A turnip a day keeps the doctor away

An unseasonably soggy August day seemed a good opportunity to share Elizabeth Slany’s recipe for a ‘Syrup of Turnips for a cold’.

We have written about Elizabeth’s recipes before; her recipe book (catalogued as D/DR Z1) is one of the most substantial recipe books in our collection, and includes recipes for food and drink and medicines for both people and animals, dating from the early-mid 1700s. This recipe comes from the earlier part of the book, which we believe is in Elizabeth’s own writing.To make Syrup of Turnips for a cold

Take a peck of turnips pare them & slice them then take these following herbs of each one handfull maidenhair, scabious, agrimony betony rosemary harts tongue liver wort hore hound colts foots unset hyssop 2 ounces of liquorice scrape it & slide it thin the same quantity of elicampane one ounce of Annisseeds bruised then put half your slic’t turnip into a pot then lay yr herbs & other things upon them then lay on the rest of your turnips & past it up with dough & bake it with brown bread & when you have taken it out of the oven the oven [sic] and let it cool then mash your turnips & herbs together then strain them through a canvas cloth & make thereof Syrup with half sugar candy you must put 2 pound of sugar to one pound of juice take it at night going to bed or in the night upon a liquorice stick & keep yourself warm after it

Or, to restate it in a way that is perhaps easier for our modern eyes to read:

  1. Peel and slice a peck (2 gallons) of turnips
  2. Collect a handful each of the following herbs:
    1. Maidenhair (maidenhair fern, which was still in use in cough syrups into the nineteenth century)
    2. Scabious (a plant of the honeysuckle family of flowering plants, traditionally used as a folk medicine to treat scabies)
    3. Agrimony (a plant which grows slender cones of small yellow flowers with a long history of medicinal use for treatment of a wide range of ailments)
    4. Betony (a plant with purple flowers used as another ‘cure-all’)
    5. Rosemary (this fragrant Mediterranean herb has traditionally been used to treat a variety of disorders)
    6. Hart’s-tongue – also known as hart’s-tongue fern, has been used both internally (e.g. for dysentery) and externally (e.g. for burns)
    7. Liverwort (a perennial herb with a long history of medicinal use, including for liver ailments, healing wounds, and bronchial conditions)
    8. Horehound (this herbaceous plant with white flowers has appeared in numerous books on herbal remedies over several centuries, and modern scientific studies have investigated its antimicrobial and anticancer properties)
    9. Coltsfoot (a member of the daisy family with yellow flowers and hoof-shaped leaves, coltsfoot has been used in herbal remedies for respiratory diseases for centuries, but today it is known to be potentially toxic)
    10. Hyssop (a plant widely used in herbal remedies, especially as an anti-septic and cough reliever)
  3. Scrape and thinly slice 2 ounces of liquorice – the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, which has been used in herbal medicines for sore throats and related illnesses, as well as a range of other conditions
  4. Elizabeth’s instructions next call for 2 ounces of elicampane, another root. She doesn’t specify how it should be prepared, but it could either be turned into syrup or powdered (elicampane appears in The English Physician Enlarged, With Three Hundred and Sixty-Nine Medicines Made of English Herbs, by Nicholas Culpepper, Gentleman, Student in Physick and Astrology, 1770, which recommends that the roots of elicampane could be preserved with sugar into a syrup or conserve, or dried and powdered then mixed with sugar. Both were recommended for stomach complaints, and ‘to help the Cough, Shortness of Breath, and wheezing in the Lungs.’)
  5. Bruise one ounce of aniseeds (seeds of the anise plant, used in herbal medicines for a range of complaints including a runny nose and as an expectorant)
  6. Put half the sliced turnips in a pot, and cover them with the herbs and liquorice, then lay the rest of the turnips on top
  7. Cover the whole mixture with pastry dough
  8. Elizabeth’s next instruction is to bake the mixture ‘with brown bread’ – perhaps this means it should stay in the oven for the time it takes a loaf of brown bread to cook but if anyone has any other ideas of the meaning of this do leave a comment
  9. Remove from the oven – and presumably take off the pastry lid
  10. Mash the turnip and herb mixture, then strain it through a cloth
  11. To each 1lb of the resulting juice, add 2lb sugar to make a syrup
  12. Take the syrup before bed, or during the night, on a stick of liquorice and keep yourself warm after taking it

With a total of 13 ingredients added to the turnip and then plenty of sugar added at the end, this sounds like an elaborate cold remedy, and would presumably have been out of reach of most ordinary people. If you have other historical cold remedies do leave them in the comments below; hopefully we won’t need them as summer wears on but it might be best to be prepared.

