How to Harvest Yeast

This is something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and in January when my wife, Her Ladyship Kayleigh, was needing beer barm to do some baking seemed like a good time. This was all done back in January, but I only now got around to posting it.

She had some barm left over so I decided to see what I could do with it.

Sourdough was well known and used, as we see from An Anonymous Tuscan Cookery Book (late 14th early 15th century) and other sources, but there are also some recipes that call for yeast. Now I’ve always assumed they mean sourdough or barm, but in Ein sehr Künstliches und fürtrefflichs Kochbuch von allerley Speysen 1560 we see instructions on how to harvest yeast:


Beer Barm Bread (Manchet)

I know I’ve been talking about ale or beer barm bread off and on for a while now. In fact I made some out of mead barm too. And I’ve come up with a number of ways of making a medieval loaf. Today I put my money where my mouth is. I’ve got some barm from a local brewer and I’m making beer barm bread. Technically it’s ale barm bread, but that’s a modern technical difference, not one from period. In the pre-modern period it would just have been called beer barm.

First up, our recipe:

Fine Manchet. “Take halfe a bushell of fine flower twise boulted, and a gallon of faire luke warm water, almost a handful of white salt, and almost a pinte of yest, then temper all these together, without any more liquor, as hard as ye can handle it: then let it lie halfe an hower, then take it up, and make your Manchetts, and let them stande almost an hower in the oven. Memorandum, that of every bushell of meale may be made five and twentie caste of bread, and every loafe to way a pounde besyde the chesill.

The Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchen,

Sound Advice

He who comes from a garden brings roses as a gift He who comes from a sweet shop brings sweets Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (1207-73) Focus on what you excel at, and give freely of what you do as long as it does not harm you.

Culinary History Potlucks

I went through more options than I should have for that title. We call these monthly potlucks the Montengarde Culinary Night, but I wanted something that would explain it a bit easier for people who are new.

The SCA, an international medieval recreation group, has a local branch here in Calgary called the Barony of Montengarde. 90% of people who read this blog probably know that already, but I put it there for the 10%.

The Montengarde Culinary Group is a great group here in Calgary where one Monday a month we gather together at someone’s house for a potluck and each bring a pre 17th century dish. We primarily meet at Craig and Kat’s house, known in the SCA as Caiaphas and Francis, but occasionally meet elsewhere. This group had been going for years before I moved here, and it was amazing to get to meet up with so many people who also love historical cookery. I’ve met some very good friends through the group. One of them is Allie, known in the SCA as Alice. She’s been the driving force behind the culinary nights and keeps it going.

The whole point of the potlucks is to try something new and learn a bit more about culinary history. Some people make recipes based on pre 17th century cookery books while others use recipes they find from culinary history books or websites, while still others just make something they like that isn’t pre 17th century. Every one and every skill level is welcome.


Renaissance Mouthwash

I referenced Alessio’s work back in my post on Sugar paste. While I was doing that research I also came across a potion “Agaynst the stynkyng of the breathe”. Curious about a Renaissance mouthwash recipe I investigated. This is from the translation by Wyllyam Warde from French to English in Read more…

Sponge Cake

If you’ve read about the history of Sponge Cake I’m sure you’ve heard the story that the first English Sponge Cake recipe shows up in Gervase Markham’s 1615 book The English Housewife. But of course none of the websites that mention it give you the recipe, and I’ve seen a number say that it was probably less airy, or that it was flat like a cookie. Which got me wondering, what exactly was the recipe? Well, it’s cake time. For this I’ll be using the 1986 edition, edited by Michael R. Best, of Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife : Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman. For reference our modern sponge cake is 1:1:1:1 flour, sugar, butter, eggs. Here’s Markham’s:
To make biscuit bread. To make biscuit bread, take a pound of fine flour, and a pound of sugar finely beaten and searced, and mix them together; then take eight eggs and put four yolks and beat them very well together; then strew in your flour and sugar as you are beating of it, by a little at once; it will take very near an hour’s beating: then take half an ounce of aniseeds, coriander seeds, and let them be dried and rubbed very clean, and put them in; then rub your biscuit pans with cold sweet butter as thin as you can, and so put it in and bake it in an oven: but if you would have thin cakes, then take fruit dishes and rub them in like sort with butter, and so bake your cakes on them, and when they are almost baked, turn them and thrust them down close with your hand. Some to this biscuit bread will add a little cream, and it is not amiss, but excellent good also. Markham 1986, p 112-113

Avacal Judging Forms

So, a bit over a year ago I started working with Mistress Inga, now my Laurel, on the Avacal Kingdom A&S Judging Forms. This consisted of a number of surveys of all of the Avacal artisans, and a more indepth one for the Laurels of Avacal. Based on those results we decided that a rubric would be the best way to go.

TL:DR scroll to the bottom for copies of the Avacal Judging Forms, the Judges & Entrants Handbook, and the Shire Judging Forms.


Did People Think Tomatoes Were Poisonous?

Sometimes curiosity leads to rabbit holes.

I was curious about tomatoes, so I did a bit of research.  I came across “The History of the Use of the Tomato: An Annotated Bibliography” by George Allen McCue, Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 39, No. 4 (Nov., 1952), pp. 289-348, as well as “The history of tomato: From domestication to biopharming” by VéroniqueBergougnoux, Biotechnology Advances Volume 32, Issue 1, January–February 2014, Pages 170-189. And they give some very interesting information and about what people thought of tomatoes in the 16th and 17th centuries.