Monday, 22 August 2011


This'll tickle you :)

From, ahem, "The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet / Stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying and cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex"

Author Hannah Wolly, Around 1650.

What a wonderful book title!

I'm a big fan of very early recipes. I'm getting a bit overrun with Damsons, so I was digging around my collection for ideas, and came across this :-

127. Marmalade of Damsons.

Take two Pounds of Damsons, and one Pound of Pippins pared and cut in pieces, bake them in an Oven with a little sliced Ginger, when they are tender, poure them into a Cullender, and let the Syrup drop from them, then strain them, and take as much sugar as the Pulp doth weigh, boil it to a Candy height with a little water, then put in your Pulp, and boil it till it will come from the bottom of the Skillet, and so put it up.

With recipes like this, you have to get into the head of the writer and the period they live in.

Pounds are no problem. I refuse to use anything else :) But that 'Oven' could be a problem. What temperature? Without launching in to history lesson, it's pretty straight forward. A 'Goode Oven' is very hot. An 'Oven' is any oven that has been been on for a little while. But cooler than 'Goode'.

In this recipe, the clue is "when they are tender" to get that, slowly, and for how long? "let the Syrup drop from them" so they don't dry and crisp.

'Candy hight' got me for awhile, until I found in 'Book of Simples' by Edited Henry Lewer in 1910.

"Boyle your fugar till it will draw like a thread between your finger and thumbe"

The setting point of jam is around 134 degrees C. Those cooks must have had asbestos fingers.

A modern way, though there's nothing wrong with using a cooking thermometer, is to put a saucer in the fridge. When your jam froths up, and then the froth sinks again, give it a couple of minutes. It should settle to a slow, heavy boil with a slick surface - almost oil like.

Take the saucer from the fridge, and put a spoonful of jam on the saucer, and wait a few seconds. Pull the spoon gently across the puddle of jam. If it wrinkles and springs back, it's a perfectly good, but thin jam. If it wrinkles and stays, it's a thicker jam, but the difference between the two can be seconds of heating.

Oh, and it says Marmalade doesn't it. Marmalade means oranges? Guess not :)


For those who have a bit of experience in modern jam making, you may have noticed I haven't mentioned pectin. Pectin is essential in jam making to enable it to set, and nowadays you can add it separately. But they didn't know that hundreds of years ago. But they did know that some stuff did, others didn't, and if they added a bit of stuff that did, it set stuff that didn't.

But everything made good wine....

edit 25/08/2011

As a basic rule, rather than buy commercial pectin, which just adds to the cost, either add sour apples or lemon, or put lemon peel, apple cores and skin in a muslin bag, tie it up and hang it in the pan. The disadvantage is that they may add flavours you don't want, while commercial pectin won't.

Muslin can be hard to get hold of nowadays, since the dearth of local butchers. I bought a pair of tights - hand washed them in diluted lemon juice and salt solution, (a posh Elizabethan method) gave them a good rinse.

Another tip. Add a good pinch of black pepper to a fruit jam, and a tiny pinch of Chilli powder is surprisingly nice. :)


Rare Lesser Spotted said...

Hi Wheelie
Thanks for sharing it - very interesting. By the way, the recipe was in black text and against your dark grey background, had real problems reading it.

Elizabeth said...

This is just brilliant, Drew. Love it. x

Wheelie said...

I'm sorry guys. Can't seem to get the text formatting right on that post.

Should be more readable now, I hope.