Wholesome and comfortable Manus Christi

Hugh Plat has a number of Manus Christi recipes.  This one tends to be my go to recipe.  However, while looking for oil decoctions I found another of his recipes from an earlier manuscript.

Wholesome and comfortable Manus Christi
Dissolve some of the whitest Barbary suger you can get, with a little rosewater in a small shallowe pipkin,that cotaineth 3 or 4 ounces & glased within, and having a smal lip, boile the same upon a soft fire, unto a stifnesse, or consistency(as they terme it) till a drop thereof being powred out of the lip upon a cold stone, become hard, and nor clammy when it is cold. And when you have your sugar boiled to this heigth, then having a cleane Marble stone, first sprinkeled over with fine flower, poure the same out by peecemeale, making each of them of the bignes of a groat or tester, or thereabouts, and when they are thorow cold, having a few droppes of the oyle cynamon, Cloves, mace, nutmegs, &c. in a silver-sþoone, with a small feather, give each of the Manus Christi a tuch onely with a little oyle, on the tippe of the feather, and so you may prepare a great many together of them with such oyles as the physician shal give direction, and in the eating of them, you shall finde them to warme and comfort your stomach exceedingly. Some do put in their oyles in the boyling of the Sirrop, but I holde the first to be the better way, both because you may make of severall sorts at-once, as also for that these oyles being over heated do lose a great part of their grace in tast.[1]

1 part sugar
1/2 part rosewater

  1. Mix sugar and water together and set on medium high heat.
  2. When temperature reaches 245° F remove from heat
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon until candy starts to cloud and turn opaque.
  4. Drop cooling candy onto a marble stone in quarter to half dollar sized rounds. If you do not have marble, use parchment paper.
  5. Once cool, brush with cinnamon, mace or clove oil.
  6. Store in air-tight container at room temperature.

I would not recommend adding oil to the confection as it is boiling. This introduces another impurity to the sugar as it boils. The oils end up getting removed with the scum, giving the end product a lesser flavor.

I made three oils using the Oyle of Rose method from mace, clove and cinnamon. I used chicken feathers to apply the oils to the confections as visitors requested a flavor. The oils were delicate and added a nice flavor to the rose sugar.

[1] Plat, Hugh “Diuers Chimicall Conclusions Concerning the Art of Distillation: With Many Rare Practices and Uses Thereof, According to the Authors Own Experience” 1594

A syrupe to cool the stomach and to allay chollor

The combination of acid and sugar preserves this syrup for a good while.

Take the juyce of Oranges six spoonefulles*, the like quantity of the juyce of Lemmons and so much of the juyce of Pomegranetts (if you can goff it) putt to it so much redd Rose ayer as all those juyces doe amounte unto, and putt likewise so much faire water as will equall the foresaid juyces and Rose water. Then moasure all togoathor and to half pinte putt halfo a pound of Sugar fynelye boaton and so boil altogoathor till it commoth to a syrupe. Then putt it into a glasse and keepe it for your use. And when you will use it take some borrage water or rose water or faire running water boiled, mingle it with so much syrupe as you will take, so as you may drink it.[1]

Equal amounts of:
Orange juice
Lemon juice
Pomegranate juice
Rose water
Distilled water
½ pound of ground sugar, per half pint of ingredients above

Bring ingredients to a boil.

  1. Skim the scum from the mixture
  2. Remove from heat when mixture reaches thread state, 225 F.
  3. When cool, you can mix with borrage water, rose water or distilled water.

* The quantity of six spoonfuls would vary with the size of the spoon. This is why the recipe is written for ratio of equal parts of the various juices.

[1] A Booke of diuers Medecines, Broothes, Salves, Waters, Syroppes and Oyntementes of which many or the most part have been experienced and tryed by the speciall practize of Mrs Corlyon. Anno Domini 1606.

How to distill BorrageWater

This is a post about what happens when you leave your A&S project at home on the counter, but you have borrage petals and a hotel room with a stove.

