loaf of meat wrapped in cheesecloth, cut in half to show the filling, on a plate for service

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Du_Fait_de_Cuisine/Du_fait_de_Cuisine.html

Recipe 64

 

I read a recent chefs’ text book a few years ago that made me pretty unhappy. It was that old saw about “ate bad meat, used lots of spices.” Lemme tell ya, I have a lot more respect for Medieval cooks than I do for the author of that well regarded book.

It’s hard not to go on a tirade, but if you are unfamiliar with historical cooking, let me assure you that people had the same gastric systems we do, and things that would make us sick would have made them sick. No amount of spices could fix it. Frankly, no one was going to throw good, expensive spices on bad food.

That out of the way, we get to the Green Meat.

This is a form of meatloaf, which is intended to be rolled in caul fat, like a crepinette. It’s to be wrapped in the layer of fat, then spitted and grilled, while being painted with parsley juice to turn it green.

I tried for some time to find the caul fat, and wasn’t able to get it locally. I have a line on it now, but the shoulder of mutton wouldn’t wait a few weeks.

The original recipe is quite long. It’s a set of instructions for making a relatively small amount of meat into a large, festive dish for a crowd.

First, we refresh the meat, taking it from the salt it is preserved in and rehydrating it.

After poaching it, the meat is carefully removed from the bones, taking great care to avoid damaging the bone structure.

It’s minced, blended with the other ingredients, and reformed into a shoulder-shaped loaf on the same bones, then wrapped carefully with the caul fat and roasted.

While it is roasting, it’s to be endored, painted, with the juice of parsley, a popular food coloring.

Having no caul fat, I chose to wrap the meat in cheesecloth, though a terrine also crossed my mind. It was not optimal, but it did work, and we are excited to do it again once we have caul fat in stock.

The resulting dish is a rather elaborate meatloaf, which extends the dish, assures that the meat is of the same quality throughout the dish, and be humorally appropriate for the largest portion of diners.

In fact, at the end of the instructions, there are a few suggested dishes named for in case any diners might have an infirmity, to allow them to have better balanced humors in order to enjoy the shoulder of mutton as well.

The directions are very long. The results are Green Meat.

 

Shoulder and or leg of mutton, rinsed. If salted, then soaked for a time.

Simmer in salt water, then cooled.

Remove the meat completely from the bone, but do not separate the bones.

Mince brie (or Crampone) cheese, add parsley, marjoram, hyssop, and sage.

The spices are ginger, grains of paradise, and some whole cloves to embellish with.

Eggs, saffron, and caul fat, figure it would take four to do a full sized leg of mutton.

Small skewers or toothpicks to pin the cauls on.

Parsley, eggs, and flour for the coloring layer

And an admonition not to overcook the batter in such a way as to lose the green coloration.

I had no choice but to diverge from the recipe in a few undesirable ways.

Our mutton shoulder was poorly cut, so I decided not to build back onto it. The bone would have lent a lot of flavor and helped keep the meat moist, as well as giving the appearance of the original shape.

I used cheesecloth, rather than caul, in order to be able to do the dish at all. Because of this, I used parsley juice alone, rather than egg/wheat batter as a gilding. These choices strongly affect the texture of the dish.

I could not cook over an open fire on a spit, because the grill is under several layers of snow. The cheesecloth would have caught fire anyhow.

What I did was not optimal. Let’s call this a test run worth discussing, not a final.

I am posting it because it was so good, and so easily adapted to feast or picnic use, that it would be rude to keep it to myself for a moment longer.

We had a whole shoulder of mutton, but a couple of shanks would do quite well here for a more modest service, intended for a smaller number of people.

Chiquart Mutton (2) Chiquart Mutton (4) Chiquart Mutton (5) Chiquart Mutton (8) Chiquart Mutton (10) Chiquart Mutton (13)

*if using caul, look for notes after the recipe

1,5 LBS mutton, simmered in water or simple broth

4 oz brie cheese, chilled and minced.

2 raw eggs

2 oz parsley, picked and minced

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1 tsp sage

1/2 tsp hyssop

3/4 tsp dried ginger

3/4 tsp grains of paradise

1 1/4 tsp salt

12-20 whole cloves

saffron

These instructions are for the simplified iteration using cheesecloth.

