Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Whole Enchilada (Enchilada not included)

For easy reference, here is the entire feast as it sits at this time. Note that this is what I plan to serve, but plans can change based on ingredient availability or (frankly) unexpected disaster. If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to get in touch: waxtablet@gmail.com

Order of Service, A Faire Feast in Midwinter

First course

+ Roasted Sausages
   (pork, garlic, cheese.  I am attempting to confirm that these are gluten free.
    Update Wed: The sausages are gluten free.)
+ Soft Farmer’s Cheese (Fresh; set on-site today)
    Whole milk, lemon juice, salt, flavoring (likely garlic)
+ Brie cheese
+ Pottage of Rice (1400′s; MS Harley 5401; England)
    Rice, almond milk, wine, honey, saffron. may be garnished with nuts.
+ Lesshes Fryed in Lenton (a kind of fruit pie) (1390; Forme of Cury; England)
    Apple, Pear, Dates, Prunes, Golden Raisins, Allspice, Cloves, Cinnamon, Sugar, Olive oil,
    Almond Milk, Salt, commercial pie shells
+ Caboches in Potage (1390; forme of Cury; England)
    Savoy cabbage, onions, leeks, saffron, salt, and spices (ginger, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)

Second Course

+ Chewetes on Flesshe Day (chicken pies) (1390, Forme of Cury, England, and other sources)
    chickens, wheat flour based crust, eggs, spices
+ Funges (1390, Forme of Cury, England)
    mushrooms, leeks, veggie broth, saffron, spices (ginger, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)
+ Pottage of Cracked Barley (1520, Libre del Coch, Spain)
   barley, veggie broth, almond milk, sugar, cinnamon
+ Benes Yfryed (1390, Forme of Cury, England)
   Fava beans, onions, garlic, oil, spices (bay leaf, ginger, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)
+ Salat (1390, Forme of Cury, England)
    Assorted greens, dressed in vinegar, oil, and salt

Third Course
(in Le Menagier de Paris (source) a number of the 'dinners and suppers for great lords' list wafers and Hyppocras as a suggested last course. In particular, I have looked particularly at the sixth course from II. Another Meat Dinner of Twenty-four Dishes with Six Platters as inspiration when putting together this last course.)

+ Wafers (Made fresh on-site using a modern recipe. A gluten free option will be available, please
   let the kitchen know at the start of service.)
   flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, butter, flavoring oils
+ Fresh grapes, Pomegranates, and dates
+ Candied Walnuts (using an early modern recipe)
    Walnuts, sugar, milk, cinnamon, salt
+ Wardonys in Syryp (1430; Corps of Middle English Prose and Verse; England) (see also)
    pears, cinnamon, red wine, sugar, ginger, vinegar, saffron
+ ‘Hyppocras’ (imitation, non alcoholic)
    Apple juice, cinnamon, honey, vanilla beans, cloves

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beans, beans, beans....

One of the participants in the Maker's Faire, Ysabel, a lady who has only been active in the SCA for a short time, volunteered to do some test cooking for me on the bean front (as I cannot abide beans in any form - insert Mr. Yuck face here).  Below is her (excellent) report:


After reading the recipes and redactions, I chose Benes Yfryed over Drawen Benes (the latter requires grinding the beans, and the result sounds more like a soup).  I read through the several redactions of Benes Yfryed in the links you sent me, and found that they were mostly similar.  I made my tests with canned beans, because that's what I could get in time for today, but I think we would do better to start with dry beans for the feast.  My canned beans came with added salt; we would need to add some salt to the water if starting with dry beans, about 1 tsp per pound of dry beans.

I made two test versions that looked quite different and had different textures, although the ingredients and cooking methods are nearly identical.  They were: Version 1 (softer beans) and Version 2 (firmer beans).

Bottom Line:  My family voted for Benes Yfryed version 1 with Poudre Douce version PD-2, but all versions tasted good and we can't go wrong here.

-- Test report, Benes Yfryed versions 1 and 2 --
Both versions: Skin some medium/large onions and separate out some garlic cloves.  Drop into boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes; turn off fire and let stand for another 10 minutes, or until onions are somewhat translucent and have lost their crispness.  Mince onions and garlic.  Save the broth for version 1.

Version 1 (softer beans):
        (a) Drain and rinse well 1 15-oz. can of fava beans (yield is just over 1 cup of beans).  Cook them in fresh water with a piece of bay leaf until about 1/3 of the beans have burst their skins; drain and pick out any loose bean skins.
        (b) Add 1/3 cup minced boiled onion and 1 tsp minced boiled garlic to the cooked beans.  Fry in a generous amount of olive oil.  The soft beans will partly disintegrate and begin to stick to the pan.  Add some onion broth (about 1 cup) and stir; mashing the beans with a slotted spoon or potato masher (the latter is much more effective).  The result will be resemble rather lumpy refried beans.