A taste of the past

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

Historic recipes are windows into everyday life in the past, helping us to imagine what life was like for our ancestors. Recipes tell us what people ate and drank, and how food was prepared and flavoured in a world before supermarkets, mass imports, convenience food or refrigeration, and during times of rationing. There can also be surprisingly exotic ingredients and styles of cooking, telling us something about the interconnectedness of the world in the past.

Not only do they tell us about food and drink, many historic recipe books also include instructions for making medicines, for both humans and animals. In a time with no paracetamol or antibiotics or any other modern medicines, these recipes can tell us about the health issues that our ancestors battled and how treated illnesses at home.

Speaking to the good people at the Recipes Project has inspired us to dig a little deeper into the recipes to be found amongst our collections. The project is a blog devoted to the study of recipes from all time periods and places, run by an international group of academics. Over the last few years both scholarly and popular interest in historic recipes has been growing, and the project is celebrating its fifth year by hosting a virtual conversation on the theme ‘What is a recipe?’ (2 June-5 July 2017).

The online conversation will take place on social media, so if you are interested in what might come up you can follow and join in by following the project on Twitter, and the hashtag #recipesconf.

Searching our catalogue Essex Archives Online for ‘recipe’ finds 214 results. The oldest date from the late 16th century, and the most recent from 1998. There are whole volumes of recipes, handwritten and typed, and individual sheets amongst larger bundles of papers. Some recipes are still entirely recognisable today, hundreds of years after they were written, others seem totally outlandish to modern eyes. Authors include housewives, doctors, and a cartman concerned with caring for his horses.

In terms of the question ‘what is a recipe’ posed by the Recipe Project, there is much that a dive into the ERO recipe books might be able to contribute.

With so many potential interesting avenues to pursue within these records, it is difficult to pick just one thing to write about, but I shall try to be disciplined and stick to just one of our recipe books, before highlighting a few others that are ripe for further investigation.

Mrs Elizabeth Slany’s Book of Receipts &co 1715

Elizabeth Slany’s recipe book (D/DR Z1) is one of the most substantial recipe books in our collection, and has already received some attention from authors and scholars. It has also been digitised, and images of the book can be viewed free of charge on Essex Archives Online. The first part of the book is, we believe, in Elizabeth’s own writing, and then another hand takes over later, perhaps her daughter.

Elizabeth was born near Worcester, and in 1723 married Benjamin LeHook, a factor (or agent) in the City of London. Elizabeth lived to the age of 93, dying in 1786. Her eldest daughter Elizabeth LeHook married Samuel Wegg who was the son of George Wegg of Colchester, a merchant tailor and town councillor. It was through the Wegg family that the book ultimately made its way to ERO.

Her recipe book provides fascinating insights into her life in charge of a well-to-do eighteenth-century household. Some of her recipes are for very rich food, and there is a focus on preservation of food. There are also several medicinal recipes throughout the book, none of them especially appealing. Some of the recipes are surprisingly exotic – I certainly didn’t expect to find recipes for fresh pasta or a ‘Chinese method’ for boiling rice.

Here is Elizabeth’s recipe for preserving raspberries by making a jelly (interestingly called a jelly rather than a jam):

Raspberry Jelly 1080 watermarked

To make Jelly of Rasberries

Take to a pint of the juice of Rasberries a pound of Loaf Sugar put them on the fire & as they boyl scum them it may boyl ¼ of an hour you may put 2 or 3 spoonfulls of the juice of Currans in the pint it will make the jelly the firmer if you woud have whole Rasberries in you must gather them without bruising them in the least & when your jelly is almost boyl’d enough then put them in & let them boyl a little & scum them & put them in your pots or glasses

Scattered throughout the recipes for food are methods for making medicinal concoctions. Here is Elizabeth’s almost semi-magical recipe for a cure for the bite of a mad dog:

Mad dog bite cure 2500 watermarked

To cure Man, Woman or any Living Creature that is bitten with a Mad Dog if they are taken 2 or 3 Days after they are bitten

 

The first morning take of the herb call’d the star of the castle 3 roots & leaves & wash them very clean & if they are for a Christian dry the leaves & roots over a gentle fire or in an oven then beat them to powder in a mortar then give the person that is bitten all the powder in a little white wine & let them fast an hour or 2 after the second morning you must prepare 5 of the same roots as aforesaid and give to the person in the same manner & let them fast an hour or 2 the 3rd morning you must prepare 7 of the same roots as aforesaid & give to the person in the same manner & give him no more but let him be sparing in his dyet for a week & with the blessing of God the person need not fear but he shall do well you must give for any other Creature the same number of roots that you give to a Christian that is 3 the first morning 5 the second & 7 the last if for a horse give him the powder in a little butter or anything you can make him take it in.

