A Plum Tart for Christmastide

 

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

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

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

The Recipe

recipe

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

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

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

low-quality

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

SHORT AND CRISP CRUST FOR TARTS AND PYES

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

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

pippin-tart

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

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

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

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

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

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

 unbaked-pie

The Redaction

Christmas Plum Tart

 

For the plums:

900g Plums

300g Sugar

315ml Water
For the Pastry:

70g butter

300ml cold water

290g plain flour

Eggwash or milk

To make the preserves

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

 

To make the tart

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

baked-pie

The Round-Up

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

The Date: c. 1675

How did you make it? See above.

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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Tarte Owt of Lente

 

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

I know that a lot of the HFF bloggers are doing the Future Learn course ‘A History of Royal Food and Feasting’ and seem to be really enjoying it. The basic premise is that each week covers a different monarch and a different Historic Royal Palace, with a loose focus on a particular event; last week that event was Edward VI’s christening at Hampton Court Palace. They then offer a few redacted recipes which you are invited to try out.

 

I thought it was a bit disappointing that they chose to focus on an event for which there is very little evidence of the food served, and that they then chose three recipes which were totally unrelated. Why not give a recipe for the spiced wafers that they know were served on the day?

 

The three recipes that they did give were Tarte Owt of Lente, Fylettys en Galentyne and Ryschewys Close and Fryez. You can watch videos of these recipes being made in the Hampton Court Kitchens, and get redacted recipes on the website.

 

Since its Pie week for the HFF I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making Tarte Owt of Lente. The name tells us that it is a recipe for a pie which is inappropriate for Lent; it’s full of cream and eggs and cheese and so can only be eaten ‘out of Lent’. The original recipe comes from Gentyllmanly Cookere c. 1500:

“Take neshe chese and pare hit and grynd hit yn A morter and breke egges and do ther to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell all well to gethur put not to moche butter ther yn if the chese be fatte make A coffyn of dowe and close hit a bove with dowe and collor hit a bove with the yolkes of eggs and bake hit well and serue hit furth.”[1]

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table 

The first thing to decide in this recipe is what type of cheese to use. In the Hampton Court video and redaction they suggest Cheshire cheese, but the first step is to ‘take neshe chese’ or ‘take soft cheese’ which to me suggests a fresh cheese. In the comments to the recipe they actually mention this, saying that it is probably referring to a curd cheese like ricotta or cottage cheese. And yet, the next instruction is to ‘pare hit’ or ‘pare it’. That suggests removing a rind, or at least cutting the cheese up small. So, is it a soft, fresh cheese or a harder cheese with a rind? The jury is out, but either seems to work well.

 

I decided to go with ricotta, and that meant that I had to change the proportions of other ingredients quite a bit so that the mixture wasn’t too liquid. The first tart I made, I kept quite close to the suggested redaction with 100g ricotta, 1 egg, 60 ml cream, 30g butter and seasoning, but when I put it in the oven I found that it burst it’s base. I’m still giving the amounts though, because it tasted very good and was my housemate’s favourite version. The trick, I think, would be to use a hot water pastry instead of a shortcrust pastry. There’s a recipe for hot water pastry in my post about chewets.

 

My second try worked a lot better because I increased the proportion of ricotta and reduced the liquids. I was a bit worried that the mixture would be too bland so I also added some grated parmesan to this version. That was very tasty, but is totally optional.

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

The Recipe

A Tarte Owt of Lente

For the pastry:

110g flour

Pinch of salt

50g butter, cold and cut into 1cm cubes

Cold water

 

For the filling:

140g ricotta

15g butter

1 egg

1 tbsp cream

30g grated parmesan (optional)

Salt and pepper

 

1 beaten egg

 

  1. To make the pastry place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a firm dough. Be careful not to overwork it. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate while you make your filling.
  2. Cream together the butter and the ricotta in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  3. You can see a video of this method of shaping the pastry here. Remove the pastry from the fridge and separate about 2/3 of the pastry to make the base. Roll it out until about 3/4cm thick and use a plate or bowl as a template to cut out a circle. Working about 1.5cm from the edge, place your left thumb on the pastry and use your thumb and index finger on your right hand to push the pastry up against your thumb, and to pinch it into a ridge. Work your way around the pastry to make a self-supporting pastry base. Roll out the other 1/3 of the pastry to make a lid. Place the base on the pastry and cut around it to get the right size.
  4. Place your pastry base on a baking tray and pour in the filling. Brush a little beaten egg around the rim of the pastry and put the lid on top, pinching the edges to seal. Make a little hole in the top of the pie, and brush the top with beaten egg.
  5. Bake the pie for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: A Tarte Owt of Lente (available here).

The Date: late 15th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 1.5 hrs.

How successful was it?: It was good hot or cold, although as I said the first filling didn’t quite manage to stay in its pastry case. I was kind of surprised that it set so well, but I did like the addition of a bit of parmesan just to add some extra saltiness.

How accurate?: The big question is what type of cheese to use, and I still don’t have a strong feeling either way. I suppose the other option would be to use something like a brie or camembert which is both soft and can be pared. That might be worth a try.

 

[1] James L. Matterer, “Gentyll Manly Cokere. Culinary Recipes from MS Pepys 1047.,” Gode Cookery, 2009, http://www.godecookery.com/pepys/pepys.htm.

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

A Happy Idea for a Picnic Dish

 

Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood, State Library NSW

Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood c. 1934, courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

 

“How we all love a picnic! Wrapped up in that one delightful word is the call of the bush, the call of the surf, fresh air and sunshine, happiness and lots of nice things to eat!”[1] Australia doesn’t have a monopoly on picnics by any means, but the great weather and natural beauty makes picnicking a popular pastime, and that’s nothing new.

 

Barbara Santich dedicates a whole chapter to picnics in her history of Australian food Bold Palates, and she makes the point that while early picnics were utilitarian (quick meals to break up journeys or roadside stops where there was no inn to be found), they were also a way to celebrate special occasions and even official functions. One of their great attractions was surely that they cut across social and class lines, helped along by guild picnics and cheap public transport. Santich also notes the popularity of ‘mystery hikes’ in the 1930s where bushwalkers took a train to an undisclosed location for a hike and a picnic; one of these in 1932 catered to 8000 people![2]

 

The recipe that I chose for this HFF challenge is from December 1933 and it’s nice to think that these picnic patties might have been taken along on a mystery hike or two. We’ve talked before about the advantages of pies, they’re easily stored, portable and great for eating on the go. These mini pies have exactly the same benefits, and can be eaten hot or cold.

Capture

The recipe was submitted as part of a competition to find recipes for picnic foods. Although the contributor, Mrs E.E. Wain of Campsie, only got a consolation prize of 2/6 the patties are probably easier to eat than the jellied rabbit which took out first prize!

[1] “Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.”

[2] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 88.

IMG_4358

The Redaction

Picnic Patties

 

For the Pastry:

230g flour

3 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp lemon juice

120g cold butter, diced

Cold water, as needed

 

For the filling:

 

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour

1/2 cup stock (I used the water that I cooked the chicken in)

1/2 cup cream

Salt (and pepper)

1 cup chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large chicken breast)

1/2 stick of celery, finely sliced

 

A little milk or egg wash.

 

  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and the butter. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time and mix gently until the pastry comes together. Be careful not to knead the pastry. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed.
  2. To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Cook for a minute and stir to remove any lumps. Add half of the stock and stir to combine, then add the other half of the stock. The mixture should be quite thick. Stir in the cream, seasonings, celery and chicken and turn off the heat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease a cupcake pan. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry on a floured board. Cut circles from the pastry to fit the cupcake pan. Fill with the chicken mixture, then roll out the remaining pastry to cut lids. Place the lids onto the pies and press down around the edges to seal. Brush with a little milk or egg wash and use the tip of a sharp knife to make a small slit in the top of each pie.
  4. Bake the pies in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden on top.

 

IMG_4369The Round-Up

The Recipe: Picnic Patties (available here)

The Date: 30 December 1933

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: An hour.

How successful was it?: These were very nice, if a little bland. I would have liked them with some carrots and/or peas and a bit more aggressive seasoning. I also found the pastry a bit too thick, so that the proportion of pastry to filling wasn’t quite right, but that is easily fixed.

