Recipes for a Medieval Christmas Dinner
Holidays ("holy days") were times of great celebration and freedom from work in the Middle Ages. Although our forefathers often celebrated in ways very different from our modern traditions, the Feast of the Nativity, or Christmas, was second only to Easter in importance in the Church calendar.
As a thank you to all of the support and enthusiasm our patrons have shown us this year, we at Revival wanted to put together something fun and a little different for the holidays. And although an essay on medieval Christmas traditions would * no doubt * have been fascinating, it didn't really seem terribly festive. Since, our business is about relating to history through re-living it we decided that we could best relate the seasonal merriment of medieval people to ourselves through a medium that has always been mankind's way of celebrating good time - through his stomach!
With a little help from our resident medieval cookery maven, Jorg Bellinghausen, we are pleased to offer the following recipes for a medieval-style Christmas dinner. If your tired of turkey, ham or that same old roast, why not try a meal that would have brought a smile to the face of your Christmas guest six hundred years ago. Actually, if you and your guests are fans of good food and just a titch adventurous, we're pretty sure it will bring a smile to your faces today!
A very Merry Christmas to all and bon apetit!
Warm hypocras (medieval spiced wine)
1 bottle of really good quality red wine (Burgundy preferred; or use dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc)
3/4 cup sugar (brown cane sugar preferred)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh or dried ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh or dried ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons round fresh or dried ground galangal (or, if you can't get galangal, an additional equal amount of ginger)
2 tablespoons of rose water (made from 1 drop purified essence of Roses on a cup of water)
Mix wine with sugar in a glass or stainless steel bowl, and add the spices. Let stand for at least two hours (over night is even better). Strain the wine through a double layer of cheesecloth; repeat several times until clear (However, if the hypocras remains opaque, this will not affect the taste) and rebottle the wine. Keep the hypocras in the refrigerator, and wait a couple of days before pouring.
Before serving, warm gently (be careful, do not allow it to boil)
I. Eggs in yellow sauce
8 large eggs, hard-boiled
8 tablespoons marmalade (get an English style bitter orange marmalade)
6 tablespoons hot Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons red wine
1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
Combine all ingredients except the eggs in a sauce pan, mix well and let simmer gently over low heat for about 10 minutes. If it gets too thick, add a tablespoon of water.
Peel and halve the eggs, put them on small plates and douse them with the sauce and serve.
II. Fish soup
1 whole pike or walleye (ca. 2.2 lbs), gutted, scaled and filleted (reserve head and bones)
1 quart of water
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of greens, coarsely chopped
2-3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup of tart white wine
1/2 cup cream
1 egg yolk
Sea salt and whole black peppercorns
Parsley for garnishing
In a pot, combine water, the fish's head and bones, onion, bay leaves, the chopped greens, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and let it boil down for about 30 minutes until reduced to ca. 50% of its original volume. Strain broth through a fine sieve into a bowl, discard the rest.
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add flour and cook for a 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the roux is just starting to take up some light color. Add the fish broth; stir well to dissolve any clots. Bring to a boil, turn heat down immediately and let simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Cut the fillets into bite-sized chunks and add them to the soup together with the wine. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk the egg yolk and the cream thoroughly and stir into the soup.
Adjust seasoning and serve immediately garnished with some freshly chopped parsley.
III. Venison pie with spicy morello cherry sauce
For the dough:
2 cups flour
2-3 eggs, depending on size
2 oz lard
2 tablespoons water
For the filling:
1 lbs venison
1/2 lbs veal
1/2 lbs bacon
1/4 lbs calf's liver
1 oz butter
3-4 tablespoons Armagnac or Cognac
4-5 tablespoons red wine
2 onions, chopped
2 oz unsalted pistachios, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter for greasing
1 egg yolk
For the dough, combine all ingredients in a bowl and knead until you have a rather dry dough (It's important that the lard is *very* soft, almost liquid.) Cover the bowl and place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, put half of the venison, the veal and the bacon through a meat-grinder set on medium-fine. Set aside. Cut the remaining venison into rather fine stripes.
Preheat oven to 390 F to 430 F.
In a pan, sauté the liver in the butter until slightly browned. Deglaze the pan with Armagnac and remove the liver (reserving the jus in the pan)and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the venison stripes, deglaze with red wine, remove the venison (reserving the jus in the pan) and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onions until they are colored. Remove from the pan, reserving the jus.
Cut venison stripes and liver into small cubes and season with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling and the jus, mix well and generously season with salt, pepper and marjoram.
On a surface dusted with flour, roll out the dough and place into a buttered pastry pan, reserving some dough for the lid. Add filling and spread evenly. Moisten the rim of the dough with water, put on the lid and press the rims together well.
Pierce the lid several times with a fork and brush it with the whisked egg yolk.
Bake on the middle rail of the oven for about 90 minutes. Check whether it's done by sticking a wooden toothpick through the lid; if it comes out dry the pastry is done. Remove from the oven and let cool over night. Remove the pastry from the pan, cut into slices and serve with the sauce listed below.
Morello cherry sauce
1 glass of sour cherries (about 7 oz), drained (reserving the juice) and pitted
1 oz butter
1 tablespoon mild mustard
1 cup cherry juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan heat the butter, add the cherries and stew for five minutes. Strain through a sieve into another saucepan, add cherry juice and mustard and let it boil up briefly while stirring constantly. Thicken with the cornstarch mixed with a bit of water, season with salt, a generous amount of pepper and a whiff of cinnamon. Serve hot or cold.
Dessert - Baked apples in wine:
4 large, sour cooking apples (if you can get Boskoop,
that's the way to go, Granny Smith is a no-no)
4 tablespoons red currant jelly
10 whole almonds, skinned and cut into slivers
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 cup white wine
4 teaspoons sugar thoroughly mixed with
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Wash apples thoroughly, don't peel them. Remove the core so that the bottom of the apples remains intact. Mix the jelly, sultanas and the almonds and stuff the apples with the mixture. Place a tablespoon of butter on each apple. Pour the wine into a casserole just large enough for all four apples, place the apples into the casserole and bake in the oven (pre-heated to 390 F/ 200 C) for about 20 minutes until the peel burst.
Remove from the oven, place each apple on a plate, sprinkle with the sugar-cinnamon mix and serve while still steaming hot.