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Nostradamus Cherry Jelly

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For my 200th article, I made cherry jelly from the recipe Nostradamus himself published in 1555.

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Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566) is better known as Nostradamus, the man whose prophecies are still quoted everytime a plane goes down or a tall building blows up. While his prophecies do not always hold water, Nostradamus was real enough. I visited his birth house in the gorgeous town of St-Rémy de Provence. They even have a plaque for him.

Most people don't know that Nostradamus' first book was not about the future but spoke of the secrets of making jams and jellies. His «EXCELLENT & USEFUL Treatise to all Needed who want Knowledge of Several Exquisite Recipes ... Newly Composed by Master Michel de Nostredame, Doctor of Medicine in the city of Salon de Craux en Provence.» was published in 1555. As he explains in the introduction, the book is intended «...to satisfy the Will and Affection of several Nice Characters, even of the Female Sex, who are greedy of knowing and understanding novel things».

No surprise that a man curious of all things born in Provence would become interested in jams. After all, the confectionery industry is big in Provence. With all this sun, it is no mystery. like a soldier in the Swiss army, the fruit grower must wait until he is in a hurry, then hurry only to wait some more. The fruit production takes a whole year of patient care to plan and organize, then suddendly all trees in the orchard crumble under tons of ripe fruits - all at the same time. With no cold storage, what can you do with that much fruit? They are bound to rot in a few days. There are a few solutions - not all tasty. Dry the fruits in the sun. Ferment and distill them. Or boil them in sugar to store in little jars to be opened when the sun will be no more.

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I've been meaning to make this recipe for a year now, and finally did it last week for my 200th article on FXcuisine.com. In his book, Nostradamus gives two recipes for Jelly of Cherry «To do Jelly of Cherryes that is so Clear & Vermillion like a fine Rubey, & of Goodness, Taste & Virtue Excellent, that the Cherryes will Preserve Long in Perfection without adding anything but the Fruit: & will be fit to present to a King for their Supreme Excellence.». I used the second recipe called «Another Way to make Jelly of Cherryes, that is more Delicate than the First but it is more Dear & is for Great Lords ». My translation of the French text tries to honor the flowery Old French original. It draws a couple expressions from the first recipe but the procedure is exactly as Nostradamus said. Use 1 pound of sugar for 4 pounds of stemmed cherries. You can read the full text in old French, pages 154-155, 156-157, 158-159 and 160-161.

I will now follow the master's instructions.

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« Take Cherryes the most Beautiful & most Rype that can be found, in the quantity you wish, and remove the Foot [...] if the Cherryes are not Rype, that they are Green even a Bit, they will be so Sour that they will cause Stupefaction to your Teeth ..»

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«Take Sugar that is Nice & put it in coarse Powder & place in a Pan & it should have weight of two Pounds, & take Cherryes that you have removed the Foot, the Weight of Six or Seven Pounds, and Grate and Rub them Coarseley with Clean Hands »

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« Place in the Pan where the Sugar is and Place on the Fire to Boil until Half, moving with a clean Stick...»

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« ...and when they have so Boiled you will Pour them through a Clean and Tight Cloth... »

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« ... and Press them. »

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« When all has been well pressed ... »

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« ... and that only the Bones & Bark remains ...»

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« ...take what will have come out & will Boil it in another Pan on low fire Watching all the Time if it is Cooked : because it will Reduce much & taking Always with the Paddle or Silver Spoon to see if it is Cookes. »

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« Keep away from giving it too much fire as it would go over or burn itself: as it is better for the Jelly to be a little Green than too Cooked: because when Stored its Sugar makes it Dry ...»

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« When you will see that it is Cooked, that is a drop put on Marble, the drop remains tight and Round without Falling neither here nore there, or placed on a piece of tin or on a Knife or Glass the drop will be as Vermillion as a perfect Claret Wine: »

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«When it is Cooked you will put it in little Jars of Glass or Wood like you would Quince Jelly. And when your Jelly will be Colde and Tight, you will have a Mode and Type of Jelly that you can't have Better Jelly of Cherryes, nor more Excellent in Beauty and Goodness; »

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«You will place it in Glass Jars not too Deep: & leave it cool down, and if afterwards you look through the Sun's light you will find it as Beautiful as a Ruby. You have to show or give to some great Prince or high Lord when they will be angry with the Heat or otherwise altered they will find the Jam hearty & Delicious & Without Defects. And if you do it like I have put on Paper, undoubtedly you will do a Jelly in all Perfection. »

Nostradamus is a man of his word when he says that this jam is fit for a king. Out of a full kilogram (2 pounds) of the finest Swiss cherries, I managed to produce half a cup of cherry jelly. There is something magical in managing to capture and preserve the essence of a fruit, to retain its color and flavor for admiration during the winter months. You can try his recipe too, not much has changed in the world of proper home jam-making since Nostradamus' time.

Published 04/08/2008
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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!



