Ice Cream, as we know it, was a relatively new invention in Jane Austen’s day. Enjoyed in Italy and France in the 17th c, the first recorded English recipe was published in 1718.
Recipes featuring fruit which was not available until early summer were, no doubt, a treat reserved for the wealthy, who could afford to buy their ice and keep it cool in ice houses, until wanted. If you did not have access to ice in the summer, you could always visit the local Pastry Cook for a variety of sweets, including apricot ice cream. Molland’s, in Bath, was one such establishment.
In Jane Austen’s, The Beautiful Cassandra, her heroine “…then proceeded to a Pastry-cook’s, where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away.” Slapstick comedy does seem to have been the name of the game in Austen’s early work. Mr. Punch would be proud. The following recipe for Apricot Ice Cream is taken from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, and is based on one first printed by Hannah Glasse in her book, Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1755.
To Make Ice-Cream
Pare and stone twelve ripe apricots, and scald them, beat them fine in a mortar, add to them six ounces of double refined sugar, and a pint of scalding cream, and work it through a sieve; put it in a tin with a close cover, and set it in a tub of ice broke small, with four handfuls of salt mixed among the ice. When you see your cream grows thick round the edges of your tin, stir it well and put it in again till it is quite thick; when the cream is all froze up, take it out of the tin, and put it into the mould you intend to turn it out of; put on the lid and have another tub of salt and ice ready as before; put the mould in the middle, and lay the ice under and over it; let it stand for four hours, and never turn it out till the moment you want it, then dip the mould in cold spring water, and turn it into a plate. You may do any sort of fruit the same way. HG
12 ripe Apricots
170 g / 6 oz / ¾ cup Powdered Sugar
470 ml / 16 fl oz / 2 cups of Cream
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Score the bottom of each apricot and place them in the pan. Let them boil furiously for 3 minutes. Drain the apricots in a colander and rinse them in cold water. The skins will now slip easily from them. Slice them in half and remove the pits.
Place the apricots, cream and sugar into a blender and purée until smooth. Pour this mixture into a dish with a tight fitting lid and place it in the freezer.
After 1 ½ hours, stir the ice cream so that it is smooth once more and return it to the freezer. Continue this process every few hours until it is semi-hard. Spoon the mixture into prepared moulds or allow it to harden in the dish and serve it in small scoops. You may also use an ice Cream maker to speed this process and produce a uniformly creamy apricot ice cream. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Blancmange , from French blanc-manger, is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss (a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds. It is usually set in a mould and served cold. Although traditionally white, blancmanges are frequently given alternative colours. Some similar desserts are Bavarian cream, vanilla pudding (in US usage), panna cotta, the Turkish muhallebi, and haupia.
The historical blancmange originated some time in the Middle Ages and usually consisted of capon or chicken, milk or almond milk, rice and sugar and was considered to be an ideal food for the sick. Tavuk göğsü is a sweet contemporary Turkish pudding made with shredded chicken, similar to the medieval European dish.
The true origin of the blancmange is obscure, but it is believed by some that it was a result of the Arab introduction of rice and almonds in early medieval Europe. However, there is no evidence of the existence of any similar Arab dishes from that period; though the Arabic mahallabīyah is similar, its origins are uncertain. Several other names for related or similar dishes existed in Europe, such as the 13th-century Danish hwit moos (“white mush”), and the Anglo-Norman blanc desirree (“white Syrian dish”); Dutch calijs (from Latin colare, “to strain”) was known in English as cullis and in French as coulis, and was based on cooked and then strained poultry. The oldest recipe found so far is from a copy of the oldest extant Danish cookbook, written by Henrik Harpestræng, who died in 1244, which dates it to the early 13th century at the latest. The Danish work may simply be a translation of a German work which is in turn assumed to have been based on a Latin or Romance vernacular manuscript from the 12th century or even earlier.
The “whitedish” (from the original Old French term blanc mangier) was an upper-class dish common to most of Europe during the Middle Ages and early modern period. It occurs in countless variations from recipe collections from all over Europe and is mentioned in the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and in an early 15th-century cookbook written by the chefs of Richard II. The basic ingredients were milk or almond milk, sugar and shredded chicken (usually capon) or fish, and often combined with rosewater, rice flour, and mixed into a bland stew. Almond milk and fish were used as substitutes for the other animal products on fast days and Lent. It was also often flavored with spices like saffron or cinnamon and the chicken could be exchanged for various types of fowl, like quail or partridge. Spices were often used in recipes of the later Middle Ages since they were considered highly prestigious. The whitedish was one of the preparations that could be found in recipe collections all over Europe and one of the few truly international dishes of medieval and early modern Europe.
