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.
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.
July 8, 2011
While most dishes in medival or renaissance cookbooks have rather matter-of-fact names there is one that stands out and has always tickled my imagination. In the cookbook A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye from the 16th century one can find a dish called ”Eggs in moonshine”:
”To make egges in moneshyne.
Take a dyche of rosewater and a dyshe
full of suger, and set them upon a
chaffyngdysh, and let them boyle, than take the
yolkes of viii or ix egges newe layde and putte
them therto everyone from other, and so lette
them harden a lyttle, and so after this maner
serve them forthe and cast a lyttle synamon
and sugar upon them.”
This is also one of the recipes that I find rather straightforward without many pitfalls. In a three fotted pan I heated equal amounts of rosewater and sugar. The sugar I used was brown cane sugar, though I suspect that a bit more refined cane sugar would have fitted the dish better. I must admit that am not entirely sure about the sugar qualities of the time – but the name of the dish suggest a rather light coloured sauce. The rosewater used was a commercially available rosewater, which may differ some from the rosewater made at the time. (A recipe for making rosewater can be found in ”The goodman of Paris”.)
While the sauce was working its way to a boil I started separating egg yolks from the white. Though the egges were storebought and refridgerator kept, I became quite aware that the eggs where not newly laid – most of the yolks burst at the mere sight of them. When I considered the sugared rosewater hot enough I placed the yoks, one by one in the pan. With the quality of the yolks I had this was a tricky operation.
I let the egg yolk cook just long enough to still be semi-soft. The decision to do so was partly based on personal preferences, my estimation on how the dish would tie together better but also repeated references from medieval sources that runny or softboiled eggs were preferred.
Here I might have let the rosewater syrup cook for a bit long as it started to caramelise, and got somewhat brown and sticky. Still I could pour some of the sauce over the eggs. Before serving I sprinkled the eggs with some cinnamon and finely ground sugar.
Though it did not look exactly as I was imagine it, it turned out to be a very nice little dish. Though rose water often may give desserts a somewhat perfumed and soapy taste, it ws actually quite balanced here. The fairly rich amount of sugar makes it a good and rather simple example of renaissance cooking. And though it may seem a bit strange it was really appreciated by the few co-workers that got a chance to try it. In keeping the yolks somewhat soft, they mixed quite well with the sauce giving it almost an impression of a custard in texture and taste.
In order to be served at a high table it should be improved somewhat visually, with a clearer sauce and perhaps even served on a silver plate. This may however be my modern association of moonshine and a silvery shine.
According to C.S. Lewis “eggs in moonshine” seem to be a term meaning something else than just this dish, anyone who has a clue?
July 6, 2011
Just outside the moat on the way from the parking lot to the manor, stands some impressive hedges with elder. As the fragrance became more and more present, I realised that I had to do a dish with elderflowers. Though I was primarily connecting elderflowers with rather sweet dishes, I wanted to try out a dish from Sabrina Welserin;
“38 To make elderflower pudding Take elder flowers, boil them in milk and strain them, make a firm dough from eggs and flour and roll it into a thin flat cake, cut it into the shape of little worms and put them into the milk, salt it and put fat into it and let it cook. “
In boiling the elderflowers with the milk I became quite aware of their fragrance, however it was not to perfumed. While the milk was seething I prepared the dough. I was a bit unsure if it was meant to be thickened or made firm with the mixture of eggs and flour. For the dough I used wheat flour, which would have been the probable choice in a dish like this. As I was preparing the dough It became clear to me however that “cutting dough into the shape of little worms” was actually a description for the chef to make noodles ( or some kind of pasta).
As I felt that the milk had seethed enough I drained of the flowers, returned the milk to the pot, added a small knob of butter, some salt and a part portion of the noodles I had done. As they cooked picked them up with a regular wooden spoon – the slotted spoon, that is made according to a medieval find, was to big to fit in the pot. The noodles reminded me of German spätzle, but were salty with a hint of elder. Still, some milk remained so I put in the rest of the uncooked “worms”as they cooked, the flour from both batches of noodles startened to thicken the milk, becoming more sauce like. Though this was not entirely what I had expected it did strike me as fitting the description of a pudding. In fact, the mixture of butter, salt, milk and flower almost made me end up with an elder bechamel with noodles.
In this mixture the taste of elder was much more prominent, and it was also the more preferred dish by my testsubjects (the employees of the museum). When testing the dish it struck me that both the noodles by themselves or the actual pudding would have fitted excellently together with a spitroasted chicken. Though it is a bit odd with a savoury dish with elderflowers to the Swedish palate, it was really enjoyable.
