I am going to start today at my usual end-point – the recipe for the day.
To make a Marjoram Pudding.
Take the Curd of a Quart of Milk finely broken, a good Handful or more of sweet Marjoram chopped as small as Dust, and mingle with the Curd 5 Eggs, but 3 Whites, beaten with Rose-water, some Nutmeg and Sugar, and half a Pint of Cream; beat all these well together, and put in 3 Quarters of a Pound of melted Butter; put a thin Sheet of Paste at the Bottom of your Dish; then pour in your Pudding, and with a Spur cut out little slips of Paste the breadth of your little Finger, and lay them all over cross and cross in large Diamonds; put some small bits of Butter on the Top, and bake it. This is old fashioned.
The complete family-piece: and, country gentleman, and farmer's best guide
Firstly, I have to say that I don’t remember coming across any other recipes in which marjoram is named in the title and is the sole flavouring ingredient – which is reason enough for it to catch my eye in the first place. Secondly, I love the final sentence – even more so because it is italicized!
Let us briefly revise marjoram. According to the OED it is “any of various plants of the genus Origanum (family Lamiaceae (Labiatae)), comprising aromatic herbs and low shrubs whose leaves are much used in cooking; esp. O. vulgare (also wild marjoram, common marjoram), native on chalk and limestone in northern Europe, the less pungent O. majorana (also sweet marjoram, knotted marjoram), and the shrub O. onites (also pot marjoram). Also: the fresh or dried leaves of any of these plants, esp. those of O. majorana. The leaves of O. vulgare are usually known in cookery as oregano.” It is attested in English from 1393, but of course must have been known and used well before this – likely for centuries before.
Mrs. Beeton has relatively few words to say on marjoram in her Book of Household Management, published in 1861, although she does include it in quite a number of recipes. Specifically, she says:
MARJORAM.--Although there are several species of marjoram, that which is known as the sweet or knotted marjoram, is the one usually preferred in cookery. It is a native of Portugal, and when its leaves are used as a seasoning herb, they have an agreeable aromatic flavour. The winter sweet marjoram used for the same purposes, is a native of Greece, and the pot-marjoram is another variety brought from Sicily. All of them are favourite ingredients in soups, stuffings, &c.
As well as its appearance in various soups, stuffings, etc. the manual does include marjoram in this rather pleasant-sounding dried herb mix:
Herb Powder for Flavouring, when Fresh Herbs are not obtainable.
INGREDIENTS.-1 oz. of dried lemon-thyme, 1 oz. of dried winter savory, 1 oz. of dried sweet marjoram and basil, 2 oz. of dried parsley, 1 oz. of dried lemon-peel.
Mode. Prepare and dry the herbs by recipe No. 445; pick the leaves from the stalks, pound them, and sift them through a hair-sieve; mix in the above proportions, and keep in glass bottles, carefully excluding the air. This, we think, a far better method of keeping herbs, as the flavour and fragrance do not evaporate so much as when they are merely put in paper bags. Preparing them in this way, you have them ready for use at a moment's notice.
Mint, sage, parsley, &c., dried, pounded, and each put into separate
bottles, will be found very useful in winter.
Please do let me know if you find any other recipes which feature marjoram!