Comfits are spices, dried fruits, or nuts, coated with sugar candy. Fennel seed comfits are used to decorate trifles and cakes while liquorice stick comfits are the sweets known as 'torpedoes'.
Image: Adam Wood
Original Receipt in 'The Country Housewife and Lady's Director' by Prof. R Bradley, 1728 (Bradley 1728)
To make Sugar Comfits of any Sort. From Mrs. Anne Shepherd of Norwich.
The Seeds which we generally make Comfitts of, are Carraways, Coriander and Anise-Seeds; these, when they are cover'd with Sugar, are call'd Comfits, ( Confects ).
The Instruments to be employ'd for this Use, are first a deep-bottom'd Bason of Bell-Metal, or Brass, well tinn'd, to be hung over some hot Coals.
Secondly, You must have a broad Pan to put hot Coals in.
Thirdly, Provide a Brass Ladle to pour the Sugar upon the Seeds.
Fourthly, You must have a Brass Slice to scrape off the Sugar that may chance to hang upon the side of the hanging Bason.
Then take care that your Seeds are dry, or dry them well in your hanging Pan. To every quarter of a Pound of Seeds use two Pounds of fine Sugar beaten; unless to Anise-Seeds, use two Pounds of Sugar to half a Pound of Seeds.
To begin the Work, put three Pounds of fine Sugar into the Bason with one Pint of Water, to be stirr'd well together till the Sugar is wet; and boil it gently, till the Sugar will rope from the Ladle like Turpentine, and it is enough. Keep this however warm, upon warm Embers, that it may run. freely in a ropy Way from the Ladle upon the Seeds.
When this is ready, move the Seeds briskly in the Bason, and fling on them half a ladle-full at a time of the hot Sugar, keeping the Seeds moving for some time; which will make them take the Sugar the better, and be sure to dry them well after every covering, by moving the Bason, and stirring the Comfits. In an Hour, you may make three Pounds of Comfits: you will know when they are coated enough with Sugar, by their becoming as large as you would have them. There is no certain Rule, but our own Fancies, for the Size of them. Note, Till they are as you would have them, cast on more melted Sugar, as at first, and keep them stirring and shaking in the Pan, drying them well after every Coat of Sugar.
If you would have ragged or rough Comfits, make your Sugar so liquid, that it will run from the Ladle; and let it fall upon the Seeds about a Foot and a half high. Let it be very hot, for the hotter it is, the rougher will be your Comfits; and for all that, the Comfits will not take so much Sugar as one may imagine from their Appearance. Put on at each time only one Ladle-full, and in ten times repeating it your Comfits will be perfectly well coated.
For plain Comfits; let not your melted Sugar be too hot at first, nor too thick; neither pour it on the Seeds too high: but the last two or three Coverings may be thicker and hotter.
As for Coriander-Seeds, which are large, three Pounds of Sugar will only cover a quarter of a Pound of them.
While your are at work, you should keep your melted Sugar in good Temper, that it may not gather into Lumps, or burn to the bottom of the Pan; and to prevent its growing too thick at any time, put to it a spoonful or two of Water, gently stirring it now and then with your Ladle, keeping your Fire very clear under your Pan. When your Comfits are made, put them upon Papers in Dishes, and set them before the Fire, or in a declining Oven, which will make them look of a Snow white; when they are cool, put them in Boxes, or in crystal Bottles.
To make Comfits of various Colours. From the same.
If you would have your Comfits of a red Colour, infuse some red Saunders in the Water till it is deep colour'd enough; or else take some Cochineel, and infuse it till the Liquor is red enough; or put some Syrup of Mulberries with Water to the Sugar.
If of a yellow Colour; use Saffron in Water, which you are to mix with the Sugar.
If Green; take the Juice of Spinach, and boil it with the Sugar: so will your Comfits be of the several Colours above-mention'd.
See: Kissing Comfits
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