How accurate?: The recipe doesn’t specify how to make the pastry, so I used this recipe from 1934 for Creamed Chicken Turnovers. Overall I think that these were very accurate, the only major change that I made was to use butter in the pastry instead of lard or dripping, either of which would also make a very good pastry.

 

References

“Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 30, 1933. Trove.

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

IMG_4360

The Good Food Feast and a Medlar Tart

Medlar Tart, recipe from 1594

Update: For more about The Good Food Feast and even some photos of yours truly in a green and orange gown see the write up in Good Food

I have a couple of exciting things to share with you, or at least I hope you find them exciting like I do. The first is a recap of the fabulous Good Food Feast which was held in Politarchopolis (Canberra) this weekend by the Politarchopolan Assault Catering Corps. At $125 it was a bit pricier than your average SCA feast, but the Good Food Feast has been much anticipated in the 20 years since the last one, and with four courses, plenty of entertainment and souvenirs of the night we definitely got our moneys worth.

The menu was as follows:

Course the first

Stuffed eggs

Smoked pressed beef tongue

Pickled vegetables

Freshly baked pretzels

Course the second

Baked salmon, served on rye crackers

Oysters with lemon

Golden scallops

Roast goose with green garlic sauce

Course the third

Quail and pigeon pies

Veal with berry sauce

White sausage and pickled cabbage

Pea fritters with garlic sauce

Dessert

Plum tarts

A warm Malavosia Pear tart

Spanish pastry pillows

A selection of fine hand-formed Politarchopolan cheeses, with crisp Gouda biscuits.

Beverages

Homemade cordials

Red or white wine

Red or white hypocras

Homebrewed beer

The highlights were the scallops – a perfectly sculpted sugarpaste shell containing an almond milk and rosewater leach, and an orange marzipan – and the warm pear tart which was my favourite dish of the evening. Special mention also goes to the homemade cheeses, the small bird pies, and the soft, salty pretzels which were served on sticks just as depicted in period paintings.

Scallop Subtletie

Scallop Subtletie – an edible sugarpaste shell with an almondmilk and rosewater leach and orange marzipan.

As good as the food was, the real triumph of the evening was in creating the experience of a feast. The team had thought of everything, from wall hangings to scented water to wash our hands with. This attention to detail carried over to the place settings which became our keepsakes for the evening, along with a unique, hand-painted, sugarpaste plate.

My beautiful, hand-painted, sugarpaste plate

Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos of the actual event, but I will try to link some when I can. In the meantime, a couple of weeks ago I managed to acquire some more medlars from a friend who has a tree in the Blue Mountains.

The Recipe

Since my last encounter, I have been looking forward to trying a medlar tart. With my medlars well bletted, I set to work using the recipe ‘To make a tarte of Medlers’ from Thomas Dawson’s ‘The Good Housewife’s Handmaide for the Kitchin’, published in 1594.

To make a tarte of Medlers.

Take medlers that be rotten, and strain them then set them on a chafing dish of coals, and beat it in two yolks of eggs, and let it boil till it be somewhat thicken season it with cinnamon, ginger, and sugar, and lay it in paste.[1]

As you can read about over at the Pilgrim Seasonings blog, this recipe is the earliest of a number of nearly identical recipes published in 16th and 17th century cookbooks.

Medlar Tart, recipe from 1594

The Redaction

This is a really easy tart to make, if a bit time consuming, and once again you can always make it even faster by buying shortcrust pastry although there’s something very satisfying about making your own. Feel free to use your favourite pastry recipe if you would rather, or to find a hot water crust recipe as that seems to be the type used in the original cookbook. I used a 24cm pan and didn’t pre-bake the shell, but I would if I was doing it again and have included instructions to do that.

To Make a Medlar Tart

For the pastry:

335g flour

100g butter, chilled and cut into 1cm cubes

1/2 + 1/8 cup of water

1 egg yolk

For the filling:

1 kg medlars

2 egg yolks, beaten

3 spoons sugar

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

  1. Heat the oven to 180C. Mound the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and enough water to make a smooth, pliable dough. Roll out the dough and line your pie tin with it. Prick the base with a fork, line the crust with baking paper and fill it with pie beads, dry rice or uncooked lentils and bake it for 15-20 mins.
  2. Remove the flesh from the medlars by squeezing the pointy end and pushing out the flesh. Push the flesh through a sieve to get rid of the seeds and any fibrous bits.
  3. Place the sieved medlars into a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the egg yolks. Bring to the boil and cook for 5-10 minutes or until it thickens somewhat. Stir in the sugar and spices and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie shell and smooth the top. Bake for 40 mins or until the filling has solidified.

