I’ve been a member of the SCA for more than 20 years and I’m interested in a bunch of things;
Mostly 14th/15th Century, with a focus on stuff for Rose based on pictures from the period, including aiming to use typical constructions and simplifications made for children’s clothes.
Making tents I’ve designed many tents and my husband and I usually make and sell one or two per year. The information here includes patterns so others can make them, and discussion of what’s required to make the construction and set up of tents as historically informed as possible.
A small post and beam building with a brick fireplace based on a 15th C cottage. I’ve done all of the design, material selection and sourcing as well as the project management of the construction. I’m lucky to have a household who are keen to do this sort of work at my instigation. We’ve been working on it since February 2006 and it’s still not finished…
Cooking The cooking is what started the kitchen building. From cooking over an open fire while camping, I’ve developed a strong interest in the technology of kitchens – ovens, boiling furnaces, spits, fire dogs etc. And knowing about the technology has also fed an interest in cooking techniques that are more in keeping with the equipment available in a medieval kitchen – boiling, pottages etc.
I also enjoy using my project management skills to cook feasts using period recipes and preparation techniques.
This blog is the documentation people have been hassling me to write for years.
I looked at a number of resources and techniques (see below) and decided to use the method from “Cooking and Dining in Medieval England” by Peter Brears. It was well illustrated and seemed to be amenable to my timetable. Unfortunately, just after I had started the process, I read his references more closely and discovered that it was based on a recipe/technique from 1869!! On the other hand, it’s not very different from the recipe 12, at the bottom of this page.
Here’s the summary;
1. Scald and shave the head 2. Cut from the throat to chin 3. Expose the bottom jaw 4. Turn over and expose the skull 5.Remove the face, and cure it with salt etc;
I did this part on the weekend prior to the event. It was pretty straightforward to get a head from my local market – I had about 8 to choose from and they were cheap! Only $5, so I bought 2 in case of stuff ups. On a first reading of the instructions on Saturday, after a long day of pre-prep, we took only the skin and left the meat on the skull. Then on Sunday, as I prepared to cure the head I realised that I needed all of the meat and should have aimed for a bare skull – lucky I had two! I removed the skull from the head after cleaning the skin as best I could and cured it, and the extra pork shoulder (cut into strips), using the cure we had used for bacon last year:
Prague powder number 1 – 62.5g x7=440g Dark brown sugar – 50g x7 = 350g large crystal salt -45g x7 = 315g
After rubbing the cure in thoroughly, I put it all into a close fitting pot and stored it in the fridge. I had to be careful of the ears – I didn’t want to cure them with a fold! I rubbed the meat for 10 min each day after that.
6. Sew up the throat and other orifices
Did this the day before serving. This needed two people, one with an awl and the other with needle and thread. It took ages but will probably be faster next time. I accidentally grabbed polyester thread, but we googled the melting point and decided that it would be OK with being boiled. Next time I’ll make sure it’s cotton.
7. Pack with pork forcemeat and strips of cured port, sewing up the neck with a piece of cured belly-pork
The pork forcemeat included bacon, rabbit and more shoulder pork. I got the market to mince the pork and rabbit for me, and then minced the bacon in my food processor. I used the leftover zervelat spice mix to flavour it. I couldn’t really taste the rabbit and I’m not sure I would bother next time. There was too much forcemeat but that was handy because we put it in bags and boiled it with the head.
8. Bandage down the ears 9. Tie in a piece of linen cloth 10. Truss with bandage, boil, cool.
After all of the bandaging, the whole thing was boiled for 5 hours. It was 11pm before it finished. I took it out, unwrapped it, put it back in the pot for safe keeping and travel, put skewers in to hold the ears up straight while it cooled and put the lot in the fridge.
11. Rub with soot and lard, erect the ears, and garnish with the tusks and eyes, shield etc. in lard
I used black food colouring mixed with lard to colour the head. It was very effective but got black crap everywhere if we weren’t careful. The ear skewers were replaced with rosemary, the already cut and parboiled parsnip chips were raided for tusks (with a skewer for stability) and the carrot rounds and random round things I found in the kitchen were used for eyes.
I should have sliced the spare forcemeat and plattered it prior to the presentation, so the head table could have some while we cut the thing open and sliced it up. The black lard made cutting the head hard. I had intended the head only for the high table, but ended up having about 6kg of meat – plenty for everyone to have a taste.
