Archive for January, 2018

Back in the fall, when I was drowning in horseradish, I came across this 15th C Spanish recipe for candied horseradish:

Recipe by Daniel Myers


1/4 cup fresh horseradish (approx.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water


Wash and scrape horseradish until it’s clean and white. Cut into two inch strips about half the thickness of a pencil. Place in lightly salted, boiling water and cook until tender – about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Put water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add horseradish and reduce heat to keep it at a low simmer, stirring regularly. If you use chopsticks to stir the pieces around then you can easily test the syrup to see if it forms soft threads. When it does, remove the pan from heat and take out the horseradish pieces one at a time and lay on a wire rack to dry briefly. Coat each piece with sugar and store in an airtight container.

Source [Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits]: CAPITOL .VIIJ.e PER CONFEGIR LO RAVE GUALESCH Pendreu lo rave gualesch e reu lo e feu lo net be ab aygua. E apres telar l eu menut tot, e apres metreu lo al foch ab aygua e metreu hi un bon puny de sall e bulla tant que sia ben mol. E apres treureu lo n e metreu lo en aygua freda .viiij.o jorns mudant tots jorns l aygua. E, com sia be deselat, aureu fussa vostra mell, e, ben escumada axi com dit es, metreu lo ab la mel o axerop e bulira ferm tro que lo axerop sia fet que fassa fills. E a mester en una llr. de rava galesch .j. llr. de mel.

Chapter Eight To Candy Horseradish. Take the horseradish and scrape it and make it clean with water. And then chop it all finely, and then put it on the fire with water and add a good handful of salt and boil it enough so that it is very soft. And then take it and put it in cold water for nine days, changing the water each day. And, once all the salt is removed, have your honey made, and, well skimmed as it is said before, add it all to the honey or syrup and boil it rapidly so that the syrup is done when it makes threads. And for one pound of horseradish one pound of honey is enough. (Vincent Cuenca, trans.) http://medievalcookery.com/recipes/horseradish.html

I made a small batch, following the instructions of the redaction exactly. It was okay, but still had a slight horseradish flavour.

I decided to try again, this time winging it a little and cooking the syrup until it crystallized in the pan. I may also have boiled the horseradish a bit longer. The resulting candy was crisp and heavily caramalized (to the edge of burnt) but didn’t taste of horseradish. I think this version is actually my favourite.

Then I visited my friend Lucia and she showed off her version. She had used hone, as in the original, and sliced the horseradish far smaller than the recipe called for. She said she had boiled the heck out of her horseradish before cooking in the honey. It was beautiful, and very tasty, so of course I had to try another batch. Thankfully, it’s the last of the horseradish for this year. I cut my pieces very tiny, and I definitely boiled it much longer than the recommended 15 minutes. I think it would have benefitted from several changes of water as it soaked for a day or so, because there is still a bit of horseradish taste to the candy. The honey is much stickier, of course, but it does give a lovely colour and texture, and it is quite tasty.

From left to right: original recipe, crystallized in the pot, cooked in honey. For the record, the bowls on the left hold only a fraction of the candy. I really do have a lifetime supply.



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While in Afghanistan, I discovered jujubes. No, not the sickly sweet jelly candies. These are fruits. They come from a small tree first cultivated in South Asia. Jujubes are drupes, with a single seed similar to an olive pit.


In Persian traditional medicine it is used in combination with other herbal medicines to treat colds, flu and coughing, according to Wikipedia. This is consistent with what the man displaying them told me.

The jujube tree was probably known in the Greek world from the time of Alexander the Great. One of the scientists accompanying Alexander to India described what appears to be the jujube. It also appears in Latin literature as a an exotic tree “recently arrived to Italy” (Pliny’s Natural History, cited in “The Jujube Tree by Alain Touwaide in Health and Healing from the Medieval Gardewn, p 88). Galen knew of jujubes but did not think highly of their nutitious value (ibid, p 92). Medicinal uses for jujubes were recorded in the 3rd C, but jujubes disappeared from Western medical and botanical literature in the 4th C. However, they continued to be recorded occasionally in Byzantine literature. They seem to have been rediscovered after the 10th C, and in the 11th C, the reputation of jujubes changed from being low quality and difficult to digest, possibly because the author (Simeon Seth) used Arabic sources. It appears that physicians valued jujubes and grew them from Baghdad to Andalusia. However, there is no archaeological evidence to show that jujube trees grew in the Byzantine world. (Ibid, pp 94-100)

The other pictures have little to do with jujubes, but I wanted to save them someplace. The upper picture is of different varieties of pomegranates. The lower picture has dried fruits and nuts including grapes, raisins, jujubes, and pine nuts (not the white ones we are used to, but large dark brown-black nuts).

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Twelfth Night

I have been working on a super secret project for Twelfth Night festivities this year and it turned out even better than expected. My belly dance class had developed a fun dance based on a Soca dance from St. Lucia, which we performed at the big class party in December. Since then, I have spent many hours adding more beads and sequins to the costume, and today I performed the dance as a solo for the silly arts and sciences contest at the event. I had lovely documentation that plagiarized liberally from Wikipedia and a few other sources to link early Germanic winter festivities to Carnival in 13th C Speyer (not too from my home city of Metz), to the discovery of St. Lucia and its colonization, and African influences on Carnival costumes. I even worked in a reference to Tacitus.

There is something rather fun about being a stodgy middle-aged housewife in your medieval game for many years, then showing up in something foolish. Today I chose my heraldic fool’s costume, which hasn’t seen the light of day in at least a decade. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find either of the matching hats, so I had to settle for the one from another costume. This should have been enough to warn people something was up, but I still managed to shock by slipping off my big cloak, putting on a feather headdress, and dancing to Allez Allez. I don’t have any pictures of the solo, but I’m the one on the left in this group picture from our Chrismas show:


To make my day even sillier, I found a bean in my cake and became the King (or possibly co-Queen) of Misrule with the lovely Lady Gwendolyn. We had a very silly court with knecht Ruprecht doling out punishment for sins reported to us by people at the event.


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