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Salads: “Cooking” and a recipe of sorts

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Please forgive the sizeable gap between the first post on salads and this one, it’s been a busy January. Anyway, I have finally made an early modern salad, and as you can see from the picture above, it’s a rather magnificent looking thing. Here’s another photo of it pulled apart a bit. 

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And here is the recipe I used, from Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife (1631):

The compound Sallet.

To compound an excellent Sallat, and which indeed is vsuall at great feasts, and vppon Princes tables: Take a good quantity of blancht Almonds, and with your shredding Knife cut them grossely; then take as many Raisins of the Sunne cleane washt, and the stones pickt out, as many Figs thred like the Almonds, as many Capers, twice so many Olyues, and as many Currants as of all the rest cleane washt: a good handfull of the small tender leaues of Red Sage and Spinage: mixe all these well together with good store of Sugar, and lay them in the bottome of a great dish; then put vnto them Vinegar and Oyle, and scrape more Sugar ouer all: then take Orenges and Lemons, and paring away the outward piles, cut them into thinne slices, then with those slices couer the Sallet all ouer; which done, take the fine thinne leafe of the red Coleflower, and with them couer the Orenges and Lemons all ouer; then ouer chose red leaues lay another course of old Olyues, and the slices of wel pickled Cucumbers, together with the very inward heart of your Cabbage lefee cut into slces; then adone the sides of the dish, and the top of the Sallet with mo slices of Lemons and Orenges, and so serue it vp.

It seems odd to provide a recipe since it’s so straightforward and there’s no cooking involved so I won’t, but see the bottom of the post for a loose ingredients list. First, I’ll just go through some of the ingredients. Some are obvious – olives, capers (delicious!), currants and the like – but others a little less so. I couldn’t locate either red “coleflower” aka cauliflower or red sage, so I had to make do with their white/green alternatives. I used the outer leaves of the cauliflower rather than the florets, as instructed. This seemed a bit odd at first, but I suppose that raw cabbage is found in coleslaw, so it’s not too unusual. Pickled cucumbers are of course gherkins – another favourite of mine. The sliced lemons were a very unusual addition, I am not really used to actually eating lemons, just flavouring things with their juice. When combined with some of the sweeter flavours like the currants or indeed oranges, however, it lost it’s sharp edge and was a lot more palatable then I expected. 

When I first read the recipe I thought this recipe sounded pretty unpleasant and rather odd. Once I actually made it, however, I found it had a lot more in common with modern salads than I expected. The oil and vinegar dressing for one thing, is something we still use today. The combination of sweet, pickled and savoury was unexpectedly good, and it certainly lived up to it’s name of a “compound salad”.

If you do fancy making one, here are the ingredients in handy list form (no quantities though, just go by what you like – though I do encourage you to try the things you think sound a bit odd):

A compound salad

Blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Raisins

Figs, fresh or dried (I used dried but fresh would be lovely I think), roughly chopped

Capers

Olives

Currents

Whole sage leaves

Spinach leaves

Sugar (a tablespoon or so)

Vinegar (1/2 tablespoon)

Oil (1/2 tablespoon)

Orange and lemon, peel cut off and cut into thin slices

Outer leaves of cauliflower, sliced

Cabbage hearts, sliced

Gherkins, sliced

Arrange in layers as described above, mix together, or construct in any other way you see fit. Go on, try something new (well, old I suppose) and brighten up your January!

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Hippocras part 2: The recipe

It would be a bit of a stretch to call this post “cooking and the recipe” as I usually subtitle the second parts of my food adventures. This is a ridiculously easy recipe, and unlike either of the other drink based recipes I’ve made previously, there is no cooking involved – it doesn’t even involve heating anything.

To make Ipocras. Cap. xl.

TAke of chosen Cinimon, two ounces, of fyne Gynger one ounce, of Graynes halfe an ounce, bruse them all, & sleepe them in. iii. or. iiii. pyntes of good odiferous wine, with a pound of Sugre by the space of. xxiiii. howres. then put them into an Ipocras Bag of Wollen, and so receaue the liquor. The rediest and best waye is to put the Spices with the halfe pownde of sugre, and the Wine into a stone Bottle, or a stone pot stopped close. and after: xxiiii. howres it wyll bee ready, then cast a thin linnen cloth, or a peece of a boulter cloth on the mouth, & let so much run thorow: as ye wyll occupy at once, and kepe the vessell close, for it will so well keep both the sprite, odour and vertue of the Wine, and also Spices.