Artifacts of a Life was an event where contestants were judge by a body of work in a given area and persona.  My persona is that of a 16th century grocer/confectioner. My entry was breadth of knowledge across this discipline. One recipe called for borrage water to be added at time of service to help with stomach issues. Since it was added later and not at the time of crafting, I had it on the counter ready to pack up to take on the road trip to the event. I packed the dried borrage flowers so people could see the raw ingredients.

When I got to the hotel that night, I realized I left the water at home. The hotel had pots, pans, and a stove in the room. I had borrage flowers and distilled water.  So… the night before the event, I distilled borrage water, like you do when you forget things at home.

My water ended up less than water colored. My pan was not deep enough for the bowl I had placed as a condensation vessel. So there was a little bit of borrage tea water that got into the distillation as I removed the bowl.  This gave it a beautiful faint purple color and a slightly stronger borrage flavor. The hotel did not have ice and I didn’t think to bring any. This meant I needed to do the condensation portion without the addition of an external cooling agent. Turns out, that it’s not really needed. As long as I kept the heat low and the water at a constant rate in the pan, I got condensation in my collection bowl. It took twice as long, but it did work.

This is something I would not have discovered without my forgetting the original water at home. I was able to make new water, learned some new science, and people at the event were able to try the citrus syrup as it was written in Mrs Corlyon’s book.

A reasonable quantity of sugar

We often hear that sugar was expensive to purchase in Elizabethan England. But how much does expensive translate into current US dollars.  You can purchase sugar by the 5 lb bag at your local store for $3-$5. I purchase 2x loaf sugar from my Grocer of a rate of 8lbs for $25.

“In 1605 Lord Spencer buys a considerable quantity of loaf sugar at a very high price, 2s. the pound, under the name of Barbary sugar.”[1]

£1 = 20 shillings (s)

Measuring Worth [2], calculates a 16th century £1 = £199.10 in 2014 values. In US dollars £1 = $1.57, or $321.54 to £1 in the 16th century.  Sugar by these prices would be $32.154 per pound. Or roughly $160.77 per 5 pounds in today’s exchange. My loaf sugar would be $257.20 for an 8lb loaf.

As you can see, sugar was indeed an expensive ingredient in the late 16th, early 17th centuries.

[1] Arthur George Liddon Rogers, “A History of Agriculture and Prices in England: From the Year After the Oxford Parliament (1259) to the Commencement of the Continental War (1793), Volume 5”,    January 1, 1887

[2] Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, “Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1270 to Present,” MeasuringWorth, 2015. http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/relativevalue.php

Oyle of Rose Experimente- failen

The first batch of Rose appears to have grown a mold of some sort. It was surface mold only on some of the rose petals that were above the oil. I have a wonderful aerobic environment for things to grow in. The rose and oil are in a sealed jar, in a warm location, and covered by a towel.

I have removed the growing bits and a bit more of the top layer of rose petals that were above the oil line. Currently all remain roses are below the oil line. They have now gone back to their spot on the window sill to complete the 40 day wait. Since this is not a food based product that someone will eat, I am happy to let the recipe do what it is going to do. Batch 2 of rose oil seems to be doing well and shows no signs of growth.

How to distill RoseWater

This is an experiment in creating floral waters, or sweet waters. These are waters that are distilled from flowers, but do not use alcohol as a distillation base. Two different waters were made Borage and Rose. Rose water is the base for many confection recipes including the Manus Christi. Borage water is needed for a syrup recipe I will be making later this month from Mrs Corlyon receipt book.

The basic principle of distillation is creating vapor, that is cooled and condenses into a containment vessel. I have a glass still and an improvised “basic still”. This weekend since I was traveling and didn’t want to risk the science kit, I used the improvised still.

