July, 2012

Mustard, the saucy seed

July 17th, 2012 by KM Wall

“Why then, the mustard without the beef.”

…says Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew, and mustard without beef is also true of early Plymouth Colony. There are no cows in New England until 1624 – Edward Winslow brings out 3 heifers and a bull; and the following year 4 heifers and a red cow for the poor of the town come out. The Division of Cattle in May of 1627 is really a censuses of the bovine beasts, and there aren’t many. Three in milk (and one possible), 2 steer (unmatched), a bull – most of the herd are heifers. Heifers are great for growing a herd, but they’re NOT what’s for dinner. Fish is what’s available, and fish is what they’re eating. Mustard, because it is hot and dry in it’s nature (Doctrine of Humours alert!) is considered to be choleric, which makes it a great sauce to serve with fish, because fish is cold and wet, coming as it does from the water…balance , balance, balance.
Mustard is also fairly inexpensive, easy to transport and common on ships as provisioning for sailors and fishermen.
In England you could buy mustard seed, or mustard meal and make up your own mustard, or you could but it already prepared. The most famous mustard in England was Tewkesbury mustard.

“Mustard of this place [Tewksbury] is much spoken of, Made upp in balles as bigge as henns eggs, att 3d and 4d each, although a Farthing worth off the ordinary sort will give better content in my opinion, this beeing in sight and tast Much like the old dried thicke scurffe thatt sticks by the sides off a Mustard pott…. ”

(The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, 1608-1667)


25. Mustard meale.
It is vsuall in Venice to sell the meale of Mustarde in their markets, as we doe flower and meales in England: this meale by the addition of vinegar in two or three daies, becommeth exceeding good mustard, but it would be much stronger and finer, if the huskes or huls were first diuided by the searce bolter, which may be easily done, if you drie your seedes against the fire before you grinde them. The Dutch iron handmils, or an ordinary pepper mil may serve for this purpose. I thought it verie necessarie to publish this manner of making of your sauce, because our mustard which we buy from the Chandlers at this day is many times made vp with vile and filthy vinegar, such as our stumack woulde abhorre if we shoulde see it before the mixing thereof with the seeds.
-1609. Hugh Plat. Delightes for Ladies to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets and Distillations with Beavties, Banqvets, Perfumes & Waters. London. Hvmprey Lownes.

pepper mill from the Mary Rose


# 25.
To make Mustard divers ways.
Have good seed, pick it, and wash it in cold water, drain it, and rub it dry in a cloth very clean: then beat it in a mortar with strong wine-vinegar: and being fine beaten, strain it and keep it closed covered. Or grind it in a mustard quern, or a bowl with a cannon bullet.
-1678. Robert May. The Accompist Cook or the Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: Robert Hartford, fourth edition. (Falconwood Press: 1992, p. 89).

Make it with grape-verjuice, common-verjuice, stale beer, ale. Butter, milk, white-wine, claret, or the juyce of cherries.
-1678. Robert May. The Accompist Cook or the Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: Robert Hartford, fourth edition. (Falconwood Press: 1992, p. 89).




July 16th, 2012 by Carolyn

When you hear the extraordinary word CHEESECAKE, a lot of us think about New York Cheesecake with strawberries on top or a chocolate drizzle, or this place:





Yes… that place, the one where you eat until you hate yourself, and then you get 3 more slices for the way home.







You read that right, the way home. Apparently our cheesecake loving roots go way back, here in the Colonial Foodways Dept. we have quite a few 17th century cheesecake recipes, including this one…




To make Cheesecakes.

