Importante Merchandizes

I often make a distinction when trying out new recipes between, process and the recipe as written. The process is how things go together. Recipe as written is everything from what ingredients am I using, how long it takes to cook , to how it tastes in the long run.

29. To make jelly of Straw-berries, Mulberries, Raspberries, or any such tender fruit. Take your berries, and grind them in an Alabaster mortar, with four ounces of sugar and a quarter pint of fair water, and as much Rosewater: and so boil it in a possinet with a little piece of isinglass, and so let it run through a fine cloth into your boxes, and so you may keep it all the year. -Hugh Plat

When I am first working on process, I use the materials that are cheaper to use and replace if things go wrong.  I work with modern ingredients. These are easy to find at my local grocery store. For the above recipe I got everything, fruit included for about $10. The goal is to produce something that sounds like the recipe I am working on.  I want to see how all the ingredients behave and play off each other.  I take short cuts. Fruits and sugar go into the food processor.  I want to work out how long “boil it” is.

Part 2 is recipe as written.  Once I understand the process of what I’m suppose to be making, I switch over to the ingredients as they are written in the recipe. I use the expensive and harder to acquire ingredients: 2x sugar, distilled rosewater, distilled water, and shredded isinglass. I beat the fruit and sugars in a mortar, with a pestle*. I create the recipe exactly as it is written. I do make a modern exception at the end, by jarring the end product for food safety. The ingredients are specialty items. I get my sugar from one of the only people who still cures loaves in the US (they supply the living history museums).  Total cost of ingredients is about $25.

There is a part 3. If I have enough of the quality ingredients I will do a side by side comparison with modern ingredients and period ingredients, using the exact same proceeding methods. 2 batches of raspberry jelly: 2 sets of identically labeled ingredients + 1 recipe = 2 completely different flavor profiles.  The only difference between the 2 batches is the sugar and the rose water. Batch 1 was made with the loaf sugar and rosewater that I purchased from my Grocer.  Batch 2 was modern sugar and modern rosewater. Both were thickened with shredded isinglass. The difference was remarkable.

There is a noticeable difference when substituting ingredients in the recreation of 16th century recipes.  If you offer something to a person via a blind taste test, they don’t know what is different, just that something isn’t the same. Sometimes that difference is slight. Sometimes it is extreme. They cant tell you which is period and which is modern, but they can tell you which they prefer.

In the case of the raspberry jelly, the difference was a lack of modern sweetness. The 2x sugar has to be cooked on a long slow boil.  This gives the fruit time to intensify in flavor. In the end, the profile was more complex and less cloyingly sweet. Most people preferred the depth of flavor found in the 2x sugar batch.  The rosewater also made a difference. Modern rose waters often have essential oils added back to them, so they are very ROSE, which permeates through out the product. The distilled rosewater is milder, but still rose. This difference was also noticed in the end product.

The important take away here? Ingredients matter. They are important to the process and the overall flavor of the end product. I reserve the pricy ingredients for A&S projects when the science of “what did they do” is my end goal.

The rest of the time, I use what I can get from my local store. Frugality allows me to play with a lot more processes.  If I am cooking a feast, I have to pick and choose where you will employ the expensive ingredients. Personally, I indulge on spices and better cuts of meat, rather than sugar.

* There is a difference between processing fruit in a food processor and processing fruit in a mortar. Fruit ends up in the same state of mush, but looks so very different. It cooks differently also. I’ll take photos next time.

