Redacting a Medieval Caudle Recipe
The Challenges Of Modernizing A Medieval Recipe
Recently I decided to attempt to redact some medieval beverage recipes for my ongoing sca research. Redacting is defined as editing for publication, in this case taking the medieval recipe and translating and updating so it fits with what we consider to be a recipe. The recipe I chose is that of a caudle.
Medieval recipes are not like modern ones. At the time those who wrote the recipes assumed that the person who would read it had a basic understanding of cooking, rarely were amounts listed nor cook times. This is leaving out the fact that the language, even the English, of the time is not like modern English. Shakespearean English is often considered difficult because the phrases are so different, however Shakespeare spoke what is considered modern English, medieval people did not, if they spoke English at all it was a completely different language then what we are used to now. There was also no spelling conventions, no dictionary, so words were spelled how they sounded, and might be spelled different ways every time they were written, even by the same author, even in the same recipe. Redacting medieval recipes requires patience, a vague understanding of medieval English, and experimentation.
Medieval Cooking Is Tasty
Forget Your Misconceptions
Medieval cooking has a reputation for being terrible, this is simply not true. They ate a wide variety of vegetables, not mainly meat as modernly portrayed. They did not grab hunks of meat eat it with their hands and throw the rest to the dogs either. These are terrible misconceptions handed to us from Hollywood and works of fiction.
Medieval table manners were considerably more complex than modern man could probably handle. As to the food, if you were cooking for someone that could behead you because they didn't like the food would you cook terrible food? So throw aside your misconceptions and try a medieval recipe or two.
The Forme of Cury is an ancient cookbook written by the cooks of the court of King Richard II in 1390. It is considered one of the best sources of medieval recipes by many historians and is referred to often when people talk about medieval cookery. Due to its popularity, and the fact that it is from the high middle ages I chose to redact my caudle recipe from the Forme of Cury.
Take flour of Payndemayn and gode wyne. and drawe it togydre. do þerto a grete quantite of Sugur cypre. or hony clarified, and do þerto safroun. boile it. and whan it is boiled, alye it up with zolkes of ayrenn. and do þerto salt and messe it forth. and lay þeron sugur and powdour gyngur
A caudle was a popular drink of the medieval times, recipes show up in many of the extant recipe books that we have from this time period. Sometimes it was presented as a sauce, sometimes as a drink, sometimes as more a pudding. The reason for this is it is an eggnog like beverage very thick often almost as thick as pudding. In some cookbooks caudles are listed as a digestive aid and were served after dinner, desert was not common at the time so caudles could be considered desert like.
Caudles are wine and usually egg based beverages. This particular one is flavoured with ginger and has saffron for colouring, both were very popular spices in the day. Spicing for this drink could be pretty much anything I have seen recipes call for mace, cinnamon, various herbs, and a wide variety of other flavourings.
It will turn out to be a thin custard consistency. Sweet and sour, an interesting blending of flavours. The alcohol does not entirely cook out despite the boiling. Caudles make great beverages to warm up with on a cold winters day.
Personally this was not my favourite medieval food I have tried, but then I don't like eggnog and its very similar.
- 3 cups wine
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 -3 threads of saffron
- Ginger to taste
- Take flour and quality wine and mix it well, the better the wine the better the final product. Mix in the or honey and saffron and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low and allow it to cool to blood warm. Mix it with the yolk of an egg and a pinch of salt. Continue to heat gently stiring constantly. Flavour to taste with sugar and ginger. The final consistancy will be like a thick creme anglaise.
Thoughts on Wine Selection
I've mentioned this before in my wine jelly recipe but it is important to note. Cooking wine is not an option, this stuff should never be used for cooking, or any other purpose. Never use a wine you would not drink, bad wine does not improve by cooking it. The more you like the wine the more you'll like the final product.
More Medieval Cookery
Pleyn Delit is a favourite among SCA cooks. It contains many redactions of medieval recipes in an easy to follow manner.
This book is my favourite collection of ancient brewing recipes. Don't expect to read the original form of the recipe though, its redactions only.
© 2013 Jeff Johnston