A good while back, Kristen (my apprentice) managed to get a hold of some cow's feet and tried making meat jelly. She used a recipe from Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (included at the end of this article), however her project never quite ... well ... gelled. That is, it didn't set. What she ended up with was a large amount of cow-foot soup.
Fast-forward to last Friday when I was preparing food for a royalty lunch. One of the recipes I made was Cormarye - a sort of marinated, roast pork. I had a lot of dishes to make, so I cut a few corners, tweaked the recipe a bit, and stuffed it into the oven for a couple of hours. It smelled absolutely yummy when it came out, so I let it cool, sliced it up, and put it in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.
The next morning I discovered something weird had happened. As it sat overnight, the wine broth that the pork cooked in had turned to a dark red jelly. Funky. It hasn't done that before. So what had I done differently this time? This is something that I need to figure out if I'm going to intentionally make meat jelly.
The key was in the short cut I took. I used a 4 pound pork loin in a roasting pan that was just big enough to hold the pork and the wine - and therefore left out the broth. I'd figured there was enough liquid to keep it from burning and keep things moist, so what the heck.
Wine is often used when cooking meats since it helps break down connective tissues, and thus makes the meat more tender. This same connective tissue is one of the sources of gelatin (along with bones, hooves, cartilage, hides, and all sorts of other parts that the corporations who sell fruit-flavored gelatin don't want you to think about). Now normally when I make Cormarye I add in some broth. I hadn't realized it, but that broth dilutes the gelatin and keeps it from setting properly. This time when I left it out the gelatin remained un-diluted and could set. Neat.
So all that remains now is to see if I can duplicate this process using white wine instead of the red (which will allow me to color it bright yellow with saffron) and to leave out the seasonings used in Cormarye (so I can flavor it as desired). If so, then I'll have an easy way to consistently make medieval meat jelly and won't need to resort to unflavored gelatin packets - or for that matter cow feet (yeah, you try to find cow feet at the corner grocery).
Medieval Jelly Recipe
from Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books
Cix - Gelye de chare. Take caluys fete, and skalde hem in fayre water, an make hem alle the whyte. Also take howhys of Vele, and ley hem on water to soke out the blode; then take hem vppe, an lay hem on a fayre lynen clothe, and lat the water rennyn out of hem; than Skore a potte, and putte the Fete and the Howhys ther-on; than take Whyte Wyne that wolle hold coloure, and cast ther-to a porcyon, an non other lycoure, that the Fleysshe be ouer-wewyd withalle, and sette it on the fyre, and boyle it, and Skeme it clene; an whan it is tendyr and boylid y-now, take vppe the Fleyshe in-to a fayre bolle, and saue the lycoure wyl; and loke that thow haue fayre sydys of Pyggys, and fayre smal Chykenys wyl and clene skladdyd and drawe, and lat the leggys an the fete on, an waysshe hem in fayre water, and caste hem in the fyrste brothe, an sethe it a-3en ouer the fyre, and skeme it clene; lat a man euermore kepe it, an blow of the grauy. An in cas the lycoure wast a-way, caste more of the same wyne ther-to, and put thin honde ther-on; and 3if thin hond waxe clammy, it is a syne of godenesse, an let not the Fleyshe be moche sothe, that it may bere kyttyng; than take it vppe, and ley it on a fayre clothe, and sette owt the lycoure fro the fyre, and put a few colys vnder-nethe the vesselle that the lycoure is yn; than take pouder of Pepir, a gode quantyte, and Safron, that it haue a fayre Laumbere coloure, and a gode quantyte of Vynegre, and loke that it be sauery of Salt and of Vynegre, fayre of coloure of Safroun, and putte it on fayre lynen clothe, and sette it vndernethe a fayre pewter dysshe, and lat it renne thorw the clothe so ofte tylle it renne clere: kytte fayre Rybbys of the syde of the Pygge, and lay ham on a dysshe, an pulle of the lemys of the Chykenys, eche fro other, and do a-way the Skynne, and ley sum in a dysshe fayre y-chowchyd, and pore thin gelye ther-on, and lay Almaundys ther-on, an Clowys, and paryd Gyngere, and serue forth.