Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Wardonys in Syryp - Pears in Syrup

Wardonys in Syryp - Pears in Syrup
There are several recipes 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 Thomas Austin which feature pears that have been stewed in wine, sweetened with sugar or honey, and flavored with cinnamon and other varied spices. The first recipe that I interpreted was Perys en Composte which was declared the favorite of the two recipes which I interpreted.  The second was Wardonys in Syryp, a very flavorful dish. 

Among one of the oldest cultivated fruits is the pear, and it is sad that today most of us are only aware of a few of the many varieties of pears that are available; Bartlett, Bosc, Anjou, Comice, Asian and Seckle. Pears are thought to have originated in Asia over 4,000 years ago and were being actively cultivated in Europe approximately 1000 B.C.  The Greeks had a special love of pears, and they were considered to be "gifts from the Gods" sacred to two goddesses, Hera and Aphrodite.

Pliny the Elder in his "Natural History" described over forty different kinds of pears. This number grew to over 60 varieties when John Gerard noted that a friend of his grew over 60 varieties of pears in the late 1500's. Pear seeds were given to the American Colonies in the early 1600's.  Le Lecier describes over 200 varieties of pears in 1628. One of the oldest pear trees planted in 1810 in America can be found at San Juan Batista. It is still bearing fruit.

Worcester Black Pears 
The most well-known pear variety is the Bartlett.  When it was first introduced is unknown, although some sources suggest it was known in England as early as 1600, other sources indicate a much later date. When first introduced, the bartlett pear was known as the William's Bon Chretien, or William's pear and it now accounts for over 70% of the pears that you see in the supermarkets today.

What of the Warden pear? Warden's present their own unique history.  It is possible that the Warden pear suggested in the recipes below refers to the Worcestor Black Pear, which is first referenced in Bedfordshire's Warden Abbey in the 13th century. If this is true, then this is one of the oldest known pear cultivars.  The pear itself is mahogany colored with russet patches and soft white or cream colored fruit.  It is incredibly hard and gritty and must be cooked in order to make it edible. Picked in late October, early November they can keep until April. It was this incredibly long keeping time that perhaps made them a popular item on the medieval table.

Another possibility is that the Warden was a general name given to any pear variety that was long keeping and needed to be stewed or cooked prior to eating. It may have come from the Anglo-Saxon word Weardon, meaning to preserve.

.x. Wardonys in syryp.—Take wardonys, an caste on a potte, and boyle hem till þey ben tender; þan take hem vp and pare hem, an kytte hem in to pecys*. [? ='in two pieces.' ]; take y-now of powder of canel, a good quantyte, an caste it on red wyne, an draw it þorw a straynour; caste sugre þer-to, an put it in [supplied by ed.] an erþen pot, an let it boyle: an þanne caste þe perys þer-to, an let boyle to-gederys, an whan þey haue boyle a whyle, take pouder of gyngere an caste þerto, an a lytil venegre, an a lytil safron; an loke þat it be poynaunt an dowcet.

x - Wardonys in syryp. Take wardonys, an caste on a potte, and boyle hem till they ben tender; than take hem vp and pare hem, an kytte hem in to pecys (Note: ? ='in two pieces.' ); take y-now of powder of canel, a good quantyte, an caste it on red wyne, an draw it thorw a straynour; caste sugre ther-to, an put it in an erthen pot, an let it boyle: an thanne caste the perys ther-to, an let boyle to-gederys, an whan they haue boyle a whyle, take pouder of gyngere an caste therto, an a lytil venegre, an a lytil safron; an loke that it be poynaunt an dowcet.

10. Pears in Syrup. Take pears, and cast them in a pot and boil them till they are tender; then take them up and pare them, and cut them in two pieces (or into pieces); take enough of powder of cinnamon, a good quantity, and cast it on red wine, and draw it through a strainer, cast sugar there-to, and put it in an earthen pot, and let it boil: and then cast the pears there-to, and let boil together, and when they have boiled a while, take powder of ginger and cast thereto, and a little vinegar, and a little saffron: and look that it be sour and sweet.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                        Serves 1 as main, 2 as side

1 pear, peeled, cored and cut in two pieces
1 tsp. cinnamon powder or 1 stick of cinnamon
3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. ginger
Pinch of saffron

Gently poach pears until almost tender.  While the pears are poaching bring the wine, sugar, ginger, vinegar, saffron and cinnamon to a boil and cook until mixture has thickened and reduced. When the syrup has thickened add the pears and cook until the pears become tender and serve.

I believe that this recipe, like the perys in compost could be made up to two weeks prior to an event. However, the pears would continue to soak up the color of the wine they were cooked in, and that would eliminate the beauty of the white flesh of the pears as soon as you cut into them which I found to be one of the most striking features of the recipe.

The taste testers really enjoyed this recipe and I believe this dish will find its way regularly onto my table, especially when pears are in season.  

Similar recipes 

Ancient Cookery [Arundel 334] (England, 1425)

Warduns in syruppe. Take wardens (pears), and pare hom clene, and scthe hom in red wyn with mulberryes, or saunders, tyl thai byn tendur, and then take hom up, and cut hom, and do hom in a pot; and do therto wyn crete, or vernage ||, or other gode swete -wyne, and blaunch pouder, and sugur, and pouder of gynger, and let hom boyle awhile, and then serve hit forth.

Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (England, 1430)

Peris in Syrippe. Take Wardons, and cast hem in a faire potte, And boile hem til thei ben tendre; and take hem vppe, and pare hem in ij. or in iij. And take powder ofCanell, a good quantite, and cast hit in good red wyne, And cast sugur thereto, and put hit in an erthen potte, And lete boile; And then cast the peris thereto, And late hem boile togidre awhile; take powder of ginger, And a litell saffron to colloure hit with, And loke that hit be poynante/ And also Doucet/

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

To make a Syrop of Wardons. Recipe wardons & seth þam til þai be softe in clene water, or cast þam in a syve & rost þam. Pyl þam & shere þam in resonabyl byg pecis; þan take rede wyne or swete wyn or whyte wyne or gode ale, sugur & pressyd hony & bole it, & take powdyr of gynger & canell & cast it þerin boylyng, &annis in confyt; & when it is sodyn cast in þi wardons & serof it forth.