Tagged ‘water’

French Bread, 17th century style

September 29th, 2013 by KM Wall

Excerpts from a translation from the French. Thank you Lisa Whalen!

Country Delights by N. Bonnefon

Book One

Of Bread

Chapter 1


The most necessary of all foods that God’s goodness has created for sustaining the life of Man is Bread; so does his blessing extend over this nourishment such that never does one distaste it; and the most costly of Meats cannot be eaten without Bread; Thus this is where we will begin our work; with the manner of making Bread, of every sort that is fashioned in Paris, the place where meet Men of all Nations and Provinces, who with one common voice agree, that in Paris is eaten the best Bread in the World.

To make good Bread, not only are good corns preferable to lesser; but also the Mill, the Water, the Oven, & the Manner must needs contribute.

As for Corns; whole Wheat, clean [net][1], healthy, of good color, this we must esteem above the other grains; as Rye, Oats, Barley, Peas, Beans, Vetch, & other grains that the Poor put into their Bread for cheapness.


For the Waters; their goodness is so necessary that it is one of the principle components that makes excellent Bread; as we see by the example of Paris, where the Bread is made in the manner of Gonesse even though it is wrought by the same Bakers, & with the same Wheat, nevertheless it is much inferior both in savor and goodness, than that made in the place itself; which is why one must necessarily believe that this is because the Waters of the Country wholly contribute.

There are four sorts of Water: to be acquainted with, water from the River, from the Spring, from the Well and Rainwater, which is kept in Ponds or Cisterns: Draw a pint of each and take the lightest[1] as the best; if every time you want to make a trial of Bread; this will be the most certain way to judge its goodness.


And for the METHOD; we will speak first of Common Bread, the more wheat, the better the bread, nonetheless if you wish to make a good sort of Bread for the Servants, put to the Mill four Minots[1] of Rye, one minot of Barley; (which is around the Oven) & bolt it an a large Bolting Cloth.

Of this Flour, you take about a Minot at ten in the Evening and put it to leaven, that you cover well with the same flour.

To moisten it; it is necessary that in Winter the Water be hotter than you can tolerate with your hand; in Summer, it is sufficient that it be a little warm; and thus tempered proportionally in the two other seasons.

On the morrow, at dawn, you put the rest of your Flour to leaven, and knead the whole, brewing [brassant] your Paste a long time, keeping it stiff enough, for the softer it is, the more bread you will have; but also the less it will last you in that one eats much more when it is light, than when it is stiff.

Your Paste being well worked, return it to the Trough, turning the top under and driving your Fist into the middle of the Paste, to the depth of the Trough, in two or three places, and cover it well with sacks & covers.

At the end of a certain time (more in Winter & less in Summer,) look at your Paste, & you will see your holes entirely filled; this is the sign that the Paste is sufficiently risen; so have a second person heat the Oven (because it is nearly impossible for one alone to attend both Oven and Paste;) divide it in pieces, making them each about sixteen pounds in weight, or a little more; then turn this Paste into Loaves, & lay it on a Table Cloth, making a fold between each Loaf, for fear that they don’t kiss in ripening.

Your Oven being hot, which you recognize when by rubbing a staff against the Roof, or against the Hearth, you will see that there will be small sparklings of fire; this is an indicator that it is hot, so you will cease heating it, and remove the Firebrands and Coals, setting some few of the burning Embers in a bank near the mouth of the Oven, & clean it with the malkin that will be made of old linen, the which you moisten in clear Water & wring it before you swab[2], then you it up to allow it to abate its heat which blackens the Bread; & a little time later open it, to fill the oven as quickly as you can, set the largest Loaves at the back and sides of  the Oven, finishing filling the oven near the middle.

He that heats the Oven, take care not to burn his wood all over at the same time, but heat it presently of one side, anon of the other, continually cleaning the ash and drawing them out with the Oven-fork.[3]

The Bread having been set in, close well the mouth of the Oven and stop around with wet linen cloths, in order for him to well conserve his heat; four hours after, which is about the time necessary to cook the large Loaves; pull out one, to see if it is cooked enough, & particularly underneath, which one calls having the Hearth [avoir de l’Atre], and knock it with your fingertips; if it sounds, and it is firm enough, it be time to take it out, if not allow it still some more time, until you see it cooked, experience will soon render you able to know; because if you leave it in the Oven past perfect cooking, it will redden inside and will be unsavory.

