• Lucy Vinten

To make a Marmolet of Apricots: A Recipe from the Flyleaves

Many of the books in the Jesuit Antiquarian book collection contain re-used paper or other material, usually as part of the binding or as fly leaves. One of them, The Schism of the Church of England etc by John Spenser, published in 1688, has flyleaves made from pages of a recipe book. These have several recipes written on them and although the original sheets were trimmed to form the flyleaves, at least one of the recipes is intact enough to make sense of it.

26. To make a marmolet of Apricots

[Ta]ke a pound of frught 3 quarters of a pound of firm...

[Su]gar, you must have 2 skillits, in the one w[hic]h y[ou]r Apricoks on

[…] slice them thin from the stone and boile a quarzer

[p]ound of sugar with it till it come to mash, take heed it

[does] not burn into the other skillet wett your sugar with as

[li]ttle water as you can, and boile it to a candy, but not

[too] high a one, put thereunto your mash & give it boile &

[po]ur it into your glasses, it will kandy at top without a […]

[Y]our Apricoks must be all of a ripeness

Given that apricots are ripe at the moment, I decided to have a go at making a marmolet of apricots. Before I started, I needed to check my equipment. The recipe stated I needed two skillets, which I thought were frying pans. It turns out that although in modern US English a skillet is a frying pan, in 18th century British English it merely meant a long-handled pan, which may have legs. I decided that two of my regular saucepans would work, and not to worry too much about the absence of legs.

First, I weighed out a pound of apricots and three quarters of a pound of sugar. Then I sliced the apricots. The recipe said to slice them thin – I sliced each one into eighths, then put them in a saucepan together with a quarter pound of sugar.

At this point I was supposed to boil the apricots until they became a mash. I had to add a little water to stop the fruit from catching, then they started softening. Meanwhile I got on with the rest of the sugar in the second pan. I had half a pound of sugar, and I was instructed to wet it with as little water as possible, so I very gingerly added a tiny amount of water, which was clearly not enough as much of the sugar was dry, so dribbled in more until it was all wet and put it on the stove. It instantly became very liquid, and I was worried that it was too wet.

In the other pan, the apricots were cooking nicely. Some of them quickly disappeared to nothing, but some still retained their shape.

The next decision to make was how long to boil the sugar solution. The recipe instructs to boil it to a candy, but not too high a one. I didn’t find this very helpful! I used a jam thermometer and boiled the sugar until it reached the jam setting point, which is about 105 degrees C.

I was instructed to pour the boiling sugar into the apricots. My apricots were not completely mush but were all at least extremely soft, and the sugar was starting to caramelise into lumps, so I combined the two mixtures, and let it cook for a short while further and then poured it into 3 sterilised jam jars.

At this point the recipe says it will candy on the top. I assume that means that it will form a crunchy, sugary layer at the top. And I’m sad to say that this did not happen to my marmolet. What I have ended up with is something very like a very sweet apricot jam. I’m storing it in the fridge because I don’t think it all cooked at a high enough temperature to be stored like jam. Perhaps if a sugary crust had formed, I could have stored it in a cupboard.

The final line of the recipe is ‘your apricots must be all of a ripeness’, and I wonder if some of mine were not as ripe as the others, which is why some turned to mush quickly and others retained their shape. And perhaps I did not slice them thin enough.

If I try to make this again, I’ll slice all the apricots very finely, and perhaps boil the sugar solution to a higher heat to see if that will result in a sugary crust forming on the top. However, my first attempt at Marmolet of Apricots has produced something that is delicious on toast and also good stirred in to plain yoghurt.

If you have ago at making this recipe, we'd love to hear how you get on!

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