Wednesday, December 22, 2010

... about that Solstice Dinner

Last night we had our Solstice dinner, celebrating the long night with the kids and a couple of (newlywed) friends (Hi Kristen & Shane!). I posted the menu a couple of days ago, and I thought I'd make a couple of notes about how it went.

Roast Capon - I'd never cooked a capon before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Both before and after cooking it really looked just like a chubby chicken.  I made the stuffing as per the directions (but using whole hard-boiled eggs instead of just the yolks), and cooked it in the oven for two and a half hours.

The result was ... a chubby chicken.  The meat had a very nice flavor, and was moist to the point of being buttery.  The stuffing was loaded with flavor, and went really well with the capon.  What did surprise me was the amount of fat in the capon.  Even after cooking there were still layers of fat here and there.  Yummy, but this is not a diet bird.

Roasted Turnips - This is an old standby now.  It's almost as much a custard as it is a turnip dish - add some sugar and it could just about pass for a dessert.  However, with all the eggs, butter, and cheese - this one is also not diet friendly.

Brussels sprouts (steamed, plain and simple) - I made about four tons of sprouts for this dinner and there were no leftovers. None.  Aren't these supposed to be one of the least liked vegetables?  I didn't even smother them with cheese or cream sauce.  I didn't add bacon.  I didn't add sugar.  Just plain old sprouts.  Either the world isn't like I've been lead to believe, or I have a weird family and friends.

Applemoyse (with snowe) - Ok, this is now officially my favorite medieval recipe.  Not only is it incredibly quick and easy to make, but everyone seems to love it (including me).  I made it properly this time (which adds the oh-so-difficult-and-tedious step of separating three eggs), kept it warm until serving, and topped it with snowe that I'd made ahead of time and kept in the fridge.  I think I'll make some more for dessert tonight.

All that's left for my holiday season is the dinner on Christmas Eve.  There's some extended-family drama that may complicate things, but we'll see how it goes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Solstice Menu

Barring last minute changes, I think I've got the menu set for dinner tomorrow.  Here's what we'll be having:

Roast Capon
Roasted Turnips
Brussels sprouts
Applemoyse (with snowe)

The capon and applemoyse recipes are English (15th and 17th centuries), and the turnips are 17th c. French.  I'm going to keep the sprouts simple - steam and butter, and maybe a bit of garnish or spice, don't know for sure.

The capon recipe will be new, so I'll need to keep track and write things down.  I'll also try to get pictures of the capon and the turnips (which is a recipe I've had for quite some time, but haven't managed to take a photograph for it).

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Capon Recipe for the Solstice?

I've got two "big" dinners to cook next weeks.  The first is a solstice dinner for my immediate family and a couple friends (Hi Kristen & Shane!), and the second is Christmas eve dinner for the family and in-laws.  This means that right now I spend a good amount of time musing over potential menus.

While I focus almost entirely on traditional new-world foods for thanksgiving dinner, I've tended towards medieval English foods for the solstice (and Christmas eve dinner ends up being an attempt at more fancy foods).

For the solstice dinner this year, I think I'd like to roast a capon.  But which recipe should I choose?

A search of the online medieval cookbooks finds heaps of poultry recipes, dozens of which are for capons.  However, the majority of the capon recipes are boiled rather than roasted.  I sifted through a bunch of the more interesting ones and came across two likely candidates.

Capon or goos roste. To rost capon or gose tak and drawe his leuer and his guttes at the vent and his grece at the gorge and tak the leef of grece parsly ysope rosmarye and ij lengs of saige and put to the grece and hew it smale and hew yolks of eggs cromed raissins of corans good poudurs saffron and salt melled to gedure and fers the capon there withe and broche hym and let hym be stanche at the vent and at the gorge that the stuffur go not out and rost hym long with a soking fyere and kep the grece that fallithe to baist hym and kepe hym moist till ye serue hym and sauce hym with wyne and guingere as capons be.  [A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)]

Capoun in Salome. Take a Capoun and skalde hym, Roste hym, then take thikke Almaunde mylke, temper it wyth wyne Whyte other Red, take a lytyl Saunderys and a lytyl Safroun, and make it a marbyl coloure, and so atte the dressoure throw on hym in ye kychoun, and throw the Mylke a-boue, and that is most commelyche, and serue forth.  [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (England, 1430)]

Both of these sound interesting, though I'm leaning towards the first one as the herb and currant stuffing sounds more holiday-like to me.

For side dishes, I may go with some "garnished" or roasted turnips, or maybe compost (pickled root vegetables).  I'll want something green as well - maybe Brussels sprouts (they're the traditional holiday vegetable in England, aren't they?).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Privilege of the Cook

A while back there was a post to the SCA Cooks mailing list by Johnna Holloway (Hi Johnnae! Thanks!) that contained these ... guidelines? They were originally written between the 13th and 15th centuries, and collected and published in "Ancient laws and institutes of Wales" (1841).

There are a lot of interesting bits in here, such as how the cook gets all the entrails (except for the hearts). Some of the perks of the job could have money-making potential (he gets his land for free, but does he have someone working it for him? how much were goat skins worth?).  I also find the part about "protection" intriguing.

I'll have to read through the source (in my copious free time) and see how the cooks benefits compare to those for other jobs. Was the cook's job a good one, a bad one, or somewhere in between?

XXVII. The Privilege of the Cook.

1. To the cook belong the skins of the sheep, the goats, the lambs, the kids, the calves, and the entrails of every animal slaughtered in the kitchen; excepting the hearts, which go to the hawks; and the milt and the rectum to the porter.

2. To the cook belong the tallow and skimming from the kitchen, except the tallow of such ox as shall be three nights with the cattle of the maer-house.

3. He has his land free.

4. And he has a horse, always in attendance, from the king.

5. And a share of the gwestva silver.


XXIII. of the Cook

1. The galanas and saraad of the cook are the same as those mentioned above.

2. He is to have his land free.

3. And his horse in attendance from the king.

4. The cook is to have the entrails of all the animals killed in the palace, excepting the hearts.

5. The cook is to have the skins of the sheep and of the goats, and the fragments from the cauldron.

6. He is to have a share of the gwestva silver.

7. His daughter has the same privelege as the daughter of the bard of the household.

8. And his ebediw is six score pence.


XXIX. of the Queen's Cook, This Treats.

1. The seventh is her cook.

2. He is to have his land free; his horse in attendance; and his linen from the queen, and his woolen from the king.

3. He is to be supplied by the steward with all his necessaries for the kitchen.

4. He is to taste each dish that he may prepare.

5. His protection is the same as that of the king's cook.

6. His lodging is with the steward of the king.

7. His saraad is six kine, and six score of silver.

8. His worth is six score and six kine, to be augmented.


XXI. of the Cook.

1. The fifteenth is the cook.

2. He is to have his land free; his horse in attendance; his linen from the queen, and his woolen from the king.

3. He is to inhabit the kitchen; and he is to have his necessaries from the steward and the land maer.

4. He is to have skins of all the small animals which come to the kitchen with their skins on; that is to say, he is to have one third, and the steward two thirds.

5. He is to taste each dish that he shall season.

6. He is to have the fragments, and the tallow, and the entrails.

7. He is himself to bring the last dish, and place it before the king; and then the king is to present him with meat and drink.

8. His protection is, from the time he shall begin to prepare the first dish until he shall place the last before the king, to convey an offender away.

9. The steward is to supply him with all herbs to season his dishes; such as pepper, and other herbs.

10. He is to eat with the servants.

11. His lodging is with the steward.

12. He is to have one share of the supper silver.

13. His saraad is six kine, and six score of silver, to be augmented.

14. His worth is six score and six kine, to be augmented.


19. The protection of the cook is, from the time he shall cook the first joint, until he shall set the last joint before the king and queen.