[1]Plat, Hugh. “The Arte Of Preserving Conserving, Candying.” Delights for Ladies: To Adorne Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes, and Waters. Reade, Practise, and Censure. London: Humfrey Lownes, 1609

How to dry all manner of plums or cherries

46. How to dry all manner of plums or cherries in the sun. If it be small fruit, you must dry them whole, by laying them abroad in the hot sun, in stone or pewter dishes, or iron or brass pans, turning them as you shall see cause. But if the plums be of any largeness, slit each plum on the one side from the top to the bottom, and then lay them abroad in the Sun: but if they be of the biggest sort, then give either plum a slit on each side : and if the sun does not shine sufficiently during the practice, then dry them in an oven that is temperately warm.-Hugh Plat

When you live in a 2nd story brownstone, in the middle of the city, with 4 cats, sun drying fruit becomes a challenge.  When you live in the NE region of the United States, humidity adds to that challenge.  I went with the sun not shining sufficiently portion of the recipe and used a low oven at 170 F. Different fruits dry at different times.  Cherries run about 5-6 hours. Strawberries, cut in 1/2 or 1/3 (we had some really large berries) run about 7-8 hours. Apricots run about 14 hours.

Unlike modern dehydrated fruits, these are not bright colors.  They darkened a bit as they lost moisture.  The sugars in the fruits have concentrated and have a wonderful full flavor. There is nothing added, except heat and time.

Fruits

[1] Platt, Hugh. “The Arte Of Preserving Conserving, Candying.” Delights for Ladies: To Adorne Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes, and Waters. Reade, Practise, and Censure. London: Humfrey Lownes, 1609

To make green Ginger upon syrup- Part 2

48. To make green Ginger upon syrup. Take Ginger one pound, pare it clean: steep it in red wine and vinegar equally mixed, let it stand so 12 days in a close vessel, and every day once or twice stir it up and down, then take of wine one gallon, and of vinegar a pottle: seethe all together to the consumption of a moiety or half, then take a pottle of clean clarified honey or more, and put thereunto, and let them boil well together, then take half an ounce of saffron finely beaten, and put it thereto, with some sugar if you please. –Hugh Plat

2 weeks ago, I set up three jars of ginger. Today I finished this recipe.

Here’s what the jars looked like earlier today, after 2 weeks sitting in brine and being shaken 2x per day
2weeksLater
I extracted the ginger from their vinegar/wine jars and I could see they had changed colors.
Ginger

I picked the recipe up at this point:
“take of wine one gallon, and of vinegar a pottle: seethe all together to the consumption of a moiety or half, then take a pottle* of clean clarified honey or more, and put thereunto, and let them boil well together, then take half an ounce of saffron finely beaten, and put it thereto, with some sugar if you please.”

I didn’t start with a pound of ginger, so I reduced the recipe down.
1 pint red/rose wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cup raw honey (I went with “more” because of skimming and loss of product)
Generous pinch of saffron
4 oz sugar (2x)

I brought the wine, vinegar, honey and ginger up to a boil. Then I added the sugar and saffron. I brought the whole mixture up to thread state, 220 F. I skimmed the scum as the mixture boiled.  Since I was using raw honey and 2x sugar, I needed to skim through the whole process. When it was at thread, I jarred up the ginger and syrup.

This recipe really surprised me. I was expecting  a seriously sour, with a bite from the ginger. I what I got was a very complex flavor profile between all the ingredients. I like the slices better than the cubes, but both are refreshing. A little sweet, a little sour, a wee bit of punch from the ginger, and an interesting bite from the saffron. The ginger has softened considerably. And it is is a beautiful shade of orange.
cooked

I am putting this one in the win column.

*1 pottle = 2 quarts
* moiety = a part, specifically  less a part or portion. Cooking concentrates syrups by reducing the liquid by about a 1/3. In a sugar syrup, that is about 65% concentration.

[1] Plat, Hugh. “The Arte Of Preserving Conserving, Candying.” Delights for Ladies: To Adorne Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes, and Waters. Reade, Practise, and Censure. London: Humfrey Lownes, 1609

Minglinge starche with the suger

As I work through the Grocer’s path, there comes a time to ask the question starch or not to starch.  Most modern US powdered sugars contain up to 5% corn starch. It is an anti caking agent.  Left to it’s own devices, powdered sugar will clump like nobody’s business.  But it is also a big no no for Grocers.

