To Candy Orring Pills

Candied Orange Peels, 17th century recipeI don’t quite know why, but I had kind of assumed that candied orange peel would date to the late 17th century, like jellied marmalades. I was quite surprised, then, to find that candied fruits, and candied peel, are actually quite a bit older.

 

Preserving in a sugary syrup – whether it’s made from honey, wine, grape must, or sugar – is a very effective way of preserving seasonal products. There is a long history of preserved or candied fruits in China and Korea, dating back to the 10th century, and the Romans preserved quinces and other fruits in honey, or in desfrutum (boiled down new wine) or must.[1]

 

Candied citrus in particular was an expensive gift, and an extravagant ingredient during the 14th and 15th centuries.[2] In Medieval Europe, both honey and sugar were used for preserving a range of fruits, herbs, nuts and spices. This late fourteenth century recipe from The Menagier de Paris uses honey:

 

To make orengat, cut the peel of an orange into five segments, and with a knife, scrape off the white pith that is inside. Then soak them in nice, fresh water for nine days, and change the water every day; then boil them in fresh water until it comes to the boil, then spread them on a cloth and let them dry thoroughly; then put them ina  pot with enough honey to cover the completely, and boil over a low fire, and skim it; and when you think that the honey is done (to see if it is done, put some water into a bowl and drop into that water a drop of the honey, and if it spreads it is not cooked; and if that drop of honey holds its shape in the water without spreading, it is done); then, remove your orange peel, and make a layer of it and sprinkle ginger powder on top, then another layer, and sprinkle etc., ad infinitum; leave for a month or longer before eating.[3]

 

In the fifteenth century, Platina suggests that sugar could be used for candying almonds, pine-nuts, hazelnuts, coriander, anise and cinnamon, while honey was better for apples, gourds, citrons and nuts.[4] The Catalan book on confectionary Libre de totes maneres de confits gives both options in most cases, whereas the Italian Libro per Cuoco only uses honey for candying orange peel.[5] Over time, as sugar become cheaper and more widely available, the use of honey became less common.

 

In England, by the sixteenth century, the primary distinction is between wet suckets (stored in syrup) and dry suckets (removed from the syrup and dried).[6] Nearly every published cookbook and private receipt book that survives contains recipes for these kinds of sweetmeats, which would be served in the banquet course at the end of the meal. Sugar was considered health promoting, especially when combined with spices and it was eaten at the end of the meal to promote digestion (for more on this see my post on gingerbread).[7]

 

The range of products which were candied is staggering. Fresh fruits, seeds, spices, green walnuts, marshmallow, angelica, lettuce stalks (sometimes called gorge d’ange or angel’s throat), and eringo (or sea-holly) roots were all fair game. Nor has the tradition completely died out. Many types of dry suckets still survive: in England, particularly around Christmas, baked goods often include candied citrus peel, candied ginger, glace cherries and candied angelica. In France, candied melon is an essential ingredient in calissons while marrons glaces (candied chestnuts) are a specialty of Northern Italy and the Piedmont region. Elvas, Portugal, is famous for its candied greengages. Wet suckets have been less enduring, but you can still buy ginger preserved in syrup.

E11640.jpg

Given how many 16th and 17th century still lives exist showing all kinds of sweetmeats, there are surprisingly few with candied fruits. This early 17th century painting shows a range of candied fruits, both whole and in sections. On the left at the back is what looks like a whole candied citron, slices of another type of citrus, and what might be candied greengages. On the plate in front are candied figs, or maybe small pears. The boxes on the right would hold fruit pastes, and the jars contain fruits preserved in syrup.  Juan van der Hamen, Still Life with Sweets and Pottery, 1627. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipe

All of this leads us to today’s recipe, which comes from Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats (the second half of the Booke of Cookery). This receipt book is typical in that it provides a range of recipes for preserving and candying. The candying section alone has recipes for rose leaves, marigolds, violets, rosemary flowers, borage flowers, eringo roots, elecampane, ginger, orange peel, gooseberries, angelico stalks and roots, and apricots.[8]

 

To Candy Orring Pills

Take Civill orringes & pare them very thin. Then cut them in little pieces, & lay them in faire water a day & a night, & shift them evening and morning. Then boyle them, & shift them when the water is bitter into another water, & continew this till the water & boyling hath made them soft & yt theyr bitterness be gon. Then dreyne ye water from them, & make a thin sirrup, in which boyle them a pritty while. Then take them out & make another sirrup a little stronger, & boyle them a while in yt. Then dreyne ye sirrup from them, & boyle another sirrup to candy heigh, in wch put them. Then take them out & lay them on plats one by one. When they are dry, turne them & then they are done.[9]

 

This is a fairly straightforward recipe for candied orange peels, and indeed modern recipes aren’t dissimilar. The recipe explicitly calls for Seville oranges, which are very bitter (they are still preferred for marmalade) and this explains the soaking and boiling process.

 

What is more unusual, is the way that the peels are removed from each syrup. What is unclear is whether a completely new syrup is made each time, or whether the existing syrup is simply made stronger, either by reducing it, or perhaps by adding more sugar. In the end, I opted to simply use the same syrup, but to boil it down between each stage.

 

For the stages, there are a series of instructions at the beginning of the book which describe each stage. A thin syrup is “will look thin & pale cullered.”[10] A full syrup is a bit stronger, “it will change its culler and looke high cullered like strong beere.”[11] It is not as strong as manus christi height, at which point it will form a thread between the fingers. Hess notes that this is 215F (105C), but this stage would normally be considered a bit hotter at 230-234F or 110-112C.[12]

 

Candy height, which is the final stage required for this recipe is what is now called the large pearl stage. Again, Hess’ temperature of 232F seems a bit low, it’s normally given as 235-239F or 113-115C.[13] Having said that, I have tried it with the temperatures that Hess gives, and they do work. You will just have a more syrupy peel at the end.

 

[1] Vehling, De Re Coquinaria of Apicius, 52; Palladius, The Fourteen Books of Palladius Rutilius Taurus Æmilianus, on Agriculture, 148; Richardson, Sweets, 92; The Korea Foundation, Traditional Food.

