“The Science of Cooking”

Working Title/Artist: Still Life / Georg Flegel
Date: probably ca. 1625–30

I’m very please to be able to host a newly translated cookbook.

Gwyn Chwith ap Llyr (Glenn Gorsuch) had a 16th century Hungarian cookbook translated and has allowed me to host a copy. Enjoy.


At Cynaguan Coronet one of our meals drowned in the cooler. It was in a zip-top bag that ended up under the melted ice water. It filled up with water and ruined the food.


Coolers are stupid. This is so dumb. The whole setup of a cooler leads to either drowned food or contaminated ice. I hate the idea of accidentally poisoning my family while trying to keep food good. So for about a week after Coronet I mulled over the problem.

I need food to stay cold. Heat rises, cold settles. I need to keep the water from the melting ice away from the food that should be lower than the ice.

After contemplating this for a while I started looking into iceboxes, I asked Google: “how does an ice box work?” reasoning that I could take a page from history and apply that lesson to our modern medieval hobby. Eventually I settled on a solution. I presented my case to my husband and suggested that he should build me an ice box.

He countered that maybe instead we should look to buy an actual antique icebox. It turns out they actually made “apartment sized” antique iceboxes. I found a few online (far away) and then finally my husband found one in a nearby antique shop. We bought it for $150. It’s a beautiful thing, all in oak.

The top 1/2 of the box is setup to hold blocks of ice. As the blocks melt the water goes down a tube at the back of the box and exits out the bottom. The ice sits on metal which is attached to the walls/shelf in the lower portion of the box.

We used it this past week at West An Tir War. The days were in the mid 60s. Two blocks of ice kept it at about 40F in the lower portion of the box for about a day and a half. We stored raw meats and dairy up in the top portion next to the ice blocks. I view this as a total win.

Whole Grains

I’m on a kick.. and for once it’s a cooking kick, not a sewing kick. So bear with me.

The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January 2011, recommend that all adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains – that’s at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains. Even children need 2 to 3 servings or more.
Where a serving of whole grain is defined as any of the following:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
  • 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
  • 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal
  • 16 grams of whole grain ingredients (ie, in crackers)

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.

This definition means that 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.

Oilseeds and legumes (such as flax, chia, sunflower seeds, soy, chickpeas, etc.) are not considered whole grains by the WGC, the AACC International, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

I need to get more whole grains. I’ve known this for a while.. I keep hearing “you should eat more whole grain” so we switched to a whole grain bread and use brown rice instead of white rice. But I suspected that wasn’t enough to actually get the 3-5 servings they recommend. Then, a few months ago I bought lunch at a nearby cafe and they had a whole grain salad (Farro with goat cheese and almonds). It was super lovely fantastic. So for the last few months I’ve been experimenting with different grains and different salad recipes (recipes blogged on one of my other blogs under Whole Grain Salads). These salads make a light and filling dinner and even better, work well as lunch for a few days after.

In experimenting with the salads it occurred to me that I don’t really know what I’m doing. I don’t now a whole grain from a stealthed pasta (couscous is NOT a whole grain). I didn’t know that Farro, rather than being a unique species of whole grain, is yet another species of wheat… or that Bulgur, is a form of any wheat, not a special whole grain. So I started to dig.. and lucky you, I like to document what I find so I don’t forget it. So I’m blogging my findings.

This is tangentially related to SCA things since I’m looking at these grains and salads to come up with reasonable period choices for foods. One of my goals is to come up with a plausible salad which could be made a home, and would store in a cooler for a few days (ie, not meat, no diary, nothing that would easily spoil). I’m close.

Continue reading Whole Grains

Sylvie's Secret Feast Plan

The Plan:

This is the skeleton of the plan when I start. To this plan I can add or remove courses and/or dishes. I can move dishes between courses as appropriate. This is only the plan.