Your Bread being removed, place it on the most cooked side, so that it regains moisture while cooling: for example, if there is too much Roof (which sets in the way when one doesn’t withdraw the ashes while heating the Oven,) so put it upside down, and if it is equally well backed, prop it against the Wall, placing it on the side that is most cooked.

Let your Bread cool well, before shutting it in the Hutches, where you always put it on its side; so that when it is put away, it has air equally around it; & in Summer put the Hutches in the Cellar to preserve the Bread’s moisture.

Always eat first, those that are the worst made, & least baked, because the better baked will re-soften with time.

Household management wants one always to have a batch of stale bread when one makes new.

[1] Minot is the half of a mine; or three French Bushels although a minot of oats, salt or vegetables (except onions) contains four bushels. (A minot of onions or nuts is a different measure.) Cotgrave.

[2] Neither “swab” nor “mop” are appropriate English usage for early 17th c. Usually in English they said “clean with a maulkin,”

not nearly so evocative. In French they had a very handy verb, a single word that meant the same thing.

[3] “Termed in Lincolnshire a Fruggin wherewith fuel is both put into an Oven and stirred when it is (on fire) in it”. Cotgrave



[1] I think lightest in weight not lightest in color


[1] Evelyn translates “net” as weight, which it may be but I think that the passage is describing wheat that is good looking.

To Make a Foule Brauth

August 19th, 2013 by KM Wall


Take a Large foule & cut it in lems, & put it in a gallon of water, a pound or two of a Crage of Vell, a bunch of sweet earbes, & some Black pepper 7 mace. Let it boyle gentely 4 or 5 hours till it is all boyle’d to peeces. Then, straine it through a seve; then put in 2 spoonfulls of varmagely or saggo, sume Blanched sallerey & lettes cut in; if it is not theeck enough put in a little butter & flower Braded. Let it boyl up a lettle & then dish it up; some put in a Role Sliced; you must put in now Time; but a bay Lefe or 2 gives it a prettey flaver.

- The Receipt Book of Lady Ann Blencowe (1695). Christina Stapley, Heartease Books, (UK), 2004. p. 82.

  • large fowl = an old hen or old rooster


    Not this sort of Fowl

    Not this sort of Fowl


  • lems -???
  • crage of veall
  • earbes = herbs
  • seve = sieve
  • varmagely = vermicelli – that’s right, the little macaronis!

    Pasta -that's the paste....

    Pasta -that’s the paste….

  • sago =
  • saggo =???

    Pearl sago

    Pearl sago

  • ‘sume Blanched sallery & lettes’ -  some blanched celery and lettuce – celery makes a comeback at the end of the 17th century – wild celery or smallage is much more common in the 16th and 17th century



  • thicken with flour and butter – shades of an emerging trend
  • Role sliced is a sliced roll – a little manchet would be nice…..
  • Time (thyme) and there’s nothing like a bay leaf for a pretty flavor.

It is Sickness and Health Week in the 1627 Village. How balanced are your humours?

Fowl Broath piewise is (more or less)….

To bake Chickens with Damsons.

Take your Chickens, drawe them and wash them, then breake their bones, and lay them in a platter, then take foure handfuls of fine flower, and lay it on a faire boord, put thereto twelve yolks of Egs, a dish of butter, and a litle Saffron: mingle them altogether, & make your paste therewith. Then make sixe coffins, and put in euery coffin a lumpe of butter of the bignesse of a Walnut: then season your sixe coffins with one spoonful of Cloues and Mace, two spoonfuls of Synamon, and one of Sugar, and a spoonefull of Salt. Then put your Chickens into your pies: then take Damisons and pare away the outward peele of them, and put twentie in euery of your pies, round about your chicken, then put into euerie of your coffins, a hand full of Corrans. Then close them vp, and put them into the Ouen, then let them be there three quarters of an houre.

1594, 1597. The good Huswifes handmaide for the Kitchin.

Damson plum

Damson plum



May 24th, 2013 by KM Wall
Hedeoma pulgiodes - false pudding grass

Hedeoma pulgiodes – false pudding grass

Mentha pulegium - Pudding Grass!

Mentha pulegium – Pudding Grass












Parkinson Paradisus 477 Pennyroyall..vsed to be put into puddings,..and therefore in diuers places they know it by no other name then Pudding-grasse.