Mince the cooked mutton. I used knives, but a processor will do an admirable job.

Beat the eggs, add the saffron to them. Set aside for the moment.

Add the herbs and spices, but not the cloves. Fold together with the cheese. Blend in the eggs to make a homogeneous loaf, not too wet but well stuck together.

Prepare the cheesecloth by dipping it in the broth you  cooked the meat in.

Lay the meat on the cheesecloth, fold it into a tidy parcel.

Mince the rest of the parsley, put it in the blender if you have one. Use a tad of water to help it along. (I don’t have a blender. I used a mortar and pestle. Don’t do that.)

When the parsley is pretty liquid, paint it onto the cheesecloth. Wait a moment for it to saturate, and paint on the rest.

Place the cloves on the surface, piercing the fabric, and roast the loaf on a pan with sides at 350 for about an hour.

*If you are using caul, rinse the caul, stretch it out, and paint it with an egg or two, to help seal it and help it stick to the meat.

Make parsley juice as above.

Blend  two eggs with a quarter cup of flour, and fold in the parsley juice.

Fold the loaf into it, and pin it shut. Paint it with the flour, egg and parsley mixture,

pierce it with the cloves, and roast as above.

To do it properly, you will have closer to 6 pounds of meat, reformed on the bone, which will roast at 200* for 5 hours. The recipe multiplies up pretty well, but you will need more eggs, and several toothpicks to pin on the caul.

Green meat was really tasty. We were disappointed by how much cheese we lost to the cheesecloth, though not surprised.

 

 

I got lucky! I managed to get a beautiful shoulder of mutton locally. This is a rare treat.

While mutton has a reputation for strong flavor and aroma, I find this to be misleading. The meat has a distinctive flavor, yes, as opposed to the bland meats of the supermarket, but the flavor is in fact a component of the dish, rather than an obstacle to be overcome. We don’t need to season as assertively if the foods we are working with bring plenty to the table.

I love mutton.

.  I had a shoulder, not a thigh. Thigh is the same cut as leg of lamb, minus the shank. Leg has more meat and simpler carving, and less intramuscular fat. Surface fat is where stronger flavors tend to lie, so peel off any fat that has yellowing to it, no matter what cut you may have. Shoulder is a bit of a bear, as it has all kinds of bones and things going through it, it’s the tough end of a tough animal. It takes some care to carve, but with a little patience pays off quite nicely. A major modern advantage is that a shoulder fits pots more easily. Please don’t get one of those boneless legs of lamb in a net, they are not going to offer enough in the way of flavor to be worth the cost.

Beef or veal fat is suggested as the cooking grease because sheep fat sets at a low temperature, causing objectionable texture. It’s important to peel off that surface fat. Hand it to a soapmaker if you are uncomfortable discarding it.

This translation is from http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Menagier/Menagier.html

Item MUTTON PIE in a POT. Take a thigh (of mutton), and grease or marrow of beef or veal chopped small and onions chopped small, and set to boil and cook in a well-covered pot in a small amount of meat stock or other liquid, then put to boil in it spices, and a little vinegar to sharpen it, and arrange it in a dish.

Item, if you want to salt mutton in hot weather, moisten beforehand, and sprinkle with coarse ground salt.

 

1 leg (or shoulder) of mutton (goat, lamb, venison), about 4 lbs including bone.

2-3 baseball sized onions, cut to a fine dice

1/4 lb suit, optional

a quart of good stock or broth

1 TBSP salt

1 tsp grains of paradise

1/4 stick cinnamon, or a quarter teaspoon

heads off about a dozen cloves, or about a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves

1/4 c red wine vinegar

IMG_5008

Choose a pot with a well fitting lid, that the meat will fit snugly. A slow cooker is an excellent option for this dish.

Place the meat, onions, and stock in the pot. Add suet if you feel you ought to add some fat to the dish. This will help temper the mutton flavor.  (I did not add fat)

IMG_5009

Seethe on a low flame with the lid on for approximately two hours, then add the spices to the pot. Add about half of the vinegar at this time as well.