Intriguingly, there are two recipes for something called ‘snail water’, apparently a popular treatment for consumption, although here Elizabeth also recommends it for rickets. Lisa Smith of the Recipes Project tells me that this is the smallest number of snails she has seen for this type of recipe, and that they usually call for a horrifying amount of the creatures such as a peck (16 pints). Indeed, an earlier recipe in Elizabeth’s book calls for a peck of snails – perhaps this version which uses just 10 was a revision after an attempt to collect such an enormous quantity.

Snail grewel 1080 watermarked

The Snail Grewel for a Consumption

Take ten garden snails, pick off their shells then boil ’em in a quart of spring water with one spoonful of pear[l] barley and one spoonful of hartshorn shavings, till it is wasted to a pint then strain it, add to it half a pint of milk, sweeten it to your taste with eringo root let the person drink half a pint of this first thing in the morning & last thing at night going to bed, if their stomach can bear as much, every other day is often enough to make it, its very good for the rickets

Amongst the later recipes in the book are these rather exotic ones, which have already attracted the attention of researcher Karen Bowman, who has previously written about the curry recipes in the book. On the pages following the curry recipes, we find others describing how to make fresh pasta, and a ‘Chinese Method of Boiling Rice’:

Maccaroni Paste 1080 watermarked

To make Maccaroni Paste

Take one pd of Flour, the yolke of three Eggs, two oz of Butter, melted in as much water as will mix it, let it stand till cold, then mix it with the flour &c then roll out this paste as thin as possible, & cut it into strips about the width of Ribbon Maccaroni, lay it upon Dishes till quite dry, when it will by fit for use.

Chinese method for boiling rice 1080 watermarked

Chinese Method of Boiling Rice

Take a certain quantity of Rice, & wash it well in cold water, after which drain it off through a sieve then put the Rice into boiling Water & when it is quite soft, take it out with a Ladle & drain it again through a sieve: then put it into a clean vessel & cover it up; let it remain till it is blanched as white as snow, & as hard as a Crust, when the Rice becomes a most excellent substitute for Bread.

There is much more that Elizabeth’s book has to tell us about life in an eighteenth-century household, but I have already written too much for one blog post so should leave it there for now. Do have a rifle through her book on our online catalogue if you want to see more.

If this little nibble at one of our recipe books has left you wanting more, there are plenty of others in our collections, such as:

  • Abigail Abdy’s book of recipes, begun in 1665, including recipes for plague water and consumption water (D/DU 161/623)
  • Veterinary and medical recipe book, containing 40 formulas for medicines for horses and 24 for humans, c.1899 (D/DU 892/1)
  • Recipe book for use in British Restaurants and Canteens, with hints on catering in view of rationing restrictions, including adding carrots or beetroot to jam in puddings. All quantities are based on catering for 100 people (D/UCg 1/7/10)

A search for ‘recipe’ on Essex Archives Online will bring up even more recipes to explore – do let us know what you find.

Season’s eatings: mince pies through the ages

The collections at the Essex Record Office include several historic recipe books, which give us an insight into what our ancestors ate and drank. This includes how our Essex ancestors made that essential Christmas dish, mince pies.

The history of mince pies can be traced back to the 1200s, when European crusaders returned from wars in the Middle East bringing recipes containing meats, fruit and spices with them. Typically, early mince pies contained minced meat, suet, fruit, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and were large oblongs in shape.

The pies were stigmatised by the Puritan government under Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s due to perceived associations with Catholicism, but people did not give up their mince pies so easily.

Mince pies began to get sweeter during the 1700s, as cheap sugar arrived in Britain from West Indian slave plantations. By the 1800s, the pies had evolved into the small, round, sweet pies that we recognise today. While suet is still used in many recipes, the inclusion of meat was largely dropped altogether.

For some of us, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a mince pie (or two). The Women’s Own meeting of Stockwell Congregational Chapel in Colchester lamented in December 1947 ‘Another austerity Christmas. No mince pies, only a bit of cake to have with our cup of tea’ (D/NC 42/5/5).

A traditional mince pie recipe which includes boiled ox tongues can be found in the recipe book of Elizabeth Slany, which she began to keep in 1715 (D/DR Z1). Elizabeth was born near Worcester, and in 1723 married Benjamin LeHook, a factor (or agent) in the City of London. Elizabeth lived to the grand age of 93, dying in 1786. The book is catalogued as D/DR Z1, and you can view images of the entire book here by the magic of Seax. Her recipes for pastry for mince pies and the mincemeat filling can be found on images 15 and 16.

Elizabeth Slany's recipe for mince pie pastry (D/DR Z1)

Elizabeth Slany’s recipe for mince pie pastry (D/DR Z1)

To make past [pastry] for Mince Pyes or Tarts

Take a quarter of flower ¾ of a pound of buttor & rub your butter in the flower make it up with boyling water.

