Antique recipes

Preserved lemons

from On Lemon, Its Drinking and Use, by Ibn Jumay, twelfth century

The scholar Samuel Tolkowsky writes that Ibn Jumay’s recipe for preserving lemons is the one ‘which all subsequent writers have copied and which has been widely used throughout the Middle Ages and right up to modern times’. Some recipes suggest adding spices, such as black pepper or cinnamon.

Take lemons that are fully ripe and of bright yellow color; cut them open without severing the two halves and introduce plenty of fine salt into the split; place the fruits thus prepared in a glass vessel having a wide opening and pour over them more lemon juice until they are completely submerged; now close the vessel and seal it with wax and let it stand for a fortnight in the sun, after which store it away for at least forty days; but if you wait still longer than this before eating them their taste and fragrance will be still more delicious and their action in stimulating the appetite will be stronger.


–from A Baghdad Cookery Book, Charles Perry, translator

The way to make it is to cut up meat and tail fat and leave them in the pot with a little salt, and cover them with water and boil until done. Take off its scum. Then take onions, leeks and carrots, if it is their season, or eggplant. Wash the onions and leeks with (warm) water and salt, and half boil [the eggplant] on its own in a separate pot, then leave them in the pot. If it is carrots, they do not need to be boiled separately. Then throw over it finely pounded dry coriander, mastic, pepper, cinnamon, finely pounded ginger and bunches of mint. Take a hen, joint it and put it in the pot, then throw the vegetables in it. Take choicest lemon juice, strain it from its sediment and its seeds, then throw it into the pot. Take peeled sweet almonds, pound them fine and beat to a liquid consistency with water, and leave them in the pot. Crumble bunches of dry mint into the pot, sprinkle it with rose water and wipe the sides of the pot with a clean cloth. Then leave it on the fire to grow quiet and take it up. Some people sweeten it with sugar. When it is eaten sweetened, omit the mint and eggplant.

A Lemmon Sallet

–from A Book of Fruit & Flowers shewing the Nature and Use of them, either for Meat or Medicine, by Tho Fenner, 1653, London

Take Lemmons, rub them upon a Grate, to make their rinds smooth, cut them in halves, take out the meat of them, and boyle them in faire water a good while, changing the water once or twice in the boyling, to take away the bitternesse of them, when they are tender take them out and scrape away all the meat (if any be left) very cleane, then cut them as thin as you can (to make them hold) in a long string, or in reasonable short pieces, and lay them in your glasse, and boyling some of the best White-wine vineger with shugar, to a reasonable thin Syrupe, powre it upon them into your glasse, and keep them for your use.

To make a lemon pudding

from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, 1747.

Versions of lemon pudding, like this extraordinarily high-cholesterol version, appeared in European cookbooks from the mid-1700s, when sugar had become cheaper and more available, and were forerunners of lemon pies.  ‘Naples biscuits’ were small sponge cakes similar to ladyfingers.

Grate the outside rind of two clear lemons; then grate two Naples biscuits and mix with the grated peel, and add to it three quarters of a pound of white sugar, twelve yolks of eggs and half the whites, three quarters of a pound of melted butter, half a pint of thick cream; mix all well together; lay a puff paste all over the dish, pour the ingredients in and bake it. An hour will bake it.

Shaker Lemon Pie

The Shakers, a religious sect founded in Britain that had established American communities in the early nineteenth century, were decidedly frugal and nearly self-sufficient, but they made an exception for lemons, considering them such a necessity that they were the first food purchased for their colony in North Union, Ohio.  They threw away little of this precious fruit, macerating both rinds and pulp for their lemon pie filling.

Start this pie day before you want to eat it, as the lemons need time to macerate in the sugar. Meyer lemons have thinner skins, so will need less time; regular lemons need longer.

Dough for a 9-inch double-crust pie, refrigerated


  • 2 large or 4 small lemons, Meyer or regular
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  1.  Thoroughly wash lemons; then blanch for one minute in boiling water; drain and dry. Cut off the ends of each lemon and slice as paper thin as possible. Remove and discard seeds. Put lemon slices in a bowl and toss with sugar and salt. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours or longer.
  2. Roll out half the dough to a 12 inch circle; fit into a 9-inch pie plate and trim, leaving a ½ inch overhang. Refrigerate the pie pan with dough for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Whisk the eggs and beat in the melted butter; remove about ½ cup of this mixture and add the flour, stirring till smooth, then incorporate it back into the egg-butter mixture, and add all of it to the macerated lemons. Pour into the prepared pie shell.
  4. Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface, drape it over the filling and trim it, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under the bottom crust, pressing the edge to seal it, and crimp the edge decoratively. Cut slits in the crust with a sharp knife, forming steam vents, and bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake the pie for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Let pie cool on a rack  and serve it warm at room temperature.

4 responses to “Antique recipes

  1. Pingback: How to choose and use lemons | lemons, lemons, lemons

  2. A beautiful composite!

  3. Pingback: Lemonade | Cooking in the Archives

    • lemonodyssey

      Thanks for writing! Your site looks very interesting. I think that steeping the sliced lemons is a great way to get flavor from both rind and juice. I’d probably agree with you about cutting the amount of sugar in half.
      By the way, that is a beautiful calligraphic “T” on the recipe!

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