Pirates of Pendennis
Updated: Aug 19
Our very first event as 'pirates' took place in Bedford seven years ago in 2015. Since then, having had the costume and props, it was not until this year that we were asked to be pirates once more. A week of piracy duly took place, first at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Cornwall before we relocated across the country to Dover Castle in Kent. Naturally Tastes Of History's task was to recreate food from the Golden Age of Piracy (AD 1692 - 1720). At both events we promised several visitors we would publish the recipes we produced for them to sample. Here then are those recipes; others may be found in our earlier blog post 'A Banquet Fit for Pirates'.
By 1700 several cookery books had been published, but it was in the Georgian period that the popular market for such books really developed. The works of Eliza Smith (1727), Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy published in 1747, and Elizabeth Raffald (1769) went through numerous editions and provide a wealth of potential recipes to recreate. We are indebted, however, to Margaretta Acworth's Georgian Cookery Book edited by Alice and Frank Prochaska (1987, London: Pavilion Books Ltd) from which four of the following recipes were derived.
First up are the potted dishes of beef, shrimp and cheese. Potting is a good way of improving certain ingredients, such as a hard cheese, and of preserving those that are soon to spoil. The last point is particularly relevant to Georgian folk who had no recourse to refrigeration.
With pirates in mind, the preservation of foods aboard ship was a very important consideration. Vegetables and 'greens' were almost unheard of at sea as they were all but impossible to keep from rotting on damp ships. Fresh supplies of peas, beans, turnips or onions would be eaten early on in a voyage before they began to rot. Crews had to take victuals with them that would last, so most foods were preserved by drying, salting, smoking and pickling. Sauerkraut made from cabbage and soup made from tablets processed from stores of dried vegetables began to appear on English vessels in the 18th century as captains experimented with foods that could prevent scurvy and other diseases discovered to be associated with malnutrition. As suggested by the reference to sauerkraut, pickling has been a long-standing way of preserving foods, so here are two recipes to try.
While it is possible to cook Spiced Beef in Red Wine aboard ship, this Georgian recipe was more likely enjoyed ashore. Albeit unusual, this flavoursome dish can be eaten hot or cold, perhaps with pickled French beans or pickled red cabbage.
Aboard ship 'one pot cooking' would be an ideal way to feed a large crew. Lobscouse is essentially a stew made from salted meat and vegetables with the addition of Ship's Bread reflecting the nautical theme. This recipe has been slightly updated from that published in 'A Banquet Fit for Pirates'. In said post you will also discover a recipe for Ship's Bread which can be added to thicken this dish or more generally bulk out the ingredients.
And finally, for those with a sweet tooth, here is a recipe for whipped syllabub. Traditionally a syllabub was made by milking a cow into a bowl of ale or cider, which gave a frothy top to the liquor. As such it was partly eaten and partly drunk. Gradually in the 17th century milk and ale were replaced by cream and wine whipped together to produce a creamy froth on a liquor base. Our version dispenses with the liquor to create a rich, indulgent creamy dessert full of lemony flavour. It is not for the fainthearted and you probably should not eat too much.
It is suggested that plentiful servings of cold beer, ale or rum punch should accompany any pirate meal, so drink up m'hearties, Yo Ho!
In due course we will post more Georgian recipes, but if you would like more information on historical cuisine, cooking methods and techniques, or life at sea, then please get in touch.