Pancakes

July 29, 2011

Following the theme of the previous post I am now moving on to pancakes. Though pancakes today is considered a very simple dish that most people knows how to do, it would not be a common dsh until the metal pan is spread to a larger extent. The origin of pancakes can probably be traced back to ancient greece or even earlier of one were to include varieties of flat bread. However in a medieval/renaissance context the first appearance of pancakes seem to date back to about the early 15th century.

For this part of my experiments I have again chosen to use two recipes, a French recipe from “Le ménagier de Paris” (1390) and a newer dutch recipe. Though am a bit cautious about enhancing modern images and food traditions when doing renaissance dishes – as things may change in 500 years – the Dutch cookbooks, and some of the baroque painters seem to give a pancakes an important role already during the 16th century.

I started of with the French recipe;

Lé menagier de Paris (1390)

CREPES. Take flour and mix with eggs both yolks and whites, but throw out the germ, and moisten with water, and add salt and wine, and beat together for a long time: then put some oil on the fire in a small iron skillet, or half oil and half fresh butter, and make it sizzle; and then have a bowl pierced with a hole about the size of your little finger, and then put some of the batter in the bowl beginning in the middle, and let it run out all around the pan; then put on a plate, and sprinkle powdered sugar on it. And let the iron or brass skillet hold three chopines, and the sides be half a finger tall, and let it be as broad at the bottom as at the top, neither more nor less; and for a reason.

This recipe is more or less what we would recognise as a pancake today, though it is rather deepfried than fried. Again the lack of a proper wine frustrated me as it would influence the taste. My lack of bowls that could pierce made me try to drip out the bater in a spiral shape using the rim of the bowl and a spoon, with a mediocre result. The batter was made quite liquid through the addition of both eggs, wine and water. The batter fried alright though it spread a bit to wide to make a nice spiral shape. Though the addition of some sugar in the end, made it a quite nice snack I realised that I might have used a bit to much egg in the mixture.

In the second trial I instead used a dough based on a Dutch recipe from 1510

Om panckoecken te maken inde vastenen

Square deepfried pancakes, 16th century Netherlands

To make lenten pancakes

[13] Om panckoecken te maken inde vastenen Neemt [14] fijn bloeme die suldi beslaen met gheste Dan maeckt [15] daer af deech Dan salmen van dien seluen deeghe ne[16]men een cleyn clontken ende maken dat viercantych [17] seer dunne emmers soe dunne alst moghelyck es om [18] maken tot dat cleyn gaetkens worpt: Dan bacxse wel in [19] raeptsmout Sommyghe dye willen backen der inne [20] rosinen ende dye steken si hyer en daer eene ende oock [21] cleyn stucxkens van appelen.

[13] To make lenten pancakes. Take [14] fine flour which you shall beat up with yeast. Then make [15] dough from it. Then, from the same dough, one shall [16] take a small lump and make it square [17] [and] very thin, in any case as thin as it is possible to [18] make, until small holes appear. Then fry them well in [19] rape oil. Some, who wish to, fry raisins therein [20] and they stick them one here and there and also [21] small pieces of apple.

Although certainly called pancakes there are several parts in it that we would not recognise in a pancake today. The first problem in understanding the recipe came when reading that four should be whisked with yeast in order to make a dough. At this occasion I dissolved some of the yeast into water and whisked it up with the flour making a rather firm dough. Though the whisking may suggest that should have made a batter, it also states that I should form small square cakes, which requires a nice firm dough. The flour used in both this dish and the former was of course ordinary wheat flour. After I made the dough, describing the ingredients to ne of the visitors, I did get a small revelation about the content of the dough. At the time a liquid yeast, would most likely have been the remains of making beer. If I had added some beer to the yeast I woud probaby have had a dough with a bit of a taste in it self. This ought to be remembered for future use.

I shaped the dough into small square bits on which I planted pieces of raisins and apples. As the recipe suggest that I should fry the raisins and as I at first thought I needed to turn the cakes n order to get them evenly fried.

This was not necessary, and in fact completely wrong as it turned the raisins into hard burt inedible stones. Though I appreciated the risk of that happening it came about far quicker than I had anticipated. After the first cake made this way I soon abandoned that method and instead just let the fry on one side, whilst scooping up some hot fat with a spoon and poured over the cakes. That was however not really necessary either. In the recipe one are told to make the cakes so thin that holes appear, and through these holes the fat would pour up and deep fry the surface as well, without burning the raisins.

The cakes were fried in rapeseed oil as suggested by the recipe. It is quite interesting as it is one f the first recipes suggesting the use of this oil. Finds from a settlement in Sweden dating back to the Iron Age, suggests that the plant (brassica rapa) was cultivated already at this time, it is however unclear if it was turnips or the oilrich plant that was grown.

