Spice Mixes for an Auction, and an Announcement

When the Queen calls, you answer.

Her Majesty Sha’ya of An Tir laid a challenge on our Kingdom, and in particular upon the Laurels: produce a work to be auctioned off to benefit RAINN during the Knights Auction (all donations are sponsored by a Knight) at 12th Night.

I was moved — this is an incredible organization whose mission I believe in. I wanted to produce something worthy of auction. I found a sponsor, Sir Philip de Mantel, and proposed to put together a set of spice mixes for period cooking.

And I did make a set of spice mixes, a rather nice set if I do say so myself:

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Most of these (4/6) were made using actual period recipes. The remaining two (powder douce and powder fort) are more “generic” spice blends that I have my own versions of. You can see I found cute bottles and a cute basket and even made little labels for them.

Here are the sources for each one, and their ingredients:

  • Powder Fort: Black pepper, cubeb, cassia cinnamon, mace, clove
  • Powder Douce: Sugar, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg
  • Duke’s Powder (Menagier, 14th c. French): Sugar, ginger, grains of paradise, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, galangal
  • Clarée Spices (Two Anglo-Norman Culinary… 13th/14th c English): Spikenard, cinnamon, ginger, mace, clove, nutmeg, fennel, anise, caraway, cardamom
  • Fine Spices 1 (Libro di Cucina, 14th/15th c. Italian): Black pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, ginger, clove, saffron
  • Fine Spices 2 (Livre Fort, 16th c. French): Ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, nutmeg, clove, grains of paradise, galangal

Fun, right?

But here’s the thing: I didn’t feel like it was enough. I got it into my head that spices are okay, but you need recipes to know how to use them.

So, long story short, I kind of wrote a cookbook.

No, really:

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That’s a screenshot of the cover. I wrote a cookbook, and I got a copy of it printed, and I put it and the spices together as one lot for the auction. The winning bidder currently owns the only copy of this cookbook in existence.

For now.

Yeah, soooo… I’ve given myself a year. I’m going to edit what I have and add more recipes to it if I can (my goal is 1 new tested recipe every 1-2 weeks), then I plan to release it for sale. I’m not planning a big run, and I’m planning to self-publish for a few reasons (although, um, if you work for a publishing house and want to talk me out of that and offer me $$$$ to change my mind and publish through you, let’s talk!)

To get you excited, here is the table of contents so far:

