Cookery in Spring

Spring is in bloom.  Our guest blogger, THL Johnnae llyn Lewis, is on here to tell us more about it.

Grimani Breviary April 1490-1510This is a year of a late Spring. Here in Michigan, we had scant snow in February, but it snowed off and on in April.  One must move along and think seasonally, so one might as well look for recipes which specify spring. Here are a few English recipes mentioning the season.

Spring flowers feature in our nursery rhymes and sayings today; they also can be found scattered in our culinary references. John Partridge in his 1573 The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, includes a chapter titled “To know what time in the yeare Herbes and Flowres, should be gathered in their full strength. cap.lxi.” Therein he explains when herbs and flowers should be gathered. He writes:

“Camimamill shalbe gathered in Apryll… Addertung should be gathered in Apryll.

Uiolet should be gathered in the Month of March, & in this month should Uiolets be put into Sugre and to Syrop.

Roses should be gathered in April and in May: and of them shoulde be made Suger ro set in Syropes of Roses and in this same Month should Oyle be made of Camamyll.

Rosemary flowres should be gathered in May. Centory whe he begieth to flowre.

Origanum in ye Month of Iune.

And as to what might be done with those roses gathered in May and June, he writes:

“Here foloweth, the sundrie Uertues of Roses, for dyuers Medicines. Ca.lxii.

Roses, be colde and moyste, in two degrees: it hath these Uertues. Stampe it, & lay it to a sore that brenneth & aketh: and it shall cease both the brennyng & akyng.

Also, it is good for the feuer in the stomacke, & against all euyelles that are gendred in hot humours.

Also, lette any woman drynke it with Wyne, and it shal foorthwith restrayne bleedyngs, and helpe the Marowes of the wombe.

Also, make Oyle of Roses, & that is a principall Receipt for pricking in Sinewes & the water threof is good for sore eien, and for hot euils, and the Oyle is good for head ache to anoynte therwith the timples, and ye roote of him is good, & drawynge for Iron: or other thing in a man’s foote, & the red Rose is much better then the white.”

Partridge, John. The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, and Hidden Secretes. 1573.**

 Here is another recipe for a dish to be made of all those gathered herbs. From 1598 comes this recipe:

To make a Herboletta of hearbes in the month of May.

Take as much new chéefe as aforesaid and stampe it, then take fiftéene or sixtéene Egges and some milke, good store of Bettonie, Margerum, Sage, Mint, and a little Parsely, stampe these hearbes very well and wring out the iuice and straining it, you must put it into the Chéefe and other things aforesaid, with halfe a pound of Butter, halfe a pound of Ginger, and ten ounces of Sugar, and mixe all these together and set them on the fire in a pipkin not ouerwhote, and stirre it with a spoone vntill it begin to thicken like pottage: that done, hauing made paste you shall put the composition into it, and set it to bake in a pan with a soft fire, both vnder and ouer it. And when it is well baked, take it out and straw fine Sugar and Rosewater vpon it. This kinde of Tarte is best when it is gréenest.

[Rosselli, Giovanne de.]Epulario, or The Italian banquet. 1598.

 In the 1597 The Second Part of the Good Hus-wiues Iewell,

 Thomas Dawson advocated that one confite orange peels “cheefly in May.”

To confite Orenge peeles which may be doone at all times in the yeere, and cheefly in May, because then the saide peeles be greatest and thickest.

