Skip to main content

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Papyns - Custard

Papyns and Bread
Many of the sites I visited while researching a history of baby pap indicated that pap was "an unwholesome mixture of bread and milk", unfortunately that is not the case for the custardy dish that was interpreted from   "Two fifteenth-century cookery-books. Harleian ms. 279 (ab. 1430), & Harl. ms. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole ms. 1429, Laud ms. 553, & Douce ms. 55" Thomas Austin for "Papyns".  This dish created a very soft custard that reminded my taste testers and I of the cream of wheat or malted meal cereal that we would eat for breakfast while growing up--without any lumps.  The recipe that I worked with that most closely resembled the pap described was Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Creme Boylede - Boiled Custard which starts out by soaking bread in milk or cream and heating it until warm. 

In the absence of breast milk and prior to the invention of feeding bottles or formula for children, a wet nurse was preferred. The use of a woman to feed another woman's child has a very long history. It's origins can be traced at least to 2000 BC, but it may go back further.  Genesis 35:8 references a wet nurse "But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth." Moses was fed by a wet nurse upon discovery by the Pharaoh's daughter.

Between 300 BC and 400AD, well to do Romans would hire wet nurses (nutrix). Contracts written during this time provided details such as the service duration, supplies for clothing or lamp oil, and payment for the service. The physician Soranas of Ephesus (98 AD to 117 AD) wrote a treatise for assessing the quality of breast milk and prescribed a regimen for the wet nurse.  Galen of Pergamus  (130 AD to 200 AD) offered advice on how to soothe nursing infants, and Oribasius (325 AD to 403 AD) recommended physical activities such as weaving in order to strengthen the flow of milk.

Noble women of the middle ages would often choose not to breastfeed.  Wet nurses to wealthier families were esteemed and enjoyed rewards for their services. For example, Adelina, was rewarded with land for her services by King Riger of Sicily to his son Henry.  Children were often breast fed until they were between 18 months and two years of age, at which point they would be weaned.  However, during the later periods the time for nursing was shortened to three to four months, at which point children would be weaned to animal milk (cow, sheep or goat) and solid foods.  Consequently, the mortality rate of children at this time was quite high.

 In the middle ages, animal milk was not as wholesome as it is today. Before pasteurization and inoculation of dairy producing animals against disease, the milk of an animal could pass diseases such as tuberculosis, diptheria, typhoid fever or cow pox to the consumer.  In a raw state, milk can become contaminated through contact with the animal hide, udder, the teats or even cross contaminated with fecal matter, the equipment or the people who handle it.

Writers of the middle ages also cautioned against consuming animal milk because it was thought to cause "bestial behavior"--anyone with a toddler may think they were on to something! I know there were a few times during epic tantrums I would have. Aside from the shared belief that consuming animal milk would cause the child to exhibit animal like behavior, and the fact that the milk itself was questionable as to its wholesomeness  being dependent upon the health of the animal it came from, the other issue with milk was the lack of refrigeration.  Milk spoils rapidly when not kept cool, so fresh milk was not as available in certain locations because of the distance it needed to travel from the source to the consumer.  Just because it has spoiled doesn't mean it is not eatable

When milk or a wet nurse were not available, a mixture of broth, water, milk, grain, flour or bread, sweetened with honey or diluted wine would be fed to infants through a small horn with  a hole drilled into it, or via a rag soaked in the liquid.  This same pap was also fed to the elderly who were unable to chew any longer.  When given to older children, or in addition to breast milk, papyns provided additional nutrituion.  On its own, it may have caused more difficulties because it would have been harder to digest and did not provide the same value human milk did.

xx. Papyns.—Take fayre Mylke an Flowre, an drawe it þorw a straynoure, an set it ouer þe fyre, an let it boyle a-whyle; þan take it owt an let it kele; þan take ȝolkys of eyroun y-draw þorwe a straynour, an caste þer-to; þan take sugre a gode quantyte, and caste þer-to, an a lytil salt, an sette it on þe fyre tyl it be sum-what þikke, but let it nowt boyle fullyche, an stere it wyl, an putte it on a dysshe alle a-brode, and serue forth rennyng.

20. Papyns - Take fair milk and flour, an draw through a strainer, an set it over the fire, an let it boil awhile: than take it out an let it cool: then take yolks of eggs drawn through a strainer and caste thereto; than take sugar a good quantity, an cast there-to, an a little salt an set it on the fire till it be somewhat thick, but let it not boil fully, an stir it well, an put it on a dish all broad, and serve forth running. 

Interpreted Recipe                                                                       Serves 1 as a main 2-3 as a side

3/4 C. whole milk
1/4 C. cream
2 Tbsp. flour
1 egg (or 2 egg yolks)
1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp. sugar or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 Tsp. salt or to taste

Make slurry of the flour and milk by adding the flour to 1/2 cup of the milk and shaking it up in a small lidded jar until it becomes a smooth paste. Strain this mixture into a small pot, and then add the remainder of the milk.  It is important to strain the slurry as some of the flour may have clumped and this will affect the texture of your final product.  DO NOT skip this step.  

