Category Archives: 17th Century

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!


More Eggs for Spring

Another recipe I did with the “finger foods” and eggs as a base, was an adaptation of this recipe.

Fricassee — Eggs and Collops (Original Redaction — Feast Menu – Tastes of the Tudor: Head Cook: THL Rachaol MakCreith)

“Fricasee” Eggs and Collops, Anonymous Venetian, XLVII

10 hard cooked eggs
2 egg yolks
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tbs parsley, fresh, minced
1 tbs thyme, fresh, minced
1 tsp pepper, fresh ground
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ginger, powdered
1/2 stick butter
3 tbs olive oil
10 bacon slices

1. Remove the shells from the hard cooked eggs, and carefully remove the yolks. Reserve the whites for stuffing. Place the hard-cooked yolks, fresh yolks, and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer or food processor, and pulse until smooth. Add herbs and spices, and mix. Fill the egg halves, leveling the top.

2. Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place the eggs, top down in the pan, and fry until golden brown.

3. Fry the bacon until crisp, drain, then halve each. Serve each egg with a slice of bacon crisscrossed on top.

My Redaction:

I actually only made 4 hardboiled eggs, as I was doing a test. I omitted the bacon since it was just meet eating and I’m pretty sure the bacon would make it MUCH better. I also just used butter to fry the eggs, no oil and omitted the raw eggs. I really don’t like using raw eggs in something that I will serve to someone else and MAY not cook enough in the browning stages. Instead of full cream cheese I used whipped (that’s what I had).

4 hard cooked eggs
6 tbs whipped cream cheese
1 tsp parsley, dried (fresh better)
1 tsp ground thyme, dried (fresh better)
1/2 tsp pepper, fresh ground
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp ginger, powdered
1 tbs butter

1. Remove the shells from the hard cooked eggs, and carefully remove the yolks. Reserve the whites for stuffing. Place the hard-cooked yolks, fresh yolks, and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer or food processor, and pulse until smooth. Add herbs and spices, and mix. Fill the egg halves, leveling the top.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place the eggs, top down in the pan, and fry until golden brown. Serve.

To me, the cooking aroma reminded me of when I make French Toast (probably because of the egg and cheese/cream ingrediants cooking). I think fresh herbs would have been a better flavor (per original recipe). Absolutely alter to your taste as you may like more ginger or more cheese. The mixture was almost equal parts cheese to egg yolks for me and I liked how smooth it was.

Some eggs for Easter

 photo medieval4jpgw529_zps44e14068.jpg

With the holidays approaching (along with various pot lucks and parties connected to said winter festivities) I was on a quest to find something that was:

1. Inexpensive to make
2. Not too many Ingredients (better to serve to avoid a lot of food allergies and diets)
3. Easy to serve
4. Bite-Sized Finger foods
5. Doesn’t need to be served hot

My attention fell to the egg. It fit the bill for most of my targets and concerns. But I wanted to jazz them up a bit. Deviled eggs are fairly popular dish in general at pot lucks, but how period are they? Were there other items that might be yummy, yet easy to make with hard boiled eggs?

I came across a number of period stuffed egg recipes. Not all fit what I was looking for, but a few did. I may do a few more tests and redactions for various stuffed eggs in future postings.

The first one I just did was Eggs Farced, which is from Le Cuisinier François by La Varenne. The book was published in 1653, however, he lived 1615-1678, so this should be is a safe book to use for late period French cuisine. This particular recipe has an earlier version in an earlier source. I had actually found a redaction from someone else that I used as a guide of sorts. Their recipe is first, and then I will share what I ended up doing for Queen’s Champion Archery 2013 in Altavia (11/23).

