Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coddling your Codlings.

I want to spend a little more time today on apples – coddled apples, to be precise. We are far more likely today to see ‘coddled eggs’ on a menu than coddled apples, but originally, ‘coddling’ was applied specifically to fruit. Coddling, in the context of eggs or fruit simply means cooking gently in water - or to make things more confusing, in some instances it means to roast in the oven, (which, to be pedantic, is to bake – roasting originally being something done on a spit in front of an open fire.) 

Humans can also be ‘coddled’, meaning that they are treated ‘as an invalid in need of nourishing food and nursing’ – in which case you might make them a nice caudle (‘a warm drink consisting of thin gruel, mixed with wine or ale, sweetened and spiced, given chiefly to sick people, esp. women in childbed; also to their visitors.)

Finally, a ‘codling’ (or codlin)  is an old-fashioned apple, when it is not a young cod - which is a fish, when it is not that part of the male anatomy which in times past was advertised by the wearing of a large cod-piece. Dont you just love the English language?

To elaborate on codlings as apples, there are two broad meanings. The word originally referred to any small, hard, or immature apple which needed cooking (codling) to make it edible. It also refers to a specific variety of apple, ‘in shape elongated and rather tapering towards the eye, having several modern sub-varieties, as Kentish Codling, Keswick Codling.’

It would be reasonable to assume that all of these usages of ‘codling’ and ‘coddle’ (aside from the juvenile fish) arise from a common origin, but this does not appear to be the case. The etymology of the word is obscure - hinting at its antiquity - and the Oxford English Dictionary gives its usual scholarly attempt to unravel it. It seems that there are two different words here. The apple-noun may have arisen from Middle English, although the explanation given by the OED is, by its own admission ‘not very satisfactory’. The cooking process usage most likely comes via the old northern French caudeler meaning ‘to warm, heat gently.’

For the recipe for the day I give you a nice example from the early eighteenth century of apples being coddled by roasting slowly ‘over the fire’, before being used to make a pudding. It is not clear whether this means on a spit or in a pan of water.

An Apple-Pudding to Bake, very good.
Take twelve fair large Pippins, coddle them over the Fire very slowly, that they do not crack; when they are soft, peel and core them and pulp them, through a Cullender: Add to this three spoonfuls of Orange-flower Water, ten Eggs well beat and strained, half a pound of very good Butter melted; make it very sweet, the Apples require it: Add Candy'd Orange, Lemon, or Citron-peel: Put a Sheet of Puff-paste into a Dish, and pour in your Pudding; bake it with care: 'Tis done in half an Hour.
A collection of above three hundred receipts in cookery, physick, and surgery (1714)

Quotation for the Day.

Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards…therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate.
Grimod de la Reynière


Liz + Louka said...

I wonder how sweet "very sweet" would have meant at that time.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Liz. I would think that they would be pretty sweet - sugar was not expensive by the mid-eighteenth century, and I have never seen any comments about not being extravagant with it. I guess we will never know though.

Ina Lipkowitz said...

Your comments on "codlings" put me in mind of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. When asked to describe a young woman disguised as a man, Malvolio replies that he/she is "Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for
a boy; as a squash is before 'tis a peascod, or a
codling when 'tis almost an apple." Thanks for all the great historical illuminations!

Anonymous said...

This actually sounds delicious. If I make it, I'll let you know how it is.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Ina and bklynharuspex - and my apologies for the delayed rey, I have been busy helping with a new graddaughter.
Ina - I had forgotten that delicious Shakespearism - thanks for reminding me.
bklynharuspex - I think it sounds delicious too. I love the idea of citrus flavours. Do let us know if you do make it, please!