August 22, 2011
While most of the cookbooks I have used from the period that is reflected in this project are from southern Germany or the Netherlands, there is actually a cookbook that fits closely in time and even geographically. The cookbook in question is an east Prussian cookbook from the 15th century that comes from the archives of the Teutonic knights. However the very special context and the lack of a proper translation made it difficult to use most of the recipes within the projects. The heavy use of gingerbread as a seasoning put up another obstacle as I would have had to make it myself before hand.
However a few of the recipes seemed easy enough to recreate, and I settled for a dish which was called pickled cabbage.
“[] Wilthu machenn eynngemacht Crautt:
so seudt weysse Heuptt und ein zweythell Sennffs und das dritthell
Hoengs und die selbing mach undereinander mitt Wein und thu darein
Koemel und einﬂ des genug und leg dan des gesotten Kraut darein
und [[nnd_Ed.]] gibe es kalt. also magst auch priesen die Seudt mitt W¸rczenn
und gyb sy hin.
If you want to make pickled cabbage
Boil white cabbage heads, take two parts mustard and one part honey, mix them with wine and add caraway. /einﬂ/ (?) it enough, put the boiled cabbage into it and serve it cold. You can also season the broth and serve it.”
Though rather simple the recipe is interesting in as it mentions white cabbage heads which may be considered a late medieval development. [I must admit though that I haven't found any conclusive articles on the development of kale and cabbage.]
Another point of interest is that it can be considered a more common food than most other dishes included in the same manuscript. Although it required honey, which is a somewhat expensive produce, the place of origin may have made it more available. During the renaissance honey, mead and wax were imported to Sweden from Poland, which in many ways included lands that previously belonged to the Teutonic order.
This was indeed one of the easier dishes to make, and it was indeed cooked alongside another dish. The cabbage head was quartered and thrown into water that I boiled in the large copper kettle. When the cabbage was boiled and soft enough I cut it up further, removing the stem and tried to pour off any excess water.
For mustard seeds I chose to use brown mustard seeds, which presumably has been used in Scandinavia already during the Iron Age. These were ground up using my mortar while the cabbage was boiling.
The cut up cabbage leaves were mixed with a generous amount of honey, twice the amount of mustards seeds, and a nice portion of caraway. To this I also added some white wine, unfortunately all I could get hold of in short notice was low alcoholic “cooking wine”.
The cabbages were left to cool, before being samples. It all ended up being a rather nice side dish with a nice balance of sweet and hot. It seems like it could have been a good side dish together with some beef or fatty pork.
However, I would have liked it to be a bit more acidic, but that may be blamed the choice of wine. A more obvious mistake though was that I due to some stress missed to properly drain the cabbages of water, which made the cabbages feel a bit to watery. It would perhaps have been a good idea to press out the water between two cutting boards.
As one head of cabbage produces quite a lot of food, I brought some home and had it a few days later, at which time it was still good.
August 19, 2011
As the summer is drawing to an end I felt that I had to try out one of the few dishes that were explicitly stated to be a summer dish. From a dutch cookbook from the late 15th century we find a recipe for a dish called “summer chicken”-
“Wel ende edlike spijse 1484”
.J. Poelgen metten rasspeyte inden somer
ziedse in eenen pot met sticken
ende alsij taluen ghezoden sijn doe
ter in wijns ghenouch ende lettel
waters daer toe druuen van rosinen
ende barghin smout ende dodere /
van eyers ghenouch
Young chickens with raisins (?) in the summer.
Broil them in a pot in pieces (?). When they are halfway done, add enough wine and some water, and add raisins, pig fat and enough egg yolks.
(Translation & source; http://www.coquinaria.nl/kooktekst/Edelikespijse1.htm)
Here the translator got a bit uncertain on the line “met sticken” which could have meant for the chicken to be in pieces, or to be done with pieces of something. Having just printed the translation of the recipe, I did not heed the original text to much though. As the translation stated that the chicken should be broiled in a pot I did however chose to follow the idea that it should be in pieces.
The interpretation that the chicken should be parted follows closely the instructions one could find several medieval English recipes where one are asked to “smyte him in pieces” – referring to the meat.
