I submitted some of my sugar paste research the other week to an “Unfinished Projects” display and got some great feedback. One of the more common questions was: what would 16th century sweetmeats look like? Most of what I do is about recreating a flavour rather than shape of an object so I thought I’d look into it. There are, of course some descriptions of what you can make in the cookery books but they are mostly suggestions of things you can counterfeit such as plates, dishes, cups, glasses and platters, but they also mention walnuts and small loaves of bread or buns.
I didn’t think that was enough to answer the question so I decided to look for some artwork depicting them (I’ll leave my discussion of ephemeral arts in the SCA for another time). Now I’m not an art historian by any stretch of the imagination so if you have better interpretations or know of art I haven’t mentioned please let me know.
I’ve been putting this sugar paste post together for about three months now and have done four attempts, two successes, one mostly successful and one abject failure. I entered a version of this for commentary at the Unfinished Projects at Bitter End’s Harvest Feast, and I’ll be using that feedback to make my next attempt. I also brought the most successful version, with a functioning plate made out of sugar paste, to Culinary Night. My apologies for how long this one is but I wanted to be thorough and I plan to enter this in competition in the future.
There’s quite a history of sugar paste (modernly called gum paste), with recipes in English going back to at least 1558 when Alessio’s Secreti (1555) was translated into English. Recipes originating in English start appearing in 1567. Most of the recipes for sugar paste come out after the 1590s.
I was inspired to look back at some of my coffin work by a question from Don Caiaphas. Wow, has it been six years since I did this at Tir Righ A&S? Ok, I think it’s time to go back to this, especially since I have a bunch of research that I did in 2013 on it and never got around to writing up.
Coffins, as discussed in my previous work, are a pastry case which has a bottom, sides and a top (with exceptions where referred to in the recipe) which is able to hold its shape without supports in the oven and can be filled with other items.
The earliest I’ve found a coffin recipe is in Fourme of Curye from 1390 and the recipes continue throughout the SCA time period all the way to the 17th century, though they change in composition.
Here’s a quick post from a research tangent I just went on.
The cloved orange is an orange studded with cloves that is given as a gift, often in the Christmas season. In the SCA it has evolved into a game to make introductions easier and often involves a kiss on the hand or cheek, or for people you know well on the lips. See here for more information about it in the SCA context. From what I can tell cloved oranges are a 17th or 18th century fad, but they do have their roots in the 16th century.
A friend of mine made some cheese the other week and had a great deal of whey left over. So I, being the crazy person I am, decided to make something with it. And so: Sauerkraut.
This post is a little less academic than some of the ones I’ve been doing because it was a spur of the moment project.
So for more background I’ll recommend you go take a look at Stefan’s Florilegium. What they have discussed there is that we have lots of references to Sauerkraut from the 16th century in Germany: Ein New Kochbook has some recipes that call for it and Baecker, Brot und Getreide in Augsburg references it being sold at the market; in addition Scappi mentions salted or brined cabbage being exported from Germany. Finally, as early as 1485 Kuchenmeysterey apparently mentions sauerkraut in passing.