28 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Nate
  • on: 03/08/2008
Yes, it looks exactly like liquid rubies.  Fantastic.
What a beautiful color. I wonder if he foretold that we'd be reading about his recipe from all over the world?
  • #3
  • Comment by Gayle
  • on: 04/08/2008
Hi, Your first photo showing cherry squeezing is a work of art. This reminded me of the cactus jelly I made last week with the yellow fruit. Jelly making is fun to do. Thanks for the interpretaion of the Flowery French of the recipe.
  • #4
  • Comment by pazuzuspetals
  • on: 04/08/2008
I look forward to trying this with Rainier cherries, though I "predict" it won't be as beautiful in color as Nostradamus' (sorry.. you know somebody had to say it!)
How well does it set up without pectin? Is is more like a syrup?
Thank you for your articles and photos, so inspiring!

  • #5
  • Comment by Paulina C. L. Tognato
  • on: 04/08/2008
Congratulations for your 200th article in fx!!!!!!!!!!!
It's one of the best !!(if it's possible!).
I enjoy the old french text and your recipe with beautfull photos.
Thanks!!!!!!!!
  • #6
  • Comment by Cj
  • on: 05/08/2008
This is a very interesting post of yours! Now, I must predict ala Nostradamus what it will taste like if my mom makes it!
  • #7
  • Comment by Joanna
  • on: 05/08/2008
200 posts - how they mount up ... congratulations. This one, as ever, wonderfully thought-provoking. I am interested to see you squeezing the fruit: English cooks always warn that if you do this the jelly turns out cloudy, and so, obediently, I never do. But it doesn't seem to make much difference

Joanna
Congratulations on your 200th article!! I look forward to the next 200 :)  

Strangely enough (prophetic.....?) I was musing aloud to friends only a few weeks ago that I hadn't heard any mention of Nostradamus for a while. Admittedly I didn't expect his name to come up again apropos his finest jelly recipe, but this is a side to him that I never knew about and which now requires more investigation....
  • #9
  • Comment by don siranni
  • on: 05/08/2008
Everyone else has already said it for me.Please do more in this same style and format-very enjoyable experiance. Was that cloth simply a dinner napkin?
  • #10
  • Comment by CKfusionist
  • on: 06/08/2008
Look at em cherry jello shine , bling bling ....
  • #11
  • Comment by Sophie
  • on: 07/08/2008
We would like to feature this jelly recipe on our blog, along with a picture.  Please email sophiekiblogger@gmail.com if interested.  Thanks :)


  • #12
  • Comment by Jason
  • on: 08/08/2008
FX, thank you for making such a wonderful blog that combines beautiful images with a fun culinary edu-tainment. You've really made a nice little place for foodies to enjoy. Keep up the great work! May you have thousands of more posts! Felicitaciones!! and Thanks
  • #13
  • Comment by Boris
  • on: 09/08/2008
Thanks Francois-Xavier, and OK, i have to admit that these beautiful pictures and the love you are using making your recipes is indeed true love of cuisine. We are all waiting for the next show! I like your blog and the way you show us so many things: countries, cookwares, foods, vegetables, pastas, and the way you are using them :) BTW i'm French and could translate some of your articles, just drop me an email (and i know you speak franch:).
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Boris, thanks for visiting and for your kinds words! Indeed I would very much like to translate the website into French - let me send you the details by separate email.
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Jason, thanks for dropping in! I hope to reach 1000 posts one day, but my current rythm is only 100 a year. And then maybe a book!
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Don, I had wanted to cook this for over a year and bought overripe cherries several time, only to let them rot in my fridge, paralyzed by blog stage fright. So yes, this is - or was - a dinner napkin, now a batik painting!
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Aptronym On the 12th day he shall eat Cherrie Jelly and Ryse again ... I think Nostradamus' jam recipes are not the worst of his writings!
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Joanna, English cooks may know more about jellies than Nostradamus did 5 centuries ago. I merely followed his recipe and got a pleasant transparent jelly. The cooking time and temperature is really difficult to judge, the jelly was rather liquid as it came out, then became hard like chewing gum in the fridge, then liquid again. I must consult a seasoned jellymaker!
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
CJ, I think all the fun is in the making, at the end of the day if it's a tad too liquid or sweet, it still makes for a fun memory!
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Paulina thanks for coming, I am not sure how well these old French recipes translate but in French the text really is captivating, a unique experience to cook under the supervision of a 500-years-dead foodie!
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Pazuzu, Nostradamus' jelly was actually more like a syrup, you might add some pectin for better structure. Good luck!
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Gayle, thanks for your visit and I'm glad you liked the flowery French rendering!
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Fran, aye I think Nostradamus if he lived today would be quite the ink whore and he would very much enjoy that we speak about him!
  • #24
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Nate, these are edible rubies!
  • #25
  • Comment by Jason
  • on: 12/08/2008
Looking forward to an autographed first edition FX, as I'm sure it will be the first in a series of best sellers!!
  • #26
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 13/08/2008
Jason, I'll put a copy aside for you when this happens!
A perfect presentation of a masterful jelly. I love the pictures and the sense that they convey when we are speaking of a time past... when you put heart and soul into the preparation of a product. In Nostro's time, cherry jelly would not be available on ye olde depaneur shelf. Especially not one fit for a prince.

This post is bookmarked, and will be a favorite of mine. Congratulations on article 200.

Jason Sandeman
  • #28
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 14/08/2008
Jason, thanks for your kind words! Sugar was dearer than cherries or work hours back in the 16th centuries, certainly not stocked by the Depanneur.

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