Cherry Sauce for Roasted Meats

Zum ein salsenn von weichselnn zu machen.
Item wiltu machen ein gutte salsenn von weichselnn, so thue die weichsell in einen hafen vnd secz die auff ein glut vnd laß sie siedenn vnd laß dann wider erkaltenn vnd streich sie durch ein tuch vnd thue sie dann wider in den hafenn vnd secz sie auff ein glut vnd laß sie wol sieden vnd rurr sie, piß sie dick wirt, vnd thue dann honig dar an vnd geribens prot vnd negellein vnd gut gestu:ep vnd thue sie in ein feßlein. Sie pleibt dir gut drew oder vier iar.
Das Kochbuch des Meisters Eberhard, mid C15

To make a sauce of tart cherries.
If you wish to make a good sauce of tart cherries, put the cherries into a pot and place it on the embers and let them boil. Then cool down again and pass them through a cloth, put it back into the pot, place it on the embers and let it boil well until it thickens. Then add honey and grated bread and cloves and good spice powder and put it into a small cask. It will stay good three or four years.

The text and translation of the recipe can be found here. The translation was done by Master Giano Balestriere (Volker Bach).

Sauces were an essential part of medieval and early modern cooking. As well as enhancing flavour, they were an essential part of healthy cooking. The practice of medicine was dominated by the theory of the four humours – fire, earth, water and air. Every food was dominated by one of these humours, some to a level that was considered dangerous. Using the right sauce with a particular dish could reign in this danger and make the food more healthful (Scully, 1995, 13). However, too much of a particular sauce could be harmful in itself! (Klemettilä, 2012, 87).

Sauces were typical accompaniments for boiled or roasted meat. Cherry sauce was a popular condiment in early modern Germany; most recipe collections contain at least one recipe (Bach, 2016, 151). Sabina Welserin’s cook book doesn’t contain a general recipe, but specifies to serve boar’s head with sour cherry sauce (recipe 5) and roast venison with a sauce that contains cherry syrup (recipe 7). This cherry sauce is quite robust, and I feel is best with strongly flavoured meats. The recipe below makes enough to be a generous accompaniment for 1kg of roast lamb.

Ingredients

100g morello cherries, drained (see notes) ¼ tsp ground cloves
50mL honey ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbs bread crumbs ¼ tsp nutmeg

Method

  1. Drain the cherries and reserve the liquid.
  2. Put the cherries into a pan with a small amount of water, and over a low heat, cook the cherries until they have softened. Top up the cooking water as required. You could also use the liquid you drained from the cherries.
  3. When the cherries have softened, push them through a coarse strainer, or use a food processor or blender to process to a puree.
  4. Return the cherry puree to the heat, and add the honey and spices.
  5. When the mixture is boiling again, add the breadcrumbs, and stir until it thickens.
  6. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, then pour into a storage container or serving dish.
  7. The sauce can be made ahead of time and reheated. It works well served with strong flavoured meats.

Notes

  • Morello cherries have a much higher acid content than regular cherries, and thus have a much more sour taste. In fact, they are so sour they are virtually impossible to eat fresh, so they are usually preserved in syrup. If you want to use fresh Morello cherries, you will probably have to grow them yourself.
  • As with many period recipes, the spice mix is left to the cook. Cinnamon and nutmeg is a favourite combination of mine. Other spices that could work are galingale, ginger or pepper.
  • It is far better to make your own breadcrumbs rather than use bought ones – the texture of freshly made crumbs is superior. You can either use a fine grater or a food processor to produce breadcrumbs.

Lamb with cherry sauce

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.
Klemettilä, Hannele (2012). The Medieval Kitchen.
Scully, Terence, 1995. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages

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Stewed Mushrooms

Nimm duerre Schwammen / wasch sie sauber auß etlichen Wassern / setz sie zu mit Erbeßbrueh unnd klein geschweißten Zwibeln / mach es ab mit Essig / Pfeffer / mit Saffran und Saltz / laß miteinander ein stundt oder zwo sieden/ so wirt es gut und wolgeschmack. Marx Rumpoldt, Ein new Kuchbuch CLXIIIr (1581)

Take dried mushrooms, wash then several times until they are clean and place them on the fire with pease broth and small fried onions. Season it with vinegar, pepper, saffron and salt and boil it together an hour or two. Thus it will be good and tasty.

