Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Jumbles: Making Anise Seed Pretzels


This is a re-creation of a recipe from The Good Huswifes Jewell Part 2 (England, 1597) by Thomas Dawson, entitled ‘To make Iombils, a hundred’.

“Jumbles were knot shaped biscuits that first appeared in the wonderful book The good Huswifes Jewell by Thomas Dawson, dating to 1585. But legend places this biscuit right at the heart of The War of the Roses a century before Dawson’s recipe…The story goes that Richard III’s chef brought biscuits to the battlefield. These were even thought to be his speciality and the favourite of the king. After the battle when survivers were stealing valuables from the dead as was the custom, a recipe for these biscuits was found – because you should never go to war without at least one good biscuit recipe! The biscuits were promptly named Bosworth Jumbles.” (Ysewijn)

"In 16th century England gimmell rings (from the Latin gemellus for twin) were popular symbols of love and friendship and often exchanged as wedding rings." ("All Jumbled Up") Then, there is Robert Herrick’s 1648 poem ‘The Jimmall Ring Or True-Love Knot’:

“Thou sent’st to me a true love-knot, but I
Returned a ring of jimmals to imply
Thy love had one knot, mine a triple tie.” (Herrick)

"Jumbles then are biscuits made in the shape of these rings, and their twisted and entwined shapes are easily recognizable in many 16th and 17th century paintings, only recently has their shape changed to a flat or mounded biscuit." ("All Jumbled Up") A favorite “Italianate banqueting cake was jumbles, from the Italian gemello, or twin. As made in the banquet’s first iteration, jumbles were formed by tying ropes of sugary, anise-flecked dough into elaborate knots, making cakes that resembled pretzels (hence the name) but tasted much like soft German springerle (which may well derive from the same Italian source).” (Schmidt) Jumbles were a hybrid of pretzels and bagels. The first visual example of a pretzel was in the 12th century in the Hortus Deliciarum.

“Food historians trace the history of these cookies and cakes to Medieval Arab cuisine… This sweet culinary tradition was imported by the Moors to Spain.” (Olver)

Dinner in the 1590’s was eaten around 12pm. White linen cloths would have been placed on the tables. For the upper class, a linen napkin was to be placed on the left shoulder. According to The Compleat Housewife’s menu suggestions, jumbals were recommended to be eaten at the end of the meal with other sweet treats. In this book, examples are provided of what to serve during the first and second courses for each month of the year. Boiled meats and meat pies frequented the first courses, while other meat dishes (roasted or baked) and sweet treats appear in the recommended second courses. “Following the two main courses was a third, consisting of spiced wine, known as hippocras; sweetmeats, comfits of all kinds, and wafers…This course, eaten standing, was known as the ‘void’, variously taken as meaning that the table had been cleared, or ‘voided’, or that the course was eaten in a smaller room, thus ‘voiding’ the hall.” (Thomas)

The Source Recipe

The original text of the recipe from 1597 is as follows:

Take twenty Egges and put them into a pot both the yolkes & the white, beat them wel, then take a pound of beaten suger and put to them, and stirre them wel together, then put to it a quarter of a peck of flower, and make a hard paste thereof, and then with Anniseede moulde it well, and make it in little rowles beeing long, and tye them in knots, and wet the ends in Rosewater, then put them into a pan of seething water, but euen in one waum, then take them out with a Skimmer and lay them in a cloth to drie, this being doon lay them in a tart panne, the bottome beeing oyled, then put them into a temperat Ouen for one howre, turning them often in the Ouen. (Dawson, 1597)

Related Recipes

While interpreting this recipe, I also considered the following recipes that appear to be related: