Friday, July 29, 2022

Merryell Williams' Book of Recipes (Peniarth MS 513D) - Pottage of Oysters

Merryell Williams' Book of Recipes
Peniarth MS 513D


This is a volume of cooking and medicinal recipes which were collected by Merryell Williams of the Ystumcolwyn Estate, Montgomeryshire, towards the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century. The manuscript is in English. Within its covers we are given a glimpse of the types of meals created in the kitchens of mid Wales' nobility during this period.

Images of the original manuscript are freely available on the National Library of Wales website.

I have done my best to provide an accurate, but readable transcription. Common abbreviations have been expanded, letters like thorn and yogh have been replaced with their modern equivalents, and some minor punctuation has been added.

Copyright © 2022 by Daniel Myers, MedievalCookery.com

[t2]

[3] Pottage of Oysters.  Open the oysters carefully, save all the liquor, to a pint of Oysters & their Liquor take a pint of watter, a pint of hard wine, a pint of strong Gravie of Mutton, a whole onion, a race of ginger, a bundle of sweet herbs, a Nutmeg grated, & some Bruised peper, & sault, a few chips of bread, when it hath boyled a while, take out the Onion herbs & spice, thicken it with the yolk of an Egg & a litle more gravie of Mutton. Thou may scrape in a spoonfull of paremes and [parmesan] Cheese, & take some Other Oisters & fri them like fritters to garnish the dish & to lay alover [all over] the Pottage, if you have Crawfish it will make so much the Better.


This is the last of the oyster recipes - at least for a bit.  So far the one thing we can tell about Merryell Williams is that she (or someone she liked) really liked oysters, otherwise why would they be the subject of the first three recipes she copied into the book?

We're on slightly stronger ground here that with the previous two as oyster pottage recipes aren't as uncommon.  That said, the three recipes from the more common medieval sources aren't much like Williams'.

For to make potage of oysturs. Perboyle þyn oysturs and take hom oute. Kepe welle þy bre with outen doute, And hakke hom on a borde full smalle, And bray in a morter þou schalle. Do hom in hor owne brothe for goode, Do mylke of almondes þer to by þe rode, And lye hit up with amydone, And frye smalle mynsud onyone In oyle, or sethe hom in mylke þou schalle. Do powdur þerto of spyces withalle, And coloure hit þenne with safron gode. Hit is holden restoratyf fode.  ["Liber cure cocorum" / Sloane MS 1986 (England, 1430)]
To mak potage of oystirs parboile your oystirs and tak them up and kep the brothe then chap them smale upon a bord and bet them in a mortair then put them in ther own brothe agayne put ther to almond mylk alay it up with amydon and mynced onyons worte or in mylk sethe it and do it to good poudure and colour yt with saffron and serue it.  [A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)]
To make Potage of Ostyrs. Recipe ostyrs & perbole þam in fayr water, þan tak þam oute; þan schop þam small & bray þam in a morter; þan cast þam into þat same broth & put þerto almond mylk & amydon & myncyd onyons & bole all þise togydre; þan put in powdyr of gynger & colour it with saferon, & serof it forth.  ["Thomas Awkbarow's Recipes" / MS Harley 5401 (England, 15th century)]

Turning to the later sources I checked in the preceding recipes, the closest I could find were the following:

A Ragoo of Oysters.  Put into your Stew-pan a quarter of a pound of Butter, let it boil, then take a quart of Oysters, strain them from their Liquor, and put them to the Butter; let them stew with a bit of Eschalot shred very fine, and some grated Nutmeg, and a little Salt; then beat the yolks of three or four Eggs with the Oyster-liquor and half a pound of Butter, and shake all very well together till 'tis thick, and serve it up with Sippets, and garnish with sliced Lemon.  [The Compleat Housewife (England, 1729)]

To make Sause for Wild-Fowl. Take half a Pint of Claret, a little Oyster- liquor, a little Gravy, and three or four Shalots; let it boil a quarter of an Hour, with a little Grated Bread, and put to it two Anchovies minced, and a little Butter, and shake it well together, and put it to your Fowl, being Roasted, and serve them up.   [England's Newest Way in All Sorts of Cookery, H. Howard (1708)]


Of course neither of these are quite what we're looking for.  So far I'm not doing very well at finding predecessors for the recipes.  We'll have to see what comes after the oysters.


[Bibliography

Monday, July 25, 2022

Merryell Williams' Book of Recipes (Peniarth MS 513D) - Oyster Sausages

Merryell Williams' Book of Recipes
Peniarth MS 513D


This is a volume of cooking and medicinal recipes which were collected by Merryell Williams of the Ystumcolwyn Estate, Montgomeryshire, towards the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century. The manuscript is in English. Within its covers we are given a glimpse of the types of meals created in the kitchens of mid Wales' nobility during this period.

