Saturday, September 16, 2017

To Dry Peaches - The Queen-like Closet (1675)

Dry Peaches and Red Quince Paste Served at Curia Regis 9/10/2017

Several of the recipes that I have experimented with recently can be found in  The queen-like closet; or, Rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying & cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex. By Hannah WolleyThis book was first published in 1670, which is late for the period I most normally cook in. However, I believe that while the publishing date is late for the SCA, the recipes are reflective of cooking of the latter half of our SCA time line and therefore are not outside of the boundaries of SCA cooking.

The author, Hannah Wolley was born in 1623 and was the "Martha Stewart" of her day. By the age of 17 (1640) she was working in a nobles household who recognized that the culinary skills she had learned from her mother (general cooking, confectionary and medicinal remedies) was extraordinary and helped her to develop those skills.  Hannah had many firsts in her long career; the first woman to attempt to make a living from writing, the first to have her name attributed to a cooking book and the first to direct her writings to servants in an attempt to bring to the lower social classes the ability to enjoy the grand style of food enjoyed by the upper classes.  It appears that her writing career began at the age of 38 with the publication of her first book "The Ladies Directory" in 1661 and then her next book "The Cook's Guide" in 1664.  All in all, the Queen-Like closet had five publication dates (1670, 1672, 1681 and 1684) and also enjoyed two editions published in German.

The inspiration for this dish began with the idea of wanting to present two different fruit pastes of contrasting color to those who were present at the Curia Regis brunch.  Before we go further, I have to admit that I used the cook's prerogative to make this dish--instead of leaving the fruit whole, I pureed it and created a fruit paste. I wanted to make a bright yellow candy that would be a counterpoint to the red quince paste that I had made.  I also wanted it to be a different shape. I knew I wanted to make use of summer fruit, either peaches or apricots and to create a bright gold candy. Having already interpreted the recipes for the orange marmalade and the rose conserve from "The Queen-Like Closet ", I took inspiration from the following recipes to create the clear peach jelly pictured above.

CCXV. To dry Apricocks. - Take your fairest Apricocks and stone them, then weigh them, and as you pare them, throw them into cold water, have in readiness their weight in fine sugar, wet it with some of the water they lie in, and boil it to a Candy height, then put in your A∣pricocks, and boil them till they are clear, when they have lain three or four days in the Syrup, lay them out upon Glasses to dry in a stove, and turn them twice a day.

CCI. To dry Apricocks or Pippins to look as clear as Amber. - Take Apricocks and take out the stones, and take Pippins and cut them in halves and core them, let your Apricocks be pared also; lay these Fruits in an earthen dish, and strew them over with fine Sugar, set them into a warm Oven, and as the Liquor comes from them put it away, when all the Liquor is come away turn them and strew them thick with Sugar on every side, set them into the Oven again, and when the Sugar is melted lay them on a dry dish, and set them in again, and every day turn them till they be quite dry. Thus you may dry any sort of Plumbs or Pears as well as the other, and they will look very clear.

Recipe

1 pound fresh peaches (alternatively you could use 18 ounces dried apricots that you have reconstituted in apple juice or you can use 1 bag of frozen peach slices (this is what I used)) - peeled and sliced 
2 apples peeled, cored and sliced 
1/4 cup sugar

Place your fruit in a pan and add just enough water to cover it and boil it until it is very soft.  Drain the fruit and place it in a blender--give thanks to the Kitchen God's for modern technology and puree.  At this point your fruit should look like baby food.  If you have doubts about how well pureed your fruit is, strain it into a sieve into a pot and then return it to your stove.  Add your sugar, bring to a boil and cook until the puree starts to "stick" to the pan leaving a furrow behind it as you scrape your spoon through it.  

I put a spoonful of the mixture into well-oiled mini muffin tins, but you could just as easily pour the mixture onto a baking sheet and smooth it out.  Place your puree into an oven that has been heated to its lowest setting (mine is 175 degree's) for five or six hours (or more depending on humidity and the amount of moisture left in the fruit) and let it dry.  It should feel dry and slightly sticky to your touch. As an alternative, you could use a food dehydrator but be sure to keep an eye on the paste as it dries.

I plan on bringing fruit pastes and dry "jelly's" with me to camping events.  I am looking forward to creating something similar with plums and pears as well as with apples.  They are a sweet treat, easy to make and store well when made correctly. They are also fabulous edible decorations (I made a dragon out of the red quince paste and gilded it) and the extra "something" that will take your feasts over the top.  They are very inexpensive to make and store extremely well.