[2] Tolkowsky, Hesperides A History of Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits, 150, 166, 269.

[3] Redon, Sabban, and Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy, 218.

[4] Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, 57.

[5] Anonimo Veneziano, “Libro Di cucina/Libro per Cuoco”; Faraudo de Saint-Germain, “Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits. Un Tratado Manual Cuatrocentista de Arte de Dulceria.”

[6] Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 102.

[7] Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, 130–31.

[8] Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, 278–87.

[9] Ibid., 284.

[10] Ibid., 226.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 227; Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 651.

[13] Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, 227; Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 651.

Flegel_-_Stilleben_mit_Gebäck_und_Zuckerwerk

Here is another still life with candied fruit. At the back left, the fruit has clearly been stored in syrup and is still quite wet. It’s hard to make out what the fruit is, but some pears, a lemon, and maybe some melon or gourd. On the plate on the right, the fruit is very dry. This could simply be dried fruit, but it could also be candied fruit. In particular, look in the center, where there is citrus peel holding the dried grapes. Georg Flegel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What can I do with my Orange Peel and Syrup?

 

The easiest thing is to eat it straight, because it is delicious. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but some people might like to roll the peel in sugar, or for a modern option you can dip them in good-quality dark chocolate.

 

You can also keep your orange peel for baking. Lots of modern recipes contain candied peel, including fruitcake, Christmas pudding, panettone or this delicious spiced honey cake. If you want something historical, try one of these recipes:

 

Eccles Cakes via The Old Foodie

Orange Gingerbread via The Old Foodie

Scotch Short-bread via the Old Foodie

Hot Cross Buns via The Cook and the Curator

Mince Pies via Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways

This updated recipe of Martha Washington’s Excellent Cake via the Chicago Tribune

Skirret Pie via Historic Food Jottings

 

And the syrup? It’s got a lovely, gentle orange flavour which would be perfect for pouring over baklava or awamat (Lebanese doughnuts). You could also use it as a simple syrup in cocktails, or use it for an orange syrup cake.

 

My Redaction

Candied Orange Peels

4 oranges, Seville if possible

2 cups water

225g sugar

 

  1. Slice the top and bottom off the oranges with a very sharp knife. Steady the orange on the now flat bottom, and carefully cut the peel of the knife in vertical sections. Carefully remove as much pith as you want (more pith = more bitter) using either a teaspoon or a knife. Slice the peel into thin slices.
  2. Place the peel in a large bowl and cover with fresh water. Cover the bowl and leave for 24 hours, changing the water after 12 hours. The next day, drain the peels, place them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil, then drain the peels, cover them in fresh water and bring to the boil again. Repeat this once more, for a total of three times, then drain the peels.
  3. In the saucepan, combine the water and the sugar. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a simmer. Add the peel, but try not to stir as this will lead to crystallisation. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the peel.
  4. Heat the syrup to 105C, then add the peel. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the peel.
  5. Heat the syrup to 113C,then add the peel. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Remove the peel from the hot syrup and lay them on racks to dry. Once dry, remove them and store them in an airtight container.

 

 

 

Note: you can collect orange peels over time, and keep them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Simply defrost them when you want to use them, and continue with the recipe. If they have been frozen, it is much easier to scoop out the pith with a spoon.

 

 

The Round-Up

 

The Recipe: To Candy Orring Pills from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweemeats

The Date: 17th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 2 days

How successful was it?: I was really happy with how they turned out. They’re very moreish wish a pleasant residual bitterness from the pith.

How accurate?: I didn’t use Seville oranges, which would have been more bitter, and might have needed more pith removed. I also am not sure whether using the same syrup and just making it stronger was the right approach or not.

Candied Orange Peels, 17th century recipe

References

The Korea Foundation. Traditional Food: A Taste of Korean Life. Seoul: Seoul Selection, 2010.

Anonimo Veneziano. “Libro Di cucina/Libro per Cuoco.” Translated by Thomas Gloning.

Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800, 2000. http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/frati.htm.

Faraudo de Saint-Germain, Lluis. “Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits. Un Tratado Manual Cuatrocentista de Arte de Dulceria.” Boletin de La Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona 19 (1946): 97–134.

Hess, Karen. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats. Reprint edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Palladius, Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus. The Fourteen Books of Palladius Rutilius Taurus Æmilianus, on Agriculture. Translated by Thomas Owen. J. White, 1807.

Redon, Odine, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy. Translated by Edward Schneider. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Richardson, Tim. Sweets: The History of Temptation. Random House, 2004.

Young, Carolin C. “Stages of Sugar Syrup.” In The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, edited by Darra Goldstein, 650–53. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. 5th ed. Suffolk and Rochester: Boydell Press, 2005.

Tolkowsky, S. Hesperides A History of Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits. London: John Bale Sons & Curnow LTD, 1938.

Vehling, Joseph Dommers, trans. De Re Coquinaria of Apicius. Chicago: Walter M. Hill, 1936. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Apicius/1*.html.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

14th Century Quick Pickled Eggs

Quick pickled cinnamon eggs, recipe from the 14th century

Ages ago I wrote about making pickled eggs for my cousin and I promised you another recipe. Well, it’s taken me nearly two years, but here it is. During my research the earliest English recipe I could find was from the 18th century, but I came across a much earlier recipe in Arabic. This recipe was from The Description of Familiar Foods, which was probably written in Cairo in the 14th century.

“Baid Mukhallal – Take boiled eggs and peel and sprinkle with a little ground salt and Chinese cinnamon [cassia] and dry coriander. Then arrange them in a glass jar and pour wine vinegar on them, and put it up.”[1]

What you notice, is that this souse or pickle (the vinegar solution) appears to be cold when it is put on the eggs. Most modern recipes call for the pickle to be hot, and it made me wonder how using a cold solution would affect the eggs, both from a taste perspective and for food safety.

