Friday, May 8, 2015

It's Medieval Recipe Day!

Spring has finally sprung here in the Big Apple, and in Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of...sauces.

Yes, sauces. A lot of medieval recipes - at least in that famous french cookbook, Le Viandier - are little more than "Take fish/meat X and cook in sauce Y." So make your sauce...or at least reconstruct it. Here's a list of "unboiled sauces" from Le Viandier [Prescott translation]:

To make Cameline Sauce:
Take ginger, plenty of cassia, cloves, grains of paradise, mastic thyme and long pepper (if you wish). Sieve bread soaked in vinegar, strain [through cheesecloth], and salt to taste.

Garlic Cameline Sauce:
Crush garlic, cassia and bread, and steep in vinegar.
White Garlic Sauce:
Crush garlic and bread, and steep in verjuice.
Green Garlic Sauce:
Crush garlic, bread and greens, and steep together.
Garlic Sauce for Fresh Herring:
Steep garlic in must or verjuice.

Cassia is related to the "true cinnamon" of Sri Lanka - in fact, it's what you probably had the last time you had "cinnamon" if you live in the US. 
Grains of paradise is related to ginger; the ground seeds give a peppery taste that also has hints of citrus. Fancy-ass brewers put it in beer sometimes. 
Mastic thyme is a variety of Iberian thyme, T. mastichina.
Long pepper is similar to, but hotter than, ordinary black pepper.
Verjuice is a "highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit," says Wikipedia. Think of it as the sour medieval cousin of vinegar.
Must is...well...think of it as grape juice with all the bits of the fruit still in it.

So, so much for the idea of medieval cooking as bland, simple, and nothing but roast meat. (At least, not when nobility is involved.) Cameline sauce sounds like a spicy, exotic, peppery/fruity kind of thing. Interesting...

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