The theme of February’s culinary night was the noble pygge – everything had to either be made from pork, look like pork, or go well with pork. We got a huge variety of dishes, from authentically cured bacon (very different than our modern fatty streaky bacon!) to a marzipan pig’s Read more…
A friend of mine jokes that I beat her in an A&S competition because I bribed the judges with bacon. Well I’m a fan of bacon (though not to the extent of the bacon craziness of two years ago) but I’ve always just used a thick cut good quality bacon from the butchers. When it was announced that February’s Montengarde Culinary Group meeting was going to be all about dishes with bacon or pork my wife suggested that I try making bacon.
So, medieval bacon.
This is an interesting one because we don’t have a whole lot of period info about how they made bacon.
Because this is such a long post I’m giving a basic summary here.
Essentially I couldn’t find any proof for smoked bacon until the very end of the 16th century. Instead the defining feature was that it was salt cured and dried. Smoke was likely an option but the concerns around the heat from the smoke making the fat of
the bacon turn rancid seem to have kept it from being the main method as it is now. Cold-smoking could have been done but only if they were using nitrites as well.
I’m using a recipe based on combining what I found pre-1600 with the 18th century recipes. The end result is a very salty bacon that should taste very very similar to what Medieval and Renaissance bacon would taste like. The addition of sugar, though likely a post period innovation, is used to cut the saltiness. Nitrites are used because most of the secondary sources mention it, for the food safety, as well as because it is heavily used by the time the first actual recipes show up; combining that with its availability at the time and I’m going to call its use plausible.
And a third and final recipe inspired by this month’s Montengarde Culinary Group’s meeting.
While looking for a “light” recipe or one that made me think of warmer climates I decided on Andalusia. Southern Spain sounded warm to me and during the time period it would have been very exotic as well, being one of the main connecting points for Muslim Africa and Christian Europe.
This recipe was chosen mostly for my son who has decided that he loves pomegranates (pomegranate candy as he calls it).
Today’s recipe is from An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century as translated by Charles Perry. The cookbook is originally known as Kitab al-Tabeekh fi ‘l-Maghrib wa ‘l-Andalus fi ‘Asr al-Muwahhidin or Cookbook of Al-Maghrib and Andalusia in the era of Almohads (Writing Food History: A Global Perspective)
Syrup of Pomegranates
Take a ratl of sour pomegranates and another of sweet pomegranates, and add their juice to two ratls of sugar, cook all this until it takes the consistency of syrup, and keep until needed. Its benefits: it is useful for fevers, and cuts the thirst, it benefits bilious fevers and lightens the body gently.
It’s a fairly straightforward recipe. A few points need to be added though.
I was doing the prep work on January’s Culinary Group and I realized I never posted the Spinach Tart. Now this is an easy dish we usually use for potlucks. It’s fast, takes very little time to make, and everyone loves it. We’ve done it as a big tart, we’ve done it as individual tarts, we’ve even done it gluten free.
We originally found the recipe at Medievalcookery.com and went back to the source then worked from there, but we have also made it the way Daniel Myers described and it’s just as good.
The recipe is from one of my go-to cook books Le Menagier de Paris as translated by Janet Hinson.
TO MAKE A TART, take four handfuls of beet-leaves, two handfuls of parsley, one handful of chervil, a bit of turnip-top and two handfuls of spinach, and clean them and wash them in cold water, then chop very small: then grate two kinds of cheese, that is one mild and one medium, and then put eggs with it, yolk and white, and grate them in with the cheese; then put the herbs in the mortar and grind them up together, and also add to that some powdered spices. Or in place of this have first ground up in the mortar two pieces of ginger, and over this grate your cheeses, eggs and herbs, and then throw in some grated old pressed cheese or some other such on to the herbs, and carry to the oven, and then make it into a tart and eat it hot.
An Appetizer from Le Menagier de Paris
I did this a a quick redaction for the Montengarde Culinary Group, I’ve added in the extra information I didn’t have space on my short documentation to include.
Here is the full recipe from Le Menagier de Paris as translated by Janet Hinson: