On Whyte Roses

I have used white roses in a conserve and candy. In each preperation the flowers have imparted an apple like flavor and a beige color to the end product.  My brain has a hard time reconciling the smell of rose and the flavor of apple.  It’s an interesting problem.  I wonder if I should have people guess which flower the conserve and candy are from.

To preserve Oranges, after the Portugal fashion

I do not have access to sour oranges. Since this is an experiment, I am going to try them with blood orange, because they are only in season for  a few more weeks at best.

Take Oranges and core them on the side and lay them in water, then boil them in faire water till they be tender, shift them in the boiling to take away their bitterness, then take sugar and boil it to the height of syrup as much as will cover them, and so put your oranges into it, and that will make them take sugar. If you have 24 Oranges, beat 8 of them, till they come to paste, with a pound of fine sugar, then fill every one of the other oranges with the same, and so boil them again in your syrup: then there will be marmalade of Oranges within your oranges, and it will cut like an hard egg.[1]

The blood oranges I found were a bit on the sour side, so they would do for this exercise. I cored 6 oranges 2 of which would be beaten into a paste with sugar. I used 2x refined sugar for this experiments.

Cored and ready for boiling.
photo 1

Post boil, stuffed.
photo 2

Sugar bath
photo 3

Finished product
photo 4

I would definitely do this again. I learned the bigger the ring, the easier they stayed up and resisted cracking when the sugar boiled over the tops of them. I also learned that oranges float, so you cannot have too much liquid (aka cover the oranges). But sugar will rise and cover the tops of the sugar. Filling the pan 2/3 up the orange is sufficient for complete coverage and total saturation. Also all oranges ended up the same color in the end. Variations on the skin all evened out to the same dark orange.  Filling is a little loose. I dont know if the breed of orange makes a difference or if there was too much liquid in the pulpy filling.  Total cooking time 3 hours.  This resulted in 4 oranges, 2 of which I am happy with their appearance.  I can see where this would be better in bulk.

[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 a conserve of flowers- Gilliflowers

The English gilliflower was popular as a flower used in confections.  It is the ancestor of the carnation. Typically clove pink , it has a hint of clove flavor profile in the petals. I was able to find some organic carnations at our flower show.  They were a dark pink/burgundy variety.  It was used in two preparations, conserve and syrup.  Both preparations were made with the 2x refined sugar purchased from a Grocer/Sutler, made with an 18th century processing technique. This gives the final product a diverse flavor profile of sweet, but not modern sugar sweet and floral.

“To make conserve of flowers, as roses, violets, gilliflowers, and such like you shall take the flowers from the stalks  and with a pair of shears cut away the white ends at the roots thereof, and then put them into a stone mortar or wooden brake and there crush or beat them til the be come to a soft substance, and then to every pound thereof, take a pound of fie refined sugar well searced and beat it together, til it comes to one entire body; and then put it up an use it as occasion shall serve.”[1]
prep conserve
This is a very nice thick paste. But very sweet and should be used sparingly  It will make a good accent for wafers.

The syrup is a beautiful royal purple color.  Since the sugar is only 2x refined, you can see a few of the impurities I missed in the skimming process. It still has a pleasant, complex flavor.

[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. 117

Syrup Experimente- Part 2

All three syrups remain in their previous states.  The Raspberry rose shows no crystalization. The Orange primrose, mild crystals. And the herb syrup is almost completely crystalized.  It’s been almost a month, at room temperature and there has been no change. This is good.

Next up, long term wait and see.

Syrup Experimente

It has been 1 week since I made syrups of Herb, Rose Raspberry, and Orange Primrose.  The jars display varying degrees of crystallization.

The herb syrup, is nearly completely crystallized. This one had the most violent boil, so this was not unexpected.  The jar had also been shaken up a wee bit, further agitating the syrup.
Herb Syrup

Next up is the Orange Primrose.  It has some crystallization having been tipped over at some point on the ride home.  Even with this shaking, it is still mostly liquid.

