Feast cooking in the SCA is a unique craft. No other skill comes to mind in which the artist is required to satisfy the basic needs of more than 100 people in order to be successful. Unlike a gift of garb or an A&S display of jewelry, the populous has paid for a meal, one that must fulfill certain requirements.
1st it must be delicious. Whatever else is accomplished in a feast, surely this is the most important. Good food brings a visceral joy- It makes you happy on a very basic level. A bad meal feels like an insult, a waste of your time (and the cook’s time).
2nd it must be period. We are recreationists. If you can’t give your guests a window into experiencing historical food, then you might as well be serving them pizza. It certainly satisfies the 1st requirement. But for those of us who are looking to find more ways to experience life pre-1600, period food is an essential path. It enhances the atmosphere of the Hall. It speaks to the hind-brain, telling your medieval self that all of this is somehow real.
3rd it must be in the right quantities. The most irritating problem we experience as feasters besides a bad dish, is not having enough of a good dish. This has to be balanced with an attempt not to overwhelm the guests with too much food- another common problem with SCA feasts. If you want each individual dish to be appreciated, you must be careful not to serve too much of any one dish, lest the eater lose any appetite for the other nine or 10 dishes to come.
4th– You must come in under budget. Notice how I don’t say “on budget”. That way leads madness. It is always best to plan for a decent amount of wiggle room in feast finances as you NEVER know what surprises the day might hold. It’s also nice to see the look of calm on an exchequer’s face when you give him the news that you haven’t bankrupted his Barony. No need to add to the stress of an event by over-spending.
Every feast is a new adventure and Christof and Adehait’s Coronation has been no exception. Their Highnesses requested a German feast. This required a whole new area of study for me. I had previously never explored the many period sources for German food. Unlike French or Italian cookbooks, I had no familiarity with the language so translations and redactions were going to prove especially challenging. Her Highness has sensitivity to seeds and a serious nut allergy. The latter is always a limiting factor in pre-1600 c.e. cooking, whatever the region. Add to that a disappointing trip to buy books at Pennsic this year, where I found no cookbooks for sale anywhere much less for ones for German food. So my research had to start on-line.
My sources and their translations
Actually I did find one book of interest that was not an internet source, Beyond Bratwurst: A History of Food In Germany by Ursula Heizelmann. This is an overview of the foodstuffs available all over the region now referred to as Germany; from the Neolithic period to modern day; and the political and social tides that influenced it. It also has information on cooking utensils, methods and serving styles of the various time periods. This information about cooking utensils proved very helpful in deciding what was the most period method for cooking some of the dishes.
The Cookbooks: Because I was avoiding nuts in my recipes it quickly became obvious that to pull together a truly delicious feast with a variety of foods and a balance of sweet and savory, mild and spicy dishes, I was going to have to use more than one cookbook.
I was frankly, overwhelmed with the number of sources available. Germans wrote a wealth of cookbooks, many of them mixing medical advice with the recipes. It was even more hearting to see that many of them were written by women, which is not something you find common in other European nations. Unfortunately many of these examples are still handwritten. Women wrote their cookbooks as personal journals that were suitable for inheritance by family members. Even for those cookbooks that were printed (authored by men or women) , very few of them are translated into English. I found tantalizing internet sources from fellow SCAdians, most ending in dead links and abandoned projects.
I chose the ones that were the latest period possible, both to keep in line with the event itself and to have available recipes with the largest variety of ingredients.
All this led to some frustration as I tried to assemble a tasty and authentic meal for their soon-to-be Majesties. I wanted a varied menu with many flavors, visual interest AND NO NUTS!.
- Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin- translations by Valoise Armstrong
Frau Welserin dated her book 1553. She was a member of a prominent merchant family. Sabine’s collection makes use of local and seasonal ingredients, but also, interestingly some luxury items as well. She uses saffron more than once and also frequently uses sugar. Sugar in this time period and region is referenced far mor frequently as a medicinal aid than an ingredient in food.
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Sabrina_Welserin.html I further checked the transcription with another source: http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/sawe.htm by Thomas Gloning.