Medlar Tart, recipe from 1594

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Medler Tart from ‘The good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin’ (available here)

The Date:1594

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: About 1.5 hrs.

How successful was it?: It tasted and looked quite a lot like pumpkin pie. It wasn’t overly sweet and was pleasantly spiced.

How accurate?: I used a shortcrust pastry rather than a hot water crust which is the type of pastry referred to in the book, and the lack of quantities makes it hard to know how close I really got to the original.

Bibliography

[1] Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin (Imprinted at London by Richard Jones, 1594), http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/ghhk/.

‘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.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Baked in a Pie

Pie

Firstly, apologies that this post is a little late. I’ve been travelling and even though it was all cooked it’s just taken a while to get around to writing it all up.

 

One of my favourite things about studying/exploring/recreating social and domestic history is the way that it lets us catch a glimpse of women in the past. Although the past couple of decades has seen a real, purposeful shift from looking at history as simply the lives and deeds of famous men, it is still rare to get an insight into the everyday life of the scullery maid, the fishwife or the currency lass. Partially of course, that’s simply due to the lack of sources available for these women, even the literate ones. Even in the field of food history which one assumes would have an over-abundance of sources written and used by women, the early sources are dominated by male professional chefs writing for an audience of other male chefs.

 

Women have of course been collecting recipes for centuries, jotting them down on scraps of paper or carefully filling notebooks to be handed down the generations, but few were published before the late 17th century. Anna Wecker’s cookbook, Ein Köstlich new Kochbuch (A Delicious New Cookery Book), was published in 1598 and is the first known to be written by a woman, but this was extremely unusual and in England published cookbooks by women didn’t become available until much later. Hannah Woolley was a pioneer with her book The Ladies Directory which came out in 1661. Her series of successful cookbooks (which also contained medical knowledge and tips for domestic servants) made her one of the first women to earn her living from her pen.

 

By the 19th century the tide had thoroughly turned with a flood of female authors, many of whom are still household names (Isabella Beeton, Eliza Acton, Hannah Glasse and Elizabeth Raffald come to mind). But by then there was a new frontier to conquer, the newspaper. Today’s recipe comes from a newspaper column written by one of Australia’s first female journalists, Mary Hannay Foott.

 

A published poet, the beautifully haunting ‘Where the Pelican Builds’ is the most well known (you can read it here), Mary made regular contributions to The Queenslander and in 1886 joined the staff there as editor, and often writer, of the women’s page. She wrote under the nom-de-plume ‘La Quenouille’ (it means the distaff – an implement used for spinning thread; or the female side of the family) to dispense advice on cooking and cleaning, the latest fashions, handicrafts and society gossip.

 

I’m really excited to have discovered Mary’s story (you can read a short biography here or Patricia Clarke has written a more extensive biography in the Queensland History Journal[1]) and to be able to share a little bit of it here. Even though she was a pioneering female journalist in Australia and one of Queensland’s first female poets, her story, like that of so many others, has been all but forgotten. So in memory of Mary Hannay Foott, and her correspondent in Bundaberg who provided this recipe, I present to you a Lemon Pie.

IMG_1966

The Recipe

 

Lemon Pie – The juice and grated rind of a 1 lemon, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, 1 egg, 1 tablespoonful of cornflour, a piece of butter the size of a small egg. Boil the water, wet the cornflour with a little cold water and stir it in. When it boils up pour it on the sugar and butter. After it cools add the egg and lemon. Bake with an upper and under crust.[2]

 

This recipe is so straight forward and easy to use that I don’t think I need to provide a redaction for you (plus I’m already running late getting this post up). I used a simple short-crust pastry, just be sure you don’t make it too sweet because the filling is already very sweet. I didn’t blind bake the base, but you easily could if you wanted the bottom to be a little crisper, or you could line little tartlet cases with pastry and use them instead. Add the filling, a top if you want to and decorate with the scraps. Brush the whole thing with egg wash and bake at 180˚C for 20-25 mins or until golden.

