The Laurel Petting Zoo

At July Coronation, I organized a “Laurel Petting Zoo.” Here’s the description I put out in advance:

Have you ever wondered why someone would be an apprentice, or what it takes to become an apprentice? Would you like to ask a Laurel a question about a project you’re working on or about how the Laurels’ council works? Are you a Laurel interested in meeting new people? Are you brand new to the SCA and interested in finding out what the heck a Laurel is? Would you like to find out if Laurels really do bite?

Come to the Laurels Petting Zoo* at July Coronation! Join us in the A&S pavilion at 5pm on Saturday. (Feel free to trickle in a little early to catch the Dirty Half Dozen largesse competition!) The idea behind the Laurels Petting Zoo is to allow Laurels and the general populace to mingle in a non intimidating, relaxed atmosphere. All are welcome, regardless or rank or affiliation or absence of either.

Bring a drink for yourself definitely, consider bringing a “lap project” to work on or a homemade snack to share (especially if its historical!)

Looking forward to seeing you (yes, YOU!) there,
Eulalia

*Please obtain consent prior to initiating petting.

This event was a smashing success (if I say so myself!) — lots of Laurels and non-Laurels came, there were snacks, there was mingling, and some musicians showed up toward the end for a live performance, which led to dancing! I felt like I got to use my superpower (being a golden retriever of love) for good. I am definitely going to put on more of these!

One of the things I did in advance of the event was prepare some conversation starters:

laurelminglequestions

These were a series of questions designed to get people talking to each other. (Can you tell I’m a teacher? I think it’s the color coding that gives it away!) Sometimes I think it’s really hard to approach a stranger and just start talking to them, which is the problem something like a Laurel Petting Zoo is intended to alleviate, so I figured that having a few slips of paper with questions that ranged from silly (“Explain fealty in pig Latin”) to serious (“What’s the most important real lesson you’ve learned from the SCA?”) would help break the ice. They were a hit! I’ve put up a copy of the questions I wrote in the files section, feel free to use them yourself.

To help you organize an event like this yourself, here’s a quick checklist and some tips:

In advance:

  • Pick an event
  • Contact the event steward; be prepared to have them hand you off to a member of their team, especially if someone is coordinating A&S activities
  • Ask for space for mingling next to the main List Field — we used our Kingdom MoAS pavilion
  • Decide on a good time; immediately after the Laurels’ meeting is a good one, or immediately after A&S classes finish. Opposite Court is not a good idea 🙂
  • Publicize your event using Facebook, email lists, etc. If possible, try to get listed in the site copy
  • Contact a few “ringers” — people who are always the life of the party — to make sure they’ll be there
  • If you’re using them, print conversation starters
  • Make some tasty period snacks to share

Day of:

  • Consider posting fliers in the privies, making an announcement during Court, or hiring a herald to spread the word
  • Set out snacks and conversations starters
  • Stand outside of the actual area where the mingle is happening and invite people in. I follow the Svava in Litla school of hospitality, which involves a lot of yelling at people to come eat snacks. You’d be surprised how well this works.
  • Work the room! Scoop up non-Laurels and engage them in conversation by asking them what they’re interested in; if you know someone who specializes in an area they want to learn more about, or who lives near them, make an introduction! Pick up snacks and wander around. Smile a lot. Make sure to watch for Laurels clumping together and inspiring peer fear. If there’s just a group of a dozen Laurels sitting around talking to each other, no one will want to break into that, so keep an eye out. Have fun. Mingle. Be petted, if you’re into that.

Happy mingling!

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!

A Year Since the Offer: Looking Back

a laurel wreath with a squared symbol
Image by Cara Dea da Fortuna

One year ago today I was put on vigil. It was and still is a big deal to me, and honestly I am trying to make sense of what it all means because I want it to mean something. Here are some of the more formed thoughts that have come from that. Welcome to… Musings from a Baby Laurel! Mostly experiences, a little philosophy, and just a sprinkling of advice. This is sure to be laughable to experienced Laurels and not particularly helpful to brand new or would-be Laurels. Let’s dive in.

One: From this side of it, this is a different game than the one I was playing.

My relationship to the SCA is different. Kingdom events now come with obligations, like meetings and keeping an eye out for certain candidates, that even someone very, very active won’t experience. Similarly, now it’s my default setting to go to Kingdom events; while I have been pretty active on a Kingdom level for a while, I have been struck by how different it feels to be thinking about Kingdom events in those terms. It’s not a negative thing to feel obligated, but it is different.