  • Preface    4
  • Brief Notes on Some Ingredients    5
    • On Salt    5
    • On Spices    5
    • On Verjus    5
    • On Vinegar    5
    • On Saba    5
    • On Almond Milk    6
    • On Rose Water    6
  • Spice Mixes for All Manner of Dishes    7
    • Powder Fort    7
    • Powder Douce    7
    • Clarée Spices    8
    • Fine Spices 1    8
    • Fine Spices 2    8
  • Beverages    9
    • Quick Mead    9
    • Hippocras / Ypocras / Clarée / Piment (Spiced Wine)    9
    • Oxymel / Posca (Vinegar/Honey Drink)    10
    • Clarée D’eau / Clarea de Agua (Water with Honey and Spices)    10
    • Rose Drink Concentrate    10
  • Finger Foods, Nibbles, and Snacks    11
    • Pescods (Peas in the pod)    11
    • To Churn Your Own Butter    11
    • Whole Pickled Onions    11
    • Pickled Onion Rings    12
    • Pickled Champignons (Mushrooms)    12
    • Fried Livers with Saba    13
    • Hais (Date and Nut Balls)    13
  • Meats, Fishes, and Their Sauces    14
    • Sour Grape Juice with Fried Summer Fish    14
    • To Dresse a Crabbe (Crab with Butter and Verjus)    14
    • Peiouns Ystewed (Stewed Pigeons)    14
    • Grilled Quail with Lemon Sauce    15
    • Good and Perfect Hens with Sumac    16
    • Roasted Chicken with Orange Sauce    16
    • Limonia (Chicken in Lemon Sauce)    16
    • To Make Stekys of Venson or Bef (Steaks of Venison or Beef)    17
    • Alows de Boef (Herbed Rolled Beef)    17
    • Fresh Lamb Sausage with Cilantro Sauce    18
    • Pork Loin with Peach Sauce    19
    • Cormarye (Spiced Pork Loin)    19
    • Salt Pork    20
    • Mustard Sauce    20
  • Egg and Pasta Dishes    21
    • Erbolat (Medieval English Frittata)    21
    • Sphoungata (Byzantine Omelettes)    21
    • Cressée of Noodles (Heraldic Chequy Noodles)    22
    • Cheese Gnocchi    22
    • Makerouns (Baked Noodles with Cheese)    23
  • Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes    24
    • A Dish of Leeks    24
    • Onion salad    24
    • Asparagus    24
    • Parsnips in Pottage    25
    • Basic Green Salad    25
    • Sprouts of Life    25
    • Carrot Puree    26
    • Chyches (Seasoned Chickpeas)    26
    • Green Chickpeas    26
    • Fresh Fava Beans    27
    • A Dish of Rice    27
    • Almond Porridge    28
    • Oatcakes    28
  • Pies of All Sorts    29
    • Basic Self-Supporting Hot Water Pastry    29
    • To Raise Coffins    29
    • Coffins Another Way    30
    • To Build a Large Coffin    30
    • General Baking Instructions for Coffins    31
    • Richer Hot Water Pastry for Molded Pies    31
    • Paest Royall    32
    • Short Paste for Tarts    32
    • A Formula for Meat Pies    33
    • Crustardes of Flessh (Birds in a Pie)    33
    • Cheshire Pork Pie    34
    • Simple Pork Pies    35
    • Une Tourte (Greens Tart)    35
    • Leche Frys of Fische Daye (Cheese Tart)    36
    • Tarte of Apples    37
    • To Bake Pippins (Elizabethan Apple Pie)    37
    • Daryols (Mini Cream Custard Tarts)    38
    • A Formula for Fruit Tarts    38
  • Sweets and Desserts    39
    • Dulcia Domestica (Candied Stuffed Dates)    39
    • Payn Ragoun (Pine Nut Candy)    39
    • Marzipan    39
    • Nucato (Honey-Nut Candy)    40
    • Suckets 1 (Candied Citron Peel)    40
    • Suckets 2 (Candied Orange Peels)    41
    • Pears in Confit (Poached Pears)    41
    • Quince Paste    42
    • Sweet Dessert Yogurt    42
    • Gingerbrede    43
    • Stamped Shortbread Cookies    43
    • A Jellied Ypocras, or, Elizabethan Jelly Shots    43
  • Assorted Useful Non-Edible Things to Make    45
    • Herb Water    45
    • Basic Lard Soap    45
    • Tooth Powder    46

Next addition will be a chapter on recreating medieval bread in a home kitchen (with a normal oven).

I look forward to posting updates as this project develops 🙂

Bread loaf made with the Lammas Fayre flour

I’ve been snowed in for days and today to alleviate my boredom I baked a loaf of sourdough bread:


I used Lammas Fayre’s medieval blend — the “peasant” one with pea and bean flour added. The starter is one that started with the lees of a batch of mead. 


My starter had been in the refrigerator so long that I ended up adding some regular bread yeast (a teaspoon). I did a sponge (starter, flour, water, extra yeast) and let it go overnight. This morning I took out some to save for new starter, added salt and more flour, kneaded, then let rise until doubled in size. I baked it in a cast iron Dutch oven at 400•F for 30 minutes, then 350•F for 30 more. It’s got a really good flavor and a surprisingly light crumb. 

Candied Plums Sequel: A Photo Tutorial

Those candied plums I made last year turned out to be one of the most incredible foods that has ever come forth from my hands. They took on a mystical life of their own, each day growing more delicious and more scarce. I hoarded them. I dreamed about them. When I ran out (in, I think, February or so), I obsessed over them. 

So when a vendor at my farmers market had Italian prunes, I may have gone overboard. This year, I took photos of the whole process, which I’m sharing in the hopes that they will help you make your own candied plums:

Plums split in half, put in a pot, and covered in sugar, before cooking. 

Plums split apart in a (different) pot. 

Sugar has gone over the first layer of plums and a second layer added. 

The second layer fully covered as well. 

Cook, covered, on very low heat. The sugar will eventually all dissolve. 


Keep cooking… Once the sugar is fully dissolved, remove the lid. 

Cook the plums until they look like this:


Ready for the next part. 

Carefully fish each plum out. 

Place on rack in dehydrator. 


Tongs also work. The plums will be hot and sticky. 

This picture is before drying, I think. I don’t seem to have an after drying picture, but they get darker and stickier. 

Roll the dried plums in sugar. 


Pack in sugar and store. Be patient: they seem to just get better and better with age. 

Yes, those are half gallons. I made a lot. They’re all packed up and safely moved to storage (so I won’t just eat these in a single, gloriously regrettable sitting). I have an unholy quantity of plum syrup. 

