Dating from 1683, the recipe book is believed to have been written by Helen, Countess of Sutherland, with the instructions solely concerned with fruit preservation and jelly making.
The worn and torn notebook forms part of the Sutherland Estate papers deposited at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and is the earliest Scottish manuscript culinary recipe book in its collection.
It includes recipes for orange marmalade, lemon cream (made without cream) and jelly made from gooseberries. Vast quantities of sugar are involved in them all.
The book would have been kept in the kitchen of Dunrobin Castle in Golspie, the seat of Clan Sutherland. The Countess was married to John Gordon, the 16th Earl of Sutherland, an army officer who was honoured following the efeat of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion.
According to NLS, well-to-do women would record their favourite recipes or new dishes in manuscript recipe books.
Often passed down through generations of a family, many contain household and medical preparations as well as culinary recipes.
A slightly later 17th Century document held by NLS includes instructions for Caikes of Pippens (apples) and quinces, as well as several fruit jellies.
According to NLS, these were generally stiff conserves which would be sliced and served as sweetmeats. They were a practical means of conserving superfluous produce, but were also intended to impress.
Generally, most Scots only eat fruit when it was in season with preserves not widely eaten until the 19th Century.
Other similar examples within the NLS collection include recipe books of Katharine Bruce and Margaret Carnegie in the Fletcher of Saltoun Papers, 1689-1709.
The earliest printed cook book in the NLS collections was published in London and dates from 1671.
It is presented as “The Queens closet opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, preserving and candying, &c. Which were presented unto the Queen: by the most experienced persons of the times, many whereof were had in esteem, when she [ple]ased to descend to private recreatio[ns.].”
The oldest cookery book printed and published in Scotland was Mrs McLintock’s Receipts for Cookery and Pastry Work, published in Glasgow in 1736.
It is held by Glasgow University Library.