Version 2 (firmer beans):
        (a) Drain and rinse well 1 15-oz can of fava beans.  Do not cook any further; they will be rather firm.
        (b) Add 1/3 cup minced boiled onion and 1 tsp minced boiled garlic to the beans.  Fry in a moderate amount of olive oil (the firm beans don't absorb as much oil as the soft beans).  The beans will remain intact as they fry; no added broth is necessary.  Fry for 10 - 15 minutes or until onions have caramelized a bit.

Both versions: Taste and add salt if needed.  Sprinkle on poudre douce with a light hand and serve forth.

Results:  my family and I ate both bean versions with and without poudre douce (of which we tested two versions, see below).  All were very good (if you like beans!), we can't go wrong here.  Our consensus was that version 2 looks nicer, but version 1 tastes better (more oil makes it taste richer, and we preferred the texture).

Photos available here:  Flickr Link

Neither version is quite faithful to the medieval source: version 1 adds broth, and version 2 has beans that are not "almost bursten".  I looked up some other bean recipes from this period and most of them involved mashing or pureeing the beans, so I would guess that version 1 is closer to authenticity, but I must say that's really just a guess.

-- Poudre douce, versions PD-1 and PD-2 --
I made two versions of this from recipes found online.  Both contained cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves (no sugar, and I added bay leaf when cooking the v1 beans).  PD-1 had more ginger than cinnamon, and PD-2 had more cinnamon than ginger.  Both were OK but we preferred PD-1.

PD-1: 3 parts ginger, 1.5 parts cinnamon, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part cloves
PD-2: 4 parts cinnamon, 3 parts ginger, 2 parts nutmeg, 1 part cloves

-- Quantity estimates --
I did not get to test cooking dry fava beans.  From experience with other beans and online research, I estimate that 1 lb of dry favas will yield 4 to 6 cups of cooked favas  (let's say 5 cups).  So we will need 10 lbs of dry fava beans to make 50 cups of cooked beans.

10 lbs dry fava beans
10 large Spanish onions or 20 medium/large yellow onions (like the ones that come by the bag)
2 heads of garlic
1 quart olive oil
1 cup of poudre douce mixture
5 - 10 bay leaves
salt to taste

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A last minute change in plans...

So, as I mentioned yesterday, the second course had not yet, as of this morning, been set. It should have been, but I've been dithering with the second course.

Today, up against a hard deadline, I just sort of decided to pull the entire second course in a different direction.

Here's the revised (and set) second course.  I'll write more fully about how I arrived at these decisions tomorrow, but I wanted to get this info up and out into the world tonight: 

-- Second Course

+ Chewetes on Flesshe Day (chicken pies) (1390, Forme of Cury, England, and other sources)
A chicken pie, with hard boiled eggs and spices

+ Funges (1390, Forme of Cury, England)
A dish I have cooked many, many times. Mushrooms and leeks in strong broth.

+ Pottage of Cracked Barley (1520, Libre del Coch, Spain)
This is a carry over from the original menu. Barley with cinnamon and sugar. Although barley pottage (frumenty) is very early, the addition of the cinnamon seems to be later (or at least documented later).

Benes Yfryed (1390, Forme of Cury, England)
I'm adding beans as an alternate protein. This one is beans, onions, and garlic. There is another that is slightly different -- these are currently being cook tested.

Salat (1390, Forme of Cury, England)
Assorted greens, dressed in vinegar, oil, and salt

More to come, tomorrow.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Crunching The Numbers

So, we have reached my least-favorite part, but before I talk about that I'll talk about the cool parts.

First cool part: Lady Camille des Jardins is making 'wafers' (we're going with what is really a pizzelle) hot and fresh on site for service during the third course, and will also be making gluten free ones (first) to have them available for anyone who needs one.

Second cool part: All the wonderful people who I am meeting as a result of this project, and who are helping me in so many ways I can't even begin to express. Thank you. I can't say it enough.

Third cool part: We're making cheese live in the kitchen!  When I say 'we' I, of course, mean that Baroness Aurelia Rufinia will be making a soft farmer's-style cheese for service during the first course. I have had the pleasure of making cheese with her once, and I find it amazing to watch the milk suddenly turn into cheese. She says it's science (SCIENCE!) but I continue to be convinced it's magic.

On a related note, Rufinia also tested the Oyle Soppys recipe for me on the Friday before Birka, and .... well, it's not good. I'm not going to repeat exactly what she said (although it's pretty darn funny and she should totally tell you in the comments if she wants too) but suffice to say that she put one bite in her mouth and spit it out. So, we'll cross that one off the list.