July 31, 2010
It is my firm belief that those spits that had been found and can be argued to be roasting spits were mainly used for smaller pieces of meat, such as fowl and innards. For larger pieces one would have to use something larger and more robust. From medieval manuscripts there are some imagery depicting spit-roasted suckling pigs and similar slightly larger meats. In these instances the chef rather seem to be using larger spits, of which some look to simply be a long thick pointed wooden pole.
For this dish/attempt I was going to spit-roast a full leg of lamb. I made some incisions along the leg, which I larded with bacon, alpine leek, thyme and occasionally some angelica. The leg was then propped unto the spit. As it was rather difficult to fix it to the spit I had to use several wooden skewers in order to make it move with the spit – at least to some extent. For basting/glazing I planned to use a mixture of honey and ground mustard seeds.
The spit was propped up on some stones, in order to raise it high enough for it to turn properly. Underneath the smaller soapstone vessel was put in order to collect the drippings.
This particular day was extremely windy and the flames almost licked the leg of the lamb lying beside the actual fire. The heat probably influenced the result and times, why they cannot really be trusted. After a rather sort while the surface started to brown and a nice caramelised smell emanated from the leg. Though it was difficult to turn and to lift of the fire I still managed to both turn and baste the leg, I noticed that it was getting rather unevenly roasted. After one hour one side was a bit to charred the other had a nice red colour on the surface. As suspected though, it proved to be far from finished once I made a probatory cut into the meat. Though the outer layer was nicely roasted the inner most parts was till raw. I therefore returned the meat to the fire, though I decided to place it a bit further away from the heat, in order to give it a bit more even heat.
At about this time the wind started picking up speed and soon things were moving about quite a bit. As the meat had spent another half an hour on the spit I noticed how more and more embers started to escape the fire pit looking for freedom on the lawn in front of the longhouse. In order to not having to add “burnt down the longhouse in Borg” to my CV I decided to abort the experiment at that point and let the fire burn down.
The meat was a bit more ready, but still almost raw by the bone, and though I quite like my meat red this was still a bit to uncooked for me. The outer part was quite nicely cooked, and almost half way through the meatier parts the meat had a nice red colour. The meat tasted quite good and no real addition of salt apart from the pieces of bacon by which it was larded was needed. In order to salvage the rest of the meat I cooked the remains as a roast in the oven upon returning home.
The conclusion of this experiment would be that while a spit could possibly produce a rather nice product, it was rather unwieldly and the spit did not really seem suited for such an endeavour, if meat of this size were indeed spit-roasted I would still assume that they would have used spits of a somewhat different design.
July 8, 2010
Following up on the earlier Fat Hen (Chenopodium Album) dish I decided to change the recipe somewhat. Granted in my last attempt the leaves mainly tasted of butter, so I decided to cut down on that.
Though using generally the same method of preparing the dish as in the previous attempt I changed the gathering slightly. Instead of gathering the whole plants, I picked the younger leaves of a handful plants until I ended up with a pot full of leaves. In order to get away from the stringy feeling of the earlier dish I also cut away the fibrous stem at the back of the leaves.
The leaves were then cooked for a short time and the water poured of. The leaves were taken out and in the same pot I melted a small knob of butter. To this I then added the leaves, some fresh cheese I’ve made earlier and a some whey. While the cheese made the dish feel “foodier” the whey added an acidic taste that was a rather nice addition to the dish. With the acidic taste of the whey I felt the minimal amount of salt added to the cheese felt quite enough. Still, it felt like a sort of side-dish that would require something else.
Though a wild plant and somewhat thinner than cabbage I would not be surprised if the leaves did not lend themselves perfectly for pickling in lactic acid. Something I ought look into if the weather is right and I can find something fitting to put it in.
July 1, 2010
As part of the investigations about grinding with the handquern, I wished to investigate how different sizes of grain could be used for different results. While flour would have had to be ground five to seven times before being possible to be baked the coarser qualities could also be used. Traditionally groats of either oats or other grains would have been crushed or coarsely ground which would facilitate making a porridge of them even if one could not soak them overnight.
Considering the sizes of the grains ground in an earlier stage of my experiments I found the grains that had passed through the quern twice to be of an optimal size for making porridges.
In order to try my theory I planned to cook another variety of the savoury porridges I had made before. Using the same inspiration as in one of the earlier dishes, I took my starting point in one of the groats that can be found in the recipe collection called “Liber cure cocorum” I started by boiling a few cans of water with some larger pieces of bacon. The bacon were then removed and cut up finely. In the water/baconbroth I poured the ground grains. This was allowed to cook for about an hour after which the grains were soft enough to be served. To the barley I added a sour apple, a few juniper berries, some of the local leek, butter and the bacon I cooked before. The sour apple was not really soured enough, as I would have preferred to use either a crab apple or a bramley apple
This dish actually turned out quite well, the texture of the cooked barley were quite nice and the dish as a whole turned out to be rather wellbalanced and tasty.