- Das Kochbuch des Meisters Eberhard- translations by Volker Bach
Master Eberhard wrote in the mid-1500’s . Unlike Sabina, he was a professional chef, in the service of Henri XVI, Duke of Bavaria. His cookbook was very popular. In addition to his own works he also compiled medical advice from Hildegard of Bingen’s “Physica”, helping to preserve 12th c. knowledge along with his own.
- Ein New Kochbuch by Marx Rumbolt 1581– Here is where the real research challenges lay. Master Rumbolt was very influential. He is credited with publishing the 1st true German cookbook written by a professional chef for other chefs. He worked for several European nobles and learned a number of regional cuisines before settling in the court of the Elector of Mainz. His book contains over 2000 recipes, instructions for making wine, and 150 woodcuts. This is a massive volume any SCA cook would love to have in their library. Except as far as I can tell it hasn’t been translated. Some have made significant progress. I am very grateful to Rainvag and all the contributors of the “Cooking Rumpolt” yahoo group for letting me join and peruse their notes. They saved my sanity.
I also used several translations by M. Grase, which were reprinted by other SCAdians. Unfortunately the links to her original page no longer work. And example is here. http://www.medievalcuisine.com/site/medievalcuisine/Euriol/recipe-index/vngerische-kaeesssuppen
In addition to the German food and Her Highnesses health concerns, this event also had some aspects of a period version of Snow White. I encompassed that theme in the dishes that included apples. Of course, I had to serve snow for dessert. In addition I purchase some cookie molds in the form of crowns, detailed hearts and our beloved Spike, with the intention of making this feast as visually interesting as it was delicious. The site for Coronation has an extremely well-equipped kitchen, with 4 ovens, a soup tureen, a griddle and a gas range, walk-in freezers and an industrial dishwasher. This kind of site means there is no limitation on the kinds of dishes chosen for their cooking methods. Other factors to take into consideration: These days I get help from outside sources in a couple of ways. I ask one of my feast team to make my bread for me. This year it’s Also with this feast I have encouraged a young member of Tyr-I-Don, Magz MCCord, to choose one dish, research it, budget for it and make it for this feast. I think this is a useful way to get new cooks the practice they need without dumping a whole feast on them every time. It’s important that those of us who have been cooking feasts for awhile encourage interest in new cooks. Magz is responsible for the cheese bun recipe. Her documentation will be included at the end of this feast report. I will list the menu and then follow with originals, translations and my cooking notes. Working within the bounds of Her Highness’ allergies and His Highness’ request for a suckling pig the menu is as follows:
Cheese Soup with bread for dipping
Suckling Pig in a sauce of apples
Salat of Cucumbers
Zervelat and Bratwurst
Snow and Semmel
Moving past the cheese buns (which will be covered at the end) lets begin with:
Original- From Meister Eberhard-
Item ein essenn von gebratenn arbeissenn.
Nym gesotenn arbeyß vnd slach sie durch ein tuch
oder durch ein sib vnd slach vil eyerr darzu,
als vil der arbeiß sein, vnd seud es in putternn
vnd steck es an einen spiß vnd brot sie
wol vnd beslach sie mit eyernn vnd mit kraut
vnd gib es hin. Versalcz es nit.
- Bach’s Translation-
Item a meal of roasted peas
Take boiled peas and pass them through a cloth or through a sieve. Stir as much egg into it as there is peas and fry it in butter. Then place it on a spit and roast it well, cover it with egg and greens and serve it forth. Do not oversalt it.
Notes- Fresh peas are not available in large quantities in Oct. so I used frozen. I cooked the peas for 5 min, until they were bright green, and then ran them through the food processor. I used 1 egg per cup of peas, adding salt, garlic and a little pepper to taste. I was looking for something that would be firm enough to cut into shapes. I’m not a big fan of serving fried blobs of pea goo. I wanted them to have some definition. I wasn’t really getting that with just the egg, so I added 1 tblsp of flour per cup. That allowed for enough body to use cookie cutters. The flavor was still a little boring so I added a bit of goat cheese on top.