Continue cooking for another 30-45 minutes. The meat ought to be rather tender and fully cooked to the falling-off the bone stage.
Remove the meat, reserving the cooking liquid. Taste for balance, add more vinegar and reboil, if needed.

If the sauce is too greasy, you might use a gravy separator, float a towel on top to absorb, or carefully drag an ice cube across the surface to quickly set the fat, making it easier to remove.

Allow to cool, slice, serve. with the sauce made of cooking liquid.

 

I chose my spices based on what blends are common in the book, what would taste nice together, and what I believe would play nicely with the flavors inherent in the onions and meat. You may choose your spices differently. For instance, the dish Yellow Mutton calls for saffron, ginger and verjus, while another note says that if venison is basted, it may be served with cameline, which implies to me that a poached dish should specifically not be served with cameline. Other notes in the manuscript say that in summer use saffron, but in winter use pepper.  I feel my choices to be internally consistent, and successful.

I cannot grind my cloves as finely as commercially available. I would use commercially ground cloves, or perhaps stick whole cloves into one section of onion in order to more easily remove them later.

The onions as I presented them were not chopped finely enough. I suggest making them about the size of modern gambling dice.

While this has little to do with our modern understanding of pie, lacking crust and being a very simple pot stew, it is not roasted before seething, nor after. The meat is intended to be cooked once, so it must be cooked fully.

 

 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Menagier/Menagier.html 

“Neapolitan Recipe Collection”

as translated by Terence Scully

Recipe 46

Goat Kid or Mutton with Thick Broth Get kid or mutton and cut it into small pieces, and put it into a pot with salt pork, then get sage, mint and onion, and cook everyhting together; then get good spices and saffron, distemper them with the meat’s broth and let everything boil together until the meat falls apart, then lift the meat out into a dish with the thick broth.

After boning out a shoulder of mutton, I peeled as much silverskin as I could, and sliced it into “spoon-size” bits of about a half-ounce each.

a deep pan with mutton chopped to about half-ounce bits, a chopped onion, and seasonings

on low heat.

Then I chopped the onion the way I sometimes like to; in half, then slice one half finely. I did this so the larger one could signal the cookedness of the dish, and the quantity would not overwhelm the small portion being made. It also made for a handy spot to stick cloves later.

Only having dried herbs, I used the sage, but chose savory over plain mint. Dried mint does nothing for me, and savory struck me as a good and tasty compromise. I don’t suggest it, it didn’t quite fit the palate.

I have salt-pork, it is unsmoked streaky bacon. I put two slices of about an ounce each into the pot. Had I chosen not to use it, I would have used olive oil and salt

Though the dish calls for no water, I added a small amount, being of the thought that a “pot” is a wet-cooking vessel. Though the meat did later give broth, it needed some liquid to start. Sticking would have ruined dinner.

The dish was cooked with a lid on the whole time.

 

After the meat cooked through, I added cracked pepper, a couple of cloves and a shard of cinnamon. Again, I am not a fan of using saffron except when I know the dish is otherwise honed, and feel it is worth the expense. Sunday dinner is not that time.

Had I used a larger quantity of powdered spices, I would have put them into another, smaller pot with broth and allowed them to simmer together (distempering) til the broth was thickened and the spices were homogeneous. As I was using a small amount of whole spice, this step would not have been beneficial, and the broth was not thick as a result.

After an hour the meat is cooked but not to tenderness, and the onion half is completely soft. I put the lid back on and simmered at low for another twenty minutes, then served it up.

 

the same pan, an hour later, with a rich broth, collapsing half-onion, and tender meat

it's ready for plating.

1 lb lean meat, trimmed and cubed.

1 onion, medium, halved and one half sliced thin.

½ tsp sage, dried

(½ tsp savory, dried, used here but not preferred)

(1 TBS mint, preferred, would be best fresh)

2-4 oz salt pork (or other fat and salt)

(do not add salt to the dish unless you skip the salt pork)

2-4 oz water

3 cloves

an inch of cinnamon

½ tsp cracked long pepper

 

Place the  meat and onion  in the pot with a small amount of water, and set burner to medium.