Elizabeth Slany's recipe for mince pies, including boiled ox's tongues (D/DR Z1)

Elizabeth Slany’s recipe for mince pies, including boiled ox’s tongues (D/DR Z1)

To make Mince Pyes

Take 2 neats tongues [ox tongues] boyl them till they will peel & weigh to a pound of tongue a pound & ¾ of the best beef suet pickt clean from ye Skins shred the tongue very well by itself then shred your suet very well then take 10 pippins pared & shred fine & mix them all together then take 2 nutmegs & the like quantity of mace cloves cinamon & ginger take a pint or more of wine let ½ be sack & ½ claret so season it to your mind with the spices wine sugar salt & lemon peel shred very fine & the juice or 2, 3 or more Lemons you must put in 4 pounds of Currans & some candid orange peel & Lemon & cirton if you eat them hot you may when they are bak’t heat some sack & sugar & put it in them.

 

A slightly later recipe from the 1770s which doesn’t include meat can be found in the cookery book of Mary Rooke of Langham Hall. Mary’s (fairly alcoholic) recipe for ‘minc’d Pye meat without meat’ calls for a mixture of three pounds of grated apples, two pounds of finely chopped beef suet, two pounds of currants, two pounds of raisins, the rind and pulp of two boiled lemons, half a pint of brandy and half a pint of port wine, the juice of four lemons, sugar to taste, and half a pound of blanched, sliced almonds. The ingredients were to be mixed well then put into small jars and covered with bladder to keep them air tight. When serving the pies Mary recommended small slices candied orange and lemon to be put on top of them, and a mixture of brandy and port wine to slosh over the pies to moisten them. You can view images of Mary’s entire recipe book on our online catalogue Seax here (D/DU 818/1).

Mary Rooke's recipe for mince pie filling (D/DU 818/1)

Mary Rooke’s recipe for mince pie filling (D/DU 818/1)

A rather more modest recipe from the 1930s which omits both meat and suet altogether can be found in The Essex Cookery Book, published in several editions by the Essex Education Committee. This recipe calls for ¼ lb each of apples, raisins, currants, sultanas and sugar, 2 ozs of mixed peel, 2 ozs of margarine, 1 oz of almonds, and ½ a teaspoon each of salt and nutmeg, along with the rind and juice of 1 lemon. The fruit is to be peeled and chopped, and the ingredients mixed well before being stored in jars.

Whether you are a mince pie fan or not, we hope you have some tasty treats over the festive season.

Bread, but not as we know it!

It has been quite a long time since we supplied you all with some intriguing, interesting and surprising recipes from our archive. So with it being “Bread Week” on the Great British Bake Off your humble correspondent scurried off into the repositories here at the ERO in search of bread recipes returning triumphantly with two corkers!

They are both found within the pages of the Lampet family recipe book. Though the volume is undated and the recipes are in a number of different hands, it is likely that they stem from the 1830s as one of the recipes is said to be copied from Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopedia which was first published in 1830.

T/B 677/2 - This page, devoted to bread and flour, also has lists of measurements of flour for the purposes of poor relief.

T/B 677/2 – This page, devoted to bread and flour, also has lists of measurements of flour for the purposes of poor relief.

The first recipe as we teased on Twitter does indeed include a certain quantity of hydrochloric acid; no wonder you are instructed to knead the dough very quickly!  It is for an “unfermented bread” using only baking soda as a raising agent; it would be similar to a normal soda bread were it not for the acid. Does anyone out there know what the acid was intended to do in this bake?

T/B 677/2 -  Unfermented Bread Take of  –Flour 3lbs averdupois                 -Bi-Carbonate of Soda powdered 4 dram                 -Hydrochloric acid – 5 drams fluid                 -Water- about 26oz fluid                -Common Table Salt – 4 drams The ingredients should be mixed well together – The Soda & flour first which is best done by passing the former thro[ugh] a fine sieve – stirring it well into the flour with the hand. The salt should be next dissolved & added to the Hydro[chloric]-Acid – a wooden or glass rod being used to mix them. The whole should be then thrown together & kneaded as quick as possible – The Dough thus made should be baked in long Tins and is sufficient to make two loaves – about an hour & a half is required in baking them.

T/B 677/2 – Unfermented Bread

Take of –Flour 3lbs averdupois

                -Bi-Carbonate of Soda powdered 4 dram

                -Hydrochloric acid – 5 drams fluid

                -Water- about 26oz fluid

               -Common Table Salt – 4 drams

The ingredients should be mixed well together – The Soda & flour first which is best done by passing the former thro[ugh] a fine sieve – stirring it well into the flour with the hand. The salt should be next dissolved & added to the Hydro[chloric]-Acid – a wooden or glass rod being used to mix them. The whole should be then thrown together & kneaded as quick as possible – The Dough thus made should be baked in long Tins and is sufficient to make two loaves – about an hour & a half is required in baking them.

