowly over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to ensure that the egg doesn’t scramble. While heating, add the sugar to the water, 1/2 cup at a time.
  3. Boil for 30-45 minutes, or until the syrup is very thick (for those who have made caramel, you want it to coat a spoon in the way caramel sauce does).
  4. Let cool slightly, then toss the orange peels into the syrup and pour the mixture into a jar.

I’m not sure how I’ll serve this yet, although I suspect it would be good on ice cream (which, I know, is not a historically accurate way to use fruit in syrup!)

Candied orangesOranges on top, ginger on bottom.A few hours after posting this, I discovered that the top of the syrup in the jar crystallizes somewhat. This means you can lay the candy out on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and the sugar should crystallize (although it won’t turn into a hard candy, just a slightly crunchy exterior).

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Class and The English Housewife

I have spent a lot of time talking about The English Housewife as an instruction manual and as a place to learn about cookery. What I have spent less time with is the issue of class and audience, those issues that would give us a better picture of who the English Housewife actually was. Beyond her gender and marital status, the title won’t tell us much, but we do know enough about Markham to make some pretty good guesses. Markham is particularly interesting to me because he is writing for a country audience (this and his other books focus on activities that would be undertaken by a husbandman, or small landowner, and housewife), and because he encourages frugality (later authors seem more lavish).

Food and Class

In order to start thinking about class and cookery manuals, it’s important to know what the different classes were eating. Of course social classes were different from how we think of them today–rather than having a ‘middle class’ there were ‘middling sorts,’ which is kind of a hodgepodge term (that I still have trouble defining well) for those who lived comfortably but were not gentlemen/noblemen. The ‘gentry’ were gentleman landowners, whose social status would have been a bit higher.

If you remember my post on the Markham Meal, you probably noticed that the menu was almost entirely vegetarian (save for the one meat dish). That’s not to say that vegetarianism was a common concept in the 17th century (in fact, vegetarian monastic orders were heavily criticized by authors of books on health, who felt a lack of meat shortened one’s life; see Albala 201-202), but rather that there seems to be a misconception that only meat, and not much else, was eaten during this time. Markham does include another menu for a feast that includes a large number of meat dishes, but both this and the banquetting menu I’m working from are noted as not being “of regular use,” but still important for the housewife to be able to cook on special ocassions (Best, 110). Meat had fallen in price in the time after the Black Plague, but its cost had risen by Markham’s time when meat would have been available regularly only to the elite (others ate meat less frequently or ate less expensive cuts, like organ meats–see Albala, 188). Vegetables made up the majority of the diet of the lower classes, who could not afford to have meat or dairy regularly. Meat was commonly eaten by the nobility in the middle ages, but plant-based foods became more popular and began their ascent up the social ladder during this time (Thirsk, 4-8). Books like Markham’s helped further ensure the place of fruits and vegetables on middling tables. These books taught proper social graces and the newest food preparations, and so their inclusion of vegetables made those foods seem worthy of their tables (Schoonover, 20-21).The food on one’s table was indicative of social standing, but was also seen almost as a determinant as well: a peasant eating the food of the peasantry would absorb those elements within the food making it crude, while a courtier’s consumption of exquisite foods served not only as a symbol of wealth, sophistication, and power but also as that courtier’s embodiment of those qualities through the consumption of that food (see Albala, 184).

Cookery Manuals and Class

Most cookery manuals during this time would have been directed toward middling sorts and gentry, and became increasingly popular along with other self-help and how-to manuals (Cormack and Massio, 79-84). Other manuals, such as John Murrell’s A Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen… all seemed to follow the theme of providing readers with the newest preparations of foods that were most fashionable at the time. Markham is interesting because he offers some of these preparations, but does so more to provide a well-rounded education in homemaking to his readers, who would need to know how to prepare such dishes for special guests or occasions (see Best, 110). He focuses more heavily on thrift, and on encouraging the use of items grown in the kitchen garden and available in the home (this may be due in part to his own social status as a gentleman, and the fact that he saw his wealth and status decline over his lifetime. For an excellent biography, see Best’s introduction).

