Last weekend An Tir celebrated Twelfth Night. And, what a weekend we had! Friday night I had the pleasure of providing food for the vigil of Mistress Prudence Goodheart,CoL. For me this was a dream come true. An opportunity to create working class Elizabethan food for a feast occasion. The Good Huswife and I just had an wonderful moment of glee as we danced through the kitchen putting together all the possibilities. The inspiration for Prudence’s vigil and elevation was the above painting, A Fete at Bermondsey. As our particular celebration was held just as Epiphany was ending we’d make use of produce that was part of the winter over of the English household. Beets, and potatons (sweet potatoes were introduced into the European diet and garden in the last quarter of the 15th century) pears, apples and quince, baked into tarts and coupled with good English cheeses. I also decided to pull out some of the things that Dawson lists as essential for a feast. Cherry preserves, and fire cooked gooseberry jam that I wrote about and cooked earlier in the year were paired with thick slabs of homemade beer bread and wedges of aged English cheeses. Since the vigil was held on a Friday, a traditional fish day in Elizabethan England, I smoked fillets of fresh salmon, graciously donated for this event and served them with salmon roe. I also took Thomas Dawson’s advice from the Good Huswife’s Jewell regarding other items served on a fish day. It was for this reason that I served raisins and blanched almonds as well as the ever present feast necessity mustard. So we also served a pair of mustards , one of which was the Lumbard Mustard, and one period plausible hand ground nutmeg mustard. The nutmeg mustard was a perfect accompaniment to the smoked ham and to the smoked salmon. (I will update this post as soon as I have the mustard post together and ready to go.)
The tarts were varied and delightful. Among them I made Courage tarts, opting this time to withhold both the sparrow brains and the marrow I used in my previous post. I also made Lumbardy Tarts, and Pear tarts as well as a period plausible apple and cheese tart. The marrow cremitaries or (purses) were a huge success and will be a blog post unto themselves in the near future.(There is a coming post discussing the methods and recipes for these remaining tarts.)
In addition to the wide selection of tarts I also prepared quince marmalets. I have a post in the works about the marmalets and the various quince pastes and treats in the Good Huswife’s series.
I would also like to give a huge thank you to the lovely ladies who also donated shortbreads, and marzipan treats to round out our feasting for Prudence and a special thanks to Debra the Helpful who made sure everything ended up in its place and tidy at the end of the night.
All in all, the food was well received, the vigil was a lovely affair with many stopping by to share their thoughts and their love with Prudence. The elevation itself was lovely and I was delighted to be able to add the lovely pin she gave me as a thank you to my trove of treasures.
As part of the food I did for Mistress Prudence’s vigil I made beer bread. Why? Well the answer to that is almost as simple as the recipe. Prudence had very few actual requests. One of them was for beer bread. It’s not period. But oh man is it delicious. Many people whom I’ve had the pleasure of feeding over the years have been subjected to my beer bread and many more have asked for my recipe. So here it is, Bess’s quick and easy beer bread.
It’s all about 3…2…1…1/2. Take 3 cups of self rising flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1- 12 ozbeer and one 1/2 cup stick of unsalted butter. Start by placing the 1/2 cup stick of butter in a bread pan and place it in the oven while it preheats to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix your 3 cups of self rising flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar, stir in your 12 oz beer (for Prudence’s vigil I used Newcastle brown ale. But most any beer will do. In fact I tend to vary my beer based on what I’m serving the bread with. A personal local favorite is Dick’s Danger and on occasion of wanting a sweet bread a good hard cider will also contain enough residual yeast to make a tasty bread.) As soon as you’ve mixed your three ingredients together take your bread pan out of the oven and turn your dough into your warm pan. Spreading the dough to fill the pan and to allow a little of the melted butter to cover the top of the dough. Bake in your 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. It should sound hollow when you tap the top. Turn it out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. Enjoy with your favorite soup, salad, or with some cheese and gooseberry preserves.
Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting a small get together with a few friends old and new. Mistress Rafaella, OL came up from Dragon’s Mist to teach us the art of faux glass enameling. If you like to paint things I challenge you to do give this a try. Take her class. Or check out Eulalia’s blog post about it here, or better yet do both.
Since I had a fairly captive audience and enough mouths to make doing a good pottage worth while I took advantage of the situation to run the Mutton with Mallows or Turneps recipe from The Good Huswife’s Handmaide, 1594.