Now, dear Mr. Parkinson, how is that this herb that is named for it’s use  in puddings so seldom shows up in pudding recipes?

And frankly – GOOD THING:

Pregnant women and children under the age of 15 should not use this herb.  Do not use oil extract orally as it is highly toxic.  Do not exceed dosage amounts.

With any herb, there is the risk of an allergic reaction. Small children and pregnant women should use additional caution when considering the use of herbal remedies.

Which begs another question – how can the people of the past get away eating and otherwise ingesting things that we now know to be unsafe?

  1. Toxic load is different for different people in different times and in different place. Possibly there was a less toxic form of the herb available or perhaps we’re now exposed to things that make what was once inert, very dangerous OR
  2. When the leading cause of death is ‘suddenly’ appropriate cause and effect relationships aren’t always noted.

So this is a caveat – before we continue in the garden, before we try things merely because someone in the past wrote it down, before we try to be authentic in every detail in recreating old recipes, we must be safe.

Safety First.

Live to tell about it.

All the lovely herbals and books of medicine and even the cookbooks and commonplace books and receipt-books of the past are a great place to start BUT find a good modern herbal reference and use it often before ingesting anything.

There are websites (American Botanical Council or ABC) and books (John Lust The Herb Book is a personal quick and easy reference guide). Check them out before you eat! When in doubt, DON’T.


Skull and Crossbones - warning of  poison  AND sign of Cemetary entrance

Skull and Crossbones – warning of poison AND sign of Cemetery entrance


“256. A Pennyroyall Puding.

Take 6 Eggs beat them very well and halfe a pint of creame one Nutmeg grated a litle sugar and salt then take a good quantity of parsley penyroyall Marygold flowrs shred very small put them to the creame and Eggs with 4 spoonfulls of sack half a p[ound] of Corance and almost a p[ound] of Beefe suet shred a topeny loafe grated stir all well together then flowr the Bagge or pot tye it up close and it will be boyled in an hours time[.]

for the sauce take a litle rose water and sugar a litle vinegar and butter beat together poure it upon it then serve it in this is esteemed a good puding[.]”

-John Evelyn, Cook. C.Driver, ed. Prospect Books, 1997. p. 143.

For the Pudding, sans pennyroyal….

6 eggs, beaten

1 cup cream

nutmeg, sugar, salt

parsley and caledula flowers (not French marigolds, which taste as nasty as they smell – look them up…)

a little wine (a sack is not a bag, although sack in a bag pudding sounds like the punchline of a 17th century riddle)

suet and grated bread, I mean Bread Crumbs.

This is one pudding that can be boiled in a bag or a basin – basin being a category the I hadn’t noticed in Robert May. hmmmm.

The rosewater, beaten butter and vinegar sauce sounds very very very nice indeed. Not too much rosewater or it will taste like the soaps your Nana put out for company smells.


Creative Cheate I

February 27th, 2013 by KM Wall

Bramer - sacks to the mill

Before bread there is flour; before flour there is the mill; before the mill there is grain.

Sacks to the Mill!

Markham’s  cheat bread, redacted

1 # leaven in salt

Soooo – how do you get leaven (which is another name for a starter) if you don’t have some left from the last batch because, just maybe, this is your FIRST batch?

Punt. Hence, Creative Cheate.

I’ve tried lots of different things. Essentially you want a mixture of water and flour and yeast that will help your bread rise give it good  sourdough qualities – it’s not just for flavor, but alterations in the pH that improve keeping time, etc.

My latest?  1 bottle of beer (any kind); 1 Tablespoon of yeast or a packet (I buy it by the pound, so I’m not sure how many teaspoons are in the packet, but close enough for this)

2 Q H2O
flour for dough:
2# each corn, rye, wheat
OR 3# corn, 3# wheat

1TBL yeast

Dissolve starter in 3 Q H20 ; Add 3# flour (I like to start with corn – the longer it soaks, the better it is)
Cover and fridge overnight
Next morning
Add salt to taste (1 tsp/# – the starter adds some)
The yeast
The rest of the flour
Form into rough dough
Let sit at least 10 minutes and then knead until as smooth as a babies bottom
Let rise in clean greased bowl (with cover – flour and towel – to keep crust from forming on top)
Knock down and cut into 8 – 2# loaves and 1# new starter
Mould loaves, let rise
Bake 500° convection oven 1/2  hour ; put oven to 350 and keep in for another half hour. It will sound hollow when knocked on bottom. It smells different, too, but I’m not in your kitchen to tell you when.
Cool on racks
Cover with towel or freeze.

