ouverture de cuisine

Wine Jellies

Like most modern Americans, the term ‘aspic’ conjures images of horrific molded ham and pea gelatin creations from 60’s-era cookbooks, and even sweet jello has fallen largely out of popularity. So when I was served aspic at a feast a few years ago, and fish aspic at that, I hesitated, but was overwhelmingly pleasantly surprised when I gave it a fair shot. So when I kept coming across aspics in my recipe research a few years later, instead of skipping them, I bookmarked them for later when I was ready to work up to them. As I continued, I was extremely pleased to find what I’d decided would be my starting point: something simple and familiar to me as a former college student: Wine jellies, or as we laughingly termed them, medieval jello shots.

The concept of what I consider this basic, ‘foundation’ jelly is very simple: Prepare sweet mulled wine, add the gelling agent, let it cool, and serve.

The Research

Master chef Lancelot de Casteau wrote in Ouverture de Cuisine (1604, France):

To make jelly.

Take a pot of white wine, & chafe it very hot, then put therein three quarters of a pound of sugar, one ounce of cinnamon, one ounce of nutmeg, & one ounce of coarsely ground ginger, & put it therein to temper the hot wine, & let it sit three or four hours, then pass the wine through a strainer, at the end to have the spices removed, then have a bag of white cloth like those used to strain hippocras, then cast into the wine three spoons of cow’s milk, & have a little handful of coarsely ground almonds without peels, put them into the bag, then pass the wine through the bag two or three times, until it becomes clear, & take two ounces of good husblat [isinglass?] well washed, & put them to boil with a little wine & water, until well melted, then cast it into the wine, when it is passed, through the bag it will make the prize of the jelly: when the jelly is half cold cast it into plates, & let cool until it becomes firm. Note if it doesn’t become at all firm enough, adding more husblat will help, because it could be that the husblat isn’t as good as others.

Master chef Bartolomeo Scappi wrote an extensive passage in his Opera (1570) regarding wine jelly that details making the it from calves’ feet, how to prepare it in a variety of vessels and moulds, and even using it in a syringe to decorate other moulded jellies. I haven’t included it here because it’s a couple pages’ worth of material, but for those who own the Terence Scully book, you can find it in Book II p. 258 – 241.  To prepare jelly from wether’s and calf’s feet, with which you can fill various moulds and egg shells.

We find in Nyeuwen Coock Boeck (1560, Netherlands):

2.16. To make a jelly of one quarter (liquid measure) wine

One should add two lead ginger, one lead cinnamon, a half lead nutmeg, a half lead cloves, a half lead grains of paradise, a quarter lead saffron, and some sugar, a half lead liquorice (?see glossary), 3 lead thickening, a half lead galanga. First one should cook the thickening with wine, than one must strain it. The spices one must crush and let it steep in the wine. Then one must strain it through a cloth and [add] salt to it. Then one must boil it together and let it settle (=gelatinize).

2.21. To make jelly of a quart wine

Take 4 lead thickening and steep it in wine. Then cook it in a pan and stir to prevent burning and strain it through a sieve. Then take 1 quarter lead cloves, one quarter lead nutmeg, 1 quarter lead galanga, a half lead ginger, 1½ lead cinnamon [and] an eighth lead saffron. Crush this in a mortar not a lot, and pour it in the wine. Bring it to the boil in a new earthenware pot, let it cool, and pour it several times through a wine cloth. Then take 2 lead syrup  with which one colours it, and mingle it with the strained wine. Then take wine and thickener and pour it in the pot and bring it once more to the boil. Stir to prevent burning, then strain it through a cloth and pour it in the dishes.

Note: Turnsole is red cloth with which one can colour red every thing one wants.

The Recipe

Isinglass is a gelatin made from fish bladders and is modernly only readily available from brewing suppliers. In this form, it is mixed with citric acid, among other things, because it used as a clarifying agent, and so it is not a viable modern method to make jelly. Boiling animal hooves in my rental apartment is also not viable, so modern unflavored gelatin packets are the most practical gelatin to use for modern cooks.