Original Redaction from Anne-Marie Rousseau:

1. Eggs farced [la Varenne #1 p294]

Take sorrel, alone if you will, or with other herbs, wash and swing them, then mince them very small, and put between two dishes with fresh butter, or passe them in the panne; after they are passed, soak and season them; after your farce is sod, take some hard eggs, cut them into halfs, a crosse, or in length, and take out the yolks, and mince them with your farce, and after all is well mixed, stew them over the fire, and put to it a little nutmeg, and serve garnished with the whites of your eggs which you may make brown in the pan with brown butter.

Our version:

2 tbs butter
1 tbs dill, minced
6 hardboiled eggs
2 green onions, minced
1 pinch salt
1 tsp fresh savory, minced
1 tsp fresh sorrel, minced
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
Pinch nutmeg

Cut eggs in half longwise, and remove yolk. Sautee savory, sorrel, green onion and dill in 1 T of the butter. Add the vinegar, salt, nutmeg and rest of the butter. Mix the egg yolks with the sautéed herb stuff, and stir over low heat till smooth and thick. Fill the egg white halves and serve. If you wish, you may fry the egg white halves in brown butter before filling, but we found that this makes them rubbery.

Makes 12 filled egg halves, with some leftover stuffing goop.

My Redaction and notes:

So, I have no access to Sorrel and Savory, I couldn’t find. But Savory wasn’t mentioned in the original translation anyway. I ended up looking up replacements for Sorrell and Savory, just to see what these tasted like. Savory was suggested to be replaced with Sage or Thyme. Sorrell supposedly had a tart flavor, with a suggestion of lemon. I did have Sage and Thyme, and they were used in period. I decided to use both. I had no lemon (totally forgot it when I went shopping for various ingredients). I did, however, have pomegranates. I had seen those used in other recipes (and there are period drawings and paintings of the fruit) and it was in season. I had one handy and I thought the tart-sweet aspect would be nice along with the crunch from the seed.

My Redaction:

3 tbs butter
1 tbs dill, minced
9 hardboiled eggs
3 green onions, minced
½ tsp salt
1 tsp dried ground Sage
1 tsp dried ground Thyme
¼ cup of fresh pomegranate juice
¼ cup of fresh pomegranate seeds
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
½ tsp nutmeg

Cut eggs in half longwise, and remove yolk. Smash up egg yolks as much as you can. Sautee sage, thyme, green onion (save about one of the chopped up green onions for garnish) and dill in 1 tablespoon of the butter until soft and combined. Add the vinegar, salt, half of the nutmeg and rest of the butter. Mix in egg yolks, pomegranates (save some for garnish), and juice with the sautéed herbs, and stir over low heat till smooth and thick. Fill the egg white halves with mixture, smoothing them gently in the whites to get them to stick, dust balance of nutmeg across and sprinkle reserved green onion and pomegranates across to garnish. Serve.

I didn’t brown the whites in butter, but you can if you like. I was trying to keep this recipe somewhat healthy and it was to be served cold, so I didn’t want that butter to affect the flavor if it was sorted before serving.

I had extra dill that I used as a garnish as well.

One thing I definitely did during the cooking process was taste the filling as I added ingredients. Depending on your taste and the consistency of your mixture, you may use more or less of the pomegranates. I didn’t add enough salt, but adjusted that to this recipe.

The flavor was well liked (as far as I was told). The pomegranate seed textures were hit and miss. Some people liked that and others, didn’t. You can always omit the seed if you don’t like them. I thought it not only was a nice flavor but it made the dish look very lovely with the pops of red-purple.

La vraye methode de trencher les viande

La vraye methode de trencher les viandes (VM) was published some time in the late 17th or early 18th century. It seems to be a derivative work, using many, but not all, of the illustrations from Jacques Vontet’s L’art de trancher la viande et toute sorte de fruictz : la monde italienne et nouvelle a la françoise (AT), published in Lyon in 1647.

