25 Weltt jr gútt prattwirst machen
So nempt 4 pfúnd schweinis vnnd 4 pfúnd rinderis, das last klainhacken, nempt darnach 2 pfúnd speck darúnder vnnd hackts anainander vnnd vngeferlich 3 seidlen wasser giest daran, thiet aúch saltz, pfeffer daran, wie jrs geren est, oder wan jr geren kreúter darin megt haben/ múgt jr nemen ain wenig ain salua vnnd ain wenig maseron, so habt jr gút brattwirst.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin

25 If you would make good bratwurst
Take four pounds of pork and four pounds of beef and chop it finely. After that mix with it two pounds of bacon and chop it together and pour approximately one quart of water on it. Also add salt and pepper thereto, however you like to eat it, or if you would like to have some good herbs , you could take some sage and some marjoram, then you have good bratwurst.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

The translation is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

Bratwurst translates as “best meat.” They had become an important gourmet food by the sixteenth century

These bratwurst were made using an electric mincer with attached sausage stuffing tubes. In period, the meat was probably minced with a cleaver, as demonstrated in this YouTube video. The sausages could have been stuffed by spooning the mixture into the casing; however, you can also use a cowhorn with the tip removed. This creates a stiff tube onto which the sausage casing can be pushed, and makes the stuffing easier to stuff into the casing. This idea came from An Early Meal (pp 96-97).

Demonstration of cow horn to stuff sausages. The ideal length is 2/3 the length of your index finger.

The recipe below has been quartered.


450g pork (see notes) 500mL water 2 tbs marjoram
450g beef (see notes) 20g salt 1 tbs sage
225g streaky bacon 1.5 tsp pepper Sausage casing (see notes)


  1. Using either an electric mincer, hand mincer or cleaver, mince the meat very finely. If using a mincer, you may find passing the meat through the mincer twice will get the desired texture.
  2. Finely mince the herbs, then add the herbs, water, salt and pepper to the minced meat. Then mash it all together. You can really only do this step with your hands, unless you have commercial sausage making equipment (and hands are more fun). You can’t overmix here – in fact the aim is to make the meat texture as fine as possible. You will find the water helps greatly with this; it will be absorbed into the meat and keep it moist while the bratwurst are cooking.
  3. Keep mix-mashing the meat until you can lift a large chunk of mixture from the bowl, and it takes a while to fall from your open hand.

    Sausage mix fully mixed.

  4. Stuff the meat into the sausage skin. It can help to have a bowl underneath to put the sausage into. If using an electric machine, it can help to have two people involved – one to feed the meat into the hopper of the mincer, and one to pull the sausage away. Both people should try to work to a smooth rhythm.


  5. When you have used all your meat, cut away any unused sausage skin, leaving around 5cm at the end. Measure off the length of your desired sausage, then twist the long sausage at this point around 3 times to form the individual sausages. Measure off the desired length again, and repeat the twist. Hold the sausage below the point where you are twisting to stop the previous sausages from untwisting (it may take you a few goes to get the action right).
  6. To cook the sausages, bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the sausages. Cook until they have completely changed colour. If you have access to a smoker, you can also smoke your sausages.
  7. To serve, slice the sausages thinly, and serve with condiments such as mustard and ricotta cheese. Blackberry jam is also a weird but tasty serving option.


  • For a good sausage mix, you need around 20% fat. Much of this will come from the bacon. For the pork, I like to use shoulder, which has a good covering of fat and reasonably lean meat. For the beef, I like to use rump for the same reason. You might also be able to get extra fat from a butcher from their trimmings.
  • You can use synthetic casings or natural; the pictures in this recipe all use natural casings, which are the cleaned intestines of (usually) pigs. They can be obtained quite easily (and cheaply) from butchers.

Smoked bratwurst
Smoked Bratwurst

Boiled bratwurst
Simmered Bratwurst

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Bach, Volker (2016). The Kitchen, Food and Cooking in Reformation Germany.

Serra, Daniel and Tunberg, Hanna. An Early Meal. Chronocopia Publishing (2013).

