Cookbook of Constance Hall, 1672

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Manuscript Location
Folger Shakespeare Library, Manuscripts
Holding Library Call No.
Manuscript Cookbooks Survey Database ID#
Place of Origin
Date of Composition
1672-ca. 1700
This cookbook of approximately 120 written pages is inscribed "Constance Hall her booke of receipts anno Domini 1672." However, other hands intrude beginning on page/leaf 11r, and the original hand, presumably that of Constance Hall, disappears completely after page/leaf 24r. The book appears to be roughly contemporaneous with the inscription until near the end, where somewhat later recipes for lemon pudding (page/leaf 50r) and treacle gingerbread (page/leaf 60v) are written. The book is mostly culinary but it does include a few pharmaceutical and household recipes.

The book covers most of the common dishes of Restoration-era English cusine: hashed calf's head, chicken fricassee, and Scotch collops; orange, "quaking," rice, marrow, and almond puddings; great pyes of mutton, turkey, lamb, chicken, goose, and calf's head; potted and collared meats and cucumber pickles; fruit preserves and a few fruit confections, including "clear cakes"; dessert biskets and creams; and sweet wines and possets.

The book contains several noteworthy recipes. "To make a whitepot" (page/leaf 9v) outlines this ancient Devonshire custard dish in a novel version that emerged around 1650. The "Sak possit" on page/leaf 10r is, atypically, topped with a meringue, which is beaten with a (wooden) "wisk." The unsual "Lumbard Pye," specified as served in the "second course" (page/leaf 21r), entails 'well sweetened' bready forcemeat balls of veal kidney (or other meats, if kidneys are lacking) laid in a crust with beef marrow and candied and preserved fruits, all moistened with a "caudle" of sack, eggs, butter, and sugar after the pie is baked. There is a somewhat unusual recipe for almond cheesecakes with custard curd on page/leaf 21v; a tempting "Sawce for ffresh ffish" on page/leaf 28r (1 pound butter, with horseradish, lemon, and 1/2 pint oysters); and an equally tempting strawberry fool on page/leaf 30v, with 1 quart of rich cream custard and 1 quart of crushed ripe strawberries. The recipe "To make an Orenge Pudden" (page/leaf 29v) explicitly calls for partial blind-baking of the bottom crust in order to avoid overcooking (and curdling) the egg-rich pudding mixture: "Lay puff paste in the bottom of your dish put it in the oven to harden before you put the Pudden into it, for the pudden must stand but halfe an hower in the Oven." The recipe for carrot pudding (page/leaf 54r) notes that "you may make it of parsnips or Potatoes," a harbinger of sweet potato pudding, which would become a great favorite in both England and America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

A highly interesting memorandum appears on page/leaf 30v: "How much Butter you must put to a peck of fflower for all sorts of paste," the pastes listed being "pye and tarte paste," "puft paste," "pasty paste" (for large meats en croûte, like venison pasty); and "custard paste." It is much debated whether the flour peck, seen in countless early English recipes, generally means an understood weight of 14 pounds or a peck measure, that is 2 gallons, or approximately 8 pounds. Many culinary historians say the former, but here it clearly means the latter, for puff paste, which always takes roughly equal weights of flour and butter, is here made with 8 pounds of butter.