Period Palate class notes, section one, Liquid Ingredients
We are well informed of the senses of taste; sweet, salt, bitter, sour, and umami. These senses, along with our sense of smell, lead us to enjoying foods we personally find appetising. While the sense of taste has not changed over the past several hundred years, our palates are attuned to familiar flavors.
Popular and common tastes of today were unheard of even a generation ago, so looking back further it is little surprising that our ancestors also had a broad and interesting flavor palette to work from. Boring food has always been unpleasant, our ancestors appreciated a tasty and appetising meal as much as we do. Though we use many of the same ingredients today, our perspective on them may be slightly different. For instance, in the US we see cinnamon as a “sweet” spice, one best complementing breakfast and dessert dishes. However, in Moroccan food, it is still a staple of savory cuisine. Almond Milk; Made simply by soaking almonds in water (sometimes broth) for several hours, then slipping their skins, pulverising and separating liquid from solid, almond milk has several properties dairy milk does not. It does not curdle quickly, it does not sour without refrigeration, and it does not separate in the presence of acids. Being non-dairy, it is acceptable for fast-days, which were a serious hurdle for cooks to work around. Although commercial almond milk is available, it is sufficiently different from the home-made stuff as to be avoided. Raw almonds, which are best for this, are available through Indian grocers, health food stores, and online. The solid almond meal left behind may easily be made into marchepane/marzipan, or baked into desserts. In a pinch, almonds can be simmered in the water or broth for a quicker result. Orange Juice; The juice of the Seville orange, this is a sour liquid intended to add a note of floral bitterness to the more familiar citrus sourness. Sometimes available fresh at South and Central American markets, it can also be found bottled by Goya and other companies (be cautious of sulfites and added flavors.) Modernly used as a majorpart of “Mojo” marinade, this ingredient's flavor is most familiar to us as orange marmalade, though marmalade focuses on the bitterness of the pith more than the sourness of the juice. Substitution; orange juice with some lemon or grapefruit judiciously added. While different in flavor, the character of sour bitterness with a citric bite is attainable in this way. Liquamen In Roman food, this is frequently called for as a salt, much as Asian food calls for soy sauce. While it is made from fish, it is not always fishy. Roman instructions lead to results ranging from a light clear condiment to a more intense, dark liquid reminiscent of Thai dark soy sauce. The national origin of the sauce as well as the composition (type of fish used) can affect the fishiness or saltiness greatly. Again, be cautious of ingredient lists. The larget Asian markets frequently have larger selections, but they may be in several aisles based on national cuisines. I tend to prefer those based on anchovy, as this is least likely to be of concern to my diners with specific dietary needs. Store it in the fridge unless you tend to use up the whole buttle in under three months. Mustum / Saba Grape pressings. Called for frequently as a sweetener in Roman food. Avoid US native grapes such as Concords, they have a specific flavor listed as “foxy” which will negatively impact the tone of the dish. Modern bottled versions usually have sulphites, but are available. Tastes a lot like a raisin syrup. Verjus Verjus, literally translated as “green juice”, is the pressings of culled fruit from vines or orchards, or at times, the juice of the sorrel plant. It is used as a less acidic note than vinegar, in order to add a gentle brightness to a dish or sauce. “White Balsamic” is not a suitable substitution, as this is a combination of white wine vinegar and grape juice or must. Verjus has a rather short shelf life, even in the fridge. Notes (ref) suggest that old verjus is far less potent than fresh, and to use other forms of acid when your supply has lost its value. Modernly this condiment has regained popularity because it does not clash directly with wine when used as a primary flavoring in a dish. Modernly available at fancy-food stores, a similar product is also available at some Middle Eastern markets, sold as “Sour Grape Juice.” Note: when making verjus from culled fruit, please do not use windfalls. Animals tend to gather under fruit trees, contributing to the risk of animal-borne disease on the uncooked fruit product.
Period Palate class notes, section two; the Sauces
Lumbard mustard Take mustard seed and waisshe it, & drye it in an ovene. Grynde it drye; sarse it thurgh a sarse. Clarifie hony with wyne & vyneger & stere it wel togedre and make it thikke ynowgh; & whan thou wilt spende therof make it thynne with wyne. Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler.Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985. http://www.godecookery.com/nboke/nboke24.htm http://www.godecookery.com/goderec/grec5.htm Of the many mustards I worked with in the Mustard Project (http://carbonadoes.com/?s=mustards) , Lumbard is the one I choose to represent this class of sauce in classes. Though many forms of mustard were known and appreciated, with variations from pear mustard to the snippy note on French mustard in the Neapolitan Cookbook, this is sufficiently unique from modern perceptions, and similarly universally useful. This variant of Lumbard mustard calls merely for the seeds to be washed, dried in an oven, crushed and sifted, then mixed with honey, wine and vinegar. The drying of the seeds imparts a slight nuttiness uncharacteristic of commercial mustards. Sifting gives a very creamy product, opting not to do so alters both flavor and texture significantly. Also, the home-made red wine vinegar can be far lower acid than the commercial types available more commonly. Some cooks choose to use pre-ground mustard seed, others re-season prepared mustard with wine and honey in order to achieve a not-dissimilar profile. Home made mustards vary greatly in heat based on how long we wait to add water and acid to seeds. Mustard is a great pleasure to experiment with, as it is not demanding and gives tremendous variety in results. Sauce cameline As common in times gone by as worcestershire is today, cameline was so valued that it was available to be bought ready made. The author of the book “Menagier of Paris” calls for a household manager to purchase three half- quarts of it per day to support the needs of a standard upper middle class home. The sauce is frequently based on cinnamon, vinegar and toasted bread, and instructions are given for serving it hot in winter, and uncooked in summer. Some instructions list salt, others do not. The quality of the sauce is highly dependent upon the wine used. Some call for bread crumbs, some to be cooked. The variations are plentiful, with a commonality being the focus on cinnamon, other warm or sharp spices, and vinegar. The one I prefer to demonstrate is fresh, and is made of 1/8 c Eden red wine vinegar 1/8 c Bordeaux wine ½ tsp cinnamon ¼ tsp cloves ¼ tsp mace ¼ tsp grains of paradise ¼ tsp ginger ¼ tsp long pepper To adapt this basic recipe
less sharp: add a half teaspoon of sugar.
more sharp: use only vinegar. Hotter: a little more cinnamon No access to grains or long pepper: black pepper is a perfectly valid substitution Thicker: many variants call for bread to be soaked in the vinegar. Further, some suggest cooking the sauce.
........................... My poudre douce (which I read as "sweet powder") 1 Tbs sugar ½ Tbs cinnamon 1 tsp nutmeg 1/2 tsp cloves ¼ tsp ginger I grind the spices, then measure them To make killer cinnamon sugar, add a tablespoon more cinnamon and a quarter cup of white sugar.