Archive for May, 2011

lacemaking update

I have decided I need at least 48 inches of lace for my camisa. That will give me enough to stabilize the neck and cuffs. So far, I have 18 inches.

I spent some time looking at lace in Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns, edited by Tiramani and North. The book includes prickings for many of the laces, so I’m really tempted to try some new work. I had forgotten that Janet Arnold`s Patterns of Fashion also has a couple of laces. Many years ago, I had dreamed of making one of the dresses in that book as an excuse for making the lace on that dress.

While prowling around on the internet, I also came across this edging from a pair of c 1600 lady`s drawers, found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art:  The lace looks quite easy, and I like the idea of trying it in multiple colours, but I`m not sure about having gold thread as an edging on my drawers! I suspect it would be quite itchy. As gold lace was often ripped off clothing and reused for the value of the gold, and this lace is not intended to be seen under normal circumstances, I suspect that this may be one of the most decadent items of historical clothing I have ever seen.


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Crown tournament was a local event this year and I had a really good time. I wanted to work on my lace, so decided to dress up in Italian Renaissance, which turned out to be way too hot. It didn’t exactly serve the purpose either, as I started the morning spinning with a drop spindle to ready more wool for extensions to my friend Aelfwyn’s socks. I had made her some naalbinding socks a while ago but she finds they are too short for her boots, so I will be turning them into knee socks.

I served out all the candied violets. Here’s what they looked like:

Eventually I did switch to making lace and got a couple of inches done. I also acquired a rigid heddle loom and a niddy noddy. Making a rigid heddle loom is on my list of things to do, and I will still make my oown, but I am delighted to have another to play with until such time aas I get mine built.

My friend Marina was welcomed into the Order of the White Wolf Fian, a challenge order for the arts. She challenged to research and make a late period Ukranian meal.  My friend Alais did some amazing illumination on a diorama scroll. I’m hoping she took pictures so I can share.  I had a fine time sitting and chatting with Marina and Eluned as they did embroidery and naalbinding, respectively, and tasting Catherine’s homemade pickles. All in all, it was a lovely day.

Now that I have some spinning started, and I’m going on the lace again, I can’t wait to go to an A&S afternoon with a bunch of friends tomorrow.

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Inspired by my friend Eluned, who is trying many things with nettle (Sunday’s experiment was a nettle pudding), I have started playing in my own garden.

Today’s experiment was boiled garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is native to Europe, but is a noxious weed in Canada. The leaves and flowers are edible, with a mild garlic and mustard flavour, while the taproot tastes like mild horseradish. As a boiled vegetable, I found it was somewhat bitter and not particularly interesting. However, the smallest of the leaves are quite tasty fresh, and would be nice in a salad.

I also picked some rhubarb (native to China but known in Italy for pharmaceutical use by the time of Marco Polo). It doesn’t appear to have been used as a food until the late 1700s. My rhubarb will not be wasted on making drinks to cure the ague or serve as a purge – I’ll be stewing it up for lunch.

I planted about 15 Jerusalem artichokes I had left over from last year’s harvest at a friend’s house. At least half had already put out shoots, so I’m hopeful I will soon have some in my back garden. They had spontaneously appeared in my front garden, and I suspect they may be trying to sprout again, but I think I weeded out most on the weekend. The Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America, but was known in Europe by 1616 (mentioned Gerard’s Herbal), and samples may have been sent to France by Samuel de Champlain as early as about 1605.

This year’s “formal” garden has leeks, dill, cauliflower, basil, chives, sorrel, rue, garlic, onions and celeriac in the front yard, while the back garden plots have lettuce, radishes, carrots, peas, squash, cucumbers, garlic, onions, basil, oregano, thyme, lovage and horseradish, as well as the Jerusalem artichokes and rhubarb. The raspberries and currants planted a few years ago are also starting to take off. In addition to the “official” vegetables and fruits, I am looking forward to eating wood sorrel, dandelions, lambs quarters, and more garlic mustard in salads.

