Spring is in bloom. Our guest blogger, THL Johnnae llyn Lewis, is on here to tell us more about it.
This is a year of a late Spring. Here in Michigan, we had scant snow in February, but it snowed off and on in April. One must move along and think seasonally, so one might as well look for recipes which specify spring. Here are a few English recipes mentioning the season.
Spring flowers feature in our nursery rhymes and sayings today; they also can be found scattered in our culinary references. John Partridge in his 1573 The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, includes a chapter titled “To know what time in the yeare Herbes and Flowres, should be gathered in their full strength. cap.lxi.” Therein he explains when herbs and flowers should be gathered. He writes:
“Camimamill shalbe gathered in Apryll… Addertung should be gathered in Apryll.
Uiolet should be gathered in the Month of March, & in this month should Uiolets be put into Sugre and to Syrop.
Roses should be gathered in April and in May: and of them shoulde be made Suger ro set in Syropes of Roses and in this same Month should Oyle be made of Camamyll.
Rosemary flowres should be gathered in May. Centory whe he begieth to flowre.
Origanum in ye Month of Iune.
And as to what might be done with those roses gathered in May and June, he writes:
“Here foloweth, the sundrie Uertues of Roses, for dyuers Medicines. Ca.lxii.
Roses, be colde and moyste, in two degrees: it hath these Uertues. Stampe it, & lay it to a sore that brenneth & aketh: and it shall cease both the brennyng & akyng.
Also, it is good for the feuer in the stomacke, & against all euyelles that are gendred in hot humours.
Also, lette any woman drynke it with Wyne, and it shal foorthwith restrayne bleedyngs, and helpe the Marowes of the wombe.
Also, make Oyle of Roses, & that is a principall Receipt for pricking in Sinewes & the water threof is good for sore eien, and for hot euils, and the Oyle is good for head ache to anoynte therwith the timples, and ye roote of him is good, & drawynge for Iron: or other thing in a man’s foote, & the red Rose is much better then the white.”
Partridge, John. The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, and Hidden Secretes. 1573.**
Here is another recipe for a dish to be made of all those gathered herbs. From 1598 comes this recipe:
To make a Herboletta of hearbes in the month of May.
Take as much new chéefe as aforesaid and stampe it, then take fiftéene or sixtéene Egges and some milke, good store of Bettonie, Margerum, Sage, Mint, and a little Parsely, stampe these hearbes very well and wring out the iuice and straining it, you must put it into the Chéefe and other things aforesaid, with halfe a pound of Butter, halfe a pound of Ginger, and ten ounces of Sugar, and mixe all these together and set them on the fire in a pipkin not ouerwhote, and stirre it with a spoone vntill it begin to thicken like pottage: that done, hauing made paste you shall put the composition into it, and set it to bake in a pan with a soft fire, both vnder and ouer it. And when it is well baked, take it out and straw fine Sugar and Rosewater vpon it. This kinde of Tarte is best when it is gréenest.
[Rosselli, Giovanne de.]Epulario, or The Italian banquet. 1598.
In the 1597 The Second Part of the Good Hus-wiues Iewell,
Thomas Dawson advocated that one confite orange peels “cheefly in May.”
To confite Orenge peeles which may be doone at all times in the yeere, and cheefly in May, because then the saide peeles be greatest and thickest.
Take thicke Orenge péeles, and them cut in foure or fiue péeces, and steepe them in water the space of ten or twelue daies. You may know when they be stéeped enough, if you holde them vp in the sunne and sée through them, then they be steeped enough, & you cannot sée through them, then let them stéepe vntil you may. Then lay them to drye vpon a table, and put them to dry betwéen two linnen clothes, then put them in a Kettell or vessell leaded, and adde to it as much Honny as will halfe couer the saide peeles, more or lesse as you think good, boyle them a little and stirre them alwaies, then take them from the fire, least the Honny should séeth ouermuch. For if it should boyle a little more then it ought to boyle, it would be thick. Let it them stand and rest foure daies in the said Honny, stirring and mingling the Orrenge and Honny euery day together. Because there is not honny enough to couer all the saide Orrenge péeles, you must stir them well and oftentimes, thus doo thrée times, giuing them one bobling at ech time, then let them stand thrée dayes then strain them from the honny, and after you haue let them boile a small space, take them from the fier, and bestow them in vessels, putting to them Ginger, cloues and Sinamon, mixe all together, and the rest of the Sirrope will serue to dresse others withall.
Dawson, Thomas. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wiues Iewell. 1597.
From Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook, from 1660 comes this menu for April:
A Bill of Fare for April.
1 A Bisk.
2 Cold Lamb.
3 A Hanch of Venison roste.
4 Goslings four.
5 A Turky Chicken.
6 Custard of Almonds.
A second Course.
1 Lamb, a side in joynts.
2 Turtle Doves eight.
3 Cold Neats Tongue Pie.
4 8 Pidgeons four larded.
6 A Coller of Beef.
Lastly, the agrarian writer Thomas Tusser offers this advice for April regarding the keeping of the dairy by the good housewife. He regarded the milking and making of cheeses and butter to be the sole province of the women of the house and chided them in a number of verses should they prove negligent or fail in these tasks.
From Aprill beginning, til Andrew be past,
so long with good huswife, her dayry doth last.
Good beast & good pasture, good husbands prouide
ye resdue, good huswiues, know best how to guide
Tusser, Thomas. Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry vnited to as many of good huswiferie. 1573.
Sources are as indicated.
** The Partridge, John. The Treasurie of commodious Conceits of 1573 may be found online in a transcription © 2010 by Johnna Holloway. Web. Medieval Cookery.com. http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/treasurie.pdf
The article originally appeared in The Citadel, Spring 2015.
©Holloway 2015, 2018.