[Sca-cooks] Sweet Batatas Redux

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Thu Nov 29 16:30:03 PST 2007

>I know, i know, this comes up all the time. But in searching through
> several years of old messages i find much discussion on New World
> sweet potatoes (aka in period batatas), and mention that there exist
> late 16th and early 17th C. recipes for 'em, but so far i haven't
> found a direct pointer to the recipes (i'm still plowing through 86
> old digests).
> ISTR seeing some Spanish ones, but can't locate 'em. There has also
> been mention of English recipes for them.
> Rather than rehash much-referenced botanical info, can someone please
> direct me to SCA-period recipes that are probably for sweet potatoes.
> Thanks, and apologies for rehashing this old topic.
> -- 
> Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
> the persona formerly known as Anahita

IIRC, both Hawkins and Drake comment upon the field preparation of sweet 
potatoes, but I don't have Hakluyt handy.  Here are some recipes that have 
appeared on the list before.

Source: Libro del Arte de Cozina (Spanish, 1599)
translation: mine

CARNE DE LIMON, Y BATATAS -- Flesh of Lemon and Sweet Potatoes

The lemons must be mature, and divided in the middle, and cast them
in brine, which should be temperate, and after eight days have passed,
remove them and have boiling water, and without washing off the brine,
cast them in, and cook them with much fire, until they are extremely
tender, and when they are so, set them aside from the fire, and lower
them in another [change of] tepid water, and not that in which they were
cooked, and hence in a little while, remove them from the water, and
wash them very well, and if they should not be very tender, give them
another boil, and if it should not be necessary, take them out, and
squeeze them, and pound them in a mortar of stone.  The sweet potato
must be washed in two [changes of] water, and have on the fire a boiler
of boiling water, and cast them in, and cook them well, until they are
easily peeled, and then clean and pound [them], and then weigh out a
pound of sweet potatoes, and another of lemon, and to those, two and a
half of sugar, and if you wish them cast in two dozens of almonds, and
very well pounded, it will be smoother.  When this meat is combined,
the sugar must be very clarified, and instantly, not in the manner as for
peaches, and it being so, cast it within, and cook on a mild fire, and
when the bottom of the kettle is made white, it is cooked, and set it
aside from the fire, and cast in your musk, and let it cool a little, and
cast it in your boxes, and set them in the sun three or four days, and if
you have to make morsels, you do not have to cook it as much as for a

Note: the mention of peaches seems to refer to an earlier recipe for
peach preserves, in which the clarified sugar is allowed to become tepid
before the fruit is added.  I understand this to mean that you must add
the lemon-sweet potato mixture promptly to the clarified sugar while it is
still hot, rather than allowing it to cool as it does in the peach recipe.

The mention of cooking until the bottom turns white discredits my earlier
speculation.  When the phrase appeared in the citron recipe, I thought it
might be partial proof that the potatoes in question were white.  Since
the phrase also appears here, in a sweet potato recipe, perhaps it only
refers to the syrup turning opaque?  Any preserve makers care to
comment?  This is not an area of cooking I have ever dealt with, in the
SCA or in mundane life.

Lady Brighid ni Chiarain
Settmour Swamp, East (NJ)

Note:  Elinor Fettiplace was born in 1570 and began writing her cookbook in 
1604.  The manuscript was published after her death in 1647.  The sweet 
potato recipes here are probably Elizabethan.

These are both from Fettiplace

To Butter Potato Roots" (p. 193)
"Take the roots & boile them in water, till they bee verie sort, then
peele them & slice them, then put some rosewater to them & sugar & the
pill of an orenge, & some of the iuice [sic] of the orenge, so let them
boile a good while, then put some butter to them, & when the butter is
melted serve them.  This way you may bake them, but put them unboiled
into the paste."

"To Preserve Potatoes" (p. 194)
"Boile your roots in faire water untill they bee somewhat tender then
pill of the skinne, then make your syrupe, weying to every pound of
roots a pound of sugar and a quarter of a pinte of faire water, & as
much of rose water, & the iuice of three or fowre orenges, then boile
the syrupe & scum it, then cut your roots in the middle & put them into
the syrup, & boile them till they bee throughlie soaked in the syrupe,
before you take it from the fire, put in a little musk and amber greece
[ambergris, according to the editor]."

- --Maire

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