A friend asked for period strawberry recipes and since I work the month of February every year in the heart of Florida strawberry country a few good recipes will mean lots of good food next year. The Plant City (FL) strawberry festival is an annual event which draws crafters and “everything strawberry” from around the nation.
Strawberry season is upon us
For the young and young at heart, strawberry ice cream should top the list of recipes. Those without ice cream freezers knew how to put the cream mixture into a pail, set that pail down into a larger pale filled with ice and salt, and turn the handle to make the pail with the cream freeze. Because there was no dasher to scrape the sides of the pail, it was necessary to scrape the sides with a spoon periodically so that it would freeze through evenly. I have a wooden ice cream churn that I plan to use to freeze strawberry ice cream at Cracker Country next February.
From The Complete Confectioner, 1800:
“To make strawberry cream ices. Take any quantity of strawberries, squeeze them through a sieve; then mix your cream and sugar, boil it, and repass the whole through the sieve again, and proceed as usual.”
No piece on strawberries would be complete without discussing strawberry jam. Jam wasn’t just for breakfast in earlier times, it was as likely to top pound cake, or be combined with whipped cream and cake to prepare a trifle.
“Strawberry Jam. Take some of the finest scarlet strawberries gathered when they are full ripe, pick them from the stalks, put some juice of strawberries to them beat and sift their weight in double-refined sugar, and strew it over them; put them into a preserving-pan, set them over a slow fire, boil them twenty minutes, and skim them; then put them in glasses, when cold put brandy-paper on them, &c.” – Briggs, Richard. The English Art of Cookery. London. 1788.
The recipe refers to sugar when it came in blocks and had to be nipped off and pounded to make it granular, and the early method of preserving was to place the jam into a bottle or crock, cover it with paper which was tied tightly around the top of the container, and then brush it with brandy, multiple times if felt prudent, and allowed to dry. It was believed doing so sealed out the air and thus preserved the jam. In earlier days, when cows or calves were slaughtered the bladders were preserved so that they could then be stretched over the tops of the containers which also sealed out the air.
In 1777, Charlotte Mason included receipts for strawberry giam (jam) and strawberry marmalade in her The Lady’s Assistant for Regulating and Supplying her Table. The receipts are very similar.
Wouldn’t you say strawberry fritters sounds perfectly splendid? William Verral called them Des beignets aux fraises which he translated to Strawberry fritters for his receipt in 1759. The receipt is indicative of the 18th century custom of stacking foods into pyramidical form for visual appeal. That style continued into the 19th century. – Verral, William. The Complete System of Cookery. London.
T. Williams added lemon zest to his batter and topped the fried fritters with a dusting of sugar for a little added flair. The Accomplished Housekeeper and Universal Cook. 1797. London.
“For this you must make a batter of another sort from what you have seen before; to two eggs well beat, whites and yolks both, put about half a pint of cream, made thick with fine flour, a little fine sugar and nutmeg, put your strawberries in raw, and fry them in a pan of clean lard, a spoonful at a time, dish them up in a pyramid, and sift sugar between and at top. This is a pretty way of making fritters with any sort of fruit.”
Louis Lemery extolled the virtues of strawberry wine in his 1745 A treatise of all Sorts of Foods, Both Animal and Vegetable. London. When there aren’t enough strawberries available to make wine, one might think of making cordial which can be tailored for any amount of available fruit.
Strawberry pie references were appearing in print by 1840. A commonly printed recipe was vague in amounts and left much to the discretion of the cook, but no doubt produced excellent results if the number of times it was published are any indication.
“Strawberry Pie is made in the same way also. [Wash and dry the berries and lay them thick onto the under crust. Strew a small quantity of sugar and and a trifle of flour over them; put on the upper crust, and bake half an hour]. This fruit is more acid and requires considerable more sugar to make it pleasant.” – Herald of Health. May 1863. New York.
Receipts for Strawberry Cake from the 1840’s through the 1860’s seem to be more for a tart than what modern conceptions would be, but the results are delicious. The American Housewife. By an Experienced Lady. 1841. New York. Drayton & Saxton.
“Strawberry Cake. Mix a quart of flour with a tea-spoonful of salt, four beaten eggs, and a tea-cup of thick cream, or melted butter. Add sufficient milk to enable you to roll it out–roll it out thin, line a shallow cake pan with part of it, then put in a thick layer of nice ripe strawberries, strew on sufficient white sugar to sweeten the strawberries, cover them with a thin layer of the crust, then add another layer of strawberries and sugar–cover the whole with another layer of crust and bake it in a quick oven about twenty five minutes.”
Strawberry soup is so refreshing on a hot day, and no doubt has been enjoyed since the latter part of the 18th century. William Volmer published a recipe which is as welcome today as when it was published in ___. It is just one example of the cold fruit soup which were served as a prelude to dinner.
“Strawberry Soup. Rub a soup plate of well picked and well washed strawberries through a fine hair sieve; sweeten the liquid with six ounces of pulverized sugar, add the juice of a lemon, and a bottle of good wine. The whole is now well mixed, poured into a tureen, covered and placed on ice. In the same manner dress cold raspberry and currant soup.” Volmer, William. The United States Cookbook. 1859. Philadelphia. John Weik & Co.
It is apparent already that the ways in which strawberries were served and enjoyed were quite extensive, and limited primarily only by the availability of fresh berries. While bottled berries could be used in a variety of ways, such as the soup, writers advised that for other receipts, such as salads, only fresh berries should be considered. Given I am currently writing a book on the history of salads, I must, out of curiosity, end this article with a receipt for Strawberry Salad given that for areas in the upper South strawberries are just beginning to come into season. What could be simpler, or more refreshing as the temperatures soar?
“Strawberry Salad. A large pottle of ripe strawberries , picked and put into a basin with two tablespoons of sugar, a pinch of powdered cinnamon, a gill of brandy, stir gently, and serve”. Soyer, Alexis. A Shilling Cookery for the People. 1855. London.
(Copyright, April, 2009, Victoria Rumble, may not be reproduced without written permission)