Friday, November 07, 2014

Samphire and Purslane: ideas from 1682.

Recently I used an interesting book on the salt and fishing industries as a source of inspiration for a post, and I want to return to it today. Salt and Fishery (London, 1682) by John Collins includes some recipes for cooking fish, which is perhaps not too surprising, given its title. It also has a few other delights for us, and I think those of you who consider yourselves good foragers may be interested. I probably don’t need to mention that there is a caveat when considering using methods of preservation described in historical cookery books –they do not always meet modern safety recommendations! Having said that, I understand that sufficient vinegar usually protects against the organisms that cause serious food poisoning.

I am sure I have not previously given a recipe for samphire – sometimes known as ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’ – which is a shocking oversight. Thank goodness I can remedy that omission today.

To Pickle Samphire.
The Isle of Wight yields plenty of it, and the Port-Sea Saltworks most excellent …. which Mr. Alcorne pickleth in the manner following.
1.Make such a Liquor of Water, Elder Vinegar, White-Wine and Salt is as pleasing.
2.Let the Samphire be scalded in it, and when the Vessel  is taken off, cover with a Cloath to keep the steam in for a quarter of an hour, and it will be tender, but if it be required hard, not to be boyled again, cover it not at all.
3.Then take the Samphire out of the Liquor, and let both cool by themselves, and afterwards put them up in a Vessel close covered to keep for use.
The Herb may be preserved without scalding, but when it is to be used, it must be boyled.

To pickle Purslayn.
Take Purslayn with their Stalkes, and boyl them tender in fair water, and lay them a drying or soaking, when done, put them in a Gally-pot, and make a Brine with Salt and Elder-Vinegar to put to them, so as to cover them, and keep the Pot close stopt.


Keith said...

Excellent post, thank you. Shared.
Regards, Keith.

Anonymous said...

In King Lear, the disguise son, Edgar, is telling his father, who is now blind, about the view from the seaside cliff they are supposedly standing on. "Half way down," he says, "hangs one who gathers samphire, dreadful trade." So vivid is the description that Gloucester believes that he has indeed fallen from a great height and survived only by a miracle. So samphire was a gathered wild plant in those days.