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Hst-U-o-Aples-art – 1/21/06


“The Historical Uses of Apples” by Mistress Andrea MacIntyre.


NOTE: See also the files: apples-msg, fruits-msg, Period-Fruit-art, crabapples-msg, cider-art, cider-msg, raw-fruit-vg-msg, fruit-pies-msg.





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Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



The Historical Uses of Apples

by Mistress Andrea MacIntyre


“they’re apples in English, apfels in German, appils in

                             Norwegian; and eppels in Dutch and in any                            

                                        language they’re delicious”.

     Mme.Jehane Benoit


Scientific Definition:


The apple. One of the most well known of the fruit family. Pyrus malus, also known as Malus pumila and Malus domestica, was probably first eaten, and later cultivated before the dawn of history in central Asia, possibly Kazakhstan. It is a member of the rose family. Rosaceae, which includes blackberries, strawberries, plums, cherries, and of course, roses. Most of the Rosaceae have flowers which range from white to deepest red, and the fruit is created by cross pollination by insects, especially bees.


“Apple” is the common name for certain related trees of the rose family, and for the pome fruit of the trees. The apple tree, a deciduous plant (one which loses its leaves in dormancy), grows mainly in the temperate climates throughout the world, such as the Americas, France, Germany, Italy, and England. It exists in its wild state in most countries of Europe and also in the region of the Caucasus. In Norway, it is found in the lowlands as far north as Drontheim.


The fruit is a firm, fleshy structure derived from the receptacle of the flower (the hip). Apple leaves are broadly oval in shape and are somewhat wooly on the undersides. The flowers in bloom have a rounded appearance. Some apple blossoms are white, but the majority of apple blossoms have stripes or tints of rose, and a few bloom with bright red flowers. The skin color of the fruit range from green to a deep, blackish red, and sizes can be found from hardly larger than a cherry to as big as an orange.




               So prolific is the apple today, that we tend to overlook its importance to the people in history. Charred remains of apples have been found in prehistoric lake dwellings in Switzerland and Anatolia in 6500 B.C., and the imprint of an apple seed had been found on a Neolithic fossil in England.


               Although it is generally felt that apples originated between the Caspian and Black sea, Waverly Root feels that “the first apples grew not very far from the Baltic…It is so decidedly a northern fruit, that the tree requires a dormant period of at least two months (winter) to restore its strength after one year’s crop in order to produce the next: hibernation is not a phenomenon of the warm countries” [1]. he also continues on to say that though they may have started in the colder climates, apples adapted very well and eventually took root in all climates.


               The apple was eaten by the Greeks and Romans as far back as the 7th century B.C. Apicius, noted to have lived during the reign of Tiberius (42B.C. to 37 A.D.), wrote of preserving apples in honey. The writer Juvenal “claimed to be a modest man, contented himself with dining on a plump kid, tenderest of the flock, with more of milk in him than blood, some wild asparagus, ’lordly eggs warm in their wisps of hay together with the hens that laid them,’ and a dish of grapes, pears, and apples to end with.” [2]


               The illustrious apple was also an important fruit in the areas of Egypt, Babylon, and China. Ramses II planted them in the Nile Delta. The apple found it’s way through the trade routes of Byzantium and blended quickly into the menus of many culture. From these cultures the apple traveled through France and “after the Norman Conquest, new varieties of apples and pears from France (were introduced) into British orchards”. [3] Following the Battle of Hastings, the Normans introduced cider-making to England. Orchards, in which every seedling tree differed from its neighbor, were planted to guarantee farmers good cider blends. This practice, however, may have impeded the development of grafted varieties in England, while in France, dessert apples remained more popular than cider, which encouraged the use of grafting techniques.


Apples have migrated along with a diverse array of people and cultures all over the world. Settlers from European countries brought with them the seeds and apples from all of their home countries, and planted orchards all along the Eastern coast. From these orchards the pioneers took seeds and cuttings to start orchards in the west. The Spanish and Portuguese took apples to South America. Many of the Spanish carried apples northward into California. In this century, new apple varieties have been developed and planted all over the world. In fact, Russia was recently the largest producer of apples in the world, but now it appears that China is rapidly taking over this spot today.


