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

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

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

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

The Recipe

Capture

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

The Redaction

Ginger Beer

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

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

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Ginger Beer (available here)

The Date: 1861

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 5 days

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

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

Ginger Beer, brewed from a recipe from 1861

References

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

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A Plum Tart for Christmastide

 

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

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

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

The Recipe

recipe

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

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

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

low-quality

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

SHORT AND CRISP CRUST FOR TARTS AND PYES

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

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

pippin-tart

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

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

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

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

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

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

 unbaked-pie

The Redaction

Christmas Plum Tart

 

For the plums:

900g Plums

300g Sugar

315ml Water
For the Pastry:

70g butter

300ml cold water

290g plain flour

Eggwash or milk

To make the preserves

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

 

To make the tart

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

baked-pie

The Round-Up

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

The Date: c. 1675

How did you make it? See above.

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3965

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

 

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

 

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

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

IMG_3982.JPG

The Recipe

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

 

IMG_3968

Mrs Beeton’s recipe is as follows:

 

COCOA-NUT BISCUITS OR CAKES.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

IMG_3973

The first batch which melted into one big mass

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

 

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

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

[3] Gaskell, North and South, 90.

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3979.JPG

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

The Redaction

Cocoa-nut Cakes

290g sugar

2 large eggs

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

 

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

The Round-Up

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

The Date: 1861

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins.

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

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

IMG_3976.JPG

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

‘Pies, hot pies!’

15th century chewets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Redaction

100g plain flour

30g wholemeal flour

21g of butter

21g of lard

1/4 cup water

Salt

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

Pepper and salt

1/4 tsp ginger and cloves

Lard, to fry

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

15th century chewets

The Round-up

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

The Date: 15th century

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: About 1 hour.

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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

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