Wartime Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

In a total coincidence, it is both jam month in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, and the Recipes Project Virtual Conversation month. If you haven’t been following along with the conversation, check it out because there are loads of really interesting things going on covering all types of recipes in all periods.

 

One of the projects that I’ve been really interested in is the series of videos by Simon Walker called “Feeding Under Fire”. In each video, Simon recreates a dish that soldiers would have eaten during World War 1, and contextualises it with information about nutrition, supply lines and what was happening on the home front.

 

The second video in the series (see it here) was all about the important role that jam played in soldiers’ diets. The recipe that he used was for plum and apple jam, which seems to have been the most common type of jam sent to the front lines. Even though Simon wasn’t very happy with how his jam turned out, it inspired me to make a WW1 era jam too.

Capture

A recipe for the ubiquitous plum and apple jam, from the Southland Red Cross Cookery Book, 1916.  

In Australia during the First World War, there wasn’t rationing like there was in Britain. Food prices rose rapidly, and the State and Federal governments had only mixed success in setting prices for staple food. With complete control over the sugar industry, it was easier to restrain the market. When sugar prices rose overseas, the Australian government banned exports, in order to maintain sufficient supply at home.[1]

 

Because sugar was available in greater quantities, and generally for a lower price than in Europe, it was easier for Australian home cooks to keep making jam. Large quantities of jam were made to be sent to Australian soldiers overseas, often in packs of treats sent by the Red Cross or the Australian Comforts Fund.

bcp_05694h

“Special Effort – 2 tons of jam made by the Cobar Ladies Jam Club”. World War I – Cobar, NSW. Courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

Commercially made jam was available too, and it featured prominently in the meals provided to Australian soldiers. A large surplus of tinned jam was also sold to the British and American armies. In total, the export of jam during the war was 40 times as large as in the pre-war years.[2] As in England, much of this jam seems to have been plum and apple, but sometimes more unusual varieties appeared too.[3] According to Barbara Santich, the Imperial forces bought nearly 2,000 tons of Queensland pineapple jam![4]

 

Strawberry jam doesn’t seem to have been very common, presumably because strawberries are expensive to buy and comparatively low yielding. Some newspapers published recipes for mock strawberry jam, made with rhubarb and raisins (I also like this recipe from the Second World War which uses tomatoes and strawberry flavouring).

 

Still, strawberry jam was clearly available. In 1940, Colonel J. Travers suggested that it should be given to all soldiers, because he recalled that “During the last war, we were usually issued with strawberry jam only before a fight … but there seems no reason why these men should not have strawberry jam at other times.”[5] It’s not hard to imagine the excitement that a jar of strawberry jam would have caused, nestled in a comfort box with warm socks and a bit of cake. It was a taste of home, and a welcome distraction from the monotony of bully beef and hard tack.

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

The Recipe

This recipe was published in The Farmer and Settler, a NSW newspaper in January 1915.

Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe

Personally I prefer this method of making, as it does not mash the fruit: – Strawberries that are to be used for the purpose of this jam must be gathered after two or three days of dry weather. The berries should not be over-ripe.

The usual method is to lay the fruit and the sugar in alternate layers in the preserving pan, and to boil the jam very gently over a medium heat until it jellies when tested in the usual way. Three-quarters of a pound of sugar per pound of strawberries is generally sufficient, but if the berries do not appear to be particularly sweet, five pounds of sugar to each six pounds of strawberries will be a better proportion.[6]

 

If you want a jam with large pieces of fruit in it, this method of layering the fruit and sugar works really well. However, the proportion of sugar to fruit is quite high, so the final result is very sweet. It is also a very soft set jam, almost a syrup, because strawberries are low in pectin and there is no pectin added to the recipe.

[1] Scott, Australia during the War, XI:646–48.

[2] Ibid., XI:544.

[3] “War With Jam On It: As It Seems to Veterans.”

[4] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 254.

[5] “Strawberry Jam for the Soldiers.”

[6] “Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe.”