SAFETY NOTE: The following is meant to be a discussion primarily about how this recipe might have functioned in the 14th century, and why it was possible to eat pickled eggs in the past in the absence of refrigeration. For modern home cooks, you should follow the most recent guidelines and procedures which are put out by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

In terms of texture, the evidence is mixed. One early study of pickled eggs suggested that using a boiling pickle would increase tenderness, but more recently Acosta et al. found that the manner of pickling made no noticeable difference to texture.[2] Overall, it seems that if cold pickling makes any difference to the toughness of the egg, it is probably quite small, but it would be interesting to try doing hot and cold brine versions of the same recipe to compare them.

The bigger question is, how does it affect food safety? The current guidelines recommend a hot pickling solution and say that pickled eggs should be refrigerated after bottling and only removed for serving (for a period of no more than 2 hours).[3] Obviously, refrigeration wasn’t an option in 14th century Egypt, so what does that mean for the people eating these eggs?

Whenever you read about food safety and home pickled eggs, you come across a reference to the one known case of botulism caused by home pickled eggs.[4] One case isn’t very many, in light of the estimated 2,600 deaths a year caused by foodborne illnesses in the USA alone, even if there are other unreported cases.[5] Still, in the interest of not poisoning our loved ones, I thought I’d take a closer look at what the science says.

With pickled eggs, there are two food safety issues to contend with. The first is botulism, but botulinum spores can’t survive in an environment with a pH of more than 4.6. The US food regulations say that you must be able to reduce the pH to 4.6 within 24 hours, otherwise the food should be refrigerated until the correct pH is reached.[6] The rate at which acidification occurs depends on the ratio of eggs to pickle, the ingredients of the pickling solution, the amount of acetic acid in the vinegar, and the pickling technique (hot fill/cold fill etc.).

Dripping 1

Acosta et al. found that with a brine concentration of acetic acid of 4.9% or 7.5% (normal table vinegar is 4-8%) they could get the total yolk pH to 4.6 or below in less than 24 hours with a cold fill, a hot fill, or a hot fill followed by a water bath treatment.[7] So far so good, except that a total yolk pH means that the yolk is made into a paste and tested to get a kind of average. None of these methods was able to produce a pH of less than 4.6 in the very heart of the yolk in less than 24 hours.[8]

So what does that mean? Well, to be safe you’re still better refrigerating your eggs, because a) it’s difficult for the home cook to manage and measure all the different factors and b)it hasn’t been proved safe for the yolk to take longer than 24 hours to reach acidification. But, for our 14th century Egyptians, it was probably reasonably safe because the brine was almost pure vinegar and the total yolk (note that this measure is endorsed by American food safety regulators[9]) would reach 4.6 even at room temperature. The biggest thing is not to pierce the yolk of the egg, which some people do in the hopes of increasing acid/flavour penetration of the egg, because it can inadvertently introduce botulism spores into the yolk.[10]

However, botulism is not the only thing we have to worry about. A whole host of other things can contaminate your eggs if you’re not careful, including salmonella, E coli and listeria. The easiest way for the home cook to avoid contamination is good hygiene: use sterilised jars, and wash your hands before peeling the eggs.

What’s interesting is that Sullivan et al. showed that the safety requirements for dealing with botulism (refrigeration of eggs) might actually prevent pathogen die-off, if your eggs do get contaminated. They say that “Pickled eggs should be held under refrigeration for the length of time needed to acidify them to ≤4.6, and then held at ambient temperatures to ensure pathogen inaction.”[11] This precaution isn’t reflected in current guidelines for home cooks, and it’s difficult to know from their study what the take away message should be, other than that we should flip the filled jars upside down now and then to make sure that the vinegar touches all parts of the jar. And for the medieval Egyptians? Well, this raises the interesting question of whether, by keeping the eggs at room temperature, they were actually helping to make pathogen die-off faster.

 

[1] Perry, “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods],” 397.

[2] Acosta et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 791.

[3] Washington State University Extension, “Pickled Eggs”; Andress, “Pickled Eggs.”

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.”

[5] Scallan et al., “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Major Pathogens,” 10.

[6] U.S. Government Printing Office, “Title 9, Chap. II, Subchap. A, Part 381 – Poultry Products Inspection Regulations,” 9 CFR 381.300.

[7] Acosta et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 794.

[8] Ibid.

[9] U.S. Government Printing Office, “Title 21, Chap. 1, Subchap. B, Part 114 – Acidified Foods.,” 21 CFR 114.90.

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.”

[11] Sullivan et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 1846.

Quick pickled cinnamon eggs, recipe from the 14th century

The Redaction

 

Given that there is so little detail in the recipe, it doesn’t seem worth giving a redaction. I followed the same basic steps as in any pickled egg recipe, I boiled and peeled the eggs, packed them into sterilised jars, added some cassia (you could use either ground cassia or add a stick which would look prettier) and some coriander seeds (it’s also possible that the recipe is calling for dried coriander leaves) and then covered them with white wine vinegar. The quantities will depend entirely on the size of your jars, how many eggs you are using and how much spice you want to add. Make sure that you invert the jars at the end, and then refrigerate them. Leave them for a few days to allow the flavours to develop before eating.

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Baid Mukhallal from Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods]

The Date: 14th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 20 mins.

How successful was it?: Tasty, with a pleasant but not overpowering cinnamon flavour.

How accurate?: The biggest difficulty is knowing what amount of spice to use, because there really isn’t any indication. I also wasn’t entirely sure what type of coriander to use, and whether the spices would be ground or whole. I went with what I had to hand, which was ground cassia and whole coriander seeds, but I think that whole cassia would probably be prettier. The other big question is what kind of vinegar to use, and whether modern wine vinegar is similar to historical wine vinegar. It might also be interesting to try this recipe with red wine vinegar and see whether it colours the eggs like beetroot pickled eggs.

Open Jar 1

References

Acosta, Oscar, Xiaofan Gao, Elizabeth K. Sullivan, and Olga I. Padilla-Zakour. “Pickled Egg Production: Effect of Brine Acetic Acid Concentration and Packing Conditions on Acidification Rate.” Journal of Food Protection; Des Moines 77, no. 5 (May 2014): 788–95.

Andress, Elizabeth L. “Pickled Eggs.” National Center for Home Food Preservation, April 2014. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/pickled_eggs.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4934a2.htm.

Perry, Charles. “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods].” In Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry, 373–450. Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001.