Original from Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin-
Ain jenaweser torta zú machenn
Nempt 36 lott mangoldt oder spinetkraút, 6 lott geriben
kesß, 5 lott bamel, 12 lott gerente milich, das keslin darúon,
vnnd das kraút brien, aúch klainhacken vnnd als vnnderainanderrieren
vnnd ain torta daraús machen mit ainer
Translation by V. Armstrong
30 To make Genovese tart
Take eighteen ounces of chard or spinach, three ounces of grated cheese, two and one half ounces of olive oil and the fresh cheese from six ounces of curdled milk . And blanch the herbs and chop them small and stir it all together and make a good covered tart with it.
My notes: I used 12 oz of spinach and a handful of beet greens I had leftover from the pickled beets, 4 oz. hard cheese, 2 tblsp olive oil, and 6 oz. homemade quark for each batch. This serves 8.
Quark- This is probably the most basic cheese recipe available. It’s a period stable and you can make it in less than 2 days. I made my soft cheese for this recipe by combining a gal. of whole milk with ½ gal buttermilk. I scalded the milk, let it come back to room temp. and then added the buttermilk. I let this sit for 24 hours. Then I poured the thickened milk into a strainer lined with cheese cloth. I let that sit for another 24 hours, added salt and then refrigerated it.
Sabine’s Crust– To make a pastry dough for all shaped pies. Take flour, the best that you can get, about two handfuls, depending on how large or small you would have the pie. Put it on the table and with a knife stir in two eggs and a little salt. Put water in a small pan and a piece of fat the size of two good eggs, let it all dissolve together and boil. Afterwards pour it on the flour on the table and make a strong dough and work it well, however you feel is right. If it is summer, one must take meat broth instead of water and in the place of the fat the skimmings from the broth. When the dough is kneaded, then make of it a round ball and draw it out well on the sides with the fingers or with a rolling pin, so that in the middle a raised area remains, then let it chill in the cold. Afterwards shape the dough as I have pointed out to you. Also reserve dough for the cover and roll it out into a cover and take water and spread it over the top of the cover and the top of the formed pastry shell and join it together well with the fingers. Leave a small hole. And see that it is pressed together well, so that it does not come open. Blow in the small hole which you have left, then the cover will lift itself up. Then quickly press the hole closed. Afterwards put it in the oven. Sprinkle flour in the dish beforehand. Take care that the oven is properly heated, then it will be a pretty pastry. The dough for all shaped pastries is made in this manner.
My Notes- I am not fond of the medieval crusts that include egg. They are just too heavy for what I have in mind here. But to keep as close to the original as possible I did use one the white of one egg per batch. I used lard for the fat and beef broth for the water. Instead of using heat I made all the ingredients cold before putting them together.
I made this tart in small sizes that you could pick up with your hand. At this point I was trying to keep things light to make room for the pork dish to come.
Cheese Soup With Fresh Bread-
From From Ein new Kochbuch – Rumbolt
Nimm ein neuwen Käeß/ der vber Nacht gemacht ist/ vnd rüer jhn ab mit saurem Rahm/ thu frische Butter darein/ vnd laß darmit auffsieden/ so zergehet der Käeß. Vnnd wenn du wilt anrichten/ so nimm gebeht Schnitten Brot/ oder von Weck/ vnd geuß die Brüeh darüeber/ so ist es ein gute Vngerische Käeßsuppen.
Translation: (Translated by M. Grasse)
Take a new cheese/ that (was) made overnight/ and stir it up with soured cream/ put fresh butter therein/ and let (it) come to a boil therewith/ so the cheese breaks down. And when you want to prepare it (serve it)/ so take sliced bread/ or from a loaf. And pour the broth over (it)/ so is a good Hungarian cheese soup.
My notes: “New cheese” really sounds like quark, but as I had already made over a gal for the Genovese tarts and had run out of workspace I decided to use full fat yogurt, which is very similar. 2 cups of yogurt, ¼ feta, ¼ butter, ½ sour cream w/ some white pepper to taste. Serves 8
Suckling Pig with Sauce of Apples
The pig is straightforward and seemed like a good match with Sabine’s “Sauce with Apples”. I served the suckling pig at high table and used pork shoulder for the remaining populous. Fat is an important aspect of good pig. I find pork butt to be tastier than pork loin. We cooked the pork at 300 degrees for 6 hours until it fell off the bone.
From Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin
To make a sauce with apples for game and small birds
Take good apples and peel them and grate them with a grater and put a little fat in a pan over [the fire] and let it become hot and put the apples in it and let them roast therein. After that put good wine thereon, sugar, cinnamon, saffron and some ginger and let it cook together for a while, then it is ready. One should boil the small birds first and then roast them in fat.
My notes- I chose granny smith apples, always a good choice for cooking. Their flavor stands up to cooking. I had a couple of bottles lift of a friend’s sweet elderberry wine to donate to the cause as well. I used butter for the fat. After grating the apples I combined them on the stove with the fat, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, sugar, and a little salt. 5 apples, 2 tblsp butter,1/2 c. elderberry wine seasoning to taste serves 8.Salat of Cucumbers-
From Ein new Kochbuch – Rumbolt
Salat 20. Schel die Murcken/ vnd schneidt sie breit vnnd dünn/ mach sie an mit Oel/ Pfeffer vnd Saltz. Seind sie aber eyngesaltzen/ so seind sie auch nit böß/ seind besser als roh/ denn man kans eynsaltzen mit Fenchel vnd mit Kümel/ daß man sie vber ein Jar kan behalten. Vnnd am Rheinstrom nennet man es Cucummern.
- Peel the Cucumbers/ and cut them wide and thin/ mix them with oil/ pepper and salt. If they are salted/ then they are also not bad/ they are better than raw/ for one can salt them down with fennel and with caraway/ that one can keep over a year. And on the Rhine river (in the Rhine valley) one calls it Cucummern.
My notes- Her highness is sensitive to seeds of all kinds so I removed all seeds from the cucumbers and did not include the caraway. 4 cucumber,1 half a fennel bulb, 3 tblsp olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. serves 8
Zervelat and Bratwurst
From Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin
24 How one should make Zervelat
First take four pounds of pork from the tender area of the leg and two pounds of bacon. Let this be finely chopped and add to it three ounces of salt, one pound of grated cheese, one and one half ounces of pepper and one and one half ounces of ginger. When it is chopped then knead the following into it, one and one half ounces cinnamon, one fourth ounce of cloves, one fourth ounce of nutmeg and one ounce of sugar. The sausage skins must be cleaned and subsequently colored yellow, for which one needs not quite one fourth ounce of saffron. Tie it up on both ends and pour in approximately one quart of fresh water. The entire amount of salt, ginger and pepper should not be added, taste it first and season it accordingly. It should be cooked about as long as to cook eggs. The seasoning and the salt must be put into it according to one’s own discretion, it must be tried first.
My notes: Her ratios made a tougher saltier sausage than I wanted so I changed things up a bit. 4 lbs pork , 1 lb bacon 2 tsp salt, 1 cup grated cheese, ginger and pepper to taste. I also added a bit of saffron because using it as a colorant for the casings in period had to add to the flavor. We use natural pork casings when we put the sausage together.
Also from Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin
25 If you would make good bratwurst
Take four pounds of pork and four pounds of beef and chop it finely. After that mix with it two pounds of bacon and chop it together and pour approximately one quart of water on it. Also add salt and pepper thereto, however you like to eat it, or if you would like to have some good herbs , you could take some sage and some marjoram, then you have good bratwurst.
My notes: This worked quite well as written. The ground beef must be very fatty, the more fat the better the sausage. I used 75/25. Sage and Marjoram were both perfect. Salt and pepper to taste.
Pickling vegetable using salt is as old as Apicius. I used a simple recipe. 5 lbs cabbage to 4 tablespoons salt. I packed them in food safe plastic and weighted it all down with bags of water. After a couple of days the cabbage still felt dry so I made a brine and submerged the cabbage. It fermented for 3 ½ weeks.
Ein new Kochbuch – Rumbolt
Rote Ruben eyngemacht mit klein geschnittenen Merrettich/ Aniss/ Coriander/ und ein wenig Kuemel/ sonderlich wenn die Ruben geschnitten/ gesotten mit halb Wein und halb Essig.
Translation by M. Grasse
Red beets preserved with small cut horseradish/ anise/ coriander/ and a little caraway/ special if the beets are cut/ marinated in half wine and half vinegar.
