The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
Jeff Berry
(Number 26 in the Series, July 2004)

Better Late Than Never - The Yule Recipes

I realized, six months after the event, that although I had gotten the recipes and documentation ready for the feast, and even htmlized them, I had never actually linked them up. So here they are! (This is why they are in two places in the index - one where they belong and another where they fit numerically, if you follow me.)

In order of presentation:


Rustic bread purchased at the store.

Dried Fruits

Apricots were cheap and apples less so, but a good amount of both were purchased. A little candied ginger was bought as well just to fill out the mix.


Scully mentions walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, chestnuts, and almonds in The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. A selection of some of those is provided.

Cold Salt Beef

Most of my earlier sources have little to say about straight-ahead cooking of beef, but they agree that salted meat goes with mustard. (Traité de Cuisine says "BEEF: Fresh beef should be prepared with white garlic if it is salted with mustard." Le Menagier de Paris writes of salted beef tongue, "And then they are cooked in water and wine if you wish, and eaten with mustard." The Vivendier comments, "Salted mutton is eaten with mustard," and recommends the same for salted venison.)

For the salting, which is much referred to in the literature, but little explained, I turned to the "The Encyclopedia of Cooking." Under wet salting, it has the following, "For a piece of pork or beef (usually brisket) weighing about 5 lb. add 1 to 1 1/2 lb sea or common salt, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons saltpeter to 1 gallon water; bring to a boil, strain into the container and allow to become cold. Put the meat in the liquid, cover and leave for 5 days, turning it daily."


References to Mustard include:
Mustard Meale:Hugh Plat's "Delightes for Ladies":
25. Mustard Meale
It is usual in Venice to sell the meal of Mustard in their markets as we doe flower and meale in England: this meale, by the addition of vinegar, in two or three daies becommeth exceeding good mustard; but it would be much stronger and finer, if the huskes or huls were first divides by searce or boulter: which may be easily done, if you dry your seeds against the fire before you grinde them. The Dutch iron hand-mils, or an ordinary pepper-mill, may serve fro this purpose. I thought it very necessary to publish this manner of making your sawce, because our mustard which we buy from the chandlers at this day, is many times made up with vile and filthy vinegar, such as our stomacks would abhorre, if we should see it before the mixing thereof with the seeds., which seems to be a paper from a Drachenwald University, has a number or recipes and some discussion.

Lynn McCann made the mustard and provided the following documentation.

Here's what's in it:

There are so many old mustard recipes, with and without honey or spices, using grape must as a base instead of vinegar, adding crushed almonds and bread crumbs, toasting or not toasting the seeds. It seems medieval cooks did pretty much what I do, which is make it up in the spirit of the moment.

In an early experiment (using a teaspoon or so of mustard), I learned: do not over-toast the seeds; balsamic vinegar is too strong; seasoned rice vinegar is very nice, but probably not historically correct.

For 60, I toasted 1 ? lbs. of seed for 10 minutes in a 275 degree oven.

In mass-producing mustard, I learned that the most efficient way to crush all those seeds is in quite small batches (no more than 1/4 C at a time) using a large wooden rolling pin (cylinder). Spread the seeds on some paper towel and cover with another sheet to get started. Tap the seeds, and use the `heel' of the rolling pin to begin the process, then uncover and roll using full body weight! Once you have some mealy stuff to work with, use it as a base to get the next batch going. Lift the edges of the paper towel to collect the meal in the center and keep rolling until you see a lot of yellow, and no more solid seeds. It you want a finer mustard, put this through a heavy mesh strainer and re-process the chaff.

When I had about 3 ? C. of mustard meal, I put it in a glass bowl, added about ? C. honey, a rounded tsp. each of the spices, and about 2 C. vinegar. The liquid is quickly absorbed. Add more to achieve desired consistency. Cover, and keep it cool. The first day it tastes vile. By day 2 it's mustard, and gets better every day. The smell is bright and pungent. It keeps a long time.

Alexandre's Marinated Mushrooms or (as some in the Outlands have called them) Mushrooms Alexandre (ah, fame, however fleeting!)

There are many references to pickling or marinating various things, but I admit I have no direct evidence for this exact recipe.

for 1 lb of mushrooms mix together

for feasts I tend to use red wine vinegar, cheap vegetable oil and garlic powder (do you want to peel and crush 30 garlic cloves?).

Duck Breast and Turnip Soup

La Varenne, I.4 "Potage of Ducks with Turnips"
"Cleanse them, lard them with great lard, then pass them in the pan with fresh seam or melted lard; or else rost them on the spit three or four turns. Then put them in the pot and take your turnips, cut them as you will, whiten them, flour them and pass them in fresh seam or lard, until they be very brown. Put them in your Ducks, seeth all well, and stove or soak your bread well, to the end that your potage be thickned. If you have capers you shall mix some with it, or a little vinegar. Take up and garnish with Turnips, then serve."
This was modified to use four or five chickens and only one duck, since ducks is pricey. Both the ducks and the chicken were partly roasted, then boiled until they could easily be taken off the bones. The cooking water was saved to use as stock.

