15th century

Candied Egg Yolks – Yemas de Santa Teresa

I often find myself clicking through recipes I find online, and I find myself wandering down so many rabbit holes of information that I forget where it was I started. Such is how I found myself reading articles about modern egg yolk preservation, which lead me eventually to a Spanish candy called Yemas de Santa Teresa. It’s a simple, cute little soft candy made simply of egg yolks cooked in simple syrup, then formed into balls and rolled in sugar, sometimes dusted with cinnamon or lemon zest. Wikipedia (and what seems like a thousand blurbs that have simply regurgitated the information there) was the first stop on the trail: Spanish claims. Philippine derivations. Medieval origins.

Medieval? Great! But where?! When?! The commercialization of this treat in 1860 Ávila is great and all, but how far back does this actually go?

Unfortunately for me, my modern Spanish is limited and my Old Spanish is nonexistent, so for my online research, I had to rely on translations and/or a lot of Ctrl + F “yemas.” Walls were hit. Frustration abounded. Then I remembered something: Sweetened eggs are everywhere in medieval cuisine after the introduction of sugar:

Menagier de Paris 1393:

“OMELETTE FRIED WITH SUGAR. Take out all the whites and beat the yolks, then put some sugar in a frying-pan and let it melt, and then fry your yolks in it, then put on a plate, with sugar on them.”

And hadn’t I just seen something like this somewhere else recently?

Master Chef Bartolomeo Scappi served something like them in his 1570 Opera:

Book VI – 152. To poach eggs in sugar.
When some sugar has been clarified, put it into a silver or well-tinned copper saucepan, or into silver dishes, and heat it up. When the sugar is hot, put egg yolks into it along with a little rosewater. Give it heat from above with either a hot shovel or tourte pan lid. Serve those eggs in the same pan with sugar and cinnamon over them. You can also cook the whites with them.

Master Chef Lancelot de Casteau served them in the 1604 Ouverture de Cuisine:

To make English eggs.
Take a dozen egg yolks well beaten, a little sugar therein: then take melted sugar in a little pot: when it begins to boil take the beaten egg yolks, put them through a strainer, & let run into the boiling syrup: that the syrup will be covered therein, when well cooked on one side turn to the other: when well cooked take them out, & make three or four pieces so, & put on a plate three or four.

..English? Well, let’s hop over channel to see what we can find there…

1575 A Proper New Booke of Cookery calls them ‘Eggs in moonshine’:

“To make egges in mone shine. Take a dishe of rose water, and a dishe full of suger, and set them upon a chafingdish, and let them boile, then take the yolkes of 8. or 9. egges newlaid, and put them therto, every one from other, and so let them harden a little, and so after this maner serve them forth, and cast a little Cinnamon and suger.”

Finding that these candies were definitely made by top chefs in the Renaissance was great and all, but.. I still didn’t have anything that could point back to Spain, which I really felt was half of my goal. Giving up on my Google-fu, I called upon The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, which not only gave me a Spanish reference for this… but also a Portuguese reference to egg yolk sweets and their ovos moles.

“Ovos Moles
Considered one of the best-loved and most distinctive of Portuguese desserts, ovos moles (soft eggs) was created by the nuns of Aveiro, in the northern Beira Litoral province. Originally consisting of only egg yolks, sugar, and water,a modern variation substitutes rice flour for some of the yolks. …”

So, back to the internet I went, and I found another version of this

A Treatise of Portuguese Cuisine from the 15th Century; This Translation by Fernanda Gomes is based on a translation of ” Um tratado da cozinha portuguesa do século XV” at the Biblioteca Virtual – Miguel D Cervantes.

Canudos de ovos mexidos

Misturem as gemasde ovos e deitem-nas a cozer em calda rala, sem mexer, para que não se quebrem.Façam uma massa, bem sovada, de farinha de trigo, manteiga, água-de-flor e umapitada de açafrão. Em seguida abram-nocom um rolo, comopara pastel, façam os canudos e fritem-nos. Recheiem então os canudos com o doce de ovos já pronto, e passem-nospela calda de açúcar. Polvilhem comaçúcar e canela.

Beaten egg tubes

Beat egg yolks and scant syrup (I’m not sure if this refers to the overall amount or to the proportion of sugar to water),without stirring, so they won’t break. Make a dough, well kneaded, with wheat flour, butter, flower water and a pinch of salt. Next open it with a rolling pin as for pastries, make the tubes and fry them. Then fill the tubes with the already prepared egg sweet and dip them in the sugar syrup. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

At this point, I really couldn’t believe that I’d found my way through the rabbit hole in English and had managed to reach my destination without a crash course in Spanish and Portuguese vocabulary. Though not as in-depth as I’d have liked, I was able to trace the spread of this specific kind of sweet, and it is completely plausible that it was introduced earlier and just not documented, or else it lies in a book somewhere that hasn’t been translated or digitized.

