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Mad about Mob Caps

Caps of all shapes and sizes had long been in use by men and women as fashion accessories and protection from the elements. There was an added benefit to the Regency miss, which Jane Austen wrote about to her sister,

“I have made myself two or three caps to wear of evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing which at present gives me no trouble beyond washing and brushing, for my long hair is always plaited up out of sight, and my short hair curls well enough to want no papering.”

The mob cap or mob-cap is a round, gathered or pleated cloth (usually linen) bonnet consisting of a caul to cover the hair, a frilled or ruffled brim, and (often) a ribbon band, worn by married women in the Georgian period, when it was called a “bonnet”. Originally an informal style, the bonnet became a high-fashion item as part of the adoption of simple “country” clothing in the later 18th century. It was an indoor fashion, and was worn under a hat for outdoor wear. During the French Revolution, the name “Mob Cap” caught on because the poorer women who were involved in the riots wore them, but they had been in style for middle class and even aristocracy since the century began.

Marie Antoinette c. 1792
Marie Antoinette in an oversized mob cap, c. 1792

By the Victorian period, mob caps lingered as the head covering of servants and nurses, and small mob caps, not covering the hair, remained part of these uniforms into the early 20th century.

Raimundo_Madrazo_-_La_Toilette
Note the cap on the lady’s maid, as well as her misteress’s fancier cap on the toilette table, in this painting, by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta (1841–1920) La Toilette, painted between 1890 and 1900 (but showing a scene from the Georgian era, based on the clothing)

 

Historical information and photos from Wikipedia.com

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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 & let it boyl softly till it be pritty stiff. Then drop it on a plate, & If it stand, it is enough. Then drop it in little cakes and set them in the sun to dry.

A modern recipe for Mint candies can be found here Cooks.com

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Molland’s Marzipan

eating marzipan

Molland’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 to emerge as a sweet in its own right. And by Elizabeth I’s reign, when the subtlety was becoming archiaic, a marchpane was regularly produced as the chief showpiece at the banquet or dessert course served to guests at the end of a meal. It was made of ground almonds and sugar on a base of wafer biscuits, and was formed into a round (a hoop of green hazelwood sometimes helped shape it). The frosting of the marchpane with sugar and rosewater to make it shine like ice was an important part of the preparation; and so was the gilding with decorative shapes in gold leaf.” More recent uses of Marzipan hearken back to its original purpose as chefs strive to outdo one another creating lifelike marzipan fruits and vegetables. You can also find it hiding inside hand dipped chocolates and under wedding cake frosting.


Jane Austen would undoubtedly have been familiar with this form of the treat. Perhaps it was even a favorite! Her character, Elizabeth Elliot of Persuasion, frequents Molland’s Tea Shop, in Milsom Street— their Marzipan, she confesses in the film, is the finest in the world

To make Machpane Cakes
Take almonds & blanch them in warme water, then beat them very fine in a stone morter and put in a little rose water to keepe them from oyling, then take the same weight in sugar as you doe of almonds, & mingle it with them when they are beaten very small & short, onely reserveing some of it to mould up the almonds with all. Then make them up in pritty thick cakes, & harden them in a bakeing pan. The make a fine clear candy, & doe it over you marchpanes with a feather. Soe set them in your pan againe, till the candy grow hard. Then take them out, & candy the other side. Set them in againe, & look often to the them. Keepe a very temperate fire, both over & u[nder them,] & set them in a stove to dry.”
-Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats [1749-1799]

To make Marchpane

    Ingredients:

  • 8oz ground almonds
  • 4oz icing sugar
  • 3 tbs rosewater
  • Waxed paper or rice paper
    Glaze:

  • 1tsp rosewater
  • 1 tbs icing sugar
  • 1 tbs rice flour
  1. Mix the almonds and rosewater in a bowl.
  2. Stir in the icing sugar and work them together with a pestle or the back of a wooden spoon until they form a smooth, very firm dough. Be careful not to work them too harshly, or the mixture will turn oily.
  3. Line the base and bottom inch of a 7inch round loose-bottomed cake tin with the wafers or rice paper, place the dough inside, and smooth level with a spatula.
  4. Mix the glaze ingredients together, and brush them over the top of the marchpane.
  5. Place the marchpane on the baking sheet and bake at 175 f for 30 min. Then remove and leave to cool. Repeat this stage, if necessary, until it is quite firm.

*****

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Sugar Cookies

Is there any food more reminiscent of childhood than a plate of cookies and a glass of milk? Long before Tollhouse began experimenting with chocolate chips, sugar cookies had been a staple in historical kitchens. Martha Washington was married to George Washington, the first President of the United States. The following recipe is taken from her household book of recipes, collected throughout her life.