The women who read Markham’s book would not only need to be educated enough to be literate, but would also need to be of a social standing where they were still directly involved within household tasks. Middling women, whose husbands owned estates or ran businesses, worked alongside servants to assist with the growing and preparation of food, as well as the production of household goods, such as linens (Mendelson and Crawford, 307). While women in the gentry and merchant classes also supervised workers and organized household affairs, they were much more directly involved in household labor than noblewomen, who directed the labors of large numbers of servants without direct involvement in their tasks (Mendelson and Crawford, 307-309). These women also were likely to be literate: David Cressy places the gentry along with the clergy and professionals on the “accomplished end of the literacy scale,” and his research shows at least a thirty percentage point difference between them and the next most literate group, comprised of yeomen and tradesmen (Cressy, 124). Thirsk suggests that Markham’s writing bridged the gap between gentry and laboring classes through his simple recipes and his focus on economy (Thirsk, 91-92), and while his work may have been more accessible to them, his use of spices and imported ingredients situates it solidly within a gentry/middling audience. His writing also would have been inaccessible to most members of the lower classes and even to the housewife’s servants, which clearly indicates the country housewife would have used the book in the direct supervision of servants’ work. Literacy among servants in most of the country was low, akin to husbandmen and laborers, with illiteracy rates for servants estimated at 76 percent. Only servants in London were more likely to be literate, with a surprisingly low 31 percent illiteracy rate (Cressy, 129).

I’m hoping to write more soon about the different ingredients in Markham and how these relate to class–please let me know if you have any questions or want me to explain/expand upon anything!

Sources:

Albala, Ken. Eating Right in the Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Cormack, Bradin and Carla Mazzio. 2005. Book Use, Book Theory: 1500-1700. Chicago: University of Chicago Library.

Cressy, David. 1980. Literacy and the Social Order: Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mendelson, Sara and Crawford, Patricia. 1998. Women in Early Modern England: 1550-1720. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Murrell, John.  A Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen… London: widow Helme. 1617.

Schoonover, David E., ed. 1998. Ladie Borlase’s Receiptes Booke. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Thirsk, Joan. 2007. Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads, Fashions 1500-1760. London: Hambledon Continuum.

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Apple Pie…Markham Style!

Today I’m going to be making Markham’s “A pippin pie.” Pippins are cooking apples, and I chose this recipe over Markham’s “codling tart” mostly because it has dates and oranges in it (the codling tart is apples and spices). Over the centuries, both sweet and savory pies have been made as a method of preservation.
I know how to make a modern pie crust (where cold fat is cut into the flour), but pie crusts in Markham’s time were made much differently: the fat was cooked with water, then the hot mixture was added to the flour to form the dough. The crust from this time was called a coffin, and it was filled both with sweet fillings (like the pie I’m making) or savory fillings (mostly meat). There are some good sources online for these crusts, including a good breakdown of recipes for different types of pie crusts on Medieval Cookery (although the references are earlier than Markham, looking at how the pies were made in the previous centuries can give us a sense of how they evolved). The most useful discussion of coffins I’ve found online is Monica Gaudio’s post, (which for those who are curious is the same one involved in the current Cooks Source scandal, and serves as a gentle reminder to all of us to attribute online information to its author). Gaudio’s recipes are great because she shows a 14th century pie recipe, and a 16th century pie recipe, with some discussion of the recipes historically and how the two pies differ. Best of all, her recipes are really easy to follow, which will make it a really helpful resource for someone who’s never made a coffin before!

Harold McGee also talks a bit about these pastries in his book, On Food and Cooking. He traces the roots of hot-water pastry to medieval times where it served as a container for meat dishes needing to be preserved for some time. It’s tender to eat, but retains cooking juices. It is made with a large amount of water (McGee says 50 parts water per 100 parts flour, along with 35 parts lard). The water and fat are heated to almost boiling, and the flour is stirred in just until it forms a mass, then the dough is rested. The large amount of fat limits gluten development which helps make for a tender crust, and repels water, keeping cooking juices from breaking down the crust. (McGee, 568).

Here’s Markham’s recipe (from pg 104 in Best):
A Pippin Pie
Take the fairest and best pippins, and pare them, and make a hole in the top of them; then prick in each hole a clove or two, then put them into the coffin, then break in whole sticks of cinnamon and slices of orange peels and dates, and on the top of every pippin a little piece of sweet butter: then fill the coffin, and cover the pippins over with sugar; then close up the pie, and bake it, as you bake pies of the like nature, and when it is baked anoint the lid over with store of sweet butter, and then strew sugar upon it a good thickness, and set it into the oven again for a little space, as whilst the meat is in dishing up, and then serve it.
(Best’s footnote suggests a baking time from another source: about 2 1/2 hours.)