Take a necke of Mutton, cut it in ribs, and put it in a pot, and a good quantity of beefe broth, and make it boyle: then take your Turneps or Mallowes, and cut them in peeces, of the bigness of your mutton, then put into your pot a little pepper, and so let them stew till they be verie tender, then take them of, and serue them vppon sops.
This was a relatively straight forward and hearty meal. I opted for a combination of homemade beef broth including the leftover pipe bones from the marrow for my courage tart and home made chicken broth so that I could keep the dish low sodium for the husband and still tasty for the guests. The practice of boiling a meat in the broth of another meet was common practice in Elizabethan cooking.
I made use of the remainder of the leg of lamb I had roasted earlier in the week for dinner for my mutton. But neck is an easy to find and less expensive cut making it a good choice for a week night crock pot dinner. (This dish could also very easily be done in a crock pot.)
So for this dish, you need:
3 lbs of lamb
3 lbs of turnips or rutabagas
6 cups of beef and chicken broth
1 1/2 Tablespoons of fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground long pepper
salt to taste.
A good crusty bread.
Cut your lamb into 1″ chunks. Put them into a large pot with the broth. Bring to a gentle boil. Add your turnips. Continue to boil over medium- high heat until both the lamb and the turnips are very tender. Serve with a generous portion of the broth over slices of crusty bread.
The meal was delicious. The company was amazing. The art was delightfully fun. And after the painting we ate some more. A lovely mustard slathered pork roast, corned beef and cabbage from Mistress Raffaella di Contino, OP, and a great roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potato dish chocked full of walnuts and chopped dates. And of course a rather delightful Courage tart. All in all, an amazing day with an amazing group of friends to feed and laugh with and love. It was a very good day.
In a recent conversation with my laurel this lovely tart got brought up. And since I had only tried someone else’s take on it, I decided to give it a go since it’s full of tasty seasonal ingredients. It’s also chocked full of ingredients that were thought to be aphrodisiacs and provoke ardor, but that’s a totally different matter.
From the , Good Huswife’s Jewell, 1596, To Make a Tarte That is a Courage to a Man or a Woman: Take twoo Quinces, and twoo or three Burre rootes, and a potaton, and pare your Potaton, and scrape your rootes and put them into a quart of wine, and let them boil till they bee tender, & put in an ounce of Dates, and when they be boyled tender, drawe them through a strainer, wine and all, and then put in the yolkes of eight Egges, and the braynes of three or foure cocke Sparrowes, and straine them into the other, and a little Rose Water, and seeth them all with suger, cinamon and Gynger, and cloves and mace, and put in a little sweet butter and set it vpon a chafingdish of coles betweene two platters, and so let it boyle till it be something bigge.
1 large sweet potato
2 Tablespoons dried burdock root (If you are lucky enough to have a Japanese market near you you may be able to obtain frozen gobo which is burdock root. If not, you can often find dried burdock root at health food stores that sell bulk herbs.)
4 cups white wine
3 Tablespoons chopped dates
3 Tablespoons bone marrow (This is a substitution for the sparrow brains. While I’ve had discussion with a few people the possibility of substituting pig brains my guest for dinner this evening was really squicked by the suggestion. As the sparrow brains are included almost strictly for their aphrodisiac properties, they may be omitted all together. However, I chose to add the marrow so as to not lose out on the creamy texture.)
Start by soaking your dried burdock root in 1/2 cup of the white wine for 4-6 hours until softened. Peel your sweet potato and your quince and chop them coarsely.
Transfer your burdock root and the wine it is soaking in into a large pot. Add the sweet potato and quince along with the rest of the wine. Bring to a boil over medium-heat. Boil for about 12-15 minutes until the sweet potato is fork tender. Add in the dates. Continue to boil until the dates are very soft about 15 minutes. Your wine should be reduced to about half its original volume.
Now, put this liquid and all through your food mill, processor, or take your immersion blender to it until smooth. Add your egg yolks and your marrow. Run your contents back through the food mill or give it a good blend.
Add in the rosewater, sugar and spices. Fold in the melted butter and pour into your pie crust.
Bake for 1 hour in a 350° F oven, until filling is set.