On festive occasions and among the upper classes, whitedishes were often rendered more festive by various colouring agents: the reddish-golden yellow of saffron; green with various herbs; or sandalwood for russet. In 14th-century France, parti-colouring, the use of two bright contrasting colours on the same plate, was especially popular and was described by Guillaume Tirel (also known as Taillevent), one of the primary authors of the later editions of Le Viandier. The brightly coloured whitedishes were one of the most common of the early entremets, edibles that were intended to entertain and delight through a gaudy appearance, as much as through flavour.
In the 17th century, the whitedish evolved into a meatless dessert pudding with cream and eggs and, later, gelatin. In the 19th century, arrowroot and cornflour were added and the dish evolved into the modern blancmange.
By the 18th century, noted chef Antonin Carême remarked:“These delicious sweets are greatly esteemed by gastronomes, but, to be enjoyed, they must be extremely smooth and very white. Given these two qualities (so rarely found together), they will always be preferred to other creams, even to transparent jellies. This is because almond is very nourishing and contains creamy, balsamic properties which are just right for sweetening the bitterness of humors.”
Blancmange was considered both a delicate dish for the table as well as a wonderful food for invalids. In her 1800 book, The Complete Confectioner, Hannah Glasse offers several varieties of Blanc Mange (“a fine side dish”, she later notes). Jenny Underwood of National Trust has adapted Hannah’s recipe, for Jerseylovesfood.com. Hannah’s recipes follow.
To make Blanc-mange with Isinglass.
Put an ounce of picked isinglass to a pint of water; put to it a bit of cinnamon, and boil it till the isinglass is melted; put to it three quarters of a pint of cream, two ounces of sweet almonds, and six bitter ones, blanched and beaten, and a bit of lemon peel; sweeten it, stir it over the fire, and let it boil; strain it, stir it till it is cool, squeeze in the juice of a lemon, and put it into what moulds you please; turn it out, garnish with currant jelly and jam, or marmalade, quinces, &C. If you choose to have your blancmange of a green colour, put in as much juice of spinach as will be necessary for that purpose, and a spoonful of brandy; but it should not then retain the name of blanc-mange, (white food,) but rerde-mange, (green food): if you would have it yellow, dissolve a little saffron in it; you should then call it jaune-mange: or you may make it red, by putting a bit of cochineal into little brandy, let it stand half an hour, and strain it through a bit of cloth; it is then entitled to the appellation of rouge-mange. Always wet the mould before you put in the blanc-mange. It may be ornamented, when turned out, by sticking about it blanched almonds sliced, or citron, according to fancy.
To make clear Blanc-mange.
Take a quart of strong calf’s foot jelly, skim off the fat, and strain it, beat the whites of four eggs,’put it into a jelly-bag, and run it through several times till it is clear; beat one ounce of sweet almonds, and one of bitter, to a paste, with a spoonful of rose water squeezed through a cloth; mix it with the jelly, and three spoonfuls of very good cream; set it over the fire again, and keep stirring it till it is almost boiling; pour it into a bowl, and stir very often till it is almost cold; then wet your moulds and fill them.
To make Blanc-mange with a preserved Orange. Fill your orange with blancmange; and, when cold, stick in it long slips of citron, like leaves; pour blanc-mange in the dish; when cold, set the orange in the middle; garnish with preserved or dried fruits: or you may pour blanc-mange into a mould like a Turk’s cap, lay round it jelly a little broken; put a sprig of myrtle, or small preserved orange on the top.
The origin of the lemon is a mystery, though it is thought that lemons first grew in Southern India, northern Burma, and China. A study of the genetic origin of the lemon reported that it is a hybrid between sour orange and citron.
The first substantial cultivation of lemons in Europe began in Genoa in the middle of the 15th century. The lemon was later introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola on his voyages. Spanish conquest throughout the New World helped spread lemon seeds. It was mainly used as an ornamental plant and for medicine. In 1747, James Lind’s experiments on seamen suffering from scurvy involved adding lemon juice to their diets, though vitamin C was not yet known.
By Jane Austen’s lifetime, lemons were not an uncommon household item and many recipes in both commercially published cookery books and private collections, such as Martha Lloyd’s Household book, call for the fruit. The following recipe for lemon cream is fairly easy to replicate and offers a light and refreshing custard like dessert.
Take a pint of thick cream, and put it to the yolks of two eggs well beaten, four ounces of fine sugar and the thin rind of a lemon; boil it up, then stir it till almost cold: put the juice of a lemon in a dish or bowl, and pour the cream upon it, stirring it till quite cold.
Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery; 1806
There was now employment for the whole party– for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table. Pride and Prejudice
In Georgian times, centerpieces that were both exquisite and edible were an inherent part of fine dining. In fact, food was the only centerpiece used until the 1750s. The goal of every great hostess was a captivating and inviting arrangement- a treat to the eyes and the taste. The more elaborate, the better. After all, your wealth and social status were clearly assessed by the size and complexity of the centerpiece.
Food stylist Debbie Brodie created many such arrangements for the A&E film “Emma”. Her challenge was to create confections that would look beautiful while standing up to the heat and transportation necessary in filming.
“We created these colassal fruit pyramids, which are certainly not the thing to do when you’ve got four-hundred weight of food to put out and you’re in a complete tiz. They take a very long time. You have to have a completely level base onto which you put a layer of the larger fruits (apples, peaches, oranges). This you then spray with mounting glue and add a layer of leaves. I used Ivy leaves but you can use vine or bay leaves.Once that has dried, you do the next layer in the same way, with fruits getting smaller as it gets higher. Any fruits can be used: cherries, strawberries, whatever takes your fancy. After a second layer, I spear down through the fruit with cocktail sticks to give extra strength. These dishes may have to be moved many times during the day and, though I wouldn’t say you could drop one without collapsing, they can certainly take some rough handling.“
Traditional pyramid centerpieces, made of exotic fruits, nuts and tiny desserts, were arranged on glass salvers (cake stands stacked one on the other), meant to be as delicious as they were beautiful. To create this centerpiece in your own home, you will need three attractive glass or porcelain cake stands in graduated sizes. These are available as sets from many retailers. The “Georgian pyramid” was originally made by placing like-sized pieces of fruit on a plate, topping with a smaller plate and more fruit, and so on, until a tall pyramid was formed. Boxwood or other greens were then tucked between the fruit to fill in the gaps. Though they are few and far between, a careful viewing of both Emma2 and Emma3 as well as Persuasion2 and P&P2 will reveal scenes of glorious fruit concoctions set out at dinner parties and meals.
For a freestanding, one tiered arrangement, hostess Mary Ellen Pinkham suggests arranging fruit in a pyramid on a cake stand. For the center of the pyramid, cut the flesh off of a large pineapple so that only the core remains. Attach to the middle of the cake stand and arrange whole and cut fruit around it, forming a pyramid.
An easy, non-edible alternative is suggested by artisans in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Crafters at Colonial Williamsburg market a conical wood form, called an apple cone, which makes creating one of these pyramids a piece of cake. The form has many nails embedded over the surface of the cone. Apples are impaled onto the nails forming a treelike shape. Often a pineapple, the symbol of hospitality, is placed at the top. Other fruits such as Lemons, limes, pears and pomegranates can be used in place of the apples. Like the early fruit pyramids, boxwood sprigs are tucked between the fruit mounted on the cone. To complete the centerpiece, the base of the cone is decorated with large flat leaves (such as magnolia or ivy).
A similar design can be created by cutting the top off a Styrofoam cone so that it is flat. Use florist’s picks to attach the fruit to the cone. You may want to use two picks each for particularly large pieces of fruit or the pineapple on top, or try the step by step instructions found here
Select small apples (Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Lady apples are all good choices) or like sized other fruits.
If using pineapples, look for some on the smaller side. Bigger is not always better- especially in this case!
Check with a local florist to obtain magnolia leaves and boxwood sprigs. If nothing fresh is available, you can use silk or artificial leaves.
Keep your pyramid fresh by storing it in a cool place when not in use on the table. To refresh your centerpiece, replace fruit that has started to soften. At best, the fruit on the cone will last one to two weeks.
To protect your tablecloth or table from the effects of “weeping fruit”, place your completed pyramid on a plate or platter before setting it on the dining room table.
Additional greenery, fruit, nuts and wrapped candies can be tucked into the greens to extend the centerpiece across the table and provide an edible feature, since the fruit affixed to the nails on the cone is no longer edible.
Benjamin Whitrow (Mr Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, 1995, fame) once said, “The Bennets do a lot of eating in the film, so Ron [Sutcliffe] the standby props man, asked me what I liked to eat. I told him gooseberry fool was my favorite pudding and he kindly provided it for me. It was so delicious that during the first two takes of the scene [episode six, “…Mr and Mrs Wickham shall never be admitted to Longbourn…”] I gorged myself. At the other end of the table Alison Steadman cannily toyed with a couple of grapes. It took two days to shoot this and I shall never be able to eat gooseberry fool again!” Continue reading Fancy’s Fools