Brawne in Peuard

Brawne in peuard.
Take wyn, pouder of Canell, drawe hit thorgh a Streynour, set hit ouer the fire, lete hit boile, caste there-to Maces, cloues, powder of Peper; take smale onyons hole, parboyle hem, caste there-to; lete hem boile togider; then take Brawne, leche hit, but not to thin; And if hit be saused, let stepe in Hote water til hit be tender, then cast hit into þe siripe; take Saundres, Vynegre, and caste there-to, And lete boile al togidre til hit be ynowe; then take powder of ginger, caste thereto; lete hit not be thik ne to thyn, butte as potage shulde be; And serve hit forthe.
MS Harleian 4016, 14.

Pork in Pepper.
Take wine and powdered cinnamon and pass it through a strainer. Set it on the fire and let it boil. Add mace, cloves and pepper. Take small whole onions, parboil them, and add them to the pot. Let them boil together then take pork, slice it, but not too thin. And if it be salted and pickled, let it steep in hot water until it is tender, then cast it into the syrup. Take sandalwood and vinegar and add it to the pot, and let it simmer together until it is (cooked) enough. Then take powdered ginger and add it to the pot. Let it not be too thick or thin, but as pottage should be, and serve it forth.

“Brawn” typically refers to any sort of meat, though in this case it most likely means wild boar, which is more likely to be salted and pickled (Hieatt, 2013, 50); but you could make this dish with chicken if you want. It is a typical meat pottage, and variations on this dish are found in most medieval cooking manuscripts. However, because this one specifies pepper in the name, the sauce should be particularly peppery.


2 kg pork meat 1 tsp powdered cinnamon 1/4 tsp crushed cloves
1kg small onions, peeled 1 tsp crushed black pepper 45 mL wine vinegar
1L red wine 1/2 tsp crushed mace 1/4 tsp sandalwood
1 tsp powdered ginger Salt to taste


  1. Remove any skin and excess fat from the pork, and cut it into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add the powdered cinnamon to the wine and pass through a strainer, to remove any sediment from the wine and clumps from the cinnamon. Put into a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to the boil.
  3. When the wine is boiling, add the cloves, mace and pepper, and stir well.
  4. Meanwhile, add the onions to a pan of boiling water and cook until they are slightly tender. Add them to the spiced wine and return it to the boil.
  5. Add the pork to the pot, and return it to the boil. When it is boiling, add the sandalwood and vinegar, then reduce the heat to a simmer (there should be slight bubbles rising to the surface, but it should not be still).
  6. Cook the pottage, stirring regularly, until the wine is reduced and the pork is tender. Generally, the longer it cooks, the more tender the pork will be, though cooking times will vary depending on the cut.
  7. Just before serving, add the ginger and salt to taste and stir well.
  8. Serve immediately.


  • The cooking time will depend on the cut of pork. I like to use shoulder, which is quite fatty and has lots of connective tissue (it also tends to be a quite cheap cut). It is a cut that needs at least 2-3 hours cooking.
  • Onions contain an enzyme called synthase, which is what makes you cry when you cut them up, and gives them their distinctive flavour. Parboiling the onions breaks down this enzyme, so it doesn’t release into the stew and change the flavour. The onions will also be quite sweet.
  • Sandalwood was added to dishes for its rich colour and lovely scent. When buying it today, make sure you get it from a reputable seller, as there are many synthetic sandalwood replacements which can be toxic. In general, the more expensive the sandalwood, the better the quality. I get mine from an Indian grocer where the sandalwood is kept in a locked display case.

Pork in Pepper Sauce

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.

Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks
Hieatt, Constance (2013). The Culinary Recipes of Medieval England

A Roast Pig’s Head (named Bernàrd)

At a recent feast I ran, I decided to serve a pig’s head breathing fire as a spectacle at a feast. I had never cooked a pig’s head before; and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. However when I mentioned it to people they got very excited so I decided I had to go ahead with it.

The first issue I had was obtaining a pig’s head. They aren’t commonly asked for, after all. However the butcher I go to for events was able to source one, and didn’t give me too weird a look; it’s not the strangest thing I’ve asked him to get for me.

The word got around the event that there would be a pig’s head and a few people came to meet it, which is how the head acquired the name Bernàrd.

I’ve never cooked a pig’s head before, and in the end I decided roasting was my best option. I knew how to roast pork, and I figured a head would roast pretty much the same. But I honestly didn’t think anyone would want to eat it – I just thought people would simply look at it, enjoy it, and that would be it. So I didn’t pay too much attention to the preparation. I simply gave Bernàrd a wash and patted him dry, then rubbed him with a commercial barbeque sauce to give him some colour.