Take thicke Orenge péeles, and them cut in foure or fiue péeces, and steepe them in water the space of ten or twelue daies. You may know when they be stéeped enough, if you holde them vp in the sunne and sée through them, then they be steeped enough, & you cannot sée through them, then let them stéepe vntil you may. Then lay them to drye vpon a table, and put them to dry betwéen two linnen clothes, then put them in a Kettell or vessell leaded, and adde to it as much Honny as will halfe couer the saide peeles, more or lesse as you think good, boyle them a little and stirre them alwaies, then take them from the fire, least the Honny should séeth ouermuch. For if it should boyle a little more then it ought to boyle, it would be thick. Let it them stand and rest foure daies in the said Honny, stirring and mingling the Orrenge and Honny euery day together. Because there is not honny enough to couer all the saide Orrenge péeles, you must stir them well and oftentimes, thus doo thrée times, giuing them one bobling at ech time, then let them stand thrée dayes then strain them from the honny, and after you haue let them boile a small space, take them from the fier, and bestow them in vessels, putting to them Ginger, cloues and Sinamon, mixe all together, and the rest of the Sirrope will serue to dresse others withall.

Dawson, Thomas. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wiues Iewell. 1597.

          From Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook, from 1660 comes this menu for April:

A Bill of Fare for April.

Oysters.

1 A Bisk.
2 Cold Lamb.
3 A Hanch of Venison roste.
4 Goslings four.
5 A Turky Chicken.
6 Custard of Almonds.

A second Course.

1 Lamb, a side in joynts.
2 Turtle Doves eight.
3 Cold Neats Tongue Pie.
4 8 Pidgeons four larded.
5 Lobsters.
6 A Coller of Beef.

Tanseys.

Lastly, the agrarian writer Thomas Tusser offers this advice for April regarding the keeping of the dairy by the good housewife. He regarded the milking and making of cheeses and butter to be the sole province of the women of the house and chided them in a number of verses should they prove negligent or fail in these tasks.

From Aprill beginning, til Andrew be past,
so long with good huswife, her dayry doth last.
Good beast & good pasture, good husbands prouide
ye resdue, good huswiues, know best how to guide

Tusser, Thomas. Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry vnited to as many of good huswiferie. 1573.

Happy Springtime.

Sources are as indicated.

** The Partridge, John. The Treasurie of commodious Conceits of 1573 may be found online in a transcription © 2010 by Johnna Holloway. Web. Medieval Cookery.com. http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/treasurie.pdf

The article originally appeared in The Citadel, Spring 2015.

©Holloway 2015, 2018.

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Discussion: Cookbooks and Where to Start

I’d like to welcome a new guest writer for the blog, Johnnae llyn Lewis. She is a very knowledgeable food historian and writer. I’ve asked her to reprint several of her articles in order to get her work more out to the world (and these are great so I hope you all enjoy her perspective as well as I do).

Discussion: Cookbooks and Where to Start
By THL Johnnae llyn Lewis, CE

gm_00278701In late March 2016, the local Cynnabar Baronial Book Club section focused “on period cooking.” The instructions read: “Please bring a short list of your favorite food related books. Discussion is Round Robin format.” This is the guide which local member and librarian Johnnae prepared for the session. She has updated for readers here.

In the spirit of Ranganathan’s laws of librarianship and the ideal of “Every reader his [or her] book,” my question as to which cookery books and works on food history might be appropriate for a reader would be: what do you the Reader want to accomplish? By this I mean what do you want to achieve in cookery or play with in terms of food and cookery? Are you looking for some, perhaps just a few easy standby recipes for suitably historical dishes? Perhaps you need suitable recipes for potlucks, luncheons, or contributed tables of dessert items. Are you interested more in the history and foodways of a certain period or place? Are you interested in the role food played in the culture of the medieval period or in the lives of famous Renaissance or Elizabethan personages? Do you want to know what dishes or foods your persona might have eaten back when? Or are you interested in cookery of a specific type? Are you interested in baking bread, cakes, spit cooking or roasting over an open fire, creating your own cheeses, or even creating sugar subtleties and confections? Do you want to throw caution to the wind and become a feast cook responsible for feeding 100 plus diners?