Varieties of Apples


           “One of the earliest named apples was the ‘pearmain’ recorded soon after 1200. The ‘costard’, a very large, good keeping apple, became popular in the 13th century, it was sold in the streets of London by ‘costmongers’ whose wares later extended to many kinds of fruits and goods”. [4]


               “The earliest written reference to English apples has survived in a tenure in Norfolk in the year 1200,requiring that two hundred ‘pearmains’ and four hogheads of pearmain cider should be paid at Michelmas”. [5]  While the original apples were very much like our crabapples of today, small and astringent, with careful grafting techniques and experiments with cross pollination, which came to be mastered in the monasteries, the apple began to evolve into sweeter and more edible varieties. Apples have continued to be improved and those of today no longer resemble their tiny, tart cousins, but the legacy of the cooks of the past have enabled us to experience the pleasures of the ‘fruitful rose’.


               “The apple with the longest history dates from this period (Roman) or earlier –the Api, named for the Etruscan horticulturist who developed it.” [6] The api became the apple of the centuries, and is still cultivated under the name ‘Lady Apple’, except that our palates tend to wither at its sharp and bitter taste. What was prized then is the bane of the modern apple culture.


               When I began this part of the project, I had originally thought I’d seek out some ancient apples for use. Unfortunately, my overseas attempts have been for naught. Shipping costs and agricultural laws are prohibitive. However, I have managed to find several good sources for period or near period (pre 1700’s) apples. The apples below are some ‘antique’ apples, which are still being cultivated in the United States and are available to the authentic cook. They come from several areas. I was most lucky to find two good sources, in Washington State and Michigan. These orchards specialize in ‘old’ apples. Below are the ones made available to me, and are available at the tasting exhibit today.


Calville Blanc D’Hiver:


It grows in mid season. It is a very old European (pre-1600) variety. The medium large fruit are pale green with light red dots on the side that is exposed to the sun. It is aromatic, sweet, spicy, and of the highest dessert quality in the European style. The flesh is tender and juicy. It is said to have more Vitamin C than an orange. It is good for stewing (applesauce) as well.


Roxbury Russet:


               It is available in late October. It is one of the oldest named varieties, first grown in Roxbury, MA around 1649. It has greenish gold fruit overlaid with brown. It is one of a group of Russets named because of their brown ‘leather’ skin. It is crisp with a sweet yellow flesh and keeps well. It can be used for eating and pie.


Rhode Island Greening:


           It is available in late September. It is one of the antique varieties grown commercially today. It is said that the first seedling was found in 1650 outside a tavern at Green’s End near Newport, Rhode Island. It is a green apple with fine-grained flesh. The Rhode Island Greening was one of the first named varieties grown in Maine, being brought, about 1788 to Winthrop from the Old Colony in Massachusetts. It is perhaps the best known of the early American apples. It is a medium, large green, waxy fruit, covering a firm, rich, juicy sub-acid flesh. It is an excellent cooking apple, especially for dessert and jellies. It stores very well. It comes from a long-lived tree that is abundant with fruit every two years and responds well to pruning.


Red Gravenstein:


               It is a large apple, not uniform. It is green with red striped skin. It has a finely textured greenish yellow firm flesh, which is crisp, juicy, with a tart, sweet light taste. The tree is very hardy, but is slow to bear, and requires pollination to maintain fruit. Fruit drops when it is ripe. Known for fine flavor, it is unexcelled for cooking and makes wonderful desserts and cider. The fruit keeps until early November. The tree is biennial which can be helped with pruning. This apple begins to bear in the summer, and was carried here from Europe in the 1700’s.


Lady Apple:


           It was established in France in the 1600’s. It is a very small apple with a red flush over a greenish- yellow color. It has a flat-round shape. It is a beautiful dessert apple with a crisp white flesh, which is sweet and aromatic. It is predominately used for decorations today.