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

The Redaction

Strawberry Jam No. 2

Strawberries

Sugar

 

  1. Hull your strawberries, and weigh them. Measure out 3/4 of that weight in sugar (so if you have 400g strawberries you need 300g sugar).
  2. Take a preserving pan large enough to fit all your strawberries and sugar. Place half the strawberries in the bottom of the pan and spread them out to make an even layer. Put half the sugar on top, followed by the remaining strawberries and the rest of the sugar. For large quantities you may want to increase the number of layers.
  3. Slowly heat the mixture, without stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. Then cook the jam over medium heat until it set using the wrinkle test (it will be about 105C). Pour the hot jam into sterilised jars and seal.

 

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe (available here)

The Date: 1915

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 45 mins.

How successful was it?: It’s very sweet, with a strong strawberry flavour. I really like the large pieces of strawberry, but I found the set too syrupy for my taste.

How accurate?: The main difference would probably be in the bottling process, although I suppose that there could also be differences in the type of strawberries and sugar. Overall, though, it’s a pretty good approximation.

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

References

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

Press, 2012.

Scott, Ernest. Australia during the War. Vol. XI. The Official History of Australia in the War of

1914-1918. Sydney, Australia: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1936.

“Strawberry Jam for the Soldiers.” Sydney Morning Herald. January 12, 1940.

“Strawberry Jam No. 2 Recipe.” Farmer and Settler. January 5, 1915.

“War With Jam On It: As It Seems to Veterans.” Worker. January 23, 1940.

 

Strawberry Jam, recipe from 1915

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To Candy Orring Pills

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

E11640.jpg

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

The Recipe

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

 

To Candy Orring Pills

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Ibid., 284.

[10] Ibid., 226.

[11] Ibid.

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

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

Flegel_-_Stilleben_mit_Gebäck_und_Zuckerwerk

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

What can I do with my Orange Peel and Syrup?

 

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

 

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

 

Eccles Cakes via The Old Foodie

Orange Gingerbread via The Old Foodie

Scotch Short-bread via the Old Foodie

Hot Cross Buns via The Cook and the Curator

Mince Pies via Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways

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

Skirret Pie via Historic Food Jottings

 

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

 

My Redaction

Candied Orange Peels

4 oranges, Seville if possible

2 cups water

225g sugar

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

The Round-Up

 

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

The Date: 17th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 2 days

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

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

Candied Orange Peels, 17th century recipe

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

14th Century Quick Pickled Eggs

Quick pickled cinnamon eggs, recipe from the 14th century

Ages ago I wrote about making pickled eggs for my cousin and I promised you another recipe. Well, it’s taken me nearly two years, but here it is. During my research the earliest English recipe I could find was from the 18th century, but I came across a much earlier recipe in Arabic. This recipe was from The Description of Familiar Foods, which was probably written in Cairo in the 14th century.

“Baid Mukhallal – Take boiled eggs and peel and sprinkle with a little ground salt and Chinese cinnamon [cassia] and dry coriander. Then arrange them in a glass jar and pour wine vinegar on them, and put it up.”[1]

What you notice, is that this souse or pickle (the vinegar solution) appears to be cold when it is put on the eggs. Most modern recipes call for the pickle to be hot, and it made me wonder how using a cold solution would affect the eggs, both from a taste perspective and for food safety.

SAFETY NOTE: The following is meant to be a discussion primarily about how this recipe might have functioned in the 14th century, and why it was possible to eat pickled eggs in the past in the absence of refrigeration. For modern home cooks, you should follow the most recent guidelines and procedures which are put out by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

In terms of texture, the evidence is mixed. One early study of pickled eggs suggested that using a boiling pickle would increase tenderness, but more recently Acosta et al. found that the manner of pickling made no noticeable difference to texture.[2] Overall, it seems that if cold pickling makes any difference to the toughness of the egg, it is probably quite small, but it would be interesting to try doing hot and cold brine versions of the same recipe to compare them.