Despite this being a short article on books, I am going to start by advocating heresy and suggest that all a beginner or even a moderately established cook needs when starting out is to use the very marvelous website medievalcookery.com. The Midrealm’s Master Edouard Halidai (Daniel Myers) created the site. It offers over 100 carefully tested redacted recipes, a bibliography, and a database of recipes with an ingredient keyword index. Plus it provides a gateway to all the online cookery texts of period or appropriate interest which are already housed on the web. As a secondary source, take a look at Stefan’s Florilegium http://www.florilegium.org//. [Librarian’s Note: When using the Florilegium, please be aware that the editor, THL Stefan, does not edit or remove faulty information or references. Be sure to read all the sections through from the start to the end, as later posts may correct misinformation cited earlier.]

My one invaluable tip: When embarking in cookery, make it a practice to keep files and notebooks. If you want to engage in redacting recipes, note your attempts. It takes practice before a reader can easily redact, render, or work out his/her own versions of an actual historic recipe. Keeping track will give you the all-important record of attempts and successes, trials and errors. If you are saving your work on a computer, be sure it is backed up on the cloud. Far too often, recipes and sources have been irretrievably lost due to computer crashes or software malfunctions.

Also be sure and note sources carefully if you copy or Xerox a section of recipes. There’s nothing worse than an original or redacted recipe with no source attached. Likewise, if you copy something off the Internet, get the source (www.address) copied. (It’s not a bad idea to do a page grab.) Please be aware online quality varies even in terms of Society websites and recipes. Some are great; some are awful; some are just plainly inauthentic or worse! Verify, research, verify. Do not think for a minute that all you need to do is just get on Yahoo and type in medieval and that your hits will be authentic enough for any sort of A&S contest. Facebook groups these days may provide hints or links but it’s not for serious research. The hive mind may be convenient to poll off one’s phone, but it’s a matter of authority. The person who replies to a Facebook question may mean well, but their information may be just a folktale or false. Did they actually look it up? Do they have any real experience? Do they research and have a collection in the topic? Again– Verify, research, verify! Lastly, be honest. If a recipe came from a modern website or off the Food Network, say so. Lastly, never claim another’s recipe or handout as your own. Chances are, you will get caught!
As to books, suggested Works in English to buy or use. Both of these are widely available and can be downloaded into your Kindle e-readers. As with all suggested volumes, if funds are short, please consider buying used copies or look at the volumes mentioned here at your local library or request through interlibrary loan.
Brears, Peter. All the King’s Cooks. The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace. London: Souvenir Press, 1999. Paperback ed. 2011. Excellent text with 82 recipes from 16th century England. Highly recommended. Excellent photos and drawings. Great Tudor source. KINDLE version available.

Hieatt, Constance and Sharon Butler. Pleyn Delit. Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks. 1976. 1979. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996. The second edition is credited to Hieatt, Brenda Hosington, and Butler. Good basic text with 142 documented recipes of English & French origin. KINDLE version available.

For French and Italian recipes, then I recommend starting with:
Redon, Odile, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen. Recipes from France and Italy. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998. The American edition is translated by Edward Schneider. Available in paperback. A favorite of many Society cooks with 150 14th and 15th century French and Italian recipes.

If you want to spend some money or are looking for a suitable gift, then consider:

Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining In Medieval England. Totnes, Devon, UK: Prospect Books, 2008. 557 pp., 75 B/W line drawings. [Notes: 485-503. Notes on Illustrations: 504- 511. List of Illustrations: 512-514. Bibliography: 515- 528. Indexes: 529-557.] [Paperback ed. 2012. ISBN: 978-1-903018-55-2] This is Peter Brears’ award winning volume on English medieval cookery. 200 plus recipes. Tournaments Illuminated published my review. I highly recommend the book.

Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining In Tudor and Early Stuart England. London: Prospect Books, 2015. 670 pp., 141 B/W line drawings/figures. [Notes: 613-632. Bibliography: 633-641. Indexes [both general and recipes]: 642-670.] Marvelous new companion volume to his earlier volume. 370 plus recipes and variations. Includes menus, calendar customs, banquets, banqueting fare, etc. Essential and highly recommended volume. Tournaments Illuminated again published my review. I again highly recommend the book.

