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Published on Dec 11, 2018
Archaeologist Merit Hondelink studies the eating habits of Dutch urban populations between the 16th and 18th centuries. To this end, she takes samples from old cesspits to find traces of prepared food. Hondelink also cooks long-forgotten dishes herself, using age-old recipes. Sometimes, this even yields additional insights for her research. In this video, she explains her research and is seen cooking an old Christmas cake called Jan-in-de-zak.
Recipe for the Jan-in-de-zak Christmas cake:
Hondelink's modern-day version uses the following ingredients: 4 eggs, a pinch of salt, a pinch of saffron, 100 grams of sugar, ½ tsp. of clove powder, ½ tsp. of ground nutmeg, ½ tsp. of ground mace, 400 grams of currants or other dried fruits to taste, 200 grams of suet or butter, 200 grams of grated white bread, and a decent splash of brandy or cognac.
1. Boil the water in a nice deep pan, so that the Jan-in-de-zak won't touch the bottom. 2. Beat the eggs. 3. Cut the fruit in small pieces and mix it with the spices and spirit. 4. Slice the butter and grate the bread (with a food processor). 5. Mix everything until a compact ball has formed. 6. Butter a tea towel; this will make your cake less spongy. Put the dough in the tea towel, fold and close tightly. 7. Steam the cake for 4 hours. 8. Let it sit in a warm, dry place. 9. Steam for another 2 hours before serving. Serve with extra brandy or cognac to taste or flambé the spirit.