This run went fairly well. The tart is tangy from the quince and sweet with clear and distinct layers of flavor including lovely floral notes from the rosewater and mace and earthy seasonal rich notes from the burdock root and cinnamon all in a smooth creamy filling. It’s a great take on the sweet potato pie of my Southern fried roots…
I can’t tell you it will make you a better lover, but it will make you a lover of sweet potato pie.
Maybe next time I’ll take up the lovely offer from a falcon named Prudence to bring me my sparrows.
Among the slew of dishes I tested and prepared for the Boar’s Head Hunt and Feast this one really stood out with me. It was also wildly popular at the feast. I took things a step farther than the original to make it an easy to serve, easy to eat, hard to resist open faced sandwich treat.
Let’s talk about the unsung awesome that is chopped chickens! Want a simple and delicious dinner for tonight give this a shot…
From the Valoise Armstrong translation of Sabina Welserin’s 1553 Kochbuch
117 To prepare chopped chickens
Take good chickens, as many as you like, lard and roast them well. And when they are roasted, then divide each chicken into four parts. And cut [slices of bread] and pour Malavosia on them and lay on each slice a quarter of the chicken. And sprinkle Triet on each slice. Take young onions and lay them on the chickens, then they are ready.
I modified my redaction based on the lack of availability of malavosia near me to include madeira ( a Spanish wine similar in nature to the malavosia.)
1 whole roasting chicken
2T olive oil
1/2 c madeira
1/2 t dried chamomile
1/2 t dried sage
1 package of pub rolls (Semmel is a roll similar to a kaiser roll without the poppy seeds look for something similar to that.)
Pat the chicken dry and coat with the two tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. (Don’t forget inside the bird too) Place the bird in a roasting pan and pop it into a preheated 350°F/177° moderate oven. Allow the bird to cook until done, that’s 165 ° or 75° C. (cooking time will vary based on the size of your bird but it should take about an hour.) Allow the chicken to cool enough to handle and strip the meat from the carcass. Put the pulled chicken in a large bowl.
Grind your camomile and sage together to a fine powder. Sprinkle on your chicken along with the madeira. Toss together.
Place chicken on your open face pub roll and top with pickled onions. Enjoy.
Combine the brine ingredients in a small pot heat to a boil. Allow to cool completely. Take three or four onions and cut them into thin slivers about 1/4″ wide. Pack them into a clean and sterilized jar cover with brine. Refrigerate for 8 or more hours prior to use. Your pickled onions will keep for up to 3 weeks and are excellent on all sorts of sandwiches and salads.
It’s been a little while since I’ve had a chance to visit with you dear reader. Life for a bit all but swallowed the family and I whole. I’ve left you hungry and alone while I’ve been doing research and dealing with mundane life things. I am very sorry for the long absence. But here’s a little fill in. As well as, a bite or two to get you by. The house is all a buzz as we get my husband ready for kidney transplant. Our biggest challenge is the changes that will be happening in our house to make our dietary practices fall more in line with his pre and post transplant needs. As such I’ve decided I am going to launch a separate blog about those food adventures. Look for it coming soon.
The last two months have been covered in doctor’s appointments, job changes, and returns to school, as well as the research and test cooking of many fine German dishes in preparation for the Barony of Dragon’s Mist’s wonderful Boar’s Head Hunt and German Tavern night.
When I was first approached about this event I was super excited. My family’s German on my father’s side. My husband’s persona is a 16th century Landsknecht. Period German food by the way is amazing! Mistress Katrine will make a true believer out of anyone as she fries all the little German treats and covers them in sugar. Catch her cooking and teaching at an event and you too will be a convert.
So the thing about period German food is this… I don’t speak German; not modern German, certainly not Middle German. So. I had to start by figuring out viable sources. I went to my go to start for the great collection of online transcripts and compilation of translations at http://www.medievalcookery.com . I opted for Sabina Welserin’s 1553 cookbook and for a number of recipes from the slightly later 1581 Marx Rumpolt work Ein new Kochbuch. There’s no English translation for the Rumpolt as a whole available online, but there are a few sources here and there for some of the recipes that have been redacted by individuals over the years. I personally made use of the information and redactions of Euriol’s culinary journey. We wanted to focus on german tavern food and down to earth good eating. There was sauerkraut and I hand stuffed 45 pounds of bratwurst. We spit and roasted a whole pig. (Actually a hundred percent of that credit goes to Geoffrey Albright and Geoffrey Higgenbotham… I failed them miserably in assisting with anything other than procurement.) We named him Cecile. He was delicious. I made mustard…and mustard and mustard… and I made the black sauce to serve with the
boar’s head.This sauce is delicious and fairly simple to prepare. I’ll be doing a separate post on this sauce and the mustards I made in the coming days. I pickled beets and roasted root vegetables, I made spinach with bacon and oh the tarts! We’ll visit with them a bit later, especially the Apple and cheese tart from 1553. I served sauerbraten and onion salad and cucumbers. The dishes went on and on… and yet.