I’m also already starting to see that my time at events is largely more committed and scheduled than before. This has really opened my eyes to how we structure our Society and our events; I suspect in the long term I’m going to have some deep thoughts about this, because I actually think it’s a gigantic problem. But I haven’t completely figured out what I want to say quite yet.

Relatedly, I am starting to finally grasp just how much work Peers do. At the last feast I ran, another Laurel (who is also a Knight) said to a relatively new person who was helping out “Look around this kitchen. How many Peers are in here? How many peerages are represented?” It really stuck with me. In general, active Peers are very heavily invested in this game, and passionate about making it better. If I had advice for would-be Peers, that would be it: look around you, and really see what Peers are doing. Invest yourself in doing the work, not just when it’s fun or glamorous, and give your time and talents to making this game better than you found it.

Two: How people view me and treat me has absolutely changed, but not (I think) how people expect.

OH MY GODS the Peerage fishbowl is totally real. I knew that intellectually and people talked to me about it a lot but I don’t think there is a way to really prepare for it. Some great advice that I got at my vigil was along the lines of “You are already sort of ‘SCA famous’ but prepare for that to be much more noticeable.” It’s true; people come up and say hi to me all the time and I don’t always recognize them, and that kills me because then I feel like a huge jerk and the worst kind of snob. But it’s more than that — when you go to events as a Peer, you have to be “on” and your best self. PLQs are real (mine are… still bad, let’s not talk about that) because people look to you to be the example.

This also has helped me really understand why it sometimes seems like Peers can be cliquish; I’ve come to treasure time that I spend with the people closest to me (many of whom are also Peers, honestly, because of that time commitment thing) when I can let my hair down (literally and figuratively in this case) and be myself without having to worry so much about if me eating s’mores will undermine all the hard work I’ve done to spread the gospel of historical food.

Although it’s true that the Laurel thing can carry a little weight, it’s not as much as I think some people expect. People who respected what I had to say before still do, people who didn’t pretty much still don’t, and both of those are okay. I put my pants on one leg at a time, and sometimes I get stuck and fall over. No one gave me the key to all the world’s knowledge.

Three: How I think of myself has changed, and that’s okay.

I really am excited about all the stuff I think of as my “job” as a Laurel — encouraging people locally and in the Kingdom (and out of the Kingdom), teaching people, making my voice heard in Council (okay, not yet actually — not until July!), connecting people to each other for the greater good, and more. The concept of the fishbowl has been good for me, because I haven’t found myself thinking “This is great, everyone will do what I say now!” but instead “This is awful, people are actually going to listen to me so I kind of have to not be a tool.”

Being a Laurel didn’t magically change how much I knew, that work has to go before. I do like that my feeling of being an expert in something I care about has been validated. I spend less time qualifying everything I say, and often dive confidently right into leading with “My research says this” in conversation. That said, I realized a few months ago that there’s actually a TON that I still want to learn about medieval and renaissance pies, and that made me so stupidly excited. The learning actually never stops — I learned this much in 15 years in the Society, and I like to think about how much more I’ll know in another 15 years, and honestly that’s so awesome I can’t even handle it. New Laurels, I really hope you don’t think you’re done learning; I’m sure you don’t. People who want to be Laurels, don’t think of being Laureled as a culmination but a start. It’s a clichĂ© because it’s true!

Four: Planning an elevation is kind of insane, but in a good way.

I have never experienced the level of love and excitement that everyone brought to planning my vigil and elevation. That was a magical evening and a magical day and everything was splendid. People compare it to a wedding, which is sort of accurate, but I found elevation planning to be much less stressful. I don’t think I was a vigil-zilla (I hope I wasn’t), because I just felt pretty “chill” about everything. I had great planners and wranglers and even if it all went sideways I would still be a Peer when it was done. The planning part is a little weird, because there are a LOT of details that actually go into it.

In the planning process, I made it my policy to “just say yes.” You want to play music at my vigil? Yes, thank you! You want to walk into Court with me? Yes, thank you! For me, the vigil and elevation were about those warm fuzzy feelings from the people around me, and accepting every offer of help contributed to that. Oh, and it really helps to have an extremely organized spouse, and to be okay with doing some of your own party planning if you want it to go a certain way. But mostly, I encourage the “just say yes” approach, it was super fun.

Serious advice, I was really glad I did the “sequestered vigil” thing with a sign up list and a time keeper. It really helped keep things moving along. Make sure you have scheduled potty breaks and a very comfy chair.

And make sure there’s plenty of beer.