Here are some translated sections (found here):

Though the art of carving Meats does not seem to be useful except to Trencher carvers, or the Master of the hotel of the House of Princes, or to people of means, Seeing that many think that it is only at their table where one observes the Method of serving by fork or of cutting in the air, See that I avow nevertheless, that there is no-one even of a mediocre condition to whom the art of carving is not greatly necessary, since he cannot Invite his friends to any banquet, that he is not at the same time obliged to serve them which he could not do with honor, without knowing the art of carving, for there is nothing of such bad grace as a badly portioned part, and badly served, this is why I believed, that all those who frequent fellowships, or who voyage, either in Germany, Italy, or Spain where one observes this Method will be greatly curious to be able in a little time to know how to cut up all sorts of Meats, & in all ways, and according to the diverse Usages of the country such that I have learned in the House of the Princes of Spain, and Italy, as You may see by the diverse skewering of all sorts of.

Meats which you will notice by the listing of the figures and beside it the means to be able to slake one’s appetite without spoiling the other pieces, and to find a better morsel, and in addition, to peel a pear in diverse manners, to cut lemons, oranges, to represent all sorts of animals, Such as Eagle, Scorpion, and which I promise to teach with great ease, and all sorts of people desiring to serve with honor an honest company.

More from La vraye methode de trencher les viande

La vraye methode de trencher les viandes (VM) was published some time in the late 17th or early 18th century. I found the translation over here. With Easter season, LAMB is a traditional meal. This is how you would handle the meat and presentation using this source.


A Shoulder of Lamb

Concerning the shoulder of Lamb the leg and other similar things You present the pieces that you would have cut from the side that will be best cooked and best roasted, However it is to be considered that in a Leg there is a little bone, called by the Germans the mother’s bone, & by the Italians the spur, and it is presented most respectably on A plate, with another piece of the same.

It must be remarked that the roasts of whatever nature that they are, they are all presented with orange, or lemon, or other similar trifling thing, after adding salt, and all that is presented in each serving that one makes.

The food in Spain in the 16th Century…

Perhaps one of the most interesting cuisines within history, Spain has many recipes that took advantage of their fresh local resources of the time. Ruperto de Nola’s “Book of Cooking” or “libro de cozina” was published in 1520 in Barcelona. It was written in Catalan – a language related to, but distinct from, Spanish. It was called “Libre del Coch.”

Full English translations of this book is here:

Part I
Part II

The English Housewife: Potluck picks

Summer picnic season is upon us. And while banqueting was far more the thing to do in 1615, some of the recipes that were featured in The English Housewife could be nice take alongs.

Here are some of the translations (from this website over here). At least they give you some new ideas for old world dishes.

“Banquetting fruit and conceited dishes There are a world of other bak’d Meats and Pyes, but for as much as whosoever can do these, may do all therest, because herein is contained all the art of Seasonings, I will trouble you with no further repetitions, but proceed to the manner of making Banqueting stuff, and coinceited dishes, with other pretty and curious secrets, necessary for the understanding of our English House-wife: for albeit, they are not of general use, yet in their due times, they are so needful for adornation, that whosoever is ignorant therein, is lame, and but the half part of a House-wife.

To make paste of Quinces To make past of Quinces, first boyl your Quinces whole, and when they are soft pare them, and cut the Quince from the Core; then take the finest Sugar you can get, finely beaten or searsed, and put in a little Rose-water, and boyl it together till it be stiff enough to mould, and when it is cold, then role it, and print it. A pound of Quinces will take a pound of Sugar, or near thereabouts.

To make thin Quince cakes To make thin Quince-cakes, take your Quince when it is boyled soft as beforesaid, and dry it upon a Pewter plate, with a soft heat, and be ever stirring of it with a slice till it be hard, then take searsed Sugar quantity for quantity, and strew it into the Quince, as you beat it in a wooden or stone mortar, and so roul them thin and print them.