Scallan, Elaine, Robert M. Hoekstra, Frederick J. Angulo, Robert V. Tauxe, Marc-Alain Widdowson, Sharon L. Roy, Jeffrey L. Jones, and Patricia M. Griffin. “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Major Pathogens.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 17, no. 1 (2011): 7–15.

Sullivan, Elizabeth K., David C. Manns, John J. Churey, Randy W. Worobo, and Olga I. Padilla-Zakour. “Pickled Egg Production: Inactivation Rate of Salmonella, Escherichia Coli O157:H7, Listeria Monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus Aureus during Acidification Step.” Journal of Food Protection; Des Moines 76, no. 11 (November 2013): 1846–53.

U.S. Government Printing Office. “Title 9, Chap. II, Subchap. A, Part 381 – Poultry Products Inspection Regulations.” In Code of Federal Regulations, 2011. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2016-title9-vol2/pdf/CFR-2016-title9-vol2-sec381-300.pdf.

———. “Title 21, Chap. 1, Subchap. B, Part 114 – Acidified Foods.” In Code of Federal Regulations, 2011. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2016-title21-vol2/pdf/CFR-2016-title21-vol2-sec114-90.pdf.

Washington State University Extension. “Pickled Eggs,” 2002. http://extension.wsu.edu/foodsafety/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2017/03/EB1104-Pickled-Eggs.pdf.

 

Tarte Owt of Lente

 

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

I know that a lot of the HFF bloggers are doing the Future Learn course ‘A History of Royal Food and Feasting’ and seem to be really enjoying it. The basic premise is that each week covers a different monarch and a different Historic Royal Palace, with a loose focus on a particular event; last week that event was Edward VI’s christening at Hampton Court Palace. They then offer a few redacted recipes which you are invited to try out.

 

I thought it was a bit disappointing that they chose to focus on an event for which there is very little evidence of the food served, and that they then chose three recipes which were totally unrelated. Why not give a recipe for the spiced wafers that they know were served on the day?

 

The three recipes that they did give were Tarte Owt of Lente, Fylettys en Galentyne and Ryschewys Close and Fryez. You can watch videos of these recipes being made in the Hampton Court Kitchens, and get redacted recipes on the website.

 

Since its Pie week for the HFF I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making Tarte Owt of Lente. The name tells us that it is a recipe for a pie which is inappropriate for Lent; it’s full of cream and eggs and cheese and so can only be eaten ‘out of Lent’. The original recipe comes from Gentyllmanly Cookere c. 1500:

“Take neshe chese and pare hit and grynd hit yn A morter and breke egges and do ther to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell all well to gethur put not to moche butter ther yn if the chese be fatte make A coffyn of dowe and close hit a bove with dowe and collor hit a bove with the yolkes of eggs and bake hit well and serue hit furth.”[1]

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table 

The first thing to decide in this recipe is what type of cheese to use. In the Hampton Court video and redaction they suggest Cheshire cheese, but the first step is to ‘take neshe chese’ or ‘take soft cheese’ which to me suggests a fresh cheese. In the comments to the recipe they actually mention this, saying that it is probably referring to a curd cheese like ricotta or cottage cheese. And yet, the next instruction is to ‘pare hit’ or ‘pare it’. That suggests removing a rind, or at least cutting the cheese up small. So, is it a soft, fresh cheese or a harder cheese with a rind? The jury is out, but either seems to work well.

 

I decided to go with ricotta, and that meant that I had to change the proportions of other ingredients quite a bit so that the mixture wasn’t too liquid. The first tart I made, I kept quite close to the suggested redaction with 100g ricotta, 1 egg, 60 ml cream, 30g butter and seasoning, but when I put it in the oven I found that it burst it’s base. I’m still giving the amounts though, because it tasted very good and was my housemate’s favourite version. The trick, I think, would be to use a hot water pastry instead of a shortcrust pastry. There’s a recipe for hot water pastry in my post about chewets.

 

My second try worked a lot better because I increased the proportion of ricotta and reduced the liquids. I was a bit worried that the mixture would be too bland so I also added some grated parmesan to this version. That was very tasty, but is totally optional.

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

The Recipe

A Tarte Owt of Lente

For the pastry:

110g flour

Pinch of salt

50g butter, cold and cut into 1cm cubes

Cold water

 

For the filling:

140g ricotta

15g butter

1 egg

1 tbsp cream

30g grated parmesan (optional)

Salt and pepper

 

1 beaten egg

 

  1. To make the pastry place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a firm dough. Be careful not to overwork it. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate while you make your filling.
  2. Cream together the butter and the ricotta in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  3. You can see a video of this method of shaping the pastry here. Remove the pastry from the fridge and separate about 2/3 of the pastry to make the base. Roll it out until about 3/4cm thick and use a plate or bowl as a template to cut out a circle. Working about 1.5cm from the edge, place your left thumb on the pastry and use your thumb and index finger on your right hand to push the pastry up against your thumb, and to pinch it into a ridge. Work your way around the pastry to make a self-supporting pastry base. Roll out the other 1/3 of the pastry to make a lid. Place the base on the pastry and cut around it to get the right size.
  4. Place your pastry base on a baking tray and pour in the filling. Brush a little beaten egg around the rim of the pastry and put the lid on top, pinching the edges to seal. Make a little hole in the top of the pie, and brush the top with beaten egg.
  5. Bake the pie for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: A Tarte Owt of Lente (available here).

The Date: late 15th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 1.5 hrs.

How successful was it?: It was good hot or cold, although as I said the first filling didn’t quite manage to stay in its pastry case. I was kind of surprised that it set so well, but I did like the addition of a bit of parmesan just to add some extra saltiness.

How accurate?: The big question is what type of cheese to use, and I still don’t have a strong feeling either way. I suppose the other option would be to use something like a brie or camembert which is both soft and can be pared. That might be worth a try.

 

[1] James L. Matterer, “Gentyll Manly Cokere. Culinary Recipes from MS Pepys 1047.,” Gode Cookery, 2009, http://www.godecookery.com/pepys/pepys.htm.