In 1562 the Court made an order that “grocerie wares should not be sold in the streetes, figges onlie excepted ;” and that the Apothecaries, freemen of the Company, should not use or exercise any drugs, simple or compound, ” or any other kynde or fortes of Poticarie wares but such as shall be pure and perfyt good.”

In 1571 King, a brother of the Company, ” and certein others, makers of comfytes, charged before the Wardeyns for their misdemeanours in minglinge starche with the suger, and such other thinges as be not tolerated nor suffrid. And the said Rauf King having now in his place a goode quantitie of comfytes, made with corse stuffe, and mingled as aforesaid with starche and such like,” it was ordered, that the comfits mould be put into a tub of water and so consumed and poured out ; “and that everie of the comfytt makers shall be made to enter into bondes in £20, that they shall not hereafter make any biskitts but with clere suger onlie, nor make any comfytts that shall be wrought upon feeds or any other thinges, but with clere suger onlie.”

The Wardens and Court of Assistants, by the Charters before mentioned, possessed the power of committing to prison any individuals guilty of vending damaged or adulterated goods which came within their jurisdiction ; and accordingly, on the 7th February 1616, we find that Michael Eason, having been convicted before the Court, he being an Apothecary and brother of the Company, of selling ” divers fortes of defective Apothecarie wares, which, on triall, were found to be defective, corrupt, and unwholesome for man’s body;” and it being further proved, “that he had sould and uttered the like wares to Mr. Lownes, the Prince his Highness’s Apothecarie, and others;”[1]

So mixing your starch and your sugar gets you arrested, fined and put in prison. It isn’t specified where not to mix starch and sugar, but one can presume it’s any place where someone wont think it will be noticed. Most likely sugar paste. I don’t do period sugar paste 100% of the time. It isn’t economical, especially the larger structure I’m building. I save the expensive materials for smaller pieces where I am trying to show a comparison between right and acceptable.

If I am working 100% as I can get to period paste, I start by buying my sugar from a vendor that is doing a late 17th/early 18th century refining from cane sugar. I use pigments that were made and ground pigment makers. I am using eggs I can source from chickens. I get my gum tragacath from a Asian apothecary. I use rose water that I know is distilled. I scrape my sugar loaf cones. Grind with a mortar and pestle. Sift. And repeat until I have powdered sugar. I do not add starch. I seal everything with bees wax/turpentine mixture. I store my unused paste in cerecloth until I need more.  It is labor intensive and expensive. I am either working on a science project for A&S or I love the person dearly who is getting the end product.

But wait a minute, what about Plat who says you can cut your sugar with a starch if you do not have enough to make sugar paste? Plat catered to the housewife. He was not selling medicines. Grocers = no starch in your sugar (or at least don’t get caught).

I do not add starch to my pieces, except for what comes naturally in large scale projects where I use modern powdered sugar. IF I were to add a starch, I would likely use with rice flour.  It mixes into the paste white and is relatively light. Some wheat is flecked and that does show up in the end paste. It also tends to be heavier.

[1]– Some account of the Worshipful company of grocers of the city of London- BY BARON HEATH  (John Benjamin Heath)

Purchase some reasonable quantity of their own juice

I wanted to make raspberries in syrup. I could not find any raspberry juice. All I could find were berry blends, mixed with grape or apple, filled with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  So I decided to make my own.

  1. Take 2 pints of raspberries.
  2. Add water to cover so the berries start to float.
  3. Boil.No need to mash them, as the berries will self destruct on their own.
  4. Cook them until the raspberries give off all their color and the pulp looks greyish.
  5. Pass pulp and liquid through a very fine strainer.

And there you have it. Just the berry juice.  Proceed to work the recipe like normal*.