The second recipe is something a bit less unusual. It is titled as a “French Bread” but on closer inspection it appears to be a form of brioche using a carefully prepared starter dough. Note the curious use of the word sponge while referring to the mixture. I am also reliably informed that a “peck” is  two (dry) gallons.  This recipe originates from Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopedia and appears to be in the same hand as many of the recipes attributed to one Miss Lampet, although it is difficult to ascertain exactly who that is. It also has very few exact measurements, so it reads a bit like one of Paul Hollywood’s technical challenges!

T/B 677/2 - One for all the francophiles out there

T/B 677/2 – French Bread

The very light spongy & superior article called French Bread is made in the following manner.

If a peck of the very finest quality of wheaten flour is to be made into French rolls – a small quantity of it is to be mixed with as much warm water as will convert it into dough. In the water a handful of salt should have been previously dissolved-

About a pint of distillen yeast or if this cannot be obtained ale Brewer’s yeast which has been washed with some cold water to remove the bitterness is to be well worked into the dough. This is to be set by in a warm place to ferment. Meanwhile all the rest of the flour is to be Mixed with as much warm milk as will form a sponge. Half pound of Butter melted at the lowest possible degree of heat is to be poured on along with six eggs; and the whole is to be hastily mixed up together along with the sponge provided that it is sufficiently fermented and is sufficiently swollen

After the mixture let the dough be left in a warm place and when it has risen sufficiently let it be divided shaped into rolls and baked in a moderately heated Oven. The oven should as in all other cases have been perfectly heated before the Bread is just in and the heat should be equal throughout however difficult this may be to effect this in some ill constructed ovens.

So there you go, if you do try out the first one, we accept no liability for any acid burns. Also this whole recipe book amongst some others is available to view on our catalogue Seax. So have a go at some of the recipes and let us know how you get on! Finally, apologies for any transcription errors.

To make minc’d Pye meat without meat

A little while ago we brought you some recipes from the kitchen of Mary Rooke of Langham Hall, and today we see the sort of things that she got up to at Christmas.

You can view images of Mary’s entire recipe book on Seax here (D/DU 818/1).

To make minc’d Pye meat without meat (image 25) 

Mary Rooke's recipe for minced meat (D/DU 818/1 image 25)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 pounds of apples grated 2 pounds of Beef Suet chop’d very fine 2 pounds of Currants wash’d well & pick’d clean, 2 pound of raisins chop’d, the Rind & pulp of 2 Lemons boil’d very tender, and pounded in a marble mortar, half a Pint of Brandy the same of Port Wine, the juice of 4 Lemons, Sugar to your taste,  half a pound of almonds blanch’d & sliced thin, mix these ingredients very well together put them into small jars covered with Bladder to be tied close down that the air may not get into it, when open make your Pyes have Citron Orange & Lemon / candy’d / cut in small slices put in them more on top as you like, & have in a bottle ready mix’d Brandy and Port Wine put a little of it in them it makes them moist & just as of fresh made. 

Orange Cakes (page 45 image 24) (in a different hand)

Mary Rooke's recipe for orange cakes (D/DU 818/1 image 24)

Take fresh seville oranges weigh them and take their weight in sugar beat small, cut the oranges in two, cross way take the pulp out free from strings and pippins and the strings from the insides of the skins then cut the skins into thin pieces and shred it very fine beat it as while in a marble morter you may by degrees put in the sugar and pulp beating it  till it is very fine then drop it upon a pewter dish in cakes the size of a Crown and dry them in a stove or any warm place to a pound of orange put two very large spoonfulls of Lemon juice.

Mary Rooke of Langham Hall

We thought we’d take a little break from historic moustaches today to have a look at some more historic recipes.

Our next recipe book from the archives belonged to Mary Rooke, nee Marriott (D/DU 818/1). Mary was the daughter of Joshua Marriott and his wife Mary Edge. Joshua was a Manchester entrepreneur involved in the cloth industry, and Mary married in Manchester in 1774 to Captain George Rooke.

She began keeping her recipe book in 1770 before her marriage, when she was living in Ardwick House in Lancashire. At some point before 1777, Mary and George took up residency at Langham Hall in north east Essex.