[An alternative interpretation would have been to read the broil as a boil - in other parts of the translated manuscript ziedse is used for boiling rather than broiling. If one instead should read that the chicken where boiled the “sticken” could have meant sticks of cinnamon, which would fit in taste, and actually mirror some other medieval dishes.]
Following the interpretation where the chicken should be broiled, I cut it up in pieces , melted some lard in the pot I were going to use and poured in the bits of chicken when it was hot enough. Here it may have been a lack in understanding the language properly my self as broil would perhaps rather relate to something being grilled.
[The problem with frying in a three footed pot is that the rounded bottom does not really allow for broiling or frying, unless the embers are built high around the pot – in hind sight I should probably have used the three footed pan instead.]
When the chicken got some colour I added water, wine and raisins. A rather good amount of lard was already in the pan from the frying, so I decided not to add any more of that. However the statement pig fat could possibly have referred to something salted and smoked, like bacon or perhaps italian lardo, instead of just rendered but unsalted lard.
After the chicken had boiled for a while I took out some of the liquid which I then mixed with three egg yolks in order to thicken the stew. This mixture was poured back into the pot and the whole stew where put to a boil.
The finished stew had a nice yellow look to it because of the eggyolks even though I could have been a bit better at mixing in the yolks so that they would not set – but I blame the darkness in my kitchen.
The taste was sweet and slightly acidic, but still it had a nice balance. For a modern palate, however the main thing lacking was just a slight touch of salt which would have carried the tastes a long way. In this interpretation the combination of sweetness from the raisins and the taste of the chicken meat, reminded me, although to a less extreme level, of the medieval dish blancmange. Though I considered the original dish almost unedible the combination grows on me. However after trying the dish as it was done I added some salt it, which really lifted it. The main question is whether this dish should be unsalted and thus bear a resemblance to the blancmanges of the period or if the pork fat should have been interpreted as being bacon, giving the dish a more foody taste.
The actual summer part of the dish is not directly apparent, but it could be that it is rather light in taste, that raisins and wine are considered summery or something else that I would have missed – to look into that further one ought to read what the medical books f the time considers food fit for summer.
Although the dish includes ingredients that could be considered somewhat expensive here – wine and raisins, they are not excessively expensive and could perhaps have been served as a festive meal by someone in the urban middle class, where such wares could be bought.
August 15, 2011
Due to lack of time and resources I decided that the dish of day should be a simple dish, why I settled for the sweet called heathen peas in “Ein Buch von guter spise”.
- Heidenische erweiz Heathen peas
- Wilt du machen behemmische erweiz. so nim mandel kern und stoz die gar cleine. und mengez mit dritteil als vil honiges. und mit guten würtzen wol gemenget. so ers aller beste hat. die koste git man kalt oder warm.
How you want to make heathen peas. So take almond kernels and pound them very small. And mix it with a third as much honey. And with good spices well mixed. So it has the very best. One hands this out greedily, cold or warm.
- Though fairly simple, and only using a few ingredients there are still some questions to the actual preparation of them. Should only cold ingredients be mixed, should it be heated in some way or even caramelized? What spices ought to be used.
- In the recipe we can find a few hints as to the preparation. The first is in the name Heathen Peas would probably suggest a middle east inspiration, though I must admit that while I enjoy middle east food, I have not familiar enough with cooking it. So here I am up for some suggestions as to possible sweets to be inspired from.
- The second hint in the recipe is that it is handed out hot or cold. This would probably mean that even if the recipe do not say so the dish should be heated in some way. A possible interpretation of this could be the simple fact that in almost all medieval recipes you are assumed to have clearified your honey, that is boiling it and skimming of the proteins. This would give you a warm liquid honey to work with and would be enough to for some kind of sweets with the crushed almonds. However, the heating may also have referred to a caramelized dish.
- I started by dividing my almonds into two batches, one that I would roast beforehand and one that I let be as it was. (This is merely based on my personal taste, as I prefer roasted nuts to raw ones) Since there was no mentioning of and I could not really se a reason to- I did not blanch and peel the almonds for this dish. Usually this is mentioned specifically in most dishes using almonds. All the almonds were then pounded thoroughly in a mortar, this is one of the parts in this recipe that is explicitly mentioned even though the rest of the recipe may be a bit brief.