 To Make Sugar Cakes
Take 3 ale quarts of fine flowre, & put to it a pound of sugar, beaten & searced; 4 youlks of eggs, strayned thorugh a fine cloth with 12 or 13 spoonfulls of good thick cream; & 5 or 6 spoonfulls of rose water; A pound & a quaeter of butter, washt in rose water & broaken in cold, in bits. knead all these ingredients well together . after, let it ly A while, covered well, to rise. then roule them out & cut them with a glass, & put them on plates (a little buttered) in an oven gently heat. all these kinde of things are best when ye sugar & flower are dryed in an oven before you use ym.

This modernized recipe, claimed to have been served by Dolley Madison to her husband, President James Madison, is a little easier to follow:

Sugar Cookies
2 cups butter
¾ cup milk
4 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
10 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
10 egg whites, beaten
Flour to suit

Cream butter and sugar in large wooden mixing bowl. Stir in custard-like egg yolks. Follow this by lightly stirring in stiffly beaten egg whites. Add milk. Dissolve baking soda in a little boiling water and blend with other ingredients. Lastly add cinnamon and blend. If dough is not the right consistency to roll out, work in more flour as needed. When ready, place dough on floured board. Roll out into thin sheet about 1/4 inches or less thick Cut cookies in any desired shapes Place on shallow buttered baking sheets Sprinkle sugar over them prior to putting in moderately quick oven (375 degrees) for 10 to 12 minutes or until done. Makes about 6 dozen.

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‘To Make a Tart of ‘Parsneps & Scyrrets’

The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable related to the carrot. Parsnips resemble carrots, but are paler and have a stronger flavor. Like carrots, parsnips are native to Eurasia and have been eaten there since ancient times. Zohary and Hopf note that the archeological evidence for the cultivation of the parsnip is “still rather limited”, and that Greek and Roman literary sources are a major source about its early use, but warn “there are some difficulties in distinguishing between parsnip and carrot in classical writings since both vegetables seem to have been sometimes called pastinaca yet each vegetable appears to be well under cultivation in Roman times.”

Until the potato arrived from the New World, its place in dishes was occupied by the parsnip. Parsnips can be boiled, roasted or used in stews, soups and casseroles. In some cases, the parsnip is boiled and the solid portions are removed from the soup or stew, leaving behind a more subtle flavor than the whole root and contributing starch to thicken the dish. Roasted parsnip is considered an essential part of Christmas dinner in some parts of the English speaking world and, in the north of England, frequently features alongside roast potatoes in the traditional Sunday Roast.

February is the traditional month in which to plant parsnips. Parsnips are a vegetable that have been grown, in their present form, for hundreds of years. They are tougher and less prone to pests and diseases than the majority of the vegetables that we now grow in our gardens.

The reason for planting parsnips early, is that this allow them a long growing season in which to get as large as possible: it is quite common to get parsnips over 18 inches long and weighing more than 2 lb (1 kg).*

To Make a Tart of Parsneps & Scyrrets
Seeth yr roots in water & wine, then pill them & beat them in a morter, with raw eggs & grated bread. bedew them often with rose water & wine, then streyne them & put sugar to them & some juice of leamons, & put it into yr crust; & when yr tart is bakes, cut it up & butter it hot, or you may put some butter into it, when you set it into yr oven, & eat it cold. Ye juice of leamon you may eyther put in or leave out at yr pleasure.
From Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery

Though at first the instructions for this pie seem strange, a closer examination reveals a recipe quite similar to modern pumpkin pie with wine replacing the milk used in the latter. The skirret is a perennial plant sometimes grown as a root vegetable. It has a cluster of sweet, bright white roots which are similar to sweet potatoes, but longer (15-20 cm). Skirrets may be boiled, stewed, or roasted. It was thought in early times to be an aphrodisiac. Some later recipes suggest replacing them with carrots if unavailable.

A modern variation of this pie uses only parsnips, along wiht 4 eggs (for four cups of pulp), one cup of wine, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, sugar and rose water to taste. Most pumpkin pie recipes call for 3/4 cup sugar though parsnips and carrots are generally sweeter than pumpkin. Add one to two tablespoons of butter. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan and bake at 400° for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake about 35 minutes longer, or until center is set.

Historical information from Wikipedia the online encyclopedia as well as Jamboree: The Young People’s Real Education Website.

Recipe suggestions by Karen Hess, from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery.

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