Culinary Readers interested in a more serious way may find my bibliographies of interest. The Citadel recently carried a few of my special bibliographies as part of the “Starting Points” series. These include bibliographies for England, Spain/Italy, Scandinavia, and Poland. These original bibliographic guides list original printed works, manuscripts, historical and reference works as well as bibliographies and online sources and projects.
Contributed by THL Johnnae llyn Lewis, OE ©Johnna Holloway, 2016, 2018

Passover Pre-17th Century

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This is one of those cuisines that is a real challenge to research before the 18th century: Jewish food.  It’s been a bit of a struggle for me to find what little I have over the years.  As I network with other people that are interested in the same historical roots, I’ve been able to find more and more details to my files.

Within the SCA, there was a very resourceful and dedicated researcher (Mistress Judith bas Rabbi Mendel) that put together this document on various types of Passovers throughout the SCA period.  It is hosted currently on  Stefan’s Florilegium over here.  Since it is that time of the season, I thought it would be a good idea to post this to help anyone out there looking for details like these for pesach.

Hannah Glasse and her 310th birthday via Google Doodle

Google Doodle today features a prominent culinary figure in the 18th century, attributed to writing the first modern cookbook in English.

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Hannah Glasse was the author of “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” which was published in 1747. In comparison to the other cookbooks previously published over the years, this version was written in easily understood English, far closer to modern English. This made this book highly used and sought after within Great Britain and further.

There are 972 recipes that cover all sorts of standard home cooking fare. Baking, roasting, frying, boiling and everything in between is discussed using locally sourced ingredients (and nothing truly shocking or wild like in much earlier cookbooks for Royalty for Tudor kitchens, and the like). It was made for the home, for servants to use (or to those so inclined that weren’t servants). On top of the recipes for meals, recipes for medicines and housekeeping tips were also included. It seems like a precursor to a Mrs. Beeton that came a century later.

This book was so popular, that it had been reprinted several more times after its first publication. 20 editions in the 18th century were printed and continued to be published until 1843. Many classic English comfort foods are discussed and much of what we understand as traditional English cuisine are in this book.

This cookbook is used fairly extensively for early American cuisine and 18th century food history. It is still available in print currently, but free copies of the book are available throughout the web. Here is one showing the original text that you can download here. You can also pick up her book on Amazon.

Soda Bread

oatmeal-soda-bread-horiz-a-1200

Soda bread. What is it?

It’s a type of quick bread that us

es a base of 4 ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk (or a soured milk). The lactic acid from the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide, this giving the bread it’s rise. Baking soda was used as it was easier to find during the 19th century rather than raising yeasts. Also, the types of wheat that were used in Ireland worked better with baking soda (soft wheat) and over all, it was a better overall quality bread that was very inexpensive to make. The cost appealed to many for obvious reasons.

Soda Bread is synonymous with the Irish, however the Irish didn’t invent this bread. There are references to American Indian

s making a leaven bread similar, only more of a flat bread than a loaf (using Pearl Ash as well). Whether they invented it or not, they certainly eat and and present it as their own, and especially encouraged to bake this during St. Patrick’s Day.

One of the earliest recipes published was in “The Southern Planter” published in 1843. The recipe was: “how to make bread using 7 pounds of wheaten flour mixed with 350 to 500 grains of carbonate of soda with about 2 3/4 pints of pure water.

Mix separately 3/4 pint of water with pure muriatic acid (420 to 560 grains). Divide the flour into two parts. To one add the soda solution gradually, well stirring and beating the mixture. Then add the other portion of flour and while mixing pour in the diluted acid. Lightly kneed on a board for a short time. Loaves should be 1/2 lb to 1 1/2 lb each. Best baked under tins. Common salt can be added for taste.”