*eh sorta.  Raspberries will fall apart pretty quickly if you cook them as long or as violently as  cherries, grapes or apricots.  I waited until my syrup came up to 215 before adding the fruit.  Very slow boil until it came to thread state.  Even then the berries started to break up.
rasp

Syrup Experimente- Part 3

Remember these?  They are now almost 4 months old. Interesting things have happened in the time since I sat these on a shelf to see what would happen.
Syrups4mo

The herb syrup has grown mold and has started liquifying.  While this is what I would call an Experimente Failen, it is actually very interesting.
MoldGrowth

There are lots of questions around this one.
What would have happened if it hadn’t been allowed to boil so violently?
What about less agitation when it was bottled?
Was it strained enough?
Too many organic impurities?
What would happen with the 2x refined sugar?

The orange primrose has crystallized a bit more.  But has been relatively stable for 3 months.
OrangeSyrup

The rose raspberry has fared the best of the three.  There is only a slight bit of crystallization.
RoseSyrup

I had the rose syrup tested. This stuff will be shelf stable for quite awhile

I made a 4th syrup with left over carnation. It was a month later than these 3. However of all of them, it is the clearest, showing no signs of crystallization. It was strained and put into a new jar. It was also the only syrup that was made with the artisan sugar. So it had a longer, slower processing time. It is still a beautiful royal purple.
Carnation

To make green Ginger upon syrup- Part 1

48. To make green Ginger upon syrup. Take Ginger one pound, pare it clean: steep it in red wine and vinegar equally mixed, let it stand so 12 days in a close vessel, and every day once or twice stir it up and down, then take of wine one gallon, and of vinegar a pottle: seethe all together to the consumption of a moiety or half, then take a pottle of clean clarified honey or more, and put thereunto, and let them boil well together, then take half an ounce of saffron finely beaten, and put it thereto, with some sugar if you please.- Hugh Plat

This is a two part experiment.  The first is pickling the ginger in a 1:1 mixture of wine to vinegar. The ginger is then set in a closed vessel for 12 days.  Second part of preserving happens after that.  I am using a red wine vinegar and a dark rose Bordeaux wine.  The recipe doesn’t say anything about cutting the ginger into smaller bits.  It may have been something they knew to do. I find the directions lacking completeness, so I have taken the liberty of running 3 different jars. Jar 1 contains cubed ginger. Jar 2 contains sliced ginger 1/4″. Jar 3 contains whole ginger . I will shake them twice a day and in 12 days it will be time for part 2.  And then we will see which jar performed the way the recipe reads.
Ginger

[1] Plat, Hugh. “The Arte Of Preserving Conserving, Candying.” Delights for Ladies: To Adorne Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes, and Waters. Reade, Practise, and Censure. London: Humfrey Lownes, 1609.

To make any conserve

To make conserve of any fruit you please, you shall take the fruit you intend to make conserve of and if it be stone fruit you shall take out the stones; if other fruit, take away the paring and core, and them boil them in fair running water to a reasonable height; then drain them from thence, and put them into a fresh vessel with claret wine, or white wine, according to the color of the fruit; and so boil them to a thick pap all to mashing, breaking, and stirring them together; then to every pound of pap put to a pound of sugar, and so stir them all well together, and being very hot, strain them through fair strainers, and so pot it up. [1] Markham

On the surface this is a recipe might be something that is between a jam and a jelly.  Pulp can still be pushed through a strainer, but the skins and most seeds are removed.  The only explicit amounts listed are the pulp to sugar ratio- 1:1. The rest of the amounts and ingredients are left to chance and experimentation.

For pass #1 I used 24 oz of raspberries and 24 oz of black berries.  Both are starting to come into season in my area and are readily available. I used a Bordeaux rose for the wine. There is speculation about what claret was in 16th century England. Claret is a wine from the Bordeaux region of France, but is a term that was not used by the French. Origins of the word are unknown. References to dark red wine appear in the 18th century.  Experts believe claret refers to paler red wine, similar to a modern rose, as that was the type of grape being grown in the region.[2,3]

I put the berries in a pot with enough distilled water to cover, and brought it to a boil. At boil, I turned off the heat drained the liquid and returned the berries to a clean pot. I added enough wine to cover the berries. I set it over medium high heat and cooked until all the berries had slipped their skins and turned into a thickened pulpy mush.  I ended up with 2 lbs of mush, so I added 2 lbs of sugar.  Brought the whole mixture back up to a temperature of 220 degrees. I then strained the whole mixture through a mesh sieve. I canned the mixture according to modern canning techniques.

