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Conserve of Red Roses and Related Recipes

Queen Henrietta Marie. From the frontispiece of The Queen's Closet Opened, a collection of recipes alleged to have been compiled for Charles I's French queen.

The most favoured rose for making conserves and other medicinal preparations was the strongly scented damask rose Rosa damascena.Unripe damask roses like those above were used for making this Caroline banquetting stuffe.

Other roses used for making conserves were the English, or Apothecaries' Rose (above top) and the Parti-coloured Rose, or Rose of York and Lancaster (above bottom).

Another cordial flower, the clove gilly-flower, was used to perfume wines like sack.

The Gilly-flower was a small carnation or large pink. The most esteemed were dark 'orient red'.

Encapsulating the redolence of damask roses in a rich conserve, this Jacobean recipe belongs more to the stillhouse than the kitchen. It was made by pounding freshly-gathered rose petals with sugar and retained its sensual perfume and flavour for many years. Roses were one of the four Galenic cordial flowers - the others were borage, bugloss and violets. All were thought to strengthen the heart and lift the spirits. They were all made into conserves of this kind. Gervase Markham (The English Housewife - London:1615) included aconserve of flowers among his banquetting stuffes. He tells us to put the flower petals 'into a stone mortar, or wooden brake, and there crush, or beat them, till they be come to a softe substance'. Some authors recommend storing the conserve in gallipots and leaving it in the sun to mature. The gallipots or glasses were sealed with leather tops or bladders.
Conserve of red Roses in the Italian manner.

Take fresh red Roses not quite ripe, beat them in a stone Mortar, mix them with double their weight of Sugar, and put them in a glass close stopped , being not full, let them remain before you use them three moneths, stirring of them once a day.

The Vertue.

The Stomach, Heart, and Bowels it cooleth, and hindereth vapours, the spiting of blood and corruption for the most part (being cold) it helpeth. It will keep many years.

From The Queen's Closet Opened (London: 1655)

A fully blown damask rose and an immature flower at the stage used for making this sweet scented conserve. Floral flavours, particularly that of the rose, were one of the signature features of Tudor and Stuart confectionery and sweet dishes. Another flower much used in recipes of this kind was the clove-scented gilly-flower, a popular ingredient in cordial syrups and wines. Gilly-flowers, marigolds, violets and cowslips were all made up into candied wedges and gilded with gold leaf, an exotic sweetmeat of Spanish origin.
To make Gilly-flower Wine

Take two ounces of dried Gilly-flowers, and put them into a pottle of Sack, and beat three ounces of Sugar-candy, or fine Sugar, and grinde some Ambergreese, and put it in the bottle and shake it oft, then run it through a gelly bag, and give it for a great Cordial after a weeks standing or more. You may make Lavender Wine as you do this.

From The Queen's Closet Opened (London: 1655)

To Preserve all kinde of Flowers in the Spanish Candy in Wedges

Take Violets, Cowslips, or any other kinde of Flowers, pick them, and temper them with the pap of two roasted Apples, and a drop or two of Verjuice, and a graine of Muske, then take halfe a pound of fine hard Sugar, boyle it to the height of Manus christi, then mix them together, and pour on a wet Pye plate, then cut it in Wedges before it be thorough cold, gild it, and so you may box it, and keep it all the year. It is a fine sort of Banquetting stuffe, and newly used, your Manus Christi must boyle a good while, and be kept with good stirring.

From A Book of Fruits and Flowers (London: 1653)

The Spanish Candy in Wedges above has been made with dark red gilly-flowers and gilded with gold leaf. Like the flower petals, the gold was thought to be a strong cordial substance, having a direct and positive effect on the heart.
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