Whatever the recipe you use, Soda Bread is a lovely addition to your kitchen table (and not just for Saint Patrick’s Day, but all yeairish-soda-bread-vertical-a-1800r around), whether it is as is, or you add dried fruits, nuts or other add ins. There are many modern recipes available online by googling Soda Bread.

Here are a few modern recipes:

Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread
Ina Garden Irish Soda Bread recipe
Irish Soda Bread with Raisins

Thanks to the Society for the Preservation of Soda Breadfor much of my details as well as some tips from Wikipedia.

Mrs Beeton for the Fall: Soup is on again!

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Finding inexpensive items to cook for large amounts of people can be a bit challenging. Seasonality is key to making truly delicious dishes for your family and friends. This recipe hails from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which was a guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain, edited by Isabella Beeton and published 1861.

Cabbage is a fantastically healthy vegetable which is good both raw and cooked. This recipe can be adjusted for vegetarian preferences if you remove the bacon and replace with a dab of butter. You can also add mushrooms to this to add in a more “meat like” and umami flavor.

CABBAGE SOUP.
118. INGREDIENTS.—1 large cabbage, 3 carrots, 2 onions, 4 or 5 slices of lean bacon, salt and pepper to taste, 2 quarts of medium stock No. 105.

Mode.—Scald the cabbage, exit it up and drain it. Line the stewpan with the bacon, put in the cabbage, carrots, and onions; moisten with skimmings from the stock, and simmer very gently, till the cabbage is tender; add the stock, stew softly for half an hour, and carefully skim off every particle of fat. Season and serve.
Time.—1-1/2 hour. Average cost, 1s. per quart.

Seasonable in winter.
Sufficient for 8 persons.

Mrs Beeton for the Fall: Soup is on!

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Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was a guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain, edited by Isabella Beeton and published 1861.  She had all manner of advise on how to run a household, but I am focusing on some of her recipes that sound particularly interesting for modern palates.

Fall is apple season, though most supermarkets will sell apples year round in many major cities.  Here is a recipe for Apple Soup:

APPLE SOUP.
111. INGREDIENTS.—2 lbs. of good boiling apples, 3/4 teaspoonful of white
pepper, 6 cloves, cayenne or ginger to taste, 3 quarts of medium stock.

Mode.—Peel and quarter the apples, taking out their cores; put them into the stock, stew them gently till tender. Rub the whole through a strainer, add the seasoning, give it one boil up, and serve.

Time.—1 hour. Average cost per quart, 1s.

Seasonable from September to December.

Sufficient for 10 persons.

Take a Culinary Adventure

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Many of my friends have food preferences, which is fine. Some people have some major allergies to different types of foods. I totally understand. Those with medical issues please don’t feel bad in not being able to cook these items for you to eat. It’s ok. Those of you that have just never found an eggplant that you’ve liked, I task you to at least try.

Cooking is one of those things that you can control the outcome with very little effort. I can’t tell you how many people have come to me and told me they hated X thing (be that a vegetable, meat or otherwise) and when they ate the item by me, they realized they hated it because of how it was cooked in the past, but they enjoyed what I did.

I don’t say this to pat myself on the back (well…not exactly) but to say that if you hated something from childhood and you’re an adult now, to actually try a new completely different preparation recipe for said past horrible food item. Example, you hated boiled vegetables when you were 7, so how about trying to roast them instead? Yes, there is a BIG difference in flavor and texture, so much so that it may change your opinion of vegetables.

This rule covers all type of food stuff, because from preparation to preparation, there are subtle flavor and texture differences that can change the way you perceive and enjoy food stuff. While you may hate things that are boiled, you may adore them sautéed, roasted or au gratin. Changing out the type of oil you use to fry, brown or sauté foods can go a long way in flavor profiles. When I was first learning to cook, I was using a lot of canola oils, blends, and cheaper oils because a) I didn’t know any better and b) they were what I could afford. Using vegetable oils, butter, animal fats, and a combination blending all those, can make a huge flavor difference. Examples of some of the more flavorful cooking “oil/fats” would be duck fat, bacon fat, coconut oil (especially nice when cooking for vegetarians and vegans), olive oil, and an old favorite, peanut oil. Of course, you should use what is easiest for you to get a hold of at your local markets. Just keep your eyes open for things that you might not ever tried, but might take your cooking, and food enjoyment, to the next level.