Day board(served at 10-12):

Meat soup and/or Vegetarian soup
“bread” for dipping
butter or spread to put on the “bread”


First service (Fill your hunger. Satisfy the feaster.)
Vegetarian dish
Non meat protein (egg, cheese, milk)
Meat dish(smoked meat? Sausage or Chicken)
1-2 Sauce (mustard, or sauces)
This should have large amounts of inexpensive foods. Fill the hunger of the feaster. This is a good place to serve your soup which usually requires few cheap ingredients to make a large amount. Chicken and pork and cheaper cuts of meat may be served here. Also keep in mind any vegetarian diners and offer both a vegetarian dish and possibly a non-meat protein. These can be combined(egg/cheese/spinach tart).
Second service (Interesting dishes with great flavors.)
Meat dish
vegetarian dish
2-3 other small dishes
Filling grain dish(rice, frumenty, bulgar wheat)
This is where you should include your more expensive, or more experimental foods. Things that you want to prepare but you don’t expect the diner to eat much of it (aspic, eel, venison). As an ending you should also include a “filling grain dish” for those diners who have a “hollow leg” and just need something to fill up on.
Third service(Little things to finish.)
Sweet “dessert”
Possibly a drink
This is the closing service. If you’ve properly portioned out your feast, not much of these will actually get eaten. This is the “dessert” course. Modernly we appreciate a sweet something to close.

Consider your dishes. When you serve a course how are you going to send it out? Separate dishes for each thing? A common plate with portions of each dish? Do you have enough serving dishes/spoons to do it that way?

If you’re accommodating vegetarians make sure you can keep the meat juice out of the vegetables (and/or check with known vegetarians and possibly send out separate plates for them).

Make sure you don’t have a coures/feast that is dominated by a single note. IE, the vinegar feast or the “varied piles of grey vaguely meat goo” Aim for variety in textures and flavors. Although you can have chords of flavor throughout the feast make sure those chords aren’t in -every- dish. Ie, a feast with notes of apple cider vinegar and cinnamon in serveral dishs “hangs” together as a complimentary feast.. but don’t have those notes in EVERY dish or it just become boring (and inedible if for example you have someone who is allergic to cinnamon).

I recommend against serving more than one soup in a course. In most cases diners only have a single bowl for the soup. The dayboard is an exception. Since those soups usually go out on a table and the diners self serve and can try each of the different soups and take as much or as little as they deem fit.

After you have written out your feast handout which lists each dish and all of the ingredients in that dish, DO NOT CHANGE ingredients without announcing the change. At one feast I cooked I decided at the last minute to add apple slices (which I had left over from the previous course) into a dish in the second course. Later that evening a diner came to me and told me she had taken one bite of the dish, noticed it had an apple in it and immediately spit it out. It turns out she was allergic to apples and if she hadn’t noticed discrepancy it could have been a potentially fatal error.

If a dish isn’t good, don’t send it out. This can be if it’s not cooked enough, over cooked, too much salt, etc. If you wouldn’t eat it, why would you inflict it on your feasters. Fix it if you can.. undercooked food can cook for longer and become part of the next course… otherwise throw it away.

Unless contacted I normally try and accommodate lacto-ovo vegetarians. That is, those who eat milk, eggs, butter but don’t eat actual meat products.

Some “our furry friends” vegetarians will not eat ANY animal based products. This includes milk, eggs, butter, rennet, etc. Beware that most commercially made cheese uses animal-based rennet. Beware of vegetable based soups that use commercial veggie stocks with a meat based thickener.

Rob Peter to feed Paul: halving feast costs http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/recipes/rprf.sca.feasts.html

Brazier – Chafing Dish

Chafing Dish – Brazier

Museum of London Surrey/Hampshire border redware chafing dish vertical loop handle.

Medieval Brazier Cooking


Figues alla Francesa (Libre del Coch, #102)

Les figues seques pendràs més melades que pugues haver, negres e blanques e leva•ls lo capoll. E aprés renta-les ab bon vin blanch que sia dolç. E quant sien netes, pren una panedera de terra e met-les dins menant-les un poch. E aprés posa aquella panadera sobre unes brases e tapa-les bé, de manera que se stufen allí. E quant seran estufades e se hauran beguda la vapor, mena-les un poch e met-hi salsa fina damunt, e torna-les a menar de manera que encorpora aquella salsa. E aprés menja ton potatge e veuràs gentil cosa, e mengen-se entrant de taula.

“Take dried figs, the sweetest you can find, black and white, and clean off the stalks. Wash them with good, sweet white wine. Take an earthen panadera and put them in, stirring a little. Put the panadera over a brazier and cover it well in such a manner that the figs soften. And when they are softened and have absorbed the vapor, stir a bit and add salsa fina on top, and stir so that it incorporates this salsa. And then eat it, and you will see a noble thing, and they are eaten next [first?] at the table.”

Recipe 92, also for a fig dish, calls for sugar, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and “other good spices”. Nutmeg seems to be the most common spice in the cookbook other than cinnamon and ginger, so we put in a little nutmeg.

11 oz. (fifteen) dried black and white figs
1 cup sweet white wine
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each ginger, nutmeg
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Stem figs and put in a pot with the wine.
Simmer 1/2 hour, by which time the wine is almost gone and the figs have swelled considerably.
Add spices and stir.
[We skipped the sugar because the dry figs were encrusted with a little sugar already.]
Nola, Roberto de, Libre del Coch Veronika Leimgruber, ed. Barcelona: Curial Edicions Catalanes. 1982


Copied directly from Wulfric’s LJ entry. (http://madbaker.livejournal.com/665852.html)

3-lb beef eye of round roast, no more than 3″ in diameter
Spice cure:
1 ounce kosher salt
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp curing salt #2
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme
5 juniper berries, lightly crushed

Combine all the spice cure ingredients and grind to a fine powder. Rub half the spice cure all over the meat, rubbing it in well. Place in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate for 7 days, turning it to overhaul every couple of days. Remove the beef from the liquid, discarding the liquid. Rub in the remaining spice cure and return to the fridge in the bag for another 7 days.

Rinse the beef thoroughly under cold water to remove remaining spices and pat dry with paper towels. Set on a rack on a baking sheet, uncovered at room temperature, for 2-3 hours. Wrap in cheesecloth and tie with twine and hang in the fridge for 3 weeks. The meat should feel firm on the outside and silky smooth when sliced.

Slice paper-thin and serve with olive oil and Parmesan.

July produce in season

Artichokes, Arugula, Asian Greens, Basil, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Corn, Eggplant, Fava Beans, Fennel, Garlic, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Okra, Onions, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Radish, Spinach, Summer Squash, Tomatoes

Rivetted Iron Cauldrons

From The Jelling Dragon “Our Cauldrons are entirely hand made by a master blacksmith. They are beaten from individual steel plates which are then riveted together. They have been sealed to make them waterproof. The handle is hand made from decorative twisted steel. They are authentic copies of original designs.” ~$120 US

Food and table manners

Good article about Tudor(?) manners

Beaconsgate Boar Hunt (2008)

First course:
Venison with Furmenty (venison in gravy with a wheat berry side)
Capoun in Salome (Chicken in a saffron almond milk sauce)
Buttered Wortes (wilted greens in butter)
Pies de Payrse (Pork pies with currants, dates and cinnamon)
Soppes Dorrey (Onion Soup)

Second course:
Boublier of fresh Boar (Pork cooked in vinegar with spices (very very flavorful and tender))
Decorated Rice (Essentially rice pudding with cinnamon)
Sallet of many herbs and flowers (Green Salad with lots of herbs, decorated with rose leaves)(rose leaves are very tasty)

Last course:
Boars Head Soetlety (A “boar’s head” made of fruit cake and marzipan)
Pears in Wine (Pears cooked in red wine with syrup)

Some details:
We had 80 guests. We had 15 lbs of Venison, 28 lbs of chicken, 36 lbs of pork roast.. and 24 pies.

I took off Thursday and Friday from work, did all my shopping on Thursday and most of my prep on Friday. I had 7 people who helped me in the kitchen.

We sent out all of our courses on time.. and there was only one dish I wasn’t terribly happy about (the onion soup). All the other dishes were very tasty and seemed to please the feasters. Even the soup was “ok” but I know I could have done better. Next time I’ll use white wine and start by making an onion stock. The onions went out -very- purple from the red-wine.

Red-wine and onions (or pork flesh) do not go together. Use white wine instead.
Also, if you’re making cooked cabbage, use green OR red, don’t mix them. The red cabbage changed to a kind of interesting teal color.. which was tasty.. but off-putting.