The Cook-A-Long is a virtual kitchen for Medieval and Renaissance Cooking enthusiasts in the SCA. Each month a period recipe will be posted in the original language (when available) and a translation. All cooks are encouraged to try their hand at redacting and preparing the monthly dish and post his/ her results to the blog. If you are interested in becoming a participant in this cook a long, or would like to submit a dish for the month please send an e-mail to valkyr8 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Friday, November 30, 2007

December's recipe

I'm thinking of a traditional pudding or a sweet. Anyone have specific suggestions?

I'm looking forward to seeing some of you at Boar's Head, and I'm very excited for the feast.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gourdes in Pottage

10. Gourdes in Potage. Take young Gowrdes; pare hem and kerue hem on pecys. Cast hem in gode broth, and do þerto a gode pertye of oynouns mynced. Take pork soden; grynde it and alye it þerwith and wiþ yolkes of ayren. Do þerto safroun and salt, and messe it forth with powdour douce.

- Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.

GODE COOKERY TRANSLATION:Stewed Gourds. Take young gourds; pare them and cut them in pieces. Put in good broth, and add a large amount of minced onions. Take boiled pork; grind it and add it along with egg yolks. Add saffron and salt, and serve it with powder douce.

The stock: I began my redaction by preparing my broth. I had saved the bones from a pork butt that had a bit of meat on them still and those became the foundation to my stock. To the bones I added 8 cups of water, 1 onion peeled, 4 bay leaves, 2 stalks of celery cut large, 5-6 whole pepper corns, 1 T salt, 1 T herbs de Provance. I brought this mixture to a boil and simmered it for approximately an hour.

I strained out the meat, veggies and herbs, discarded the herbs and picked the bones of all meat. The bones yielded approx 1 cup of pork. I ended up with 6 cups of stock.

I chose to use a butternut squash. I cut it, scooped out the seeds, peeled it and cut it into largish chunks. I put the squash into a medium size pan and added 2 1/2 c. of broth and one minced onion and let that simmer for 20 minutes.

The squash was nice and tender after cooking for 20 minutes and I used a potato masher to make the squash into a thickish paste. I think I could have used less broth because the dish was more runny then I would prefer, or I could have poured off a portion of the broth prior to mashing, which would have worked too.

I minced up the pork with a knife and added it to the squash along with the yolks of 3 eggs. I added several threads of saffron, 1 T of salt and mixed that in thoroughly. I transfered the dish into a stone pot and sprinkled the top with approx 2 tsp of poudre douce.

I let the dish rest for while I finished the decreases on DJ's socks, before dishing up a portion to try. Overall I found the taste to be pretty nice. I think it could use some more salt, but the mixture of the squash, onion, pork, cinnamon and sugar was very pleasant. I still think it is too runny and should be thicker, it's similar to a runny pudding. I'm wondering what the taste would be like if I put the pork through a grinder and but the squash in a blender. Maybe next time.

This dish did meet the almost 1 yr old test and was happily gobbled up to bouncing and yummy noises.


Monday, November 12, 2007

On Poudre Douce

As Merouda pointed out, there is an excellent article on Medieval Cooking powders at the Thorngrove site. Alinore also pointed out that Poudre Douce is similar to Pumpkin Pie spice.

The poudre douce mixture that I create is based on a set of guidelines provided to me by Aramanthra. This is not an exact recipe, but a guide to the types of spices that were found and the approximate rate at which they were mixed. Poudre douce is essentially mixed to the taste of the individual (be that merchant or cook) and there was no propretary mix used throughout. I like to think of it in the same way as I think of curry mixtures. Curry is made up of several spices, but they are mixed at different ratios to the taste of the individual/ house.

Here are the guidelines that I follow:

1-3 parts each: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sugar
1/2-1 part each: cloves, galingale
maybe some: cardamom, mace, grains of paradise, saffron

Happy cooking!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Alinore's redaction-Gourdes in Pottage

For this recipe, I decided to use the two acorn squash that I got from a coworker's garden. I decided that I wanted to try out a vegetarian version of this recipe, because I like the idea of having veggie dishes be strictly vegetarian for feasts so that non-meat eaters have a variety of options. I looked at the recipe Giovanna linked to in Gode Cookery and that article talked about using walnuts instead of the pork. I liked the idea of using the nuts instead of meat as a flavoring agent for this dish.

I started out by making a spice mixture to recreate the powder douce. From what I could find using Google, it is a mixture of spices that is somewhat similar to a pumpkin pie mixture. I used 3 tbs. sugar, 2 tbs. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cloves, and 2 tsp. ginger. I was pleased with the way the mixture smelled and tasted.