Equipment needed:
1 large pot
1 large steel bowl that will act as a pot lid
1 brick1 smaller steel bowl
4 gallon zip top bags filled with ice

Still set up:

  1. In the center of the pot, place your brick.
  2. Add 1-2 cups of flower petals (fresh or dried)
  3. Add enough distilled water to cover the flowers, but not completely cover the brick (it should not be submerged).
  4. Bring this mixture to a boil.
  5. Place the smaller bowl on top of the bricks and turn the heat down to low.
  6. Place the larger bowl over the mouth of the pot. It should form a lid. The bowl gives the water a low point to drip into the smaller bowl.
  7. Add one bag of ice to the bowl (keep it in the baggie, makes clean up easier).
  8. Set timer for 15 minutes and walk away.
  9. Repeat the ice, timer, walk away 3x more.Do not be tempted to lift the lid. You will let out steam that way.
  10. At the end of an hour, rescue your flower water and clean up.

As you can see the water ends up water colored. I can tell the difference between the two jars, by scent only. Many distillation recipes call for the use of a lead still. Given that the end product will be used in food, I have opted to use a safer still option for food production.

“Stampe the leaves, and first distill the juice being expressed and after distil the leaves, and so you shall dispatch more with one Still than others doe with three or foure stils.  And this water is every way as medicinable as the other, serving in all sirups, decoctions, &c. sufficiently, but not altogether so pleasing in smell.”[1]

[1] Plat, Hugh “Diuers Chimicall Conclusions Concerning the Art of Distillation: With Many Rare Practices and Uses Thereof, According to the Authors Own Experience” 1594

Oyle of Rose- Part 5

Almost done making oyle of rose. We are now just sitting and waiting until it’s time to do the final straining. I have double boilered the oil and dried damask roses. The scent is milder, but still rosey. It joins the other jar on the window sill covered by a towel until the end of the month.  Here is a side by side look at the two oils as of today.

Almond oil- dried damask rose

Olive oil- fresh generic red rose

Oyle of Rose- Part 4

I have started batch 2 with the Damask roses and sweet almond oil.  I was surprised that the oil has no additional sent other than “oil.”  This means, the roses will do their thing and not have to compete with the underlying sent of the oil base. With batch 1, the roses were working against the smell of olive.

I wanted to try making a batch of rose oil with dried flowers. Roses have a growing season, but the recipe doesn’t specify when you should be making the oil. Nor does it specify that you should be using fresh flowers.  There are a number of recipes that discuss the proper way to dry flowers so they can be used later. So this is an experiment to see what type of oil and scent will be generated by dried flowers.  Also Damask roses is one of the period appropriate rose breeds.

Batch 1 of rose oil using modern red roses, is a delightful yellow color. It is currently sitting on a shelf that gets moderate sun, covered with a towel.  The towel acts as an insulator. The rose smell has intensified in a delicate way and the olive smell of the base oil is just a faint note in the background.  The rose breed used in this batch is generic organic red rose.

Oyle of Rose- Part 3

I have removed the rose oil from the double boiler and strained it through a fine linen cloth mesh.  I have lost very little of the oil in this process. What I ended up with, was a lovely pale yellow oil that no longer smells like olive oil. It now smells distinctly like rose oil.


This will now get set in the sun and covered for ~40 days.

An Oynttment for the stomake approved good against the coughe- Part 1

Among the things Grocers were expected to produce are ointments.  I am working on one that requires chicken grease as the base.

“Take of Capon grease the quantitye of 4 ownzes”[1]

The first part of the recipe requires the grease of capons. Chicken fat is not something I keep around the house for very long. It is a great byproduct to use in cooking and in sauces.  So I started this recipe off by rendering a chicken cooked in water.

This rather large chicken, rendered out about 1/2″ of fat at the bottom of a pint jar.
photo 2

I will be cooking off more chicken in the next few weeks.  I have also asked people to save skins and fat for me if they normally discard it.  I have requested these to be frozen as to a time that I can pick them up.  I am storing my chicken fat in the freezer until I have enough to make the recipe a few times and have a little left over for when mistakes happen.

Part 2 will happen in a few weeks, once I have collected enough fat.

[1] “A Booke of diuers Medecines, Broothes, Salues, Waters, Syroppes and Oyntementes of which many or the most part haue been experienced and tryed by the speciall practize of Mrs Corlyon. Anno Domini 1606.”