Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Of Artichokes: recipes from 1653.

The preparation of globe artichokes is an intimidating idea to many otherwise enthusiastic and skilled cooks, who then resort to buying them in cans and jars instead. Eaters too, are a bit puzzled by this interesting member of the thistle family, as the following quotations suggest:

Eating an artichoke is like getting to know someone really well.  Willi Hastings

Life is like eating artichokes, you have got to go through so much to get so little.  Thomas A Dorgan.

After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual 'food' out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Miss Piggy

In the past, artichokes were particularly valued for their supposed medicinal qualities, and could have been said to be the “little blue pill” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, if the following writers of the time were correct:

… it has the virtue of . . . provoking Venus for both men and women; for women making them more desirable, and helping the men who are in these matters rather tardy.
Bartolomeo Boldo, Book of Nature (1576)

… they do mightily stir up lust by increasing seed, and therefore are good for married persons who are weak in the act of generation.
Robert Turner: The British Physician, 1687.

I see a sudden surge in artichoke sales if that bit of old knowledge goes viral.

There were several recipes for the artichoke in yesterday’s source, A Book of Fruits and Flowers, published in London in 1653. Here they are:

Of Hartichoakes.

How to make a Hartichoake Pye.
Boyle your Hartichoakes, take off all the leaves, pull out all the strings, leaving only the bottoms, then season them with Cinamon and Sugar, laying between every Hartichoake_ a good piece of Butter; and when you put your Pye into the Oven, stick the Hartichoakes_
with slices of Dates, and put a quarter of a pint of White-wine into the Pye, and when you take it out of the Oven, doe the like againe, with some butter, and sugar, and Rose-water, melting the butter upon some coales, before you put it into the Pye.

To keep Hartichoakes for all the yeare.
The fittest time is about _Michaelmas_, and then according to the proportion of Hartichoakes you will keep, seeth a quantity of water in a pot or pan, seasoning it so with white salt that it may have a reasonable tast, then put a fit quantity of white salt into the water, and boyle them together, and scum them well; then put a good quantity of good Vineger to them, to make the liquor somewhat sharp, and boyle it again, then parboyle your Hartichoakes that you mind to keep, in another liquor, take them out of it, and
let them coole, then set your first liquor againe on the fire to boyle, and scumming it throughly, let it coole againe; when it is throughly cold, put it up in some firkin, or large earthen pot, and put in your Hartichoakes to them handsomely, for bruising them; then cover them close from the aire, and so keep them to spend at your pleasure.

To Preserve Hartichoakes.
Heat water scalding hot first, then put in your Hartichoakes and scald them, and take away all the bottomes, and leaves about them, then take Rose water and Sugar and boyle them alone a little while, then put the Hartichoakes therein, and let them boyle on a soft fire till they be tender enough, let them be covered all the time they boyle, then take them out and put them up for your use.

To make a maid [made] dish of Hartechoakes.

Take your Hartichoakes and pare away all the top, even to the Meat, and boyle them in sweet Broth till they be somewhat tender, then take them out, and put them in a dish, and seeth them with Pepper, Cinamon, and Ginger, then put them in the dish you mean to bake them in and put in marrow to them good store, and so let them bake, and when they be baked, put in a little Vineger and Butter, and stick three or four leaves of the Hartichoakes in the dish when you serve them up, and scrape Sugar upon the dish.

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