Cookbook of Jane Dawson, late 17th century

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Manuscript Location
Folger Shakespeare Library, Manuscripts
Place of Origin
England
Date of Composition
ca. 1670-1700
Description
The first part of this two-part book contains an index at the front, with entries from "D" to "W," followed by recipes written on 70 numbered pages (from which pages 27 through 30 are missing) and 6 unnumbered pages at the end. Most of the recipes are culinary; many are attributed. The index and recipes are in a single lovely, somewhat variable hand except for a few recipes on the unnumbered pages. A recipe for "The Queen's Silybub," with the date 1693, appears on page 55. 

The second part of the manuscript consists of 29 pages of medical recipes, most in the hand of the writer of the first part. These recipes are written from the back cover of the notebook going toward the center, upside-down in relation to the first part of the book. A few of the medical recipes in the second part have been entered, belatedly, in the index at the front.

For the two principal courses of dinner this book offers many recipes for meat and fish dishes (collops, fricassees, stews, and a number of "boiled" fish) and for pickles of vegetables, fowl, and fish. Page 4 features a recipe for "Eggs in Moonshine," a second-course dish that enjoyed an intense fad, in quite different iterations, in the latter seventeenth century. This version, consisting of egg yolks poached in a rose-scented sugar syrup until they "glister," is served in a dish whose rim has been 'rubbed' with aqua vitae and is set alight at the table.

At least half of the book comprises recipes for the banquet or dessert course, in particular fruit preserves and fruit confections (cakes, chips, and jumbles) and fruit wines, waters, and spirits. There is an early recipe for a chocolate dessert cream (apparently whipped) on page 17. Several cake recipes are of particularly note. In an age when "llttle cakes" (modern cookies) were typically rolled and cut, this book outlines two little currant cakes that are dropped, "Plum Cakes" (page 31) and "To Make the Kings Cakes" (page 37). Also outlined are two recipes that capture the emergence of modern pound cake from little dessert cakes, "Rare Sugar Cakes" (page 31) and "Little Plum Cakes" (page 48). Finally, there is "The Lady Dorchester Cake" (page 36), one of those enormous yeast-raised party cakes (7 pounds flour, 6 1/2 pounds butter, 34 eggs, 3 pints cream, and 12 pounds currants) so common in cookbooks of the period. It is hard to believe that such cakes were baked in one, but this one seems to be, for the recipe says simply "have your hoop readye." However, there is also an atypical memorandum following the recipe that gives ingredient amounts for "the quarter part" of the recipe.