Markham also has a recipe for the coffin itself, on p6s 96-98 of Best:
Of the Mixture of Pastes:
To speak then of the mixture and kneading of pastes, you shall understand that your rye paste be kneaded only with hot water and a little butter, or sweet seam and rye flour very finely sifted, and it would be made tough and stiff that it may stand well in the raising, for the coffin thereof must ever be very deep; your coarse wheat crust would be kneaded with hot water, or mutton broth and a good store of butter, and the paste made stiff and deep because that coffin must be deep also; your fine wheat crust must be kneaded with as much butter as water, and the paste made reasonable lithe and gentle, into which you must put three or four eggs or more according to the quantity you blend together, for they will give it a sufficient stiffening.

The crust I’m making is the last one, and it’s a bit different from the recipe Gaudio wrote because Markham wants his readers to include eggs. Gaudio’s recipe is still helpful though for learning about technique. After another search, I found Margaret MacDuibhShithe/Gretchen Miller’s recipe (at the very bottom of the page) that includes eggs. Her recipe is actually a modernized version of Markham’s crust, so I am just going to follow her crust recipe rather than mess with figuring out proportions, and focus on the yummy filling.

For the filling, I followed Markham’s suggestions and kept the apples whole (I found some small Ginger Gold apples at the farmer’s market that worked well). I peeled them, then cored them by using a paring knife cut in a circle around the top. I arranged them in the crust, then put cloves inside each one. Then, I pitted some dates and arranged them around the apples so that everything stayed in place. Then I added orange peels and cinnamon sticks (Note: if you decide to make this in a household where kids would be eating it, definitely replace the whole spices with dried ones and sprinkle them around evenly. And tell anyone who eats the pie to eat somewhat carefully, as the chunky spices make it hard to devour this pie like you would a modern pie). Markham also instructs readers to put pats of butter on each apple and sprinkle them with sugar before putting on the second crust. After you bake it for a while, you brush melted butter on the crust and sprinkle with sugar (I am using turbinado (raw) sugar for more crunch, but you do what you want). Here are some photos:

The pie after filling.

The center of the pie after being buttered and sprinkled with sugar.

As an aside, I just got a new Nikon D40, so I’m hoping to put more photos into the blog as I continue cooking (and I’m definitely open to criticism on my photography skills!)

So, there were many things that went well with this recipe, and a few things I might do differently. First of all, Margaret’s crust recipe worked really well! All of the drawings of coffins I’ve seen from Markham’s times depict a pie with freestanding sides. I was worried about making a pie that way, so I put it in a 9 inch round pan in order to get the flat sides I’ve seen in pictures (rather than the angled, shorter sides of a pie pan). The crust may have been a bit too small for this, as I had trouble getting the edges to meet after I put the top crust on, but a little tugging got those edges in place eventually. Also, the footnote from Best suggested a 2 1/2 hour cooking time (taken from a contemporary source, not suggested by Best himself). I found the pie cooked to perfection in about an hour and 15 minutes. I also might use ground spices next time, although it is a deviation from the recipe, just so it makes the pie easier to eat.

The pie was absolutely delicious! So flavorful and good smelling. I’ve never made a pie with dates in it before, but this one definitely makes me consider doing it again. The crust tasted very similar to a modern pie crust, but a bit more dense. Enjoy!

For the crust (This is from Margaret’s site)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water
1 stick butter
2 1/2 cups flour
3 egg yolks

For the filling:
8 small cooking apples, peeled
16 whole cloves
The peels of two oranges
4 cinnamon sticks, halved
12 dates
Butter
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for dusting

1.Preheat oven to 350.
2.Combine  water and butter in a pan and simmer until butter melts.
3.Meanwhile, stir egg yolks into the flour until evenly distributed.
4.Make a well in the center, and pour the butter mixture in. Stir to combine, then knead until it forms a dough ball.
5. Divide the ball in half, and roll out to the size you need.
6. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″ round pan, and put the bottom crust in, making sure it also covers the sides of the pan.
7. Using a paring knife, cut a hole in the top of each apple and remove the seeds, and put two cloves in each apple. Arrange in the crust.
8. Arrange the dates in the open spaces around the apples, then evenly distribute the orange peels and cinnamon sticks.
9. Place a small pat of butter on top of each apple, and sprinkle the entire filling with 1/2 cup sugar.
10. Roll out the top crust, and place on top of the pie.
11. Bake at 350 for 75 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the crust is just golden brown.
12. Brush the crust with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar, then continue baking for 10-15 minutes.