Take 6 quarts of stroakings or new milke & whey it with runnet as for an ordinary cheese, then put it in a streyner & hang it on a pin or else press it with 2 pound weight. then break it very small with your hands or run it through a sive, then put to it 7 or 8 eggs well beaten, 3 quarters of a pound of currans, half a pound of sugar, a nutmeg grated or some cloves & mace beaten, 2 or 3 spoonfuls of rosewater, a little salt. then take a quart of cream, & when it boyl thicken it with grated bread & boyle it very well as thick as for an hasty pudding. then take it from the fire & stir therein halfe a pound of fresh butter, then let it stand until it be almost cold, & then mingle it with your curd very well; then fill your coffins of paste & when they are ready to set into the oven scrape on them some sugar & sprinkle on some rosewater with a feather. If you love good store of currans in them, you may put in a whole pound, & a little sack If you please. & soe bake them.

-Hess, Karen. Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery. C 106.


This is very different from the “traditional” New York Cheesecake, but still absolutely delicious. According to Robert May in his book, The Accomplisht Cook, in 1685, these images below are how you could form your cheesecakes. No pie plates here, they would either be free-form pies, or they would have used a pie mold.



Being the daredevil I am, I chose the triangular option, because when making 17th century cheesecake why would you do it the old boring circle way? Next we need a special occasion to make this, because a treat like this would have been rare in 1627 New Plimoth. Thankfully Mary Warren and Robert Bartlett got married this past Saturday!

Here’s what it looked like coming out of the modern oven….



Our sources say that once presented and shown off you cut it up in lozenges sized pieces and eat!


Those square pieces on their plates are the delectable cheesecake. Photo Courtesy of Miriam Rosenblum

Here's Martha getting her cheesecake fix. Photo Courtesy of Miriam Rosenblum






























A great time was had, and all had good belly cheer.

The Aftermath

July 15th, 2012 by Carolyn

If you’ve been following us, you probably know that yesterday we had a fantastic Pilgrim Wedding, in the 17th century village (many pictures of that to come). But sadly today we must deal with the practical aftermath of any party, no matter the century.





Lots of laundry is getting washed and…





Line dried . Also from the feast, and my personal favorite …




Far too many dishes. Don’t worry though we’ll be back soon to tell you all about the feast, and festivities, after we scrape the remnants off the trenchers.


A friendly reminder, you can subscribe to our blog and get updates in your inbox, just click the link in the top of the right hand column.


Smored chickin

July 14th, 2012 by KM Wall

De Hoenderhof - Jan Steen - 1660

To smoore a Chichin.

Cut it in small pieces, and frye it with sweet Batter: take Sacke, or white Wine, Parsley, an Onyon chopt small, a piece of whole Mace, and a little grosse Pepper: put in a little Sugar, Vergis, and Butter. Then take a good handful of Clary, and picke off the stalkes, then make a fine batter with the yolkes of two or three new layd Egges, and fine flowre, two or three spoonfuls of sweet Creame, and a little Nutmeg, and so frye it in a Frying-panne, with sweet Butter: serve in your Chickins with the fryed Clary on them. Garnish your dish with Barberyes.

-                     1615, John Murrell. A New Booke of Cookerie. p.30.


This dish will also be on the wedding table….marriage at 2 today – feasting to follow……

Fish to fry or fricassee

July 13th, 2012 by KM Wall

Jakob Gilling Freshwater Fish

Of simple Fricasese.

Your simple Fricases are Egges and Collups fried, whether the Collops be of Bacon, Ling, Beefe, or young Porke, the frying whereof is to ordinarie, that is needeth not an relation, or the frying of any Flesh or Fish simple of it selfe with Butter or sweere Oyle.

- 1623. Gervase Markham. Covntry Contentment, or The English Huswife. London. p. 63.

To make a Fricace of a good Haddock or Whiting.

First seeth the fish and scum it, and pick  out the bones, take Onions and chop them small then fry them in Butter or Oyle till they be enough, and put in your fish, and frye them till it be drye, that doon : serue it forth with powder of Ginger on it.

- 1591. A.W. A Book of Cookrye. London. p. 27.