Funny story, I went out to a bunch of fruit farms yesterday…


…and bought like 4 more pounds of plums. 

This time, I’m following the period recipe a little more closely. I look forward to comparing the different results!

Adventures in Home Dairying: Churn Down for WHAT!


Aleit went on an adventure in Europe, and came across some butter churns. Because we live in the future, she posted about it on Facebook, and I cried out my desperate need for a butter churn.

So now I have one:

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Photo by Tullia
In case it’s not coming through in text, I want to say I am INCOHERENTLY EXCITED about the fact that I have a butter churn, a handmade one with beautiful wood hoops no less. OMG THIS BUTTER CHURN! Much churn. Very butter. So excite. Wow.

Once I got my new friend home, I soaked it in water until it swelled enough to seal itself. Then the fun of making butter began.

I’ve made butter before and I have some tips:

  • Use great ingredients. The best butter comes from the best cream. I like Organic Valley personally as I can reliably get it and their cows are pastured. Cows that live on pastures are probably happier, in as much as cows can be said to be happy, and they produce much higher quality dairy. Cows that eat a lot of grass also make prettier, more deeply colored cream. Local and fresh from the farm would be ideal, but that is harder to manage.
  • You need heavy cream. Look at the label of whatever you buy — a lot of whipping cream has mono- and diglycerides added. These aren’t bad, but they are added to help cream turn into whipped cream, not butter, so they can work at cross-purposes to your end goal.
  • Culture the cream before churning. This makes the finished butter taste amazing, it’s more historical, and it makes the butter churning go faster. It’s also dead easy: buy cultured buttermilk and add some to the cream, then let it sit. I usually add a half pint of buttermilk to a quart of cream because those sizes are both easy to obtain and I’m lazy. The half pint of buttermilk could probably culture up to a gallon of cream. I put both in a pitcher or large jar or a jug and drape a cloth over the top or losely seal with waxed linen, then let it sit out on the counter overnight. I have done this at events, too.
    • By the way, quick rant about culturing dairy here: historically, this just happened. Leave the cream out overnight, have nicely soured cream the next day. Leave milk out overnight, have clabber the next day. Dairy is naturally full of lots of bacteria, some great and some definitely not. The tradeoff of pasteurization is you can’t just set your milk or cream out to clabber it like they did in the old days, but you also are much less likely to die from a horrifying pathogen from drinking raw milk. Tradeoffs! If you’re playing around with homemade fresh cheese, the kind that you add lemon juice or vinegar to to curdle it, do an experiment: add a half pint or even a pint of buttermilk to a gallon of whole milk, let it sit overnight, and the next day you can make it curdle by just bringing it to a boil. Pretty neat!
  • Don’t overfill your churn. I usually gleefully ignore this. But the churn should be less than halfway full for minimal splatter.
  • Add lots of salt because salt is delicious 🙂

With my churn soaked and my cream soured, it was quick work (less than 15 minutes) to make butter:


Everything ready


My “helper” “cleaning” the cream up


A little bit of leakage. A towel helps. (Are you feeling dirty yet? Butter churning was made for innuendo.)


Butter! That was fast!


Transfer to a bowl and bring the butter together in one blob (I’m using my butter paddles), then (not pictured) drain off the buttermilk, set it aside, and wash the butter by kneading it in ice cold water. 

Buttermilk is great in a lot of recipes, especially baking. My dog loves if. I’ve fed it to my chickens. Medieval people probably just drank it. I once tried watering some down, like oxymel or any of the other vinegar water variants from period. I was not a fan. 


I like to sprinkle on flakes of salt but you can also just salt your butter. Premodern butter probably had up to 10% salt as a preservative — this was washed out prior to using the butter — but you can add as much or as little as you like. 

Butter doesn’t really store well. I mean, it does, but the best tasting butter is fresh. 

If you’re in An Tir, I plan to bring my churn to September Crown and churn butter while I hang out in the Publike House so you can see it in action. 

Playing with Pickling

I love pickled foods. Fermented, briny, tart — I think I like pickled vegetables more than fresh in many cases. Between garden produce and the Farmers’ Market, I had a lot that I wanted to pickle this week. Here are the end results:  


All except the small jar on the far right (containing in-process spicy kimchi made from globe turnips that I grew) are at least plausibly pre 1600. The greens are another attempt at plausible historical kimchi: turnip greens, salt, fish sauce, and lots of garlic. I’m pretty excited about that one. The rest of the jars are variations on pickled onions — whole small “spring” onions and sliced sweet onions two ways. Here are some recipes if you want to make your own. 