My notes- I ground the spices to powder and used them sparingly. This is another recipe where the elderberry wine came in handy. 4 beets, ½ c wine ½ red wine vinegar. I shredded the beets. Serves 8
163 To make Nürnberger Lebkuchen
Take one quart of honey, put it into a large pan, skim it well and let it boil a good while. Put one and a half pounds of sugar into it and stir it continually with a wooden spatula and let it cook for a while, as long as one cooks an egg, pour it hot into a quarter pound of flour, stir it around slowly and put the described spices in the dough, stir it around slowly and not too long; take one and a half ounces of cinnamon sticks, one and a half ounces of nutmeg, three fourths of an ounce of cloves, three ounces of ginger, a pinch of mace, and chop or grind each one separately so that they are not too small, the cinnamon sticks, especially, should be coarsely ground. And when you have put the spices in the dough, then let the dough set for as long as one needs to hard boil eggs. Dip the hands in flour and take a small heap of dough, make balls out of it, weigh them so that one is as heavy as the others, roll them out with a rolling pin, and spread them out smoothly by hand, the smoother the prettier. After that dip the mold in rose water and open it up. Take four ounces of dough for one Lebkuchen. Be careful and get no flour in the molds or else they will be no good, but on the board you can put flour so that they do not stick to it. Let them set overnight. And when you take them to the baker, then see to it that you have another board that is thoroughly sprinkled with flour, so that it is very thickly covered. Put the board with its covering of flour into the oven so that the board is completely heated, the hotter the better. Take it out afterwards and lay the Lebkuchen on top, so that none touches the other, put them in the oven, let them bake and look after them frequently. At first they will become soft as fat. If you take hold of them you can feel it well. And when they become entirely dry, then take them out and turn the board around, so that the front part goes into the back of the oven. Let it remain a short while, then take it out. Take a small broom, brush the flour cleanly away from the underside of theLebkuchen and lay the Lebkuchen, in the mean time, on the other board, until you have brushed off the Lebkuchen, one after the other, so that there is no more flour on the bottoms. Afterwards sweep the flour very cleanly from off the board. Lay the Lebkuchen on top of it again, so that the bottom is turned to the top. Take a bath sponge, dip it in rose water, squeeze it out again, wash the flour from the bottoms of the Lebkuchen. Be careful that you do not leave any water on the board, then they would stick to it. Afterwards put the board with the Lebkuchen again in the oven, until the bottoms rise nicely and become hard, then take the board out again. See to it that two or three [people] are by the board, who can quickly turn the Lebkuchen over, or else they will stick. Afterwards take rose water and wash them on top with it as you have done on the underside. Put them in the oven again, let them become dry, carry them home and move them around on the board, so that they do not stick. And when they have completely cooled, then lay them eight or ten, one upon the other, wrap them in paper and store them in a dry place, see that no draft comes therein, then they remain crisp.
My notes: This is very similar to springerle cookies without any eggs. It’s really a kind of sweetened dough,that is meant to show off the skills of the baker by allowing detailed molds to be taken. I chose a simple springerle recipe because it tastes better and I can still get a decent mold out of it.
From Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin
140 Apple pillows
Take good apples, peel them and cut them into four pieces. Take flour, eggs and water and salt, make a batter, not too thin , pour the apples into it and put fat in a deep pan. When it is hot, put the pieces into the fat, until the cake rises, let it fry slowly. Turn it, let it also fry on the other side, then it is good. –
My Notes- This worked just as she described. To further appeal to the modern palate I rolled the apples in sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg before putting them in the batter. I sprinkled a little cinnamon and sugar on the outside while they were still hot.
55 To make snow
Dilute cream and put it in a pot. And take an eggbeater and stir it thoroughly, until it forms snowy foam on top. And toast a Semmel and lay it in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over it and put the foam on the bread, then it is ready
My notes- A dish of snow is a popular dessert in more than just Germany, I have seen it in English and Italian cookbooks as well. I added a tiny bit of rosewater. This is an ingredient found in later English examples and it adds a nice flavor. I was originally going to serve this with semmel (bread) but it works, both by itself, and using the lebkuchen so I decided to stick with what we have.