I also used a ratio of 1 cup liquid per 3 packages of gelatin, which produces a soft ‘gummy’. In this trial, I learned that 0.75oz of gelatin is enough to produce a solid red wine gummy that holds its form well, but 0.75oz of gelatin makes a more runny white wine gummy — so in the future, a full 1.0 oz of gelatin will be used in the white wine to maintain its shape (and also provide an easier release from the mould).

In the medieval and Renaissance periods, moulds would have been made from pewter or wood. For food safety and practical reasons, my moulds are made of silicone and can be purchased from Amazon or Michael’s.

Ingredients

1 c white wine (steeped in nutmeg, ginger, galangal, and cinnamon to taste)
1 c red wine (steeped in cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and galangal to taste)
Granulated sugar (to taste)
7 .25oz unflavored gelatin packets

This recipe prepares 2 batches – one white wine batch, one red one batch. Each batch is enough to fill more than 2 trays of gummies.

Directions

Bring wine, spices, and sugar to boil, then set aside to steep for a couple of hours. When ready to use it, strain out the spices – it usually takes 2-3 passes through a cloth for the liquid to run clear.

Put the wine mixtures back in their pots, then bring to a boil again. Mix in 3 packages of gelatin into the red wine and 4 packages of gelatin into the white wine, whisking until thoroughly blended. Spoon or pour into moulds, then chill.

Briefly set the moulds in a shallow pan of warm water for 5-10 seconds to assist in releasing the gelatin. (The warm water melts the gelatin, so don’t let them sit too long in hot water!)

Sources

Myers, Daniel. 2012. Translation of “Ouverture de Cuisine” based on the transcription by Thomas Gloning et. al. http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/ouverture.html

Muusers, C. and Gerard Vorselman. Nyeuwen Coock Boeck, (KANTL Gent 15) (1560); Een nieuw zuidnederlands kookboek uit de vijftiende eeuw. Scripta 17. (transl. of title: A new southern Dutch cook book from the fifteenth century). http://www.coquinaria.nl/kooktekst/KA15Gent02.htm

Scully, Terence. 2011. The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570).

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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…

Stuffed Eggs, in a French Style

While browsing through Ouverture de Cuisine, I found another recipe for stuffed eggs and decided to add it to the menu with the stuffed cabbages. I substituted the raw egg yolks for mayonnaise for a smoother, creamier consistency, and skipped the sweet and sour sauce.

As an aside, as I look at this transcription, I realize that there’s not much more I can add to or otherwise modernize here; stuffed/deviled eggs don’t get much easier than this. I always make egg-filling to taste, so the best I can advise is to have fun!

To make stuffed eggs.

Make to boil eggs hard, & cut them in two pieces: then take the yolks out of both sides, & chop very finely with parsley, marjoram, a little salt, & put therein the yolks of raw eggs, chop it well together: then refill the whites with this: afterwards frying them in butter, then make a little batter thereon, that is sweet & sour, & serve so.

Stuffed Cabbages

Next up is stuffed cabbages from Ouverture de Cuisine!

I initially went searching for this recipe when this year’s Scarlet Apron Cooking Challenge theme was announced — modern family dinners presented in a medieval fashion. The first thing that came to mind was a traditional Polish dinner: stuffed cabbage rolls, noodles or rice, and mushrooms of some sort. My research lead me to Ouverture de Cuisine and The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, but I was struck with inspiration while reading. While Scappi’s cookbook did indeed have cabbage rolls, why in the world should I stop there when both cookbooks had recipes for whole stuffed cabbages?

To make a stuffed cabbage.

Take a red cabbage that is not too large, & put it to boil whole sweetly, & leave it so a long time that you can open the leaves the one behind the other, while the leaves of the cabbage are large like a fist, cut that out, & put chopped meat therein that it will be arrayed like the other meats with eggs & spices, & then layer the cabbage with the leaves all around, that it will be well bound, & put it to cook, sausages with, or that which you want.