Images of the original manuscript are freely available on the National Library of Wales website.

I have done my best to provide an accurate, but readable transcription. Common abbreviations have been expanded, letters like thorn and yogh have been replaced with their modern equivalents, and some minor punctuation has been added.

Copyright © 2022 by Daniel Myers, MedievalCookery.com


[2] Oyster Sausages.  Take a quart of large Oysters & Parboyle them and then let it be Cold. Then chop them with sage and sweet herbs very fine, then grate the yolks of hard Eaggs, and 4 or 5 Anchovies & a litle grated bread, peper, nutmeg, and a few Cloves beaten very small then work it up together, with 2 pound of the best suet, shreded very fine.


Here we have another weird oyster recipe.  The first thing I did was check The Compleat Housewife, but that would have just been too easy.

There is a recipe for oyster sausages in Modern Cookery for Private Families (Eliza Acton, 1859), but it surprisingly calls for cayenne and does not include sage.

OYSTER SAUSAGES. Beard, rinse well in their strained liquor, and mince but not finely, three dozens and a half of plump native oysters, and mix them with ten ounces of fine bread-crumbs, and ten of beef-suet chopped extremely small ; add a saltspoonful of salt, and one of pepper, or less than half the quantity of cayenne, twice as much pounded mace, and the third of a small nutmeg grated : moisten the whole with two unbeaten eggs, or with the yolks only of three, and a dessertspoonful of the whites. When these ingredients have been well worked together, and are perfectly blended, set the mixture in a cool place for two or three hours before it is used ; make it into the form of small sausages or sausage-cakes, flour and fry them in butter of a fine light brown; throw them into boiling water for three minutes, drain, and let them become cold, dip them into egg and bread-crumbs, and broil them gently until they are lightly coloured. A small bit should be cooked and tasted before the whole is put aside, that the seasoning may be heightened if required. The sausages thus made are extremely good : the lingers should be well floured in making them up.

 

I found several early and modern recipes for oyster sausages that were much simpler than the one above, but the majority of those were made for pork and oysters.

Most interestingly, I couldn't find any other recipes for oyster sausages that included sage. 


Friday, July 22, 2022

Merryell Williams' Book of Recipes (Peniarth MS 513D) - Oyster Loaves

It's been a very long time since I've posted here - sorry about that.  The past few years have been interesting for us all.


Thanks to Johnna Holloway, I've learned of this late 17th century Welsh manuscript.  It's not properly medieval in itself, but after skimming through the recipes I have the distinct impression that many of them were copied from a pre-1600 CE source.  That suggests to me that it could be a very useful resource, especially given the scarcity of Welsh sources.

With that in mind I'm starting a new project of transcribing the manuscript.  I'll be posting entries for it here as often as I can, and eventually will make the transcription available for reading and searching on the website.

----

Merryell Williams' Book of Recipes

Peniarth MS 513D


This is a volume of cooking and medicinal recipes which were collected by Merryell Williams of the Ystumcolwyn Estate, Montgomeryshire, towards the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century. The manuscript is in English. Within its covers we are given a glimpse of the types of meals created in the kitchens of mid Wales' nobility during this period.

Images of the original manuscript are freely available on the National Library of Wales website.

I have done my best to provide an accurate, but readable transcription. Common abbreviations have been expanded, letters like thorn and yogh have been replaced with their modern equivalents, and some minor punctuation has been added.

Copyright © 2022 by Daniel Myers, MedievalCookery.com


[t1]