Bernard from the oven

Unfortunately the spill I had prepared to stick in his mouth and light, so he appeared to be breathing fire, became too damp and simply smouldered. So he was sent out nibbling on some parsley.

And he came back with no meat left on his bones – virtually everyone at the feast wanted to try a piece of Bernàrd, and the queue went out of the hall. There were even fights about who got the last of the cheek.

I will certainly be serving a roast pig’s head once again. However next time I will be using a more period appropriate glaze, such as a Lumbard Mustard.

If you want to cook a pig’s head, you will probably need to order one specially from the butcher (be prepared for some strange looks). Make sure you specify you want it whole, with the ears, cheeks and snout attached. They roast just like normal pork, but take longer than a boned, rolled joint, as the bone acts as a heat barrier. I would also wrap the ears and nose with foil during the cooking, because as you can see Bernàrd’s wound up getting a little too crispy.

And probably get someone else to carve, because a pig’s head ain’t the easiest thing to carve.


Pumpes (Pork meatballs in almond sauce)

Pumpes. Take an sethe a gode gobet of Porke, & not to lene, as tendyr as thou may; than take hem vppe & choppe hem as smal as thou may; than take clowes & Maces, & choppe forth with-alle, & Also choppe forth with Roysonys of coraunce; than take hem & rolle hem as round as thou may, lyke to smale pelettys, a inches a-bowte, than ley hem on a dysshe be hem selue; than make a gode almaunde mylke, & a lye it with floure of Rys, & lat it boyle wyl, but loke that it be clene rennyng; & at the dressoure, ley v pompys in a dysshe, & pore thin potage ther-on. An if thou wolt, sette on euery pompe a flos campy flour, & a-boue straw on Sugre y-now, & Maces: & serue hem forth. And sum men make the pellettys of vele or Beeff, but porke ys beste & fayrest. MS.Harl.279.31

Take and boil a good piece of pork, not too lean, as tender you like; then take it up and chop as small as you can; then take cloves and mace, and chop and mix with the pork; and also add currants; then take them ant roll them as round as you like, like small pellets, about an inch, then lay them on a dish by themselves; then make a good almond milk, and add rice flour, and let it boil a while, but look that it be clean running; and at the dresser, lay the meatballs on a dish, and pour the pottage (sauce) thereon. And if you would, set on every meatball a field flower, and strew about sugar and mace, and serve them forth. And some men make the pellets of veal or beef, but pork is best and fairest.

This is an odd recipe. The only cooking instruction for the pork, that is boiling, occurs before it is minced and made into meatballs. The problem with this is, once you boil the pork, you start to render out the fat; and as this recipe has no other binding agent, the meatballs are very fragile and fall apart very easily, especially if you cook them again. Cindy Renfrow (2003, 153) considers the cooking is written incorrectly and the pork should be boiled after it is minced and made into meatballs. Maggie Black (2003, 106) par-cooks the pork before mincing it and making the meatballs, then frying them; but this is not suggested by the recipe.

I was sure I had made this dish before, with no problems, and where the meat was minced and then cooked. And when I went back and looked through my notes on old feasts, I realised I had cooked this dish before… but I’d used a different recipe. Note, this recipe is also in MS.Harl.279, and I would love to be able to see the original manuscript, to see if there is any clear indication as to whether the recipe below was written later than the one above, or was written by another person.

Pompys. Take Beef, Porke, or Vele, on of hem, & raw, alle to-choppe it atte the dressoure, than grynd hem in a morter as smal as thou may, than caste ther-to Raw olkys of Eyroun, wyn, an a lytil whyte sugre: caste also ther-to pouder Pepyr, & Macys, Clowes, Quybibys, pouder Canelle, Synamoun, & Salt, & a lytil Safroun; & also choppe forth with Roysonys of coraunce; then take & make smale Pelettys round y-now, & loke that thou haue a fayre potte of Freysshe brothe of bef or of Capoun, & euer throw hem ther-on & lete hem sethe tyl that they ben y-now; then take & draw vppe a thryfty Mylke of Almaundys, with cold freysshe brothe of Bef, Vele, Moton, other Capoun, & a-lye it with floure of Rys & with Spycerye; & atte the dressoure ley thes pelettys .v. or .vj. in a dysshe, & then pore thin sewe aneward, & serue in, or ellys make a gode thryfty Syryppe & ley thin pelettys atte the dressoure ther-on, & that is gode seruyse.MS.Harl.279.153

