Category Archives: Historic Cooking

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

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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.

Richard II Feast – Ingredients List

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The Ingredient List For The Feast of Richard II

Shortly before mid-day, September 23, 1387, England’s King Richard II and his uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, hosted a feast. Below is the list of the major items and the items served for the feast.

  • Xiiii oxen lying in salte (14 Salted Oxen)
  • IJ oxen ffreyssh (2 Fresh Oxen)
  • Vixx heds of shepe fresh (120 Sheep’s Heads
  • Vixx carcas of shepe fressh (120 Sheep carcasses)
  • Xij Bores (12 Boar)
  • Xiiij Calvys (14 Calves)
  • Cxl pigges (140 Pigs)
  • CCC maribones (300 Marrowbones)
  • Of larde and grece, ynogh (Enough Lard & Grease)
  • IIJ tod of salt veneson (84lb Of Salt Venison)
  • IIJ does of ffressh venison (3 Fresh Doe)
  • IIJ disson pullayn for Gely (60 Poultry for jelly)
  • Xjj dd to roste (144 poultry to roast)
  • C dd peions (1200 Pigeons)
  • Xjj dd partrych (144 Partridge)
  • Viij dd Rabettes (96 Rabbits)
  • X dosen Curlews (120 Curlew)
  • Xij dosen Brewes (144 Whimbrel)
  • Xij Cranes (12 Cranes)
  • Wild fowle ynogh (Enough Wildfowl)
  • VJxx galons melke (120 gallons of Milk)
  • Xij galons Creme (12 gallons of Cream)
  • Xl galons of Cruddes (40 gallons of Curd)
  • Iij bushels of Appelles (3 bushells of Apples)
  • Xj thousand eggs (11,000 Eggs)

The Poultry

  • L Swannes (50 Swan)
  • CCx gees (210 Geese)
  • L capons of hie grece (50 Fat Capons)
  • Viii dussen other capons (96 Other Capons)
  • Lx dd Hennes (720 Hens)
  • CC coppull Coyngges (400 Rabbits)
  • IIIJ Fesauntes (4 Pheasant)
  • V herons and Bitores (5 Heron & Bittern)
  • Vi kiddes (6 Goat)

The First Course

  • Veneson with Frumenty – Venison with a thick, sweet porridge of wheat
  • A pottage called viaundbruse – A Stew Of Soft Meat
  • Hedes of Bores – Boars Heads (traditional at nearly every feast)
  • Grete Flessh – Great Flesh (Roast Oxen)
  • Swannes roasted – Roast Swan
  • Pigges roasted – Roast Pigs
  • Crustarde lumbard in paste – Sweet Pastry Custards Of Wine, Dates & Honey
  • And a Sotelte – And A Subtlety

The Second Course

  • A pottage called Gele – A Stew called Jelly
  • A pottage de blandesore – A White Soup
  • Pigges Roasted – Roast Pigs
  • Cranes roasted – Roast Cranes
  • Fesauntes roasted – Roast Pheasants
  • Herons roasted – Roast Herons
  • Chekens endored – Chickens Glazed
  • Breme – Bream
  • Tartes – Tarts
  • Broke braune – Jellied Brawn Of A Deer
  • Conyngges roasted – Roast Rabbits
  • And a sotelte – And A Subtlety

The Third Course

  • Potage. Bruete of Almonds – Sweet Stew Of Almonds, Honey & Eggs
  • Stwde lumbarde – Sweet Syrup Of Honey, Dates & Wine
  • Venyson roasted – Roast Venison
  • Chekenes Roasted – Roast Chickens
  • Rabettes Roasted – Roast Rabbits
  • Partrich Roasted – Roast Partridge
  • Peions roasted – Roast Pigeons
  • Quailes roasted – Roast Quail
  • Larkes roasted – Roasted Larks
  • Payne puff – Pan Puff
  • A dissh of Gely – A Dish Of Jelly
  • Longe Frutours – Long Fritters
  • And a sotelte – And A Subtlety