Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gingerbread, Revisited.

A return to one of my favourite topics of gingerbread is way, way, overdue, so I thought I should go back - not to the beginning, which would be near impossible, - but to the early days of printed cookery books. Well, not cookery books exactly, but to “other sources” of recipes. I know from emails and comments to a post a short while ago that the concept of making a profit from cookery is a dream rather than a reality for many of you – even those of you who are actual professionals in the business - so the title of my source for the day will probably give you cause for some wry amusement.

The book is by Gervase Markham, and was published in 1631. The title page reads:

Containing Six Principal Vocations, Or Callings, in which Every Good Husband Or House-wife May Lawfully Imploy Themselves, as:

1.      The Natures, Ordering, Curing, Breeding, Choice, Use, and Feeding of all sorts of Cattel, and Fowl, fit for the service of Man: As also the Riding and Dieting of Horses, either for War or Pleasure.
2.      The Knowledge, Use, and Laudable Practice of all the Recreations meet for a Gentleman.
3.      The Office of a House-wife, in Physick, Chirugery, Extraction of Oyles, Banquets, Cookery, Ordering of Feasts, Preserving of Wine, conceited Secrets, Distillations, Perfumes, Ordering of Wooll, Hemp, Flax, Dying, Use of Dayries, Maulting, Brewing, Baking; and the Profit of Oats.
4.      The Inrichment of the Weald in Kent.
5.      The Husbanding and Inriching of all sorts of Barren Grounds, making them equall with the most fruitfull; With the Preservation of Swine. And a Computation of Men and Cattells Labours, &c.
6.      The making of Orchards, Planting and Grassing, the Office of Gardening, and the Ornaments, with the best Husbanding of Bees.

Some of these occupations of housewives and gentlemen are, sadly, no longer lawful. I do not suggest you attempt to try to make yourself wealthy by practicing chirugery or distillation unless you are properly licenced by the relevant authorities! Enriching barren ground or planting orchards however, are surely legal wherever you live, although whether or not these will provide significant income is another point altogether.

In the cookery section of his book, Markham gives a recipe for gingerbread which is quite unlike the modern version. In Markham’s time, gingerbread was somewhat closer to a confection or sweetmeat. It was a solid, dried but not cooked, ‘cake’ or slab of honey and breadcrumbs, flavoured with (usually) ginger and other sweet spices. I like the idea of licorice and aniseed in this one. Perhaps the recipe could be adapted to a confection which could be lawfully sold at a farmers’ market?

How to make course Gingerbread.

To make course Ginger-bread; take a quart of Honey, and set it on the coals, and refine it: then take a penny-worth of Ginger, as much Pepper, as much Licoras, and a quarter of a pound of Anniseeds, and a penny-worth of Saunders: all these must be beaten and searced, and so put into the hony; then put in a quarter of a pint of Claret-wine, or old Ale: then take three penny manchets finely grated, and strew it among the rest, and stir it till it come to a stiff past, and then make into Cakes, and dry them gently.


Emma said...


Emma said...

Oh, just found it - Saunders = sandalwood!

korenni said...

As you undoubtedly know, there's a recipe for "gingerbrede" in one of the 15th-century Harleian mss. -- it's not quite as elaborate as this one, although it is mainly "gingered bread" held together with honey. Wonder how gingerbread got to be a cake and a cookie?

Terry Diggs said...

What are "saunders?"

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Terry. "Saunders" is sandalwood - to give a reddish colour.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi korenni. I have quite a number of gingerbread recipes in the archive called "Through the Ages with Gingerbread" - which does need updating! I think like so many recipes the concept just evolved - the flavour was enjoyed so ginger was added to bakery goods as they developed over time. Fun, isn't it?