To preserve Quinces To preserve quinces, first pare your quinces, and take out the cores, and boyl the cores and parings altogether in fair water, and when they begin to be soft, take them out and strain your Liquor, and put the weight of your Quinces in Sugar, and boyl the Quinces in the Syrup till they be tender: then take them up, and boyl the Syrup till it be thick. If you will have your Quinces red, cover them in the boyling; and if you will have them white, do not cover them.

To make Ginger-bread Take Claret-wine, and colour it with Townsall, and put in Sugar, and set it to the fire; then take wheat bread finely grated and sifted, and Licoras, Anniseeds, Ginger and Cinamon beaten very small and searsed; and put your bread and your spice together, and put them into the wine and boyl it, and stir it till it be thick, then mould it and print it at your pleasure, and let it stand neither too moist nor too warm.

To make Jumbals To make the best Jumbals, take the whites of three Eggs, and beat them well, and take off the froth; then take a little milk and a pound of fine wheat flowre and Sugar together finely sifted, and a few Anniseeds well rub’d and dryed, and then work all together as stiff as you can work it, and so make them in what forms you please, & bake them in a soft oven upon white papers.”

The English Housewife: Going Fishing?

Summer can include camping, and sometimes, fishing for some. The English Housewife from 1615 had a few ideas to make fish. Here they are from the lovely website over here which you should check out the details.

Here are a few of the translated recipes:

“Additions For dressing Fish: How to souse any fresh fish. Take any fresh fish what soever (as Pike, Bream, Carp, Barbel, Cheam, and such like) and draw it, but scale it not; then take out the Liver and the refuse, and having opened it, wash it: then take a pottle of fair water, a pretty quantity of white Wine, good store of Salt and some Vinegar with a little bunch of sweet herbs, and set it on the fire: as soon as it begins to boyl, put in your fish, and having boyled a little, take it up into a fair vessel, then put into the liquor some gross Pepper and Ginger, and when it is boyled well together with more salt, set it by to cool, and then put your Fish into it, and when you serve it up, lay Fennel thereupon.

To boyl a Gurnet or Roch: First draw your Fish, and either spint it open in the back, or joynt it in the back, and trusse it round; then wash it clean and boyl it in water and Salt, with a bunch of sweet Herbs then take it up into a large dish, and pour unto it Verjuice, Nutmeg, Butter and Pepper, and letting it stew a little, thicken it with the yelks of Eggs: then hot remove it into another dish, and garnish it with slices of Oranges and Lemons, Barberries, Prunes, and Sugar and so serve it up.

How to stew a Trout: Take a large Trout fair trimm’d, and wash it, and put it into a deep pewter dish, then take half a pint of sweet Wine, with a lump of butter, & a little whole Mace, Parsley, Savory, & Thyme, mince them all small, and put them into the Trouts belly, and so let it stew a quarter of an hour, then mince the yelk of a hard Egg, and strew it on the Trout, and laying the herbs about it, and scraping on Sugar, serve it up.”

The English Housewife — Sallets for the Summer

“Containing the inward and outward Vertues which ought to be in a Compleat Woman… A Work generally approved, and now the Ninth time much Augmented, Purged, and made most profitable and necessary for all men, and the general good of this NATION.

By G. Markham.”

This guide to being a housewife was originally published in 1615, in England, and it is a translation obviously of a 9th edition of the book.

Here are some interesting food sections of the book. The original book had all sort of information one should know at the time such as dying, animal husbandry and physick (and more).

These are not my translations, however, I found them from another source over here. I would highly recommend checking out the persons translations as they are very good and this text in general is a great source for historical cooking.

“Of Cookery and the part thereof
It resteth now that I proceed unto Cookery it self, which is the dressing and ordering of meat, in good and wholesome manner; to which when our House-wife shall address her self, she shall well understand that these qualities must ever accompany it; First, she must be cleanly both in body and garments, she must have a quick eye, a curious nose, a perfect taste, and ready ear; (she must not be butter-fingred, sweet toothed, nor faint-hearted) for the first will let every thing fall, the seconde will consume what it should encrease; and the last will lose time with too much niceness.