The bigger question is, how does it affect food safety? The current guidelines recommend a hot pickling solution and say that pickled eggs should be refrigerated after bottling and only removed for serving (for a period of no more than 2 hours).[3] Obviously, refrigeration wasn’t an option in 14th century Egypt, so what does that mean for the people eating these eggs?

Whenever you read about food safety and home pickled eggs, you come across a reference to the one known case of botulism caused by home pickled eggs.[4] One case isn’t very many, in light of the estimated 2,600 deaths a year caused by foodborne illnesses in the USA alone, even if there are other unreported cases.[5] Still, in the interest of not poisoning our loved ones, I thought I’d take a closer look at what the science says.

With pickled eggs, there are two food safety issues to contend with. The first is botulism, but botulinum spores can’t survive in an environment with a pH of more than 4.6. The US food regulations say that you must be able to reduce the pH to 4.6 within 24 hours, otherwise the food should be refrigerated until the correct pH is reached.[6] The rate at which acidification occurs depends on the ratio of eggs to pickle, the ingredients of the pickling solution, the amount of acetic acid in the vinegar, and the pickling technique (hot fill/cold fill etc.).

Dripping 1

Acosta et al. found that with a brine concentration of acetic acid of 4.9% or 7.5% (normal table vinegar is 4-8%) they could get the total yolk pH to 4.6 or below in less than 24 hours with a cold fill, a hot fill, or a hot fill followed by a water bath treatment.[7] So far so good, except that a total yolk pH means that the yolk is made into a paste and tested to get a kind of average. None of these methods was able to produce a pH of less than 4.6 in the very heart of the yolk in less than 24 hours.[8]

So what does that mean? Well, to be safe you’re still better refrigerating your eggs, because a) it’s difficult for the home cook to manage and measure all the different factors and b)it hasn’t been proved safe for the yolk to take longer than 24 hours to reach acidification. But, for our 14th century Egyptians, it was probably reasonably safe because the brine was almost pure vinegar and the total yolk (note that this measure is endorsed by American food safety regulators[9]) would reach 4.6 even at room temperature. The biggest thing is not to pierce the yolk of the egg, which some people do in the hopes of increasing acid/flavour penetration of the egg, because it can inadvertently introduce botulism spores into the yolk.[10]

However, botulism is not the only thing we have to worry about. A whole host of other things can contaminate your eggs if you’re not careful, including salmonella, E coli and listeria. The easiest way for the home cook to avoid contamination is good hygiene: use sterilised jars, and wash your hands before peeling the eggs.

What’s interesting is that Sullivan et al. showed that the safety requirements for dealing with botulism (refrigeration of eggs) might actually prevent pathogen die-off, if your eggs do get contaminated. They say that “Pickled eggs should be held under refrigeration for the length of time needed to acidify them to ≤4.6, and then held at ambient temperatures to ensure pathogen inaction.”[11] This precaution isn’t reflected in current guidelines for home cooks, and it’s difficult to know from their study what the take away message should be, other than that we should flip the filled jars upside down now and then to make sure that the vinegar touches all parts of the jar. And for the medieval Egyptians? Well, this raises the interesting question of whether, by keeping the eggs at room temperature, they were actually helping to make pathogen die-off faster.

 

[1] Perry, “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods],” 397.

[2] Acosta et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 791.

[3] Washington State University Extension, “Pickled Eggs”; Andress, “Pickled Eggs.”

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.”

[5] Scallan et al., “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Major Pathogens,” 10.

[6] U.S. Government Printing Office, “Title 9, Chap. II, Subchap. A, Part 381 – Poultry Products Inspection Regulations,” 9 CFR 381.300.

[7] Acosta et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 794.

[8] Ibid.

[9] U.S. Government Printing Office, “Title 21, Chap. 1, Subchap. B, Part 114 – Acidified Foods.,” 21 CFR 114.90.

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.”

[11] Sullivan et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 1846.