Whole Pickled Onions

  • 3 bunches small onions (roughly a dozen per bunch, walnut sized or smaller)
  • 2, 12 oz bottles malt vinegar 
  • 1/2 oz salt (this is about a quarter of the amount the recipe I was working from called for, so feel free to adjust this further yourself)
  • Spices (feel free to experiment!) — one nutmeg broken up, 2 bay leaves, 5 cloves, 1 – 2 tsp pepper corns
  1. Remove roots and tops of onions and peel. 
  2. Bring remaining ingredients just to a boil, then let cool. 
  3. Put all ingredients into a large glass jar or crock. 
  4. Keep in a cool, dark place (refrigerator) for at least 10 days. I shake them periodically to make sure all the onions are under the brine. 

These are supposedly the best accompaniment to pork pies. 

Pickled Onion Rings

  • 2 large sweet onions (where I live, Walla Wallas)
  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 6 T sugar or 1/4 c honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Spices: 2 bay leaves, 6 cardamom pods, 3-4 cloves, 1 long pepper pod, 1 blade mace (I didn’t have any this time), some peppercorns, some juniper berries, whatever else looks good to you (I like a “Viking” variant with caraway and juniper)
  1. Peel the onions and slice into rings 1/4″ thick or smaller. 
  2. Bring brine ingredients to a boil. 
  3. Add onions to brine and simmer about 30 seconds. 
  4. Pack into a quart mason jar or a stoneware crock. 
  5. Store somewhere cool and dark (the refrigerator again) and eat whenever. 

I don’t know how long these keep because they have never lasted longer than a weekend. I like them with smoked chicken. 

For one of the jars of sliced onions, I used honey, fresh sage, lovage seeds, and juniper berries for the seasoning. I call those the “farmhouse” variant because they don’t use imported spices. 

Happy pickling!

The Pie of Destiny

In a world of mass-produced pastry trash, one woman would rise up and fight on behalf of all pie-kind. She alone would have the strength to wield THE PIE OF DESTINY!

At WCCS, I participated in a lamb “breaking” class — cutting a lamb into primals. It was incredibly interesting. I’ve broken a pig before, but not a sheep; the anatomy is basically the same, but I always want more practice. During the same class, we also slaughtered two roosters. The lamb had been slaughtered the night before. I helped pluck the roosters and watched the gutting process. It was all incredibly interesting!

I took one of the roosters and some of the lamb meat. Later in the day, I had a coffin from the class I taught, and I decided, of course, to fill that coffin with meat. But that wasn’t quite twee enough for me, so I gathered wild herbs and greens from the site. I ended up making a pie with meat from animals slaughtered on site and plants found on site and a crust made on site — it felt like the official unofficial symposium pie.

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Photo by Wulfric. The pie is topless by this point, which is an accurate metaphor for the evening.

Directions for the pastry can be found in my pie crust class handout, linked in the previous post.

Here’s how I did the filling: First, I chopped some fatty lamb meat very small, and mixed it with salt and some very finely minced mint. Then I blanched a mix of nettles, redwood sorrel, fiddleheads, and lemon balm, chopped them finely, and mixed them with the lamb. I packed this into the bottom of the pastry. Then, I removed the breast meat from the rooster and put that on top of the seasoned lamb. Finally, I jointed the rooster and put its legs and wings above the rest of the meat and then put the coffin lid on top.

I baked this pie a looooonnnnng time — probably 4-5 hours, all told! — at 325°F. This meant that the meat got wonderfully tender, with the coffin acting just like a baking dish. To serve, I removed the top crust and let people dig in. The top crust was actually pretty tasty, even though I made the pastry thick. I would have been interested to taste the side/bottom crust, as a lot of fat and juice from the lamb had soaked into it; however, I was trying to keep things relatively tidy, and it seemed easier to just scoop out filling. I personally thought the lamb and rooster were delicious; I liked the flavor profile, and the meat was just so tender and flavorful. The rooster was what chicken wants to taste like.

I felt like this was a “bucket list” pie — making food from animals killed less than 24 hours before hand and plants I gathered. This pie made me really happy.

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Photo by Wulfric, whimsy by Eulalia

 

Class Handouts from WCCS 2016 are up

If you are here after taking one of my classes yesterday, hi! I hope you had fun and learned a lot! I had a particularly inspiring culinary symposium this year, and can’t wait to dive back into food fun. I’ve posted my class handouts under the files section, or you can click here to read about Grains and Flours of Medieval England or here to read two recipes for standing-crust pies.