The text and translation of the recipe can be found in Volker Bach’s excellent collection of medieval period recipes that can be cooked in a camp setting, Plain Fare, which is available for download here.

Mushrooms had a somewhat dubious reputation in medieval times. Some medical writers regarded them as dangerous and advised never to eat them (Scully, 1995, 76), and the dangers from poisoning were quite well known (Bach, 2016, 43). However, there are recipes for mushrooms in many medieval manuscripts, and they were readily available for sale throughout Europe (Scully, 1995, 13), though the varieties sold would have depended on what was available. A German selection would probably include chantrelles and morels, which are named in some recipe collections (Bach, 2016, 43).

If you check out Plain Fare on the link above, you will see Bach has interpreted this recipe as a soup (and he might well be right in that, given he is an expert on medieval German food, and a native German speaker, and I’m definitely not either). However, because this recipe uses dried mushrooms which are cooked for around “an hour or two,” I chose to interpret this as a mushroom stew. This dish was so delicious two confirmed carnivores went for second helpings over second helpings of perfectly cooked roast lamb, and might even choose it over other meat dishes. We’d love to try it as a pie filling.

Ingredients

70g mixed dried mushrooms 50mL vinegar
1 onion 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
500mL vegetable stock pinch saffron

Method

  1. Finely dice the onion and fry in olive oil, or some other fat such as butter or lard.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan, and stir well to combine.
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Cook for at least an hour; two or more is preferable. Stir occasionally, and top up the cooking liquid if needed.
  5. Test to see if you need salt before serving; you probably won’t need it.

Notes

  • To make this up we used a mix of roughly equal parts of button mushrooms, Swiss brown mushrooms, porcini and chantrelles. The mushrooms you use will probably depend on what you can find available for sale, but you should definitely use dried mushrooms as they turbocharge the final flavour. If you have access to a dehydrator it will certainly increase the range of mushrooms you can use. Ideally, if you know what local mushrooms are edible, forage and dry your own mushrooms, as would have been done in period.

Mushrooms

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.
Scully, Terence, 1995. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages

Lossyns (Cheese Lasagne)


LOSYNS.
Take gode broth and do in an erthen pot, take flour of payndemayn and make þerof past with water, and make þerof thynne foyles as paper with a roller, drye it harde and seeþ it in broth. Take Chese ruayn grated and lay it in disshes with powdour douce, and lay þeron loseyns isode as hoole as þou myȝt, and above powdour and chese; and so twyse or thryse, & serue it forth.
The Forme of Cury 89.

Losyns.
Take good broth and put it in an earthen pot, take quality white flour and make thereof paste with water, and make thereof thin foils as paper with a roller, dry it hard and seethe it in broth. Take semi-hard cheese grated and lay it in dishes with sweet powder, and lay thereon noodles sodden (boiled) and as whole as thou must, and above powder and cheese; and so twice or thrice, and serve it forth.

The text of the original recipe comes from Curye on Inglysch, edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.

This is fast becoming a personal preference over the more familiar macaroni and cheese! A dish like this would most likely have been served at the end of a feast, as it was believed that cheese closed off the stomach and forced the food in the stomach to digest faster (Scully, 1995, 134-135). This was particularly true of fresh, semi hard cheeses.

The name “Losyns” probably derives from Lozenge (Renfrow, 1997, 266). This was a traditional shape for medicines, which further suggests this was as much a medicinal dish as a culinary delight.

Ingredients

3 lasagne noodles 1 tsp ground cinnamon
2L beef or vegetable stock 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
250g-500g grated cheese Optional: 1 tsp sugar

Method

  1. In a wide pan, bring the stock to a boil and cook the lasagne noodles according to the instructions. You will probably find two spatulas useful to get the lasagne noodles out of the stock. Keep the stock boiling.
  2. Lay the lasagne noodles on a damp cloth, and cover with another damp cloth, while you are assembling the lossyns.
  3. Mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar (if using) and set aside.
  4. Put a good layer of cheese in a bowl big enough to accommodate the noodles without cutting them, and sprinkle on some of your spice mix.
  5. Lay a lasagne noodle on top of the cheese and spices, and put more cheese and spices on top.
  6. Repeat with the rest of your lasagne noodles, ensuring you finish with cheese and spices.
  7. Gently pour some of the stock over the top of the lossyns, to melt the cheese. Leave to cool slightly.
  8. Cut the lossyns diagonally, so you end up with diamond shapes. Carefully ease the individual pieces onto a serving platter. You can serve them hot or cold.