As with the other recipe books we have looked at so far, this one contains a mixture of culinary and medicinal recipes, carefully entered and indexed. The book is mostly in Mary’s hand, although the indexes were largely entered by a second hand. The second hand must have belonged to an assistant of some kind, as Mary has gone back and corrected some of its work; she has commented on the second hand’s instructions for ‘Marseilles vinegar against the plague’ that they were a ‘disgrace to the person who began & left the receipt in such an unfinished state’.

You can view images of the whole of Mary’s book on Seax here, but we have picked out a few of our favourites to share with you, including Langham Biscuits, named after her home.

Lemon Cake (image 10)

Take fiveteen eggs leave out half the whites ten ounces of sugar beat and sifted whisk the eggs sugar and the rinds of two lemons grated half a pound of rice flour for half an hour butter your mug that it is bak’d in put it into a quick oven half an hour will bake it dozen bitter almonds will add to the cake.

 

Waffles (image 10)

D/DU 818/1 image 10 waffles

 

 

 

 

 

A pint of new milk half a pound of fresh butter four eggs a little mace or nutmeg a spoonful of brandy & as much flour as will make it as thick as a pancake make your tongs  hot fill them & turn them quick make your sauce of melted butter wine & sugar 

 

A Rice Pudding (image 13)

D/DU 818/1 image 13 rice pudding

Two ounces of ground rice a pint of cream set ‘em over the fire when it’s thick add half a pound of butter five eggs a quarter of a pint of sack sugar to your taste then put it on a dish with a pastry round it & bake it add to it a quarter of a pound of blanch’d almonds

 

Langham Biscuits (image 16)

D/DU 818/1 image 16 Langham biscuits

 

 

 

 

A pound of flour two ounces of butter a few carraway seeds knead it with warm milk roll it into thin cakes bake them two ounces of sugar

‘Mistress Elizabeth Slany’s Book of Receipts &ca’

Our recipes series is back! We had a little break in transmission while we prepared for and then recovered from our Heritage Open Day, but we’ve plenty more recipes from the archives to share with you.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become rather hooked on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, and it really brings home to you the knowledge and skills that you need to be a really successful baker. 

It must have been even more challenging, then, with no refrigerators to keep your ingredients fresh, and no easy switch to flick to turn on your oven to the desired temperature. This makes the elaborate recipes we find in the archives even more amazing. 

One of the most extensive recipe books in the ERO belonged to Elizabeth Slany, who began recording her recipes in 1715. Elizabeth was born near Worcester, and in 1723 she married Benjamin LeHook, a factor (or agent) in the City of London.

 Title page of Elizabeth Slany's recipe book 

As mistress, Elizabeth would have been responsible for the running of the household, and the health of its members. Her book suggests that she embraced this challenge with gusto; not only does it include sections on meat and fish, pies, pastries, cakes, sweets, preserves, pickles, cordials and wines, it also includes medicines, salves and ointments. All of these recipes were carefully indexed at the back of the book.

Index in Elizabeth' Slany's book of receipts

Eighteenth-century food (at least for those with a substantial income) was rich and elaborate, and required a great deal of preparation. Dishes – savoury and sweet – tended to be heavily flavoured to disguise the flavour of tainted meat or butter. 

Caraway seeds, almonds, mace, cloves and other spices were frequently used to flavour cakes, as evidenced in these recipes fromElizabeth’s book:

Cake recipes in Elizabeth Slany's book 

To Make Good Cakes

Take a pound of fine flower & a pound of fine sugar and some carraway seeds beaten then take 7 yolks of eggs & 3 whites & mix them altogether with your flower & then put them in a stone mortar & beat it well then butter your moulds well or they will stick fill them about 3 parts full and put them in the oven & let them stand till they are enough if you please you may put in more currans.

To make a Good Seed Cake

Take 5 pound of flower put 2 pound & better of sweet butter when it is well rub’d in put to it at least a pint & ½ of the best ale yest [yeast] 6 spoonfulls of cream 4 or 5 spoonfulls of sack [a type of white wine] 6 eggs & 3 whites well beaten with this all mixt together which will make it much thinner than dough & after it is well kneaded & mixt with your hands cover it with a clean cloth & let it lie before the fire ¾ of an hour in which time your oven must be ready hot then take it up & work into it a pound & a ½ of carraway comfitts &1/2 a pound of fine sugar & butter your tin pan & put it down close all round & set it in. An hour & ½ will bake it.

To make a Plumb Cake

Take 4 pound of flower and 4 pound of currans ½ a pint of sack plump the currans then take a quart of ale yest ¾ of a pound of sugar 10 eggs & half the whites a little nutmeg mace & cinnamon & a few cloves a pound of almonds blanch’t & beaten fine orange flower water a quart of cream boyl’d + when you take it of the fire put a pound of fresh butter in it heit [heat] till it is blood warm then mix the spices currans & a little salt with the flower then put in yest almonds cream eggs & mix them with a spoon then set it rising you may put in some musk & ambergrease [a waxy substance that originates in the intestines of the sperm whale, with a pleasant smell, which is also used in perfumery]your oven must be very quick and you must put it in a hoop an hour or a little more will bake it your bottom must be paper.