Last up is the Rose Raspberry. It has very little crystallization, only a little at the top of the jar.  It is for the most part, all syrup. This is the one I worry about the most growing something, as it had to be filtered out 5 times to remove any pulp and plant materials.

But as of yet, no sign of spoilage, from any of the three. I will see what happens in a month’s time.

To candie Orenge pilles

I had left over peels from making an orange primrose syrup, so I candied them.

“Take your Orange peels, after they be preserved: then take fine sugar and Rosewater, and boil it to the height of Manus Christi, then draw through your sugar, then lay them on the bottom of a sieve, and dry them in an oven after you have drawn bread, and they will be candied.” [1]
The oranges were simmered to within an inch of their lives during the syrup process.  This made them very soft and super easy to clean. Once the oranges were cool, I cut the flesh and pith away from the rind, and set them aside to cool and dry completely.
Several hours later, I made a solution of equal parts sugar and water. I brought the whole pot up to a boil. I added the orange peels at this stage. This gives me less of a chance for the peels to cause an impurity effect of over boilage. I gradually raised the temperature of the sugar from boil to Manus Christi height. This process took almost an hour. By the time they hit 240, the peels were nearly translucent.  Peels were arranged on a tray and left to air dry on the counter. I did not oven cure them, as the kitchen was very warm due to the 4 bead torches being used.  A few hours later they were completely cool and dried.

I omitted the rose water from the recipe as I had none at hand. This was a great recipe to use what would have otherwise become a waste product.

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.

Manner of making the syrup of Herbs

In the same manner of making the syrup of Rose, I made a syrup of Herbs. I took fresh parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme, and seeped in simmering water. The end result was gold brown herb water.  This was filtered 4 times through cheese cloth to remove any impurities. The resulting water was then turned into syurp.

As the sugar boiled its way up to thread stage, it gave off a black oily scum.  This was scrapped from the top.  I was using a modern sugar, and it behaved exactly like the period sugar with the impurities. We could only guess what was the cause. But we think it was the oils from the herbs. Once cool you could see the crystallization in the final syrup. This happens when cooling sugar crystals fall back into the pot during the boiling process from cold to soft ball. It happens more frequently with sugars that have impurities. And if you do not take modern actions to prevent this, the end sugar will crystallize.  Fortunately,clear sugars syrups are not medieval, so I do not worry about making sure the pot sides stay clean during this initial cooking stage.

People who sampled the end sugar liked how complex the sugar was with the herbs, but remarked it tasted a bit like Ricola.  Which may make a lot of sense. Thyme is used in cough drops, sage used for sore throat, rosemary releives sore muscles, and parsley provides comfort for the stomach, ears, and eyes.

Now the syrup sits in a sealed jar, to see how long it takes to grow a mother.  The answer may be never, but if it does, it will give me an indication of how often syrups had to be made.

How to candy Rosemary flowers, Rose leaves, Roses, Marigolds, &c. with preservation of colour

Any time you work with medieval recipes and sugar, you play a guessing game for what stage they want you to bring your sugar solution up to.

Dissolve refined or double refined sugar, or sugar candy itself in a little Rosewater, boil it to a reasonable height, put in your roots or flowers when your syrup is either fully cold, or almost cold, let them rest therein till the syrup has pierced them sufficiently, then take out your flowers with a skimmer, suffering the loose syrup to rune from them so long as it will, boil that syrup a little more, and put in more flowers, as before, divide them also, then boil all the syrup which remains, and is not drunk up in the flowers, to the height of manus Christi, putting in more sugar if you see cause, but no more Rosewater, put in your flowers therein when your syrup is cold, or almost cold, and let them stand till they candy.[1]

So in the first part of this recipe, we take the the sugar up to a “reasonable height”. Since it is talking about a syrup, it sounds like it is to the thread stage, sugar concentration: 80%. This stage is still mostly liquid and not actually candy. In the second part of the recipe we take the sugar to Manus Christi height, or firm ball stage sugar concentration: 87%. As it cools, put the flowers in and wait until it gets hard. This should result in a candy with very vibrant color. The petals will be saturated with sugar, and the texture of the sugar candy should be light.