The duck was roasted for an hour and a half, then I gave it quick pass through the hot grease where I was cooking turnips, then boiled it another hour or so. It was seasoned sparingly with just a little salt. The chickens were treated similarly, although without the browning, I think (Lynn was doing the chickens.)

The turnips were parboiled ("whiten") in water with a bit of salt for ten minutes, and then floured and fried in some goose grease I had around.

Cold Salat

There are a variety of salad recipes around. Here's one. Forme of Cury, xx.iii.xvi, Salat
"Take pfel, sawge, garlec, chiboll, oynons, leek, borage, mynt, porrect, fenel and ton tressis, rew, rosemarye, purslarye, lave and wassche hem clene, pike hem, pluk he smalle, with thyn honde and myng hem wel with rawe oile, lay on vyng and salt, and sue it forth."

Or, take pfel (which I'm not sure what is), sage, garlic, scallions, onions, leek, borage, mint, "porrect" (which I belive to mean small onions, leeks, and scallions), fennel, cress, rue, rosemary, parsley, wash them, pluke them, add oil, vinegar and salt.

Other recipes call for lettuce, violets, purslane, primroses, spinach, and so on.

The salad ingredients have not been decided upon at the time or the writing and will depend on what looks good at the store the night before the feast. It will be some but not all of the ingredients above, dressed with oil and vinegar and salt.

Roast pork.

Digbie, "To Rost Wild-Boar"
"At Franckfort, when they rost Wild-boar (or Robuck or other Venison) they lay it to soak, six or eight or ten days (according to the thickness and firmness of the piece and Penetrability of it) in good Vinegar, wherein is Salt and Juniper-berries bruised (if you will, you may add bruised Garlick or what other Haut-goust you like) the Vinegar coming up half way the flesh, and turn it twice a day. Then if you will, you may Lard it.
When it is rosted, it will be very mellow and tender. They do the like with a leg or other part of Fresh-pork.

I'm dealing with modern domestic pig and not wild-boar, and I've got vinegar in a number of other dishes, so I'm not going to marinate it for six days. Instead, I will marinate it overnight in vinegar, salt, juniper berries and some garlic. Then rost in the oven as I would any pork roast.

Pease Porridge

Digbie, "My Lord Lumley's Pease-Porage"
"Take two quarts of Pease, and put them into an Ordinary quantity of Water, and when they are almost boiled, take out a pint of the Pease whole, and strain all the rest. A little before you take out the pint of Pease, when they are all boiling together, put in almost and Ounce of Coriander-seed beaten very small, one Onion, some Mint, Parsley, Winter-savoury, Sweet-Marjoram, all minced very small; when you have strained the Pease, put in the whole Pease and the strained again into the pot and let them boil again, and a little before you take them up, put in half a pound of Sweet-butter. You must season them in due time, and in the ordinary proportion with Pepper and Salt.
This is a proportion to make about a Gallon of Pease-porage. The quantities are set down by guess. The Coriander-seeds are as much as you can conveniently take in the hollow of your hand. You may put in a great good Onion or two. A pretty deal of Parsley, and if you will, and the season afford them, you may add what you like of other Porage herbs, such as they use for their Porages in France. But if you take the savoury herbs dry, you must crumble or beat them to small Powder (as you do the Coriander-seed) and if any part of them be too big to pass through the strainer, after they have given their taste to the quantity, in boiling a sufficient while therein, you put them away with the husks of the Pease. The Pint of Pease that you reserve whole, is only to show that it is a Pease-porage. For which these proportions will make about a Gallon."

For feast, I will cheat. (Note: written in future tenses, since the writing of this precedes the cooking.)

I'll use dried split peas, which saves me the straining and shelling. They will be simmered for a long time, until they get nice and soft, and then I'll mush them up pretty good.

I'll add in some coriander, onion, mint, parsely, savoury and marjoram - assuming I can find them fresh at the store. (If not, I might use some dried.) Just before serving, I'll "monter au buerre" as the modern term would have it, by adding butter, correcting the seasoning with salt and pepper.

I think I'll also get a package or two of frozen pease to heat and send down as garnish.

Mylat of Pork

Forme of Cury, xx.vii.xv
"Mylat of Pork"
Hewe Pork al to pecys and medle it with ayren & chese igrted. Do therto powdour fort safron & pynes with salt, make a crust in a trap; bake it wel thinne, and sue it forth."

This looks much like a quiche. To save labor, I decided to use ground pork from the shop rather than "hewing it al to pecys" myself. Thus:
For 10 pies:

I mixed the spices with the pork first, and let it sit while I grated the cheese. Then I lightly beat the eggs and mixed them into the cheese. Then I added the pork and mixed the whole mess together. It went into the pie shells and the pine nuts were sprinkled on top. Since it's quiche-like, I cooked it like I cook a quiche: 15 minutes at 425 and then 325 for another 35 minutes or so.

Ed. note, 9 Jan 2017 - the citation here is to an image, presumably this one which is, I think, a scan of the 1780 Pegge edition (Pegge, Samuel, ed.,The Forme of Cury. London, 1780.) The transcription is flawed. A better citation would be to The Forme of Cury in Curye on Inglysch, where it is #162 on p. 134.

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

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 4 December 2003
Last modified 4 December 2003