Author Archives: historiccooking

About historiccooking

A wife and mother of one little girl who is still a YUPPIE that just happens to enjoy recreating history - all aspects of how people lived in the medieval era, specifically my research focuses on 14th and 15th century England and this blog will discuss the food, cooking, equipment, and life around food in that period.

The reason for my hiatus…

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Baby girl is now 7 months old and I’ve missed writing about historical food. Life at home is starting to gain some semblance of order and I’m starting this up again!

Thanks for your patience!

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Cooking Equipment – Historical Images

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We have pots, fry pans, tools and the combination of items these are made out of. Below are images from both items and art that represent historical cooking items.

Figure 1 - Cooking pot from 1340 - 1440 London - Pottery (British Museum)

Figure 2 - Knives, about AD 1406; Sheath, about AD 1406-1410 (British Museum)

Figure 3 - Copper alloy cauldron with three feet. - 13th to 15th c (Museum of London, 2010)

Figure 4 - 15th c Ceramic pipkin, wheel thrown, lead glazed. (British Museum)

Figure 5- 1489 German - Die Geubert der Maria - Schwabischer Meister

Figure 6 - 1551 The camp of Charles V at Lauingen in the year 1546 - Camp Kitchen - Mattias Gerung

Figure 7 – 1570 - Bartolomeo Scappi - Opera

What is in season when?

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Spring:

Carrots
Cherries (seasons starts some places at the end of spring)
Fava beans
Fennel
Garlic scapes/green garlic
Green onions/scallions
Greens (particularly in colder regions)
Leeks (end)
Lemons
Lettuce
Morels
Pea greens
Peas (garden, snap, snow, etc.)
Spinach
Turnips

Summer:

Apples (late summer)
Carrots
Chard
Cherries

Autumn:

Apples
Cabbage
Carrots
Fennel
Figs
Garlic
Grapes (early fall)
Leeks
Lettuce
Mushrooms (wild)
Onions
Parsnips
Pears
Pomegranates
Quinces
Shallots
Turnips

Winter:

Cabbage
Carrots (storage)
Fennel
Leeks
Lemons
Onions (storage)
Parsnips

Garlic Torta

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A friend of mine originally sent me this recipe to try and had pulled it out of “The Medieval Kitchen – recipes from France & Italy, page 114” (TMK)- prior to me acquiring the book for myself.

The translated original version of their torta is below (since Italian is not something that I read):

Take the garlic cloves, and peel them and boil them; when they are cooked, put them to soak in cold water, and then pound them and add saffron and plenty of cheese, which should be fresh, and chopped pork fat, and sweet and strong spices, and moisten with eggs, and add raisins, and then make the torta.

TMK then redacted the recipe starting with a Pate Brisee and then went onto the filling:

Pate Brisee:

1 3/4 cups flour
9 tbsp butter
1/3 cup water
1 scant tsp salt

combine all ingredients and then wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about 30 or so minutes.

Filling:

5 heads garlic
7 oz pork belly
6 oz whole milk farmers cheese
5 oz cream cheese
3 eggs
scant 1/2 cup raisins
12 threads saffron
salt
1/3 tsp – ground cloves, fresh grated nutmeg, ground ginger
1 tsp – ground cinnamon, fresh ground black pepper

Even the first time I made this, I modified this recipe as I didn’t believe it had enough flavor so I increased the sweet and strong spices.

2 lbs peeled garlic
3/4  lb bacon
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cream cheese
4 eggs
1/2 cup currants
1 tsp saffron
1/2 tsp – mace
1 tsp – cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon (to taste)
2 tsp – salt, pepper (to taste)

Boil the garlic for 45 minutes, then transfer to a cold water bath to cool them down. Then added these to the food processor to make into a beautiful cooked garlic puree – added both cheeses and the eggs. The mixture was cooled down so that the eggs didn’t cook or scramble prior to being fully combined in the garlic puree along with the spices – saffron – chopped the bacon into tiny pieces and then add to the mixture.

This actually will make sufficient filling for 1 thick pie (depth wise) and then some smaller pies as well. For baking this, I actually like to use a round 9″ cake pan and a simple pie crust – I personally don’t prefer TMK’s recipe as its had to pull together and has too much butter for their pie crust for my taste and texture. If you use less butter and a combination of lard, it will help this from dripping butter.  This is one of those pies that has both top and bottom crust.

For the full pie, bake at 375 for about 45 minutes to an hour until lightly browned on the crust and only kinda jiggly in the center.

I’ve also used this filling for hand held pies both free form (pie crust on a cookie sheet) or small cups (think cup cake pans) and for these, I like to bake at 350 degrees for 15 -20 min until cooked.