And what if you don’t need this much bread? The saga continues……

Cheate Bread

January 23rd, 2013 by KM Wall

Pieter de Hooch - Boy Bringing Bread

Of baking cheat bread

“To bake the best cheat bread, which is also simply of wheat only, you shall, after your meal is dressed and bolted through a more coarse bolter than was used for your manchets, and put also into a clean tub, trough, or kimmel, take a sour leaven, that is piece of such leaven saved from a former batch, and well filled with salt, and so laid up to sour, and this sour leaven you shall break into small pieces into warm water, and then strain it; which done, make a deep hollow hole, as was before said, in the midst of your flour, and therein pour your strained liquor; then with your hand mix some part of the flour therewith, till the liquor be as thick as pancake batter, then cover it all over with meal, and so let all that lie that night; the next morning stir it, and all the rest of the meal well together, and with a little more warm water, barm, and salt to season it with, bring it to a perfect leaven, stiff and firm; then knead it, break it, and tread it, as was before said in the manchets, and so mould it up in reasonable big loaves, and then bake it with and indifferent good heat: and thus according to these two examples before showed, you may bake any bread leavened or unleavened whatsoever, whether it be simple corn, as wheat or rye of itself, or compound grain as wheat and rye, or wheat, rye, and barley, or rye and barley, or any other mixed white corn; only, because rye is a little stronger grain than wheat, it shall be good for you to put to your water a little hotter than you did to your wheat.”

- Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, (1617). Best ed. p. 210.


New England Beer

January 18th, 2013 by KM Wall

Tunning beer

“for in that part of the Country where I abode [Maine], we made our Beer of Molosses, Water, Bran, chips of Sassafras Root and a little Wormwood, well boiled”

- John Josselyn, New Englands rarities, p. 46. 1672

Ingredients for John Josslyn’s Down-East Brew:

  1. Molasses:


  2. Water:

    Spring water

  3. Bran:

    Bran (wheat)

  4. chips of Sassafras root:

    Sassafras (leaves) - and swallowtail butterflies that love sassafras

  5. Wormwood :

    Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

    a little wormwood – emphasize littlea little goes a long, long way


I think there might have been some corn as the grain base of this brew:



Nuts in the fire

January 12th, 2013 by KM Wall

The Story of the English Underground, Colonial Edition.cont

Hollow hearted - not so young or small. Don't try to cook this - better for the pig!

Young, small turnips should be cooked in water without wine for the first boiling. Then throw away the water and cook slowly in water and wine, and chestnuts therin, or, if one has no chestnuts, sage.

-Pleyn Delight, #17. (The Menagier de Paris, 1393)



The Monkey and the Cat - Abraham Hondius (and chestnuts)

Singe et chat - another version









The Monkey and the Cat

The Monkey seing nuts in fire
Doth force the Cat to plucke them neir;
Which showeth the Enuious doth not care,
whose House do burn eso they haue share.

Aesops Monkey and a Cat on a trencher in the British Museum

and now in Spanish...Tomasso Salini Mao Una fabula de Esopo. El gato, el mono y las castana






















December 25th, 2012 by KM Wall


Monday the 25 day, we came ashore, some to fell timber, some to saw, some to rive, and some to carry, so no man rested all that day, but towards night some as they were at work, heard a noise of some Indians, which caused us all to go to our muskets, but we heard no further. So we came aboard again, and left some twenty to keep the court of guard; that night we had a sore storm of wind and rain.

Monday the 25 being Christmas day, we began to drink water aboard, but at night the master caused us to have some beer, and so on board we had divers times now and then some beer, but on shore none at all.

-1622. Mourt’s Relation. Caleb Johnson, ed.  p. 472.



I can’t help feeling, that all work and no play on Christmas Day, made 1620 William Bradford’s

Best Christmas EVER.

Merry Christmas as you celebrate in your own way.