I am not 100% sure the mixture will set like a modern jam/jelly.  It was semi solid when they went into the jars last night.  I am also not 100% certain it is suppose to set like a modern preserve.  It wasn’t cooked long enough to be a paste. There was no additional pectin in the form of apples, like there was in the marmalade recipe. The recipe does say it gets potted up rather than boxed.  So there may be a presumption this going to have more liquid.

Because I am impatient, I cracked open one of the jars.  It is indeed the consistency of a semi solid gel.  For this fruit, I believe it follows along with what the recipe wanted me to do. It sticks to the knife and slowly slides down.
knife spoon

[1] Markham, Gervase, and Michael R. Best. The English Housewife: Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman … Montreal: McGill-Queen’s U, 1998. Print. p. 116

[2] Merchant, Wine, and W. R. Loftus. The Wine Merchant ; a Familiar Treatise on the Art of Making Wine, Etc. London: n.p.75, 1865. Print.

[3] Lawther, James, Hugh Johnson, and Jon Wyand. The Finest Wines of Bordeaux: A Regional Guide to the Best Châteaux and Their Wines. Berkeley: U of California, 2010. Print. pg. 8

The most kindly way to preserve plums, cherries, gooseberries, & c.

The most kindly way to preserve plums, cherries, gooseberries, &c. You must first purchase some reasonable quantity of their own juice, with a gentle heat upon embers, between two dishes, dividing the juice still as it comes in the strewing; then boil each fruit in his own juice, with a convenient proportion of the best refined sugar.- Hugh Plat

This is a whole cherry recipe, equal parts liquid to sugar, boiled to thread state syrup. The fruit was de-stemmed and boiled in the syrup.  I did not have enough of the pure cherry juice to do a 1:1 ratio, so I mixed the juice with water to create 4 cups of liquid (amount needed for 2lbs of cherries). There was a need to skim the scum from the mixture as it was cooking. I chose to take the liquid to thread state as that is the common stage for syrups. Manus Christi height would be too stiff for a liquid.
cherryskim

It was canned for modern preservation. This preserves the cherries in a heavy syrup and maintains the wonderful cherry flavor and provides modern food safety and stabilization.
Cherry
[1] Platt, Hugh. “The Arte Of Preserving Conserving, Candying.” Delights for Ladies: To Adorne Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes, and Waters. Reade, Practise, and Censure. London: Humfrey Lownes, 1609.

To make Marmalade of Lemons or Oranges

To make Marmalade of Lemons or Oranges. Take ten lemons or oranges and boil them with half a dozen pippins, and so draw them through a strainer, then take so much sugar as the pulp does weigh, and boil it as you do Marmalade of Quinces, and then box it up. -Hugh Plat.

I followed the recipe up until the boil it as you do Marmalade of Quinces. I ended up with 2 lbs of pulp, so I added 2 lbs of sugar. I used granny smith apples instead of pippens, because crab apples are not in season in the US and granny smith apples yield a similar flavor profile.

Once there I cooked it on a med heat to a boil about 20 minutes (220 degrees-ish on a candy thermometer). And did the Alton Brown chilled plate test. Take a cold plate, put a tsp of marmalade on it. If it runs it need more time. If it slowly kind of jiggles then it’s ready.

I am very concerned with people being able to eat it and not getting sick.  Rather than boxing, I used a modern canning jar.  I currently have 8 3oz jars of lemon marmalade. Some time later I will make a batch and box it, to see what the science will do to the marmalade over time.
[1] Platt, Hugh. “The Arte Of Preserving Conserving, Candying.” Delights for Ladies: To Adorne Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes, and Waters. Reade, Practise, and Censure. London: Humfrey Lownes, 1609.