Friday, January 12, 2018

Renaissance Purse

A present for a deserving party, no sow's ear required.

Reproduction Renaissance Silk Purse
Silk purse with pewter frame.

The string is made from a finger-loop braid pattern c.1475-1630.  Both it and the tassels used size FF beading silk from Fire Mountain Gems. The frame came from Billy and Charlie's Finest Quality Pewter Goods.*  Though I do not know the original piece the frame is based on, it resembles some late medieval (14th-15th century) frames, including a few that seem to edge into the 16th century.

*Look them up on Facebook for more pictures and an up-to-date selection.  I was impressed by their speedy customer service.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Dishefull of Snow

Another attempt at an renaissance dish, this time from A Proper New Booke of Cookery (1575):
To make a dishefull of Snow. 
Take a pottel of sweete thick creame
and the white of viij. egges, and beate
them altogether with a spone, then put
them in your creame, and a saucer full
of rose water, and a dishe full of suger
withall, then take a stycke and make it
cleane, and then cutte it in the ende
foure square, and therewith beat all the
aforesaide things together, and ever as
ut riseth, take it of, and put it into a
Collander, this done, take an apple and
set it in the middes of it, and a thicke
bush of Rosemarye, and set it in the mid-
des if the platter, then cast your snowe
upon the Rosemarye, and fyll your
platter therwith. And if you have wa-
fers, cast some in withall, & thus serve
them forth.
A pottel, according to Wiktionary, is probably a half gallon. So, 8 eggs whites, 32 oz cream, generous-but-vague amounts of rose water and sugar; beat thoroughly, and skim off the upper layer as it thickens, and allow that to drain in a collander; arrange over an apple and rosemary.

I interpreted the instructions as using the apple to support the rosemary, which is then covered in the sweet cream-and-egg foam.

Scaling by half, I started by beating 4 egg whites, then added some 16 oz cream*.  I added a splash of rosewater (less than 1/4 cup) and a similar amount of sugar, while beating the mixture until it was stiff.  I then made a number of incisions in the top of an apple, and arranged the rosemary branches therein. I then piled the whipped cream over the apple, making a small rosemary bush in a pile of 'snow'.  I had no wafers to include, but did have the last of my experimental gluten-free krumkake*.  The snow tasted like the whipped cream I usually serve with krumkake, except for the rosewater.

A dishefull of snow, c.1675
A Dishefull of Snow

For accuracy, I suspect that I should have included more rosewater, and possibly more sugar (once I figure out what a "saucer full" means in volume for the 16th century).  I also used an electric mixer--whether this made any difference in the final texture, I couldn't say.

* I picked this recipe because I had a bunch of left-over cream to use.  This amount ended up being too much for my mixer or dish, so only half of it got made up.

**Which tastes exactly like krumkake made with not-gf flour, but was even easier to cook.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

To Seethe Hennes in Winter in White Sauce

Continuing with my Twelfth Night menu, here's my first attempt at a late 16th century dish, from The good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin (1594):
How to seeth Hennes and Capons in Winter in white broth. 
Take a necke of mutton and a marrowe bone, and let them boile with the Hens together, then take Carret rootes and put them into the potte, and then straine a litle bread to thicke the pot with all and not too thicke: season it with Pepper and Uergious, and then couer them close, and then let them boile together, then cut sops and put the broth and the marrow aboue, and so serue them.
I changed two things: omitting the mutton neck as I could not find one, and substituting white wine for the vergious (an alternative given in "to boyle chickens or capon").  I did have some beef marrow bones on hand, and threw them in with the chicken to boil.  The carrots were added later, along with bread crumbs, pepper, and eventually the white wine.

To Seethe Hennes in Winter in White Sauce, 1594
Hen seething in white sauce.

Lacking sorrell, gooseberries, and time (ha), I used plain bread for the sops, forgoing the fancier flavored toast that is specified for chickens:
To make Sops for Chickens. 
First take Butter, and melt it vpon a chafingdish with coales, and lay in the dish thinne tostes of breade, and make Sorrell sauce with Uergious and Gooseberries, seeth them with a litle Uergious and lay them vppon.
With all the departures, this was definitely more of a learning experience/experiment than a proper historic dish.  That being said, it wasn't bad: the flavor was a bit bland, and to my modern tastes, it could definitely use some salt. The sauce was also rather runny, so I suspect there was too much liquid in it at the end.  The bread crumbs used for thickening the sauce were not quite to my taste.