Cranberry Tart

November 14th, 2012 by KM Wall

“…as why are Strawberries sweet and Cranberries sowre, there is no reason but the wonderfull worke of God that made them so…(John Eliot, 1647)


Fen grapes, marish worts, mosse-berries, moore-berries, fenberries, bearberries, cramberries…..how can one little bouncing berry have so many aliases? Whatever they’ve been called, cranberries, especially in sauce form, have long been part of the traditional Thanksgiving table.

But sauce isn’t the only thing they’re good for. John Josslyn in 1672 suggests: “Some make Tarts with them as with Goose Berries.” So take your favorite gooseberry tart recipe…..right, we’re not making many gooseberry tarts these days. Since that’s the case, try this one:

To make Gooseberrie Tarts.

Take a pint of Gooseberries, and put them into a quarter of a pound of Sugar, and two spoonfuls of water, and put them on the fire, and stir them as you did the former. ‘

- I., W. A True Gentlewomans Delight. London:1653. Falconwood Press, Albany NY: 1991. p. 19.


How many berries in a pint? A Pint’s a Pound the World Around. Cooking berries in a little water with an equal amount of sugar reminds me of the recipe on the back of the cranberry bag for cranberry sauce. It seems now we’re using cranberries like gooseberries!

Cranberry tarts and cranberry pies were a part of the New England  table  through the 20 th century. They are a very refreshing way to end a big turkey dinner. So this year, skip the sauce and make your cranberry TART.


Cranberry Tart



“…yn take a quart of fine flower, & put ye rest of ye butter to it in little bits, with 4 or 5 spoonfulls of faire water, make ye paste of it & when it is well mingled beat  it on a table & soe roule[2] it out.”

- Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery. Karen Hess, ed.  pp 130-1)

[1] pastry

[2] roll



2 cups all purpose FLOUR

6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) BUTTER

½ teaspoon SALT

1 teaspoons SUGAR

6 tablespoon cold WATER


Mix flour with salt and sugar. Work butter in until it’s crumbly. Add water and mix and mash until it holds together. Add a little more it it’s not holding together, but not too much. When it forms into a great big ball, divide into two parts, Shape into 2 disks, cover with plastic wrap or put into a plastic bag so it doesn’t dry out and let it sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes and up to overnight. This makes enough for TWO pastry shells or a top AND bottom crust for a pie. If you’re making one tart, you can freeze the other half of the pastry for up to two months.  Let thaw overnight in the fridge before using.



12 oz CRANBERRIES (1 bag) – pick out sticks and leaves


1 or 2 Tablespoons WATER

Put water, sugar and picked over cranberries in saucepan. Put them on medium high heat. Stir frequently. When the berries are mostly popped and the sauce is thick remove from heat. (If this sounds almost exactly like the recipe for the sauce on the back of the cranberry bag, that’s because so far it is!) Let cool.


Roll out half the pastry to line a 9” pie pan. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and bake in a 375 oven for 7-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly.

Scraped cranberry into baked pie shell and smooth over the top. Bake in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes or until firm. Cool completely before serving. Makes on 9” tart.

Pie Baker on the GO - c. 1465-75

Colonial Militia Marches on …

November 11th, 2012 by KM Wall

Willem de Poorter - Armour

Thursday, the 16th of November….1620
Cape Cod.
“…but we marched through boughs and bushes, and under hills and valleys, which tour our very armor in pieces, and yet could meet with none of them [Native people] , nor in their houses, nor find any fresh water, which we greatly desired, and stood in need of, for we brought neither beer nor water with us, and our victuals was only biscuit and Holland cheese, and a little bottle of aquavitae, so we were sore athirst,….”
1622. Mourt’s Relation, Johnson ed, pp. 451-2.

Under the conduct of Captain Myles Standish, sixteen men, every man with his his musket, sword and corslet, set out to explore Cape Cod on the 15th of November. They saw some Native people, and marched after them. The Native people ran away – really, the only sensible course of action while being chased in the woods by sixteen armed and armored men.

The next day the English militia continues, marching, as it were, up the hill and down the hill. Obviously Captain Standish seems to have forgotten that an army – or in this case, a militia, marches on it’s stomach. Really, Captain, my Captain – cheese and crackers? and a little bottle of aqua-vitae?

Fortunately, the soon find water… and they keep mentioned fat geese, and deer tracks, and all the possibilities of the country.


Bartholomeus van der Helst - Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Munster

Except perhaps for the drum and a few sashes of office, the militia in Plimoth Colony probably never looked this prosperous.






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