Tarte of Strawberries (Strawberry Tart)

To make a tarte of Strawberries.
Wash your strawberries, and put them into your Tarte, and season them with suger, cynamon and Ginger, and put in a little red wine into them.
Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswife’s Jewell, 1596.

To make a Tart of Strawberries.
Wash your strawberries, and put them into your tart, and season them with sugar, cinnamon and ginger, and put in a little red wine into them.

THE GERMAN RECIPE
89 Ain erbertorten zú machen
Mach das bedellin vnnd laß erstarcken jn der tortenpfanen/darnach nim die erber vnnd legs daraúf vmber aúfs allernechst zúsamen, darnach zúckeres woll aúfs allerbast, laß darnach ain klain weil bachen, geúß ain malúasier daraúf vmber vnnd laß ain weil bachen, so jst er gemacht.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabrina Welserin, c1553.

89 To make a strawberry tart
Make a pastry shell and let it become firm in the tart pan. Afterwards take strawberries and lay them around on top as close together as possible, after that sweeten them especially well. Next let it bake a short while, pour Malavosia over it and let it bake a while, then it is ready.

The text of the original German recipe can be found here.

The translation of the German recipe is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

I tried cooking the Dawson recipe several times. The first time, I pureed the strawberries, sugar, wine and spices (despite there being no instructions to do so). And I used far too much wine, so the puree was extremely wet. This caused the pastry shell to completely collapse because it was far too wet. The next two times I used less wine each time, but the tart still collapsed when the pastry got soggy.

And then I found Sabrina Welserin’s recipe. I found it interesting that she specified to bake the strawberries and sugar for a time, then add the wine and continue baking. And trying this, it worked. Even though the pastry still absorbed some liquid from the strawberries and sugar, adding the wine after they had baked a while ensured the strawberries absorbed the wine, not the pastry.

I would recommend eating the strawberries from the pastry shell with a spoon, then eating the pastry separately. It’s still very tasty.

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 50g sugar Optional: 1/2 tsp cinnamon
300g strawberries 30mL madeira wine (see notes) Optional: 1 tsp ginger

Method

  1. Roll out the pastry to approx. 4mm thickness and line a greased pie plate with it.
  2. Prick the bottom of the tart shell. Line the tart shell with baking paper and fill with weights. Blind bake the tart shell for approx. 12 minutes in a 200°C oven. Remove the paper and weights when finished.
  3. Return the tart shell to the oven and bake for a further 8 minutes, to firm the base. If necessary, line the rim of the pie with foil to stop it browning too much.
  4. Wash the strawberries and remove the stalks. Cut any large strawberries into smaller pieces.
  5. Arrange the strawberries in the pastry shell, and sprinkle with sugar and spices, if using.
  6. Bake the tart in a 160°C oven for around 10 minutes, until the strawberries have softened.
  7. Drizzle the wine over the strawberries, and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Leave the tart to cool, and serve cold. You will probably want to spoon the strawberries out of the tart, and eat the pastry separately.

Notes

  • Modern strawberries are typically hybrids of the indigenous European variety, Fragaria vesca. These would have been used in the medieval and early modern period. They are extremely sweet, but tiny. If you want to use them, you will probably have to grow them yourself. You will need more than one plant to provide the fruit to make a single tart. The plants and seeds are frequently sold was “wild strawberries” or “alpine strawberries.” You may also be able to forage them in Britain and Europe.
  • Malavosia is a sweet, fortified wine, originally from the Greek island of the same name. A similar wine is produced on the island of Madeira, which is why I have substituted it.

Strawberry Tart
The tart is garnished with dianthus flowers, also known in Elizabethan England as gillyflowers. They are edible (rather tasteless, but they are pretty!).

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Black, Maggie (1996). The Good Housewife’s Jewel
Brears, Peter (2011) All the King’s Cooks

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2 comments on “Tarte of Strawberries (Strawberry Tart)

  1. This tart looks tasty. These old recipes can be very hard to decipher for modern cooks. They just expected the cook to know how to make things didn’t they?:)

    • Many of the early recipes weren’t written by the cooks – they were written by the household stewards and you can sometimes see where they got things wrong (and the cook probably called them a bloody idiot).

      Then in the early modern period, you start to get printed books written by professionals, which I think is Thomas Dawson; and sometimes they deliberately obscured details so they didn’t reveal all their secrets. I’ve found a few recipes where I suspect Dawson has done this because there are some recipes where if you follow his instructions as written, you get a spectacular failure.

      You also get private recipe journals, and I think this is Sabrina Welserin’s collection. I’ve found these are great to use, because the writers make an effort to get the details RIGHT – these are expensive ingredients they are using, and they couldn’t afford to waste sugar in a tart that’s going to fall apart because of soggy pastry.

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