Thursday, September 17, 2015

Apple Tart: Make Gervase Markham's 1615 Recipe in Your 21st Century Kitchen

Gervase Markham was born in 1568 in Nottinghamshire, England. Markham was a poet; however, he is actually most well remembered for his work, The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman first published in London in 1615. Markham was born during the reign of Elizabeth I and was a contemporary of William Shakespeare, being just four years younger than the bard.  

Enjoy a taste of Elizabethan/Shakespearian England with Markham's recipe for Apple Tart. The recipe is very typical for its day in that it includes a natural red food coloring called sanders (ground sandalwood), rose-water, and white wine. As was common in that time period, the apple filling was meant to be placed inside a coffin (a pastry case with bottom and removable lid). Listed below are several ways in which to make this recipe.

Here is the recipe as it was originally written:

Apple Tart by Gervase Markham (1615)
Take apples and pare them, and slice them thin from the core into a pipkin with white wine, good store of sugar, cinnamon, a few sanders, and rose-water, and boil it till it be thick; then, cool it, and strain it, and beat it very well together with a spoon; then put it into a coffin as you did the prune tart, and adorn it also in the same manner; and this tart you may fill thicker or thinner, as you please to raise the edge of the coffin; and carrieth the colour red.

Modern Recipe Adaptation
5-6 Large Apples (I use sweet apples to avoid using large quantities of added sugar)
3/4 Cup White Wine
1 Teaspoon Ceylon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Rose-Water
2 Teaspoons Sanders (or several drops of food coloring)

Pastry Crust for 1 Pie; Use Either:


  1. Peel and core the apples. Slice them thin.
  2. Place the apples in a large saucepan and add the wine,  cinnamon, rose-water, and red food coloring. Place on the stovetop over high heat and bring to the boil. Once yje boiling point is reached, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the apples become soft. Stir frequently.
  3. Once the apples are soft, remove them from the stove and let cool.
  4. Drain the excess liquid from the cooled apples. The apples can be left in large chunks or they can be mashed in the way the original recipe directs. 
  5. Heat the oven to 350ยบ F.
  6. Prepare your dough based on the type of pie you would like to make (see below). Instead of making the pie in a traditional coffin as directed in the original recipe, I chose to make three different types of pies. Here they are:

Use a Raised French Pie Mould: 

French Raised Pie Mould

Baked Apple Pie Made in the French Raised Pie Fashion

Use Mini Raised Pie Moulds:
Mini Raised Pie 

Modernize it by Adding a Crumb Topping:

To Make the Crumb Topping: Whisk together 2/3 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Add 4 tablespoons of cold, cubed butter and mix together with your fingers until the butter is the size of peas.  

To Assemble the Pie:  Place a pie crust (store-bought or homemade) in a pie plate. Spoon the apples on top of the crust and then top them with the crumb mixture. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown.

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