Though the cakes lacked what we would consider the classical medieval tastes of cinnamon, ginger etc. it had a ice taste and would serve well as a small snack. It is possible that in the Netherlands – being close to the wine growing areas of Germany, raisins would not have been a to expensive commodity.

A food of beans

July 10, 2011

When looking into early cuisines one easily ends up with dishes that reflect a prominent cuisine, most cookboks come from a context of the nobility or wealthy burgher. Dishes that comes from a more ordinary setting are mainly found by reading between the lines in other sources, or can be deduced from some of the simpler dishes found in the cookbooks. As the cookbooks seem to include more of the upper class households there we also receive a larger sample of non-festive dishes.

The recipe used was based on a dish found in “Ein Buch von guter spise” from the late 14th century

31. Ein spise von bonen
Siude grüene bonen, biz daz sie weich werden. so nim denne schoen brot und ein wenic pfeffers. dristunt als vil kümels mit ezzige und mit biere. mal daz zu sammene und tu dar zu saffran. und seige abe daz sode. und giuz dar uf daz gemalne. und saltz ez zu mazzen. und laz ez erwallen in dem condiment und gibz hin.
Boil green beans until they become soft. So take then fine bread and a little pepper. (Take) three times as much caraway with vinegar and with beer. Grind that together and add saffron thereto. And strain the broth and pour the color thereon and salt it to mass and let it boil in the condiment and give out.

While this dish would not have been a common meal it could have been a part of a less exclusive diet if one excluded the saffron. As I had not brought any saffron with me to the manor that day I decided to interpret this as simpler dish.

Though fairly simple at the surface the recipe did raise a few questions which I will try to answer as I go through the recipe. For this dish I used fresh fava beans, though dried would have worked only that it would have taken forever to boil them. The choice of fava beans, or broad beans (vicia faba), as they would have been the only beans available.

Boil green beans until the become soft. Are they to be boiled in meat broth or in water, in some dishes beans and peas are boiled together with meat or in a meatstock, here nothing seem to indicate that so I chose to use just water. Though the translation said to boil the beans I was more or less seething them rather than boiling them – and I might be wrong here but I believed that the German word siude, is similar to sjuda in swedish meaning to seethe rather than boil. Considering that I was using a three-footed pottery pan, seething the beans made more sense.

The texture of the boiled beans was also somewhat of a point of consideration for my part. In many of the recipes containing beans, the beans are boiled and then ground to a mush. This recipe did not call for that so I decided to try it as dish with whole beans.

While the beans were cooking I prepared the condiment with which the beans were to be served. So take then fine bread and a little pepper. (Take) three times as much caraway with vinegar and with beer. Though pepper could have been considered somewhat expensive, some may have been used in the middle class home. For simplicity I chose to use black pepper. For vinegar I chose maltvinegar. Though the recipe probably had wine vinegar in mind, as it originated in southern Germany, I went with a more Scandinavian choice – maltvinegar. Being based on malt or beer it would have been the most available vinegar here up until the 18th century. A bit more difficult was the choice of beer. Today most beers are rather heavy in hops, and though I am fond of hoppy beers, the bitterness of a heated hoppy beer is overpowering and lacking in flavour. For this reason I chose the beer I could get hold of with the least hop – content, a Swedish porter. While I am quite aware that it is stouts and porters were products of the 18th century, flavourwise I thought it was more fitting than some other beers that were available.

[ Though Germany proud itself of their ancient beerlaws, I am uncertain of the amount of hops used at the time. Would there have been a different names given to beers with or without hops?]

Anyway after mixing the condiment together I added them to the drained beans, and let them boil together. I might still have used a bread that was not white enough, or it may have been a bit to large pieces, as it did not really thicken the beanstew. At other times I would have let the breadcrumbs rest a while in the vinegar/beer mixture to be almost dissolved, but I was lacking in time.

The final result was a nice if somewhat to dark dish. The whole beans actually made it a rather good looking dish, with a very interesting and complex taste with the acidity of the vinegar and the sweetness from the beer and the beans themselves.

Boiling/seething

July 7, 2011

When making the elderflower dish, I realised that boiling using a three – footed pot was a bit different from using a stove. Most imagery, and the layout of most hearths seem to indicate that the pots were used to cook over the embers rather than the actual fire. This produces a more even and controlled heat if not as intense and covering as having a pot directly in the flames.

Usually when boiling milk one have to watch ones back at all times as milk usually tend to boil vigorously and burn the moment you turn your back to it.

 

Not so when using the pot and embers, the milk simmered away just below the boiling point, drawing out the flavour of the elderflowers without being burned. While it may be a problem in other dishes, it was quite suitable in this context having this slow and controlled heat.

 

That said, my hearth is still smallish and I am only able to get so much embers out of it, with a larger fire, and more skill at keeping the fire, I should be able to get enough embers to surround the pot better thus making it get to a boil more quickly. However, regardless of this lack in regards to the amount of embers I still think that there is a valid point in the way one can controll the heat using embers.

 

Ovens III

June 27, 2011

Two days later I was back on the museum and while I was displaying the 17th century kitchen I opened the oven realising that it was still hot inside.

Though I have been planning to cook dishes using the residual heat, I may be able to make more use of the oven than I originally planned. This long slow heat might be optimal for drying fruits. The methods for doing do are mainly found in 18th century cookbooks, but there is a brief mention of this in a Dutch cookbook from the 16th century.

Ovens II

June 26, 2011

During the weekend of 18-19th June a small renaissance festival was held at Glimmingehus, among the invited groups and crafters was couple that among other things churn butter and brew beer. Grethe which had used similar breadovens could give suggested from previous experiences that a good way of deciding the right temperature for baking was to observe when the walls were white instead of black. And most certainly after a few hours firing the walls were indeed white instead of black. This suggestion will be good and can be combined with other was to observe the proper temperature in the oven.

 

As this took place during the festival, where I gave out samples of renaissance food I realised to late that I had no time to for any other experiments. Grethe, however, managed to bake some bread in the oven.

 

Ovens I

June 26, 2011

As I worked with the piecrusts I tried to heat up the oven, however the lack of time and perhaps proper firewood did not allow me to get it hot enough during the time of my workhours. In order to properly work the oven I need to consider three things. What fuel to use, how long time is needed and when I should be able to recognise the proper temperature.

 

As for the question of the proper fuel, I would imagine that it is somewhat difficult to get hold of today. Peter Brear mentions in “medieval kitchen” how bundles of small faggots, or small branches, where used to fire up the oven. However as in most other open air museums all I could get hold of was the fire wood that people today use in their ovens.

 

The time needed would ofcourse be dependent on the size of the oven, and to some extent the fire woods, this I need to monitor better for the future.

 

The ability to monitor the time needed to heat up the oven, is ofcourse dependent on my ability to determine when the oven is hot enough. At the start of this experimental session I had only a few hints on proper ways to measure the temperature through ocular means.

 

I would appreciate any suggestion of traditional ways of heating a dome shaped breadoven made of bricks. It would be interesting to compare these methods. I remember reading about the use of flour or dry straws.

The setting

June 23, 2011

Glimmingehus is a renaissance manor raised in the late 15th century by Jens Holgersen Ulfstand, one of the major players in Denmark at the time. Though the castle may appear to have been a bit outdated at a first glance several features seem to have been built according to the latest architectural ideas, this is not the least true when it comes to the kitchen and heating systems. Here one can find features that are similar to english manorial kitchens and some features that are recognisable in Bartolomeo Scappis book of kitchens and cooking from the late 16th century. The actual kitchen is situated in the bottom floor of the manor, and while that may pose some problems in accessability, I would still interpret it as the actual manorial kitchen, as opposed to a kitchen for only the staff and servants. Unfortunately the kitchen in the manor is mainly in ruins, as it was later being used as storage and possibly plundered for stones

.

However, the main features that are still possible to discern is the central hearth, an intriguing method to let out the air and what has generally been interpreted as a large bread oven. While the oven is more or less levelled it is still possible to interpret as such. That said, whereas the general interpretation seem to favour a large but unsymmetrical bread oven, I would in the oven rather see a parallel to what can be found in a few British manors, where the bread oven is paired up with a smaller ellipsoid oven, which would rather have been used for pies and pastries.

Being partly ruined the original kitchen is not suitable for cooking any more, however, the basis for these experiments are carried out at a restored and reconstructed 17th century in one of the houses built beside the manor as it was no longer in use.

The 17th century kitchen.

The reconstructed kitchen has three main features; bread oven, main hearth and roasting hearth. Following a tradition that became more and more common during the 17th century the actual kitchen is built into the chimney with the cooking features on at either side. Central to the kitchen, and opposite the opening is the large bread oven, which together with the chimney is an original feature. At a later time the side hearths were added to the construction according to a model that can be found already in the 16th century in the homes of more well – off farmers and burgher. Examples of this three-clover shape has bee excavated in Lund.

The oven;

The oven is a classical dome shaped oven that is supposed to be fired up using the draft that the curved shape produces. As the oven is hot enough it is raked out and bread or other dishes are baked therein according to the temperature at the time.

The main hearth.

Being a bit wider and higher, it provides enough space to hold more than one vessel, though I would have wanted it a bit wider still. The hearth was reconstructed with two square boxes or open holes that can be used to collect the ashes, though I am a bit uncertain of the practicality and of them. In connection to the hearth there is a movable iron arm which is designed to hold a copper kettle.

The side hearth;

This one is smaller and lower thań the main hearth, and seem to have been designed by the re-constructors to be used for spit roasting. However, I find it a bit to narrow to properly hold both the fire and a drip pan – though it is difficult to say without having used it.

Some images will be added eventually, but that will have to wait until I either update my phone or my camera as neither is fit for photographing at the moment.

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