Feeds:
Posts
Comments

One of my most treasured cookbooks is a facsimile edition of Nostradamus’ 1557 Traite des Confitures. Yes, the famous astrologer also wrote a cookbook.

I had acquired three quinces, so decided to test one of his quince jelly recipes. Here is a quick transcription, with some of the spellings updated to modern French (sorry about the lack of accents).

Pour faire gelee de coigns d’une souveraine beaute, bonte, saveur, & excellence proper pour presenter devant un Roy, & qui se garde bonne longuement.

Prenez de coings desquels que vous vouldrez, surtout qu’ls soient bien meurs & jaunes, & les mettrez en cartiers, sans les peler (car ceux qui les pellent se ne savent (?) pourquoy ils le font: car l’escorce augment l’odeur) & de chacun coing en ferez cinq ou six pieces: & osteres la greine, car ils gelereont bien sans cela: & ce pendant que vous les coupes, mettez les dans un bassin plein d’eau, car incontinent quils sont bachez, ou coupez, s’ils ne trempoient dens l’eau, ils viendroint noirs: & hachez qu’ils soit, les ferez bouillir avec grand quantite d’eau, jusques a ce qu’ils soient fort bouillus, que presque ils se froissent: & puis quant ils seront bien cuits, vous couleres ceste eaue, par un linge neuf qui soits espes, & exprime tres fort toute la decoction tant que faire se pourra: & puis prendrez une livre & demie de sucre de Madere, & le mettrez dedans la decoction, & le feres bouillir sus les charbons a feu moyen, tant que vous verrez que vers la fin il se consumera beaucoup: & alors lui feres petit feu qu’il ne se brusles des costes, qui causeroit mauvaise couleur a la gelee. & puis quand il sera pres de cult, & pour cognoistre sa parfaite cuite, vous en prendres avec une spatule, ou une cuillere d‘argent, un peu, & le mettrez sus un quadret: & si voyes quand il sera froid, que la goute s’oste toute ronde sans soy tenir ne ca ne la, lors elle est cubit, & osteres du feu: & attendrez que l’escume qu’il fait par dessus soit posee : & puis tout chaud vous le mettrez dens les boites de bois, on de verre: & si vous voulez escrire quelque chose, out taller au fond de la boit, le pourres faire, car il se verre facilement: car le couleur sera tant dyaphane, que resemblera un rubis oriental, tant sera de couleur excellente, & de saveur encores plus, que l’on en peut exhiber aux maladies, & a ceux qui sont sains.

Roughly translated “To make quince jelly of sovereign beauty, goodness, flavour and excellence appropriate to serve to a King, and it keeps a long time”

Take some quinces, cut into quarters and remove the seeds, then cut into 5 or six smaller pieces and put in a container of water so they don’t turn dark. Don’t bother peeling because the peels add scent. Then boil with lots of water until they are well cooked and starting to fall apart. Drain through a clean cloth (I used a jelly bag) an squeeze very hard to get all the juice. Then add 1 1/2 lb of sugar from Madeira (though it doesn’t say how many quinces to start with, or how much juice you should get, so I used a modern recipe which suggests a little under 1 cup of sugar per cup of juice). Boil this mixture until it is thick enough that a small amount dropped on a plate will hold its shape. Take it off the fire and wait till the scum rises to the top [and scrape it off], then put the hot jelly into wooden or glass boxes. If you want to write something on the bottom, or carve a design into the bottom of the box, you can do so because it can easily be seen; the colour is so clear, resembling an oriental ruby, and with excellent colour and even better flavour that you can give it to invalids or to healthy people.

My three quinces gave one cup of liquid, so I used about 7/8 of a cup of plain white sugar (a reasonable equivalent for the finest sugar loaf that has been hammered into crystals for use). Quinces have a lot of pectin, so the soft ball on a plate happened fairly quickly. I used a glass canning jar, and I am pleased with the colour. It is a magical change from the white fruit with pale yellow skin that I started with.

Feast of the Hare

This year was the 40th Anniversary, and the theme was Viking, so I was delighted to be head cook. My very first feast as cook was Hare X, and I also cooked Hare XXX. As my time was limited, I decided to forego experimentation and cook a lot of recipes from “An Early Meal”, one of my favourite cookbooks. It takes ingredients from Viking Age archaeological sites and uses them in plausibly period recipes, all beautifully photographed. My menu was:

Skyr, Kettle Worms, Rye Bread with Smoked Barley, Mustard

Fish Stewed in Ale

407B005F-2B4E-4477-8C5A-C53F9FE22E15

Boar stew

DA6B1571-6F42-4B8B-8E64-547213D8BF34

Buttered Turnips

Peas in a Bag, Greens in Vegetable Broth

Apple Frumenty

Malt Patties and Hazelnut Treats (shaped as carrots, rabbits, and bunny tails, because it was Feast of the Hare and the Hare is part of our Barony’s heraldry)

 

9231B4C4-79CF-49D9-BAFB-C75FC4990F94

I also made beef with berry sauce, which was both delicious and very pretty, but disappeared so quickly I didn’t have a chance to get a picture.

Cheese!

I am feeling a bit like Wallace AND Grommit with the cheese making this week. I started out by trying to make skyr, following the instructions in An Early Meal. First, I made some creme fraiche. Creme fraiche turns out to be delicious, and I will definitely do it again. Then I used some with soured milk to make skyr.

I suspect the first batch was insufficiently sour and I wasn’t happy with the results in a pot. So for the next batch, I tried the yoghurt function on my Instant Pot. That came out as a lovely yogurty cream. So I threw the first batch in the Instant Pot. That came out as big curds, so I threw them into a cheesecloth and squished them into a mould. The remaining batches came out somewhere in between, but getting more and more curdy as time passed and my milk got increasingly sour. Lesson learned for next time is buy milk in smaller batches (I had purchased 21 litres and the yoghurt normally takes 8 hours, though I did shorten it to as little as 2 hours by the end).

The skyr pictures will need to wait until my next post, on the feast I am serving tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me tell you about what I did with the things that aren’t going to the feast. The messed up batch that is now a pretty round cheese (right) will get coated in fat and salt, and set aside to age. The whey went into ricotta (left, still in the cheesecloth after draining), and Brunost (Norwegian brown cheese), also known as Mysost (whey cheese) in the centre.

 

 

A few weeks ago, I went to the Jean Talon Market in Montreal – normally a big market full of local produce, but more than doubled in size towards the end of harvest season. Among the treasures were cabbages, each much bigger than my head. What a great excuse to use the sauerkraut weights that Tosten’s Pots had made for me last year! I have made sauerkraut before, and wrote about it Here  and  Here and Here among other places. I like sauerkraut a lot!

This time I used a relatively modern recipe for brined sauerkraut, from Stocking Up, a book from 1977. The recipe is very traditional, made with brine and cabbage in a big crock.

Mix your finely shredded cabbage with salt (3 Tbsp plus 2 tsp of pickling salt for each 10 quarts of cabbage). Pack the cabbage firmly, but not tightly into the crock, pressing own with a wooden spoon or paddle. Lay a clean cloth over the cabbage, then put on the sauerkraut weights. My weights were not heavy enough to ensure that the liquid woul reach the botto of the cover, so I added a container fille with water and two more weights. I allowed the cabbage to ferment at room temperature for about 9 days, changing the cloth each day and checking for scum to scrape off. Fermentation has ended when bubbles stop rising to the surface. It tasted good, so last night put it into jars and processed for 20 minutes, with a little leftover to eat fresh.

421706B8-9BE1-4C99-8CDF-C6EA4E173A51

20C8C1A2-B3BE-49FD-90F2-54C9877AC69E

Apple Jelly Candy

The last of the apples from last week’s apple harvest went into this recipe. I was totally lazy so I simply use the redacted recipe in The Medieval Kitchen by Redon, Sabban and Serventi. The original recipe is from Libro di cucina del secolo XI edited by Ludovico Frati. The recipe is as follows:

Peel and core 1 3/4 lb of apples then grate or purée them in a food processor, then put through a fine strainer to yield a very smooth puree ( I didn’t get a super smooth puree). Combine with 2 1/3 cups honey in a heavy saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or spatula, for an hour or 70 minutes.  
Add 1 tsp sweet spice mixture (which is made by combining 2 rounded Tbsp ground ginger, 2 rounded Tbsp ground cinnamon, 2 heaping Tbsp powdered bay leaves, 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves) about 15 minutes before cooking is complete.

The jelly mixture is done when it is a translucent amber in colour and when a drop of the mixture holds its shape when spooned onto a plate. When the jelly mixture is done, spread it out in a rectangular glass baking dish in an even layer a scant half inch thick. Cool, then leave to cure for several days covered in waxed paper or plastic wrap. When it is dry, cut it into diamond shapes and serve on a bed of fresh bay leaves.

It took mine several days to dry enough to even consider cutting. Eventually, I was able to cut it and remove the pieces from the baking dish. It is very sweet!

This month’s theme was harvest and since I spent part of today harvesting apples, apple moise was a logical choice. This is a rich apple sauce from 1591 (A Book of Cookrye, by A.W., http://jducoeur.org/Cookbook/Cookrye.html).

To make an Apple Moise.

Roste your Appples very fair, and when you have so doon, peele them and strain them with the yolk of an Egge or twaine, and Rosewater, and boile it on a Chafingdish of Coles with a peece of sweet Butter, put in sugar and ginger, and when you lay it in your dish, cast sinamon & Sugar on it.

Ingredients:

  • 8 apples (mine were probably some variant of Mackintosh because that’s what we harvested at Joffr and Dubhessa’s today, that’s what I used).
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 8 tsp rosewater
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried ginger
  • 2 yolks

I decided not to roast my apples. Instead I peeled them and removed the cores, then chopped them up and cooked with a tiny bit of water until they were soft and mushy.  I mashed any solid bits, then added the butter and continued to cook. Once everything looked smoth, I added in the spices and egg yolks, stirring vigorously at every stage. I started out using much less rosewater and cinnamon, as I was sure it would be too strong, but I kept adding and it was just fine.

Apparently it looked enough like cat food that helpful kitty wanted to check it out while I was trying to take a picture. She quickly gave up, though.

Apple Up

I made a quick trip to the home of Joffr and Dubhessa for Apple up, a day of picking apples and pressing some for cider. Unfortunately, a huge storm had blown through on Thursday evening, so all but the high-up apples had become windfalls. They were in good enough shape for cider, though. I had fun watching Joffr organize the chopping of apples and then putting them through his press. When he had gotten a bucket or more of juice, he opened up the press to show off the cheese (the pressed remnants of apple.

94077DF4-D6A6-43D9-84BF-B24BC04FA25E.jpeg

Honest, that is not a body being dragged off to the woods! It’s the apple bits; wasps love them so they needed to be away from the house.

757CB8E2-C9B7-49B1-972F-059E9BFD821A.jpeg

I picked enough windfall apples to make apple moyse for our cooks’ guild meeting tomorrow.

62A8B718-146F-4723-A9CA-B3D1113BCBAE.jpeg