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Derbyshire Records Office Recipe for Success!

Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2007

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Derbyshire Record Office Recipe for Success! (Reflections Magazine 2005)

Derbyshire Records Office is cooking up a rare treat for those of a culinary disposition who like to delve into old fashioned recipes, and the latest acquisition to the ancient ingredients in their store of historic gastronomic knowledge is causing quite a stir.

Margaret O’Sullivan of the Record Office, says:

`Mary Swanwick's Cookery Book of 1743'

“Food and feasts in the past are the subject of the new acquisition by Derbyshire Record Office, - Mary Swanwick’s cookery book of 1743. This was donated to the Record Office because of its relationship to other cookery books of similar date in the Record Office’s collections, such as Jane Mosley’s cookbook from Brailsford which also dates from the early 18th century”.

Mary Swanwick’s handwritten manuscript includes over 100 recipes for poultry, meat, vegetables, puddings, drinks, preserves and savouries. It has links with medieval cookery through its use of almonds - almond cheesecake, almond tart, almond butter, almond pudding, almond cakes, and almond ‘biscakes’ [biscuits].

Other medieval links include its directions on how to make mead, but there are more ‘international’ recipes such as ‘Spanish butter’ and ‘Italian pudding’. Pastries, pies and pasties also feature, and there are instructions on ‘how to dress a cod’s head’.

‘Quince marmalet’ is an example of a traditional fruit preserve. It’s not marmalade as we know it today, but a kind of fruit paste, still popular in Spain and Portugal.

With regard to vegetables, artichoke pie, and carrot fritters feature alongside how to pickle kidney beans”.

Margaret O’Sullivan pointed out that the document had been donated to the Records Office from the neighbouring county of Cheshire, and it was not yet known whether Mary Swanwick had a local Derbyshire connection.

She went on to explain:

“There is lots of interest in this cookery book and research is continuing, but it reads as though Mary Swanwick was describing the recipes herself, and so phonetic spellings or dialect variations occur in the manuscript”. She gives some typical examples;

‘Sausages’ are ‘sasings’; ‘pears’ are ‘pares’; ‘beef roll’ is ‘beef role’;’soup’ is ‘soop’; ‘syllabubs’ are ‘sillibubs’; ‘ millet’ is ‘mallet’, and so on.

She also includes personal comments, and these are what give the collection its personal character: ‘this makes a large hansom cake’; ‘ I could eat 2 or 3 of these puddings myself, if I had them’.

Another important aspect is the emphasis on the seasonality of produce and ingredients.

Nowadays, we are accustomed to strawberries in December and fresh tomatoes all the year round because many fruit and vegetables in supermarkets are imported from other parts of the world. This did not happen in Mary Swanwick’s time and it was the hallmark of a capable housewife to make the most of produce when it was in season and to be prepared for its scarcity in the winter months. This was done by pickling, preserving and making wines and vinegars: hence the large number of such recipes in this collection. So there are instructions to preserve gooseberries, whole quinces, white currants, green and ripe apricots, peaches and cherries.

Pickled vegetables include cucumber, cabbage, purslane and samphire, as well as onions.

Wines include raspberry, cowslip, currant, elderberry and black cherry, together with ‘clove jelly flower’ by which she means ‘clove gillyflower’ or scented garden pinks.

Brawn, potted meat, and salted hams also appear as do pickled pigeons and preserved walnuts.

Interestingly, Mary Swanwick gives a recipe ‘ to dry pears or apples without sugar’. Sugar was costly and a frugal housewife would limit its use as much as possible. This recipe shows a practical way of ensuring summer’s bounty of fruit could be saved without unnecessary expense. But who was Mary Swanwick?

She lived over a hundred years earlier than her well known Old Whittington namesake – so could there be a connection? Margaret O’Sullivan says,

“We don’t know for certain, but what is clear is that she was an accomplished cook and household manager, with a wide range of ingredients and techniques at her fingertips. Her recipe book is both a fascinating read and an important research resource for food historians in Derbyshire and beyond. She continued,

`Record Office staff are researching who Mary Swanwick was and also tracing the origins of recipes which she quotes from other sources, such as ‘Lady Temple’, possibly connected with the Temple family of Stowe, who owned property in Crich’.

Because of interest in the manuscript and its contents, the Record Office hopes to publish it in 2006.

Meanwhile, researchers can consult a digitised copy in the County Council-run Record Office in New.St., Matlock. For further information contact: margaretosullivan@derbyshire.gov.uk . Tel 01629 580000 ext 59201

MARY SWANWICK’S COOKERY BOOK of 1743

(examples of recipes)

TO STEW A HARE

TO MAKE ALMOND CHEESCAKE

TO MAKE JUMBALS

TO MAKE SASINGS [SAUSAGES]

TO PICKLE KIDNEY BEANS

TO FARCE A LEG OF MUTTON

TO MAKE QUINCE MARMALET

TO MAKE CARROTT FRITTERS

TO MAKE AN APPLE PUDDING

TO MAKE BEEF PASTY

TO MAKE MEAD

TO MAKE WAFERS

TO MAKE ALMOND BUTTER

TO MAKE EGG PYE

TO MAKE ARTICHOKE PYE

TO MAKE SAVORY BISCAKES

TO DRESS A CODS HEAD

TO BROILE PIDGEONS

……and finally, in case you’re wondering why we didn’t publish Mary Swanwick’s recipe for mince pies in time for the festive season, here’s her recipe for what she calls, `Lady Franche’s Mince Pies’:

`Take a pound of hearts of tongues, ten of suet, thirteen pound of currants, four pound of raisins stone, three quarters of a hundred apples, three of sugar, two quarts of red wine, a pint of verjuice (juice of unripe apples or grapes) and lemon juice, one pound of cinnamon, half an ounce of cloves, an ounce of nutmeg, a little salt, one pound of citron, a large quantity of lemon peels. If you make this (in) quantity, there must be twelve pounds of suet and three large hearts’.

…….and to think in those days there were no indigestion pills!

 
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