Ordinary, a fricassee is a dish of meat that is first boiled and then fried. Gervase Markham upsets this apple cart by identifying two sorts of fricassees: simple and compound. Simple fricassees for him are fried meats or fried eggs (some with meat) or plain fried fish. Tansys , fritters and pancakes and quelquechoses are what he is calling compound fricassees, none of which involve a boiling first step.

Since Plimoth is right on the ocean, ocean fish are common on Plimoth tables for half the year – the summer half. One account states that they send a boat out with 5 or 6 men in the morning, and they’re back in a few hours with enough fish to feed the town.

There will be several fish dishes on the bride-ale table on Saturday, including these two fried  dishes.

The fricassee with the powdered ginger on top is also very healthy, according to the Doctrine of Humours : the hot, dry ginger counters the effects of eating the cool, wet fish.

And the flavor is divine.

Ipocras, to mark the end of a feast

July 12th, 2012 by KM Wall

Preparation for the wedding continues in the kitchen. This is the sort of occasion that sugar and spice, as well as butter and cream and egg yolks,and fruits, are all used with a more lavish hand then usual. It’s part of what makes special occasions – SPECIAL.
According to all those broad social science studies, the average Englishman (and pretty much the ‘average’ European) in an average year in the seventeenth century …probably had about a pound of sugar. For the year. And most of that sugar would at weddings, christenings, funerals, fairs and holidays. Now we have closer to 60 pounds of sugar a year – that’s more then a pound a WEEK – and that doesn’t include other sweeteners.
Spice was also a sweetener, and had properties that improved your health.
Since it was important to ‘close’ your stomach at the end of a meal – and the end of a BIG meal it might need a little more help then ordinary to close, a spiced, sweetened wine – or Ipocras – and there are LOTS of different ways to spell that – was a good closer. The wine and spice warmed up your stomach, to better decoct your food, and the sugar, being so delightful, well, the stomach would close around that.

Seventeenth century digestion is nothing if not interesting.

Interestingly, we still have something a little sweet at the end of a meal, albeit almost every meal – dessert ….

The spices for the Ipocras:










Cinnamon, ginger, nutmegs and cloves…I suddenly feel like singing….







These, plus sugar, are the spices that Gervase Markham – among other – recommend for Ipocras.  Ipocras is usually the last thing served, so  it’s a signal that the meal is concluding as well.

To make Ipocras

To make Ipocras, take a pottell of wine, tow ounces of good Cinamon, half an ounce of ginger, nine cloues, and sixe pepper cornes, and a nutmeg, and bruise them and put them into the wine with some rosemary flowers, and so let them steepe all night, and then put in sugar a pound at least; and when it is well setl, let it runne through a woollen bag made for that purpose: thus if your wine be claret, the Ipocras will be red; if white, then of that color also.

-1623. Covntry Contentement: or the English Huswife. London. p. 112.

Spice for Ipocras

Ipocras is about the ‘woollen bag’ or sleeve of Hippocrastes that is used to strain it.


July 11th, 2012 by KM Wall

Joris Hoefnagel, Wedding Fete at Bermondsey c. 1569


This day, my Julia, thou must make
For Mistress Bride the wedding-cake:
Knead but the dough, and it will be
To paste of almonds turn’d by thee;
Or kiss it thou but once or twice,
And for the bride-cake there’ll be spice.

Robert Herrick

The 1627 Village will be the site of a wedding on Saturday July 14th. It’s a 1627 wedding, or more properly, a bride-ale. And what’s a bride-ale without cake?

Bride-cake is simply the cake served at a wedding feast. There is no particular kind of cake that is served at weddings ONLY. The same sorts of cakes that are served at weddings are also served at christenings, wakes, and Christmas.   Most cakes, that is grand cakes (which are different from little cakes or what we now call cookies) are made from fine wheat flour, yeast, sugar, butter, eggs or cream or both, maybe some ground almonds, spices (which might include saffron, as well as the more usual cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, mace) and most often dried fruit – currants, raisins, even dates. Flavorings could include rosewater, musk, ambergris and Sack.

