Sky Rockets in Flight, Gentlewoman’s Delight

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After last week’s pickle and chutney planning comes the cooking, or at least the pickling. Here is an extract from a 1690 cookery book for ‘Gentlewomen’ setting out instructions for pickling:

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To Pickle Cucumbers, Broom-buds, Ash-keys, Grapes, Plumbs, French-Beans, Barberries, Mushrooms, Sampher, and the like: take the following Rule.

Get a sufficient quantity of good Wine Vinegar, boil it and scum it till no more scum arise; adding to it a handfull or two of Spanish-Salt, Cloves, Mace, Ginger, Cinamon, Dill and Coriander-seed, with whole Pepper and a piece of Allum, and putting any of the things before-mentioned, or any other things usually Pickled, and it will preserve them green and sound: or for Barberries and Sampher, you may put salt and Water only.

I’ve been pickling shallots, which along with onions, aren’t on the list. I am glad to see that my favourite pickled cucumber (or gherkins) is on the 17th Century pickle list though. Having been miserably laid up with a rotten cold for a good part of the week, the therapeutic peeling of shallots in the garden on a sunny Saturday September morning was ideal. It came with the added bonus that my still bunged up sinuses helped stop the usual onion induced weeping (peeling them outside is the other tip). The ingredients for spicing the vinegar as listed above would appear in most pickle or chutney recipe today, though I’m unsure what ‘Spanish-salt’ is exactly. How can you resist a recipe that asks you to scum something ’till you can’t scum no more? For me the whole list would be a little too much, so I stuck with some fennel seeds from the garden as well as pepper and cloves when spicing the vinegar. Here are the results:

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Oh, and I can’t dangle that title in front of you without linking to this now could I?

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4 thoughts on “Sky Rockets in Flight, Gentlewoman’s Delight

  1. Nick

    Spanish salt was the highest quality salt available in Europe at the time – it commanded massive prices. The Dutch for example got into serious trouble when their war with Spain cut off access to it; magnified by the fact that the Spanish managed to get control of Caribbean salt pans from the Dutch as well. It meant the price of salt in the Netherlands rocketed, and as a result the price of food generally also rocketed. So this is quite a luxury recipe!

    If you are after a modern day (but just as expensive) equivalent then Fleur de Sel is probably the most similar type of salt now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleur_de_sel

    Reply
    1. The Gentleman Administrator Post author

      Ah, brilliant! I knew someone would know. So we shall upgrade the author to 17th Century foodie I think. That would chime with the rest of the book which seems as preoccupied with the presentation and ordering of the table as the actual recipes.Thinking about it I saw them making Fleu de Sel on a recent edition of BBCs Coast programme as they visited Brittany. Excellent stuff, cheers.

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Christmas Pickles and Chutney: a Mini Post « In Pursuit of History

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