Elder pudding

July 6, 2011

Pudding and noodles - perhaps not the photograph of a cookbook

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.


Pear pie

July 2, 2011

In my continued explorations of the oven I wanted to make one of the many fruit pies present in the cookbook of Sabina Welserin. The recipe I used for the dish:

131 To make a pear tart

Take the pears and peel them, then fry them in fat, put them into a mortar and pound them well, put rose sugar and rose water in it, put ginger, cloves, cinnamon and sugar therein. Taste it, make a pastry shell as for other tarts, make no cover for the top and bake until crisp.”

The recipe was rather straight forward, with only a few steps . For the pie crust I used the recipe for a short paeste that I tried earlier though I made two batches which both were a bit to soft – possibly because I used a bit to much water in them. (I will never be an accomplished pastry chef).

For the filling I fried the pear pieces in butter using the three legged pan. The resulting soft pears wear beaten to a pulp using my brass mortar, though a widerimmed stone mortar would probably have been used for this purpose. To this I added the ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger and a dash of rosewater. The resulting mush was poured into the pieshells and put into the oven. Though I started the ovens early I was uncertain if I had reached the right temperatur, the lack of proper fire wood and perhaps my conservative use of wood made the fire in the oven burn rather slowly, though in effect it could just have been a case of not having enough time to heat the rather massive oven. The pies were baked for about an hour which was not enough as they were still a bit soft and moist when taken out of the oven. The taste was nice and a bit spicier than what one would expect in a modern pear pie – even if I did miss some raisins in it ( which are used in several other pear pies from the same book) The main lack in my interpretation – apart from the oven temperature- was that I was to conservative on the rose water, as it was almost undistinguishable.

Apart from a nice combination of tastes in the pie the main feature was the rather aromatic scent from the cloves. It is likely that the rosewater was added for the same reason – to create an olfactory sensation from the pie. Just as colours and appearance has been of importance in historical (and modern food) we ought perhaps also think about how some food may have been made with an olfactory experience in mind, using scents that does not entirely reflect the most immediate tastes.

Puffed apples

June 30, 2011

The three samples of "puffed apples" in the midst of my kitchen chaos

Today, the part of Sweden in which Glimmingehus is situated is wellknown in Sweden for its orchards, and though the types of apples may have changed and other fruits or plants may have dominated the landscape of the time, it is safe to assume that that if they wanted the people of the manor would be able to get hold of some apples if desired. As an homage to the present day apple growers and a bit curious about a dish that I have mainly seen in German renaissance cookbooks and Danish baroque cookbooks, I wanted to make a dish called puffed apples.

In the cookbook of Sabina Welserin I could find two different recipes for the same dish and the Danish cookbook from 1616 provided the third slightly different recipe.

The recipes used were the following

From the cookbook of Sabina Welserin (1553)

101 To make apple puffs

Then put flour in a bowl and put some fresh spring water therein. It should not be too thin. And beat the batter very carefully, thin it after that with eggs, and when you put the thin apple strips in the pan of butter, then shake the pan well, then they rise up.

166 To bake puffed apples

Take milk with a little water in it and heat it well, until you can still just stand to dip a finger into it. Make a firm batter with flour, beat it until it bubbles, lay eggs in warm water and thin the batter with them. Cut the apples in circles and as thin as possible, draw them through the batter and coat them with it. Shake the pan, then they will rise. And the fat should be very hot, then they will be good and rise nicely.

From “Kogebog” (1616)

LXVII. Eble i Smør at bage.

Skal dem/oc skær huer i to eller fire stycker/lige som de ere store til/tag det huide aff Eg oc sla ræt vel/giff der vdi lidet Salt/giff Eblene der vdi/oc giff dem siden vdi Huedemeel/saa at de ere gantske tørre/leg dem siden vdi siudeheed Smør/bag dem at de bliffue smuck møre/giff dem siden op oc bestrø met Sucker.

(loosely translated)

LXVII Apples baked in butter

Peel them, and cut in two or four pieces/according to size/ take the white from eggs and beat it well/mix some salt to it/ put the apples therein/ and then put them in wheat flour/ so they are rather dry/put them then into hot butter/bake them till they are nicely soft/ serve and sprinkle sugar on top.”

