Treats For Christmas, 1707

Felbrigg Hall pie-making

Felbrigg Hall pie-making


Katherine Windham’s recipe notes of 1707, transcribed by my friends Bonnie Lovelock and Roger Sykes, do not list recipes by season. However, it’s possible to select items we associate with Christmas nowadays. Whether any were served at Felbrigg Hall at this season is pure guesswork.

To make Marchpain[1]

Take 1 pound of sweet Almonds, blanch & beat ym fine with orenge flower water, as stiffe as you can to keep ym from oyling, add to ym 1 pound of Loafe Suger sifted, rub ym well together, yn add ye Whites of 5 eggs, well beat to a froth, mix ym well in & set ym in a pewter dish on a slow fire, not to boyle till they are a litle stiffe, set it bye till it is cold yn role ym up 2 Inches long & turn ym a litle round C C S [shapes drawn here by KW] bake ym on paper & Tins, after yr bisket comes out
make yr Ratifie [2] Biskets ye same way, only if you have no Kernels take 1⁄2 bitter Almonds & 1⁄2 sweet, make ym in litle round drop

To Candy fruit for ye table to last a weeke

Take yr Corants[3] in bunches plums or Cherys, or any small fruit, ye must be dry, yn beat a litle white of egge & water together, & lightly dip your fruit all over in it, yn have some loafe suger finly sifted & put in a deep bason, tosse ye fruit well in it till ye are all over sugared, but not cloded[4] together, lay ym on sives[5] or china plates, & set ym in ye Sun or hot stove

To make a Rich Cake

Take 5 po[6] of flower & 6 po of Corants, drye yr flower very well, rub into it 3 po of butter yn take a po of Jordan Almonds beaten fine with a litle orenge flower water, & 12 eggs 1⁄2 ye whites, beat yr eggs with a wiske to a froth, 3 qu of a po of loafe suger beaten & sifted, a quart of new Ale yeast & a qu of cream & a qu of a pint of Sacke[7], Cloves mace cinnamon a qu[8] of an ounce of each, muske[9] & ambergreece[10] a grain of each citron & Lemon peel 1⁄2 of po of each cut small, raisons & dates strow’d[11] & shread small of each 1⁄2 a pound

mix yr Almonds & spice with ye flower & ye raisons & suger, make yr cream more yn milke warm, & put yr eggs & yeast to yr cream
grind ye perfume[12] & make yr Sacke hot & put in it, yn put it to yr cream

yn make a hole in yr flower & pour in yr cream & mingle all well together, let it stand an hower before ye fire to rise
get yr Hoop[13] ready buterd & paperd, yn mix yr Corants & sweet meats, & let it stand in ye oven 2 howers[14]

To make Mince[15] pyes

Neats Toung[16] or ye Inside of a Surloin of Beefe makes ye Best veal tripe of Bulockes heart makes ym bast very good. parboyle your meat & chop it very small, (if too much don yr pyes will eat dry) shread Beefe Suet small & put in double the quantety of your meat,

wash your corants & picke ym Clean, & to 3 po of meat & suet put 2 pound of Corants

pare some Aples & Chop ym small put 2 to a pound of meat, shred some Lemon peel very fine & put in Season it all with salt nutmeg mace & Cloves beat fine, to your taste, put in a pint or more of verjuice[17]to 3 pound of meat, trye it in a porenger, & add what is wanting, slice candied Orenge citrin & Lemon peel thin & lay on ye Top. but litle of ye first


  1. Marchpain is an old name for marzipan. This is one of the recipes that Katherine copied into her book from ‘Mrs Mary Eales’s Receipts’, published in London in 1718. Many of these items cover preserving and drying fruits as well as recipes for creams, jellies, cakes or biscuits.  ↩
  2. Ratifie (or ratafie) was a cordial made from fruit and their kernels used in the making of certain biscuits.  ↩
  3. Corants: currants.  ↩
  4. cloded: lumped into clods, like earth.  ↩
  5. Sive: sieve with a very fine mesh made from woven hair.  ↩
  6. po: pound.  ↩
  7. Sacke: (or sack) a sherry style wine.  ↩
  8. qu: quarter.  ↩
  9. Muske: (or musk) glandular secretions, possibly from musk deer.  ↩
  10. Ambergreece: (or ambergris) an extremely fragrant substance formed in the intestines of sperm whales.  ↩
  11. Strow: (or strew) to scatter or spread.  ↩
  12. Perfume in this context means a fragrant flavouring sometimes involving cinnamon and lavender.  ↩
  13. Hoop: a metal cylinder used to shape and bake cakes – the forerunner of a cake tin.  ↩
  14. Howers: hours  ↩
  15. A reminder that mince pies did originally contain minced meat, not just the vine fruits in today’s version.  ↩
  16. Neats Toung: ox tongue  ↩
  17. Verjuice: highly acidic juice made by pressing unripened grapes, crab apples or other sour fruit, used as an alternative to vinegar  ↩

About William Savage

Independent researcher and author of mystery stories set in Georgian Norfolk.
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