Five: THE POST-ELEVATION SLUMP IS TOTALLY REAL AND YOU ARE OKAY AND GOOD ANYWAY

I put that in all caps because it’s so important. I hit the wall after my elevation. I had been in a period of stepping back and regrouping after going so hard for Kingdom Arts and Sciences, and was still feeling crabby and out of sorts when I was gearing up to go to May Crown two months later. Then I ended up going to Court at May Crown, and “SO THAT HAPPENED” as I reported on Facebook later that evening, and then I cried harder than I have ever cried in public in my entire life (and I am a grade A public crier) because I really, really was that surprised. I hadn’t really had time to sort through the post KASC slump, you see, but now I was in full on vigil and elevation planning mode!

After six weeks of sewing and planning and buzzing excitement, when my elevation was over I was just tired. I needed a little bit of rest, and I had earned it. So I kind of coasted.

Yeah, so it turns out my personality and “coasting” don’t go well together.

It’s time for this post to “get a little real.” I had a really rough winter this year. I was trying to figure out what being a Laurel meant to me. I was adjusting to some changes at work that required a lot of intellectual investment on my part. Some stuff went down in my home branch that wasn’t fun and that left me with some really bruised feelings. And I was tired! So tired! I liked going to events during that time and getting to still ride on some of the congratulations and get to start going to Laurel meetings, but I also felt tremendous pressure to be “up” when I wasn’t feeling it. Some of that pressure I put on myself — I kept wondering what I was going to do next, and I felt like I needed a project — and some of it I do think came from other people; when you’re known for being happy, it’s hard to be publicly subdued. I was open about how I was feeling with people close to me, but I wish I had been better able to articulate what was going on and what I needed. I also really wish I had given myself more permission to just take a break.

Many, many people feel this way. I am so thankful to everyone who warned me about it. I wish I could tell my past self that it didn’t really last that long and it was fine. It seems like anywhere from 6 months to a couple of years is totally normal. If you’ve just been elevated, it’s okay to take a step back and regroup. We’ll all still be here when you’re ready to dive back in.

I feel like I’m through my slump now. Some of that was working with a wonderful mental health care provider who has been remarkably open-minded about all of this. As an aside, I think everyone should do talk therapy because I think talk therapy is awesome. I also wish that I had talked about the SCA in talk therapy a long time ago. Having to explain what was going on in a way that someone outside the situation could understand it often was enough to help me see what the actual root of the issue was — once I phrased things for therapy, I managed to parse what the actual social / emotional challenge was, and usually had a much improved way of looking at it.

Oddly, though, the thing that really snapped me out of my slump was getting ready for Culinary Symposium and realizing how much more I want to learn about pie. Many people never want to touch the thing they were elevated for again. That’s also fine. But for me, being able to still find a spark of enthusiasm for pie was invigorating. That was when I realized that I didn’t have to change that much, I could still keep right on indulging myself by spending time with my research main squeeze. (I’ve hinted at this on Facebook, but I’m honestly thinking of writing a book about pie history. I have no idea if that will ever come to fruition or not, as writing a book seems like a phenomenal amount of work, but the fact that I’m even interested in that at all is a far cry from where I was a year ago.)

The point is, whatever well replenishes you, drink extra draughts from it after being elevated. For some people it’s completely no big deal, but if you struggle, you are not alone and you’re not bad.

More coming eventually?

I’m sure I’ll have more of these thoughts as time goes on. I suspect some more will have turned into some kind of mostly-congealed form by the time the anniversary of my actual elevation rolls around, so stay tuned, I suppose.

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.

pieofdestiny1
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.

pieofdestiny2
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.

A marzipan variant

Recently I made marzipan with orange flower water instead of rose water and then mixed a handful of candied orange peel pieces into it before serving. 

It was AWESOME and got utterly demolished at the vigil I took it to. It’s more of a stretch for historical accuracy (evidence for orange flower water in cooking has eluded me, to my annoyance)  but very, very tasty. If you gave up on making it SCA period historical, you could dip it in chocolate. I wouldn’t tell. 

Repost: Lammas Fayre Flours Product Guide

This is re-posted from my old blog.

When I was in the throes of my pie crust research last year, one of my most significant stumbling blocks was sorting out how to replicate medieval flours using what I could get in a modern world. I lamented greatly that I could not simply walk down to the store and buy some bolted stone-ground flour made entirely from heirloom “landraces” of grain.

Well, it’s the year 2015 and we have this thing called “global e-commerce” now. It turns out that you can, in fact, special order flour that is outstandingly close to the flour medieval bakers would have used, produced by Lammas Fayre Mills:

Lammas Fayre flour by John Letts at Heritage Harvest is a very special range of heritage and ancient English organic flours available online exclusively from BakeryBits.