5 How to cook a wild boar’s head, also how to prepare a sauce for it.
A wild boar’s head should be boiled well in water and, when it is done, laid on a grate and basted with wine, then it will be thought to have been cooked in wine. Afterwards make a black or yellow sauce with it. First, when you would make a black sauce, you should heat up a little fat and brown a small spoonful of wheat flour in the fat and after that put good wine into it and good cherry syrup, so that it becomes black, and sugar, ginger, pepper, cloves and cinnamon, grapes, raisins and finely chopped almonds. And taste it, however it seems good to you, make it so.
7 To make a sauce in which to put a haunch of venison
Lard it well and roast it and make a good sauce for it. Take Reinfal and stir cherry syrup into it, and fry Lebkuchen in fat and chop good sweet apples, almonds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, ginger, currants, pepper and raisins and let it all cook together. When you want to serve it, then pour the sauce over it. It is also for marinating a boar’s head. Then cook it in two parts water and one third vinegar. The head of a pig is also made in this manner.
12 To make a boar’s head
Take a head, large or small, boil it in water and wine, and when it is done, see to it that the bones remain connected all together, and completely remove the meat from the bones of the head. Pull the rind off carefully, remove the white from the meat and finely chop the remaining boar’s head meat, put it in a pan, season it well with pepper, ginger and a little cloves, nutmeg and saffron and let it become good and hot over the fire in the broth in which the head was cooked. Afterwards take the cooked head and place it on a white piece of cloth and lay the skin on the bottom of the cloth, then spread the chopped meat once again on the head and decorate it with the separated skin. And if you do not have enough from one head, then cut the rind from two and decorate the head completely, as if it were whole. After that take the snout and the ears out of the cloth. Also draw the teeth together again with the cloth while it is still hot, so that the head remains intact and let it lie together overnight. In the morning cut the cloth again from the head, then it remains all together. Spread it with a mince of apples, almonds and raisins. Then you have a lordly dish.
Jowtes of Almaund Mylke (Forme of Cury 89) Take erbes; boile hem, hewe hem, and griynde hem smale. Take almaundus iblaunchede; grynde hem and drawe hem up with water. Set hem on the fire and seeth the jowtes with the mylke, and caste theron sugur & salt, and serve it forth.
This is from Pleyn Delit. I gathered nettles and chickweed locally and also used a bunch of parsley. I didn’t make a strong enough almond milk, so it was a bit watery.
Bruet of Egges to Potage ( Ancient Cookery, From a Collection of the Ordinances and Requisitions for the government of the Royal Household made in Divers Reigns from King Edward III to Kingd William and Queen Mary. Arundel MS 344) Take faire watur, and let hit boyle, then do therin butter and gobbettes of chese, and let hit set togedur; takes egges and wrynge hom thurgh a streynour, and bete hom well togedur, and medel hit wel with verjous, and do hit in the pot, but let hit not boyle, and do therto pouder, and serve hit forthe.
I based this on Stracciatella, normally made with stock, parmesan cheese and eggs. I found cheap duck frames so I made duck stock the previous day and then boiled it and got my assistants to beat eggs and grated parmesan together before wisking them into the hot stock. They added my homemade verjuice, salt and pepper to taste. It was very popular and from the 20L I made, I brought only 2 litres home.
I’ve written about the making of the boar’s head here. I think we mucked up the timing for this one. Next time I’ll cut up the spare head stuffing and serve it to the high table while we cut up the head. It was pretty tasty, although I’m not sure I would bother with the rabbits next time. There were no leftovers.
This was based on a recipe in Peter Brear’s book, “All the King’s Cooks: The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace”. He says it’s from Murrell 1638, which I haven’t been able to find online. The recipe is awesome and fabulous for pre-prep.
I boiled then very gently simmered all the 10kg of pork in 8 litres of white wine, water to cover, pepper and bay leaves. When it was cooked (a bit more than 2 hours) I turned it off and left it to cool overnight. Then I put it all into a 20L lidded bucket with a light brine (270mL salt to 10L water) and put it in the fridge until I was sure it was really cool. Then I took it out and left it for 2 days. At the feast we just had to pull it out of the brine and slice it. It was delicious, flavoursome and moist. There were no leftovers.