Take beef, pork or veal, one of them, raw, and chop it then grin them in a mortar as small as you may, then cast thereto egg yolks, wine, and a little white sugar; cast also thereto pepper, and mace, cloves, cubebs, cinnamon and salt and a little saffron; and also add chopped currants; then make small pellets round enough, and look that you have a fair pot of fresh beef or chicken broth, and throw them thereon and let them simmer til they be cooked enough, then take and draw up almond milk, with cold fresh broth of beef, veal, mutton or chicken, and mix it with flour or rice and with spicery, and at the dresser lay these pellets 5 or 6 in a dish, pour the sauce onward, and serve in, or else make a good syrup and lay these pellets at the dresser thereon, and that is good service.


1 kg pork mince 1 tsp salt
2 egg yolks ½ tsp pepper
1 L beef stock ¼ tsp cloves
½ cup wine ¼ tsp cubebs
1 cup currants ¼ tsp mace
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups almond milk ¼ tsp cloves
3 tbs rice flour ¼ tsp mace


  1. Mix pork mince, wine, egg yolks, currants and spices.
  2. Form into small balls, about an inch in diameter.
  3. Place in boiling broth and cook until done – they will rise to the surface of the boiling broth (about 10 – 15 minutes).
  4. Remove from broth and place in serving dish.
  5. In a separate pan mix almond milk, rice flour, cloves and mace. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over medium heat until thick.
  6. Pour just enough sauce over the meatballs to thoroughly coat them and serve.



  • Cubeb is a type of pepper. They look like a normal black peppercorn, but they have a little tail. They have a strong menthol taste, and it is important not to overuse them or they will overpower the dish.
  • As noted in the recipe, this works equally well with beef.


Further Reading

Black, Maggie. The Medieval Cookbook. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.
Renfrow, Cindy. Take a Thousand Eggs or More Volume One. Unionville: Royal Fireworks Press, 2003.

Lumbard Mustard (Honey Mustard Sauce)

Take mustard seed and waisshe it, & drye it in an ovene. Grynde it drye; sarse it thurgh a sarse. Clarifie hony with wyne & vyneger& stere it wel togedre and make it thikke ynowgh; & whan thou wilt spende therof make it thynne with wyne. The Forme of Curye 150

Take mustard seed and wash it and dry it in an oven. Grind it dry and sieve it. Clarify honey with wine and vinegar and stir it well together and make it thick enough; and when you would use it make it thin with wine.


150 mL honey 2 tbs mustard powder
2 tbs wine vinegar 50 mL red wine


Mix all ingredients, and heat just before serving.


  • This sauce could be served with any roast meat. It is particularly good with chicken and beef.
  • I would not recommend preparing this sauce ahead of time. The longer it’s left, the stronger the mustard gets, and that can be unpleasant (though it will clear the sinuses!)


Lumbard Mustard Sauce, foreground, with roast beef and Sauce Alepeure – recipe here

Dry Curing Bacon

Food preservation was extremely important in ancient and medieval times. They didn’t have refrigerators or artificial preservatives; any excess produce was preserved both to prevent waste and try and ensure a continuous food supply.

When you’re preserving, you’re attempting to prevent food spoilage from starting – once food has started to spoil, pretty much all you can do is throw it out. Food spoilage is caused by harmful bacteria. Like most organisms, bacteria require certain essentials to grow – a food supply, and a comfortable environment; most also prefer a moist environment. Some harmful bacteria also require oxygen, but one of the most dangerous organisms, botulism, prefers an anaerobic, or oxygen-poor, environment. Essentially, when you’re preserving, you are creating an environment that’s hostile to bacteria.

Salting is one of the oldest food preservation methods, and is still used today in the production of gourmet meats such as prosciutto (ham) and gravlax (salmon). It works by drawing out the moisture from food, which sees off most bacteria, and prevents the growth of botulism, which doesn’t like a highly saline environment. When used with meat, salt also reacts with enzymes in the meat to change its chemical structure, breaking down the fibres and tenderising the meat. (McGee, 2004, 174).

In medieval times, food spoilage was considered to be caused by an excess of cold, wet humours. So to preserve food, you had to drastically increase the hot, dry humours. According to Platina, “the virtue of salt is fiery so that it contracts, dries and binds whatever bodies it touches. If dead flesh is salted in time, it is very well preserved.” (Scully, 1995, 55).

