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, December 14, 2007

To make a gelly of pork.

Merouda here.

It kind of stuns me that so many people don't really care for terrines and galantines. I grew up eating a terrine called "Sylta;" my grandmother made it every Christmastide as part of the festival foods. Traditionally, sylta is made of veal, pork, and some spices, but the recipe my grandmother "gave" to me contained only 3.5 things: Pork, allspice, onions, and, if there was not enough bones with the pork to gel the broth, a packet of unflavored gelatin.

I decided that I wanted to have a sylta for Boar's Head, because, as you likely realize, sylta as I know it is essentially the same thing as headcheese/brawn. Of course, it could not be eaten on site, but there are certainly opportunities to eat during the day that have no bearing whatsoever on the event. So I decided to look over my recipe, compare it to some period receipts for jellied meats, and make a period version of sylta.

Medieval Cookery has an interesting beta feature, in which it will offer not just the recipe you desire to look at, but a list of similar recipes. After reviewing the recipes it sugested, the recipe I chose to be the altering agent for the sylta I grew up with was Jellied Pig's Trotters from Wel ende edelike spijse, a late 15th C. Dutch cookery manuscript.

Jellied pig's trotters. Boil them well in water, let them cool. Take the sinews of the bones and feet and crush well in a mortar. Temper with wine and some of the cooking liquid of the trotters, strain it, and let it cook for a while. Temper ground saffron, ginger, cinnamon and cloves with the brew. Pour it on the trotters in wooden dishes and let it cool.

I chose this one because it was comprised of the single meat, pork, with a spice array that is close to the allspice range. Historically, as Columbus is supposed to have brought allspice to Spain*, I could have shrugged and used it secure in the knowledge that I may have run into it in my husband's home**, but where is the adventure in that? However, I also wanted something that I would recognize as sylta, so I wanted the spices that allspice was said to combine and evoke.

Here's how I interpreted it:

About 2 lbs of pork "country rib" cooked in water (with an onion & 1-2 ground peppercorns) and deboned.
1 t ginger
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves
1 packet unflavored gelatin

Boil the pork in water with an onion. Boil until the meat is very tender but still capable of being sliced and the water, onion, and meat juices (et cetera) have reduced to a thick broth, about a cup's worth.

Remove the pork from the bones; strain the broth if you wish. Keep the broth on very low heat while you begin to assemble the terrine.

Remove the pork from the bones. Trim and discard as much fat as possible. Cover the bottom of a 3 inch by 6 inch terrine (or a small loaf pan) with a layer of pork. Sprinkle a bit of the spice mixture (cloves, cinnamon, ginger) over the first layer, then sprinkle a bit of the gelatin over the top of that. Place another layer of pork over the first; sprinkle with a bit of the spices, then a bit of the gelatin, and so on, until you've layered all the pork. Mix the remainder of the spices and the gelatin into a quarter cup of heated broth and pour over the top layer of pork. If this is not enough liquid to fill the terrine, use the remaining broth to finish filling. Cover. Place aside to cool, and when sufficiently cool, put into fridge (or, at this time of year, on a cold porch, as I did) to chill overnight.

To remove from terrine, dip the terrine into a hot water bath for 3-5 seconds and then invert on to a plate. The jelled terrine should slip from the terrine mold with ease.

Serve cold with a good mustard sauce and a hearty bread.

I did not have saffron or a suitable wine for this redaction, which is why they are not included in the dish. I threw the onion and the pepper into the broth just to give it a little something to work with beside the meat.

For my Boar's Head traveling lunch, I had this with Wild Flour's Multigrain Sourdough (which I love because there is no egg involved and the breads are hand shaped and baked in a traditional-ish stone/brick oven, closest I'll ever get to buying my bread from the period baker--don't laugh, I looked at a lot of local bakers to see just who was closest to period bread baking techniques, Wild Flour wins, followed by Breadsmith), a dijon style mustard, the Apples Royal I had canned for Pennsic but never got around to eating while there, and 6 oz of bitter beer.

It was delish.

As to the comparison of the traditional sylta and the jellied pork terrine based on the period receipt, both were good, but I have to confess that the spice mixture used above didn't flavor as nicely as just the allspice. On the other hand, the ginger added a nice touch, and I'm curious regarding how a boil in a bit of wine might affect the taste.

One of the things that I especially love about this is that it keeps well, and I can make it, eat what I want of it, and then bust it back down to stock and pork bits to make a soup or a casserole. Michael won't eat this as a cold brawn on bread with mustard, but he will eat it as a broth with pork and noodles.

As far as cooking for dietary restrictions goes, this is a fairly brilliant meal for someone trying to reduce intake of saturated fat, sodium, and eggs. What fat there is in the broth will separate and float to the top while the terrine sets, allowing you to just scrape off and discard that before eating.

*This is disputed. Other histories of the spice put it in Europe in the early 17th c. Trust me on this. Don't dismiss allspice as acceptable because Columbus may have grabbed a few grains and dropped them in Isabella's hand.

**Provided, of course, that Columbus actually brought allspice and that the King and Queen of Spain decided that they'd share their novelty with the English wife of one of their ambassadors.

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