The product of over a decade of sweat and academic rigour, John Letts has collected an extensive range of historically and botanically authentic cereals. All grown organically on farms in Buckinghamshire and Wiltshire, John grows them the traditional way, that is, in mixed populations (strains) that are well suited to local growing conditions.

I might have literally cried a little with excitement when I read that (I get emotional about ancestral foodways sometimes! don’t judge!) then, naturally, I ordered a whole bunch of flours to play with. Bakery Bits (the UK company that is the exclusive source for Lammas Fayre flour) has been a delight to work with, and shipping, while understandably expensive, was also fast and relatively painless. I’ve made pies using two of the blends I ordered (expect a full report on that in the next week or so, once I can get pictures uploaded). I’m planning to finally get back to my artisan medieval bread experiments, too, although that may have to wait until the summer.

I thought other medieval cooks interested in using these flours may find it helpful to have a guide as to which of these flours will work for which applications, and how they align with what we know about available grains and flour in high medieval England (which is my personal specialty — I’m hoping others can round out this guide for other time periods). Here are my thoughts on four of the Lammas Fayre products, with links to my past research.

Medieval Peasant’s Blend 

A mix of wheat, rye, barley, oats, broad beans, and peas. This is a wholemeal flour, meaning it has not been bolted/sieved.

From the Bakery Bits description:

“Lammas Fayre’s Medieval peasant’s flour is milled from a blend of heritage wheat (Triticum aestivum), rye (Secale cereale), barley (Hordeum vulgare) and oat (Avena sativa) varieties. In time of scarcity, medieval peasants and serfs also mixed roasted broad bean (Vicia faba) and pea (Pisum sativum) flour into their flour to make a hearty, and flavourful loaf rich in protein. Our cereals are grown organically at Colling’s Hanger Farm in the village of Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, and at Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Wiltshire. As in the past we grow mixtures of varieties that are well adapted to local growing conditions. The grain is stoneground on the farm to produce a unique, and delicious, dark brown flour ideal for baking artisan-style bread, particularly sourdough – the staple bread of the medieval period.”

Quoting my own bread research here:

“In addition to maslin loaves, peasants and servants ate a wide variety of breads. Serfs and free peasants were required to work on the lord’s land during harvest time, and were entitled to boons in exchange, typically bread (this obligatory work was thus called boon-work) (Bennett). Boons given during harvest time were often composed of maslin and rye (so, both the wheat and rye that had been grown together and some more rye flour), rye and barley, or just barley, however, this is probably not representative of what peasants ate the rest of the time (Woolgar et al). The famuli (servants) on demesne farms received mixed grain breads, which may be more representative of the typical peasant diet; one late 13th century household provided bread made from a mix of rye, barley, and bulmong (oat mixed with bean and pea) flours (ibid). This type of coarse mixed-grain bread was also called horsebread as it was also fed to horses, and it is possible that wheat bran, presumably left over from the production of wastel, may have been used as well (Hammond). … The late 13th century household record mentioned above provided bread for the famuli composed of 45% rye, 33% barley, and 22% bulmong (Woolgar et al).”

Mixed grain flours were typically made from grains grown together in the field, such as maslin (see below), dredge (barley and oats), or bulmong (see above), so this mix would appear to be made from a mix of all three of these common mixed crops. The Lammas Fayre peasant blend is in line with general trends in peasant grain consumption, as you can see above. If you are recreating bread produced for servants, eaten by peasants, or the least expensive bread available from professional medieval bakers, this is a perfect option. I would not use this to recreate recipes out of extant medieval culinary manuscripts, as those are all from high-status contexts.

I made a long-fermented sourdough loaf from this flour mix, and the result was heavy, but delicious and very filling.

Maslin Blend

From the Bakery Bits description: “Lammas Fayre’s maslin flour is milled from a blend of over 200 heritage varieties of winter-sown bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) and rye (Secale cereale) grown organically at Collings Hanger Farm in the village of Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, and at Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Wiltshire. As in medieval times, we grow genetically diverse mixtures of varieties that are well adapted to local growing conditions. The grain is stoneground and sieved to remove the coarsest bran, creating a delicious, light brown flour ideal for baking artisan-style bread, particularly sourdough, the staple loaf of the medieval period.”