Quick pickled cinnamon eggs, recipe from the 14th century

The Redaction

 

Given that there is so little detail in the recipe, it doesn’t seem worth giving a redaction. I followed the same basic steps as in any pickled egg recipe, I boiled and peeled the eggs, packed them into sterilised jars, added some cassia (you could use either ground cassia or add a stick which would look prettier) and some coriander seeds (it’s also possible that the recipe is calling for dried coriander leaves) and then covered them with white wine vinegar. The quantities will depend entirely on the size of your jars, how many eggs you are using and how much spice you want to add. Make sure that you invert the jars at the end, and then refrigerate them. Leave them for a few days to allow the flavours to develop before eating.

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Baid Mukhallal from Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods]

The Date: 14th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 20 mins.

How successful was it?: Tasty, with a pleasant but not overpowering cinnamon flavour.

How accurate?: The biggest difficulty is knowing what amount of spice to use, because there really isn’t any indication. I also wasn’t entirely sure what type of coriander to use, and whether the spices would be ground or whole. I went with what I had to hand, which was ground cassia and whole coriander seeds, but I think that whole cassia would probably be prettier. The other big question is what kind of vinegar to use, and whether modern wine vinegar is similar to historical wine vinegar. It might also be interesting to try this recipe with red wine vinegar and see whether it colours the eggs like beetroot pickled eggs.

Open Jar 1

References

Acosta, Oscar, Xiaofan Gao, Elizabeth K. Sullivan, and Olga I. Padilla-Zakour. “Pickled Egg Production: Effect of Brine Acetic Acid Concentration and Packing Conditions on Acidification Rate.” Journal of Food Protection; Des Moines 77, no. 5 (May 2014): 788–95.

Andress, Elizabeth L. “Pickled Eggs.” National Center for Home Food Preservation, April 2014. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/pickled_eggs.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4934a2.htm.

Perry, Charles. “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods].” In Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry, 373–450. Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001.

Scallan, Elaine, Robert M. Hoekstra, Frederick J. Angulo, Robert V. Tauxe, Marc-Alain Widdowson, Sharon L. Roy, Jeffrey L. Jones, and Patricia M. Griffin. “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Major Pathogens.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 17, no. 1 (2011): 7–15.

Sullivan, Elizabeth K., David C. Manns, John J. Churey, Randy W. Worobo, and Olga I. Padilla-Zakour. “Pickled Egg Production: Inactivation Rate of Salmonella, Escherichia Coli O157:H7, Listeria Monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus Aureus during Acidification Step.” Journal of Food Protection; Des Moines 76, no. 11 (November 2013): 1846–53.

U.S. Government Printing Office. “Title 9, Chap. II, Subchap. A, Part 381 – Poultry Products Inspection Regulations.” In Code of Federal Regulations, 2011. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2016-title9-vol2/pdf/CFR-2016-title9-vol2-sec381-300.pdf.

———. “Title 21, Chap. 1, Subchap. B, Part 114 – Acidified Foods.” In Code of Federal Regulations, 2011. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2016-title21-vol2/pdf/CFR-2016-title21-vol2-sec114-90.pdf.

Washington State University Extension. “Pickled Eggs,” 2002. http://extension.wsu.edu/foodsafety/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2017/03/EB1104-Pickled-Eggs.pdf.

 

Two Historical Recipes for Preserved Lemons

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Preserved lemons from a 12th century recipe

The Recipe

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Preserved lemons from a 13th century recipe

What To Do With Preserved Lemons?

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

To boyle a Capon larded with Lemons.