Though Scappi is specific about boiling his stuffed cabbages in meat broth or water, de Casteau is more vague. I took the opportunity to boil it as I prefer: in beef broth, red wine, apple cider vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. For the first boil, I let it go for about 20-30min at a full boil while I prepared a meat mixture of ground beef, garlic, and onions with sage, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, bound after cooling with egg. This meat mixture is the base of my meatballs, and I figured would be suitable for a trial run of this cabbage.

And then the fun began..

Peeling the outer layers was tricky at first, but the closer I got to the core, the cooler the cabbage became, and I was very surprised that it was still cold at the center. I carefully cut the heart of the cabbage out, then replaced it with a large handful of ground beef mixture.

After folding the first layer of leaves back over it, I put in another layer of meat, folded the next layer on, and put in the last layer of beef before folding the rest of the leaves back. I wrapped the whole cabbage in twine, then set it back to boiling for another 20-30 min in the wine and vinegar that I’d refreshed with a bit more of all ingredients.

The result was beautiful and tasty. It was a bit of a pain to cut and serve, so perhaps decorative pennants on skewers may be part of the serving plan next time.

White Roman Tart ala Ouverture de Cuisine

 

I found the rough translation of Ouverture de Cuisine (1604) over at Medieval Cookery as I was researching some late-medieval/Renaissance fare, and I kindof fell in love with this cookbook. One of the top reasons being this tart.

The transcription by Thomas Gloning et. al reads:

Pour faire tourte blanche a la Romaine.

Prennez vne liure de blanc fromage de creme, puis prennez le blanc de six oeufs, & le battez longuement qu’il le face escumer dessus comme vne neige, & laissez vn peu reposer sans battre, puis prennez l’escume de dessus, & le iettés dedans le fromage, puis rebattés encor le blanc de rechef qu’ilface [>qu’il_face] encor escumer comme le premier, & iettés sur le fromage, & faictes encor deux ou trois fois ainsi, puis prennés deux onces de beurre fondu, vn peu de gingembre, vn peu de basilicque hasché, & faictes tourte, & cuire comme les autres.

The translation at Medieval Cookery falls in line with what I would expect from the transcription, with what I remember of French:

To make a white Roman tart.

Take a pound of white cheese of cream, then take the whites of six eggs, & beat then well until a foam forms on the surface like snow, & let a little stay in without beating, then take the foam from thereon, & cast it into the cheese, then beat the whites at the top until again foam forms on the surface like the first time, & cast onto the cheese, & make again two or three times as such, then take two ounces of melted butter, a little ginger, a little chopped basil, & make the tart, & cook like the others.

This reads to me like beautiful, light, and fluffy cheesecake. So, I made it. The first time I made it was at home, with a gluten-free pie crust to serve to friends, and the second time was at the July Althing in Port Oasis, with the assistance of three awesome folks!

The recipe is fairly straight-forward, but I did make a few changes to accommodate what I wanted this to be (– adding sugar, omitting butter, using Philadelphia cream cheese). I also didn’t have a controlled test oven — the first time, our power went out after this had been in for about 10 minutes, but sustained plenty of heat to finish baking at 40 minutes. The second time was with a convection oven, which I’m not so familiar with using, and I had to actively monitor and adjust temperature.


White Roman Tart

16oz cream cheese (2 bricks)
6 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
Grated ginger
Fresh basil, finely chopped
Prepared deep dish pie crush

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. Cream the cream cheese and sugar in a food processor, until smooth.
  3. Separate the eggs — yolks into the food processor and whites into a separate bowl. Pulse the cream cheese mixture until the yolks are fully incorporated, then pour into a bowl. Fold in about 3 or 4 large pinches each of ginger and basil, then set aside.
  4. Use electric mixer or whisk to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold this into the cream cheese mixture, then pour into the prepared pie crust.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until firm in the middle.
  6. For a more dense consistency like modern cheesecake, serve chilled. For a more custard-like consistency, serve hot.