Today’s recipe comes from John Partridge’s The treasurie of commodious conceits, & hidden secrets (1573). I shall, as with the beer post, not be giving step by step pictures because it’s so easy.

I am no wine expert, and I don’t really drink red anyway (hippocras was usually, though not always, made with red wine), so I can’t really suggest which would be best. In the interests of authenticity, a French wine would probably be best, since the majority of wine imported in the 16th century would have come from France. Even as someone who prefers white, I have to say that red is much more “odiferous” (i.e. pleasant smelling). On a practical note, if you are planning to make the hippocras in the bottle a screw-cap is better as it won’t leak when you shake it.

I scaled the recipe down somewhat, in fact I quartered it. I discovered that a pint of wine is pretty much a bottle minus a large glass when I measured out what was left in the bottle my husband started drinking last night. So that was rather fortuitous.

The spices are mostly self explanatory, except for one. The “graynes” mentioned are in fact “grains of paradise”, what we know today as cardamom. I absolutely love the taste of cardamom, it makes me think of drinking chai tea at 2am in the Green Fields. But I digress.

As for sugar, there seemed to be conflicting instructions about how much to use, first Partridge stipulates a pound of sugar, and then later refers to half a pound. I went for a whole pounds (well, the scaled down equivalent) which turned out to be far too much, in my opinion.

Not having a stone bottle, I opted to just reuse the glass bottle the wine came in. I imagine you could use one of these instead though, which would look rather nice: http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/30213552/.

After having left it for a day, I tried the hippocras, as did my husband and our friend Ed, who happens to be visiting this weekend. I put a jelly bag over the top of the bottle and tried to pour, but it was reluctant to come out as the spices were blocking the neck, but with a little shaking it came out soon enough. The general consensus was that is was nice, but far too sweet. Ed even compared it to Ribena! The spiciness was pronounced, but not as strong as in mulled wine. If I made it again I think I’d probably scale down the sugar by at least half. Still, it was rather tasty, and would make a good aperitif or, even better, digestif. You could use it anywhere you’d serve port or sherry. It would also be nice in cooking, I think, especially around Christmas time – perhaps used in stewed red cabbage or poached pears.

So, onto the recipe!

Hippocras (makes 1 pint)

1 bottle of red wine (your choice, but as with mulled wine the better the wine the better the hippocras)

3 large cinnamon sticks

About 20 cardamom pods

1/2 ounce fresh ginger

1/4 pound sugar (or less, to taste – this could easily be halved and was too sweet for my tastes, but it’s up to you)

Measure out a pint of the red wine in a measuring jug. You do not need what remains in the bottle, so find some other use for it. Bruise the ginger, break it up as necessary and add it to the bottle. Add the cardamoms and the cinnamon sticks too. Add the sugar to the wine and stir to combine as much as possible. Put the sugary wine back into the bottle, this will be a lot easier if you have a funnel. Put the screw cap on, or use a stopper if it had a cork. Upend it a few times (easier if it’s a screw-cap) to mix the sugar in as much as possible.

Leave the wine for 24 hours, turn it upside down a few times if you remember to help the sugar mix in.

After it’s been sitting for a day or so, open and strain through some muslin, cheesecloth or similar. Enjoy!

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Cakes: Cooking and the recipe

 

For this recipe I’m going back a little further than usual – the majority of the recipes I cook tend to be mid-17th century, but this one if from the late 16th century. I’m using Thomas Dawson’s The good huswifes jewell (1587) which I don’t think I’ve used before for this blog. This is odd as I am quite familiar with it from my work, and there are some fascinating recipes in there. It’s an interesting book, containing not just recipes but also some information about animal husbandry and some home remedies for various ailments. I think I’ll have to make more of an effort to try out some of Mr Dawson’s recipes in the future – though possibly not his medicines. He also provides the following tip “For to make one slender”:

TAke Fennell, and seeth it in water, a very good quantitie, and wring out the iuyce therof when it is sod, and drinke it first and laste, and it shall swage either him or her.

It seems fad diets and those “weird old diet tips” so beloved of annoying internet ads have a long and proud tradition stretching back hundred of years!

Anyway, here’s the recipe I’ll be cooking today:

To make fine Cakes.

