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Firmity, also known as Frumenty

April 10, 2010

Vine fruit scattered on firmity

Seethe the cracked grains for about 15 minutes and allow them to stand for as long again. Add some milk , saffroun and 2 yolkes of eyroun. Stir softly till it be thick.

This produces an early sort of porridge. Any grains could be used, cracked lightly in a pestle and mortar. Seethe is an old word for simmer, so the recipe instructs the reader to bring the grain to the boil and simmer gently. Allowing it to stand lets the grain swell and soften. The egg yolks are used to thicken the mixture further. Other alternatives suggest adding dried vine fruits, honey, sugar (a rare luxury) or ginger and cinnamon. Once grain had been harvested it was only ground to flour as needed as it was subject to attack by weevils so whole grain was more readily available than it is now. Firmity stayed in the cook’s repertoire until well into the nineteenth century. It was alcohol spiced firmity at the Casterbridge fair, for example, that led Henchard into selling his wife in  Thomas Hardy’s ‘Mayor of Casterbridge’.

See also ‘Butter’d Grains’ under Georgian  food.

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