Cinnamon and Catteren Cakes

Though ’tis rare that Mistress Agnes can afford spices, she does have to enliven Sir Francis’ food with such exotic items, so she thought it was timely to share her thoughts on cinnamon. In our time, it is the Dutch who have the monopoly on cinnamon and the Dutch are not our greatest friends. In truth we will be going to blame them for the gurt fire that we hear will take place in London afore long.

Pestle and MortarThe leaves and the bark can be used. Oft times Mistress Agnes will sprinkle cinnamon in her jumble mixture and it is also added to Catteren cakes. Down in Darkest Devon, where Mistress Agnes doth abide, there are ladies who do weave the threads with bone to make lace. St Catherine’s Day is 25th November and on this day the lace makers cease their labours and Catteren cakes are distributed. These small fruit cakes are flavoured with caraway and with cinnamon. If truth be told, Mistress Agnes prefers the accompanying “Hot Pot”, a mixture of rum, beer and raw egg. ’Tis believed that King Henry’s Queen Catherine was the first to show kindness to the lace makers of Bedfordshire, by giving them both cakes and work.

Cinnamon can also aid those who ail. It makes a wonderously healing tea for those who suffer from the noxious wind of the belly. It also encourages the flow of blood to the extremities and can be used to swill the mouth after imbibing too much fortified wine. ’Tis a gentle herb for use in cases of debility.

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Some Handy Cures for those who Ail

Mistress Agnes decided that she would share a few receipts from goodwives of her acquaintance in case any do be ailing.

Ground IvyDr Wadenfield’s Remedy for Lunacy, as penned by the inestimable Mrs Kettilby. Take of ground-ivy three large handfuls shred small, boil it in two quarts of white wine, till two parts in three be consumed. Strain and add to it six ounces of the best sallad oil, boil it up to an ointment; let the patient’s head be shaved, rub and chafe it with the ointment made warm. Then take fresh herbs, bruised and applied plaisterwise, tying it on the top of the head very hard. Repeat this every other day, ten or twelve times, give the patient three spoonfuls of the juice of ground-ivy every morning fasting, in a glass of beer for the first ten days.

Mrs Kettliby’s own receipt for an ointment for the back of a ricketty child. Pick snails clean out of the shells and prick them full of holes, hang them up in a cloth and put a bason to catch what drops from them; which you must boil up with speracity and blades of mace, of each one ounce. Rub this ointment along the back-bone, round the neck, wrists and ancles. Use this constantly night and morning and chase it in by the fire. This with the drink that follows has recovered many weak children from sickness, lameness and deformity.

To make the Ricketty Drink: Put an ounce of rhubarb, three hundred live wood-lice, sassafras, china and eringo roots of each three ounces; roots of Ismond-royal, two ounces, raisins of the sun ston’d two ounces; Hart’s Tongue, two handfuls. Put these into six quarts of small ale and drink spring and fall, no other drink; tis almost infallible for weak children.

Mistress Agnes be gathering wood-lice this very minute.

A Page from the Herbal of Mistress Agnes – Pilewort

The end of January is nigh and Mistress Agnes’ thoughts turn to her garden in springtime. The Pilewort will soon be showing its yellow blooms. ’Tis a beauteous ground covering plant, giving much cheer in the dark days of February. Some do know it as Lesser Celandine (ranunculus ficaria), though it bears little resemblance to its greater brother. ‘Wort’ be an old English word for ‘plant ’ or ‘herb’, so to be termed a wort means that the plant hath been here many hundreds of years, even in Mistress Agnes’ time.

pilewortFor what might she use such a wonderous plant? Well, if I do tell you that the clue is in the first part of the name mahap some can guess. Mistress Agnes will be bruising the plant, mixing it with a little animal fat and offering it as an ointment for treatment of the affected part. Safe to say she will not be volunteering to assist with the application. The Doctrine of Signatures, upon which Mistress Agnes doth base many of her cures, suggests that God hath given folk a clue as to how a plant might be used by its appearance. If you should dig up the Pilewort, do observe its roots good gentles, for they doth resemble the haemorrhoids.

Swords and Spindles offer presentations on the history of medicine, gardening history and the medicinal use of herbs in past times