TAke fine flowre and good damaske water you must haue no other liquor but that, then take sweete butter, two or thrée yolkes of egges, and a good quantitie of suger, and afewe cloues, and mace, as your Cookes mouth shall serue him, and a litle saffron, and a litle Gods good about a sponful if you put in too much they shall arise, cut them in squares like vnto trenchers, and pricke them well, and let your ouen be well swept and lay them vpon papers and so set them into the ouen, do not burn them if they be three or foure dayes olde they be the better.

As is often the case, there are few indications of quantities in this recipe, so there is a lot of guesswork involves. As I said in the last post, early modern cakes were more of a “fancy bread” than the sponge cakes we eat today. There is also a clue in the fact that the bread is cut into squares before being baked – clearly this is a kind of dough and not the thick batter that a modern recipe would produce. With this in mind, although this recipe contains all the ingredients of a modern cake (flour, eggs, butter and sugar), I didn’t want to be basing my quantity estimates on a traditional cake mix, but rather I approached this as a bread enriched with sugar, butter and eggs, like brioche or challah. It didn’t turn out much like either though.

Although this cake can’t really be described as a bread, there is some yeast in this recipe – that’s what the “God’s good” is. The etymology is quite interesting. According to the OED, “God’s good” was also used to refer to “property or possessions belonging to God (applied esp. to Church property); also, worldly possessions, food, etc., viewed as the good gift of God”. I would assume that perhaps yeast came to be associated particularly with this as it is a naturally occurring substance, it comes not from man’s intervention but from the “good gift of God”. Whatever the reason, there is yeast in this recipe, but curiously the recipe does not seem to want the cakes to “arise”.

I started by activating some yeast in a small cup. I took 200g flour to which I added 3 tablespoons of water and a few drops of rose water. As I have discussed before, the rose water you can buy today is very strong, and you shouldn’t really use large quantities of it, so it needs to be diluted into normal water. I added 2 egg yolks and 50g each caster sugar and softened butter to the mixture and beat it until it was combined.

I then added a pinch of ground cloves and mace, and then a tablespoon of the foam from the top of the yeast. Sadly I couldn’t get hold of saffron, if you are using it I’d advise steeping it in the tablespoonful of water and then adding it with the rosewater at the beginning.

This makes a stiff dough so you’ll have to get in there and kneed it with your hands. If it won’t quite combine, add a little more water.

At this point, I rolled out the cake and cut it into squares. I then baked it in a medium-hot oven (about 200c) for about 20 minutes.

After letting the cakes cool for a while, I tried one (as did my resident early modern food guinea pig aka husband). They were rather tasty, though not all that much like cakes or even bread for that matter. They are probably best described as a cross between a scone and a biscuit. They were quite sweet, the texture soft crumbly, flaky and a little bit risen. Very tasty, if a little dry. You could, however, ice them which would probably help with this, or spread some jam or other preserve on them to eat.

Fancy making your own early modern cakes? Here’s a recipe:

 

Fine cakes

Makes about 8 small cakes

200g flour

3 tbsp water with a few drops rose water dissolved in it, plus additional water

50g sugar

50g butter, softened

2 egg yolks

Pinch each ground cloves and mace

Saffron, if desired

Dried active yeast

 

If you are using saffron steep it in the water for half an hour (warm the water first), then add the rosewater. Make up the yeast according to packet instructions. This will usually involve dissolving it with sugar in warm water and waiting for some foam to form on top. While the yeast is activating, put the flour in a large bowl with the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the butter, water with rosewater and egg yolks. Stir to combine. Add the spices with a tablespoonful of the yeasty water, then kneed until the bread comes together. You might have to add more water.

Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out. I rolled mine out to around the thickness of 2 pound coins. Once it it rolled, cut into squares, put onto a greased baking sheet, prick all over with a skewer, and bake in the oven on a medium-hot heat, about 200g. Check after 20 minutes, remove if they seem cooked, leave them in a bit more if not.

 

Enjoy your early modern cakes! They are best when they are warm. If anyone tries this recipe please let me know how you got on in the comments.

