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.
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.
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.
June 26, 2011
In order to get myself a bit more familiarised with the kitchen I started of lightly with a few investigations that were not completely dependent on getting the heatng, embers and fire wood completely right.
Both in the medieval and the renaissance cuisine pies and pastries seem to have played an important role, and the role of the pastry chef was quite important. Pastries seem to range from mere vessels containing meat or fruits to elaborate subtleties depicting castles and the like. In “Book of caruynge” the reader is given instruction on how to cut a pie according to how it was shaped and what it contained. The main question is however, were the actual pie crust intended to be eaten or was it just used as a vessel? Did they use some kind of pie shell or were they standing by them selves? Though I have mainly favoured the latter interpretation, some more work with early pie-recipes may give some insights.
Though the earlier pie recipes rarely give any further clues to the actual pie dough, some recipes from the mid 16th century gives us some further clues. For this experiment I have used two recipes from the cookbook by Sabina Welserin and an English recipe from about the same time.
Sabina Welserin, 1555
61 To make a pastry dough for all shaped pies
Take flour, the best that you can get, about two handfuls, depending on how large or small you would have the pie. Put it on the table and with a knife stir in two eggs and a little salt. Put water in a small pan and a piece of fat the size of two good eggs, let it all dissolve together and boil. Afterwards pour it on the flour on the table and make a strong dough and work it well, however you feel is right. If it is summer, one must take meat broth instead of water and in the place of the fat the skimmings from the broth. When the dough is kneaded, then make of it a round ball and draw it out well on the sides with the fingers or with a rolling pin, so that in the middle a raised area remains, then let it chill in the cold. Afterwards shape the dough as I have pointed out to you. Also reserve dough for the cover and roll it out into a cover and take water and spread it over the top of the cover and the top of the formed pastry shell and join it together well with the fingers. Leave a small hole. And see that it is pressed together well, so that it does not come open. Blow in the small hole which you have left, then the cover will lift itself up. Then quickly press the hole closed. Afterwards put it in the oven. Sprinkle flour in the dish beforehand. Take care that the oven is properly heated, then it will be a pretty pastry. The dough for all shaped pastries is made in this manner.
65 The dough for the pastry
Take rye flour, according to how large the fish is, take it, and put water, about three pints, in a pan and a good quarter pound of fat into it, and let it cook together, put the flour on the table and put the solids from the melted fat-water on top, until it makes a good firm dough. You must knead it well so that it becomes good and sticky. Afterwards make two parts out of it. First the bottom, roll it out as large as the fish is. After that lay the fish on the bottom crust and roll out the top crust just as wide and put it over the fish and shape it like the fish. Make fins on it and take a small knife and make dough scales, also eyes and everything which a fish has. And put it in the oven and spread it with an egg. Then you have a fish pastry.
A Propre new booke of Cokery , 1545
To make shorte paest for tart.
Take fine floure and a curtesy of faire water and a disshe of swete butter and a litle saffron and the yolkes of two egges and make it thin and tender as ye maie.
As it was only a trial to see how I could make the dough stand without any aid of a pie shell, they were made without any filling and just to see how I managed to shape them. One of the recipes – the rye dough was meant to be shaped like a fish and not as a regular pie, so that one I just made into an empty fish shaped pastry.
The recipes were followed rather closely, though the amounts were headed only superficially. To a pair handful of flour I mixed an egg, after which I added a mixture of lard dissolved in water. The resulting dough was rather rubbery dough that at first seemed to have had some problems in getting the sides to stand. After I twisted the sides into the classical s-shape of pies the sides kept standing.
The butter based dough in the third recipe was perhaps slightly softer, but should not have proven any problem. With my modern preferences I would have used the third dough for a sweeter dish and the first one for a more savoury pie, as the use of lard gave the pie a distinct association to bacon.
However, the main observation was that all the doughs that were meant to hold a mixture or even a liquid content seemed to be able to keep their walls up and hence not losing any of their contents. It should therefore be possible to bake pies without the use of any pieshells or the like.
While it is likely that these ashen bottomed piecrusts were merely used as vessels for cooking and serving, I would find it likely that these remains of the pies wandered down the hierarchy and were used as a handouts.
Although I would conclude that most pies were baked and served in their dough, there are some mentions of a pie-shell in the mid 16th century recipes, so it is possible that both existed. The rather common occurance of pies in 16th and 17th century recipes will certainly have me revisit them.
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 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.
June 13, 2011
My manorial cooking experience will start with a tournament event at the manor Glimmingehus. However, during the event I will mainly be cooking some small tasting platter rather than doing actual experiments. Still you are welcome to come out and see me cooking.
The experiment on Glimmingehus this summer will, although limited in time, try to cover a few teoretical and practical questions and hopefully provide me with some more insights into the physical limitations or possabilities that a renaissance kitchen will provide. A secondary aim of the project is to try to recreate the cuisine of a Scandinavian manor in the early 16th century, from the everyday meal to the festive menu.
The recipes used for the trials will primarily be from cookbooks from mid 15th century to mid 16th century in north west Europe (i.e German and Dutch collections of recipes). In addition I will look into literature from renaissance Scandinavia in order to gain some extra inspiration to the tastes and preferences of the area of the time. I’ll start with a disclaimer though – the reconstructed kitchen is more or less a rural kitchen from the baroque period rather than the renaissance, however the kitchen techniques did not change much wy I can use it without distorting the studies to much.
For the more practical aspects of the project I will look closer on a few selected topics that have interested me for som time. The oven: I find this perhaps one of the more interesting features in the renaissance kitchen.
The dome-shaped wood-fired oven requires a few special considerations. What was the strategy in fireing it? How will I learn to know when it is hot enough…for different kind of dishes? What are the limitations and width of dishes made in the oven? Beside the obvious use of the oven – for bread – pastries and pies were common dishes made in the ovens. However only a few recipes remains for what could have been the dough of the actual pastry. I need to execute a few trials in order to find a correlation between the descriptions of pies and the dough recipes.
Spitroasting; Though I performed a few spitroasting experiments last summer, the actual spits were constructed somewhat differently during this period when compared to the Viking Age. Has the changed shape changed the amount of work one need to put into spitroasting. Are the recipes suggesting a different way of using the spits?
Frying pans: In many of the recipe collections from the early renaissance one can notice an increased use of the frying pan. Both the finds and the descriptions in the recipes suggest that the pans were made with a rathe high rim as most dishes are semi-deep fried. Further the one swedish find we have from the period seem to suggest that the pan were held or just resting by the handle rather than resting ontop of the fire. This suggest that the pans were used rather quickly. Using the pans with these limitations will have some impact on my interpretation of the actual dishes.
Boiling and sauces; It is my assumption that the use of different pots and cauldrons for different uses are quite pronounced during the more complex cuisine of the late medieval and renaissance periods. The copper kettles were probably mainly used to boil meat, while the smaller pots of pottery where rather used for boiling sauces and the final products.
Taste and dishes: A majort part of the project will be to find those dishes that could represent the tastes of this region. As I want to include also the everday life, some non culinary sources wil have to be used. The actual choice of dishes will be compiled as the project progresses,in order to adapt to insights and limitations that may appear.