Cookbook of Constance Hall, 1672

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Manuscript Location
Folger Shakespeare Library, Manuscripts
Place of Origin
England
Date of Composition
1672-ca. 1700
Description
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.

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.