               The Rambo dates back to the late1500’s in France. It is a large apple, conical in shape, which was very popular in the colonies. It is lightly ribbed on the body and usually asymmetrical in shape. The pale greenish- yellow skin is flushed with red and is scattered with brown patches. The yellowish flesh is fine grained and firm with a sub-acid, slightly sweet flavor. It is one of the very best for jelly, pie, and drying. The apple is medium to large in size and ripens in August.


Snow Apple (or Fameuse):


           It was introduced to the United States via Canada in 1739. However, this variety originated in France in the 1600’s. It is one of the oldest varieties, still produced, on record. The flesh is pure white, giving it the name of Snow Apple. It is the probable parent to the MacIntosh. It has a deep crimson skin with tender, juicy, and sweet, pure white flesh. It is a long- lived, hardy tree.


The Acceptance of Apples:


               Though apples were available, it did not mean that they were eaten readily. Unlike their ancestors, medieval and renaissance era people were generally suspicious of all fresh fruits, and often only ate them in a cooked form, since the heat of the fire broke down the offending properties. References to such were made by Sir Thomas Elyot in 1541 when he wrote (Fruits generally are noyfulle to man and do ingender ill humors”.[7] In fact, all raw fruit was forbidden to be sold in England during the plague of 1569. In actuality, considering the ‘costmonger’ would be located amongst the butchers in open-air markets, it’s a wonder that more people weren’t made sick from cross contamination. So, perhaps it proves that the medieval mans avoidance of fresh fruit during this time period may have been a very wise thing indeed!


Apple Lore:


“The Trojan War resulted from the Judgment of Paris, when he presented to Aphrodite the apple of discord, which Eris angered at not having been invited to the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, had thrown into the midst of the guests, inscribed ‘for the fairest’.” [8]


“It was the apple tree which bent its branches low so that the Virgin Mary, too heavy with Jesus to reach the fruit, could pick it; that is why, the story goes, many apple trees droop their branches almost to the ground.” [9]


According to the Prose Edda, “Iduna keeps in a bow the apples which the gods, when they feel old age approaching, have only to taste of to become young again. It is in this manner that they will be kept in renovated youth until Ragnarok”.


Even the custom of wassailing would not have been born without the illustrious apple tree. For on Christmas Eve, the farmers, family, and friends process to the apple orchards to a chosen tree, where after a recitation praising the harvest is spoken, a bowlful of apple cider is tossed against its trunk to insure for a future bountiful harvest.


Apples, sweet or sour, large or small, are a part of our lives. Dated back to the prehistoric times, or just to this week, the apple continues to be a worthy source of nutrition in our diet. The ever- present apple truly deserves to be called ‘king of all fruits’.


Below, you will find recipes gleaned from our medieval and renaissance  sources. All of these recipes were provided for a testing at an A&S Gathering in the East Kingdom and my comments and redactions are listed as well. But before I list them, I leave you with several quotes I gathered among my studies.


“Bless oh Lord the courage of this Prince and prosper the works in his hands and may this land be filled with apples”. Ancient Saxon Lore


“Ate an apfel avore qwain to bed, makes the doctor beg his bread”. Devonshire saying


“When the apple is ripe it will fall”. Irish proverb


“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver”. Bible: Proverbs


“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree”. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Six Receipts:


1)      "Cookery and Dining in Ancient Rome" by Apicius: Ed. and Trans. By Joseph Dommers Vehling, Dover Publication,NY.


#22 To preserve fresh figs, apples, plums. pears, and cherries (Ficum recentem, mala, pruna, pira, cerasia ut diu serves). ¦ Select them all very carefully with the stems on and place them in honey so that they do not touch each other.



My redaction: I had a copious amount of Golden Blossom honey available from my mead making and several small apples from a local picking excursion to a Hudson Valley Orchard. I washed the apples and dried them . I filled a Mason Jar half with the honey and carefully placed the apples. I then added the rest of the honey, and place the lid on top. To remove all traces of the honey from the outside of the jar and to pressure seal it, I placed it into a hot water bath. I removed and inverted the jar to maintain pressure until cooled.