 

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Buttered beer: Cooking and the recipe

This is a nice easy recipe, with nice, easy to find ingredients. So why has it taken me so long to make? I blame the weather. It has just been too hot to drink creamy, warm beer – definitely cider weather over the last week or two. But now, the rain is back, hooray! I may be the only person who is happy about this, I am not really a fan of hot weather as it means I can’t wear anything wool (at least 70% of my wardrobe is woollen), I get sunburnt the instant I step outside, and the gallons of tea and coffee I need to get my through the day are a lot less appealing (though I have recently rediscovered iced coffee – yum!). Anyway, enough about me, on to the beer recipe:

Take three pintes of Beere, put fiue yolkes of Egges to it, Straine them together, and set it in a pewter pot to the fyre, and put to it halfe a pound of Sugar, one penniworth of Nutmegs beaten, one penniworth of Cloues beaten, and a halfepenniworth of Ginger beaten, and when it is all in, take another pewter pot and brewe them together, and set it to the fire againe, and when it is readie to boyle, take it from the fire, and put a dish of Sweet butter into it, and brewe them together out of one pot into an other

A good huswifes handmaide for the kitchin 1594

I didn’t really want to make 3 pints worth, especially since my husband voiced his dislike for warm, creamy alcohol back when I made the posset, so he wouldn’t be volunteering to help me drink it. I scaled the recipe down to a fifth. This quantity filled a particularly large mug. I’m not sure exactly how much a pennyworth of each of these spices would be, so I went with a small pinch. You can probably just do it according to taste, a small pinch made for a fairly lightly spiced drink, which I thought was nice, but if you like it spicier then by all means add more.

This is such a simple recipe it doesn’t really warrant a step by step description of the cooking with pictures. I will just skip straight to the recipe:

Buttered beer (for 1)

340ml beer (An ale-type beer is probably best. I used Old Speckled Hen)

1 egg yolk

45g sugar

Small pinch nutmeg, cloves, and half the amount of ginger

25g butter

Whisk the egg yolk and then slowly whisk in the beer until it is all incorporated. Put in a saucepan with the sugar and spices, then warm over a medium heat until just simmering. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, then pour into a mug and serve.

As I expected, this is definitely a drink for a cold and rainy night. I will be reviving this in the winter I think. It’s a lot less heavy than something like posset or egg nog, but it has a similar kind of taste. I really enjoyed it, so I deem this cooking experiment a success! I also can’t go without mentioning that it appealed to the Harry Potter fan in me.

What will be the next food? I am not sure. Any suggestions?

 

UPDATE 10/11/12: I’ve been playing around with this recipe again since the its now definitely the season for it, and I can confirm that this actually tastes much better when made with beers other than Old Speckled Hen – its too bitter and tastes odd with the sugar. Try something darkish but mild, London Pride works well.

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Comfits and custards revisited – recipes

I’ve finally had a second attempt at the custards, and a third attempt at the comfits. Happily, this time both worked very well indeed.

I’ll start with the custard first. You can find the early modern recipe and my initial attempt here. For some background on custards, see this post.

Custard tart

400g plain flour

4 eggs, plus 2 more yolks

75g butter, room temperature

2 tbsp sugar

Few drops rosewater

300ml double cream

4tbsp sugar

Generous pinch each ground mace, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves

Small pinch salt

Caraway comfits

A few dates

Preheat the oven to 150c. Mix the flour with two beaten eggs until a dough is formed. If it’s too dry you can add a little water. Take some of the dough, about a fifth, and roll it out as thinly as you can. If you end up with holes, it’s not too much of a problem as you’ll be layering it up. Spread some of the butter on the pastry, then roll out another piece, put it on top and spread more butter. Continue until all of the pastry is layered up, don’t butter the last piece. Roll out the layered pastry again, then use to line the greased tin. Mix the sugar and rosewater with 1tbsp water, then sprinkle over the pastry case. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.

While the pastry case is baking, whisk the remaining eggs and yolks with the cream, spices and 2 tbsp of sugar. Remove the pastry from the oven and scatter the remaining sugar and the currents over the base of the pastry case. Pour the egg and cream mixture into the case. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the custard is set. When the custard is cool, scatter over caraway comfits (see recipe below) and stick in some dates.

Caraway comfits

For the background on comfits, see this post. You will find the recipe and first attempt here.

