Monday, October 14, 2019

Starting Points: Crane Rostyd

This weekly feature shows the initial steps I go through for interpreting a medieval recipe. Today's randomly selected recipe is the following:

Crane Rostyd. Take a crane blod as thu dedyst a swan draw hym at the went fold up hys leggys cut of his whyngys at the joynte nexte the body wend the necke a boute the spite put the bylle yn his breste & reyse the whinges & the legges as of a gose & yf thu shalt sauce hym mynse hym fyrst & sauce hym with poudyr of gynger mustard & venygger & salt & serve forth with the sauce & yf thu wilt thu may sauce hym with sauce sylito. [Recipes from the Wagstaff Miscellany (England, 1460)]

Yurgh! I'm not sure I would cook a crane.  Fortunately this is more of a mental exercise, though I suppose for the actual cooking part I could substitute a goose.  But first let's get through the theoretical stuff.

The first part says to bleed the crane the same way as a swan.  The same source has specific instructions on the subject.

Cut a swan in the rofe of the mouth touward the brayn of the hede & let hym blede to deth & kepe the blod to colour the chaudon with or cut the necke & let hym dye then skald hym draw hym rost hym & serve hym forth. [Recipes from the Wagstaff Miscellany (England, 1460)]

This process sounded really bizarre to me, but I've found modern references to it so it's probably still done in places. The Humane Slaughter Association has this note on their website

Instruments that slice through a bird’s brain from inside the mouth should not be used as they are not effective, immediate or humane.

The next group of steps have to do with prepping the bird for roasting. The bird's organs are removed "at the went" (I assume that's "vent"), the legs are folded up, and the wings are removed. Then the bird is put on a spit with the neck wound around and tucked into the breast, and I assume the thing gets roasted here.

I love recipes that forget to tell you to actually cook things. I found one for squash in a modern cookbook that specifically tells you to "cook it for half the time" and has no further instructions.

Anyway, the rest of the recipe sounds like serving instructions. The wings and legs are raised ... I've seen this a number of times and I think it's to make a more impressive presentation. In this case it's a bit odd because we were told earlier to cut the wings off at the joint next to the body. I would probably just chalk this up to how medieval recipes can be formulaic.

Next it says "if you're going to serve it in sauce, mince it first."  It kind of makes sense, if you're going to serve it as a roast you keep it whole, but if you're going to serve it with sauce you chop it up.

The recipe goes on to mention two sauces. The first is ginger, mustard, vinegar, and salt.  While the instructions don't specify how to make it, I'd go with a bread-thickened sauce.  I'd mix the spices with a quarter cup of vinegar and a cup of broth, then add in three or four pieces of bread and stir it until it's all mush. Then I'd strain out and discard the solids and heat the liquid in a saucepan until it thickens.  This is a pretty standard technique for making sauces in 15th century England and France and makes for a beautifully smooth, and rather fool-proof, sauce.

The other sauce mentioned is "sylito".  I'm really glad the first sauce is there because I'm pretty stumped by this one. I can't find any medieval sauce by that name regardless of how I misspell it.

There's a "Civero of Hare" in An Anonymous Tuscan Cookery Book (Italy, ~1400) which is made from the hare's lungs and liver. I've made a similar sauce for capon, but it seems a bit of a stretch.

It could be a really mangled spelling for gauncile (a garlic and milk sauce). That seems like an even bigger stretch.

I also briefly considered the possibility that "sylito" is a spelling variation for "cilantro", but from what I can tell the word "cilantro" only dates back to the 19th century.

So, setting the butchery aspects of this recipe aside, I would try a roast goose with the ginger and mustard sauce described above.  Though to be honest I'd likely try the sauce out first with the dark meat from a chicken just to see how it tasted before spending the money on a goose.