2. An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th century: translated Charles Perry, taken from Cariadoc’s Miscellany



Tuffahiyya, A Dish Made With Apples,


Take meat as mentioned in the recipe for safarjaliyya and prepare the same way; then add tart apples, peeled and cleaned, as many as needed… and when you take it to the hearthstone, put in a little sugar, and cut with musk and camphor dissolved in good rosewater. The acidity is most efficacious in lightening and strengthening the heart and it can be made with the flesh of birds, such as fat hens or young squabs of the domestic dove or stove-dove and then it will be finer and better.


My redaction: This was my greatest challenge of the recipes in this list. I had to search out musk and camphor in the Asian and Pakistani food markets. As I live in an area without such, I explored the NYC and NJ areas for what I needed and came up short. So I searched the Internet for them and succeeded. I chose lamb to complete this recipe ( a personal and household preference. After cutting the lamb into pieces, I added it to an iron pot with two cup of water with the spices. I simmered it until tender. I removed it from the pot and placed it into an earthenware vessel. I then added sugar, musk, camphor, apples, and rosewater  to the lamb mixture. I covered it and placed it in my oven on a baking stone (preheated to 350 degrees), which I use for baking bread and set the temperature to 300 degrees. I then allowed it to bake for 30 minutes like this.


3. Menagier De Paris, (1300)


Rissoulles a jou de poisson


               Item, au commun l’en les fait de figues,roisinsmpommes,hastees,et noix pelees pour contrefaire le pignolat, et poudldre d’espices. Et soit la paste tres bien ensaffrence,puis soient frites en huille,S’il y convient lieure, amidon lie et ris aussi.


I found this recipe in “Early French Cooking”: D. Eleanor Scully and Terence Scully; The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1985. Page 278


“Fruit Rissoles: A variety of rissole- a preparation of which Mengier seems exceptionally fond-makes use of what is basically a fruit filling”.


My redaction: Apples peeled, sliced and placed in a pot. Figs chopped and added to the apples. 1/2 cup of warm water added with one cup of white wine, cooked until soft. In a dry bowl, spices mixed with sugar. I used cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamon, and mace. Add to fruit mixture. Stir in nuts, I used peeled almonds.


Rissoles- 1/2 cup of warm water, 3 tbsp. Olive oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of saffron mixed together. Stir in 11/2 cups of flour gradually. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and wait 1/2 hour. Roll out dough to about the thickness of a dime. Cut into rounds (or squares) Fill with fruit mixture, and seal edges with water and flour. Cook rissoles first briefly in boiling water, take out, blot and place in oil to fry. They rise to the top. Remove and drain.



4. Ein Buch von guter spise


Ein apfelmus (An apple puree)

Wilt du machen ein apfelmus. so nim schöne epfele und schele sie. und snide sie in ein kalt wazzer. und süde sie in einem hafen. und menge sie mit wine und mit smaltze und ze slahe eyer mit wiz und mit al. und tu daz dor zu. und daz ist gar ein gut fülle. und versaltz niht.

How you want to make an apple puree. So take fine apples and skin them. And cut them in a cold water. And boil them in a pot. And mix them with wine and with fat and also beat eggs with white and with all. And do that thereto. And that is a very good filling. And do not oversalt.             


My redaction: I used Greening apples and cut them in cold water. I assumed this was done to prevent browning. I brought the apples up to a boil and then lowered the flame to a simmer to avoid burning. I added red wine to make the final color a bit rosy, and butter as my fat. I prefer not to use lard unless it is requested. As the eggs said white and withal, I reasoned that this was the entire egg, unseparated. I added these to the mixture gradually to prevent the eggs from cooking.


5. Ancient Cookery (1381)


For to make Tartys in Apples: Tak gode applys & gode spycis &figues & reysouns & preys, &do wan pey arn wel ybrayd colour wyp Safroun wel & do yt in a ofyn & do yt forth to bake wel.