 

The other thing that I did with this recipe was use my lovely new pie bird. It’s a bit anachronistic since, although pie funnels were certainly in use when this recipe was published in 1891, they didn’t take on the classic blackbird shape until the 1930s. Still, it was just too cute to resist!

IMG_1956

Isn’t he just adorable?

 

The Recipe: Lemon Pie (available here)

The Date: 1891

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 1 hr approx., longer if you have to chill your pastry.

How successful was it?: Delicious, sweet and creamy lemon filling in a buttery pastry.

How accurate?: I think it was actually pretty close, I used a pastry recipe from one of Mrs Beeton’s cookbooks of a similar date. I had a couple of quandaries like whether to blind bake or not and how much butter is the size of an egg (I used 60g), but I don’t think they really subtracted from the accuracy of the dish. The main inaccuracy was the use of the pie bird, but like I said, I just couldn’t resist the chance to use it.

 

 Pie-related Links

Find out how to use a pie bird here

Learn 3 different ways to crimp a pie crust here

 

[1] Patricia Clarke, “Queensland’s First Professional Woman Journalist: Mary Hannay Foott,” Queensland History Journal 22, no. 4 (March 2014): 302–15.

[2] “THE HOUSEWIFE. FRIENDS IN COUNCIL. LEMONS.,” The Queenslander, June 13, 1891.

 

Bibliography

Clarke, Patricia. “Queensland’s First Professional Woman Journalist: Mary Hannay Foott.” Queensland History Journal 22, no. 4 (March 2014): 302–15.

“THE HOUSEWIFE. FRIENDS IN COUNCIL. LEMONS.” The Queenslander. June 13, 1891.

 

 

2nd July 1881

The next Historical Food Fortnightly challenge was Today in History which meant making a dish based on, or inspired by, a momentous occasion that took place on that day, and I have to admit I have stretched the limits of the challenge quite a bit. Struggling to find a momentous occasion I turned to Trove (an online database of historical Australian newspapers) and chose a recipe for Marlborough Pie which I found published in The Queenslander on the 2nd July 1881.[1]

 

Marlborough Pie

Marlborough Pie

Also known as Marlborough Pudding, the pie is actually more of a tart, filled with a creamy lemon and apple mixture and baked until golden. I have to admit that I had never heard of it and I was quite excited about the change of focus (Australian and Victorian rather than English and Early Modern) so imagine my chagrin when I discovered that this dessert had a venerable history stretching all the way back to the 17th century!

The earliest version of the Marlborough Pie that anyone has identified is the recipe for ‘ A Made Dish of Butter and Eggs’ in Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook[2] which says:

Take the yolks of twenty four eggs, and strain them with cinamon, sugar, and salt; then put melted butter to them, some fine minced pippins, and minced citron, put it on your dish of paste, and put slices of citron round about it, bar it with puff paste, and the bottom also, or short paste in the bottom.[3]

Various other versions were published throughout the 18th century. Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy has a recipe for ‘A Buttered Tort’ which replaces the lemon with Seville orange, and used pulped apple rather than minced[4]. However, it wasn’t until the recipe had crossed to America that the word Marlborough became attached to the custardy apple tart, appearing as ‘Marlborough Pudding’ in the first cookbook published in America, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery.

Take 12 spoons of stewed apples, 12 of wine, 12 of sugar, 12 of melted butter and 12 of beaten eggs, a little cream, spice to your taste; lay in paste no. 3, in a deep dish; bake one hour and a quarter.[5]

Reading this recipe I was struck by the simplicity of the proportions, 12 spoonfuls of each ingredient. Like a pound cake, it’s an easily memorable recipe which could have been shared between the early American settlers. Although the proportions had changed by the time The Queenslander published their version in 1881, the recipe is still a mere two sentences long. For the 87, 000 women living in Queensland that year[6], many of them on remote stations, the recipes in the paper with their easy to find ingredients and no nonsense instructions (even measuring in tumblers) must have been a source of variety and a connection to the outside world.

Slab hut in Queensland ca. 1880. Image courtesy of the State Library of Queensland.

