A bowl of cherries

cherries 2To continue the theme of the last post, I thought I’d share some culinary recipes using cherries (and get some inspiration, since we’ve still got a lot on the trees!). These are from the early seventeenth-century recipe book of Diana Astry.[1]

The first is for dried cherries, which sounds rather time consuming:

Take 6 lb. cherrys; take 1 lb. sugar; stone the cherrys & strew the sugar among them on the fire & let them boyle apace, then take them of[f] & scum them clean & put them into an earthen pott & let them stand 10 dayes. Then take them out & lay them on dishes & set them in a oven after bread, turn them into dry dishes every day.

This recipe for cherry ‘bear’ or beer is alongside other recipes for wines and meads, and shows a certain familiarity with brewing:

Brue [brew] 16 gns. alle [ale] pretty strong, about 6 bushalls to the barell, & hop it well fitt to keep; & take 1 peck ripe cherrys & put them in a earthen pan in a kettle of water over the fire & lett them boyle very well till thay have lost thayre coler [colour] & the juice all out of them. Then strain them from thayr licker [liquor] & put 2 lb. sugar into it, & when your alle have down working put the cherry liquor in it & lett it work a little while; & then put a good handful of wheat in & stop it up close 2 mths.

In this recipe for ‘jam of cherrys’, currant juice is added to boost the pectin content, which in cherries is quite low:

Take 12 lb. cherrys, stone them into a bason, & let them stew in thayr owne liquor till dry,  & till thay are so tender that you may mash them. Then put to them 3 lb. loafe sugar & 1 pt. curan juice & let it boyle tell it do jelly, stur it ofthen. Then put it in potts.

Finally, this is how to preserve your very best cherries (although it’s quite tricky to stone them while leaving on the stalks):

Take & pick out your fairest morellea [morello] cherryes to preserve with the stemps [stems] & stone them. Take your smallest & redest cherryes & straine as much of the juice through a cloath, out of them. Then take 1 lb. beaten or sceared [scarced = sifted] sugar & put into the preservein pan, & put as much of the liquor of the cherryes as will melt & desolve the sugar, & set it to boyle; & when the sugar is in a parfect syrup put 1 lb. cherryes into it & let them boyle very fast; & the juice of your cherryes will turn the syrup very thinn, let them boyle very fast till the syrop is boyled, then set them to cole [cool]. Boyle your syrop after the cherryes are taken out.

Presumably you put the syrup back into the jar where you’re keeping the cherries, but, as so often in early modern recipes, that knowledge is tacit.


[1] Bedfordshire and Luton Archives, X178/1. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen the series of menus from her companion notebook, with the hashtag #dianaastry.

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