Next I finely chopped half an onion and put it in a pot with 1 can of vegetable broth. Then I started to attempt to peel the squash, which didn't work out as well as I would have liked it to, so I put them in the microwave until half cooked, then I peeled and cubed them and put them into the boiling stock. I added a little salt and a couple threads of saffron at this point and let them simmer.

When the squash was cooked, I used a potato masher to mash everything together and added 4 oz of ground almonds, two egg yolks and 2 tsp. of the powder douce. I kept the heat on and stirred to let everything come together, then put a lid on it and let it sit for about 30 minutes before serving.

I was mostly happy with the flavor of the dish. Next time I would use a little less saffron, 2 threads instead of 4 and a little bit more powder douce. I would also grind the almonds much finer, almost to a powder, and put them in to simmer with the squash. This dish didn't pass the 3 year old test, she wasn't a fan. I did serve it to a fellow SCA member who said that if they were served this at a feast they would eat it, so I suppose it passes that test. I think this is a nice dish to do if you like squash, if you don't like squash then it's probably not the dish for you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

To boyle pompion in the olden manner

Today, I tried our receipt as part of a simple fall meal. We are not doing the Thanksgiving cooking this year, so I thought I'd give myself a little meal time today. The below meal consists of the Gourds in Pottage recipe, a redaction of Tart of Plums from Good Housewife's Jewel, (English, 1596, by Thomas Tusser), two toasted slices of French peasant bread from Breadsmith, and a glass of el cheapo sangria. More on the Sangria as we go on.

First, some more conversation on the squash, this time, as a link that discusses the entomology of the name and cites some of the period appearances of the fruit that we are cooking today. Only Americans really call it squash, it's something else everywhere else. Enjoy this article: Cucurbita pepo.

You might also enjoy reading the preview of the book Food in Colonial and Federal America as it has a nice discussion on the era in which NWF and OWF were mixed, and who brought what to the table. I believe I will add that book to my reading list when I am finished with NaNoWriMo this year.

I would also like to recommend to you the Medieval Cookery site. I use Gode Cookery a lot, but Medieval Cookery is just as nice and has plenty of complementary articles and receipts, as well as links to places where period cookbooks are online. There are far more online than one might realize. The online versions are very helpful to me as my period cookbook selection is only about 10-15 manuscripts big, but with the links provided by this site, I have vastly more available to me.

Lastly, a site that lists what foods are in season now: Eat the Seasons. I find it helpful. I also like Think Vegetables, but they don't appear to have a USA counterpart.

On to the cooking.
Our first redaction is the Gourds in Pottage that Giovanna so kindly selected. Yay! Something English! As it happenes, I had pork in the freezer and had purchased a couple of acorn squash at my last trip to the farmer's market. Isobel had cooked one up, but I still had the leftovers and the untouched squash, so that seemed more than enough.

Beside this ingredient list, you see a picture of the pork and the squash, to give you an idea of amount. I didn't weigh either, so I'm not positive regarding how much I used. I think it was about 1 to 1.25 pounds of pork and 1 & 1/2 acorn squash.

My redaction:

7 cups "good broth"
1 lb pork
1 and 1/2 acorn squash
1 onion
"powder douce"

Now, "good broth" and "powder douche" are two of those things that vary from time to place to cook. Here is the Thorngrove discussion on powder douce and other powders; our old friend Gode Cookery has a receipt for "good Broth." As I like to make my own, this is what I did:

The recipe calls for boiled pork, so I set 10 cups of water to boil with a carrot, the pork, an onion, and the following herbs from my garden: sage, thyme, rosemary, bay. All together it was about a handful of herbs. I let this boil down until the pork was tender and then added 1/4 cup of sangria and let the alcohol boil out. I then added a tablespoon of beef base and a teaspoon of vegetable base to give it a robust flavor. I removed the carrots for eating later and left the herbs and onions.


As the squash was already partly cooked, I cut and cleaned the other acorn squash and placed it in the microwave, in a covered dish, to get it to the same cook-stage Isobel had left the other squash in. Thus, I learned something. It's way easier to cook a squash and remove the contents when the squash is completely cooked. But, if you're only partly cooking it, it's way easier to get the squash out of the rind if it's cold rather than if it's hot.

In either event, I noticed that the squash was pretty bland, so I was glad that I'd chosen a broth that was flavorful without being overwhelming.

I then put the squash, the pork, and the powder douce into the pot and let it simmer away!

Now, for powder douche I used a mixture of approximately 1.5 t cinnamon, 2 t ginger, 1/2 t ground cloves, and 3/4 t fennel seed, which I ground in my mortor before adding. I went a little light on the seasoning because the sangria also adds a touch of sweet and spice.

I did not add salt, as there was plenty in the broth from the commercially prepared bases. I did not use eggs, as a result of my allergies. I did not add extra sugar, as the sangria added enough sweet for my taste.