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.

A singular manner of making the syrup of Roses

5. Fill a silver basin three quarters full of rain water or soft water: put therein a convenient proportion of Rose leaves, cover the basin and set it upon a pot of hot water (as we usually bake a Custard) in three quarters of an hour, or one whole hour at the most, you shall purchase the whole strength and tincture of the Rose: then take out those leaves, wringing out all their liquor gently, and steep more fresh leaves in the same water: continue this iteration seven times, and then make it up in a syrup, and this syrup works more kindly than that which is made merely of the juice of the Rose. You may make sundry other syrups in this manner. Quere of hanging a pewter head over the basin, if the ascending water will be worth the keeping. [1]

This one is different. In this case the author is talking about a syrup of Roses.  Most of the recipes in this section, a syrup is a sugar concoction with “stuff.” Most of the processing for this recipe is in how to boil down your roses for strength and color. Once we hit the magic number of 7, then we make it into a syrup.  The phrase “more kindly than that which is made merely of the juice of the rose” leads me to believe there is more to this than boiled rose water.

Is this a case where we are expected to know how to make a simple syrup and presume that is what the author meant? I suppose I could try this as a syrup and as a follow EXACTLY as it is written.  My gut says it is the former and not the later.

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.


In medieval era, the way bodies were prepared for embalming included several steps[1]:

1) spurging (washing)
2) cleansing (emptying of the bowels and plugging the rectum)
3) bowelling (removal of the intestines)
4) searing (cauterising of the tom cavity blood vessels),
5) dressing (the application of a resin mixture in volatile oils),
6) furnishing (wrapping the corpse in cerecloth).

It is the final step that is the most interesting. Cerecloth was supplied by the Grocers and used by the Apothecary as they prepared dead bodies. Cerecloth is cloth that has been soaked in wax with resins that created a moisture barrier around the body and kept out the elements.

The remains of that warlike Prince, Edward the First, repose in a plain tomb of grey marble, which has sustained but little injury. At the request of the Society of Antiquaries, this tomb was opened in the year 1770, and the royal body was found wrapped in a strong linen cloth waxed on the inside. The head and face were covered with a facecloth of crimson sarcenet, wrapped into three folds ; and on throwing open the external mantle, the corpse was discovered richly habited in all the ensigns of majesty. The body was wrapped in a fine cerecloth, closely fitted to every part, even to the face and fingers.[2]

So how does this all tie to sugar work? I went searching for a material that I could use while working sugar, that wasnt plastic wrap. They had to have something for larger sculptures. Sugar paste will harden and crack when it is exposed to air. And it is probable they were not making a lot of small paste batches while working on a large project. It is more prudent to make a larger batch and not have to stop every 2 minutes to make more paste. Cerecloth is a product of the Grocers, used by the apothecaries. It creates an airtight, waterproof seal around things. This means it can be used to keep sugar paste fresh, in a medieval fashion, without using plastic.

For my first experiment, I made a 1/2 lb of sugar paste and kept it wrapped up in cerecloth for over a month. When I cracked open the waxed linen, my sugar paste was still fresh and pliable. It has proven effective as a tool, even in the humid NE summers.

Cerecloth recipe:
I use a high quality mid weight linen that has been washed and ironed. Soak it in melted beeswax, until fully saturated. Hang to dry, Lay flat to store. If you need to clean it, use mild soapy water. You can rewax as needed.

A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Philip Stephen Gore
Department of Sociology, Brunei University December 2005

[2]London scenes, or, A visit to Uncle William in town : containing a description of the most remarkable buildings and curiosities in the British metropolis ; illustrated by 78 copperplate engravings ([1824?])