Oyster Loaves.  Take a dozen of good oysters & Clean them as usuall, then boyl them in their own liquor till they be enough to Pickle, then take a fair Sweet Breed of veal, and Boyle it in water till it be enough to be eaten, but rather under than over boylid, your oysters must be under done,. When the sweet Breeds and osters be thus boyled shred the Sweetbreed into small squares about the bigness of French bean, & take the finns from the osters and put em altogether and grate over them half a nutmeg or more, and sprinkle also over them two penny-worth of Capers shreed as small as Dust, & a reasonable quantity of Peper & Salt according to your Palat and let them stand by, then take a Quarter of a Bint [pint?] of Gravie that is good and stronge. And shred into it half a Midling Oster, and half an Anchovie, & put it over a Gentle fire, till the anchovie be disolved then strain the gravie from the Onion into a Sauce-pan, to which put a quarter of a pound of fresh butter & shack it about the pan till be Melted thick, & then put in your prepared Oysters & Sweet Breeds and Sturr them Gently together till they be well mixt & put them by till the loaves be fryed as followeth.  Take 4 New French Rowles, & cut a peice Neatly out of the top of Each, No bigger than that your finger & thumb will jest goe in, & carefully take out all the crumbs as close as can, not to breake through the sides, when you thus ordered the Loaves, Gett a narrow Skellet barely wide enough for a loaffe to goe Cleverly in, & so turned, & putt into it a pound of fresh Butter without any watter and lett it boyle a litle, scuming it clean from the Butter-Milk, into the Boyling butter, put first one Rowle, And lett it take One or two turns Rounds, turning it that Each side may be fryed then take it up & lay it upon a plate to drain, the hole downwards & then put in another, till the Loaves be all fryed, & att last putt in the Bitts, that you cut out, and when they be Enough lay em to Drain, as the loaves. Then take your Loaves and fill them with your Oysters with a sweet-meat spoon, taking care that every part be full, & Close them with the piese, when you would Eat them, you must put them in an oven Moderatly hott for about a quarter of an hour themselves, Or with roasted fowles.


While I stated in the introduction that many of the recipes in this book seem like they were copied from an earlier source, this is not one of those recipes.  In fact, I couldn't find anything quite like this recipe in my usual collection of sources.

Oysters that are boiled and then pan-fried in butter?  No problem!

Add in Sweetbreads that have been similarly treated?  Sure ... wait, what?

Mix with gravy, anchovies, and onion juice?  Uh ...

Stuff into rolls that have been hollowed out and fried in butter?  ... I give up.

Both sweetbreads - and to a lesser degree, oysters - have fallen out of fashion in the past century or so.  That means that even though I've come across a lot of recipes for them in early cookbooks, I'm not likely to cook them (my family of taste-testers only have so much patience).  So I expected to find something at least vaguely close to this recipe.

Nope.  There was nothing similar in the online medieval sources, so I turned to my collection of print books.  Nothing there either.

I finally found a clue to the origin of this recipe when I came across this one for an oyster and sweetbread casserole.  It's attributed to Recipes of Early America by Helen Duprey, published in 1967 by Heirloom Publishing Co., New York.

It appears that Helen Duprey was also known as Helen Duprey Bullock, and that some of (all?) the recipes in Recipes of Early America may have come from The Williamsburg Art of Cookery, printed for Colonial Williamsburg in 1938.  That book includes the note: 

"Even as many of the recipes which it contains are taken or adapted from the first American cook book, which was printed at Williamsburg in 1742 by William Parks, so is this volume a typographical adaptation from Parks' The compleat housewife, or, Accomplish'd gentlewoman's companion." - A note to the reader, p. [275]

There are multiple editions of The Compleat Housewife: or Accomplish'd Gentlewoman's Companion available online - a source I've been only vaguely aware of up until now because I'm pretty strongly focused on pre-1600 sources.  Sure enough, on page 10 of the 1729 edition (printed in London) the following recipe is given:


To Stew Oysters in French Rolls.  Take a quart of large Oysters; wash them in their own Liquor, and strain it, and put them in it with a little Salt, some Pepper, Mace, and sliced Nutmeg; let the Oysters stew a little with all these things, and thicken them up with a great deal of Butter; then take six French Rolls, cut a piece off the top, and take out the Crum, and take your Oysters boiling hot, and fill the Rolls full, and set them near the fire on a Chafing-dish of Coals, and let them be hot through, and as the Liquor soaks in, fill them up with more, if you have 'em, or some hot Gravy: So serve them up instead of a Pudding.

While there's no mention of sweetbreads, it's still pretty clearly the same recipe.  An interesting side note here: the use of the word "em" near the end of that recipe is actually telling as it appears multiple times in the Merryell recipe (which I expanded from the common contraction, 'em).


[update: 23-7-2022]

While looking for versions of the subsequent recipe, I came across the recipe below:

61. Oyfler Loaves.  Take French Rowls, cut a little hole on the Tops as big as half a Crown ^ then take out all the Crumb, but don’t break the Cruft off the Loaf: then stew some Oysters in their own Liquor, a blade of Mace, a little whole Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg and a little White-wine : skum it very well, and thicken it with a piece of Butter rowled up in Flour : then fill up the Rowls with it, and put on the piece again that you cut off: then put the Rowls in a Mazerene-dish, and melt Butter and pour it into them, let them in your Oven till crisp : let the Oven be as hot as for Orange-pudding.  [England's Newest Way in All Sorts of Cookery, H. Howard (1708)]