Add herbs, and put the lid on the pot.

After 45 minutes to an hour, either

add your whole spices or

remove a cup of the cooking liquid, and add your powdered spices to it, then in a separate pot, simmer the spices for a few moments until they become homogeneous with the broth. At this point, re-introduce the now-spiced broth to the pot, tasting for balance. You may not choose to use it all.

Put the lid back on the pot, lower the temperature and continue cooking until the meat is ready to fall apart.

Check for salt, and serve.

 

A pot with a good lid is about all you really need to pull this off. A second, smaller pot for simmering the spices would be useful.

Ratings;

– “hidden” pork product. Make sure it’s marked when feeding groups.

– really needs the fresh herbs

– not the most popular meat.

– not the most evocative dish.

+ toss it in the pot and forget it, then simmer the spices in some of the broth. Pretty simple.

+ Minimal waste, made from trim.

+ great “intro” dish, easy to take a small portion, and not unfamiliar flavors.

The English Housewife

Gervase Markham pp 76-77

This loosely written recipe calls for “a neck of veal, or a leg, or marrow bones of beef, or a pullet, or mutton.”
Versatility is good.

(oops! No final picture! We ate it!)

It’s a simple meat-in-a-pot affair, poached, skimmed well (albumen, the white to brown frothy stuff, is a form of protein which is unappealing) and thickened by pressing trimmed, broth-soaked bread through a sieve.
Then fruits and spices are added, the dish can be optionally colored with turnsole or sanders (a red food dye made from the wood of a tree), and served on by first putting sippets, soup-toasts, then layering on the broth, meat, “and the fruit uppermost.”

We had very nice shoulder of mutton, everything called for except currants, and a bitter cold day which needed soup.

a bowl with meat, and another with dried fruit and sliced bread. A small pinch-bowl has the cloves and mace blades.

Everything ready to use.

After trimming and rinsing the meat into the pot and simmering in plainb water for about an hour, I took some of the hot broth and started soaking the sliced, staled bread. The recipe called for de-crusting the loaves, I should have obeyed. I figured a modern baguette would have a more tender crust than a manchet. Oops.

Soaked bread being pressed over a bowl. The broth pressed through is very starchy, to thicken the pot.

pressing bread

After pressing the bread in to the pot to add starch for body, I added the fruits and spices and let it cook a while longer.

dried fruit being placed into the pot of hot broth, which appears white from the starch of the just-pressed bread.

adding fruit

Not being interested in adding sanders to the whole dish, I did a side-by-side to show the difference between plain and enhanced. Interestingly, the sanders somewhat emulsified the broth.

two identical bowls, one with broth, the other with a little sanders blended in. The one with sanders is slightly redder, and the floating oils are emulsified into the broth.

there is a visible difference.

 

We agreed that the quantities of fruit called for made the dish excessively sweet. This is a situation I have run into frequently, with a single ingredient having quantities and none of the others being specified. It makes sense to me that these are “key” ingredients, suggesting proportions for other items, and that the recipes are intended to serve rather more than two people.

When I make this again, I will use 1/8 (modern) fruit per pound of meat, a proportion which I am comfortable with.

Recipe:
3 lbs mutton (or something)
6 oz prunes
6 oz raisins
3 oz currents (subbed with more raisins)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mace blades
3 whole cloves, cracked

Ratings;
+ almost any protein
+ simple stovetop, minimal fuss
+ inexpensive common ingredients (mace is cheap in Indian markets)
+reasonably quick to cook.
– not obvious use of bread product, needs clear gluten warning.
– cloyingly sweet as written
– don’t leave spices loose as I did, put them in cheesecloth. Someone will be unhappy.
– the resulting broth is not an ingredient. It’s a final product, which will not be easy to cannibalise for future recipes.

In spite of the “more minuses than pluses,” the pluses are of greater value, in my mind.
This simple dish takes one burner, three separate moments of attention, and has a very limited ingredient list.
It would be very nice on a cold winters’ day to tide one over ’til dinner.

I’m making it again this week, just way lighter on the fruit.