Capon with Lemon

To boile a Capon with Oranges and Lemmons.
Take Orenges or Lemmons pilled, and cutte them the long way, and if you can keepe your cloues whole and put them
into your best broth of Mutton or Capon with prunes or currants and three or fowre dates, and when these haue beene well sodden put whole pepper great mace, a good peece of suger, some rose water, and eyther white or claret Wine, and let al these seeth together a while, & so serue it vpon soppes with your capon.
Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswife’s Jewell part 1, 1596.

This recipe could be interpreted two ways – a sauce that is served over a capon (most likely a boiled capon) or where the capon is cooked in the sauce as a braise. I have gone for the second method, as the meat takes on the flavour of the sauce while it is cooking.


700mL chicken stock 1 chicken, jointed, or 1kg chicken pieces
2 lemons, peeled and segmented 2mL (1 tbs) rose water
50g sugar
50g currants 1/2 tsp mace
4 dates 1/4 tsp whole cloves
250mL white wine 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper


  1. To segment the lemons, slice the skin off, but keep the lemons whole. You will see the yellow lemon flesh with the hard white membrane between the segments of flesh. Push a thin, sharp knife down each side of the white membranes. The lemon flesh will lift out.
  2. Part cook your chicken in boiling water, until the flesh is opaque. The length of time will depend on the size of your pieces of chicken.
  3. In a heavy bottomed pan, put the chicken stock, cloves, currants, dates and lemon segments. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  4. After about5 minutes, when the currants have plumped up and the dates and lemon segments have started to break down, add the mace, pepper, sugar, rose water and wine. Again bring to the boil.
  5. When the sauce is boiling, add the chicken and stir everything well.
  6. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is completely soft and tender.


  • A capon is a male chick that has been castrated and then allowed to grow to full size. Most commercial chickens sold today are female, as their meat tends to be more tender. You would have to go to someone that raises their own chickens to get a genuine capon.
  • Soppes are pieces of lightly toasted bread, served to soak up , or “sop” the sauce. Modern preference is to serve the bread separately, but you definitely want something to soak up the remnants of the sauce!


Capon with lemon

Further Reading

Dawson, Thomas. The Good Housewife’s Jewel, edited by Maggie Black. Southover Press, 1996.
A conflation of two books first published in 1594 and 1596. Not a lot is known about Thomas Dawson, although I believe he was one of the better cooks of Elizabethan times. Some of his recipes don’t work, and I suspect this was deliberate. Black provides some good details of Elizabethan food and feasting, but unfortunately this book is 2 books of Dawson’s edited and translated into one, and sometimes I don’t agree with her translations.

Brears, Peter. Tudor Cookery. English Heritage, 2003.
This is one of a series of cookbooks produced by English Heritage covering different eras of British food. The recipes are easy to follow and provide a really good introduction to Tudor food. Unfortunately, the series has gone out of print, but it should still be easy to find second hand. This book also contains a version of this dish – Brears’ interpretation is slightly different, but he also cooks the chicken in the sauce rather than making the sauce separately.

Sim, Alison. Food and Feast in Tudor England. Sutton Publishing, 2005.
A very well written introduction to how food was grown and prepared in Tudor England, covering all parts of society and all aspects of food production and cooking. I’ve seen many people complain that food history books are too dense and boring – Alison Sim is neither of these.

2 comments on “Capon with Lemon

  1. i had great fun trying to decipher this recipe from the course. It certainly could be read a couple of ways at least. It turned out quite well but not something i would make again in a hurry:)


    • leobalecelad says:

      The recipe here is a different recipe to the one presented in the course – The Good Huswife’s Jewell was printed in 2 parts and there are a number of dishes in it that have different variations on the same dish. I’ll have to give the recipe from the course a try to see which I prefer.


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