Monday, October 18, 2010

Apples, Quince, and Cooks

Some quick updates on assorted subjects:

A couple of weeks back I posted about apple pie recipes, where I'd picked out a few potential recipes to try. The one I settled on, Tartys In Applis, worked out pretty well. Grating the apples was really kind of strange, as was the addition of figs. Still it tasted good. better warm than cold in my opinion. I think a dollop of snowe on top would add some fat to make it even better.

I've posted here before about the quince tree I planted in my back yard. While it has flowered for the past two years and some fruits have formed, this is the first year that any have made it to harvest. I picked the two small quince from the tree last week, and last night I made them into marmalade. It's a small thing (the result is only a single pint) but it's still geeking me out. Hopefully there will be more next year.

Finally, the Middle Kingdom Cooks Collegium is this upcoming weekend in Chicago. There will be cooks from all over the midwest United States (and some from farther away) all gathered together to share their knowledge of medieval cooking. I'll be teaching two classes there - one on food safety and another that is sort of an overview on medieval cooking from a sort of holistic viewpoint. In spite of all that I still need to to to get ready for the event, I'm really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

American as Apple Pie

Somehow the month of September managed to zip past and I was too wrapped up in other things to post here.

At any rate, apples are now in season in my part of the United States, which means I was compelled to go to a nearby orchard and buy a large quantity.  That in turn means I'm now looking around for new recipes to use up said apples.

By far, the favorite apple dish here in the US is apple pie (which ironically has a history that goes far back before the European colonization of the Americas). I therefore have a perfect opportunity to engage in some historic cooking at the same time as I partake in an annual apple overindulgence.

The question of course is which recipe to try?  I've already made our family's traditional apple pie (apples, sugar, cinnamon, crumb crust on top), so I want to make something a bit different.  That eliminates a number of medieval recipes, as a large number are essentially apples, sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a pie crust.  A quick search through some of the medieval cookbooks comes up with the following contenders:

This one is essentially regular apple pie recipe, but with the top crust glazed during baking using sugar and rose water.  Interesting, but not very exciting.

Tartes of Apples with covers.  Mince your Apples very small, season them with Sugar, sinamon & ginger, and laye thereon a faire cover, and dresse your cover when it is halfe baked with Rosewater and Sugar.  [A Book of Cookrye (England, 1591)]

Here from the same cookbook is a tart recipe where the apples are precooked in wine.  That sounds more promising!
Tartes of Apples without covers. Boyle your Apples very tender in a little wine, or for lack of Wine Ale, and then strain them with Sugar, sinamon and ginger. Make a tart of it without a cover.  [A Book of Cookrye (England, 1591)]

A much older recipe from Forme of Cury adds pears and dried fruits and saffron (that reminds me, I need to buy more saffron - a lot more).  There's no sugar or honey listed, though I suppose it could be part of the "spices".
For To Make Tartys In Applis. Tak gode Applys and gode Spycis and Figys and reysons and Perys and wan they are wel ybrayed colourd wyth Safroun wel and do yt in a cofyn and do yt forth to bake wel.  [Forme of Cury (England, 1390)]

The last three recipes are from the same German cookbook - they had a lot of apple recipes in there, with numerous apple pies and tarts.

This one calls for egg yolks, which might make it more custardy.
74 An apple tart. Peel the apples and take the cores cleanly out and chop them small, put two or three egg yolks with them and let butter melt in a pan and pour it on the apples and put cinnamon, sugar and ginger thereon and let it bake. Roast them first in butter before you chop them.  [Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin (Germany, 1553)]

This one precooks the apples and adds raisins.
79 An apple tart. Peel the apples cleanly and take out the cores, chop them small and fry them in fat, put raisins, sugar and cinnamon therein and let it bake.  [Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin (Germany, 1553)]

Lastly, this one grates the apples and adds cheese and eggs.  My wife likes cheese in her apple pie, but I never could get used to it.  Incidentally, this is the only medieval apple pie recipe I've found that calls for cheese.
177 To make an apple tart. Take apples, peel them and grate them with a grater, afterwards fry them in fat. Then put in it as much grated cheese as apples, some ground cloves, a little ginger and cinnamon, two eggs. Stir it together well. Then prepare the dough as for a flat cake, put a small piece of fat into it so that it does not rise, and from above and below, weak heat. Let it bake slowly.  [Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin (Germany, 1553)]

Looking at these options, I think I'll try out the one from Forme of Cury first.  Then perhaps one of the German recipes.