John Partridge and The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits
Little is known about John Partridge except he is the credited author of three volumes of recipes dealing with cookery and medicines. The first of these books was the 1573 The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits. This work would later be published under the title The Treasury of Hidden Secrets. Another work in a similar vein was his 1582 The Widowes Treasure.
The work we are concerned with here is The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits. [An edited and lightly annotated edition of that work may be found at: http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/treasurie.pdf ]
Partridge offers a number of recipes that call for sugar including recipes for “pescods of marrow,” baked ox tongue, baked chickens, sauces for a rabbit, and a spice powder of blaunched powder for quinces.
Probably his most important contribution to the study of sugary items is that he offers this advice at the end of his recipe "To make a Marchpane Cap.ix."
“The greatest secret that is in the makynge of this cleare, is with a little fyne flowre of Ryse, Rosewater and Suger beaten together & layd thin ouer the marchpane ere it go to dryinge: this wyll make it shine lyke Ice, as Ladyes reporte.”
This is, of course, an early instruction for icing.
A number of his recipes for preserving fruits involve the making of sugar syrups, some with just water, some with rosewater, and some with both sorts of water. The following recipe is of interest as it also mentions honey as well as seething to a height, but that height is not well described.
To make conserue of Cheries and Barberries. Cap. xxxi.
LIkewise ye must make coserue of Cheries, and also of barberis sauing that these require more Suger then the other do which ar not so sowre as they bee. Here is to be noted, that of conserues of Fruits mai be made marmalade, for when your conserue is sufficiently sodden, and ready to be take off, the seeth it more on height and it wyll be Marmalade. Moreouer some make their conserue, Marmalade & Syrops with cleane Suger, some with cleane Hony clarifyed, some with Suger and Hony together. And after the opinion of diuers great Clarkes, Honye is more holsome, though it be not so toothsome as suger. [p 16 Holloway edition]
As to sugar heights, Partridge is not very descriptive, except in this
one recipe where he instructs “then you must boyle it til it be as
thick as birdlime.”
To keepe Damsins in syrop.
TAke Damsins & picke them wt a knife, or a pi the[n] take clarified Suger as much as you shall thinke wil serue & then you must boyle it til it be as thick as birdlime: Then boyle your Damsins in ye clarified sugre, til they be soft, the take the vp, and put them in a glasse, then you must boyle ye syrop, till it be thick as ye other was, before you put in ye Damsins, & as soone as it is so thick you muste powre it into the Damsins and so couer them close. [p 24 Holloway edition]
Another recipe mentioning sugar boiling is:
To keepe Barberyes cap.lvi.
TAke claryfied Suger, & boyle it tyll it be thick, whiche you shal perceue yf you take a litle betweene your fingers it wyl rope like Birdlyme: Then put in your Barberyes, and let the boyle with a soft fyre, vntyll you perceaue thei be tender, the put them in a Classe and couer them: and so kepe them. [p 25 Holloway edition]
Now if we could be sure what sixteenth century birdlime looked like.