Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Medieval food notes part 3

From same wiki

Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling. On occasion it was used in upper-class kitchens in stews, but it was difficult to keep fresh in bulk and almond milk was generally used in its stead.[42]

Cheese was far more important as a foodstuff, especially for common people, and it has been suggested that it was, during many periods, the chief supplier of animal protein among the lower classes. [43] Many varieties of cheese eaten today, like Dutch Edam, Northern French Brie and Italian Parmesan, were available and well-known in late medieval times. There were also whey cheeses, like ricotta, made from by-products of the production of harder cheeses. Cheese was used in cooking for pies and soups, the latter being common fare in German-speaking areas. Butter, another important dairy product, was in popular use in the regions of Northern Europe that specialized in cattle production in the latter half of the Middle Ages, the Low Countries and Southern Scandinavia. While most other regions used oil or lard as cooking fats, butter was the dominant cooking medium in these areas.

I'd have to assume that Butter was scarce in the CR area.

In modern times, water is seen as a common choice to drink with a meal. In the Middle Ages, however, concerns over purity, medical recommendations and its low prestige value made it less favored, and alcoholic beverages were always preferred. They were seen as more nutritious and beneficial to digestion than water, with the invaluable bonus of being less prone to putrefaction due to the alcohol content. Wine was consumed on a daily basis in most of France and all over the Western Mediterranean wherever grapes were cultivated. Further north it remained the preferred drink of the bourgeoisie and the nobility who could afford it, and far less common among peasants and workers. The drink of commoners in the northern parts of the continent was primarily beer or ale. Because of the difficulty of preserving this beverage for any time (especially before the introduction of hops), it was mostly consumed fresh; it was therefore cloudier and perhaps had a lower alcohol content than the typical modern equivalent. Plain milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, being reserved for the very young or elderly, and then usually as buttermilk or whey. Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling.[52]

Juices, as well as wines, of a multitude of fruits and berries had been known at least since Roman antiquity and were still consumed in the Middle Ages: pomegranate, mulberry and blackberry wines, perry, and cider which was especially popular in the north where both apples and pears were plentiful. Medieval drinks that have survived to this day include prunellé from wild plums (modern-day slivovitz), mulberry gin and blackberry wine. Many variants of mead have been found in medieval recipes, with or without alcoholic content. However, the honey-based drink became less common as a table beverage towards the end of the period and was eventually relegated to medicinal use.[53] Mead has often been presented as the common drink of the Slavs. This is partially true since mead bore great symbolic value at important occasions. When agreeing on treaties and other important affairs of state, mead was often presented as a ceremonial gift. It was also common at weddings and baptismal parties, though in limited quantity due to its high price. In medieval Poland, mead had a status equivalent to that of imported luxuries, such as spices and wines.[54] Kumis, the fermented milk of mares or camels, was known in Europe, but as with mead was mostly something prescribed by physicians.[55]

And, as we all know, Beer was invented in Plzen. :D

Spices were among the most luxurious products available in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper, cinnamon (and the cheaper alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. They all had to be imported from plantations in Asia and Africa, which made them extremely expensive. It has been estimated that around 1,000 tons of pepper and 1,000 tons of the other common spices were imported into Western Europe each year during the late Middle Ages. The value of these goods was the equivalent of a yearly supply of grain for 1.5 million people.[67] While pepper was the most common spice, the most exclusive was saffron, used as much for its vivid yellow-red color as for its flavor. Among the spices that have now fallen into obscurity are grains of paradise, a relative of cardamom which almost entirely replaced pepper in late medieval north French cooking, long pepper, mace, spikenard, galangal and cubeb. Sugar, unlike today, was considered to be a type of spice due to its high cost and humoral qualities.[68] Few dishes employed just one type of spice or herb, but rather a combination of several different ones. Even when a dish was dominated by a single flavorer it was usually combined with another to produce a compound taste, for example parsley and cloves or pepper and ginger.[69]

Common herbs such as sage, mustard, and parsley were grown and used in cooking all over Europe, as were caraway, mint, dill and fennel. Many of these plants grew throughout all of Europe or were cultivated in gardens, and were a cheaper alternative to exotic spices. Mustard was particularly popular with meat products and was described by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) as poor man's food. While locally grown herbs were less prestigious than spices, they were still used in upper-class food, but were then usually less prominent or included merely as coloring. Anise was used to flavor fish and chicken dishes, and its seeds were served as sugar-coated comfits.[70]

Picking green grapes for making verjuice; Tacuinum Sanitatis, 1474.Surviving medieval recipes frequently call for flavoring with a number of sour, tart liquids. Wine, verjuice (the juice of unripe grapes or fruits) vinegar and the juices of various fruits, especially one those with tart flavors were almost universal and a hallmark of late medieval cooking. In combination with sweeteners and spices, it produced a distinctive "pungeant, fruity" flavor. Equally common, and used to complement the tanginess of these ingredients, were (sweet) almonds. They were used in a variety of ways: whole, shelled or unshelled, slivered, ground and, most importantly, processed into almond milk. This last type of non-dairy milk product is probably the single most common ingredient in late medieval cooking and blended the aroma of spices and sour liquids with a mild taste and creamy texture.[71]

Salt was a ubiquitous and indispensable in medieval cooking. Salting and drying was the most common form of food preservation and meant that especially fish and meat were often heavily salted. Many medieval recipes specifically warn against oversalting and there were recommendations for soaking certain products in water to get rid of excess salt.[72] Salt was present during more elaborate or expensive meals. The richer the host, and the more prestigious the guest, the more elaborate would be the container in which it was served and the quality and price of the salt. Wealthy guests were provided with salt cellars made of pewter, precious metals or other fine materials, often intricately decorated. The rank of a diner also decided how finely ground and white the salt was. Salt for cooking, preservation or for use by common people was coarser; sea salt, or "bay salt", in particular, had more impurities, and was described in colors ranging from black to green. Expensive salt, on the other hand, looked like the standard commercial salt common today.[73]

42^ Adamson (2004), p. 45.
43^ Hans J. Teuteberg, "Periods and Turning-Points in the History of European Diet: A Preliminary Outline of Problems and Methods" in Food in Change, p. 18.
52^ Adamson (2004), pp. 48–51.
53^ Scully (1995), pp. 154–157.
54^ Dembinska (1999), p. 80.
55^ Scully (1995), p. 157.
67^ Adamson (2004), p. 65. By comparison, the estimated population of Britain in 1340, right before the Black Death, was only 5 million, and was a mere 3 million by 1450; see J.C Russel "Population in Europe 500–1500" in The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The Middle Ages, p. 36.
68^ Adamson (2004), pp. 15–19, 28.
69^ Scully (1995), p. 86.
70^ Adamson (2004), pp. 11–15.
71^ Scully (1995), p. 111–12.
72^ Adamson (2004), pp. 26–27.
73^ Henisch (1976), p. 161–64.

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