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Try a delicious medieval broth

Updated on January 23, 2012

Winter harvest Broth

The broth made for cold winter days. Packed full of nutritious goodness
The broth made for cold winter days. Packed full of nutritious goodness

A real harvest broth From ancient Britain

Before you click away from the page, read on you won't be disappointed with the delicious recipe for home made broth at the foot of the hub.

A basic history of the country kitchen

In medieval Britain whole families lived in one roomed huts and kitchens were rare and reserved for the wealthy. People lived in small one room huts where whole families went about their everyday lives. Many of the huts were made of wood and although there was no actual kitchen, methods were found for both heating the house and cooking food. A fire was built in the middle of the room and a small hole was made directly above in the middle of the thatched roof for smoke and fumes to escape.

Cooking implements such as large 3-legged pots made of cast iron fitted over the open fire and were perfect for making soups and stews. Some could not afford the 3-legged pot and made a pot which hung by a piece of rope over a beam from the roof .

No matter which type of pot was used most were able to make a spit which was used for roasting the occasional rabbit or hare. They would also have a drip tray under this to catch the potentially lethal fat drips which were all too often the cause of home fires.

The normal families in medieval times were often called peasants and their diet consisted of white meats, milk products such as cheese,whey, butter, buttermilk and eggs. They also had bread, peas, beans, herbs, apples, cherries and wild berries. If they could get hold of a piece of bacon to their stew it was regarded as a luxury.

Families that were better off would own one or two pigs, when these were slaughtered the offal would be made into sausages and the rest of the meat was cured for ham or bacon.

The curing of meat was important , the carcass of the animal was hung up and smoked. The blood and the fat were pounded together, flavored and mixed with herbs ( sometimes adding a little meat from the underside of the animal ) then packed into it's own gut.

16th Century cooking

In the 16th century homes were beginning to develop and the fires were moved to an outer wall which was then called the hearth. From the hearth ovens were developed and it was here that many new techniques were developed such as baking bread in clay pots.

In the far North of Britain the highlanders and Islanders peasants prepared their own corn with a quern which was a small hand mill consisting of two stone discs one fixed and one that rotated over the other allowing the corn to be ground. In lowland Britain the peasants took their corn to local water mills. It wasn't until the 13th century that windmills were found in Britain.

Salt which was collected from the coastline was an important commodity and found in every kitchen.

From the middle of the 16th century a new middle class began to emerge in Britain. This was due to the up and coming traders, merchants, craftsmen, doctors and lawyers.

In these times it was desirable to live and build homes in the country where many of the wealthy would become squires. Houses would accommodate staff and the kitchen was found near the quarters of the kitchen staff. The kitchen was known as the hub of the house where many activities were carried out by the staff. You could find activities like candle making, rush lights being made as well as hams being smoked and pickles being made. Fruits were also being dried and preserved. Vegetables were also being salted and preserved for the long hard winters.

Herbs were grown and dried to be used for flavoring and developing medicine. Pomanders were made as well as scented bags for cupboard and room fresheners.

By Elizabethan times homes had kitchens with tall chimneys built up from the hearth in the kitchen. The typical spit was now supported on either side of the hearth by cast iron "cup dogs"

These supports were also used to hold cups of soup warm hence the name "cup dogs "

When meat was roasted on the spit the fat would drip down into a long narrow trough and later used for making candles.

A typical broth that was consumed was the harvest broth.

Here is a typical recipe and one that is still loved by many today.

Preparation time is around 30 minutes and cooking time is around 2.5 hours.

900grams Middle knock of lamb ( 2lbs )Cut into cutlets

2.5 litres of stock or water ( 4pints )


Black pepper

Bouquet garni

6 spring onions chopped

2 carrots peeled and diced

2 small turnips peeled and cubed

175g shelled young broad beans ( 6 ozs )

225g shelled fresh peas (8ozs )

1 small cauliflower divided into sprigs

1 washed lettuce dried and cut into fine shreds

1/4 tsp sugar

2 tsps finely chopped mint

2 tblsps of finely chopped parsley

Trim fat from lamb and place in a heavy based saucepan. Add water or stock and season with salt and pepper. Add bouquet garni and bring slowly to the boil. Skim off all white scum. Cover tightly and simmer gently for about 1 hour. Or when the meat is loosening from the bone. Lift meat out and separate it from the bone and cut into bite size pieces. Discard the bone.

Return the meat and add onion, carrots, turnip beans and half of the fresh peas. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Then add the cauliflower and lettuce, remaining fresh peas sugar and mint. Continue to simmer for another half hour until the last vegetables are splitting but not broken. Discard the bouquet garni before serving with hot crusty bread.

If you make this i hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


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    • Aisla profile image

      Carolyn Mikkelsen 5 years ago from Norway

      I would love to hear how you get on good luck. I also posted today a new "oldie world " recipe for bannock bread which is wholesome and very tasty. Hope you take a quick look. Good Luck!

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 5 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Thanks. The herbs you mention are in my kitchen store. So now I can confidently venture forth. :)

    • Aisla profile image

      Carolyn Mikkelsen 5 years ago from Norway

      The basics are equal amounts of parsley thyme and Rosemary but i must admit i also add some bay leaves too! The measurement if you make your own is around 2 tblsps.

      So glad you liked the recipe . I have some more really old ones from my late grandma that i will publish soon. Thank you for your feedback.

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 5 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Aisla, your recipe is sounding delicious and I know I will give it a try. Bouquet garni is not available in local market, so I checked out to be sure what all ingredients can be in it and have made my pick. You may suggest the ones your Bouquet contains. The little bit of history adds spice to your recipe. Voted up. Useful and interesting.

    • Aisla profile image

      Carolyn Mikkelsen 5 years ago from Norway

      That sounds really interesting. I will certainly look it up . I have lots more natural diet recipes that i have planned to share here. Thank you for your comment and encouragement.

    • sashas89 profile image

      sashas89 5 years ago from A Series of Tubes

      Excellent article Aisla!

      I've recently taken to a Paleo diet and have never felt better. All the excess oil and fat in our diet is making us lazy and prone to illnesses. When it comes to food, our ancestors actually knew better!

    • Aisla profile image

      Carolyn Mikkelsen 5 years ago from Norway

      It is definitely true about families bonding back then, they looked after their elderly and the kids actually played together. I must admit it does worry me a little when i see kids on computers all day long. In some way they learn the art of communicating but the body language part is really lacking............oops! just my opinion mustn't categorize.. and great stuff it will be an honor if you try it . Really is quite tasty and full of nutritious veggies.

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 5 years ago from Malaysia

      The recipe looks good, I think I will do this weekend!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It was certainly a hard way of life back then but rewarding in another sense. Families worked together and bonded in a way that in modern society is not as often experienced. Just living and surviving took more of a group effort in those days.