38g caraway seeds (this is the usual amount you get in a small jar)

300g caster sugar

Heat the sugar with 100ml water over a low heat until the sugar is melted and the syrup is bubbling. Let it bubble for a few minutes, stirring all the time, then turn the heat right down as low as you can get it. You need to keep the mixture warm so it stays liquid, but if it’s overheating ad starting to boil you can take it off the heat for a few minutes. Once you have your warm sugar syrup ready, warm a frying pan over a very low heat and add the caraway seeds. Add a very small amount of the syrup – DO NOT add too much the comfits won’t work – see the first attempt post for an example of it going wrong! You probably want only about a tablespoon of liquid, it’s important to make sure that you only add enough to dampen the seeds slightly.

Stir them round with a metal spatula until the liquid is absorbed and the seeds are dry. They look a little bit white, getting more so with each coating. When the seeds are dry, add another small amount of liquid. Repeat this process until all the liquid is done – you will need to apply many coats. Don’t be tempted to rush by adding too much liquid or by turning up the heat, or you’ll ruin them. Once they are done, cool, then store in an airtight jar.

I would recommend trying both of these recipes, they both came out rather tasty. The comfits were particularly nice, you can keep them in a cupboard for a while and use them in biscuits and the like, they would also be nice sprinkled on cereal. They are quite easy to make, as long as you are careful not to use too much heat or liquid.

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Comfits Part 2: Cooking

So far I’ve made two attempts at making caraway comfits, one a total disaster, the other a partial success. I  think I have worked out what went wrong so I will make one more attempt, but I won’t be able to do that for a while, so I thought I’d post my progress so far now.

Here’s the recipe I’m using. It’s from The Queen-like closet by Hannah Woolley (1670):

Take to every two pounds of Sugar one quarter of a pound of Spices or Seeds, or such like.

If it be Aniseeds, two pounds of Sugar to half a pound of Aniseeds, will be enough.

Melt your Sugar in this manner; put in three Pounds of sugar into the Bason, and one Pint of water, stir it well till it be wet, then melt it very well and boil it very softly until it will stream from the Ladle like Turpentine, and not drop, then let it seeth no more, but keep it upon warm Embers, that it may run from the Ladle upon the seeds.

Move the seeds in the hanging Bason so fast as you can or may, and with one hand, east on half a Ladle full at a time of the hot sugar, and rub the seeds with your other hand a pretty while, for that will make them take the sugar the better; and dry them well after every Coat.

Do thus at every Coat, not only in moving the Bason, but also with stirring of the Comfits with the one hand, and drying the same, in evrey hour you may make three pounds of Comfits; as the Comfits do increase in bigness, so you may take more Sugar in your Ladle to cast on:

Not having a hanging basin at my disposal, I went for a frying pan over a low heat. I first melted the sugar and water, as instructed. One jar of caraway seeds is approximately 38g, and the 2 pounds of sugar to ever quarter pound of seeds means that we need to have 8 times 40g (unless my maths is even worse than I think it is) – so we’re looking at 304g, or just 300g really unless you have very specific scales.

Once the sugar was melted I took it off the heat. It needed to be returned there a few times during the cooking as it started to solidify somewhat. I heated the caraway seeds in a frying pan on the lowest heat possible. I took about a third of a ladle-full of the sugar syrup and added it to the seeds, stirring it with a fish-slice type spatula.

This seemed to work well, when they were fully coated they were cool enough to touch so I started rubbing the sugar syrup in a bit. If you do this you MUST make sure that it is not too hot, that you have the pan on the lowest possible setting and that the sugar syrup has coated the seeds. Your lowest setting might be different to mine and it might not be cool enough, so BE VERY CAREFUL! I don’t want anybody burning themselves with molten sugar.

Anyway, after the syrup has been absorbed I dried the seeds off a bit, then added some more and repeated the process.

Things were going well. Unfortunately, this was about to change. On the next round of sugar syrup, I accidentally put too much in. You’ll be able to tell if this has happened when it doesn’t get absorbed right away. The drying took a lot longer, I couldn’t do any rubbing in, and the sugar began to crystalize on its own without attaching itself to the seeds.

I ended up with this:

Not exactly what I had in mind. And after such a promising start too! The “comfits” were all stuck together and not very well coated. Having said that, they did taste rather nice.

It was still better than my first attempt, where I stupidly added loads of the sugar syrup and had the heat far too high, and consequently ended up with a big sticky brown mess that was very difficult to clean out of the pan.

I think I’m going to have to make another attempt at this soon, and I’ll be trying the custards again too since they didn’t work too well either. Oh well, if at first you don’t succeed…!

Ps. I know this post is a little late – I was on holiday last week and didn’t get a chance to post before I went.

