Medieval Gardening

This year I am trying to grow more medieval plants, along with my usual new world favourites. So far I have Cos lettuce growing in flats inside, along with cucumbers. Cos lettuce looks fairly similar to Romaine and is the lettuce believed to be most like the lettuces shown in illuminations such as this, from the Tacuinum Sanitatus:


I have skirrets (a Tudor root vegetable) and Good King Henry (a variety of goosefoot) undergoing cold moist stratification in my refrigerator (germinating on damp paper towel, inside a freezer bag). I am about to plant bayberry (useful for scenting soaps) and lavender in more starter pots. Outside, I have planted more lettuce (saved from my own seed from last year), peas, parsnips, kale, and madder (for use as a dye plant).

The next big jobs will be to rework my front garden so that it is primarily for herbs. My neighbour makes soap so I want to grow lots of things she can use.


I made sauerkraut this morning. The full documentation will follow shortly, but there is a recipe for sauerkraut (recipe 48) in Das Buch von Guter Spise, and Marx Rumpolt’s Ein New Kochboch (1581) has two recipes that call for sauerkraut. There is also a recipe for preserved cabbage in Erin Kochbuch aus dem Archiv des Deutschen Ordens.

i went with a basic recipe for sauerkraut by the quart, from Stocking Up. I sterilized a quart jar, lid and a rubber ring while I chopped white cabbage. I then packed the cabbage tightly into the jar until it was about one inch from the top. I added a teaspoon of salt, and a half teaspoon of honey, along with a few caraway seeds. Then I filled the jar slowly with boiling water, and inserted a knife to release air bubbles. I filled until the water was 1/2 an inch from the top, then sealed the lid tightly. Now I will put the jar into a basin and tuck it into my cool room downstairs for the next few weeks.


I have read that this cookbook has references to sauerkraut. I haven’t found them so far, but I did find a version of some recipes here: http://www.koch-welten.de/Rezeptemarxrumpolt.htm

I ran two through Google Translate because they were sausages.


Nimm frischen Speck und das Fleisch von den hinteren Keulen, hacke alles gut miteinander klein, würze dann mit Pfeffer und Salz.

Säubere sorgfältig die Därme des Spanferkels, fülle das Fleisch hinein und wirf die Würste in kaltes Wasser, dann werden sie steif und hart; nimm sie dann heraus, laß sie trocknen.

Jetzt kannst du sie braten oder mit Zwiebeln sauer anmachen, du kannst sie auch in ein wenig eingebranntem Mehl auftragen oder die Würste unter gemischte grüne Kräuter geben, so seyn sie gut und wolgeschmack.

Du kanst auch Bratwust von einem Spanferkel zubereiten:

Gib es warm auf den Tisch und Sauermilch darzu mit Jngwer bestreut.

Suckling Pig Sausages

Take fresh bacon and the meat from the hind limbs, chop everything together well, season with pepper and salt.

Carefully clean the intestines of the suckling pig, fill the meat and throw the sausages into cold water, then they become stiff and hard; Then take them out, let them dry.

Now you can fry them or make them sour with onions, you can also put them in a little burnt-in flour, or give the sausages under mixed green herbs, so they are good and cloudy.

You can also make bratwust from a suckling pig:

Put it warm on the table and sprinkle milk with it.

I’m not sure what is meant by putting them in burnt-in flour, though I suppose it could be something like a breading.


Nimm ein Stück gekochten Salm, hacke es mit grünen feinen Kräutern und weißen Brotbröseln klein, gib ein wenig Pfeffer dazu, dann gestoßenen Ingwer und verrühre zwei oder drei Eidotter, dann frische Butter, vermische alles gut miteinander und schaw, daß nicht versaltzen wirt.

Schlage einige Eier auf, mische ein wenig Mehl darunter und backe daraus zehn bis zwölf kleine Fladen, die dünn wie Papier sein sollen.

Nimm dann die Füllung von dem vorbereiteten Salm, lege sie auf die Fladen, rolle sie zu länglichen Würsten ein, gib sie nebeneinander in eine Tortenpfanne, gieße Butter darüber, setze sie in den Ofen, laß sie backen vnnd schaw, daß du es nicht verbrennest, denn es wird bald bak-ken.

Salm sausages

Take a piece of cooked salmon, chop it with green fine herbs and white breadcrumbs, add a little pepper, then sprinkle ginger, and season two or three egg yolks, then fresh butter, mix everything well, and be careful not to become stiff.

Beat some eggs, mix a little flour under them, and bake from them ten or twelve small pancakes, which should be thin as paper.

Then take the filling of the prepared salm, place them on the patties, roll them into oblong sausages, place them side by side in a pie pan, pour butter over them, place them in the oven, let them bake and be careful not to burn it , Because it will soon bak-ken.

We carry the sausages dry, so it is good and good taste.


Man trägt die Würste trocken auf, so ist es gut und Wohlgeschmack.