My redaction: Chop up apples, figs, raisins, and pears. Add spices (cinnamon, mace, cloves, and saffron). Put this inro a pie crust and bake until golden.


6. Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks (1430-1450)


Apple Moyle.--Nym Rys, an bray hem wyl, & temper hem with Almaunde mylke, & boyle it; & take Applys, & pare hem, an smal screde hem in mossellys; řrow on sugre y-now, & coloure it with Safroun, & caste řer-to gode pouder, & serue forth


My redaction: Take rice , grind and add almond milk, boil. Take pared apples and cut them into cubes. Add sugar, saffron, and spices. (Cinnamon, cloves, mace), Simmer until done.



All in all, I found this project to be most engrossing and I look forward to continuing it with other fruits.


Lady Andrea MacIntyre, A.S. XXXV


** FINIS**



[1] Page 7, “Food”. Waverly Root, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1980

[2] Quoted Ghalioungui, in Darby et al. II 236. Found in “Food in History”, Reay Tannahill, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY 1988.

[3] Page 33. “The Art of Dining- A History of Cooking & Eating”, Sara Paston-Williams. National Trust Enterprise Limited, London 1993.

[4] Ibid, page 33.

[5] Page 15, “Seven Hundred Years of English Cooking”, Maxine McKendry, Exeter Books, NY, 1973.

[6] Page 8, “Food”. Waverly Root, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1980

[7] Page 102. “The Art of Dining- A History of Cooking & Eating”, Sara Paston-Williams. National Trust Enterprise Limited, London 1993.

[8] Page 10, “Food”. Waverly Root, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1980

[9] Page 10, “Food”. Waverly Root, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1980

[10] “Wild Apples” from the Atlantic Monthly printing of November,1892.





"Take a Thousand Eggs or More: A Translation of Medieval Recipes from Harleian Ms. 279, Harleian Ms. 4016, and Extracts of Ashmole Ms. 1439, Laud Ms. (Volumes 1 and 2)" by Cindy Renfrow

ISBN: 0962859842


"Ein buch von guter spise" by Melitta Weiss Adamson


"Curye on Inglysch" ed. Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler ISBN: 0197224091


Secondary Sources -


"Fast and Feast: Food in Medieval Society" by Bridget Ann Henisch  ISBN: 027100424X


"Feast: A History of Grand Eating" by Roy Strong ISBN: 0151007586


"Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks" by Constance Hieatt  ISBN: 0802076327


"Seven Centuries of English Cooking: A Collection of Recipes" by Maxime de la Falaise  ISBN: 0802132960


"Apicius: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome" by Apicius, ed. Joseph Dommers Vehling ISBN: 0486235637


"A Taste of History: 10,000 Years of Food in Britain" by Maggie Black ISBN: 0714117889


"Early French Cookery: Sources, History, Original Recipes and Modern Adaptations" by D. Eleanor Scully and Terence Scully ISBN: 0472088777


"A Medieval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century" ed. Tania Bayard

ISBN: 006092182X


"The Art of Dining: A History of Cooking & Eating" by Sara Paston-Williams ISBN: 0810919400


"Food and Eating in Medieval Europe" ed. Martha Carlin and Joel T. Rosenthal ISBN: 1852851481


"All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present" by Stephen Mennell  ISBN: 0252064909


"A Miscellany" by Cariadoc and Elizabeth


"Antique Apple Trees”. Old House Journal. Kunst, S.G. 1991. 19(6):16


“The Book of Apples”, Morgan, J and A. Richards.  Ebury Press LTD, Random House, London, 1994.


“In Praise of Apples: A Harvest of History, Horticulture, & Recipes”, Rosenstein, Mark, Lark Books, N.C. 1996.


“Food, An Authoritative and Visual History and Dictionary of the Foods of the World”, Root, Waverly, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1980


“Apples”, Wynne, P. Hawthorn Books, Inc, NY, NY 1975.



Copyright 2006 by Denise Wolff, 48 Winnebago Road, Putnam Valley, NY 10579. <scadian at hotmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org