Posted on

The 17th Century Origins of the Candy Cane

For some people, Christmas is all about the foods, for others, a single piece of candy cane or the scent of pine can bring them back to their childhood holidays. It is no stretch to suggest that the Candy Cane is one of the most Christmasized of all candies– probably because it was created for the season and is fraught with meaning for those who choose to look for it. According to legend, they have a German history, but given the German origins of the British monarchy during Jane Austen’s life, it’s not a stretch to think that the treat might have been brought over to England, along with the Christmas tree and other, older traditions, like the Yule Log. Did Jane enjoy stick candy or candy canes? We may never know.   “According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus. From Germany, the candy canes spread to other (more…)
Posted on

Apricot Marmelade and Apricot “Cakes”

The following recipe is shared, courtesy of the Pen Vogler, from her recent book, Dinner with Mr. Darcy, via our online Bookshop. Check out this amazing cookbook (with it’s mouthwatering photographs!) for many more Regency era recipes.

Apricot "Cakes"
Apricot “Cakes” from Pen Vogler’s Dinner with Mr. Darcy

 

recipe

Dinner with Mr. Darcy is available in our bookshop.
Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, by Pen Vogler
Cico Books (2013)
Hardcover (160) pages
ISBN: 978-1782490562

Continue reading Apricot Marmelade and Apricot “Cakes”

Posted on

Visions of Sugar Plums

1907 Cover of A Visit from Saint Nicholas.With Clement C. Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, we all now associate “Sugar Plums” with Christmas. In this early American depiction of Christmas Eve, we find the trappings of modern Christmas, from stockings to Jolly old Saint Nick, himself, round, red and fur trimmed, slipping up the chimney after leaving piles of presents for the children, “asleep in their beds, while visions of Sugar Plums dance in their heads.”

So what did a Regency Sugar Plum look like? The 1914  OED describes it thus,  “Sugar-plum – A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugar and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit”.

“Plum” in the name of this confection does not mean plum in the sense of the fruit of the same name. At one time, “plum” was used to denote any dried fruit.  Modern “Sugar plums” may be made from any combination of dried plums (aka prunes), dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates, and dried cherries, but traditional sugar plums contain none of these.

The word came in general usage in 1600s, when adding layers of sweet which give sugar plums and comfits their hard shell was done through a slow and labour intensive process called panning. Until the mechanization of the process, it often took several days, thus the sugar plum was largely a luxury product. In fact in the 18th century the word plum became a British slang for a big pile of money or a bribe.

 

A confectioner creating 'sugar plums' .
A confectioner creating ‘sugar plums’ .

Georgian Sugar Plums, then, looked much more like today’s Jordan Almonds, than anything else. Theodore Garrett, author of The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (1890) notes that “These are described under CARAWAY COMFITS, a more elaborate variety of them being known as DRAGÉES OR FRENCH SUGAR PLUMS…small strips of cinnamon [can also be] made to start off French Sugar Plums.

“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice his cone of sugarplums.
“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice the cone of sugarplums.

William Alexis Jarrin, author of The Italian Confectioner; Or, Complete Economy of Desserts, According to the Most Modern and Approved Practice, 1829, details the process, thus:

Continue reading Visions of Sugar Plums

Posted on

After Dinner Mints & Candies

Mint and its various forms have long been used as health aids. John Gerard, author of The Herball (1597) recommends it for everything from a “stomacke” ache to contraception. 200 years later, it was still used to ease discomfort and freshen the breath. No wonder the after dinner mint came into being. One of the oldest commercially produced mints is the Altoid, “The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Peppermints “. Though now manufactured in many flavors by the American company, Wrigley, they were originally created in the 1780’s by London-based Smith & Company. By the 1800’s they had been incorporated into the Callard & Bowser confection company. Not everyone could had the means or desire to purchase their peppermint candies. Candy recipes abounded in period cookbooks, like this one from Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats: To Make Mint Cakes Take a pound of sugar finely beaten, & put to it 3 or 4 spoonfulls of mint water, & boyle it up to a candy. The take some mint & shread it small & put it to yr candy and drop it as you did the rose cakes, & set them in ye sun or a stove to dry. To Make Cakes of Roses Take roses & cut the whites from them after they are pluckt, then stamp& streyne them with the damask rose water & ye juice of leamons. Then put it in a skillet with as much sugar as your juice will wet. Then set it on a soft fire (more…)
Posted on

Molland’s Marzipan

eating marzipanMolland’s Marzipan It began to rain, not much, but enough to make shelter desirable for women, and quite enough to make it very desirable for Miss Elliot to have the advantage of being conveyed home in Lady Dalrymple’s carriage, which was seen waiting at a little distance; she, Anne, and Mrs Clay, therefore, turned into Molland’s, while Mr Elliot stepped to Lady Dalrymple, to request her assistance. Persuasion Marzipan or Marchpane, as it was originally called, is a confectionery consisting primarily of ground almonds and sugar that derives its characteristic flavor from bitter almonds. Most marzipan is also flavored with rosewater. Although it is believed to have originated in Persia (present-day Iran) and to have been introduced to Europe through the Turks, there is some dispute between Hungary and Italy over its originator. Marzipan became a specialty of the Baltic Sea region of Germany. In particular, the city of Lübeck has a proud tradition of marzipan manufacture. The city’s manufacturers like Niederegger still guarantee their Marzipan to contain two thirds almonds by weight, which results in a juicy, bright yellow product. According to Anne Wilson, author of Food and Drink in Britain from the Stone Age to the 19th Century, “marzipan was a discovery of the later Middle Ages, dependent as it was upon the union of ground almonds with sugar. One of the earliest uses for the paste was in subtleties. When they had been sufficiently applauded they were dismantled and eaten. In the fifteenth century a marchpane began (more…)
Posted on

Quince Paste: Sweatmeat to Kings

The quince, when ripe resembles a firm, yellow pear. With an aroma reminiscent of roses and apples, this is one of the oddest of period fruits. Containing perhaps the highest pectin count of any tree fruit, it’s tart flesh lends itself beautifully to jams, jellies and “cheeses”, recipes which benefit from the addition of large amounts of sugar. A botanical illustration by Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen Originally, Quince Preserves were shipped to England from the Mediterranean, Spain, France, Portugal and points south. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that records of their being grown natively exist. Many Medieval texts hold recipes for jellies, and fruit pastes made from the Quince. These were called chardequince or chardewarden, where the fruit was often mixed with pears for a pleasing flavor. A delftware charger with a selection of white and red quince “marmalades” (paste candies) as they were made in early Stuart England, showing both printed and knotted varieties. According to Historicfood.com, “Other names were cotoniack, quiddany and diasetonia. The last was a term used by the London apothecaries, who prescribed these sweet pastes and jellies for helping the digestion. This was the reason why quince pastes were served after the meal during the banquet course. In 1629, John Parkinson, the Covent Garden based herbarist to James I, wrote: “There is no fruit growing in this Land that is of so many excellent uses as this, serving as well to make many dishes of meate for the table, as for banquets, and (more…)