Now, the least-favorite part.  Dealing with the budget.

You've probably wondered why the third course has not yet been "set" (which it should have been at least a week ago, if not more). The reason why is the budget.  We are seating 10 tables of 8, plus should expect to serve High Table (8-10 people) and I also need to make sure the kitchen staff has food to eat even though we won't be actually seated.  That puts my feast budget at $960. 

In setting the dishes for this feast, I've tried to strike a balance between a) season appropriate foods; b) foods that work within the site restrictions around raw meats, and c) foods that are a low cost to serve in bulk. In theory, the first and second courses should each be about 35% of the budget (so, about $330 per course), the third course should be about 25% of the budget ($240) and the remaining 5% should be for things like drinks, butter, salt, and miscellaneous items that don't fit strictly within a particular course.

Right now we are out of balance. The first course is taking about half the budget. The third course is basically where it should be (with a tiny bit of adjusting). So I need to make some decisions on what will happen with the first course (Can we find less expensive sources? If not, what changes must be made? Change the protein? Remove an ingredient? Change to recipes that use less of the expensive ingredients but more of something else?) I don't feel like I can "set" the second course. 

Also? There are still seats available. Please send in your reservation and make sure you can eat with us!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pie! Everybody likes Pie!

Well, folks are busy cooking, and I've been busy cooking and doing math!

Thanks so much to the glorious Kassandra & Zohane, two "hot apples" recipes have been tested for the first course, and one selected.  Here are the notes and redaction they sent:

Apple pie tests for Maker's Faire:

Lesshes Fryed in Lenton:

This is an excerpt from Forme of Cury
(England, 1390)
The original source can be found at the Project Gutenberg website
LESSHES FRYED IN LENTON. XX.VII. XVIII. Drawe a thick almaunde Mylke wiþ water. take dates and pyke hem clene with apples and peeres & mynce hem with prunes damysyns. take out þe stones out of þe prunes. & kerue the prunes a two. do þerto Raisouns sugur. flour of canel. hoole macys and clowes. gode powdours & salt. colour hem up with saundres. meng þise with oile, make a coffyn as þou didest bifore & do þis Fars þerin. and bake it wel and serue it forth.

Our redaction:

Used 2 pre-made pie crusts, 9” size

3 apples, peeled and cored
1 pear, peeled and cored
½ cup diced dates
1/3 cup diced prunes
1/3 cup golden raisins

All “minced” in the food processor. Randomly decided not to keep the prunes as carved in two, rather minced with the rest.

¼ tsp of both allspice and cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ Tbs sugar
½ Tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ cup Almond milk
pinch of salt

Put into pie shell, cover with second pie shell. Cut slits in top crust. Cover edges with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

For to Make Tartys in Applis

This is an excerpt from Forme of Cury
(England, 1390)
The original source can be found at the Project Gutenberg website

XXIII - 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.

Our redaction:
Used 2 pre-made pie crusts, 9” size

3 apples, peeled and cored
1 pear, peeled and cored
5 figs
¼ cup golden raisins

All “wel ybrayed.” We used the food processor to chop everything into small bits. (Note: We skipped the saffron as we inexplicably don't have any in the house, but it should only affect the color rather than the taste.)

2 tbs sugar
¼ tsp each allspice, cloves
½ tsp cinnamon

Put into pie shell, cover with second pie shell. Cut slits in top crust. Cover edges with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Notes from the Testers: "Both of these came out well, and hold their shape quite nicely. The Lesshes Fryed in Lenton I found to be quite delicious. We might want to consider soaking the dates beforehand, as they had a different texture than the rest after baking, but it was still very pleasant. The Tartys In Applis was also very nice, though could have been a touch sweeter (and Alex says "was just kind of like an apple pie, in spite of other ingredients." I was surprised at how good the texture of both pies came out considering you're sort of pouring in a lot of finely chopped apple stuff. Initially I think we were just surprised at how darn good both pies were! The Lesshes is a little more interesting, and a little more medieval tasting, if that makes sense, while not being any more difficult to make.


So, lesshes it is, which means that, other than pricing the sausages, the first course is set and complete.

Here is my original post about the first course, if you have questions.

Friday, January 10, 2014

By dribs and drabs

Just FYI, the event is less than one month from today.


Anyhow, the third platter

- "Hypocras" -- a hot, spicy, non-alcoholic drink of some kind.

- "wafers" (pizzelle wafers) - we are making these on site (thanks, Camille!) - Flavor options include anise,     rosewater, lavender, 'Fiori di Sicilia (vanilla and citrus combo) - do you have a preference?