Notes

  • “Flour of paynedemayn” is the best quality white flour (Butler and Hieatt, 1985, 204). If you are going to make your own pasta, use quality flour recommended for pasta, as the cheap stuff won’t give good results.
  • “Chese ruayn” is autumn cheese, made from the milk produced after cattle had fed on autumn growth. It is thought to have been a semi-firm cheese (Butler and Hieatt, 1985, 211). A Cheshire style cheese would be ideal; it is thought this style of cheese making came about in the late medieval period, and Cheshire was one of the first regions in England to produce cheese on a commercial quantity (Kindstedt, 2012, 165-172).
  • “Powdour douce” is a sweet spice mix, as opposed to a “powder fort” (strong powder). It is likely each cook had their own preferred blend, though cinnamon and sugar are thought to have been common ingredients (Butler and Hieatt, 1985, 208). My preferred blend is 2 parts cinnamon to one part nutmeg, sometimes with 2 parts sugar added.
  • The suggestion to pour boiling stock over the lossyns comes from Pleyn Delit. However, that recipe specifies just a half-cup of cheese… which hardly seems worth it! (Hieatt et al, 1996, 12).

Lossyns

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
 
Hieatt, Constance and Butler, Sharon (1985). Curye on Inglysch.
Hieatt, Constance, Hosington, Brenda and Butler, Sharon (1996). Pleyn Delit.
Kindstedt, Paul (2012). Cheese and Culture.
Renfrow, Cindy (1997). Take a Thousand Eggs or More, vol. 1.

Frumenty (Wheat Porridge)

TO MAKE FRUMENTE
Tak clene whete and braye yt wel in a morter tyl þe holes gon of; and seþe it til it breste in water. Nym it vp & lat it cole. Tak good broþ & swete mylk of kyn or of almand & tempere it þerwith. Nym ȝelkes of eyren rawe & saffroun & cast þerto; salt it; lat it nauȝt boyle after þe eyren ben cast þerinne. Messe it forth with venesoun or with fat motoun fresch.
The Forme of Cury 1.

To make Frumenty
Take clean wheat and smash it well in a mortar until the hulls are gone, and boil it in water until it bursts. Take it up and let it cool. Take good broth and sweet cow or almond milk, and mix it therewith. Take yolks of eggs and saffron and cast thereto, and salt it. Do not let it boil after the eggs be cast therein. Serve it forth with venison or fat, fresh mutton.

The text of the original recipe comes from Curye on Inglysch, edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.

Frumenty, or furmenty, was a staple of medieval kitchens. As the recipe above suggests, in England particularly it was served with venison. It does make an excellent accompaniment to any meat dish with a good sauce, as the frumenty absorbs the sauce well. It is a very filling dish, and can be made sweet with the addition of sugar and dried fruits.

Ingredients

160g (1 cup) bulgur 2 egg yolks
500mL beef, chicken or vegetable stock 1/4 tsp saffron, crushed
500mL milk or almond milk 1 tsp salt

Method

  1. Put the bulgur, stock, milk and saffron in a pot and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce the frumenty mix to a simmer, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed (this will take around half an hour). Stir it occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  3. Keeping the heat very low, add the egg yolks and salt and stir well to heat through.
  4. Can be served hot, or at room temperature, as an accompaniment to a meat dish or a side dish by itself.

This recipe is very similar to the one found in Pleyn Delit (78).

Notes

  • Bulgur is made by crushing and boiling wheat grains – thereby eliminating a lot of pounding wheat in a mortar.
  • Frumenty could also be made with barley (Hieatt et al, 1996, 47).
  • The bulgur will swell to at least four times the size when cooked – remember to take this into account when menu planning.
  • The “fresh mutton” mentioned in the original recipe refers to recently butchered mutton, rather than salted, preserved mutton.
  • If your frumenty is too sloppy, you are probably using too much cooking liquid. It’s better to use slightly less and top up if in doubt.

Frumenty

Further Reading

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

Hieatt, Constance and Butler, Sharon (1985). Curye on Inglysch.
Hieatt, Constance, Hosington, Brenda and Butler, Sharon (1996). Pleyn Delit.