Slice of pie

A slice of the finished pie!

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Cooking Resources for the Confused

When I have engaged in conversation about this project lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks are timid about trying older recipes because they are uncomfortable with the techniques. I tend to just go full boar into a recipe and see what happens (and to be honest, the vast majority of the time it does actually work out), but I’m also more accustomed to doing things like baking bread/pastry, making jam, and other things that I think are really easy once you learn how to do them, but can feel really intimidating if you’ve never tried it.

So with that in mind, I went through my bookshelves and pulled out a few texts that I thought were really useful for helping me expand my culinary horizons, and hopefully will serve as a good reference for a few readers as well!

Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger. The Lost Art of Real Cooking. New York: Penguin, 2010.

This book is incredibly useful. It just came out quite recently, and every review I have seen so far has been nothing but positive. It’s a great way to learn more about food preparation done by hand (rather than by, say, chucking everything in the food processor), and a great text to help get you into the mindset of cooking food the way it used to be cooked. Best of all, the authors’ style is approachable and not at all intimidating (great for those who are feeling a bit nervous about their abilities), and there are illustrations for some of the steps that you might not be familiar with (i.e. making a lattice pie crust). Ken Albala is a food historian, which means there are plenty of useful tidbits in there about how these foods were prepared historically (and how some of the ingredients or techniques have changed). It’s been such a valuable resource for me when I want to double-check my technique before plunging in to making a pie or pasta or most anything else I care to cook.

Gillian Riley, Renaissance Recipes. San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1993.

This book is a good introduction to Renaissance Italian food. It includes recipes that are simple to prepare, along with paintings and historical background. I received it as a gift, and it’s a beautiful book to look at as well as fun to cook from.

Maxine McKendry, Seven Hundred Years of English Cooking. Ed. By Arabella Boxer. New York: Exeter Books, 1983.

Nell Heaton, Traditional Recipes of the British Isles. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1951.

I learned about both these books through some excerpted recipes that are included in David Schoonover’s (ed.) Ladie Borlase’s Receiptes Booke, which I’ve mentioned before. For a project like this, these books are useful because they allow me to see other modernized recipes in order to get a better sense of how older recipes translate into use with the ingredients and equipment we have today. Although most of the recipes are not directly contemporary to Markham’s time, they are still a good resource.

Mollie Katzen, The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2000.

Mollie Katzen’s books will always have a special place in my heart after receiving The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest as a birthday gift from one of my dearest friends. Beyond sentimental reasons, Katzen prepares dishes far beyond what I’ve found in most other cookbooks (vegetarian or otherwise). She’s great at combining ingredients you might not think to combine, and explaining the techniques she uses in a way that’s easy to follow. I also love that the entire book is lettered and illustrated by her (and is actually a part of my inspiration for illustrating and lettering my modernized recipes from this project).

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.

This is another great reference to have on hand for any type of food. McGee is wonderful at going through a dizzying number of foods and explaining how they’re made, the chemistry behind the technique/combination of ingredients that creates the finished product, and the history of the food (he puts some great historical tidbits in little boxes underneath the text—in one he mentions Markham’s puff paste, which I’m hoping to make soon). I am hoping to make a pie from Markham soon, so going through here I have learned a lot about different types of crust and pastry, which will help me when it comes time to recreate the recipe!

If anyone has any other good resources to share, I would love to hear them! I am especially interested in learning about new web resources, as I suspect a lot of readers will want to be able to look up recipes on the internet as well as in books!

As an aside, a friend from Indiana brought me a big stash of quinces, and I just snagged some little apples from the last farmer’s market of the season, so keep your eyes peeled for some good recipes in the coming weeks!

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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.

Quinces

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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