I would certainly consider trying this dish again in the future, ideally with the proper ingredients to get the proper taste of it.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rocky Mountain Punch

I revisited some old receipts for this past Twelfth Night, and also tried some 'new' ones:

Rocky Mountain Punch (no.43) from How to Mix Drinks (1862):
For a mixed party of twenty: 
5 bottles of champagne
1 quart of Jamaica rum
1 pint of maraschino
6 lemons sliced
Sugar to taste.  
Mix the above ingredients in a large punch-bowl, then place in the centre of the bowl a large square block of ice, ornamented on top with rock candy, loaf-sugar, sliced lemons or oranges, and fruits in season. This is a splendid punch for New Year's Day. 
Twelfth Night is the same week as New Year's , so it's rather seasonable.

Rocky Mountain Punch


Scaled down to 2 bottles of champagne, because the company was less than 20.  Approximately 15 oz of rum, 6 1/2 oz maraschino liquor, and 2 1/2 sliced lemons.  Garnished the ice block with sugar, and orange and lemon slices (this could certainly be done more festively).

The punch is tasty, easy to make, and could be made quite festive by someone with more decorating skills. It's also really, really strong, so be warned.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Review: The American Duchess Guide to Eighteenth Century Dressmaking



I haven't had the chance to make any of the projects yet, but this book has me very excited to try some 18th century styles.  The projects include four different gowns from the 1740s and 1790s: an English gown, a sacque/robe ala Francaise, an Italian gown, and a round gown.  Each includes the supportive petticoats, pads, and/or panniers required to wear it, as well as accessories: kerchiefs, caps, bags, and aprons.  Corsets and shifts are not included, so you'll need to find those elsewhere (Corsets: Historical Patterns & Technique is probably where I'll start, though I'm not sure I have any post-1600 and pre-1800 shift patterns).  In addition to the garment instructions, there's three pages of historic sewing stitches, a page of mock-up advice, a trouble-shooting guide, references, and a few vendor recommendations.  The projects, however, certainly make up the bulk of the book.

This book stands out from other historic clothing guides for the quality and abundance of its photographs.  The instructions contain detailed, step-by-step, photographs, in addition to text. In fact, with half to three quarters of each page being photographs, the instructions are more 'photo-tutorials'. There are also good modern-language explanations of period hand-sewing techniques.  Personally, I found their explanation of the mantua-maker's stitch about four times more comprehensible than the description from The Workwoman's Guide (also quoted here).

A few images of original garments are included, but the vast majority of the photos in this book are reproduction garments and the methods of constructing them.  If you're looking for original garments to admire, this isn't the book for you, but if you want to make reproduction garments, it absolutely is. And, in that vein, I think this volume would pair nicely with all the originals in What Clothes Reveal, (and I'd love to compare it with Costume Close-Up in the future).

Stars: 5

Accuracy: Fairly High.  Well-cited, using many good primary and secondary sources.  I liked that they described which books/garments/paintings formed the basis for each reproduction gown, but would have liked a bit more detail on some of the accessories.

Level: Intermediate and up. The hand-sewing is well-explained, and there's a handy trouble-shooting guide for fit, but you're draping and hand-sewing garments, which are both skills.  The draping comes with some explanations and sample diagrams, but it's nothing like using a commercial pattern.

Overall Impression: The Dressmaker's Guide for the 18th century, but with more pictures.  The authors have done their research, and packaged it up neatly for your use.  The gowns are based on diagrams of original garments in The Cut of Women's Clothes and Patterns of Fashion, so you may find this an interesting/useful companion to those volumes (or those books useful for cutting out these gowns).

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Resolutions

Arthur's, May 1857

My New Year's Costuming Resolutions, aka, all the unfinished projects I'd like to wrap up in 2018:

  • Mid-16th century gown
  • Mid-16th century coif
  • Tablet-woven garters
  • 16th century shoes (ideally with some fabulous chopines)
  • 1850s Plaid Wool Dress
  • Knit undersleeves
  • Three chemises
  • Three pairs of drawers
  • Three pairs of cotton cloth stockings
  • Black wool dress (c.1860) remade
  • Silk convertible day/evening dress c. 1860
  • 1850s Sewing apron
  • Miser's Purse
  • Neoclassical (regency) bib-front dress
  • Two pairs of wool gaiters, with fitting issues resolved
  • 1850s winter coat.
  • Quilted hood, for which I received the materials last Christmas
  • Nelly's Little Sister
  • If the stars align, either the 1890s or 1770s stays I've been meaning to make for several years now.