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

 

[1] Czarra, Spices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Recipe

Preserved Lemons

Lemons

Sea salt

Olive oil (for sliced lemons)

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

 

Instructions for whole preserved lemons

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

 

Instructions for sliced preserved lemons

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

 

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Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

FIJ Marmalade Mastery Challenge

Grapefruit marmalade, recipe c. 1905

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

 

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

The Recipe

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

 

No. 3 GRAPEFRUIT MARMALADE –

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Grapefruit marmalade, recipe c. 1905

The Redaction

Grapefruit Marmalade

4 grapefruits, ripe

Water

Granulated sugar

 

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

 

 

The Round-Up

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

The Date: c. 1905

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?:3 days

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

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

Grapefruit marmalade, recipe c. 1905

References

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

 

 

 

Pass the Pickled Eggs

So a couple of months ago, just before my birthday, I was talking about birthday presents with my cousin Ryan and his girlfriend. While my request for a penguin seemed perfectly reasonable, I was a bit surprised when he said that all he wanted for his birthday was some pickled eggs. When The Old Foodie posted a selection of historical pickled egg recipes a week later, it just seemed like the universe was sending me a message.
Fast forward several months and the week of his birthday I was not only ridiculously busy but also quite sick. I suppose I could have changed my mind and used a modern recipe with, you know, quantities and real instructions, but where is the fun in that? Oh and why just make one historical recipe when you can do two?

Girl with a Basket of Eggs by Joachim Beuckelaer (circa 1533–1575) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Girl with a Basket of Eggs by Joachim Beuckelaer (circa 1533–1575) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipes

And so, although the process was not without hiccups, the eggs were pickled and enjoyed and I sat down to write this post. Actually I’ve tried a number of times, but each time I got side-tracked into doing more research. In spite of scouring dozens of cookbooks, I cannot find an older English recipe than the sage recipe which was posted by The Old Foodie and dates from 1725.

“Boil New laid Eggs in Vinegar, Cloves, Pepper, and a Handful of Sage-leaves, till hard, then peel them and put them into Glasses; when your Pickle is cold, put it to them, and cover them down close.”[1]

Sage Pickled Eggs, recipe from 1725

Since the pickled egg is a favourite among re-enactment groups I had just assumed that they were much older, and so apparently do lots of modern cookbook writers. These led me back to Dorothy Hartley’s book Food in England which says that, “When eggs are plentiful, farmers’ wives take four or six dozen newly laid, and boil them hard; then, taking off the shells, they place them in earthenware jars and pour upon them scalding vinegar well seasoned with pepper, allspice, ginger, and garlic. The eggs are fit to use after a month.”[2] She says this recipe comes from 1700 or thereabouts, although nearly identical recipes appear throughout the 19th century, the earliest version I can find is from 1844 in The Mechanic’s Magazine[3].

In fact pickled eggs are much older, just not in England. Going back further, there is a reference to pickled eggs in Andrew Boorde’s A Dyetary of Helth from about 1542 which says that:

“In Turkey, and other hyghe chrystyan landes anexed to it, they use to seth two or thre busshels of egges togither harde, and pull of the shels, & sowse them, and kepe them to eate at all tymes; but hard egges be slow and slack of dygestyon and doth nutryfye the body grosly.”[4]

Sousing is the process of preserving meat or animal parts in a pickle, so these are definitely pickled eggs. Boorde’s comment that these eggs come from Turkey and surrounding lands is interesting in light of a recipe from Kitab Wasf al-At’ima al-Mu’tada or The Description of Familiar Foods. A 14th century cookbook written in Arabic, possibly from Cairo, The Description of Familiar Foods includes the following recipe:

“Baid Mukhallal – Take boiled eggs and peel and sprinkle with a little ground salt and Chinese cinnamon [cassia] and dry coriander. Then arrange them in a glass jar and pour wine vinegar on them, and put it up.”[5]

That’s definitely going to be the next pickled egg recipe I try, but I doubt that it will be as pretty as the second recipe that I made. Dyed pink with beetroot juice, this recipe comes from The Practical American Cook Book, Or, Practical and Scientific Cookery. The Old Foodie quoted an 1855 edition, but I have only been able to find an 1863 edition. Today these pink eggs are particularly associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch and they make a lovely addition to salads with their variegated colours.