DO drink the Water: Water Consumption in Medieval Europe

Food Fallacies: Medieval people drinking Ale or Wine only because the water available was not safe.

When dealing with Medieval food and food history, there are numerous fallacies out there on a variety of topics. One of the more annoying ones is the quality of safe water that was available to drink in Medieval times. I believe this idea, the thought that all water was terrible to consume, goes back further that just Medieval Europe, but this is something I am not sure about. But what is a fact is that while, I’m sure there were unsafe and stagnant waters within pre-17th century culture, that not “ALL” water was poisonous, and as such, people did, in fact, drink out of fresh streams, fresh water rivers and natural springs.

There are a number of online sources for this myth buster, but the best one I found was this link which is a book search result from Water: A Spiritual History by Ian Bradley. While the chapter mostly discusses holy wells, several pieces of his commentary go over the consumption of water in medieval times. Page 73 states: “In fact, the majority of water sources were probably seen in purely utilitarian terms, as providers of water for drinking and washing and not regarded as especially sacred.”

There are earlier examples of water being drunk as well. This goes to an article about Greek and Roman ideas about water.

There are some very good blog posts from Beer brewers and other food historians on the subject of water purity and the Ale and Wine myth. This one from Jim Chevallier has a lot of great examples of drink water references.

Myth spreading is bad. Don’t be part of the water myth! Drink up!

Pickling with Mrs Beeton

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Have a lot of cucumbers that you don’t have any idea what to do with? There is a fermentation revolution washing over the culinary world, with its kimchis, sauerkrauts, and the like.  Fermentation, or the act of preserving foods, has been around thousands of years.  If you’ve ever wanted to try to pickle something, how about trying out a few of Mrs. Beeton’s recipes for cucumbers.

PICKLED CUCUMBERS.
399. INGREDIENTS.—1 oz. of whole pepper, 1 oz. of bruised ginger; sufficient
vinegar to cover the cucumbers.

Mode.—Cut the cucumbers in thick slices, sprinkle salt over them, and let them
remain for 24 hours. The next day, drain them well for 6 hours, put them into a jar, pour boiling vinegar over them, and keep them in a warm place. In a short time, boil up the vinegar again, add pepper and ginger in the above proportion, and instantly cover them up. Tie them down with bladder, and in a few days they will be fit for use.

GERMAN METHOD OF KEEPING CUCUMBERS FOR WINTER USE.
402. INGREDIENTS.—Cucumbers, salt.

Mode.—Pare and slice the cucumbers (as for the table), sprinkle well with salt, and let them remain for 24 hours; strain off the liquor, pack in jars, a thick layer of cucumbers and salt alternately; tie down closely, and, when wanted for use, take out the quantity required. Now wash them well in fresh water, and dress as usual with pepper, vinegar, and oil.

Or how about making a vinegar with them?

CUCUMBER VINEGAR (a very nice Addition to Salads).
401. INGREDIENTS.—10 large cucumbers, or 12 smaller ones, 1 quart of vinegar, 2 onions, 2 shalots, 1 tablespoonful of salt, 2 tablespoonfuls of pepper, 1/4 teaspoonful of cayenne.

Mode.—Pare and slice the cucumbers, put them in a stone jar or wide-mouthed bottle, with the vinegar; slice the onions and shalots, and add them, with all the other ingredients, to the cucumbers. Let it stand 4 or 5 days, boil it all up, and when cold, strain the liquor through a piece of muslin, and store it away in small bottles well sealed. This vinegar is a very nice addition to gravies, hashes, &e., as well as a great improvement to salads, or to eat with cold meat.