In the cookbooks these cakes are often called Spice Cakes. Spice cakes are also the basis for Oxfordshire Cakes and Banbury Cakes. Banbury is a town in Oxfordshire.

“A mock ‘country bride-ale’ held in 1575 at Kenilworth Castle for the amusement of Elizabeth I included a procession of maidens carrying “three speciall spicecakes of a bushel of wheat”

In 1655, spice cakes were still being used at bride-ales. This is also the first cake recipe that is specifically baked for a wedding:

The Countess of Rutlands Receipt of making the rare Banbury Cake, which was so much praised at her Daughters (the Right Honourable the Lady Chadworths) Wedding.

- 1656. W.M. The Compleat Cook. London;  pp. 109-11.

These are all different from modern (20th and 21st century) Banbury Cakes, which are masses of spiced and sugared raisins and currants in puff pastry. These Elizabethan cakes cakes made  with masses of raisins and currants and spice in a plain piece of their own base dough. This gives the finished cake a smooth appearance, as if it were plain bread or perhaps a pie. The cakes in the Hoefnagel painting “A Wedding Feast at Bermondsey” are also very large, the size as if they had  been made with a peck of flour, and could very well be Banbury Cakes.

But sometimes the bride-cakes were smaller, and stacked on each other.

John Aubrey (1629-1697), who was born in Wiltshire and educated at Oxford, recalls,

“ When I was a little boy (back before the Civill warres) I have seen (according to the custom then) the Bride and Bride-groome kiss over the Bride-cakes at the table: it was about the latter-end of dinner: and the cakes were layd upon one another, like the picture of the Sew-bread in the old Bibles: The Bride-groome wayted [on the guest] all dinner time”

The Sew-bread is mentioned in Exodus. In the Geneva edition of the Bible, the favorite edition of the Plymouth settlers, there is an illustration of the sew-bread, and there are six flattish loaves stacked up on each of two plates.

For  our 1627 bride-ale on Saturday I made the smaller, sew-breadish version of cakes – they’ll be stacked on each other at the table on Saturday (did I mention the festivities are on SATURDAY?)

Here’s the period recipe that they’re based on:

To make a very good great Oxfordshire Cake.

Take a peck of flour by weight, and dry it a little, and a pound and a half of sugar, and ounce of Cinamon, half an ounce of Nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of Mace & Cloves, a good spoonful of Salt, beat your Salt and Spice very fine, and searce it and mix it with your flour and sugar; then take three pound of butter and work it in the flour, it will take three hours working ; then take a quart of Ale-yeast, two quarts of Cream, half a pint of Sack, six grains of Amebergreece dissolved into it, half a pint of Rosewater, sixteen Eggs, eight of the whites, mix these with the flowr, and knead them well together, then let it lie warm by your fire till your Oven be hot, which must be a little hotter then for manchet, when you make it ready for your oven, put to your Cake six pound of currans, two pound of Raisins of the Sun stoned and minced, so make up your cake, and set it in your Oven stopt close; it will take three hours baking ; when baked, take it out and frost it over with the white of an Egg, and Rosewater well beat together, and strew fine sugar upon it, and then set it again into the oven, that it may ice.

-         1656. W.M. The Compleat Cook. London. pp. 13-4.


…they think their cheer so great….