I came in under budget and I got to feed people whom I love. Ludwig and Vittoria came together in love and we had the pleasure of witnessing a beautiful and possibly the most authentic renaissance wedding ever.
And did I mention that the very talented HL Talia from Glymm Mere sang the Boar’s Head Carol as we processed in the Cecile’s head to high table! It was a magical moment and experience. My win for the weekend was not running into her in my slightly nervous state. I was graced with gifts and support from so many. I can’t even begin to thank them all. But I have to say I had one of the best damn kitchen crews a girl could ask for. Since I know that there will be at least some interest, I’ll be posting a few of the recipes; broken up so as to make them a little easier to chew over and whip up.
It’s good to see you dear reader. Thanks for bearing with the absence. Sometimes, life gives us lemons…so we make lemonade; sometimes, life gives us hectic schedules with long doctor’s visits…and since I’m human, that means my family eats fast food and my readers are left hungry. But I promise, better days to come for both.
Two weeks ago I received a text message from my Laurel asking if I felt up to taking on the food for the after court revel for around 200+ people at Sport of Kings this past weekend. If that seems like short notice to you,that’s because it is. If it doesn’t, here’s some perspective…I have been working on the menu and redactions for the German feast I am doing in October since March. I am starting prep for that feast next weekend. Further perspective…it takes about an hour and a half to two hours to make a batch of tarts (usually about 24-36 mini tarts to a batch). I made about 5000 individual bites (not all tarts, and pickled things and skyr take longer than two hours to prep. Tarts are just a good example, because most people know what they are.) I have no information on the details that led up to my picking up this ball, ( I sincerely hope that it was a non-emergency that caused the sudden need to find someone on short notice.), but in the aftermath, I am thankful for the chance to serve and to spread the Good Word! (The good word being that period food is delicious!!)
To me, what makes it special,was I did period food, on a budget of less than $2.00 a head!
What went into that was a lot of love and some prior research. The love came from the friends and “family” that came out to support me and lend a hand for prep days in the whirlwind that was the week before the event, and the friends and ‘family’ that turned up at the event to give a hand with making it all come together beautifully and on time!
So, what do you feed Princes and Kings and fighters OH my!! My decision was to do some of my favorite tourney friendly foods from a variety of periods and places. After all, I was told it would be after a long tourney and a fairly long court. That meant no time sensitive foods would work. I opted for the following:
Jusselled Dates 14th Century English The savory sweet combo is excellent and easy for travel. I make up my jussell (which is a stuffing I use gluten free bread crumbs in mine so I can safely share with more friends) ahead of time and simply snip the corner off of my zip lock so that I can use it as a piping bag to fill my dates.
Prunes stuffed with Skyr and Honey topped with chopped hazelnuts- Norse plausible dish. Skyr is a staple food for period Icelandic people. Viking soft cheese that has the tang of sour cream and a consistency somewhere between a thick Greek yogurt and a drier soft cheese. It’s delicious and has a large number of uses. (I will be posting about my Skyr making experiences soon.)
After I made my Skyr, I used my whey to make a period plausible Viking flat bread. I used whole wheat flour and spelt along with my whey. I only baked them to the point of being a bread instead of a hardtack since I was serving them the next day instead of wintering them over.
To go with the flat bread I made my Laurel’s recipe for Viking Hummus. It is a delightful period plausible dish made of split pea, garlic, dill, and horseradish finished with walnut oil. (The husband who doesn’t care for hummus loves this dish. The bite of the horseradish and the nutty richness of the pea and walnut oil makes it a lovely change for those who don’t care for chickpea.) I also served some gluten free seed crackers for my wheat challenged friends..
I made a lot of tarts… maybe an obscene amount… I made gooseberry tarts from the Good Huswife’s Jewell. I made Pear tarts from Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin. I used my redaction from my research for the German feast I’m doing in October. I made lamb meat pies with a citron marmalade liquor glaze from the Good Huswife’s Jewell. ( And then I felt guilty that I hadn’t also done the peach tarts (at least my apprentice sister did and shared her gf crust recipe...)or the plum tarts from the Good Huswife that had been on my original to do list….) The guilt was pretty strong for having not done them… but I can say there was no place on the table to put them even if I had wanted too…
Now may be the time to admit that I have a problem… I always worry that when I feed people there won’t be enough food. So I always over compensate by making ALL THE THINGS…
I almost forgot to mention the fritters… 16th century beer battered spinach fritters, and gluten free 16th century apple fritters; made with love… I mean lard… Speaking of things fried with love, I also made 15th century Italian stuffed eggs, fried in butter. Because, butter…and love…
I also made cremitaries,(or beef purses) from the second part of the Good Huswife’s Jewell. They are a long standing favorite and some of my earliest tourney food redaction favorites.
I also made boozy pop tarts.They aren’t period. Even a little. They are, however, a main stay treat for my household while eventing. I’ve made them for a while thanks to Eulalia requesting them for her wife. Now I have Barons who drop by camp…just in case. The clear winner for most of the family is the Blackberry and port. Though I am personally partial to a peach and plum wine combination.
Then it occurred to me that most of the people I would be feeding spent all day fighting in the heat. I decided that a few pickled things were in order to help with lost electrolytes. I made pickled peaches with mint and pickled melon with thyme. I also made 14th century German pickled beets. I’ll be making them again for my Boar’s Head Hunt Feast in October in Dragon’s Mist. The anise and caraway make them absolutely delicious! I also made pickled chicken using the Madrone Culinary Guild’s redaction of a 13th century dish. (Thank you Vasilisa for sharing your find and your foodie passions with me.) It may well have been the dark horse favorite of the whole spread.
Ultimately… I failed to take pictures of much of this. I know… I know… the whole point of this blog was to prevent that very thing from happening… (Though I did have a lovely lady photograph the whole table before the party began. And If I can get copies of them I will up date this post with some of those images…)
All in all… it was a lot of food, a lot of work and a lot of love and support from my “family” that made it all possible. I also got a couple of neat thank you’s from visiting royalty.
I also got about ten minutes to have a discussion with Master Charles de Bourbon about my white whale… I would be dishonest dear reader if I didn’t say that it may have been the icing on a large number of tarts… One day I will be brave enough to blog about that whale…and the whale bone that it requires, but for today. I’ll settle for feeding Kings and sharing the good word.
Period Food is delicious… ask any knight I fed Saturday and one or two of them may even agree…
It’s been a hectic two weeks, we’ve had tons of doctors visits getting the Husband ready for kidney transplant. The boy has been getting geared up for pre-k; there have been super secret projects happening. There has also been a lot of time hanging out with my Laurel’s lovely wife. (She’s also the Husband’s Laurel, mistress of AWESOME.) So what does all of this mean? Mostly that I haven’t had the bandwidth to sit down and write on something that isn’t a medical questionnaire or a to do later list. Though I did squeeze in some time to attend Master Eduardo’s class on competing in Kingdom A&S (more on that a little later.)
All of that, and I have run into my first real set back working my way through the Good Huswife’s Jewell. So dear reader, let me tell you about this little mishap and the adventures that have ensued….
About a month ago, I decided that I would take advantage of some of the lovely fruits showing up at the market. I chose the “easy” round of preserves first and made a cherry preserve and then moved on to gooseberries… All the while, I was staring down this new recipe… it seemed easy enough…but at the same time brought up all sorts of questions. Here’s the recipe I’m talking about:
Good Huswife’s Jewell 1596- To preserve all kinde of fruites, that they shall not break in the preserving of them: Take a platter that is playne in the bottome, and laye suger in the bottome, then cherries or any other fruite, and so between everie rowe you lay, throw suger and set it vpon a pots heade, and couer it with a dish, and so let it boyle.
When I first read this, the first thing I thought was not the standard GHW inducing thought of “Man, that’s a lot of sugar.” Instead, I read the lines over and over… ” Is that a double boiler? It sounds kinda like a double boiler… Did they even have double boilers? Or am I making too much of this? Is this just a dish set on a chafing dish? If so why doesn’t it say that since in many other places the author specifically refers to chafing dishes with coals?” Then the worst feeling of being caught in my self induced loop of doubt and panic set in. How was I going to do this? What if I was wrong? I was planning on writing about this, after all, what if I was wrong. The little voice in the back of my head that second guesses a lot of my art and my faith in my abilities was in full effect.