Pies de Parys (Mss Harl 4016)
Take and smyte faire buttes of porke and buttes of vele togidre, and put hit in a faire potte. And putte thereto fair broth and a quantite of wyne, and lete all boile togidre til hit be ynogh; and then take hit fro the fire and lete kele a litel, and cast thereto raw yolkes of eyren and poudre of gyngevere, sugre and salt, and mynced dates, reysyns of corence. Make then coffyns of feyre past, and do it therynne, and kevere it & lete bake ynogh.
I wanted to make the mince pies from the Tudor Monastery Farm Christmas special, but mostly I wanted to make pies without using pie tins AND I wanted to use the pie warmer in the kitchen to heat them. I also wanted to pre-make them and keep them without refrigeration, so I used Del’s recipe. It had the bonus that it uses chicken instead of pork, catering for one of my food “allergies”.
We made the pies a week before the event and next time I’ll be a bit more careful about measuring the salt in the pastry – some wasn’t easy to eat. It was hard to get the pies to stand up, and I used this youtube video for pointers. We made the first coffins in a large batch then filled and lidded them, but it was VERY hard to get the lids to seal, even with flour and water paste. Then we just filled and lidded them as we went and it was much better. Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy with the seal on the majority of the pies after they were cooked, so we froze the pies for storage during the week. These seemed to be eaten well, although some people didn’t eat the pastry (I don’t blame them).
Zervelat (Sabrina Welserin) 24 How one should make Zervelat  First take four pounds of pork from the tender area of the leg and two pounds of bacon. Let this be finely chopped and add to it three ounces of salt, one pound of grated cheese, one and one half ounces of pepper and one and one half ounces of ginger. When it is chopped then knead the following into it, one and one half ounces cinnamon, one fourth ounce of cloves, one fourth ounce of nutmeg and one ounce of sugar. The sausage skins must be cleaned and subsequently colored yellow, for which one needs not quite one fourth ounce of saffron. Tie it up on both ends and pour in approximately one quart of fresh water. The entire amount of salt, ginger and pepper should not be added, taste it first and season it accordingly. It should be cooked about as long as to cook eggs. The seasoning and the salt must be put into it according to one’s own discretion, it must be tried first.
This was a pre-prep item which we froze in coils. I put them in an esky on Friday night, but many of the bags were still frozen at cooking time. We used the microwave to defrost them. They were boiled in batches in a big pot outside and then moved to the outside bbq to fry to brown. There were some leftovers, but the King mentioned them as particularly good.
Tardpolene, actually Torta (Libro de Arte Coquinaria) Take good cheese with eight eggs and with some good pork or veal fat, or butter, some whole currents, ginger, cinnamon, a little grated bread, a little fatty stock made yellow with saffron, and prepare a torta following the recipe for torta biancha.
I need to make an admission. I advertised this as tardpolene, but then I used a recipe for Italian Torta from “The Original Mediterranean Cuisine”, It’s similar, but doesn’t have as much dried fruit and is easier to make – no food processor required to mince all that dried fruit. Next time I would allow 300g of ricotta per tart. There were no leftovers
Minces (Le Menagier de Paris) Little cabbages called minces are eaten with raw herbs in vinegar, and if one has plenty, they are good trimmed, washed in hot water and cooked whole with a little water; and when they are cooked, add some salt and oil and serve drained. (Note; this seems to be a different translation from the link I found)
Brussel sprouts was a controversial decision, but allowing 2 per person, assuming that 50% of people wouldn’t like them so there would be 4 for the people who did, seems to be about right. I think there were only 40 or so that came back to the kitchen. We just boiled them and added olive oil and salt. We didn’t add the herbs in vinegar.
Frytour of Pasternakes (Forme of Cury 154) Take skyrwittes and pasternakes and apples, and perboile hem. Make a btour of flour and ayren; cast therto ale and zest, safroun and salt. Wete hem in the batour and frye hem in oile or in grece; do therto almaund mylke, and serve it forth.
These were so popular!! I deliberately cut the parsnips like chips, and used a pretty standard beer batter, omitting the eggs and saffron. They took a long time to fry and mucked up the timing for the feast, waiting for them to all be cooked. Next time we will be a bit cleverer about the oil, probably using a larger pot so it doesn’t cool down as much as each batch was added, or else two pots of oil.
This course ran late and the previous course was so well received that we had a lot of food returned.
