[Sca-cooks] Oh, My Aching Comfits!

Elise Fleming alysk at ix.netcom.com
Wed Jan 10 16:29:46 PST 2007

Greetings... creak, groan, sighhhh... An SCA friend (Jehenne) and I spent
close to 5 hours today wrestling with a number of different seeds to make
them into comfits.  Yesterday we coated coriander and anise seeds with some
4-6 charges (aka "coats") of a gum Arabic solution which Ivan Day
recommends to hold in the essential oils.  We used a wok on an electric
stove.  Today, for adding the sugar syrup, we used my wok which has a
rounder bottom and a ring to keep it off the direct heat.  The hardest part
today was getting the solution of sugar to the right consistency and I'm
not convinced that I have it just where it should be.  The syrup kept
"graining" and I didn't want to add any crystals to the seeds in the wok.

The first batch of syrup, following some instructions we took off the web,
was too hot.  Ivan wanted a thin stream, not to the thread stage, but
that's where it ended up and the seeds clumped badly although Jehenne was
finally able to get them to separate.  I watered down the sugar solution
and got it to "uncrystallize" for the most part.  I think we've figured out
that we need to get the sugar to about 200 degrees F., then back it off and
keep it around 175.  The coriander seeds were done in three batches so that
we didn't work too many at a time.  They are lovely and round!  Tomorrow
we're going to give them another 10 charges, probably aiming for a total of
30-40 which would be 10 charges per day.

The anise seeds are also amazing.  They clumped when the syrup was first
added and then as Jehenne moved them in the pan they separated into
individual seeds as they dried.  We became so thrilled with the results
that we ended up coating cumin, fennel and caraway seeds with the gum
Arabic in preparation for starting the sugar coating tomorrow.  I think,
seeing how tired and sleepy I am, that we are nuts to try so many at one
time, but they sure did turn out well for the first day's work! 

I found the tin with my comfits that I'd made back in 1990 - they still
taste fine but are filled with many sugar "gobbets" due to my inexperience.
You think you're biting on a "seedy" comfit and it's just a blob of sugar. 
One thing that helped us today was to frequently wash off our hands when
they became too sugary, and to wash out the pan when sugar began to
accumulate on the bottom.  The sugar temperature is the real question. 
I've seen references to soft ball stage, to pulling one's fingers apart for
a thread stage, and then an early source where the sugar is supposed to
stream off a spoon like turpentine.  The latter seemed to work best and
seems to be around 200 or so.

Tedious and time-consuming is right for making comfits.  Let's see what
tomorrow's continuation brings!

Alys Katharine

Elise Fleming
alysk at ix.netcom.com

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