These can also be prepared outside in an open fire using free form pies that can be cooked on a fry-pan with a ceramic curfew (dome shaped lid). Use a bowl and wooden spoon to mix the ingredient and make sure that the uncooked bacon is diced small prior to mixing.

Cooking a Beef Roast (i.e. Tasty Smoked Meat over a fire)

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A good friend requested to know how I cook beef on the spit over an open fire. Below will actually smoke the meat while the flavor is actually sealed in then it will cook internally in about 4-6 hours.

Cut of beef: I like to start with a roast of ribeye due to the strong marbling and the fat content – it just makes for good flavor and allows the fat to gradually infiltrate the rest of the meat (i.e. good flavor.)

The Fire: The fire should be of moderate heat and then I set up the spit so that meat will be sitting above the flame by about 6 inches and 10 inches above the real heat of the fire. It will also depend on the direction of the wind. I like to have the wind moving the smoke towards the meat so that the meat can smoke it to cook it and not necessarily use only the heat of the fire.

Equipment:  I use a three piece spit – two sides of wrought iron with a top piece of iron as well. Each are about 30 inches in length and will hold about 6-8 lbs of meat. Also, use a knife to make a hole down the center of the meat and I use a cutting board to cut the beef.

I prefer to take the roast and chunk it so that it receives mostly even heat across the fire. 4 inch x 4 inch or so chunks liberally coated with salt and pepper then brought up to room temp (or the temp of the place where we’re cooking) works well. The salt also helps form a crust on the outside of the beef.

After the beef is chunked, salted/peppered, and at room temp, I take a knife and slit down the center to then slide onto the spit. I don’t believe that its necessary to have “C” clamps to keep the meat on, just slide them together and make a think slit down the center of the meat – if its too big, it will just slide around. But feel free to push them fairly close together when they cook – the thickness of the whole “meat stick” is uniform and should cook evenly (depending on how the fire is).

When cooking, in the beginning, turn it every 30 or so minutes. In the beginning, the seal is beginning to form and its Ok for it to sit a bit more on each side while the smoky skin is forming. After its sealed, I like to turn it every 15-20 minutes, a bit more often so that it doesn’t get too well cooked on one side or another.  I also am looking at whether or not the meat needs to be switched and not just rotated (taken off the spit and reversed) – so that the heat is more even while cooking the meat.

Again, for tending the fire, keep it warm, but not a high flame – you are cooking this via smoke (semi-indirect heat) and you want the smoke to be on the meat, but not directly over the heat.

For additional flavor, you can add melted butter or bacon grease over the seared beef – it just improves the taste and will help add moisture to the seal. This is not necessary, but can always help!

After a number of hours over the fire, with rotating the meat, look for darker sealed edges and it should still be dripping juices. Once it stops dripping juices, test it by cutting off one corner of the beef (my husband’s favorite piece) test it – it should be fully cooked with the most interior of the test piece slightly pinkish.

If the chunks are not fully cooked – keep them on the fire until they are.

After they are cooked, remove from the spit and then cut into chunks and serve with mustard or any other sauce or plain. Your guests will love them as will you!

Historic Meal Planning

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Below is the first article to discuss Historic Cooking Over an Open Fire:

When you begin cooking, you need to look at why you are cooking and who will be serving the food.  You must know your goal prior to starting your kitchen. You will need to know the equipment needed, fire type and setup and how to keep it clean.

Let’s start with the planning of the meal. Below are some questions to think about when planning:

1)      What class of people is this meal for? Look at the next post to have an idea of what items cost.

Impoverished

  • The most simple of meals with a focus on grain – pottage with some vegetables. You would be using what you could scrounge up. Very few spices (pepper and ginger if any) and very little meat.

Working class – Normal Meal

  • A simple meal, not a lot of spices. Should have some meat, some spices (depending on how profitable business is)

Visiting guests

  • Was this an important guest? If so, they would spend as much as they could afford to impress the guest – more spices, more courses, more expensive items.

A Lord

The Lord and his family (Privy Kitchen)

  • Higher than average food on a daily basis. These were the nobility and they had the money to spend on food. It produced healthier and longer living people.

His household

  • Steady meal, not as extravagant as the family out of the privy kitchen, but on average higher than most working class families.

Visiting guests

  • As with the working class, money was spent to impress the guests. More of everything.

The King

  • Are you cooking for the King? The King eats very well. Only the best.
  • Or his household? They Eat better than the average lord’s household.
  • Are there visiting guests? In 1387, Richard II served a feast for the Duke of Lancaster. Staggering quantities of food in each of 3 courses.

2)      Type of Meal

  • Daily meal
    • Breakfast – served about 8 for most households
    • Lunch – served about 12 or 1 for most households
    • Supper – served about 5 or 6 depending on the light of day and summer or winter.
  • Feast day
  • Lenten Meal (as many as 3 days a week[1])

3)      What is your source for food?