Heat the milk and the flour until it begins to thicken and then set aside to cool to room temperature.  Or, as an alternative you can temper your eggs before adding them to the milk mixture.  What you don't want to do is just toss the eggs into the hot liquid or vice versa--you will end up with curdled and partially cooked eggs...yuck! 

Return the mixture to the pan and add salt and sugar to taste.  I preferred mine sweeter so added 2 tbsp. of sugar; a couple of my taste testers did not like it as sweet and said they would have preferred less.  Use your best judgment. Once the papyn's has been returned to the pot you must babysit it.  Do not let it boil, and constantly stir it until it reaches the desired thickness.  I made mine the consistency of a medium cream sauce.  You may want to strain it a second time when serving it on the off chance you have curdled your dish.  

This is a very fussy dish that requires almost near constant supervision.  That being said, it is a very delicious dish when finished.  The end result is a dish that is surprisingly "cereal" like in its taste, velvety smooth and quite delicious when bread is dipped into it.  I would happily serve this to a group of individuals for a small dinner, luncheon, camping (powdered eggs, powdered milk, flour, sugar, salt and water) or myself when I'm craving a comfort food.  I do NOT recommend that you consider this for very large groups.  It took approximately 10 minutes to throw together, but it needs to be served hot, and it requires a lot of babysitting.  If you have the time and a dedicated staff member who is familiar with cooking custards or making ice cream bases, I'd say go for it. 

Similar Recipes:

Thomas Awkbarow's Recipes (MS Harley 5401) (England, 15th century)

Papyns. Recipe clene cow mylk, & take þe flour of rice or of whete & draw þe flour with sum of þe mylk, & colour it with saferon & let it boyle, & do a lityll honyþerto; þan tak water & well it in a frying panne; þan cast in brokyn egges & fry þam hard in þe water, & lay .iij. in a dysh & þe colourd mylk þeron, & serof it forth.


Popular posts from this blog

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .lxxix. Apple Muse - Apple Mousse

Fall is here and with it an abundance of apples! What better way to pick up the pen again then with this fruit?? Apples have a long and varied history. Carbon dating of seeds found in Southwestern Asia suggest that apples may have originated there. There is also evidence of fossilized apple seeds dating to the Neolithic period found in England which suggests that a variety of wild apple was known. 
Whatever the origin, we do know that the Greeks were familiar with apples.  Homer writes about them in the Odyssey.  Hippocrates recommends sweet apples with meals as a way of aiding in digestion. The Romans however, developed the fruit that we are aware of today through the process of cross breeding for sweetness and grafting.   Pliny the Elder describes multiple varieties of apples that were cultivated in Rome.

After the Roman occupation of Britain, many of the orchards were left abandoned.  It was through the efforts of monks that many of the orchards were maintained.  The earliest know…

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xxiiij. Drawyn grwel - Tempered Gruel

Earlier this week I posted the recipe for .vij. Gruelle a-forsydde, or Gruel Reinforced, meaning that the gruel had been fortified with meat. That was the first of two recipes for gruel found in "Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 by Thomas Austin". This is the second that I reinterpreted. The same caveats apply, I did not go through the process of straining the dish, and the dish as I have created it is much meatier then what would probably expect in period. 
Of the two recipes that I tried this one was the favorite. The commentary from the taste testers as this was cooking was "it smells like biscuits and gravy in here!" When it came time to testing we engaged in spoon war's to eat the last of it! I have also been made to promise to make this again. I will.

The basis of any gruel is meal. In this case, that meal is specified …

Five Simple and Delicious Medieval Vegetable Dishes

Positive responses continue to pour in on these kinds of posts. Today I thought I would bring to your attention five very different vegetable dishes that were enjoyed in the late Medieval period.   I hope you try them and let me know how you liked them.

Simply click the link to be taken to the page to find the recipe. Please leave me a message and let me know if you would like to see more posts like this.

Thank you!

.xxx. Soupes dorroy. (Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430)) Soup Dorroy - A delicious twist on "creamed" onion soup. The onions when cooked with the wine take on a very fruity flavor, and the almond milk adds creaminess in the background that tempers the sweet fruity taste of the onions. A budget friendly, easy to cook, tasty dish that would not be amiss at a luncheon, tavern, feast or camp meal.

.v. Whyte wortes. (Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Creamed Wortes - A true comfort dish from Harleian MS 279 (~1430) -- Tender cabbage and kale, or other "worts" (mustards, …

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Clj. Creme Bastarde - Cream Bastarde

The Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 Thomas Austin contains instructions for a custard made exclusively with egg whites.  This dish appears to have been very popular and instructions for it can also be found in the later tudor period.  As previously discussed, custards enjoy a long history. The Romans enjoyed many sweet and savory egg based dishes, but it wasn't until the middle ages that "custards", as we understand them, hit their prime.  Some of these dishes, like the hardened custards known as let lardes or milke rosty's have fallen out of favor.

I recently served this at our local Baronial 12th Night alongside stewed apples or pears (pictured above.)  I discovered that my own interpretation was nearly identical to that of Peter Breverton's found in his Tudor Cookbook. It is his interpretation I have included here which incl…