So, armed with this knowledge, and a few Spanish YouTube videos for practicality’s sake, I set about the hands-on part of this project.

Recipe

Ingredients

12 egg yolks
1 c granulated sugar
3/4 c water
Powdered sugar

Directions

Combine the sugar and water, and cook over high heat until the syrup reaches soft ball stage, at about 235F. (You can test this without a thermometer by dropping a little syrup into cold water.)

Let the syrup cool slightly while you mix the yolks, then put the syrup back over low heat. Slowly pour the yolks into the syrup, whisking constantly. As the yolks cook, the mixture will pull away from the sides and become a thick paste. Let it cool on a plate.

With powdered sugar on your fingers to keep the paste from sticking, form small balls and roll them in powdered sugar, then serve.

Unfortunately, I only got one good photo of them on display at Kingdom A&S Faire, shortly before they disappeared…

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Ale and Onion Soup

One of my go-to recipes for sideboards and lunches is an ale and onion soup; in fact, it’s appeared at almost every sideboard I’ve cooked. It became my go-to because not only is it a solid vegetarian option, but it also really translates well to the modern palate; we commonly eat one form of it as French onion soup. I originally found a recipe for it on Gode Cookery, then modified it to my tastes from there. I always omit saffron due to cost, add minced garlic, and use stout or some other dark beer instead of ale. These are my personal preferences for this soup, and I always serve it with crusty bread.

The original recipe from Gode Cookery:

Oyle soppes. ¶ Take a good quantite of onyons, and myce hem, noyt to smale, & seth hem in faire water, And take hem vppe; and then take a good quantite of stale ale, as .iij. galons, And there-to take a pynte of goode oyle that is fraied, and cast the onyons there-to, And lete al boyle togidre a grete wile; and caste there-to Saffron and salt, And þen put brede, in maner of brewes, and cast the licour there-on, and serue hit forth hote.

– Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.

The Gode Cookery Translation:

Take a good quantity of onions, and mince them, not to small, & boil them in fair water, And take them up; and then take a good quantity of stale ale, as 3 gallons, And there-to take a pint of good oil that is fried, and cast the onions there-to, And let all boil together a great while; and cast there-to Saffron & salt, And then put bread, in manner of brews, and cast the liquid there-on, and serve it forth hot.

As for a recipe — I’m not sure I’ve ever made a small batch of this soup, and I always buy the giant bulk bag of onions for a feast, because I use a lot of them… So the rough recipe follows as such:

Ale and Onion Soup

Ingredients:
Lots of sweet yellow onions, finely sliced
Minced garlic
Butter or canola oil
4 bottles of dark beer
6-8+ boxes of broth
Sage
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Peele, halve, and thinly slice onions. Sautee with minced garlic in butter or canola oil, then add beer and broth. (Vegetable broth if offering to vegetarians, otherwise use beef broth.) Add salt, pepper, and sage to taste. Serve hot with bread and butter.

To make Dutch rice

While on my quest for a rice dish to accompany my stuffed cabbages, I couldn’t find many recipes that weren’t sweetened, and I had really been wanting savory rice for this menu. The recipe I settled on (and ultimately omitted the sugar from) was from Gent KANTL 15, a late 15th century/early 16th century Dutch cookbook, as translated by Christianne Muusers.

2.145 Om rijst te maken

Men moet rijst nemen en week het goed en droog het bij het vuur. Dan moet men een grote aardewerken pot nemen die schoon is. Dan moet men die in het vuur zetten met vleesnat dat niet te zout is en dat de pot niet al te veel vult (?). Schuim dan als het dik is af, en dan moet men de kruiderij erin doen. Dat is suiker, gember, kaneel, saffraan [en] langepeper. Dit is rijst op een vleesdag. Is het een gerecht op de visdag, dan moet men amandelmelk nemen in plaats van vleesnat. Vertrouw op uw smaak. Voor elke gelt [vocht] een half pond rijst en een half pond suiker.

2.145 To make rice

Take rice and steep it well and dry it near the fire. Then take a large, clean earthenware pot. Then put it in the fire with meat stock that is not too salty and does not fill the pot too much (?). Remove the froth ehan it is thick, and then add the spices. That is sugar, ginger, cinnamon, saffron and long pepper. This is rice on a meat day. Is it a dish on a fish day, then one must use almond milk instead of meat stock. Trust your own taste. For every gelt [liquid] a half pound rice and a half pound sugar.

I boiled 1 part white rice in 2 parts beef stock with drippings from the meat mixture I’d prepared for the stuffed cabbages, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. I omitted saffron and long pepper due to cost, opting for black pepper as a substitution for long pepper, though I know the taste is much different, due to it being on hand.