Now for the substance of the Art it self, I will divide it into five parts; The first; Sallets and Fricases; the second, boyled Meats and Broths, the third, Roast meats and Carbonadoes; the fourth, bak’t meats and Pyes, and the fifth, banquetting and made dishes, with other conceits and secrets.”

Since it’s July 4th here in the US and the weather is turning to higher temperatures, perhaps some Sallets are in order?

“Of Sallets, simple and plain: First then to speak of Sallets, there be some simple, some compounded, some only to furnish out the Table, and some both for use and adornation: your simple Sallets are Chibols pilled, washt clean, and half of the green tops cut clean away, and so served on a fruit dish, or Chives, Scallions, Rhaddish roots, boyled Carrets, Skirrets and Turnips, with such like served up simply: Also, all young Lettuce, Cabbage-Lettuce, Purslane, and divers other herbs which may be served simply without any thing but a little Vinegar, Sallet Oyl and Sugar; Onions boyled; and stript from their rind, and served up with Vinegar, Oyl and Pepper, is a good simple Sallet; so is Camphire, Bean-cods, Sparagus, and Cucumbers, served in likewise with Oyl, Venegar and Pepper, with a world of others, too tedious to nominate.

Of compound Sallet: Your compound Sallets, are first the young buds and Knots of all manner of wholesome Herbs at their first springing; as red Sage, Mint, Lettuce, Violets, Marigold, Spinage, and many other mixed together and then served up to the Table with Vinegar, Sallet-Oyl, and Sugar.

Another compound Sallet: To compound an Excellent Sallet, and which indeed is usual at great Feasts, and upon Princes Tables: Take a good quantity of blancht Almonds, and with your shredding knife cut them grosly; then take as many Raisons of the Sun clean washt, and the stones pickt out, as many Figs shred like the Almonds, as many Capers, twice so may Olives, and as many Currants as all the rest, clean washt, a good handful of the small tender leaves of red Sage and Spinage: mix all these well together with a good store of Sugar, and lay them in the bottom of a great dish; then put unto them Vinegar and Oyl, and scrape more sugar over all: then take Oranges and Lemons, and paring away the outward pills, cut them into thin slices, then with those slices cover the Sallet all over; which done, take the find thing leave of the red Cole-flower, and with them cover the Oranges and Lemmons all over; then over those Red leaves lay another course of old Olives, and the slices of well pickled Cucumers, together with the very inward heart of Cabbage-Lettuce cut into slices, then adorn the sides of the dish, and the top of the Sallet, with more slices of Lemmons and Oranges, and so serve it up.”

Two Fat Ladies and Robert May

Robert May was born in 1588, a son of distinguished chefs. At the ripe old age of ten he was sent off to Paris to continue learning his family trade of cooking. He spent seven years as an apprentice in London. He ended up living a very long life, cooking for many members of the British aristocracy. “The Accomplisht Cook” was written in 1660 (he was 72 years old when he wrote it), and in it he shares his experiences and secrets of his profession.

The extravagant was explained along with the modest dishes of the time. Restoration was happening during this time period, but he wanted to share what he cooked for the Nobility.

Two Fat Ladies (Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright), which is a TV Show that originally aired in the 90’s and now being reshown on Cooking Network, had just done on a “lunch” show one of Robert May’s episodes.

Salmon with Oranges


2 pounds darne of salmon (thick slice cut across the fish, just behind the head)
3 oranges, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

Red wine
Juice of 1 orange

Skin the darne of salmon. In a saute pan, or other pan just large enough to accommodate the fish, make a layer of orange slices. Put the salmon on top and season with the nutmeg and salt to taste. Pack the remaining orange slices around the sides and over the top. Pour on the wine and orange juice and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked.

Serve with triangles of toasted bread–made from good bread, not sliced or supermarket.