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.

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? ;-)


Liz said...

The tart sounds fantastic! I love your presentation. It's always so elegant. Thanks also for the links, I have added them to the side bar.

I think I noticed the heraldry, but I'm not sure if I should be looking at the sage leaves or the swirl of cream.

Now I want to try the prune tart, but the one in the crust. Yummy!

ecb said...

I just ate some of the prune filling on a couple of pieces of toast; I am really liking that stuff. It's boffo.

Anyway, Thank you for the kind comment. I do try. The heraldry is very Middle Kingdom; the white lace table cloth, the red runner, and the sage standing in for the dragon. Pretty good, eh? I'm such a heraldry geek. :-)

Liz said...

Ah! See I was so distracted by the food that I didn't notice the red runner representing the pale.