  • What vegetables/fruits are in season?
  • How rich are you and how much would you be spending on spices?
  • What meats are in season and what do you have access to?

4)      What should be done in advance?

  • Pickling of vegetable and/or fruits
  • Hippocras/Spiced Wine
  • Beer – when serving “See that… your ale is 5 days old before it is drunk.”[2]
  • Bread and any baked goods to serve

As a plan, let’s say we are using a kitchen that is not as large as many others, let’s plan a simple Lunch for the Lord and his family. As we are planning on using a smaller kitchen that primarily focused on preparing the food for the Lord, his family and certain guests. Usually finer food was served here than in the household kitchen where the bulk of the servants and household staff were fed.

We can make smaller portions of higher quality food and still have a historical reason for doing so.

After you have decided what you want to make and which course it belongs in, next is to 1) determine ingredients, 2) the steps and equipment for each dish, 3) then how long it will take to cook, and 4) when to start or how far in advance it can be completed for about a 2:45 meal.


[1] Cooking and Dining in Medieval England

[2] The Boke of Keruynge –. This is referencing the young beers that were standard drink during the era.

What did stuff cost in 1438…

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PURCHASING POWER OF A LONDON CRAFTSMAN’S DAILY WAGE in 1438 – 1439: for Textiles, Foodstuffs, and Spices in terms of a master mason’s or master carpenter’s daily wage of 8d. [1]

 

 

 

COMMODITY

Price per Unit in d.

Unit

Quantity Purchased by Daily Wage of 8d

Quantity Purchased by Weekly Wage of 48d

No. of Days’ Wages to Buy 7 Yds

No. of Days’ Wages at 6d per day for Oxford

 

 

TEXTILES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canvas

2

yard

4

24

1.75

2.33

 

Brabant Linen

6.4

yard

1.25

7.5

5.6

7.47

 

Flemish Linen

12.1

yard

0.661

3.967

10.59

14.12

 

English Worsted

3.5

yard

2.286

13.714

3.06

4.08

 

English Kersey: Dyed

17.9

yard

0.447

2.682

15.66

20.88

 

English Broadcloth: Dyed: average

25.4

yard

0.315

1.89

22.23

29.63

 

English Broadcloth: Dyed: highest

40

yard

0.2

1.2

35

46.67

 

Scarlet Broadcloth: average

144.2

yard

0.055

0.333

126.18

168.23

 

Scarlet Broadcloth: highest range

228

yard

0.035

0.211

199.5

266

 

Flemish Broadcloth (Ghent Dickedinnen)

65.158

yard

0.123

0.737

57.01

76.02

 

Silk: Velvet: average

181.08

yard

0.044

0.265

158.45

211.26

 

Silk: Velvet: highest range

279.96

yard

0.029

0.171

244.97

326.62

 

Silk: Damask

144

yard

0.056

0.333

126

168

 

Silk: Plain Satin

105

yard

0.076

0.457

91.88

122.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER COMMODITIES: Food and Fuel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almonds

3

pound

2.667

16

0.38

0.5

 

Honey

2.5

pints

3.2

19.2

0.31

0.42

 

Milk

1

gallons

8

48

0.13

0.17

 

Butter

1

pints

8

48

0.13

0.17

 

Salt

0.5

pints

16

96

0.06

0.08

 

Eggs

0.157

number

51

306

0.02

0.03

 

Apples

0.08

number

100

600

0.01

0.01

 

Rye Flour

4

pound

2

12

0.5

0.67

 

Chickens

5

number

1.6

9.6

0.63

0.83

 

Capons

1.509

number

5.3

31.8

0.19

0.25

 

Rabbits

4

number

2

12

0.5

0.67

 

Sole (Fish)

2.182

number

3.667

22

0.27

0.36

 

Red Wine

5

gallons

1.6

9.6

0.63

0.83

 

Penny Ale (Beer)

0.748

gallons

10.7

64.2

0.09

0.12

 

Good-Quality Ale

1.778

gallons

4.5

27

0.22

0.3

 

Tallow Candles

1.333

number

6

36

0.17

0.22

 

Coal

0.748

bushels

10.7

64.2

0.09

0.12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPICES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepper

18.028

pound

0.444

2.663

2.25

3

 

Ginger

12

pound

0.667

4

1.5

2

 

Cinnamon

24.151

pound

0.331

1.988

3.02

4.03

 

Cloves

35.556

pound

0.225

1.35

4.44

5.93

 

Saffron

182.857

pound

0.044

0.263

22.86

30.48

 

Sugar

16

pound

0.5

3

2

2.67

 


[1] Dr. John Munro, Department of Economics, University of Toronto, Canada – November 2001