SALEM — One of life’s enduring, simple pleasures is tea time. The ritual of bringing a pot of water to a vigorous boil, selecting the tea you fancy in that moment, then pouring hot water into a pot or a mug releases a tiny explosion of little joys. The fragrant tea leaves, the plume of steam, the patient steep — all in service of that short respite when you finally sit and sip. And…perhaps there’s a cookie or a bit of scone or a fine cracknel to add to the pleasures. Yes. A fine cracknel.
What may seem like a mystery food now was not uncommon at The House of the Seven Gables in the late 1600s. It’s likely that John Turner, the wealthy sea captain who sat at the head of his table on Derby Street, enjoyed his fair share of fine cracknels.
The recipe for fine cracknels, like most recipes from that era, came with the early settlers from England. Kaylee Redard, a visitor service specialist at The Gables, will demonstrate how to make a plateful of fine cracknels this Wednesday, April 21, from 5 to 6 p.m. Those interested must register to get the Zoom link for this virtual demonstration in the popular series, Colonial Classics Food Demonstration.
“Fine cracknels are hard to describe,” says Redard, who found the recipe in “The Good Housewise’s (sic) Jewel,” by Thomas Dawson. The book, published in 1596, was one of the first cookbooks written for housewives. She practiced making them and they are, she says, “quite tasty.” The small, spiced biscuits have lots of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Once mixed, the dough is shaped into small discs that are boiled, like bagels, and then baked. “They are crusty and good, and perfect with marmalade and tea,” says Redard.
The two cooking demonstrations that follow, in May and June, will, in fact, take up the making of both marmalade and tea.