SALEM — Recipe enthusiasts like Deb Perlman, creator of the popular cooking blog Smitten Kitchen, upgrade existing recipes for greater ease of use and flavor. Kaylee Redard, visitor services specialist at The House of the Seven Gables, does something similar. She finds “receipts” — as food preparation instructions were once called — and adapts them using a combination of research, trial and error and lots of taste tests. These early recipes bear scant resemblance to step-by-step food prep directions today.
To discover more about the nuances of colonial cooking, join Redard for a fun and productive virtual colonial cooking demonstration Wednesday, May 19, at 5 p.m. In part two of her three-part series of demonstrations on tea time recipes, she adapts a quince marmalet recipe and creates something quite delicious. Use this link to make a reservation. Tickets are free but donations are welcome.
“Marmalet can be considered a precursor to marmalade,” says Redard. “It’s more solid, more candylike, though it does spread. The original recipe calls for quinces, but we don’t have those here right now. Apples and pears have certain qualities in common with quinces, and I can find those in the market right now. After some experimenting, I decided on pears. The result is a very nice golden color.”
In April, Redard made a upgraded version of cracker-like biscuits called fine cracknels. Though smaller, they have a few things in common with bagels. Cracknels are formed into circular shapes, boiled and then baked. They have a slightly crusty exterior and a warm, pleasant flavor due to the addition of spices like cinnamon. The pear marmalet works well with the fine cracknels. In fact, says Redard, “it tastes really good.” She has eight half-pints of pear marmalet in her refrigerator.
According to a post on the National Public Radio website, quinces are, for most people, too astringent to eat raw. They are a bit deceptive as they smell sweet and guava-like. When cooked, they do not turn mushy. And, with their high pectin content, they are great in jellies and jams. In fact, the word “marmalade” derives from the Portuguese name for quince. There are at least two spellings of marmalet. “The Good Housewife’s Jewell,” where Redard found the original recipe, spells it “marmelet.”
The wealthy sea captain John Turner completed construction of the Turner Mansion — a k a The House of the Seven Gables — on Derby Street in Salem in 1668. Tea, fancy biscuits and marmalets were no doubt available to his family. Perhaps pears were on the menu, also, since they survive transport in good shape. Such delicacies were a status marker but they also indicated a certain accessibility. Turner’s ships made profitable journeys, arriving back at home port with tasty treasures.
About The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association
The mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association is to be a welcoming, thriving, historic site and community resource that engages people of all backgrounds in our inclusive American story. For more information visit www.7gables.org.
Stories are at the core of what we do at The House of the Seven Gables. They are not just a part of our past, but also our present and future. In 2021, we look forward to exploring the lore of our historic site and surrounding community with a special series of lectures, programs and events.