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Comfits Part 1: History and background

“Comfort in comfits!” by piX1966, used under a Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post (for a variety of reasons – largely work related), but I’ve been thinking about doing a post on comfits for a while, and I have a little bit of time free so I thought I’d get on with it.

I actually tried making comfits when I made the custards, but it was an utter disaster – more on that when I post the results of my second attempt at making them.

I found this page with some interesting information about comfit making and some lovely pictures. I just love that one with the mouse, although that might have something to do with my enduring affection for rodents in general (I have two pet rats).

A comfit is essentially a sugar coated spice, seed or other small morsel. We still have them today, in fact licorice comfits are one of my favourite sweets. References to comfits in 16th and 17th century drama and poetry seem to be quite frequent. They are sometimes mentioned in diet books and regimens as a way of consuming certain herbs and spices – Thomas Cogan, for example, in The Haven of Health (1584) suggests taking coriander comfits after meals to help those “much troubled by rhumes” – rhume seems to be essentially a runny nose.

Comfits were associated quite strongly with banqueting. I have mentioned banquets before, but I don’t think I’ve gone into much detail. It’s worth pointing out that in the medieval and early modern periods, banquet didn’t quite mean what it means today. We think of a banquet as a being a large feast, but in the past the banquet did not generally refer to  an entire meal (though it was sometimes used in that sense), but more often to a course served at the end of a meal, after the dessert. It was also sometimes known as a voydee. Comfits, marchpane, candied fruit and other sweetmeats generally made up the banquet course.

References in early modern literature, drama in particular, are quite frequent. A particularly interesting example, I think, is a poem by Nicholas Breton called “An odde kynde of wooing, with a banquet of comfettes” which comes at the end of his 1577 poetry collection The works of a young wyt. The poem is described in an introduction as such:

A gentleman being of late at an odde banquet, where were diuers women of diuers disposition, and being serued in at the table diuers comfits of sundry sorts, being come home from the supper to his owne lodging, sitting alone in his chamber, hee compared the women with the comfites, in verse as followeth

And that’s basically the gist – the man has a selection of comfits at a banquet, he dances with some ladies, then he goes home, eats the comfits, and thinks about the women. “Long comfites” remind him of a fair, tall and gallant dame, but “in the comfit was a bitter pill, so in the dame might be some bitter will”. Now, this “pill” is not a pill as in a tablet, but it’s an “Orenge pill”, as in peel. Next up, the man eats round coriander seeds which he declares wholesome, and which bring to his mind “a round, plumpe wench”. Ginger is the next kind of comfit, “whose tast did set my mouth all in a heate”, which reminds him of a tall woman “Whose lookes, mought set his mouth and hart on flame”. The man moves onto biscuits next, which make him think about “a prety wenche”. Then he hears someone shouting “fire”, so he runs off to help, and when he gets back someone has eaten up all his comfits. And that’s where it ends. Very curious indeed! I think the link between women and food might warrant some more investigation at some point.

Here’s a lovely passage from Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage (1594) referencing comfits:

Such bow, such quiuer, and such golden shafts,
Will Dido giue to sweete Ascanius:
For Didos sake I take thee in my armes,
And sticke these spangled feathers in thy hat,
Eate Comfites in mine armes, and I will sing.

The lines are spoken by Venus, who is trying to tempt Dido’s son Ascanius away so her own son Cupid can temporarily take his place. She also offers him “Sugar-almonds” and sweet conserves. It’s interesting to see just how far back the familiar trope of children having a taste for sweets and sugary things goes.

Comfit-makers are often mentioned in plays too, it seems to have been a well known profession. A character in Nicholas Breton’s (him again!) play An olde mans lesson, and a young mans loue (1605), during a little speech on the virtues of feasting, mentions how feasts provide work for “the Vintner, the Grocer. the Comfit-maker, the Cooke, the Brewer and the Butcher”. Even their wives make their way into drama – Hotspur in Henry IV part 1 berates his wife for swearing too meakly “like a comfit-makers wife”.

Finally, I just could not resist this lovely bit of word play from Thomas Heywood’s The Fair Maid of the West (1631):

I will make bold to march in towards your banquet, and there comfit my selfe, and cast all carawayes downe my throat, the best way I have to conserve my selfe in health

Thanks for reading, good to be back after a little break. The recipe will be along in the next few days.

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