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I candied about 75 violets today. Technically, they are Johnny-Jump-Ups (American violets), in a mix of purple and white. I didn’t use the gum arabic called for, substituting egg white mixed with a bit of water. I didn’t have any superfine sugar, so settled for ordinary white sugar. So far they look fine, but will take a day or so to finish drying.

When I got bored of painting both sides of each violet petal, I took the remaining violets and pulled out all the petals for a violet conserve. I had about a half an ounce (the original recipe calls for a pound). I ground the petals in a mortar and pestle with an equal weight of sugar. I then boiled up an equal weight of sugar (2 ounces) with a little water until it was a syrup and added the violet mixture to the syrup and cooked for a bit more. I poured it into a small jam jar and topped it with melted parrafin. Beeswax would have been more appropriate, but I happen to have a lot of parrafin in my basement so using some for the jar counts towards getting rid of things in my basement.

The candied violets should be just fine. I ate a few while making them. They have a very subtle flavour. The violet conserve crystalized a lot more than I would like for a jam, but this seems inevitable with the huge amount of sugar called for in the recipe. I suspect it may end up almost like the topping for cinnamon toast. Because I used a mix of white and purple flowers, the conserve more greeny-grey with deeper purple bits than the true purple I might have gotten by using only purple flowers. I will play around with this recipe some more to see if I can get more of a jam-like consistency. I will also try the other recipe that simply has you crush the violets with sugar and then store the mixture.

Some of the violets, served to friends at Crown Tournament.

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Food Preservation

While browsing around for violet and nettle recipes this evening, I realized I have at least six different recipes for Lucanian sausage. This was a recipe given by Apicius, and I own at least five different editions of this work, each with a slightly different interpretation of the original. I also have some modern versions of Loukaniko (a Greek sausage), plus at least two versions of Platina, which has this recipe, and probably another version in my copy of Martino. I also found several recipes for sausedges. One is in The Good Huswifes Jewell (1596). Platina offers a meat sausage, forcemeat from liver, and sausages.

In a completely different vein, The Ladies Cabinet (1655) offers To Pickle Cucumbers to Keep all the Year, while a True Gentlewoman’s Delight (1653) offers To Pickle Cowcombers.

There is more sausage making in my future, followed by some pickle experiments later this summer.

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Candied Violets

My garden is full of purple and white violets, so I thought it would be worth learning how to candy them. This seems to be a Renaissance thing. I have found:

recipes to candy all kinds of flowers as they grow (A Book of Fruits and Flowers, 1656);

a recipe to candy all kind of Floures in ways of the Spanish Candy, How to make Cakes of Lemons or Violets, and to make Oyle of Violets (A True Gentlewoman’s Delight, 1653);

to rough-Candie all manner of flowers in their owne colours, tastes and smels, and To make Conserue of Violets (A Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen, 1617);

The us of conserve of Violets and Cowslips, to candy all kinde of Flowers as they grow, with their stalks on, to make the Rock Candies upon all Spices, Flowers and Roots, Violets, Buglosse, Borage, Rosemary, Marigolds, Fennel (in a vinegar and sugar mix), the Syrup of Violets,to make Paste of Violets, or any kinde of Flowers, and Powder of Violets (The Ladies Cabinet, 1655);

To make sirrope of Violets (The Second Part of the Good Hus-wvies Jewell, 1597);

Iowtes of Flesshe (violets – probably the leaves are part of the recipe), and For to make a vyolet (Curye on Inglysch, 14th C)

Vyolette (Two 15th C Cookery Books)

Depending on my time and energy tomorrow, I will try several of the options found so far.

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Yesterday, I made over 6″ of lace. I was my own personal anachronism, making lace from a 16thC German pattern book while wearing my very best c. 1000 Norse clothing.

I was also gifted with a tagua nut. Tagua nuts, or vegetable ivory, come from South America, primarily Ecuador. I’ll take this gift as a sign that it is time to return to making buttons for my cotehardie. Two walrus ivory buttons, dated from the 12-14thC were found in Nipaitsoq, Western Settlement, Greenland. According to “Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga” the buttons were purely European in style, but improvised using local materials. I am improvising too, using vegetable ivory instead of walrus teeth.

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