Sir Ian Kennovan was elevated to the Order of the Laurel this weekend, and I had the honor of contributing to his reception food. Instead of my go-to meatballs, I decided to play around with something I’ll be making for my 16th century German feast at Helvetia — poached pears.
Sabina Welserin has eight recipes for pear tarts in her 1553 cookbook: one “exotic” tart, one Italian tart, and six decidedly German tarts (one is specifically for quinces but mentions that pears can be cooked the same way). The last six all have two of the same ingredients in common: sugar and cinnamon. Three of those six use raisins, three use cloves, three use wine, and one uses ginger. These are all common ingredients found used together throughout the entire cookbook, so I decided to combine them all into one tart. I also chose to poach the pears per recipe 113 instead of letting them fully bake in the oven given the smaller serving size and shorter oven-time.
To start, I peeled and poached seven anjou pears in about a bottle of cabernet sauvignon with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, and I tossed in regular and golden raisins to rehydrate with them. After straining the fruit out of it, I let the wine reduce further and set it aside.
While the fruit cooled, I pre-heated the oven and made short paest loosely following the recipe found at Medieval Cookery. Saffron was omitted due to cost, but the rest of the recipe follows the same. Rub butter into all-purpose flour until it makes crumbs, then bind it with a bit of water and egg yolks. Don’t overwork it, and let it rest in the fridge. At this point I remembered that I don’t have a rolling pin, so I took the empty cabernet bottle and put it in the fridge to chill as well.
I then chopped the pears and tossed them (and the raisins) in more sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I then floured my surface and my wine bottle/rolling pin, rolled out the crust, and pressed circles out for my tartlet pan. I then buttered the tartlet pan, pressed the crusts in, and sprinkled sugar over the bottoms of the crusts. I then spooned the fruit into the crusts, poured about a teaspoon of the mulled wine reduction over the fruit, and sprinkled with more sugar.
I baked these at 375* for about 15 minutes using 12-cavity non-stick tartlet pan. In between batches, I let the dough and the bottle chill in the fridge to keep the dough from getting too sticky. I also only made three dozen and had about 2 or 3 whole pears left over. I’ll probably make a large tart with the leftover fruit this week.
And here are Sabina Welserin’s (relevant) six pear tart recipes that I drew from:
73 A pear tart
Take pears and peel them and cut them into thin strips, take beef marrow, cinnamon, sugar and raisins and let it bake. If you do not have any marrow then use butter or another fat.
80 A pear tart
Cut out of each pear eight or twelve slices, according to how large the pear is, fry them in fat, take them after that and lay them nicely around the tart and sprinkle them under and over with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and raisins and let it bake.
87 To make a pear tart
Then take the pears and peel them and remove the cores and divide the pears into two parts and cut them into slices as wide as the pear is and turn them over in a little good flour. Then heat up some fat and roast them therein, until they are a little browned, afterwards prepare the pastry shell and lay them on top of it, close together. Take cinnamon, sugar and raisins mixed and sprinkle them on the crust and over the top of it, let it bake a while. After wards take Malavosia, put sugar into it and cinnamon, let it boil together, pour it over the tart and let it cook a short while.
107 To make a quince tart
Take quinces and cook them well and strain it and put sugar, cinnamon and strong wine thereon. Apple and pear tarts are made in the same way.
113 To make a good pear pudding
Cook the pears in good wine and strain them and put cinnamon, cloves and sugar therein and a toasted Semmel, then it is ready.
131 To make a pear tart
Take the pears and peel them, then fry them in fat, put them into a mortar and pound them well, put rose sugar and rose water in it, put ginger, cloves, cinnamon and sugar therein. Taste it, make a pastry shell as for other tarts, make no cover for the top and bake until crisp.