Although the recipes differ some all can be said to be a sort of side dish made of pieces of apple, though the Danish ones are sweeter, I do not think that it necessarily reflects what we would call a dessert but rather the increasing sweet tooth in Europe at the time.

The first two dishes were rather similar as it required the apples to be put in a batter, that more or less reminded me of a pancake batter. In the first recipe I used butter and in the second one lard to fry in.

Perhaps I made the batter a bit to thick as the apples were not really puffing up as much as I would have expected. Though the question if I a) managed to get the pan hot enough and b) if by puffed up apples we are supposed to be expecting a fritter like we can get today.

The third batch was a bit different as it used no real batter and thus were not expected to puff up.

All three samples were rather taste with the Danish perhaps a bit closer to what we would expect today as it was slightly sweetened. As I used slightly sour apples for this dish it would have fitted well as a side dish. The choice of slightly sour apples,was deliberate as it was possibly a bit closer the apples that could have been found at the time. However In the process of being fried some of the acidity is lost.

Of the three samples the apple circles baked in lard was the most appealing to the eye, and surprisingly the one most prefered by my co-workers.


Pies & piecrusts

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.

Mead – tasting it

August 1, 2010

Though the plan was to end the fermentation quite early and try to achieve a nice sweet and somewhat alcoholic drink it proved more difficult than I first thought.

The mead that I had started brewing in two separate jars was only protected by a linen cloth, which I thought would be enough to keep most of the particles and dust away. After about a week and a half I decided to take care of both the mead jars, and proceeded to pour them into two different plastic bottles in order to keep the spicing apart. Before pouring the mead into a bottle I sieved it and tried to scope out most of the yeast that was floating. At this point the yeast seemed to be active in both jars. The two different batches had distinctly different smells, and also tastes. While the first bottle was still quite sweet one could notice an alcoholic undertone to it, the other however did not seem to be developing as quickly.

When I sieved the second batch of the mead, I received a small surprise as I found an unusually fat fly floating in the jar. After the first surprise and chock I decided to still keep this mead -minus the fly- to see how it develops. In a few early beer recipes it is describes how a crushed fresh rooster should be added to the batch. Are those just myths or would the proteins provide something?

As I finished the transfer to plastic bottles I brought them home to place them as cool as possible in order to stop the fermentation, however, the fridge was overfull and we experienced few comparatively warm days. Still as my room kept quite cool I hoped to be able to at least separate the mead from the yeast that had sunk to the bottom. However, after just two days the fermentation processes seemed to have continued at least in the first batch. As I opened the bottle a foam quickly raised and I had to close it again in order to not loose anything. This procedure quickly mixed the yeast, making any attempt to separate yeast and mead futile. I resealed the bottles as I had to rush of to my hearth for some other cooking attempts. After yet another few days, when I believed it to have been cooler I made a new attempt with almost the same result, except that now also the second batch (fly and caraway) had started to ferment in a similar manner.

Apparently the conditions for making any advanced trials when it comes to fermentation seems to be somewhat restricted at the moment, why I may continue this line of experiments once I have returned to Sweden. The samples of mead I made here was far to small to give opportunity to do any fargoing experiments. As I discussed in an earlier post I could either use cold -like a cold storing place, which makes summer a bad time of brewing- or heat to stop the fermentation. For heat I would imagine that one could make use of a hot stone to quickly heat the top of the brew and thus killing of the yeast. Another could perhaps be to add an infusion of the herbs one wants to spice the mead with. The boiling infusion would then kill the yeast in the top and after it has cooled down enough one may separate the dead yeast from the mead.

As one of my meads may be somewhat lessened by the addition of a fly I am still thinking that I should perhaps try the last method on this one. I could also try to stop the fermentation of that mead using a small amount of crushed lingonberries. These things will have to be done if time allows as I am now trying to get all parts of my participation of the local festival in order.