I knew I needed more information that I possessed regarding some period cookware. So, I reached out to one of my favorite potters, Mistress Morgaina. I was incredibly lucky that she was willing to share with me some of her immense knowledge and gracious enough to look over my word salad, as I in my excitement and exhaustion, commenced to mingle and mix up my chafing dishes with my pans, platters, and pipkins. Here’s what I learned… first and foremost, I was reminded that I am doing this to learn and to experiment and that this challenge gives me the opportunity for both. I also learned that to her knowledge, Morgaina’s never found an item that would be undeniably considered a double boiler… ( I also received the gentle reminder that a pot stuck on top of another pot is, in fact, a double boiler.So I shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of extant pieces. I also got a referal to a reference work that I’m waiting on interlibrary loan to deliver to me next week!) So maybe that platter with a playne bottom and a dish to cover it sat on a pot’s head could possibly be a double boiler. But what about the chafing dish? We KNOW they existed and were used…. what if it’s a chafing dish?
Clearly there’s only one solution… experimentation is in order (and a kick in the pants for the obnoxious little voice of doubt.)
It’s here that I’m going to take a minute to mention the great class I took with Master Eduardo regarding competing in A&S. First, I’d like to say, if you ever get the opportunity to take a class with him, DO IT. Dear reader, this is a man of great knowledge, skill and passion for sharing his chosen geek. Luckily for those of us in the Historical Food community, that geek includes a lot of tasty Italian treats and, more importantly, his great love as an educator for sharing knowledge. Secondly, after taking his class, my mantra for the week… and likely for the rest of my arts and sciences life, “Define your win.” There was a lot more to the take away from the class. (If you want to know, you should ask him to teach the class.) But, this week when I needed it most, this man, whom I respect (and, I must admit, his knowledge intimidates the hell out of me) laid a little enlightenment out for the taking. We aren’t always going to win the big prize. But, if we are reasonable in our expectations, and clear in our goals we can win every time…
I also figured out I’m sitting on my next Kingdom A&S entry… this recipe… this research… narrow enough in scope to be doable, deep enough to really look into period plausible methods … this is my single entry staring at me through the haze of my frustration.
So I took my new found knowledge and desire and headed home to experiment…
I’ve run into a couple of road bumps… I’m waiting on my favorite potter to get her kiln back up and running…Because I have to obtain a new period replica chafing dish. (I think it is important that I fully look at that as a means of trying this recipe.) In the mean time, I decided to try a modern chafing dish. I also took the pan from my modern chafing dish, and set it on a pot head.. on my favorite pipkin from my favorite potter giving me a plausible first attempt at a double boiler, that brought up
some challenges and questions to further research.(Not just an excuse to play in the fire… I have legitimate questions and concerns after my first two runs.) But I’m no longer afraid about ‘what if I’m wrong?’ Because I am a researcher. I know what I will learn will be better for having failed a time or two. (The modern chafing dish was a horrible failure by the way.) I also know that the little voice has no bearing on my ability to do good research and expand not only my knowledge, but the general knowledge about Historical Food. If you want to know more about the results of these preserves, I guess you’ll have to wait until Kingdom A&S. ( Or for the blog post about that experience… Look for it in late March.)
If at first you don’t succeed… make a research project out of it! For me, that’s a win!
Friday evening Ludwig Maltz and his lovely lady Vittoria di Carduci joined us for dinner. As always the company was amazing, and since they are pretty much family I didn’t sweat the fact that I decided to do my first trial run on the Gooseberry Tart for dessert. Normally, I reserve first contact for the Husband and other members of my immediate family on the off chance that something goes horribly wrong… ( I don’t know if that makes me a bad person or just a really good friend to the populace at large.) But, on rare occasion, my SCAdian ‘family’ finds themselves subject to things before I get through my personally mandatory three run minimum before introducing a dish at an event. I’m using up the last of the gooseberries so I figured I’d make use of them to test run the To make a tart of Gooseberries from the 1594 Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchin. This of course resulted in the perfect double up opportunity to test one of the paste (pastry dough) recipes as well. There are three recipes for pastry dough listed in the Good Huswife’s Handmaide, one calls for ale, which I didn’t have on hand and didn’t have time to procure. The other, To make short paste in Lent, required almond milk, which I didn’t have on hand, and didn’t have time to make. ( I really need to remedy at least part of that soon.) So I opted for To make Paste, and to raise Coffins.
