Take a Thousand Eggs or More

This recipe for Pears in Syrup is from Harleian MS. 279 - Potage Dyvers, circa 1430; it is also found in Harleian MS. 4016, circa 1450. The original recipes are given below, followed by a modern English translation, and a modernized recipe. ( [th] stands for the Old English character 'thorn.')

Harleian MS. 279 - Potage Dyvers
x. Wardonys in syryp. Take wardonys, an caste on a potte, and boyle hem till [th]ey ben tender; [th]an take hem vp and pare hem, an kytte hem in to pecys; take y-now of powder of canel, a good quantyte, an caste it on red wyne, an draw it [th]orw a straynour; caste sugre [th]er-to, an put it [in] an er[th]en pot, an let it boyle: an [th]anne caste [th]e perys [th]er-to, an let boyle to-gederys, an whan [th]ey haue boyle a whyle, take pouder of gyngere an caste [th]er-to, an a lytil venegre, an a lytil safron; an loke [th]at it be poynaunt an dowcet.

10. Wardons in Syrup. Take wardons, and cast in a pot, and boil them till they are tender; then take them up and pare them, and cut them in two pieces; take enough of powder of cinnamon, a good quantity, and cast it in red wine, and draw it through a strainer; cast sugar thereto, and put it [in] an earthenware pot, and let it boil: and then cast the pears thereto, and let boil together, and when they have boiled a while, take powder of ginger and cast thereto, and a little vinegar, and a little saffron; and look that it is poignant and sweet.

Harleian MS. 4016
96 Peris in Syrippe. Take Wardons, and cast hem in a faire potte, And boile hem til [th]ei ben tendre; and take hem vppe, and pare hem in ij. or in iij. And take powder of Canell, a good quantite, and cast hit in good red wyne, And cast sugur thereto, and put hit in an erthen potte, And lete boile; And then cast the peris thereto, And late hem boile togidre awhile; take powder of ginger, And a litell saffron to colloure hit with, And loke that hit be poynante/ And also Doucet/

96 Pears in Syrup. Take Wardons, and cast them in a fair pot, And boil them till they are tender; and take them up, and pare them in two or in three. And take powder of Cinnamon, a good quantity, and cast it in good red wine, And cast sugar thereto, and put it in an earthenware pot, And let boil; And then cast the pears thereto, And let them boil together awhile; take powder of ginger, And a little saffron to color it with, And look that it is poignant/ And also Sweet/


This is a perfect dessert for a hearty autumn or winter feast! Present individual servings in crystal glasses to show off the exquisite color of the sauce.

Bring 1-inch of water to a boil in an enamelled pot. Put the pears in the pot, and reduce heat. Simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the pears are fork-tender. Do not overcook them. Take up the pears with a slotted spoon. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and core them, and slice them in half. Set them aside. Discard the cooking liquid.

Put the remaining ingredients in an enamelled pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook gently until well blended. Add the halved pears and continue cooking until a syrup forms, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Take up the pears and arrange them on a white ceramic or crystal bowl, or place individual servings in crystal glasses. Strain the syrup through a fine strainer, and pour it over the pears. Serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

(From Take a Thousand Eggs or More, pp. 192-193, copyright 1990, 1997, Cindy Renfrow.)

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