Finally the actual tasting, a few days ago circumstances allowed for a beer tasting, why I also brought out the first batch of the mead. It was still foaming quite a bit when I opened the battle and thus was rather fizzy. The colour was a somewhat cloudy and darker yellow, with a rather fresh smell of honey. The taste was still sweet, and did not feel to strong, but one could sense the alcohol beneath it all. While not very strong it had a nice balanced taste, with enough sweetness to make it a drink to sample rather than gorge.

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.

As I plan to serve this heart-dish in a near future, I ‘ll give it a third and last try. The butcher had provided me with an extra heart in the meat delivery, so this day I would try how the spit worked to roast more than one heart at a time.

Having to hearts to play with I was given the chance to alter the reparation somewhat. The hearts were quite different in appearance and would have belonged to one lamb and one sheep – or a rather obese lamb. The outer fat layers of the larger heart made me rethink the use of bacon in the filling. The smaller heart was barded with a few slices of thick bacon and the larger heart had to suffice with its own fat. For the filling I let the both heart differ some. In the larger heart I used almost the same mixture as in the previous attempt, that is lingon/cowberries, juniperberries, alpine leek, thyme and honey, though perhaps with a bit more leek in this mixture. In the smaller heart I made a slight alteration and used mead instead of honey, to give the filling a more liquid feel to it.

I encountered some problems when I tried to get both of the hearts fixed to the spit. Without any securing the smaller heart – which I had placed further out than the bigger heart – would not spin at the same time as the full spit was spun, but instead remain with the same side up. The larger heart could be secured with a skewer placed with a 90 degree angle from the main spit, and thus securing it against the two side prongs. In order to remedy the loose small heart I had to place two skewers that run through both the bigger and the smaller heart, thus making sure that when the larger heart moved the smaller would as well. For basting I decided to mix some of the remaining lingon-/cowberries mixtures with the honey I had planned to baste them with.

As the wind kept blowing and I was still tending my cooking outside, I could expect a rather quickly burning fire, if I ever I was able to get the fire started. The cooking procedure was more or less the same as previously with a rather aggressive fire roasting the heart. I could notice, however, that I got far more of the drippings from this batch. After about 40 minutes the hearts started to look more or less finished with with a nicely glazed surface, but I decided to give it about 20 more minutes. When I took the hearts of the fire and made a cut into the meat I noticed the same colour on the as I did previously.

The taste was the most favorable so far, and the lingonberry/honey glazing was a really good addition to it all. However, if I would like the filling to give the whole dish a bit more taste I probably ought to let it marinate with the lingonberry mixture inside the heart for a bit longer. I found the meat quite supple and it was easy to cut nice thin slices even with the excuse for a knife that I used. Though the meat it self had a really nice taste, a special treat was to dip the meat in the remaining glazing that had dripped of into the pot underneath.

As I got a handful of hearts from the butcher, I decided to hone the spit-roasted heart somewhat, the aim now not only being to check if it is possible to cook, but also to create a recipe that also tastes nice, unless one has a phobia against innards -or lambs.

This dish was a slight alteration to the one cooked previously, using a filling of lingon-/cow-berries, juniper berries, bacon, alpine leek and thyme. In this approach of the dish I will not only baste the heart with some honey, but also mix some honey into the filling of the heart.

As the heart was somewhat bigger than the first one, I had planned to cook it for an hour and a half. It was also a bit fattier than the first, which I assumed would influence the taste of it Due to the weather and guide conditions this was a day for cooking outside, though the wind was rather on the windier side. That made the fire burn quickly and warm, once I got it started, something that might have influenced the cooking time. As the heart was cooked I basted it generously first with honey and later with the drippings that formed under the heart

Due to the heavy wind and hot embers, the outside soon looked quite cooked with a nice brown surface forming, so I decided to check the heart with a small cut after about an hour, instead of the predicted extra time. At this time the heart had diminished somewhat in size and was a bit bouncy when I touched it with the tip of my knife. As I cut into it it seemed nice and sort of light brown/grey in the area of the cut. Being outside in daylight allowed me to study the cut areas a bit closer, and I could notice how the meat had a meaty colour to start with and then as it laid about for a short while the blood seeped out to the surface turning the meat more pink, which gave it a slightly undercooked look The taste was still nice, and perhaps with a bit more presence of the filling. The honey taste was however mainly present in the glazing rather than in the filling

I noticed, as I brought home the remains and fried them up, to eat for supper that when fried to much the colour turned a darker grey and the taste was more livery than before. This convinced me to keep the hearts in the range of colour and cooking as I had done the last two days.