Leihen Helvetia! 2016 Feast Menu

For this year’s Helvetia, we’ve decided to tone down the menu, and which is a perfect excuse to get cheeky with a pub food-themed menu! I’ll be working with THL Cas this year, and I’m pretty excited about it! There will likely be some small additions, and I haven’t nailed down which sauces I want to serve yet, so those will come in time. But for now, here’s our offerings for this year’s Leihen Helvetia! Offerings are marked GF for gluten-free and V for ovo-lacto vegetarian.

Saturday breakfast:
Scrambled eggs – GF, V
Sausage
Toast (French & regular) – V
Waffles – V

Saturday lunch:
Ale & onion soup – V
Pork shoulder – GF
Bread – V

Saturday dinner/feast:
Chicken with sauces – GF
Red cabbage – GF, V
Fladen (flatbread pizza)
Pipefarces (breaded fried cheese sticks) – V
Veggie sticks – GF, V
Italian bread pudding – V
Pears stewed in wine – GF, V

Tartlets for Laurencia’s Vigil

I was honored to have Baron Janos ask me to contribute tartlets for Laurencia’s vigil at Ice Dragon. I’m not overly familiar with medieval English food, so I relied on recipes from the good folks over at Medieval Cookery.

Photo by Sir Ian
Photo by Sir Ian.

I made well over 10 dozen tartlet crusts using their recipe Short Paest for Tartes (A Proper New Booke of Cookery, 1575). The recipe calls for 1 1/2c flour, half a stick of butter, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of saffron, and ~ 1/2c water. After rubbing the butter into most of the ingredients, add water until the dough just sticks together. Let it rest, roll it out, and fill your pan with the dough. What I failed to notice was that I’d grabbed the self-rising flour instead of the all-purpose, so my tartlet crusts got a bit fluffy..

..which nixed the Ember Day Tarts from my planned offerings. So I went with the other two I’d planned: Chardewardon and Mon Amy.

Chardewardon (various 15th century books) is a light custard made by creating a “pear sauce” (as you would applesauce), then adding egg yolks to thicken it. The recipe calls for one egg yolk per pear, softened by simmering in wine. I added ginger and cinnamon while the pears softened, strained the liquid off, then added yolks and half the amount of sugar the recipe called for and simmered until it thickened. I grew frustrated with this recipe because it didn’t thicken as I’d expected it to in the pot, but rather thickened and sat up after cooling in the fridge overnight. The resulting custard is light and refreshing, and I’ll likely make it again for feasts and non-medieval functions.

Mon Amy (A Noble Boke of Cookry, 1468) is, essentially, a medieval cheesecake, and I chose it for this reason — who doesn’t like cheesecake? The recipe is more complex than the chardewardon by far, and I’m going to fiddle with it for future use. It calls for making fresh cheese, which is then strained per usual, and though I was wary of this step, I followed it anyway, and was met with the issue I’d anticipated.. Fresh cheese, after having the whey strained, is hard and crumbly. It doesn’t melt well, in my experience, and is..chewy. Simply “whisking until smooth” isn’t feasible, so I poured my hot cream and fresh cheese into a food processor and pulsed it a few times until the big chunks were reduced to..smaller ones. I returned the mixture to the pot and followed the rest of the directions.. However, the cream, sugar, honey, and yolks only thickened enough to create something like a thick porridge of fresh cheese curds, and it carmelized a bit as I prepared my ice bath to cool the pot down. (I’d thought it had scorched and was about to cry until I tasted it. Thankfully it hadn’t!) I wasn’t happy, but let it settle in the fridge overnight, and what I awoke to was a very dense, delicious cheesecake-like custard that needed to be softened a bit with heat before I could really spoon it into the tartlet shells. It wasn’t a disaster, but I’m going to revise my own methods for this recipe before serving it again.

15th Century German Cross-Stitch Script

Shortly after I took an interest in cross-stitch last year, I of course began to wonder if I could find medieval examples of it. It didn’t take long to find those answers, and the West Kingdom Needleworkers Guild was a great place to get started. I’m planning a simple introduction class to share what I’ve learned, but for now I’ll just share the script I charted from a 15th cent German piece. (This is really nothing spectacular, but I couldn’t find it anywhere else and figured someone else might be able to use it too. 🙂 )

I charted this in MS Paint, with “Gridlines” selected under the “View” tab (in the Windows 7 version). Each pixel, or square, represents 1 stitch. I can make this available in other colors upon request. The three letters in the dashed-line box (j, v, w) were not part of the alphabet at that time, so I created these letters based on the other letters in the extant piece.

 

medalphabet01

apparelofanamice