So our tart went a little like this…To make Paste, and to raise Coffins (1594 GHHftK)- Take fine flower, and lay it on a board, and take a certaine of yolkes of Egges as your quantitie of flower is, then take a certaine of Butter and water, and boil them together, but ye must take heed ye put not too many yolks of Egges, for if you doe, it will make it drie and not pleasant in eating: and yee must take heed ye put not in too much Butter for if you doe, it will make it so fine and so short that you cannot raise. And this paste is good to raise all maner of Coffins:Likewise if ye bake Uenison, bake it in the paste above named.
So for my pie crust, I took 2 cups of flour, 2 egg yolks, (following the directions to ‘take a certaine of yolkes as your quantitie of flower is…’ I also assumed that Dawson meant a yolk to a cup of flour, because I’m fairly sure a cup of yolks would have proven ‘dri and not pleasant in eating’. I also used a 1/2 cup of butter and a 1/2 cup of water bringing the two of them to a boil together before incorporating it into the flour and yolks).
I chose these proportions because they produce just enough dough to fill my favorite tart trap. (Which I forgot happened to be full of another tart…) So I opted instead to treat myself to the use of my replica period ‘trap’ which was gifted to me by my dear apprentice sister and favorite pie Laurel Eulalia Piebakere. The dough was a little more than I really needed, but I decided that I would take advantage of the situation to see how well a ‘coffin’ would raise. So I opted for a high standing crust. It may not be pretty, but it sure was tasty, and flaky and fortunately not unpleasant or overly dry. It will also definitely stand as a free standing coffin. Soon, I’ll have to take the advice of our recipe and try baking our venison in this crust. If you happen to want to know all about 13th and 14th century pie talk to Eulalia.
So now that we have a crust let’s look at what went in it. To make a tart of Gooseberries reads as follows: Take Goseberies, and perboyle them in white or Claret Wine, or strong Ale, and withall boyle a litle white bread: then take them vp, & draw them through a strainer a s thicke as you can with the yolkes of sixe Egs, then season it vp with Sugar, and halfe a dish of Butter, and so bake it.
As I mentioned before, I had no ale on hand, but I did have a bottle of sweet white wine languishing in the wine rack, complements of a recent dinner guest. So I took 2 cups of gooseberries, 11/2 cups of the wine, and put them in a pot to parboil the berries, making them easier to force through a sieve. After a few minutes I added one cup of white bread crumbs, and brought the whole thing back to a boil, then removed it from the heat. I added my six egg yolks and a third of a cup of sugar and a quarter cup of cold butter cubed. ( I opted for cold cubes of butter because I was experimenting and was thinking along the lines of modern practices of thickening with cold butter, as in some sauce making, etc. I chose most of my measurements based on the following two things, I knew I would lose a portion of the berries, wine and bread as it was forced through the
sieve. I opted for the third of a cup of sugar, because I didn’t want to over sweeten the filling.) After I haded seasoned the dish with sugar and butter I turned the filling into my tart paste and popped it into the oven. I baked it for about thirty minutes…
Did I mention how lovely the crust turned out on this tart? I would like to think that it was good enough to make up for the shortcomings in the filling. The consensus was as follows… Vitoria thought the tart was yummy and even took home an extra piece at the end of the evening. My brother-in-law liked the slightly tart gooseberry filling and the custard like texture.( Right up until he hit a pocket of butter from having used the cold cubes. He felt that they produced a really inconsistent
bite. I totally agreed. Having already decided that the butter in the next run will be melted to allow for more even distribution. I would also note that it clearly was not a thickening agent in this case. )
Personally I was not pleased with the somewhat heavy presence of the white bread in the flavor of the filling. My current plan is to up my gooseberries a bit and to add just a bit more sugar to concentrate those flavors and to balance the white bread back end. Fortunately I should have just enough berries for runs two and three…That means more tart for the ‘family’ and if I’m happy with run two a very likely debut at this weekends festivities… In period cooking the first redaction’s not always spot on. But I have to say the delectable journey to perfecting a personal redaction is rewardingly sweet… and well, PIE.