note that I generously recived permission from English Heritage,
the publisher of the book by Peter Bears from which the following
excerpts are taken, to publish the text excerpts below on
this non-commercial website. This means the permission is
exclusively for display here, and for personal use regarding
the text, and you may not use the text elsewhere.
& Cooking in 17th Century Britain,
by Peter Brears.
Published in 1995 by English Heritage.
Copyright © Peter Brears and English Heritage, 1985
By the opening
of the seventeenth century, most of our present-day foodstuffs
had already been introduced. The English countryside, parks and
farms, were producing venison and all other kinds of game, mutton,
pork, and beef, while increasing quantities of beef were also
being imported from Scotland. Ever since the Union of the Crowns
in 1603, great herds of cattle had been driven south over the
border, slowly working their way down to London, beasts being
sold off at fairs en route. On all but the poorest tables, meat
often formed three-quarters of every meal. Much of this was freshly
killed, but various techniques of salting and potting enabled
it to be preserved for use throughout the winter months.
grown today were already known, ranging from cabbages, savoy,
kale, cauliflower and broccoli, to carrots, turnips, parsnips
and beetrot, artichokes, onions, peas and beans. Common (or sweet),
Virginian and Canadian potatoes were grown here too, but they
were still regarded as a novelty. The interest in gardening which
had started in the later sixteenth century continued to expand;
orchards and gardens now yielded a wealth of fruit, in addition
to lettuce, chicory, celery, cucumbers and radishes. The medieval
suspicion of raw vegetables and fruit was slowly subsiding, and
salads were beginning to appear on the table with increasing frequency.
In 1699 John Evelyn even published a whole book on the subject,
Acetaria a Discourse of sallets, in which he suggested
a dressing made of three parts of olive oil, one part of vinegar,
lemon or orange juice, dry mustard, and mashed hard-boiled egg
imported from overseas during this period included allspice or
Jamaica pepper from the West Indies, cochineal from Mexico, and
sago from Malaya. From the 1640s, when the English colonists in
Barbados turned their land over to sugar cane, sugar became much
more plentiful, leading to a great increase in the production
of home-made preserves, confectionery and syrups. The most significant
group of new foods, however, were all beverages. by the 1660s
it was possible to purchase in London:
excellent and by all Physitians approved China drink called by
the Chinese Tcha, by other nations Tay alias Tee, Coffa, which
is a blacke kind of drinke made of a kind of Pulse like Pease,
which came from
Arabia and Turkey, and chocolate, from the West Indies. Despite
complaints that these novel drinks would damage the trade in home-grown
barely and malt, I addition to making men ‘as unfruitful as the
desert’, they all enjoyed a popularity which has continued unabated
up to the present day.
to these new and exotic dishes, great strides were being made
in the use of traditional home-grown produce. This was most clearly
seen in bakery, where a whole host of significant developments
were taking place. The ‘great cakes’ of the medieval period, enriched
with butter, cream, eggs and sugar, heavily fruited and spiced,
raised with yeast, and weighing twenty pounds or more, continued
to be popular for important occasions. Now they were contained
with a tinplate hoop, however, thus making them much more convenient
both to bake and to serve. One new variety was the Banbury cake.
Specially baked for wedding feasts, its outer layer of plain dough
concealed a rich filling of dough mingled with currants. It was
in this period that the modern gingerbread appeared, this somewhat
sticky sponge, flavoured with ginger and cinnamon, replacing the
earlier solid paste of highly spiced breadcrumbs and wine.
went through a similar transformation. The medieval biscuit had
been made by dusting slices of an enriched bread roll with sugar
and spices before returning them to the oven where they hardened
into a kind of sweet rusk. By baking the biscuit-bread in the
form of a single light, finely-textured loaf, it changed into
sponge cake. This was often entitles ‘fine cake’ in contemporary
recipe books. Other new varieties of biscuit included both jumbals,
where caraway-flavoured dough was worked up into interlaced rings,
knots, or plaits, and Shrewsbury cakes whose rounds of shortcake
were perhaps spiced with ginger or cinnamon.
As baking skills developed throughout England, some areas acquired
a reputation for their own local specialities. This was particularly
true of northern towns.
BE THAT INVENTED PUDDING’, wrote M. Misson in the 1690s; ‘Ah,
what an excellent thing is the English pudding!’ Savoury black
and white puddings forced into animal guts had been made for generations,
but the early seventeenth century saw the development of that
great English invention, the pudding cloth. Utilising this simple
device, it was possible to convert flour, milk, eggs, butter,
sugar, suet, marrow and raisins, etc. into a whole series of hot,
filling and nutritious dishes with minimal time, trouble and cost.
Having securely tied the ingredients within the cloth, the pudding
had only to be plunged into a boiling pot, perhaps along with
the meat and vegetables, where it could simmer for hours without
further attention. Varying in texture and quality from light,
moist custards to substantial masses of heavily fruited oatmeal,
the boiled pudding soon became a mainstay of English cookery,
being adopted by all sections of society.
Further puddings or ‘pudding pies’ were poured into dishes and
baked in the oven. Rice puddings were readily made in this way,
as were whitepots, the luxurious predecessors of bread-and-butter
Royalty | Aristocratic
Royalty | Aristocratic
Drink Stillifes | Meals
Duke of Marlborough's
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© Peter Brears and English Hertiage 1985. With permission.
Copyright © N. Kipar 1999.