What is a tansy? When I first heard the word, I though it was referring to a flower. It turns out I was only a little wrong. While tansies, a custard and omelet-type pudding, originally included the tansy flower in the recipe, there have been many adaptations without the flowers. Tansies were very popular in England and Colonial America.
Here are some recipes, with the measurements and style of writing, from the original cookbooks:
How to Make A Tansy
-Take a little tansy, featherfew, parsley, and violets, and stampe them altogether and straine them with the yolkes of eight or tenne egs, and three or foure whites, and some
vinegar and put thereto sugar or salt and fried it.
— The Good Housewife’s Handmaid, 1588
A Good Tansy
-Take seven eggs and leaving out two whites, and a pint of Cream some Tansy, Thyme, Sweet Marjoram, Parsley, Strawberry leaves all, shred very small a little nutmeg, add a
plate of grated white Bread, let these be mixed all together, then fry them but not too brown.
–The Receipt Book John Nott, Cook to the Duke of Bolton, 1723
-Blanch and pund a quarter of a pund of Jourdan almonds, put them into a stew pan, add a gill of a syrup of Roses, the crumb of a French roll, some grated nutmeg, half a glass
of brandy, two tablespoonfuls of tansy jucie, three ounces of fresh butter and some slices of citron. Pour over it a pint and a half of boiling cream or milk; sweeten and
when cold mix it, add the juice of a lemon and eight eggs beaten. It may be either boyled or baked.
–The Good Housewife’s Handmaid, 1588
How to Make a Tansy in Lent
– Take all manner of hearbes and the spawn of a Pike or of any other fish and blanched almond and a few crums of bread and a little faire water and a pinte of Rose-water and
mingle altogether and make it not too thin and fried it in oyl and so serve it in.
— The Good Housewife’s Handmaid, 1588
To Make An Apple Tansy
-Pare your apples, cut them in thin round Slices, fry them in Sweet Butter; then beat half a score of eggs with a quart of cream, the juice of spinage and Tansy of each a
quarter of a pint, and a little Rose-water; When these are all beaten together pour them on your apples.
–The Receipt Book of John Nott, Cook to the Duke of Bolton, 1723
Tansy Amber Cakes
-Blanch a pound of Almonds, steep them in a pint of cream, pound them in a mortar, add to them the yolks of twelve and whites of six eggs, put in half a pint of juice of
spinage and a quarter of a pint of juice of Tansy, add to it grated Bread; sweeten it with sugar to your palate fry it in sweet Butter and keep it stirring in the Pan till
it is of a good thickness strew sugar over it and serve it up.
— From The Receipt Book of John Nott, Cook to the Duke of Bolton, 1723
To Make a Plain Tansy
-Take a fine stale penny loaf and cut the crumb in thin shaves; put it in a bowl, then boil a mutchkin of cream, and when boiled pour it over the bread, then cover the bowl
with a plate and let it lie a quarter of an hour ; then mix it with eight eggs well beaten, two gills of the juice of spinage, two spoonfuls of the juice of tansy and
sweeten it with sugar, nutmeg, and a little brandy ; rub your pan with butter and put it in it ; then keep it stirring on the fire till it is pretty thick ; then put it in a
butter’d dish ; you may either bake it , or do it in the driping pan under toasted meat.
— From The Receipt Book of Elizabeth Cleland, 1759
-Put four spoonfuls of flour into an earthen pan, and mix it with half a pint of cream to a smooth batter, beat four eggs well and put in, with two ounces of powdered sugar,
and beat all well together for a quarter of an hour; then put in two spoonful of the juice of spinach and one of tansy, a little grated nutmeg, mix all well together, and
fry them with fresh butter garnish them with Seville oranges cut in quarters, and strew powdered sugar over them.
–The New Art of Cooking, by Richard Briggs, many years Cook at the Globe Tavern, Fleet Street, the White Hart Tavern, Holborn, and at the Temple Coffee House, 1788
And here’s a brave soul who has actually made a recipe such as one of these: