Gone Fishing

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I love the idea of someone in medieval costume, sitting beside a bubbling brook. Beside them rest a book, and half a bottle of wine. A fishing rod made out of a stick and string held loosely in hands, while they napped under a large hat.

And accidentally catching a trout and ruining the quiet of the day.

Took cook your trout you need to scrape the scales on the outside of the fish with the side of a knife and wash them off the fish, the knife, your hands and everything you touched in the last 24 hours. You then cut the fish’s belly open from anus to neck and remove all the squishy guts from the pocket there, and wash the fish again. Pat dry.

You can grill a 1/2 lb trout on a high (500F) heat and it will cook in about 5 minutes. Pan frying is about that time, on each side.

Boiling takes a little longer, 10 minutes for every inch thick your fish is. The medieval cook would put 2 cups of wine or vinegar into the water with the fish.

In all cases cooked fish flake away from the bone easily.

The medieval cook will pair the fish with a sour sauce of your choosing:

Le Viandier de Taillevent (1380):
Salmon trout. Peeled, head and all, and then cooked in water or roasted; eaten with verjuice.

Le Menagier de Paris (1393)
Trout are cooked in water with a lot of red wine, and should be eaten with a cameline sauce and should be cooked in chunks about two fingers thick. 

Libre del Coch (1520)
And if they want to eat it roasted, it must be eaten with orange juice and water and salt and a little oil, and all the good herbs; and prepare the plate of the roast trout. And cast this juice on top of everything. And know that the best morsel of it is the snout.

Cooking with beer and wine

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Hypothetically if you are cooking something like lamb sausages in beer on a BBQ and the grease catches fire do not add more beer. It kind of explodes. Maybe. Hypothetically.

I’ve been experimenting with cooking with (gluten-free) beer and wine after discovering two duck-sauce recipes that were pretty similar at first blush except that one uses wine and the other beer.

Beer adds a smokier and bitter flavour. The flavour would radically change from redaction to redaction depending upon what kind of beer you used. You’d want something on the lighter side, and less hops.

Wine is sweeter, even a dry wine, and adds an acidic and tart flavour. I find that cheaper cooking wines, when used in cooking, don’t taste that differently, some difference but not wildly different in the way beer is.

Both of the following recipes needed the roasted duck to complete the flavours.

Beer Sauce for Roasted Mallards
Take onions and hew them well, put some in the mallard, so have you bliss, and hack more onions, as I teach you; with the grease of the mallard you fry them, then take ale, mustard and honey then, boil all together before you do more; for mallard roasted this sauce is prepared, and served in hall by good right. Liber cure Cocorum

The ratios for the sauce are more important than amounts. If you don’t have 1 cup of drippings treat the recipe as 4 part drippings, 4 parts ale, 1 part mustard, and 1 part honey.

Ingredients
* 1 onion, minced
* 1 cup of fat and drippings from your roasted duck
* 1 cup ale
* 1/4 cup of yellow mustard
*1/4 cup of honey

Directions
1)  Saute onions in the duck fat and drippings on medium heat until the onions are transparent.

2) Mix ale, mustard and honey together, then slowly pour into onion mixture. Bring the mixture to a low boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with your roasted duck.

Wine Sauce for Duck
Take onions, and hewe them small, and fry hem in fresh greece, and cast them into a pot, And fresh broth of beef, wine, & powder of pepper, canel, and dropping of the mallard. And let them boil together a while; And take hit for the fire, and cast thereto mustard a little, and powder of ginger, and let it boil no more, and salt it, And serve it forth with the Mallard. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books.  godecookery.com

Ingredients
* 1 onion, minced
* fat for frying
* 1/2 cup of beef broth
* 1/2 cup dry wine
* 1/2 tsp pepper, ground
* 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
* 1 cup fat and drippings from your roasted duck
* 1/4 cup of yellow mustard
* 1 tsp ginger, ground
* salt to taste

Directions
1)  Saute onions in fat  on medium heat in a sauce pan until the onions are transparent.

2) Add broth, wine, pepper, cinnamon, and drippings into sauce pan with onions, simmer together on medium  for 10 minutes.

3) Take sauce pan off heat add mustard, ginger, and salt and stir well. Serve with roasted duck.

Sorrel?

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So I started researching verjuice and found many of the recipes call for sorrel. Which sorrel did they call for ‘wood sorrel’ (Oxalis) or ‘garden sorrel’ (Rumex acetosa)?

My digging didn’t clarify so I asked Pamela Bottrill; who I go to whenever I have a gardening question. She recommend that I dig into The herball or Generall historie of plantes by John Gerarde.

His section of sorrel lists:
1 Sorrel. Oxalis, siue Acetosa.
2 Knobbed Sorrel. Oxalis tuberosa,or Tuberosa acetosa, or Tuberosum lapathum.
3 Sheeps Sorrel. Oxalis tenuifolia. […The second by waters sides, but not in this kingdome that I know of.]
4 Round leaved, or French Sorrel Oxalis Franca seu Romana.
5 Curled Sorrel. […This kind of curled Sorrell is a stranger in England…]
6 Small Sorrel. Oxalis minor.
7 Barren Sorrel, or Dwarf Sheeps Sorrell.
Great broad leaved Sorrel. Oxalis, or Acetosa maxima latifolia.
9 Garden Sorrel Acidum la∣pathum, or Acidus rumex.

The good news is that he describes them all kind of the same, with the same uses as a bitter herb, just slightly different shapes.

I would lean towards Rumex acetosa for cooking and Oxalis for salads for the small reason that Oxalis looks like heart shaped three-leaf clovers and I don’t find it as strong a flavour as Rumex Acetosa. 

Like verjuice the ‘acetosa‘ is acidic, sometimes called the ‘lemon herb’. During my search I learned that modernly sorrel is used to add a different kind of ‘sour’ to cooking that is different than wine, for ease of pairing the dish with a bottle.

I find wood sorrel to cook with in my lawn and in every one of my planters. It’s a weed. I find common sorrel in my friend’s garden or at really interesting farmers markets.

Please comment below with other ideas for differentiating sorrel in recipes.

Sorrel Sauce (1439)
Surelle. Take Surel, wasche hit, grynde it, put a litil salt, ther-to, and strayne hit, and serue forth. Two fifteenth-century cookery-books

Ingredients
* 2 cups sorrel leaves, washed
* salt to taste

Directions
1) Take sorrel and grind in a mortar with a pestle a little at a time until a paste, add small drops of water if required.

2) Add salt to sorrel mush and mix well to dissolve.

3) Strain sorrel mixture through a metal sieve, use a wooden spoon or fingers to push as much pulp as you can through the strainer. Serve immediately, with fish or other meats.

Chicken with Sorrel (1591)
To dress chickens upon sorrell sops. Take sorell and beat it in a mortar, and put in verjuice and strain it through a strainer, then cut fine sops of white bread and lay them in a dish, and put the sorrel sauce to the bread, put cinnamon, ginger, and sugar, with butter to your sauce, then roast your chickens and serve them forth. A book of Cookery

Ingredients
* 1 5lb chicken (or chicken sections)
* salt to taste
* 1 cup of sorrel leaves, washed
* 1/4 cup verjuice
* 6 slices of white bread
* 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, ground
* 1/2 tsp ginger, ground
* 1 tbsp raw sugar cane
*1/4 cup butter

Directions
1) Pre-heat oven to 350F. Salt chicken and roast it for about 1 3/4 – 2 hours, until chicken has reached 180F, and the legs and wings twist off easily. Carve generous portions of the roasted bird.

2) While chicken is roasting, take sorrel and grind in a mortar with a pestle a little at a time with verjuice until a paste forms. Strain sorrel mixture through a metal sieve, use a wooden spoon or fingers to push as much pulp as you can through the strainer. Mix spices together and add them to the sorrel juice.

3) Butter each slice of bread. Place bread in bottom of bowl.  Sprinkle a generous spoonful or two onto each slice of bread. Place slices of chickens on top of bread slices. Serve them with the leftover sorrel sauce.

Beef & Sauces

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I’m teaching humour theory and cooking at SCA 50 Year Celebration so I’ve been digging out some references on the topic.

This is a notable example:

    Large cuts of boiled meat. Large cuts of boiled meat (beef, pork or mutton) are cooked in water and salt. The beef is eaten with Green Garlic  in summer and White Garlic  in winter. The pork and mutton are eaten (if fresh) with good Green Sauce made without wine, and (if salted) with Mustard.
… White Garlic. Crush garlic and bread, and steep in verjuice.
… Green Garlic. Crush garlic, bread and greens, and steep together.
… Mustard. Soak the mustard seed overnight in good vinegar, grind it in a mill, and then moisten it little by little with vinegar. If you have any spices left over from Hippocras or sauces, grind them with it. Le Viandier de Taillevent (1380)

Aside from appearance, age, type of meat, and other factors affecting humours the seasons were a strong influencer.