Note that the plumb cake mixture should be heated until ‘blood warm’ (and also that it doesn’t include any plums!). 

Elizabeth lived to the grand age of 93, dying in 1786. Her eldest daughter Elizabeth LeHook married Samuel Wegg, who was the son of George Wegg ofColchester, a merchant tailor and town councillor. It was through the Wegg family that the book came toEssexand ultimately to the ERO. 

The book is catalogued as D/DR Z1, and you can view images of the entire book here by the magic of Seax. Let us know if you try out any of the recipes! 

See also: ‘Mistress Elizabeth Slany’s Book of Recipes’, Daphne Smith, Essex Countryside, Feb 1966, vol. 14 – in ERO Library

‘To make a cake the Preinces of Oringes way’

We recently brought to you some recipes from the pen of Abigail Abdy, who lived in Kelvedon and Coggeshall in the 1660s and 1670s. She carefully recorded her recipes, for medicines and for food, in a book which she titled ‘Mrs Abigail Abdy her book’ (D/DU 161/623).

Abigail died in 1679, but this was not the end of the use of her book; two more hands fill the remaining pages.

The second hand is a mystery, but in the 1930s Miss A.D.Harrison made a conjecture who the third hand may have belonged to (D/DU 161/661).

Three years after Abigail’s death, her husband Sir Mark Guyon remarried, to a Mrs Augurs, his waiting-maid, and Miss Harrison suggests that it was Mrs Augurs who wrote the later recipes.

The author clearly had her sights set on high society, with her recipes including ‘The Kings majesties excellent receipt for the Plague’, and ‘To make a cake the Preinces of Oringes way’, which is another giant of a cake:

To make a cake The Preinces of Oringes way

Take nine pound of very good flower serced [sifted] and dried and a pound and a half of suger serced and dride a pound of Almons well beten an ounce of spices of all sorts mingell these well into the flower then take a pinte an a halfe of creame and three pound of butter and mingell in the creame a littell hotter then milke from the cow a pinte an a halfe of Ale yeast and pore in the yeast to the flower then pore in the creame with the butter melted in it then put in the eges which is to be foreteene halfe whites well betten then to one a lettell flower over it and cover it up hote and let it stand halfe an houer to worke and then make it up with nine pound of minced resons and put it into a paper hoope. 

We especially like the instruction to use cream ‘a littell hotter then milke from the cow’. 

More recipes from the archives coming soon!

Mrs Abigail Abdy her Booke

As The Great British Bake Off continues on BBC2, we bring you the second in our special series exploring some of the recipe books in our collections. 

Today we look at another of our very earliest recipe books, written by Abigail Abdy, beginning in 1665 (D/DU 161/623).

Title page of Abigail Abdy's book - reading 'Mrs Abigail Abdy her book May the 24th 1665'

Title page of Abigail Abdy’s book – reading ‘Mrs Abigail Abdy her book May the 24th 1665’

Abigail was born in 1644, the daughter of Sir Thomas Abdy of Felix Hall, Kelvedon, a lawyer and landowner. Sometime after 1670 she married Sir Mark Guyon, son of Sir Thomas Guyon, a rich clothier, becoming his second wife.

Much of the book is taken up with medical concoctions, for both humans and animals, such as ‘A very good Drink for ye Rickitts’, ‘A good Receipt for sore eyes, when one has the smallpox’, ‘To make the plague water’, ‘To make cordiall water, good against any infection, as the plague, small pox &c.’, and ‘A very good drinke for a Bullock’.

Given that the book was begun in 1665, during the Great Plague in London, it is not surprising that the recipes concentrate on warding off and treating infection.

 Alongside these mixtures are recipes much more recognisable to modern eyes, such as these for macaroons and sugar cake: 

Abigail Adby's recipe for macaroons

Abigail Adby’s recipe for macaroons

To make mackaromes

Take 2 pound of Veliney Almonds to a pound of double refined sugar, it must be beaten & searced [sifted] then take your almonds and lay them in water, overnight, & let them lye till the next morning, & then blaunch [blanch] them & put them into a mortar, & beat them & as you beat them, put some sugar amongst them, & onely wet your pestle with rose water to keepe them, from oyling, this must be beat but half as much as Marchpain then take the whites of 2 or 3 eggs and beat them till they froath, then put the Almonds into a dish upon a Chafinedish [chafing dish] of Coales & put in the froath of your eggs, & keepe it stirring or  else it will burne to the dish you must stirre it till it be through hott then lay it upon wafers the ovin must be something hotter than for marchpain.