Chicken Dumplings

193 Wie man kaponerkrapfen machen soll
Nempt das bret von 2 hennen, wens gesoten jst, hackt es fein, nempt ain barmisankesß geriben darúnder vnnd gilbts
vnnd rierts dúrchainander/ jr solt aúch múscatblie vnnd pfeffer dareinthon, macht darnach ain taig an/ macht ain
tinnen blatz vnnd thiet die obgeschribne fille daraúff vnnd formierts zú ainem krapfen vnnd dient die 2 zipffel zúsamen/ siedts jn ainer fleschbrie wie hert gesottne air vnnd gebts warm.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin’

193 How to make chicken dumplings
Take the meat from two chickens. After it is cooked chop it finely, mix grated Parmesan cheese in with it and color it yellow and stir it together. You should also put mace and pepper into it. After that prepare a dough. Make a thin flat cake and put the above described filling on it and form it into a dumpling and join the two ends together. Cook it in broth as long as for hard- boiled eggs and serve it warm.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

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

Chicken was the most commonly consumed poultry in Germany, and there are many recipes for it in German cooking manuscripts (Bach, 2016, 139). These delicate morsels are rather like chicken and cheese ravioli. I’ve also eaten them as a soup, with the dumplings served in the cooking broth.

Ingredients

500g chicken meat, raw or cooked (see notes) 1/2 tsp pepper
250g parmesan cheese 1/4 tsp mace
1 packet of wonton wrappers (see notes) 1/4 tsp saffron threads
1.5L chicken stock 1/2 tsp salt

Method

  1. Shred the chicken finely with a fork or a food processor, and finely grate the parmesan.
  2. Soak the saffron threads in boiling water, which should turn deep orange.
  3. in a bowl, combine the chicken, cheese, salt, spices and saffron water and mix well. This is easiest done with the hands.
  4. Place a spoonful of the mix into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Rub the edges of the pastry with water, then fold the wrapper into a dumpling shape and press to seal. Use more water as necessary.
  5. Bring the stock to a boil, then add the dumplings to cook through. They are cooked when they rise to the surface of the stock (which will take around 5 minutes).
  6. If you are serving the dumplings as dumplings, cook and serve immediately, otherwise they will stick together before they can be eaten.
  7. Serve warm.

Notes

  • Although the recipe specifies cooked chicken meat, we found making the dumplings with cooked chicken made the end result rather dry and tough – the raw chicken which then cooked in the wrapper was much more flavoursome.
  • If you want to try and make your own dumpling wrappers, the fair paste recipe made into a thin pasta would be a good basis. I’ve just never gotten a flour and water pasta that eats as well as a commercially made wonton wrapper.
  • The dumplings can be made ahead of time and then frozen. They will cook from frozen, but will take longer to cook.

Chicken dumplings
Served as dumplings….

Chicken dumpling soup
… or served as soup!

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.

Bohemian Peas

Bemisch erbis zú machen
Nim 3 lot erbis, seuds trucken, das sý nit zú nasß send, vnnd stoß woll jm morser, das sý fein miessig werden, thú gúten wein daran/ thú jmber, rerlen, pariskerner vnnd zucker, gib es kalt, beses mit zúcker, jst ain gút herrenessen.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin

149 To make Bohemian peas
Take one and a half ounces of peas, cook them until dry, so that they are not too wet, and pound them in a mortar, so that they become a fine mush. Put good wine on them, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and sugar. Serve it cold, sprinkle it with sugar. It is a good and lordly dish.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

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

Peas were an important crop throughout medieval Europe. They can be fed to animals as well as people, and can also be dried, so they are a food source year round. Dishes such as this, where peas are cooked with expensive ingredients like spices and sugar to create “lordly” dishes, are found throughout medieval Europe.

Ingredients

500g peas 1/2 tsp ginger
125mL white wine 1/2 tsp cinnamon
75g sugar 1/4 tsp cardamom

Method

  1. Put the peas in a pot with just enough water to cover them, then cook, uncovered, until the water has disappeared. Set them aside to cool.
  2. Pound the peas to mush in a mortar and pestle or a food processor.
  3. Grind the spices to powder, and add to the pea mush with the wine and half of the sugar, and mix well.
  4. Transfer the peas to a serving dish, and sprinkle with the rest of the sugar. Serve cold.