Even today modernly we are influenced by the seasons for our diet: ice cream in summer, hot chocolate in winter, but its not because we are aiming for a higher level of health.

Beef ‘sodden’ or simmered in water offends some meat lovers but since beef has dry and cold humours it is the most logical way to approach it.

Salt your roast and cover with water. Cover with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until roast hits 160 degrees, or simmer for 3 to 5 hours until beef is falling apart tender. Or rebel completely and roast it in an oven. Serve with appropriate sauce.

“… White Garlic. Crush garlic and bread, and steep in verjuice.”

Ingredients
* 1 bulb of garlic, peeled
* 1/2 cup of dry bread crumbs
* 1/4 cup grape verjuice

Directions
Take each clove of garlic, and a tablespoon of bread crumbs and crush in a mortar with a pestle. Once all cloves and all the bread is crushed together mix the verjuice in slowly.

… Green Garlic. Crush garlic, bread and greens, and steep together.

Ingredients
* 1 bulb of garlic
* 1/4 cup of dry bread crumbs
* 1 cup of mixed green herbs like mint, sage, parsley, thyme (chopped, no stems)
* 1/4 cup white wine

Directions
Combine first 3 ingredients a little at a time to combine in a mortar and pestle, adding a little wine to help when required. Once fully pulverized add rest of wine and stir well.


… Mustard. Soak the mustard seed overnight in good vinegar, grind it in a mill, and then moisten it little by little with vinegar. If you have any spices left over from Hippocras or sauces, grind them with it.

Ingredients
* 1 cup mustard seeds, freshly ground
* 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
Optional: 1 tbsp mix of cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cloves, soaked over night in wine and then strained. Drink wine once sweetened.

Directions
Slowly stir vinegar into muster seed and spices until mustard is fully moistened and saucy.

Optional: Grind hippocras spices in mortar then add spices to mustard sauce. Add more vinegar if required.

Sauces for Venison

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A friend of mine posted a picture on facebook of a lawn-full of deer. I’m not promoting hunting deer within Ottawa city limits of course, that would be wrong, but if you do happen to have a windfall of fresh venison…

Many people say they dislike the taste of game meats. To get rid of the ‘gamey’ or ‘green’ taste of most wild meat you merely parboil the meat before roasting. The taste people object to is mostly found in the blood, and this gets rid of it.

2 lbs of of venison roast is parboiled by covering with water and then bring to a full boil. Remove from heat and drain. Cover the roast in butter or lard and roast in an oven on 350°F. It should be brought up to 125-140°F internal temperature, after about 40 minutes.

Then serve with one of these 3 sauces.

Pevrate Sause For veel Or venison

sause for veel or venison. Take bred and frie it in greese, and drawe hit up with the brothe and vynegur, and do thereto pouder of pepur, and of clowes, and let hit boyle, and serve hit forthe. Ancient Cookery [Arundel 334], 1425

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups of broth (not the water from par boiling, it will make sauce taste gamey)
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 0.5 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 tsp cloves, powdered

Directions

  1. Warm a sauce pan up to medium heat.
  2. Put all ingredients into pot and bring to boil. Stirring often.
  3. Reduce heat and let simmer until roast is done.

To Rooste veneson

To Rooste Veneson. Roosted Veneson must have vyneger, Suger and Cinomome and butter boyled upon a chafing dyshe with cooles, but the sauce maye not bee to tarte, and then laye the Veneson upon the sauce. A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, mid-16th c.

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups of broth (not the liquid from the parboil)
  • 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp raw can sugar
  • 1 cinnamon sitck
  • 2 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Warm a sauce pan up to medium heat.
  2. Put all ingredients into pot and bring to boil. Stirring often.
  3. Reduce heat and let simmer until roast is done.

To Roast venison

To roast Venison. First perboile it, and then make it tender cast it into cold water, then Lard it and roste it, and for sauce take broth, Vinagre, Pepper, Cloves and mace, with a little salt and boile these togither and serve it upon your Venison.  A Book of Cookrye, 1591

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of broth
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 0.5 tsp of pepper
  • 1 tsp cloves (whole or powdered)
  • 0.5 tsp mace (whole or powdered)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Directions

  1. Warm a sauce pan up to medium heat.
  2. Put all ingredients into pot and bring to boil. Stirring often.
  3. Reduce heat and let simmer until roast is done.