Nostradamus predicts…you’ll have a tasty breakfast!
And now, a dispatch from Colin Dickey:
I’ve got an a piece on Nostradamus in “The Future” issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, and while researching him I was happy to learn that, in addition to being a prophet and a doctor, Nostradamus was also apparently an amateur chef. As a traveling apothecary he collected recipes alongside various potions and medicines, and in 1555 (the same year he published his famous collection of prophecies), he published a cookbook of sorts, Traité des fardements et confitures [Treatise on cosmetics and preserves]. Book I contains a number of cosmetic recipes, along with medicinal concoctions and an aphrodesiac, while Book II is mostly recipes. I found these in Peter Lemesurier’s The Unknown Nostradamus; the translations are his.
Part 2, Chapter III
To make candied orange peel, using sugar or honey, that will be excellently tasty.
Take some oranges and cut them into four or six sections, but at least four. Remove the insides, so that nothing remains except the peel, with the flesh and the pips removed. Now take your peel and leave it to soak in good clean water, on this first occasion adding a good fistful of salt, because the salt will take away any excess bitterness from the oranges. Leave the peel to stand for twenty-four hours, then change the water and replace it with fresh. Carry on changing it for nine days. At the end of nine days, boil the peel in good spring water, until, when you are ready to test it with a pin, this will go in easily. When you notice that the pin does go into the peel easily, remove the peel from the fire and use a straining spoon to put it into cold water. When the pieces have cooled, dry them a little on a white linen cloth and, when you have dried off some of the water, put them into a glass or earthenware vessel until it is full of them. Next take two or three pounds of sugar, depending on the size of the vessel, and if the sugar is of good quality, do not clarify it, but dissolve it in the same weight of water as the sugar itself weighs. Once it has dissolved, let it boil until it attains the form and consistency of a syrup that has been thoroughly boiled for the first time. Then remove it from the fire and let it cool. And when it is cool, put the peel into it and let it soak well in the said syrup. The following day put the said syrup in a pan, without the peel, and bring it to the boil, just as you did before, and let it cool again. Then put it back into its vessel containing the said orange peel, and leave it to stand for three days.
And at the end of three days boil it up again as before. When you see that the syrup is boiling, throw the rind or peel into the mixture and bring it back to the boil five or six times—but no more, lest it become too hard. Then afterwards remove it from the fire, let it cool again, and put it all back into its vessel and do not touch it for a month or thereabouts. If at the end of a month you deem that it needs boiling up again, do so, or else just leave it as it is.
And if you wish, after it has all been well and truly boiled, you can add a small stick of cinnamon and some cloves pounded together—which will make a preserve of quite perfect goodness.
If, however, you wish to preserve your orange peel in honey, take as much honey as you like, put it in a pan and melt it until all the scum rises to the top, and when all the scum has risen to the top, leave it to stand until it is cold. Then remove the scum on the top with a skimmer or pierced spoon and discard it. Now take the de-scummed honey and add it to the oranges, and carry on as described for the sugar.
Part 2, Chapter VIII
How to make a jam or preserve with heart-cherries, which the Italians call amarenes, and to prepare them in the best and most beautiful way in the world, such that even when they are a year old they will seem to have been prepared that day, and most tasty, too.
Take some of the nicest heart-cherries you can find, good and ripe (For if they are not completely ripe, only skin and marrow will remain after cooking) and cut the stalks somewhat if you feel that they are too long. Take three pounds or so of them. Then take a pound-and-a-half of sugar, and let it dissolve in the juice of three or four pounds of other heart-cherries. And take care that once the juice has been extracted you add it to the sugar at once and without delay. Then place it over the fire, making sure that the sugar dissolves in no other liquid than the juice. Boil it up as quickly as possible and when it is boiling remove all the scum that is floating on the top. When you have removed all the scum and can see that your sugar is as red as it was to start with and is thoroughly clarified, don’t let it go off the boil, but immediately—without taking it off the fire—put in the heart-cherries to boil, stirring them neither too much nor too little, until they are perfect, all the while removing the scum on the top with a spatula.
Do not take them off the fire until they are cooked right through without any need to put them on the fire again. Then put one drop on a pewter plate, and once you see that it will not run down in either direction, they are ready. As soon as you see that they are done to perfection pour them while still hot into small containers holding three or four ounces each. You will then have beautiful red, whole heart-cherries with a wonderful taste that will keep for a long time.
I have been to many different parts of the world, and have been with people who have prepared them some in this way and some in that, such that, if I were to describe what I have seen everywhere the paper would run out. I would have thought that the land of Italy would have been best at doing this, but while there (at least so far as I have observed) they go about it abysmally. I have seen it made in Toulouse, in several ways at Bordeaux, and at la Rochelle—indeed, throughout the lands of Guyene and Languedoc, and the whole of Provence, the Dauphiné and the Lyonnais. But I have never come across more beautiful nor better ones than these. In Toulouse they boil and re-boil them five or six times and several times in Bordeaux, as well as throughout the Agenais. Eventually, though, when they are five or six months old, they spoil: some go rotten, while others dry out. for if you want to preserve them properly you must use no other liquid than the juice of the heart-cherries, as it increases their goodness, body and taste to such an extent that, if a sick person takes just a single one, it will be to him like a balsam or other restorative. And after a year they are just like they were on the day they were prepared.