Notes

  • Cardamom pods are either black or green – you split the pod open to extract the seeds, which are the spice. It has a wonderful scent. I recommend tracking down the pods rather than ready ground cardamom, as it loses its flavour and smell very quickly.
  • If possible, track down whole dried ginger which has to be grated before use. This is the way ginger would have been purchased in the medieval period, and it has a far more powerful flavour and scent.

Bohemian peas

To Preserve Fruit (Fruit Jam)

To Preserve Plums or Gooseberries
Take to every pound of plums a pound of suger, then beat it small, & put so much water to it as will wet it, then boyle it till it bee sugar againe, then put in the plums, & let them boile very softlie, till they be doone, then when they bee cold put them up, if they begin to grow then set them where fire is in a cupboard; you may doe respis this way & gooseberries, but you must boyle them verie soft, & not put them up till they bee cold, & likewise may Cherries be doone as your gooseberries & respis.
Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, ed. Hillary Spurling.

To Preserve Plums or Gooseberries
Take to every pound of plums a pound of sugar, then beat it small, & put so much water to it as will wet it, then boil it until it be sugar again, then put in the plums, & let them boil very softly, until they be done, then when they be cold put them up, if they begin to grow then set them where fire is in a cupboard; you may do raspberries this way & gooseberries, but you must boil them very soft, & not put them up until they be cold, & likewise may cherries be done as your gooseberries & raspberries.

This recipe is quite different to a modern jam recipe – first you create a sugar syrup, set it to a candy, then add the fruit and gradually dissolve the candy into a syrup again. The fruit then melds into the sugar syrup, creating the jam. It takes time and patience, because you DON’T want the fruit and syrup to boil, however the flavour is far superior to modern jams, and you don’t have boiling mixes spitting on the stove.

Along with some friends, I have made this recipe using mulberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.

Ingredients

450g fruit 450g caster sugar

Method

  1. Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and add just enough water to turn the sugar to a stiff paste – it should not be too wet.
  2. Put the pan of sugar paste onto a low heat, and stir it until the sugar is dissolved. Then leave the sugar syrup to heat to 115°C. Give the pan a good jiggle and stir to set the sugar syrup to a candy. Allow to cool completely. You will end up with a solid mass of candy in the base of the pan.

    Set sugar syrup

  3. Meanwhile, cut the fruit into small pieces and set aside.
  4. When the sugar candy is completely cold, put the pan back onto a low heat and pour the fruit on top.
  5. Give the sugar candy and fruit an occasional stir to allow the fruit and sugar to mix. DO NOT LET IT BOIL.

    Adding the fruit to the sugar

  6. To test when the jam is set, put a small amount onto a cold plate and tip the plate. If the mix is very runny, leave it to cook a little longer. Otherwise, remove from the heat and allow the jam to cool.
  7. Pour the jam into sterilised jars and store in a cool place.

Notes

  • The weights of fruit and sugar given are only guides – you can make this recipe with more or less fruit. The important thing is to have equal weights of fruit and sugar.
  • Elinor Fettiplace’s instruction “to boile” can be quite confusing. Often she actually means “simmer,” and you generally have to work out the meaning from the context. Because she specifies “boile very softlie” in this instance, she is talking about simmering in this case.
  • If using a low pectin fruit such as raspberries, you will get a better final set if you use juice from the fruit to make the initial sugar candy rather than water.
  • If you’ve made jam using a modern recipe, not boiling the jam mix may not seem as though it will work. However, it actually gives you a far better result, though it does take time and patience to get a set. Pectins are released from the fruit at 70°C, rather than boiling point. But because the mix doesn’t boil, none of the fruit flavour is lost through evaporation (Spurling, 2011, 129). So you wind up with a jam that is a little more runny than typical modern jams, but has a much more intense fruit flavour.
  • Lady Elinor’s instruction to “set them where fire is in a cupboard” “if they begin to grow” refers to instructions to follow if the jam starts to get mouldy. She means to put the jam pots in a cupboard with a slatted bottom over a fire, where the heat and smoke will prevent mould from forming (Spurling, 2011, 129).

Tudor jam
Left: mulberry jam. Right: strawberry jam.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Spurling, Hilary (2011). Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book.