July 10th, 2012 by KM Wall

…In feasting also this latter sort (I mean the husbandman) do exceed after their manner, especially at bride-ales, purifications of women, and such odd meetings. Where it is incredible to tell what meat is consumed and spent, each one bringing such a dish or so many with him as his wife and he do consult upon, but always with the consideration that the liefer [dearer] friend shall have the better provision. This is also commonly seen at these banquets, that the Goodman of the house is not charged with anything saving bread, drink, sauce, houseroom, and fire. But the artificers in cities and good towns do deal far otherwise; for, albeit that some of them do suffer their jaws to go oft before their claws, and divers of them, by making good cheer, do hinder themselves and other men, yet the wiser sort can handle well enough these junketings, and therefore their frugality deserveth commendation. To conclude, both the artificer and the husbandman are sufficiently liberal and very friendly at their tables; and when they meet they are so merry without malice and plain without inward Italian or French craft and subtlety, that it would do a man good to be in company among them. Herein only are the inferior sort somewhat blamed, that being thus assembled their talk is now and then such as savoreth of scurrility and ribaldry, a thing naturally incident to carters and clowns, who think themselves not to be merry and welcome if their foolish veins in this behalf be never so little restrained. This is moreover to be added in these meetings, that if they happen to stumble upon a piece of venison and a cup of wine or very strong beer or ale (which the latter they commonly provide against their appointed days), they think their cheer so great and themselves to have fared so well as the Lord Major of London, with whom, when their bellies be full, they will not often stick to make comparison, because that of a subject there is no public officer of any city in Europe that may compare in port and countenance with him during the time of his office.
-1587. William Harrison. Description of England. Edelen ed. 1994., pp. 131-2.

Making preparations for the marriage of Mary Warren and Robert Bartlett in 1627……

And the answer is…..

July 9th, 2012 by Carolyn





“The leaves or the blades of the Leek be long, somewhat broad, and very many, having a keel or crest in the backside, in smell and taste like to the onion. The stalks, if the blades be not often cut, do in the second or third year grow up round, bringing forth on the top flowers made up in a round head or ball as doth the Onion.”  (Gerard, John “The Herbal” 1633)

Onions and leeks look very similar when they flower. They way to tell them apart is that the leaves of the leeks are board and flat, while those of the onion are round and hollow. Here is a full length view:



Leeks were used in cookery, but beware they are very “hot” in temperature and may offset your humors as this passage warns:


“The Hurts

It heateth the body, ingendreth naughty bloud, causeth troublesome and terrible dreams, offendeth the eyes, dulleth the sight, hurteth those that are by nature hot and choleric, and is noysome to the stomach, and breadth windiness.” (Johnson, Thomas ed. Gerard, John “The Herbal” 1633, pg. 174-175)


So go ahead enjoy your leeks, but beware of impending windiness.


Goodwife Godbertson’s Hollyhock

July 5th, 2012 by Carolyn

Recently Cate M, one of the role-players in the 1627 English Village, made us all these great new garden reference books. From A-Z all the plants we have and their many names, uses, and sources.



New favorite reference book.


So today Goodwife Godbertson, aka. Kelley A, showed me her new gorgeous hollyhock plant in her garden. Which I then realized I didn’t know too much about, so I went back to our new book and learned a few things.





“Hollihock riseth high, seedeth and dyeth; the chief use I know, is ornament.”    -Lawson,”The Country House-wife’s Garden”, 1617-

It goes by the names of hollyhock, hockes, garden mallows, and more. The most common use for it is medicinal, especially in binding and bleeding.



Hollyhock Close-up


And it wouldn’t be a pilgrim seasonings post without a word from Gervase Markham:

“A powder for the stone in the bladder.

For a stone in the bladder take the kernels of sloes and dry them on a tile stone, then beat them to powder, then take the roots of alexanders, parsley, pellitory, and hollyhock, of every of their roots a like quantity, and seethe them all in white wine, or else in the broth of a young chicken: then strain them into a clean vessel, and when you drink of it, put into it half a spoonful of the powder of sloe kernels. Also if you take the oil of scorpion, it is very good to anoint the member, and the tender part of the belly against the bladder.”  -  Gervase Markham, “The English Housewife”, 1615 (Do not try this remedy at home it was the 17th century, just don’t do it.)


So that’s a little information about hollyhocks, who knew? Can anyone guess what this plant on the right is?



Can you guess what this is?



© 2003-2011 Plimoth Plantation. All rights reserved.

Plimoth Plantation is a not-for-profit 501 (c)3 organization, supported by admissions, grants, members, volunteers, and generous contributors.