So now we’ve got all the boring science out of the way, let’s get down to the meat of the matter.

Method of curing hams and Puteolan ofella
You should salt hams in the following manner, in a jar or large pot: When you have bought the hams cut off the hocks. Allow a half-modius of ground Roman salt to each ham. Spread salt on the bottom of the jar or pot; then lay a ham, with the skin facing downwards, and cover the whole with salt. Place another ham over it and cover in the same way, taking care that meat does not touch meat. Continue in the same way until all are covered. When you have arranged them all, spread salt above so that the meat shall not show, and level the whole. When they have remained five days in the salt remove them all with their own salt. Place at the bottom those which had been on top before, covering and arranging them as before. Twelve days later take them out finally, brush off all the salt, and hang them for two days in a draught. On the third day clean them thoroughly with a sponge and rub with oil. Hang them in smoke for two days, and the third day take them down, rub with a mixture of oil and vinegar, and hang in the meat-house. No moths or worms will touch them.
Cato, De Agri Cultura (On Farming), 127.

The above recipe comes from a work on farming written by Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Censor) in C2 BC. At a time when Rome was expanding and coming into contact with other cultures, Cato was very eager to preserve what he saw as traditional Roman values, which is probably why he wrote a book about how to run a farm. It was a highly influential work and was used as a blueprint for farm management for decades after.

Even though this recipe is over 2,000 years old, the process hasn’t really changed. The following process is adapted from Australian chef Adrian Richardson’s Meat – “Dry Cure Mix for the Enthusiast,” p 244. All I have done is change the spices to be spices available in the medieval period. I prepared this for Spring War 2013, where I wanted enough that 200 or so people would be able to have a taste.


4 kg pork belly, boned 100 g ground pepper
2kg Pure salt (see Notes) 100g ground fennel seeds

The starting point. At this stage, the pork belly is pink and moist, and very soft.


  1. Slice the pork belly into roughly equal pieces.
  2. Mix the salt and the spices together.  Have your main preserving mix in one container, and then put some into a separate bowl before beginning the next step.
  3. Work a generous handful of the mix into each piece of pork, then stack them on top of each other in a non-reactive bowl (glass, plastic or ceramic – not metal), putting skin to skin and flesh to flesh. The first piece should be skin side down. Cover the container and put in a cool place – the fridge is ideal, and won’t interfere with the salt’s action.
    Pork belly stacked after first salting. You can see moisture already starting to pool on the meat.
    The pork belly after 24 hours. As you can see, the salt has largely dissolved into the flesh, and there is a lot of liquid in the bottom of the container.
  4. After 24 hours, drain off the liquid, then rinse and dry the bowl. Rub a fresh handful of curing mix into each piece of pork, then stack back into the container in the opposite order (so the one on the bottom is now on top).
  5. Repeat this process every 24 hours for 5-8 days. You will know the process is complete when there’s very little liquid in the bottom of the container. You can expect to lose as much as 10% of liquid from your pork belly. The liquid will be extremely salty – it makes an excellent weed killer.
  6. Rinse and dry the pieces well, and store in a cool place – again, the fridge is good. It will keep for around 6 months.
    The finished product. There is some staining from the pepper, but the meat has darkened considerably and has become very leathery in texture.
  7. The meat will now be really salty – too salty to eat. Before eating, slice the meat into strips, and then soak for at least 12 hours, preferably changing the water once. Drain and dry well, and fry as you would normal bacon.


  • Finding the right salt for preserving can be tricky. Modern table salt has anti-caking agents added to stop it from clumping; you also find salt sometimes has extra iodine added. Both will interfere with the preserving. Iodine actually destroys the enzymes in the meat that help to break down the fibres. Check with food wholesalers or preserving specialists, and you might be able to get pure salt in bulk. If you can’t find salt that doesn’t have additives, get some rock salt or coarse sea salt and crush it.
  • These are just the spices I used. You could also use mustard, cinnamon or cloves, or add dried herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
  • The spices have very little to do with the preservation process – they simply add flavour. However, oily spices such as cloves and cinnamon do have antiseptic properties which help can stop the growth of bacteria.

Further Reading

McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. New York: Scribner, 2004.
Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1995.