Pickled Eggs. Boil them until hard; throw them hot into cold water, which will make the shell slip off smoothly after the eggs have remained in it about ten minutes; boil some red beets till very soft; peel and mash them fine, and put enough of the liquor into cold vinegar to color it pink; add a little salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cloves; put the eggs into a jar and pour the beets, vinegar &c., over them. This makes a pretty garnish for fish or corned meats. Cut the eggs in slices when used.[6]

Pink Pickled Eggs, Recipe from 1863

The Redactions

Safety Note: These are the quantities and processes that I used to make these recipes, but because the liquids are cold when poured over the boiled eggs there is a higher chance of bacterial growth than in modern pickled egg recipes. If you decide to try these recipes you should keep the eggs refrigerated and consume them within days of making them. You can also increase the safety heating the pickling liquid to boiling point and pouring it over the eggs. 

Sage Pickled Eggs

12 eggs

2 1/2 cups vinegar

3 cloves

1 tsp peppercorns

Small handful of sage

  1. Hard boil eggs, then allow to cool and shell them. Place into a sterilised jar.
  2. Mix the vinegar, spices and sage in a saucepan and just bring to the boil. Allow the liquid to cool and pour over the eggs.

Beet Pickled Eggs

12 eggs

1 beetroot, or use the whole, pre-boiled beetroots that you can sometimes find vacuum sealed

1tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup normal vinegar

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup juice from beetroot

3 cloves

  1. Quarter the beetroot, place in a saucepan and cover in boiling water. Bring the pot to the boil and cook until the beetroot is soft, this takes longer than you would think, about 30 mins. When soft, remove the beetroot and allow the pieces to cool enough to handle. Peel the beetroot, then dice it and roughly mash the cubes.

2. Put the eggs into a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a rolling boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Allow to cool and peel.

  1. Place the eggs in a sterilised jar, then add the beetroot over the top. Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over.

Pickled eggs, recipes from 1725 and 1863

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Pickled Eggs from Robert Smith’s Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook 128.(available here) and from The Practical American Cook Book by A Housekeeper (preview available here).

The Date:1725 and 1865

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: The beetroot took a very long time to cook, so those ones took over an hour and a half, but the sage ones were faster; including cooling time they probably took about an hour.

How successful was it?: I only tried the beetroot ones which were a beautiful colour, slightly rubbery but very pleasant. Ryan preferred the sage eggs, but that may be because he isn’t the biggest fan of beetroot.

How accurate?: I ended up changing the process of the sage eggs somewhat, because the first time that I made them I diluted the vinegar with water which would have changed the eggs preservative properties. The sage also through off a nasty scum when boiled like that. In the end I started again, boiling the eggs in water and then heating the other ingredients separately. The biggest difference in terms of ingredients is probably the type of vinegar used, but there was no indication of the type of vinegar in the recipes and I haven’t done enough research to really know what would have been used.

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[1] Robert Smith, Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook (London: Printed for T. Wotton, at the Three-Daggers in Fleet-Street, 1725), 128.

[2] Dorothy Hartley, Food in England (London: Little, Brown & Company, 1999), 345.

[3] Robertson, ed., Mechanics Magazine (London: James Bounsall, 1844), 352.

[4] Andrew Boorde, The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. A Compendyous Regyment; Or, A Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier, ed. Frederick James Furnivall (London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1870), 265.

[5] Charles Perry, “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods],” in Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry (Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001), 397.

[6] A Housekeeper, The Practical American Cook Book (New York: D Appleton and Company, 1863), 91.

And my penguin? He's already making friends.

And my penguin? He’s already making friends.

Bibliography

A Housekeeper. The Practical American Cook Book. New York: D Appleton and Company, 1863.

Boorde, Andrew. The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. A Compendyous Regyment; Or, A Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier. Edited by Frederick James Furnivall. London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1870.

Hartley, Dorothy. Food in England. London: Little, Brown & Company, 1999.

Perry, Charles. “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods].” In Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry, 373–450. Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001.

Robertson, ed. Mechanics Magazine. London: James Bounsall, 1844.

Smith, Robert. Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook. London: Printed for T. Wotton, at the Three-Daggers in Fleet-Street, 1725.