This article on hearths, ovens and fireplaces arrived in my mailbox and it had a few little treasures worth sharing (possibly more, depending on your interests). http://www.medievalhistories.com/open-hearths-ovens-fireplaces/

The first was this lovely image from 13th C Wurzburg of a man warming himself in front of a clay oven. I love the details of sausage hanging overhead, and his funnel-shaped cup that may hold gluwein or spiced beer. WEB-warming-by-the-stove-Muenchen-Bayerische-Staatsbibliothek-cod-lat-3900-fol-1v

Warming by the Stove. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Cod. lat. 3900 fol. 1v.

The other point of interest was the development of the stube, or heated living room in German homes. When a wall was put between the part of the oven where it was fed, the back part could radiate heat into a small private room. This is a word I remember from living in Germany, and a quick Google search showed that many restaurants/guest rooms (gaststube) still have large tiled ovens in their dining areas, similar to this one from Oberland, near Munich: gaststube

The article also mentioned chimneys dating to the Merovingian period, which led me down another rabbit hole to the Musée des Temps Barbares in Marle, the north of France. Their website has some interesting experimental archaeology, and has me keen to get back to dyeing wool. I want to know more about their evidence for all the plants they use, but mainly I’m happy because many are plants I can find where I live. http://www.museedestempsbarbares.fr/lhabitat-merovingien-de-goudelancourt-les-pierrepont/. Their bean soup recipe also has me excited to see if I can get more Martock beans from my garden this year. I was given a few beans last year and managed to harvest more. Maybe this year I can grow enough for a pot of soup.

Last week, some members of my bellydance class performed at Tampon Tuesday, a local fundraiser for women living in shelters and half-way houses. The event was being held in a restaurant with no backstage area, so I finally needed to acquire a decent wrap so my costume would be hidden until it was time to perform. I came across a pattern here for a kimono style robe: http://peppermintmag.com/sewing-school/kimono-robe/.

I had a limited amount of fabric (some nice cotton left over from a nightie my mom had made for my daughter), and even less time. Therefore, I dispensed with the lining and the interfacing. The pattern says it’s one-size-fits-most but that isn’t quite true. I’m a bit taller and wider than most, but not hugely so. I would have been happier with a shorter robe that had more coverage in front. Still, it will do the job.



A few weeks ago, I had the honour of celebrating the elevation of my friend Eluned into the Order of the Laurel, the highest arts award in the Society for Creative Anachronism. A traditional symbol for arts students in the Society is a green belt. I had never gotten around to giving one to Eluned, so when I heard she was making a green outfit for the occasion, I decided it would be a great little inside joke to make her a Viking-style belt with a laurel wreath carved into the buckle. There were only a few minor problems with this plan. It had been years since I had made a buckle, I didn’t know how to tablet weave, and it turned out the green outfit was actually for someone else. I didn’t let any of this stop me.

The pattern I used for the tablet weaving is based on one I found on line. Over the years, I have looked at many patterns and had a couple of people teach me the basics, but it never stuck. This time, after several tries, I was successful. This is the site I used: http://sca.claypool.me/weaving/basictabletweaving.html. The buckle itself is based on two buckles from Yorkshire. One is from 10th C Goodmanham, and the other is from 10th or 11th C York (Bone, Antler, Ivory & Horn by Arthur MacGregor, p 104).

bone buckle


Every once in a while, you come across a recipe that blows away any preconceptions about medieval food in recipe books being complicated or exotic. That was the case this week with Pedrada, a chicken recipe I found on The Medieval Spanish Chef (http://www.medievalspanishchef.com).

Pedrada likely means spotted chicken; in this case, it was roasted with spices and served with a sauce made from the leftover liquid. The only problem I found with this recipe was that the quantities called for cinnamon but the instructions mentioned cilantro. Since I didn’t have cilantro, I used a smaller amount of coriander (the seed of cilantro, with a similar flavour).

The original recipe comes from La Cocina Hispano-Magrebi Durante La Epoca Almohade, from a 13th C manuscript published in 1604 and translated to Spanish in 1966 by Ambrosio Huici Miranda. It is #95 in the collection: Gallina asada al horno.

Se limpia una gallina gorda, joven y tierna; se sala con sal y tomillo, se descortezan quatro o cinco granos de ajo y se meten entre los muslos y dentro de su interior; se maja pimiento y cilantro seco, con lo que se espolvorea; se rehoga con almori y aceite y un poco de agua y se envia al horno, si Dios quiere.

Clean a young, tender, fat chicken; sprinkle with salt and thyme, peel four or five cloves of garlic and put them between the muscles and into the cavity; grind pepper and dry cilantro and sprinkle it over; fire it with murri and oil and a bit of water and put it in the oven, if God wills.

The Medieval Spanish Chef generally follows this recipe but heats oil and murri in a pan, then adds water and pours the mixture over the chicken in a roasting pan. I followed that version, using my earthenware baking pan and it was delicious. It was very tender and left me with enough liquid to thicken with flour for a tasty sauce. For greater accuracy, I would suggest browning the chicken in the oil and murri mixture, with a bit of water added as needed so things don’t dry out. Either way, there is a risk of losing some of the herbs and spices that had been sprinkled on the chicken.

I used a small chicken, a sprinkling of salt, 2 tsp thyme, about 1 tsp freshly ground pepper, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp murri, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 c water, and 1 Tbsp flour to thicken the sauce.

It made a lovely hot chicken sandwich.