- Spiced Walnuts
   I'm very interested in the Spiced Honey Nut Crunch listed at this source by the Getty Museum (more info here and here) but I need to think harder about this before I commit. I do have a 'tried and true' spiced walnut recipe that I've used for many years.

- Grapes - specifically red or purple grapes with seeds

- Pomegranates (if I can find any nice ones)

Pears in Syrup

- Something simple with dates (like probably just dates on the plate)

I am very fortunate enough that I have volunteers who have said they will test cook a few hot apple tarts (C & A), oyle soppys (R), and the egg stew (M), so I hope to have updates on those in the next few days so we can finalize those courses.

I have started making ingredient lists and doing the budget. Really, it's pricing the meats that is the biggest 'deal' to be resolved. The total budget for the feast is $960.  In theory, the meats should only take up a third of that budget, but we'll see where we come in. Meats are important, I don't want to scrimp, but on the other hand I'd rather have a small taste of high quality meats vs. larger portions of cheap cuts (particularly with the prohibitions against actually cooking meat in the kitchen).  I knew going in that using smoked/cured meats would be more expensive than buying, say, chickens, pre-cooking them, then freezing the meat and bringing it to site. I hope I don't regret going in that direction. If the cost is completely unmanageable it is still not too late to change the plan.

Some other stuff I found while poking around:

'How to Plan Feasts People Will Actually Eat'

Rayne's SCA Feast Survey (from 2000 - I wonder how things have changed in the past 13 years?)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Second verse, same as the first

Edited to add: I started writing this on Thursday, and it is now Monday. So I apologize in advance if this is a little scatter-shot.

Instead of going back to work and school today yesterday at the end of the week, we had a snow day, and I've spent some time this afternoon over the past couple of day trying (and failing) to read through Liber Cure Cocorum, looking specifically for peas, onions, leeks, and mushrooms -- and not getting much done. (Edited to add: it's taken me three days to write this post, mainly because the snow days have made me very lazy.)

Also, I've been having an interesting discussion on my Facebook about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of serving a pork product in both courses. I'm currently wondering if I can sub pre-cooked beef roasts for the ham, but I need to research the availablity of these further. Worse case we'll pre-cook some meat to then prepare into something (probably a beef or chicken dish) on site, but once New England reopens I need to make some calls about pricing.

I'm very interested in the egg stew on this page (search for number 81). It's a protein without being a meat, as is green broth of eggs and cheese (also known as green eggs and ham).

This is the old standby "Funges" (Mushrooms and Leeks).  I find it interesting that both the mushroom tart recipies I can lay my hands on are from Italy. First tart (really a pie with cheese). Second tart (similar yet a little different. Again with cheese.) I would like to serve these pies, but I think they're too southern and too late for what we're doing here.

On the topic of peas:  I would like to serve Green peas with bacon, but am keenly aware that a) this is yet more pork, and b) it makes the dish not at all vegetarian, which peas really should be here. On the other hand, my runner up dish of peas has eggs in it, so we might have to go to plan C (with veggie broth instead of beef). Or the old standby, heathen peas.

There are not a ton of dishes featuring barley, largely because barley was considered a food for invalids. However (in the absence of small beers and the like) I like serving barley water (suitably labeled, so I don't accidentally gluten anyone), despite the fact that it was actually for invalids as well. (I actually use an Alton Brown recipe.) It's tasty and has a certain flavorful body that I think compliments food well. However, to make barley water, you have to cook the barley, and it seems a shame to cook it and not use it. Frumenty is the classic barley dish (and is typically suggested to be served with venison), but I love the flavor of this barley pottage with cinnamon sugar.

Joutes are really just boiled herbs (page has links to a number of versions) and were pretty common. Here's a modern redaction of Joutes made with almond milk. Served with (or over) bread. I really want this to be a sweet onion dish, but the "herbs" seem pretty loose - I'm wondering if I could add in sweet onions to the other "herbes" and make it work. 

Another option is Lange Wortes de pesoun, which is peas (dried, boiled), onions, AND wortes, which solves several problems all at once. Oyle Soppys is another interesting onion dish, and one that comes in several different versions.

So, things I have to do this week: 
- Make some calls about sausage prices and also for possible roast beefs or other large meats to serve instead of ham.
- Test cook lange wortes de pesoun and oyle sppys, and probably the egg stew cited above.
- Finish writing about the third course, which is easy, but needs to be done.
- Find the notebook that has the source for the parsnip fritters in it, to a) find the source and b) see if it's scalable for the feast (I don't think it is).
- Based on the results of the test cooking, set the three dishes for the second course that are not a meat and a barley dish.

If anyone is interested in doing a test cook of any of the dishes above (or any from the first course, although most of those I've cooked before) let me know.