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

A Happy Idea for a Picnic Dish

 

Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood, State Library NSW

Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood c. 1934, courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

 

“How we all love a picnic! Wrapped up in that one delightful word is the call of the bush, the call of the surf, fresh air and sunshine, happiness and lots of nice things to eat!”[1] Australia doesn’t have a monopoly on picnics by any means, but the great weather and natural beauty makes picnicking a popular pastime, and that’s nothing new.

 

Barbara Santich dedicates a whole chapter to picnics in her history of Australian food Bold Palates, and she makes the point that while early picnics were utilitarian (quick meals to break up journeys or roadside stops where there was no inn to be found), they were also a way to celebrate special occasions and even official functions. One of their great attractions was surely that they cut across social and class lines, helped along by guild picnics and cheap public transport. Santich also notes the popularity of ‘mystery hikes’ in the 1930s where bushwalkers took a train to an undisclosed location for a hike and a picnic; one of these in 1932 catered to 8000 people![2]

 

The recipe that I chose for this HFF challenge is from December 1933 and it’s nice to think that these picnic patties might have been taken along on a mystery hike or two. We’ve talked before about the advantages of pies, they’re easily stored, portable and great for eating on the go. These mini pies have exactly the same benefits, and can be eaten hot or cold.

Capture

The recipe was submitted as part of a competition to find recipes for picnic foods. Although the contributor, Mrs E.E. Wain of Campsie, only got a consolation prize of 2/6 the patties are probably easier to eat than the jellied rabbit which took out first prize!

[1] “Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.”

[2] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 88.

IMG_4358

The Redaction

Picnic Patties

 

For the Pastry:

230g flour

3 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp lemon juice

120g cold butter, diced

Cold water, as needed

 

For the filling:

 

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour

1/2 cup stock (I used the water that I cooked the chicken in)

1/2 cup cream

Salt (and pepper)

1 cup chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large chicken breast)

1/2 stick of celery, finely sliced

 

A little milk or egg wash.

 

  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and the butter. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time and mix gently until the pastry comes together. Be careful not to knead the pastry. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed.
  2. To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Cook for a minute and stir to remove any lumps. Add half of the stock and stir to combine, then add the other half of the stock. The mixture should be quite thick. Stir in the cream, seasonings, celery and chicken and turn off the heat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease a cupcake pan. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry on a floured board. Cut circles from the pastry to fit the cupcake pan. Fill with the chicken mixture, then roll out the remaining pastry to cut lids. Place the lids onto the pies and press down around the edges to seal. Brush with a little milk or egg wash and use the tip of a sharp knife to make a small slit in the top of each pie.
  4. Bake the pies in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden on top.

 

IMG_4369The Round-Up

The Recipe: Picnic Patties (available here)

The Date: 30 December 1933

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: An hour.

How successful was it?: These were very nice, if a little bland. I would have liked them with some carrots and/or peas and a bit more aggressive seasoning. I also found the pastry a bit too thick, so that the proportion of pastry to filling wasn’t quite right, but that is easily fixed.

How accurate?: The recipe doesn’t specify how to make the pastry, so I used this recipe from 1934 for Creamed Chicken Turnovers. Overall I think that these were very accurate, the only major change that I made was to use butter in the pastry instead of lard or dripping, either of which would also make a very good pastry.

 

References

“Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 30, 1933. Trove.

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage. South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2012.

IMG_4360

Roasted Milk

IMG_3707

So catching up on missed challenges, here is my HFF entry for ‘Roasts’. Of course, I couldn’t just do a normal roast could I? and so I present to you a recipe for Roasted Milk.

 

Yes, you read that right, I said Roasted Milk. You may be wondering, as did I, exactly how one roasts milk. Well, it turns out it’s not really roasted at all, but you make a kind of set custard, slice it up and fry it. The trick of course was to get the right proportion of milk to eggs to make custard when there are no amounts given in the original recipe.

 

The recipe comes from the 15th Century MS Harley 5401 which I’ve used before when I made chewets. This manuscript contains two very similar recipes for roasted milk. The first says:

 

“To rost Mylk. Recipe swete mylk & do it in a pan, & swyng egges Perwith, & colour it with saferon & put certo flour; han set it on he fyre & let it boyle, & strene all Pise to gydyr & cast it agayn into pe pan. Pen take hard 3olkes of egges & breke ham small, & do Pam in De mylk tyll it be right thyk. Pen set it down & let it kele, & lech it & roste it on a gyrdyren, & cast berto sugur, & serof it forth. go Frutowr for Lentyn. Recipe flour & almondes mylk, & temper ham togyder; han take fyges & rasyns of corance & fry ham with he batour with oyle & tyrne [Pis] & sero”[1]

 

“To roast Milk. Gather sweet milk and put it in a pan, and stir eggs therewith, and color it with saffron and put thereto flour, then set it on the fire and let it boil, and strain all this together and cast it again into the pan. Then take hard yolks of eggs and break them small, and put them in the milk until it is quite thick. Then set it down and let it cool, and slice it and roast it on a gridiron, and cast thereto sugar, and serve it forth.”[2]

 

While the second omits the flour and the sugar, and uses the whole raw egg:

 

“Mylk Rostede. Recipe swete mylk & do it in a pan, than take pe egges with be whyte & bete bam togyder, & do it to he mylk, & colour it with saferon; & boyle it tyll it be thyk, and strene it & do kerin; take bat pat levis in Pe strenerour: presse it on a borde with a lever, & when it is cold lard it & sheve it on shyves, & rost it on a gyrdyryn, & serof it forth.”[3]

 

“Roasted Milk. Gather sweet milk and put it in a pan, then take eggs with the white and beat them together, and put it in the milk, and color it with saffron, and boil it until it is thick, and strain it and put it in; take the leaves (what remains?) in the strainer: press it on a board with a lever, and when it is cold lard it and shave it in slices, and roast it on a gridiron, and serve it forth.”[4]

 

I primarily used the second recipe, but I did end up sprinkling my milk with some sugar, as recommended in the first.