The Recipe

Marlborough Pie – Grate six apples, one cup sugar, three tablespoons melted butter, four eggs, juice and grated rind of a lemon. Bake in an under but without top crust.[7]

For the pastry I used another recipe from the same newspaper, Mrs Wicken’s recipe for Short Pastry:

Ingredients: 1 lb flour, 10 oz or 12 oz butter, juice of one lemon, very little water. Mode: Rub the butter very lightly into the flour until quite fine, mix into very dry stiff paste with lemon juice and water. Roll out at once, and it is ready for use.[8]

Although both recipes are rather sparse they worked very well and only a few points were unclear. I wasn’t sure if I should blind bake the pastry before adding the filling, however, as neither the recipe I was following, nor the Hannah Glasse recipe mentioned baking the case prior to adding the apple mix, I chose not to blind bake. Given how wet the filling was, I think that blind baking would probably help keep the crust a bit crisper, but the pie was still delicious without it.

 

The Redaction

Marlborough Pie

 

For pastry:

227g flour

170g butter, cut into 1cm cubes

Juice of half a lemon

A little water

 

For filling:

6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp melted butter

4 eggs

Juice and grated rind of a lemon

 

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C and grease a 9” pie dish. In a large bowl rub the butter into flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the lemon juice and just enough water to bring the dough together into a ball. Try to avoid over-mixing or kneading the dough.

2. Roll it out onto a lightly floured board and roll out to half a centimetre thick. Carefully lift the dough onto the pie dish and press gently into the base of the dish. Cut off the excess dough and crimp the edge as desired.

3. Grate the apples into a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into the pie dish and smooth the filling with a spoon.

4. Bake for 35 mins or until golden and the filling is no longer liquid. You may need a baking dish below the pie if it is shallow as the liquid may boil over the edge of the dish. Serve hot or cold.

Marlborough Pie

 

The Recipe: Marlborough Pie (recipe available here) and Mrs. Wicken’s Short Pastry (recipe available here)

The Date: 1881 and 1888 respectively

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins prep, 35 mins baking

Total cost: I already had all the ingredients in the house.

How successful was it?: Very tasty, I would definitely make this again. The pastry was buttery and flaky while the apples had just a bit of crunch left. Although the pie was quite sweet, the lemon juice really cut through the sweetness.

How accurate?: The biggest point of inaccuracy is probably the type of apples. I’m not sure which type of apples I used but I think they were Pink Ladies which were only developed in the 1970’s.

 

Newspaper articles found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

 

[1] “THE HOUSEKEEPER. Sundry Recipes.,” The Queenslander, July 2, 1881.

[2] Amy Traverso, The Apple Lover’s Cookbook (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011), 201.

[3] Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, Or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery. (London: printed by R.W. for Nath: Brooke, 1660), 270.

[4] Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the … (Printed for W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, J. Hinton, 1774), 289, http://archive.org/details/artcookerymadep02glasgoog.

[5] Amelia Simmons, American Cookery (Applewood Books, 1996), 36.

[6] Queensland Treasury and Trade Office of Economic and Statistical Research, “Historical Tables, Demography, 1823 to 2008 (Q150 Release),” accessed July 2, 2014, http://www.qgso.qld.gov.au/products/tables/historical-tables-demography/index.php.

[7] “THE HOUSEKEEPER. Sundry Recipes.”

[8] “PASTRY AND SWEETS.,” Euroa Advertiser, June 22, 1888.

 

 Bibliography

Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the … Printed for W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, J. Hinton, 1774. http://archive.org/details/artcookerymadep02glasgoog.

May, Robert. The Accomplisht Cook, Or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: printed by R.W. for Nath: Brooke, 1660.

Office of Economic and Statistical Research, Queensland Treasury and Trade. “Historical Tables, Demography, 1823 to 2008 (Q150 Release).” Accessed July 2, 2014. http://www.qgso.qld.gov.au/products/tables/historical-tables-demography/index.php.

“PASTRY AND SWEETS.” Euroa Advertiser. June 22, 1888.

Simmons, Amelia. American Cookery. Applewood Books, 1996.

“THE HOUSEKEEPER. Sundry Recipes.” The Queenslander. July 2, 1881.

Traverso, Amy. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.