Some thoughts in preparation for my renaissance experiments

June 13, 2011

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.

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