A_woman_milking_a_cow,_woodcut,_1547_Wellcome_L0029211

This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

As is often the way with these things, recipes for roasted milk appear in many other manuscripts. The Medieval Cookery website has five alternative versions from: The Noble Boke of Cookry (England, c. 1468), Liber Cure Cocorum (England, 1420-1440), Ein Buch Von Guter Spise (Germany, c. 1345), Two-Fifteenth Century Cookery Books (England, 15th C) and the Forme of Cury (England, c. 1390).

 

The English recipes are all very similar. You cook together eggs, sweet milk (as in, not sour), and a little saffron. Once the mixture has thickened you strain it and leave it to cool and set, often with a weight upon it. Once the mixture has set it is cut into slices and then grilled (except in the case of the Noble Boke of Cookry which is served cold without grilling). It can be sprinkled with some sugar at the end.

 

The German recipe is different, and worth consideration because of that. It is made without eggs, just with curdled milk. The milk is strained and pressed overnight before being sliced and roasted on a spit. Rather than being sprinkled with sugar it is sprinkled with salt, pepper and butter or fat (on meat days). It would be interesting to see how this recipe compares to the English versions.

[1] Hieatt, “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary,” 65.

[2] Wallace, “MS Harley 5401.”

[3] Hieatt, “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary,” 58–59.

[4] Wallace, “MS Harley 5401.”

IMG_3700

The Redaction

2 cups milk

4 eggs, beaten

Pinch of saffron

Oil to fry in

 

  1. Whisk the eggs and milk together over medium heat. Once it is warm add the saffron. Whisk constantly until it comes to the boil and thickens (the consistency is somewhere between scrambled eggs and cottage cheese).
  2. Line a colander with clean muslin and strain off the liquid. Place the mixture in a rectangular mould (I used a tupperware container lined with baking paper), place something heavy on top like a tin or a plate to weigh it down, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Remove the mixture from the mould and slice it thinly. Heat a frying pan (or gridiron) with a little oil. Grill the slices until golden brown on each side, it should look like French toast. Sprinkle with sugar if desired and serve hot.

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Roasted Milk from MS Harley 5401 (available here).

The Date: 15th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins, plus setting overnight.

How successful was it?: I was really please that this actually set, because I wasn’t at all sure that it would. The flavour is somewhere between custard and the eggy part of French toast. It’s quite bland, and at first I didn’t like it but a little bit of sugar really improved it, and once you began eating it it was surprisingly moreish.

How accurate?: The hardest part to figure out was the proportions of egg to milk. I went with the proportions for a modern custard which seemed to work well enough but I don’t know how accurate that is. I also wasn’t sure how much saffron to add, so perhaps the colour was not as pronounced as it should have been.

 

References

Hieatt, Constance. “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary.” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 54–69.

Wallace, Sam. “MS Harley 5401.” Translated by Constance Hieatt. Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800, April 9, 2011. http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/harl5401/.

 

Mock Crab aka Cheesy Scrambled Eggs

IMG_4103This is just a quick post to get me back on track with the Historical Food Fortnightly. The next challenge is Mock Foods and this is such a cool challenge I would have loved to do something a little more difficult. Still, I think it’s hard to find an era which is more known for mock foods than the early 20th century, and in fact I still have my grandmother’s recipe for mock cream.

 

Between the Depression and two world wars, thrifty housewives everywhere swapped recipes for dishes that were either too expensive, or which used ingredients which simply couldn’t be found. A quick search of the digitised newspapers on Trove brings up hundreds of results from the 1930s to the 1950s, ranging from mock whitebait to mock brains, even mock potatoes!

Recipe

1935 ‘Prize Recipe – Mock Crab’, Daily Standard, 14 September p.8 

Although I was tempted by a recipe for mock ham (made from a corned leg of lamb), I ended up going with a recipe for mock crab. Although it didn’t look like much, it was easy, fast and dare I say it, quite tasty on toast. It’s really an amazingly comforting dish, like a cross between scrambled eggs and a cheese toastie. The only thing is, I don’t think it really tastes or looks like crab!

 

The recipe is so simple that it’s not really worth writing a redaction. You cover the tomatoes (I used three) with boiling water and after a minute or so, scoop them out and peel them. Dice the tomatoes and cook over medium heat with some salt and pepper until soft. This produces a lot of juice, so you pour that off, then stir in an egg and a cup of grated cheese. Cook until it thickens to your liking (mine looked a bit like scrambled eggs in the end). Serve hot on toast, or cold on sandwiches.

IMG_4100

The Recipe: Mock Crab (available here).

The Date: 14 September 1935

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 20 mins.

How successful was it?:  It looked pretty awful, but I ate it hot on toast for dinner and it was very good. Cheesy and very comforting.

How accurate?: I wasn’t sure whether to chop the tomatoes or not because there is no instruction, but that seems to be what is done in other recipes and I don’t see how else you could do it.

 

1935 ‘PRIZE RECIPE.’, Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), 14 September, p. 8., viewed 05 May 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186190462

 

Pass the Pickled Eggs

So a couple of months ago, just before my birthday, I was talking about birthday presents with my cousin Ryan and his girlfriend. While my request for a penguin seemed perfectly reasonable, I was a bit surprised when he said that all he wanted for his birthday was some pickled eggs. When The Old Foodie posted a selection of historical pickled egg recipes a week later, it just seemed like the universe was sending me a message.
Fast forward several months and the week of his birthday I was not only ridiculously busy but also quite sick. I suppose I could have changed my mind and used a modern recipe with, you know, quantities and real instructions, but where is the fun in that? Oh and why just make one historical recipe when you can do two?

Girl with a Basket of Eggs by Joachim Beuckelaer (circa 1533–1575) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Girl with a Basket of Eggs by Joachim Beuckelaer (circa 1533–1575) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipes

And so, although the process was not without hiccups, the eggs were pickled and enjoyed and I sat down to write this post. Actually I’ve tried a number of times, but each time I got side-tracked into doing more research. In spite of scouring dozens of cookbooks, I cannot find an older English recipe than the sage recipe which was posted by The Old Foodie and dates from 1725.