Again quoting from my bread research: “Maslin, wheat and rye grown together in the same field, was an extremely common crop during this period and thus maslin bread was widely consumed –one record from the turn of the 14th century shows a Bishop receiving payments from peasants for the grinding of 158 bushels of maslin compared to only two bushels of wheat (Woolgar et al). Maslin bread was most likely consumed by an incredibly broad spectrum of the population, including peasants, workers and other town-dwellers, servants in manor households, and was used by the gentry for trenchers (Hammond).”

I would posit that, for most of the population, maslin was a staple food. I’d be curious if Letts / Lammas Fayre has research to support the sieving of maslin, as that is not something I have ever seen reference too; in all of my research, the only type of flour to undergo bolting was pure wheat flour in high-status contexts. If you are willing to let that slide, this is an excellent choice for recreating the food of commoners, such as bread or pie crusts; again, I would not use maslin to recreate high-status food. If I dive back into my street food research and make some plausibly historical “medieval fast food” pies, I will use this flour.

I made some sourdough bread from this mix as well. It was slightly lighter weight than the horsebread loaf, but still dense and hearty. My somewhat picky wife liked the flavor better than the horsebread.

Norman Blend: Rivet Wheat Flour

My total inability to find any rivet wheat at all last year made me the saddest baker, so finding this particular product made me go a little wild with glee.

From Bakery Bits: “Lammas Fayre’s rivet wheat flour is milled from a rare species of wheat (Triticum turgidum) that was first grown in England in the Norman period, and became popular because of its high yield and exceptional nutty flavour. Our rivet wheat is grown organically from a mixtue of rivet varieties at Collings Hanger Farm in the village of Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, and at Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Wiltshire. The grain is stoneground and sieved to produce a creamy white flour with a unique texture and flavour that is ideal for biscuits, crĂŞpes, pizza, pasta and artisan-style bread.”

This time I’m quoting my pie crust research: “The most abundant grain in these samples [from medieval roof thatching samples from Southern England] was bread wheat, although this study does not specify any specific recognizable varieties of bread wheat or characteristics such as grain color, etc. One significant difference between modern wheat crops and the evidence from roof thatching is the presence of rivet wheat among the medieval samples. Although rivet wheat is no longer grown commercially on any significant scale, 60% of the roof samples contained at least some rivet wheat. (Letts) Rivet wheat tends to produce high quality thatching straw, so it is possible that it was of greater importance historically for this reason. As many of the roof samples are composed of threshed straw and threshing waste, it is reasonable to conclude that these samples accurately reflect food crops.”

Fun fact: the citation in there should indicate why I was so excited to find these flours; the Letts I cite is the same John Letts behind Lammas Fayre. I suppose citing his work to validate the authenticity of his flour is kind of circular, but I view his extensive research as evidence that this guy really, really knows his stuff.

But I find myself in a bind here: Letts’s own findings seemed to suggest that bread wheat and rivet wheat were grown and presumably used together, but this blend contains exclusively rivet wheat. I think to recreate medieval wheat flour, it would be more appropriate to use a blend of both rivet and bread wheat flours; so if you are going for very strict authenticity, this may not actually cut it on its own. I have absolutely no regrets in purchasing this flour and I plan to use it as a “novelty” more than anything; I think there’s some rivet wheat sourdough in my near future!

While you could certainly sully this beautiful heirloom flour with some modern bread wheat flour, Lammas Fayre has a much better solution:

Elizabethan Blend Manchet Flour

From Bakery Bits: “Lammas Fayre’s manchet flour is milled from a blend of heritage bread (Triticum aestivum) and rivet wheat (Triticum turgidum) varieties that were grown in the Elizabethan period for making fine white ‘manchet’ bread for special occasions and the high table. Our manchet flour is grown organically at Collings Hanger Farm in the village of Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, and at Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Wiltshire. The grain is polished, stoneground and sieved to produce a creamy white flour with a unique texture and flavour that is ideal for all baked goods, including pastries and artisan-style bread.”

Although billed as Elizabethan, I actually think this is the best choice in flour if you want to recreate high-status medieval English baked goods. It contains a mix of bread and rivet wheat flours, and it has been stone ground and sieved (bolted) to remove the bran and yield a “white” flour. This is exactly the type of flour that my research supports for both bread (see my notes on wastel bread specifically in my bread research) and pie crusts. If you want to make a fritter recipe out of Forme of Cury (and don’t we all!), this manchet blend is perfect. Basically, if I could only have one Lammas Fayre flour for medieval cooking, this is what I would pick.

I know a couple of other people who have purchased flours from Lammas Fayre, mostly in pursuit of bread making. If you have played around with these flours and have further recommendations for recreating historical foods using these products, please leave a comment or a link!