The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
Jeff Berry
(Number 19 in the Series, July 2003)

The Elevation of Mercedes to the Order of the Pelican

I take as the text for this sermon the Book of Gervase Markham - The English Housewife, Chapter II - of Cookery, Verse 32 - To make the best white puddings.

"Take a pint of the best, thickest and sweetest cream, and boil it, then whilst it is hot, put thereunto a good quantity of fair great oatmeal grits very sweet and clean picked, and formerly steeped in milk twelve hours at least, and let it soak in this cream another night; then put thereto at least eight yolks of eggs, a little pepper, cloves, mace, saffron, currants, dates, sugar, salt and a great store fo swine's suet, or for want thereof, great store of beef suet, and then fill it up in the farmes according to the order of good housewifery, and then boil them on a soft and gentle fire, and as they swell, prick them with a great pin, or small awl, to keep them that they burst not: and when you serve them to the table (which must not be till they be a day old), first boil them a little, then take them out and toast them brown before the fire, and so serve them, trimming the edge of the dish either with salt or sugar."

The cause of this great rejoicing is another vigil spread for another friend. This one is going to get a ham (see Alexandre is, err, cures a ham and the above white puddings.

I decided to run a test batch first, since I haven't messed much with sausage-type things before. Good idea, as you will see.

I started with a half-recipe. I took a cup of the roughest oats I could find and covered them with milk to soak overnight or so. That done, I heated up a cup of heavy cream (half-recipe, right?) mixed it into the oats and let them soak again.

Next day, the oats had not quite absorbed all the cream. I considered pouring off the excess but decided not to. I then added some currants, raisins and dates. If you insist on measurements, then maybe 1/8 to 1/4 cup each, loosely packed. A few shakes of mace and couple of twists of the pepper grinder and half a dozen cloves loosely crushed finished the spices (I didn't have any saffron). I added perhaps a quarter cup of sugar and four egg yolks. Finally I took maybe another quarter cup of chopped beef suet and mixed that in. A nice mess it was, too.

I used collagen sausage casing (my edition of Markham is edited by Michael R. Best and he comments that the "farmes" are sausage casings.) and packed about half the goo into about a 12" sausage. The other half I just put into a baking dish, since this was a test run and I didn't want to use up a lot of sausage casing. Then the pudding was dropped into water to cook.

Here is where two important lessons were learned. First, when Markham says to watch them and poke them when the swell, he is quite serious. Secondly, several smaller sausages are probably a better idea than a single large one. Why, because if you don't poke them right and they explode, you'll lose less goo per sausage. Yes, I learned these lessons the hard way. I did manage to salvage a 2 or 3 inch piece though, and continued.

With many pokings, the pudding was cooking gently until it seemed set, then removed and stuck in the fridge overnight. The remaining stuffing was baked at 350F for forty minutes or so and was quite tasty in its own right.

A full batch got made for the vigil itself. Following my plans above, I only exploded and lost a few puddings. I wonder if I might be better off using actual hog casings instead of collagen. I think they might stretch more. In any case, I ended up with a good quantity.

On site, I was able to boil them to reheat - losing another one or two - but was unable to toast them due to restrictions on fire. As a second choice, I fried them in some butter. Putting them on a plate, I sprinkled sugar on them and bullied people into trying them.

Those who did, were very pleasantly suprised. One lady said it was the best medieval food she'd ever had, which is always nice to hear, and a friend requested that I make some for Pennsic. We'll see, I want to make some meat sausages for Pennsic ...

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Comments are welcome.
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné, Jeff Berry,

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 18 July 2003
Last modified 28 July 2003