“Boil New laid Eggs in Vinegar, Cloves, Pepper, and a Handful of Sage-leaves, till hard, then peel them and put them into Glasses; when your Pickle is cold, put it to them, and cover them down close.”[1]

Sage Pickled Eggs, recipe from 1725

Since the pickled egg is a favourite among re-enactment groups I had just assumed that they were much older, and so apparently do lots of modern cookbook writers. These led me back to Dorothy Hartley’s book Food in England which says that, “When eggs are plentiful, farmers’ wives take four or six dozen newly laid, and boil them hard; then, taking off the shells, they place them in earthenware jars and pour upon them scalding vinegar well seasoned with pepper, allspice, ginger, and garlic. The eggs are fit to use after a month.”[2] She says this recipe comes from 1700 or thereabouts, although nearly identical recipes appear throughout the 19th century, the earliest version I can find is from 1844 in The Mechanic’s Magazine[3].

In fact pickled eggs are much older, just not in England. Going back further, there is a reference to pickled eggs in Andrew Boorde’s A Dyetary of Helth from about 1542 which says that:

“In Turkey, and other hyghe chrystyan landes anexed to it, they use to seth two or thre busshels of egges togither harde, and pull of the shels, & sowse them, and kepe them to eate at all tymes; but hard egges be slow and slack of dygestyon and doth nutryfye the body grosly.”[4]

Sousing is the process of preserving meat or animal parts in a pickle, so these are definitely pickled eggs. Boorde’s comment that these eggs come from Turkey and surrounding lands is interesting in light of a recipe from Kitab Wasf al-At’ima al-Mu’tada or The Description of Familiar Foods. A 14th century cookbook written in Arabic, possibly from Cairo, The Description of Familiar Foods includes the following recipe:

“Baid Mukhallal – Take boiled eggs and peel and sprinkle with a little ground salt and Chinese cinnamon [cassia] and dry coriander. Then arrange them in a glass jar and pour wine vinegar on them, and put it up.”[5]

That’s definitely going to be the next pickled egg recipe I try, but I doubt that it will be as pretty as the second recipe that I made. Dyed pink with beetroot juice, this recipe comes from The Practical American Cook Book, Or, Practical and Scientific Cookery. The Old Foodie quoted an 1855 edition, but I have only been able to find an 1863 edition. Today these pink eggs are particularly associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch and they make a lovely addition to salads with their variegated colours.

Pickled Eggs. Boil them until hard; throw them hot into cold water, which will make the shell slip off smoothly after the eggs have remained in it about ten minutes; boil some red beets till very soft; peel and mash them fine, and put enough of the liquor into cold vinegar to color it pink; add a little salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cloves; put the eggs into a jar and pour the beets, vinegar &c., over them. This makes a pretty garnish for fish or corned meats. Cut the eggs in slices when used.[6]

Pink Pickled Eggs, Recipe from 1863

The Redactions

Safety Note: These are the quantities and processes that I used to make these recipes, but because the liquids are cold when poured over the boiled eggs there is a higher chance of bacterial growth than in modern pickled egg recipes. If you decide to try these recipes you should keep the eggs refrigerated and consume them within days of making them. You can also increase the safety heating the pickling liquid to boiling point and pouring it over the eggs. 

Sage Pickled Eggs

12 eggs

2 1/2 cups vinegar

3 cloves

1 tsp peppercorns

Small handful of sage

  1. Hard boil eggs, then allow to cool and shell them. Place into a sterilised jar.
  2. Mix the vinegar, spices and sage in a saucepan and just bring to the boil. Allow the liquid to cool and pour over the eggs.

Beet Pickled Eggs

12 eggs

1 beetroot, or use the whole, pre-boiled beetroots that you can sometimes find vacuum sealed

1tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup normal vinegar

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup juice from beetroot

3 cloves

  1. Quarter the beetroot, place in a saucepan and cover in boiling water. Bring the pot to the boil and cook until the beetroot is soft, this takes longer than you would think, about 30 mins. When soft, remove the beetroot and allow the pieces to cool enough to handle. Peel the beetroot, then dice it and roughly mash the cubes.

2. Put the eggs into a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a rolling boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Allow to cool and peel.

  1. Place the eggs in a sterilised jar, then add the beetroot over the top. Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over.

Pickled eggs, recipes from 1725 and 1863

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Pickled Eggs from Robert Smith’s Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook 128.(available here) and from The Practical American Cook Book by A Housekeeper (preview available here).

The Date:1725 and 1865

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: The beetroot took a very long time to cook, so those ones took over an hour and a half, but the sage ones were faster; including cooling time they probably took about an hour.

How successful was it?: I only tried the beetroot ones which were a beautiful colour, slightly rubbery but very pleasant. Ryan preferred the sage eggs, but that may be because he isn’t the biggest fan of beetroot.

How accurate?: I ended up changing the process of the sage eggs somewhat, because the first time that I made them I diluted the vinegar with water which would have changed the eggs preservative properties. The sage also through off a nasty scum when boiled like that. In the end I started again, boiling the eggs in water and then heating the other ingredients separately. The biggest difference in terms of ingredients is probably the type of vinegar used, but there was no indication of the type of vinegar in the recipes and I haven’t done enough research to really know what would have been used.

11911464_1059338284077547_633809302_n 11897045_1059338217410887_1619311519_n

[1] Robert Smith, Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook (London: Printed for T. Wotton, at the Three-Daggers in Fleet-Street, 1725), 128.

[2] Dorothy Hartley, Food in England (London: Little, Brown & Company, 1999), 345.

[3] Robertson, ed., Mechanics Magazine (London: James Bounsall, 1844), 352.

[4] Andrew Boorde, The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. A Compendyous Regyment; Or, A Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier, ed. Frederick James Furnivall (London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1870), 265.

[5] Charles Perry, “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods],” in Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry (Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001), 397.

[6] A Housekeeper, The Practical American Cook Book (New York: D Appleton and Company, 1863), 91.

And my penguin? He's already making friends.

And my penguin? He’s already making friends.

Bibliography

A Housekeeper. The Practical American Cook Book. New York: D Appleton and Company, 1863.

Boorde, Andrew. The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. A Compendyous Regyment; Or, A Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier. Edited by Frederick James Furnivall. London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1870.