However, just cooking the mixture down was enough to make the squash begin to break down into the broth and this created a thick pottage on its own.

edit, 1 Dec 07: there is a second, meatless redaction of gourds in pottage from me, here.

The side dish is a redaction of Tart of Prunes/Tarte of Damsons from Good Housewife's Jewell.

To make a Tarte of Prunes. Put your Prunes into a pot, and put in red wine or claret wine, and a little faire water, and stirre them now and then, and when they be boyled enough, put them into a bowle, and straine them with sugar, synamon and ginger.

To make a Tarte of Damsons. Take Damsons and seeth them in Wine, and straine them with a little Creame, then yoyle your stuffe over the fire till it be thicke, put thereto, suger, synamon and ginger, put set it not into the Oven after, but let your paste be baked before.

There is not a lot of difference between these two recipes. They could be labeled as the regular and the Lenten version, had England still observed Lent in 1596; what differences are there are minor. One's using fresh plums, the other's using dried plums and adding some extra water. One's going straight to the bowl, the other gets a little cream and a pre-baked pie crust.

It's a surprisingly specific set of recipes, so it was easy to redact into a one person serving.

10 prunes--I just used Aldi's brand.
1 cup of water.
1/2 cup of Sangria
1/8 cup of honey or more
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger

I had to put the honey in because we're out of sugar; it seemed a reasonable substitute. I can't be sure how much honey it was because it was the end of the bottle. I'd suggest starting out with 1/8 cup and increasing to taste.

I let the prunes, honey, wine, and water boil together until the prunes were sufficiently boiled to be mashed. I tasted it at that stage and it was nothing special. I added the spices and let it cook down to the point that I had mashed plums in syrup. I tasted it at that time and it was frakkin' delicious. It was however a little too jammy for me, so I added just a couple so tablespoons of skim milk as suggested by the second recipe, to make it more like a pudding, and it was even more delicious. I think it would be better as a small side dish accompanying, say, beef or goose, than as a slice of pie, and it worked very well with the bread; however, I did end up putting 3/4 of the portion away. It was quite rich.

So, in the picture you see them plated for one, with bread and wine. This was the first time that I've cooked for this blog and really loved whatever it was I cooked. The gourds in pottage was both sweet and savory and the tarte of prunes was a lovely little treat. The only thing I would change about this meal is that I'd probably serve it with a bitter ale; the sweet wine was a little too much by itself (I usually use sangria to make hypocrys, but never without adding a burgandy to it--it needs to be watered down or otherwise modified as it's too sweet on it's own for my taste and I'd forgotten that), so with the touch of sweet in the foods it was a little overwhelming to the palate. The bitter would have balanced beautifully, and if we ever get a winter site that will allow us to bring in off-board foods, I can definitely see myself eating this meal.

And, hey, did you notice the subtle heraldry? ;-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

On Gourds

Market Woman with Vegetable Stall
Oil on wood, 11 x 110 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Gourd. Courge - Gourd is the name given to many species of the Cucurbitaceae family. Cucurbitaceae pepo include the summer and autumn pumpkins (yellow gourds), the vegetable marrows, and various summer squashes. Cucurbitaceae maxima include the North American winter squashes. Cucurbitaceae moschata include the Canada or cushaw, Quaker or Japanese squashes (or pumpkin). Gourds are one of the oldest vegetables known to man although it is doubtful if any of the many kinds which grow today could be identified with any of the original species. The word gourd is reserved in North America for the decorative inedible variety. Winter and summer squash as well as pumpkin are grown on a very large scale. Winter squash can often be used in place of pumpkin.

Taken from: Larousse Gastronomique, The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine and Cookery, by Prosper Montagne'. Crown Publishers, Inc. New York, 1961. B000B9EJCK

Pretty much any squash that I will have available to me will be a hybrid or an American heirloom variety. For the November recipe I've decided to use one of the varieties of winter squash available from the local growers at the Farmer's Market and see how the recipe turns out.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

November recipe: Gourdes in Pottage

Original recipe: English, 14th c. Forme of Cury
Squash Cooked in Broth

10. Gourdes in Potage. Take young Gowrdes; pare hem and kerue hem on pecys. Cast hem in gode broth, and do þerto a gode pertye of oynouns mynced. Take pork soden; grynde it and alye it þerwith and wiþ yolkes of ayren. Do þerto safroun and salt, and messe it forth with powdour douce.

- Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.

Stewed Gourds. Take young gourds; pare them and cut them in pieces. Put in good broth, and add a large amount of minced onions. Take boiled pork; grind it and add it along with egg yolks. Add saffron and salt, and serve it with powder douce.

I hope this recipe will be fun. It is rather simple, but I thought it could be a clever addition to the Thanksgiving meal.

Start thinking about December's recipe/ or January since some might want to take December off, and you are always welcome to try a recipe in your repertoire and post your redactions on the list.