Roast Venison/Lamb with Cameline sauce
The Baron doesn’t like lamb and I really wanted to serve Frumenty, so I arranged to prepare venison for the high table. The venison was very minimally cooked, it was basically seared on the BBQ and the inside warmed in the oven. The lamb was roasted in the oven with rosemary. We chose not to serve 50% of the lamb as we were aware that not much would be eaten. I could/should have purchased less. Also, we need to do more work with sauces for meat – not much of the sauce was eaten.
Frumenty (Diversa Servisia) Nym clene wete and bray it in a morter wel, that the holys gon al of, and seyt yt til yt breste; and nem yt up and lat it kele. and nym fayre fresch broth and swete mylk of almondys or swete mylk of kyne and temper yt al. and nym the zolkys of eyryn and saffron and do therto. Boyle it a lityl and set yt adoun, and messe yt forthe wyth fat venysoun and fresch motoun.
I’ve been wanting to play with frumenty for a while so this was a good opportunity. Due to a lack of stove space we heated it on the stove and then transferred the mix to slow cookers. It seemed to work pretty well, but 4 slow cookers worth was about twice as much as we needed. We made two batches of the dairy free (almond milk) and two of the cow’s milk (mylk of kyne). The almond milk version didn’t absorb the liquid as well, and really needed the eggs to thicken it. Next time I’ll put the meat and sauce over the frumenty rather than next to it. In fact I’ll probably do a stew instead of roast. Lots of this came back.
Almond tart (feast staple) Mix almond meal, cream egg, sugar and rosewater (or orange blossom water) and put in a pie shell. This has been in my repertoire for so long that I don’t know where it’s from. It’s a good way to use up the almonds from the almond milk. The dairy free version omits the cream and adds water to thin the mix. I used fresh almonds for the dairy free.
Frytour of Pasternakes (as above, but with apples) These were extremely popular. We initially reduced the amount of apple we processed, but it became clear that people were waiting for more so we processed more apple. They were dusted with cinnamon and sugar. They had the same issues as the parsnip fritters in terms of timing and the oil cooling, although we added more oil for this batch of frying and things improved.
Carrots (staple) Boiled, and the butter, honey and ginger poured over. These were served from a bowl, rather than on a mess. It meant people had more control over their serving size and I could take home unseasoned, cooked carrot rather than throwing carrots away because they had been on people’s plates.
Buttered Worts (Harley MS 4016) Take al maner of good herbes that thou may gete, and do bi ham as is forsaid; putte hem on the fire with faire water; put therto clarefied buttu a gret quantite. Whan thei ben boyled ynogh, salt hem; lat none otemele come thereing. Dise brede small in disshes, and powre on the wortes, and serve hem forth.
I think this dish was abandoned. But I’ve done it before and it was very well received.
I think that extant boiling coppers and rocket stoves have a lot in common. Here’s the description of how boiling coppers/furnaces work from “Cooking and Dining in Medieval England” by Peter Brears (p155, 156):
The actual furnaces have an almost hourglass section, the bottom half containing the burning logs and faggots in its combustion chamber. The flames were then constricted, to emerge as a strong, vertical blast directly under the convex base of the boiler mounted above, the bowl shaped upper section of the furnace keeping the flames just a few inches from the boiler’s sides, before the passed up the flue.
The surviving furnaces at Warkworth, Ashby de la Zouch and a number other castles all adopt a common form, having a cylindrical interior with a ledge some 30 inches from ground level, an arched fireplace facing into the side of the adjacent hearth, and an enclosed space above, with a vent leading either to the open air or to the upper part of the main chimney.
Once a large pot and been suspended inside, and its rim sealed to the inner ledge with mortar and sheet lead, this type of furnace could be fired like a bread oven, burning faggots being thrust to the back of its firing chamber, so that the flames would pass beneath and around the pot, before emerging from the top of the fireplace arch and ascending the main chimney. This ensured that as much of their heat as possible was transferred to the pot, rather than being lost to the open air.
In a later development, the fireplace was still located in the side-wall of the hearth, but the flames were now conducted backwards under the bottom of the boiler, around a baffle, and then forwards around both the upper sides of the boiler to a chimney directly above the fireplace. This made for a much more efficient use of fuel, since the flame passed twice their former distance around the boiler. This system was later used for most great boiling houses, including those at Hampton Court Palace.
The other place to work out period water heating technology is in brewing;