Hartley, Dorothy. Food in England. London: Little, Brown & Company, 1999.

Perry, Charles. “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods].” In Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry, 373–450. Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001.

Robertson, ed. Mechanics Magazine. London: James Bounsall, 1844.

Smith, Robert. Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook. London: Printed for T. Wotton, at the Three-Daggers in Fleet-Street, 1725.

‘Pies, hot pies!’

15th century chewets

I’m still catching up with some of the challenges from the Historical Food Fortnightly, but I’ve cooked all but the bonus challenge and the Celebratory Food from back in December so I’ll get them written up as soon as I can.

This recipe is for the Snacky Snackables challenge, and it’s something that I’ve been wanting to make for a while now – chewets. Cheap, fully self-contained for low mess, good for using up off-cuts and leftovers, easily bulked out with some veg and no cutlery required – pies make the perfect on-the go lunch or quick snack. Chewets are just a type of small pie, something like a modern pork pie, and they appear in many of our earliest English cookbooks.

A page from Ulrich von Richental's 15th century The Chronicle of the Council of Constance. Note the oven on wheels, that's real fast food! See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A page from Ulrich von Richental’s 15th century The Chronicle of the Council of Constance. Note the oven on wheels, that’s real fast food! See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pies were sold piping hot and ready to eat by street-peddlers from at least the 13th century. According to Martha Carlin, cookshops and street vendors primarily served the poor in large, over-populated towns where cheap lodgings didn’t always have a fire for cooking, let alone an oven for baking.[1] The cries of the peddlers, tempting their customers in, are recorded in collections or in literature, such as the following from Piers Plowman:

“Cooks and their knaves cried ‘Pies, hot pies!
Good pork and good goose! Come, dine! Come, dine!’

Taverners unto them told the same tale:
`White wine of Alsace red wine of Gascony,
Wine of the Rhine, of Rochelle to help settle your meat!’”[2]

 

The Recipe

The recipe that I used comes from MS Harley 5401, a 15th century manuscript. It is a very simple recipe which uses left over chicken, but it is a bit unusual because the chewets are fried instead of baked.

Chewets, before being fried. As you can see, I made two different shapes to see which one worked better. I liked the flatter shape better, but it was harder to form and had more of a tendency to fall apart during cooking.

Chewets, before being fried. As you can see, I made two different shapes to see which one worked better. I liked the flatter shape better, because it cooked faster and more evenly, but it was harder to form and had more of a tendency to fall apart during cooking.

“Chewets. Recipe pe draghtis of capons or of hennes & shop pam small. Take & cast powdyr of gynger & cloes, pepyr & salt, & put pam all in a lityll cofyn & close it abowne, & fry hym in fresh grece, & serrof pam forth .ij. in a dysch.”[3]

The filling was simple to do, just mix some shredded chicken with spices, but the pastry was more problematic. There are several different camps among food historians and re-enactors when it comes to medieval pastry. Some people think that the pastry was simply not eaten, others that it was made only from flour and water but was still eaten, others that it must have included fat or eggs. The problem is that recipes from the time assume that people know how to make pastry and only mention diversions from the norm e.g. using chestnut flour or adding saffron. You can see two different interpretations of the evidence here and here.

For my pastry I used one of Eulalia Piebakere’s redactions for a boiling fat pastry, which is itself based upon Savouring the Past’s recipe for a Standing Paste Pie Crust. Not having done enough research myself (although I do mean to do more) I haven’t really made up my mind about the fat/no fat issue, although I do think that at least some of the crusts must have been eaten, otherwise why add chestnut flour or saffron? I also think that it makes more sense if hot pies being sold as street food had edible crusts. It’s hardly a convenience food anymore if you have to remove the crust and scoop out the insides.

The Redaction

100g plain flour

30g wholemeal flour

21g of butter

21g of lard

1/4 cup water

Salt

1 chicken breast, cooked (or any bits of cooked chicken left over from a roast or boiled chicken)

Pepper and salt

1/4 tsp ginger and cloves

Lard, to fry

  1. Put the butter, lard and water in a small saucepan and heat until it is just about to boil.
  2. Place the fat and a pinch of salt into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the hot fat and water, then mix it until it comes together as a ball.
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth, and split the dough in quarters. From each quarter remove a walnut sized piece for the lid, then shape the chewet cases using either this method or this method (the first is probably easier to make, but you will need more fat to get it to cook properly, the second is a bit more fiddly but give a flatter pie that is easier to cook).
  4. Shred the chicken breast and stir in the spices. Season to taste. Share the filling between the pie cases. Roll out the lids and, using a little water to moisten the edges, place on the chewets and pinch around the edge to seal.
  5. Heat the lard in a frying pan, saucepan or wok. The amount of lard needed will depend on the shape of your pan, and the height of your chewets. Essentially the melted fat should reach about halfway up the chewet. Test that the lard is hot enough by putting a little pastry in the pan and see if it sizzles. When the fat is hot, add the chewets and cook until golden brown. When the bottom is done, flip the pies over very carefully and fry the other side.
  6. Drain the fried chewets on kitchen paper and serve hot.

15th century chewets

The Round-up

The Recipe: Chewets from MS Harley 5401 (available here)

The Date: 15th century

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: About 1 hour.

How successful was it?: Very tasty, and it was much easier to make the cases and to fry the pies than I was expecting.

How accurate?: The biggest issue is the pastry, and without doing a lot more research I’m not sure how accurate it was. There are a lot of different opinions about medieval pastry amongst historians and re-enactors, including a basic divide over whether it was eaten or not.

[1] Martha Carlin, Food and Eating in Medieval Europe (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998), 31–51.

[2] William Langland, The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman, ed. Rachel Attwater, trans. Donald Attwater and Rachel Attwater (London: J.M Dent & Sons Ltd., 1957), 6.

[3] Constance Hieatt, “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary,” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 58.

Bibliography

Carlin, Martha. Food and Eating in Medieval Europe. Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998.

Hieatt, Constance. “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary.” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 54–69.

Langland, William. The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman. Edited by Rachel Attwater. Translated by Donald Attwater and Rachel Attwater. London: J.M Dent & Sons Ltd., 1957.