Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The first pineapple tart.

Today, August 9th …

John Evelyn was a contemporary of Samuel Pepys, and he too kept a diary which gives us glimpses of seventeenth century life at the top. On this day in 1661 Evelyn noted:

“I first saw the famous Queen Pine brought from Barbados and presented to his Majestie; but the first that were ever seen in England were those sent to Cromwell House foure years since.”

The pineapple is a native of South America, and it had been cultivated there for centuries before Christopher Columbus saw one in Guadeloupe in 1493. Unlike the other New World finds of potato and tomato which were seen for a long time as foreign therefore suspicious if not downright poisonous, the pineapple was seen immediately as foreign therefore exotic and absolutely worthy of presentation to the King. Much horticultural expertise and hothouse experimentation resulted in England’s first home-grown pineapple in 1719, but it remained an expensive treat for a couple of centuries until the Hawaiian canning industry took off at the end of the nineteenth century.

The first published recipe for pineapple appears in Richard Bradley’s “The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director” in 1736, and it still sounds delicious.

To make a Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple. From Barbadoes.
Take a Pine-Apple, and twist off its Crown: then pare it free from the Knots, and cut it in Slices about half an Inch thick; then stew it with a little Canary wine, or Madera Wine, and some Sugar, till it is thoroughly hot, and it will distribute its Flavour to the Wine much better than any thing we can add to it. When it is as one would have it, take it from the Fire; and when it is cool, put it into a sweet Paste, with its Liquor, and bake it gently a little while, and when it comes from the Oven, pour Cream over it (if you have it) and serve it either hot or cold.

Even canned pineapple was a delicacy in late Victorian England, if we can draw any conclusions from its use in “High Class Cookery” (1893), by Mrs. Charles Clarke.

Pine-apple Souffle.
Three ounces of pineapple; three ounces of Flour, sifted; three ounces of sugar; two ounces of Butter; Half a pint of Milk; Yolks of three Eggs; Whites of four Eggs.
Melt the butter in a stewpan, and add the flour and milk; cook well; add the sugar and the pineapple, previously cut into dice; add the yolks one by one; whip the whites very stiff; stir in the mixture very lightly; pour into a prepared soufflée mould; steam one hour.
Reduce one gill of the syrup from the pine-apple, add one ounce of loaf sugar, and one glass of sherry; colour with cochineal; pour round the pudding. Some small pieces of pine-apple may be added to the sauce.

Tomorrow: Mustard making.

Quotation for the Day …

This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal.... We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke. Jane Grigson

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