Harper’s Retreat

by ChoppedGinger

I (relatively) recently had the opportunity to attend an SCA camping even with a friend who loves historical authenticity as much as I do, if not more. As part of our weekend, we planned to cook our meals from entirely period sources. A number of the dishes were from Libro de Cucina, written by an “Anonymous Venetian” somewhere around the 14th century. While the entire weekend was done in medieval style, Sunday dinner was our high point.

My favorite part of cooking from historical cookbooks is the implied knowledge; at the time of writing, so much more was expected of a cook in the kitchen. There are largely no measurements, cooking times, or temperatures, and it’s up to the cook to determine the best combination of the above. This is where I thrive. Despite being a cookbook author, actually following recipes is not my forte. In fact, my tendency to not measure things was my downfall when adjusting recipes for Feast. Cooking is undeniably an art, and those of us that cannot follow modern recipes are simply a bit…erm…more free handed in our composition.

Our meal included roasted sweet and sour pork, tredura, sprouts of life/health, bread, and candied nuts. I was a bit nervous about the pork, as it called for egg as a thickening agent and I wasn’t sure how that would work out. Turned our phenomenal, and I will absolutely be using the recipe again. The tredura was amazing, as anything cooked in bacon grease is wont to be. I do love a good chopped leek. We did well getting our greens in, a problem I usually encounter whilst camping.

We clearly made far too much food for the two of us, and certainly had to share. We brought our candied nuts to court (ahem), and they were a big hit. This is probably the recipe that I most heavily redacted, as the recipe described a very in-depth and long process. I was personally tickled by the recipe’s use of “six Our Fathers” as a length of time. Find my redaction after the jump.

CXXVII To candy fresh almonds, peaches, walnuts that are perfect, neither too hard nor too soft etc.
Take the said items, peel them and put holes in them, the walnuts want six holes each, the peach pits six, the almonds four.  These should be put in water, the water should be changed every day until the nuts are sweet, then boil them in water, the walnuts should be boiled for half an hour, the peach pits and almonds from when they start to boil for a quarter of an hour.  Then put them to dry in the shade and in the wind in a fruit basket under a lattice for three days, the peach pits and the almonds for two.  Then fill each hole with gloves, cinnamon and ginger.  Then let them boil in honey for the time it takes to recite six “Our Fathers”.  Take them out of this honey and boil them in fresh honey until that honey is cooked.  Then powder fine spices above the honey and put them in a closed pharmacy pot in the sun for the space of five days.  The peach pits should be made the same way except that they should be boiled in the first honey until it is cooked, there is no need to change them to fresh.  Note that the almonds will not last past the middle of April in a hot location, because their skin will become too hard.  -Libro di Cucina, Anonimo Veneziano (translated by Louise Smithson)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • Cinnamon and ginger to coat

In a non-stick saucepan, combine the almonds, sugar, and honey before the pan is put onto the heat. Turn heat to medium and stir constantly until he sugar melts and coats the almonds. Cook till the sugar turn amber, but does not burn. Remove from heat and spread on parchment paper or a silpat. Let cool and coat with the cinnamon and ginger mixture.

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