Receipt book of Margaret Baker, ca. 1675

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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
ca. 1675
This receipt book of 137 leaves (approximately 260 written pages) appears to be a single (albeit highly variable) hand, presumably that Margaret Baker, whose ownership inscription appears on leaf ii. Most of the recipes written through leaf 56v are medical, as are all on leaves 57r through 79r (which are numbered 1 to 112). The recipes from leaf 80 to the end are slightly more mixed. Two other receipt books compiled by Margaret Baker, ca. 1650, are now in the collection of the British Library (Sloane MS 2485 and Sloane MS 2486).

Culinary recipes include preparations for meats (especially sausages, including two "after ye Bolognia fation" on leaf 53r), "To make ffrench ffrittrs" (sweetened, spiced beignets, rolled and cut and fried in clarified butter, leaf 35), "To make veriuce of grapes" (leaf 94v), and "To make the Anchovian spratts" (leaf 98r). There are also recipes for puddings, custards, large cakes, small dessert cakes and biskets, dessert creams, and preserves.

The manuscript contains a number of uncommon recipes. "To make a delicate pudding with only a loafe of whyte bread" (leaf 28r) calls for cutting the crust off a stale loaf, soaking the loaf in cold water for an hour, and then boiling it in a pudding bag for an hour. The pudding is served with melted butter and sugar. There are two recipes for the fancy Lombard pie, both entailing forcemeats but otherwise entirely different. "Lombart Pye (leaf 38r) is filled with peeled, cored apples stuffed with minced roasted chicken, while Lumber Pie (leaf 104r) is filled with forcemeat balls of sweetbreads, egg-cheese curds, almond paste, and dried and candied fruits. To make a creame Dish (leaf 89r) is a cream custard, curdled and drained as for fresh cheese, and then mixed with marrow, dried fruits, and almonds, which can be baked in molds, fried, or used as a tart filling. "To make Ice & Snow of Creame (leaf 90v) consists of a rice pudding of sorts (the "ice") covered with clotted cream and whipped cream (the "snow"). The curd of the "sacke posset" outlined on leaf 90r is a pound of finely beaten almonds. "To make a Custard" (leaf 118r) is an early recipe for what would later be called "boiled custard." There is a rare and illuminating recipe "To make Runnett for Cheese" (leaf 120r) that entails putting up the stomach "bag" in an infusion of hawthorn buds, cowslips, and mace. 

Of particular interest are two recipes titled "furmity." In medieval English recipe manuscripts the word "furmity" designates a creamy pottage of wheat berries that is often specified as an accompaniment to roasted venison or mutton. In the late seventeenth century, the word was sometimes used in connection with a newly emerged sweet dish more commonly called barley cream, presumably due to the physical similarity between wheat berries and barley. This manuscript contains one such recipe, under the title "The Lady Northumberlands Furmitie" (leaf 117v) . However, "furmity" evidently still retained its meaning as wheat berries, for this manuscript also includes a rare recipe for a baked "furmytie pudding" (leaf 93r), made with boiled wheat berries, bread, eggs, and beef suet.

The medical recipes comprise a range of ointments, powders, salves, and cordials for a variety of illnesses and complaints. The recipes include "a preservative against the plague" (leaf 24r); "A medisen for one that cannot hold theyr water in there sleape" (leaf 67); a  goose-down plaster "for the canker in a womans breste" (leaf 68v); "A plaister for ye goutt or ache in ye ioynts, wher wth ye lord Ro. Rich was cured, when all ye churgions thought him to be vnecuereable" (leaf 75r); several versions of a balm attributed to Matthew Lucatelli (leaves 1v-2v, 76r, 115v); and "Sir Walter Rallyes pille" (leaf 17v). A number of recipes relate to headaches, convulsions, etc. There are notes and remedies for "phrensie" (leaf 22r-23r), a recipe for a poultice headed "It is good to comfort ye brayne and takes a way aney payne of the head" (leaf 37r), a medicine "for ye megrome & ye impostam of ye head" (leaf 64v), and another "For convolchen fetts in yong Children" (leaf 102r).  Some of the remedies closely resemble ones in Hannah Woolley's The accomplisht ladys delight in preserving, physick and cookery (1675).

A deworning recipe outlined on leaf 126v casts some light on the vexing question of the amount contained in a "spoonful." In many early recipes, a spoonful appears to imply considerably more than a contemporary measuring tablespoon. In this recipe, there are three spoonfuls to one half pint. This recipe also tells us that lemon juice could be bought of confectioners in seventeenth-century England.

There are also recipes for black and red inks (leaf 100r), "To take out stayns or ink out of a linen Cloth" (leaf 38v), "To make blacke sere cloth" (leaf 54r), and a number of cosmetic recipes, including "To take away the freckles or morfew" (leaf 38r), "To make your hands white & softe" (leaf 86r), "a water to make ye face red" (leaf 97v), and "To keepe hare from fallinge & to make it grow thicke" (leaf 110r). Notes on measurements and alchemy appear at the end of the volume (leaves 133-134).