Continuing the rather exclusive theme started by spit-roasting chicken, I was now trying to spit-roast a heart. As stated before, it is my belief that the spits we found from the Viking Ae were mainly used to roast fowl, innards and the like. This particular idea was inspired by the tragic epic about Sigurd the dragonslayer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigurd). In this tragedy spit-roasted hearts are mentioned twice. In the beginning of the story Sigurd kills the great dragon and removes the heart for roasting – (This scene is depicted on a Swedish runic stone http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/S%C3%B6_101%2C_Ramsund.jpg). While the heart imparted wisdom to Sigurd, he also took the treasure from the slayed dragon, a treasure that came with a curse. After passing a few hands it came into the possession of king Atli (Attila) through his wife. In the process her brothers were killed by Atli and his wife plotted revenge. So one day she killed their children, mixed their blood into the mead and served their hearts as calves heart with honey. This is not only a delightfully morbid story, but it is actually one of the few instances in which the sagas and stories in which a taste or condiment is mentioned. Though this dish probably would be considered to be somewhat sweet, I would say that it is not a reflection of the everyday food, but rather be an indication of what can be considered a rather exclusive dish. In order to produce a dish that would fit such a description I decided to attempt to make a filling with alpine leek, cowberries/lingonberries, bacon in small pieces and some juniper berries. This mixture were put into the natural cavities of the heart which I then sealed with some wooden skewers. The whole heart, was then fasten upon the large spit and it was roasted next to the fire. While roasting the outside was basted with honey. After about thirty minutes I made a few probing cuts into the heart, which appeared still a bit raw, and the consistency of the meat when pressed by a knife was rather soft..The heart was placed back beside the fire and my basting continued. It would take another thirty minutes before I found it ready enough to be served. The taste was good if somewhat bloody. When I looked upon the heart after a moments distraction I noticed that the meat was red. Still the taste was good, with a slight honey taste to it. The dish would work quite well though sliced thinly as a starter.

Though the heart was considerably smaller than the chicken, it fit quite well onto the spit, there was, however, a need for some extra skewers to keep it turning with the spit. It should probably be possible to fit a few more hearts onto the same spit.

In my second approach at spitroasting chicken, I decided to make the stuffing a bit more interesting. Based very vaguely on a medieval recipe I decided upon a mixture of a boiled egg, bacon, Alpine leek, juniper berries and lingonberries (Myrtillium ). As lingonberries were found on the site of Borg I would deem it possible that they could have been used not only as a food resource in its own, but also as a way to add or modify the taste of a dish. In this case I was looking for something acidic to balance the fat from the bacon and to soften up the meat of the chicken. As an additional addition of taste I tried to loosen the skin and stuff it with a mixture of bacon and alpine leek.

After that I followed more or less the same procedure as in the previous spit roasted chicken, the cavities were closed with small birch skewers, and the bird was secured to the large spit with some vertically placed skewers. The legs were tied up to each other and the spit. Some additional fat and leek were placed in the folds of the thighs. The additional fat under the skin and in othe rplaces allowed me to be a bit more relaxed about the basting, as it would more or less self baste from those pieces.

The roasting was done far more even this time, avoiding to burn any parts of the chicken. However, just as in the previous case, when I studied it closer still some read meatjuices would appear in a cut after about an hour and a half. Though this one were thoroughly defrosted it would appear to have the same cooking time as the previous bird. After two hours it was ready even though one of the legs seem to have seeped some marrow as it was a bit red still.

Despite the slight ruddyness next to the bone this dish had a really nice taste to it, with the flavour of juniper berries carrying through the dish and mixing very well with the acidity of the lingon berries. Both the filling and the chicken itself were quickly devoured by some visiting tourists and myself, and would certainly be a treat to serve at the high table of a feast. The only salt added came from the bacon and was quite enough to give the meat a nice taste. Perhaps the combination of tastes would have worked even better with some small game fowl.