- In this dish the sprices are only mentioned as god spices, why the selection may be a bit difficult to make. To this one I chose to use the classical duo of ginger and cinnamon with and addition of long pepper. The longpepper has a nice aromatic taste that I find goes very well with honey, why I thought that it might have been a good addition to the sweet.
- The spices were mixed with the pounded nuts and to this mixture I added about a third honey. The batch of unroasted nuts where then divided in two parts. In order to be able to mix the honey properly with the nuts, and to reflect a possibly clearified honey I heated the mixture in a pan. The second half of the unroasted nuts were instead heated for a bit longer until the honey was caramelizing.
- The resulting mixture were then all rolled into small balls, even though the recipe do not state so, the name of the dish suggest that they should be made into small spheres. Though all were possible to shape it was the caramelized mixture that were most easily rolled – once it had cooled of a bit.
- Also when it came to the taste I would say that the caramelized balls were the most delicious. In all cases the combination of sweet and hot blended together rather nice. After the initial experience of something sweet and nutty the rather aromatic heat of long pepper and ginger sneaked up on my tastebuds. I was quite generous with both long pepper and ginger though hinting of the heat of medieval gingerbread in this sweet.
- While I found no actual difference between the roasted and the unroasted almonds, the caramelized mixture were the most pleasing from both a visual and culinary point of view, making it easier to both eat and serve. The nice sweet taste must have stood out during the 14th century, even though this cookbook uses a bit of sugar, so it is understandable that it was eaten greedily.
August 8, 2011
Up in the far north at the viking festival of Lofotr museum, I had a chance to revisit some of the dishes I made last year. During the workshops we made two varieties of of savoury porridges-
On day one we worked with the more mundane food, so I wanted to make some sort of porridge that could have been eaten at a regular farm or by a trade on the go.
The cereal chosen for both porridges were barley seeds, as it would have been the most common in this area. For the porridge of day one I used barley that had been steeped over night, while on the second day the barley was instead crushed. As a base for both porridges, I simmered the herbs used for seasoning together with generous amounts of butter – according to cooking methods one observe in Anglo-Saxon Leechdoms.
Preparation of porridge I
In one pot boil a nice piece of smoked pork (I chose pork as I was inspired by a medieval recipe and bacon gives a rather nice taste. In this area smoked beef or lamb may have been more appropriate though).
When it is almost finished, melt some butter in another pot, add the herbs (in this case I used victory leek) and let it simmer for a while so that it will give the butter some taste.
Add the barley and stir it through the butter.
Meanwhile remove the meat from the other cauldron, and pour enough broth over the barley. Also add a good portion of soured milk.
When the barley starts to get the right consistency chop up the meat finely and add to the porridge.
(or rather taste,adjust, simmer serve)
The second was a bit more of a last minute invention as I found out that there was going to be a few people needing an alternative at the cooking pit event on third day of the festival.
Somewhat inspired by the above dish and a porridge from a Danish cookbook from 1616, I decided to make a vegetarian porridge that was intended to be served with smoked fish.
Due to being composed in the last minute we lacked any soaked barley and instead used barley that was ground on the hand-mill until it had the size of crushed barley.
Just as I the above recipe I let the herbs(in this case Victory Leek and Angelica) were simmered in generous amounts of butter, to this I added the ground barley, sourmilk and enough water to cover the barley – adding more water as it boiled away.
Though both dishes worked quite well and should fit within a Viking Age context, I found that of the both the dish made from ground barley had the better texture.
Though this entry was perhaps the most recipe like so far a proper recipe will be published as I finishes my Viking cookbook by the end of this year.
August 2, 2011
I am back at the Lofoten viking museum for a week and their great festival (http://www.lofotr.no/) where will give a few lectures and hold two workshops. It is still pssible to join the workshops that will take place on thursday and friday. SO if you should happen to be nearby you are welcome to join.
The downside of being here is that I will not have time to update the blog properly.