 

Abigail Adby's recipe for sugar cake

Abigail Adby’s recipe for sugar cake – including the instruction to beat the mixture for an hour!

 To make sugar Cakes

Take a pound of flower, halfe of it [rice] flower a pound of sugar finely sifted, 8 or 9 eggs halfe the whites, but all the yolkes, beat the eggs very well with rose water, then put in ye [the] flower, by degrees then beat it a little, then put in the sugar too by degrees it must be beaten about an houre then your Ovin bring of a good heat, beat them up, putting in a few Coliander seeds, then your pans being well buttered, put them in the Oven, being well hett, set them & when they be rissen take them out, knocking them out, scraping the botomes of the pans, then if they be not baked enough put them in againe, & let them stand a little longer.

 

Abigail died in 1679, aged just 35. Joseph Bufton, the Coggeshall diarist, records that she was buried quickly, late in the evening by torches, without a sermon, suggesting that she had died of an infectious illness, possibly the plague. This was not, however, the end for Abigail’s book – find out more in our next post, coming soon!

If you’re visiting the Record Office soon, look out for our display of recipe books in Reception, or pop up to the Searchroom to order Abigail’s book (D/DU 161/623), or Miss A.D. Harrison’s article about it (D/DU 161/661).

‘To make a good cake’

Today, not only is it Julia Child’s 100th birthday, but last night the third series of The Great British Bake Off began on BBC2, and we thought that this was a good excuse to delve into some of the recipe books in our archive. People in the past enjoyed their cooking (or their eating) just as much as we do today, and went to great lengths to produce elaborate edible creations.

In this first of a special series of posts about some of the handwritten recipe books which are held at the ERO, we begin with one of the earliest recipe books in our collections, dating from around 1680 (D/DU 138/2).

Unfortunately there is no name inscribed on the book to give us a clue to its author, but we do know that it was handed down between generations of the Clapton-Rolfe family of Rayne Hall.

The first recipe in the book is for a cake of enormous proportions:

(Click for larger version)

Take 6 pound of fflower & 5 pound of butter and worke or rub it into your flower then take 3 poynts of ale east [yeast] and putt itt in the meddle of your flower and butter, 3 nutmegs, beate & sett it by to rise then take a poynt of Milk or Creame & half a poynt of Sack [white whine], make a possett [made by boiling the milk or cream before mixing it with the wine] & put 5 yellows of Eggs into your possett & Suger according to your pallet, then take a graine of Musk and Ambergrease [a waxy substance that originates in the intestines of the sperm whale, with a pleasant smell, which is also used in perfumery], and grinde itt with a little Suger well together, then mix all this together & worke it with your hande till itt bee prety stiff, then worke in 8 pounds of currantes & a pound of Carrawayes and sume Candied Oringe and Lemon peale & scitterun [citron] slices & soe worke itt till it bee all alike, butter your hoope and papers well, & putt your Cake into it, & bake itt.

And for the icing:

Then take 5 whites of Eggs & double refined Suger sifted throu a Sciprus Sive [a sieve made of cypress wood, which was durable and had a nice smell] & put into your whites of Eggs till it bee thick enough to spread with a knive, & beate itt till itt looke glassy & clare [clear], you can’t beate it too much, when your Cake is drawen spread your Ice one itt with a knife, & lett it dry: but put itt no more into ye [the] Oven for itt will make your Ice yellow.

As well as making us grateful for the modern use of full stops, this recipe uses fairly staggering quantities used – 6 pounds of flour, 8 pounds of currants – and must have been quite an extravagant affair.

Eliza Vaughan, who wrote about the recipe book in the 1930s, imagined the cake as an ‘ice-coated monster’ crowning the tea table at Rayne Hall, or being prepared perhaps as a wedding cake.

The book also includes a recipe for a pound cake, which is much more recognisable to modern eyes:

(Click for larger version)

Take a pound of fflower & drey itt by the fire, & A pound of butter & wash itt in Rose water, & A pound of suger well beten, & worke your butter in ye suger a grate while; then take 6 yelkes & 4 whites of Eggs & halfe a Nutmeg grated; then worke all together A grate while & you mush bake them in such pans, & bake them in A slow oven.

The book includes just 12 recipes in total, but also covers the art of pastry making and the preparation of certain meats, including chicken, rabbit, veal, lamb, pigeon, and turkey.

You can view digital images of the rest of the book on Seax here. Look out for more baking-themed posts over the next few weeks!

Further reading: Eliza Vaughan, ‘High baked meates and patty pan past’, in Essex Review, 1937, vol. 46