Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Recipes of 16th & 17th centuries England by Katherine Pym



17th Century Chef

I don’t cook, well maybe sometimes. I like a pristine kitchen and cooking takes away from that. I don’t hunt through recipe books, but I do take naps when cooking shows are on television. I put the sound down low and the chef's droning takes me to slumber-land almost immediately. What I do find interesting are recipes from earlier centuries. This was a time of exploration. Every season, new items were brought back to England. It was an exciting time.

Bear in mind some of the following recipes include very expensive ingredients and most middling families could not afford them.  I found only one reference in the 1660’s of a cook-stove (range), so not sure if there were many in the field. Most families cooked their dinners in the hearth, bent over until their backs were sore.

So, here we go. Maybe, for those who like to cook/bake, you’ll find a lovely holiday recipe to try:

NOTE: the language is as written nearly 400 years ago but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to read. Also, based on some of the ingredients (some of the quantities boggle the mind), it's a wonder many adults survived past middle age. And some did. In my research, I've seen some adults get quite old, ages 70+.

To Stew a Leg of Lamb the best way:
Slice it and lay it in order in your stewing pan, seasoned with salt and nutmeg, adding a pound of butter, and half a pint of claret, with a handful of sliced dates, and the like quantity of currants, and make the sauce with the yolk of two eggs, a quarter of a pint of verjuice1, and two ounces of sugar. Boil them up and put them to the meat, serving all up hot together.

To make collops2 of veal the best way:
Slice your veal fat and lean, beat half a dozen eggs with salt, grate a nutmeg, and stamp or chop a handful of thyme.  Add a pint of stewing oysters, and stew them together with a pound of sweet butter.  Make anchovy sauce, and strew the dish over with capers, and so serve it up.

To Roast a Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters the best way:
Take one not too fat nor too lean, open it in divers places, stuff your oysters in with a little chopped peny-royal3, baste it with butter and claret wine, then serve it up with grated nutmeg, yolks of eggs, ginger, cinnamon, butter and red wine vinegar.

To Stew a Rump of Beef in the best order:
Season it with nutmeg, salt and sugar, lay the bony side downward, slice a dozen shallots, cast in a bunch of rosemary, elder, vinegar and water, of each three pints, suffer it to stew over a gentle fire in a close stew pan two hours, and then with the gravy dish it up with sippits4.

How to Roast a Hare the Best Way:
The hare being flea’d5, lard her with small slips of bacon lard, stick her over with cloves, the ears being stripped and left on, then make a pudding of grated bread, beaten cinnamon, grated nutmeg, currants, cream, sugar and salt.  Make it up with white wine or claret wine, and put it into the belly.  When tying the hare to the spit, roast it by a gentle fire, which done, make sauce of cinnamon, ginger, nutmegs, prunes, grated bread and sugar.  Boil them up to a thickness, and laying the divided pudding on either side of the hare, serve it up with the sauce.

To Roast a fillet of beef
Take a fillet which is the tenderest part of the beef, and lieth in the inner part of the surloyn, cut it as big as you can, broach it, and be careful not to broach it through the best of the meat, roast it leisurely, & baste it with sweet butter, set a dish to save the gravy while it roasts, then prepare sauce for it of good store of parsley, with a few sweet herbs chopp'd smal, the yolks of three or four eggs, sometimes gross pepper minced amongst them with the peel of an orange, and a little onion; boil these together, and put in a little butter, vinegar, gravy, a spoonful of strong broth, and put it to the beef.

To Roast a fillet of beef Otherways.
Sprinkle it with rose-vinegar, claret-wine, elder-vinegar, beaten cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cinamon, ginger, coriander-feed, fennil-seed, and salt; beat these things fine, and season the fillet with it then roast it, and baste it with butter, save the gravy, and blow off the fat, serve it with juyce (juice) of orange or lemon, and a little elder-vinegar.

Or thus (To Roast a fillet of beef).
Powder it one night, then stuff it with parsley, tyme, sweet marjoram, beets, spinage, and winter-savory, all picked and minced small, with the yolks of hard eggs mixt amongst some pepper, stuff it and roast it, save the gravy and stew it with the herbs, gravy, as also a little onion, claret wine, and the juyce (juice) of an orange or two; serve it hot on this sauce, with slices of orange on it, lemons, or barberries.

1.      Acid juice from sour or unripe fruit - the lightly fermented juice of unripe grapes or crab apples (lemon juice works too). 
2.      Slices. 
3.      Mint or basil.
4.      Croutons.
5.      Skinned

Many thanks to Robert May The Accomplisht Cook (London: 1660) & Wikicommons, Public Domain.


  1. Nice post. I have a set of cookery books from the eighteenth century.

  2. Interesting as always, Katherine. Can't claim any of those recipes but I once cooked jugged hare the traditional way as per my mother-in-law's recipe - and everyone hated it but I suspect that was because the addition of the hare's blood (to deepen the flavor of the stock) made it extra gamey!

    1. Probably should have added claret or red wine or something. At least you tried to make a traditional recipe. I've eaten roasted squirrel and BBQ'd goat. Not too bad. My son brought home nettles once. Now, that was a bitter dish.

    2. You know those people were hungry...

    3. Interesting the amounts of spices in a time when there was no refigeration. I'm fascinated by the use of nutmeg.

  3. Look at all those gorgeous recipes...Thanks for sharing your 18th Century treasures!

  4. Enjoyed reading the recipes. I do cook at times and have three shelves of recipe books most of them are for various countries. Good luck with your stories.

  5. Interesting. It sure was hard work back in those days. I'm like you, Katherine. Gave away all my recipe books years ago and never look at cooking shows on TV. But I do enjoy a well cooked meal by someone else.

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