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Redacting-art - 7/3/00


"The Kitchen Wench Way: Redacting Recipes" by Caointiarn.


NOTE: See also the files: redacting-msg, The-Saucebook-art, To-Mke-A-Tart-art, books-food-msg, cookbooks-bib, merch-cookbks-msg, p-Italy-food-bib.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

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

stefan at florilegium.org



This article was originally published in the Artemisia Arts & Sciences Newsletter, The Maple.


The Kitchen Wench Way: Redacting Recipes

by Caointiarn


Cooking in these Current Middle Ages is fun and enjoyable. There are a number of fine books available to choose and cook from.  There are books available that give us just the manuscripts copied and collated, others that give us the original text and their translation or interpretation, and there are ones that cite the original text, give a modern English translation and an adaptation or a redaction.


So what do we mean by "redaction?" From the Oxford English Dictionary 1st edition in 2 volumes, vol 2, pg 293: Redact - past participle
1. Brought together in a written form
2. Brought or reduced
into (in), to a state, condition, etc, or under one's power (1432)
3. Of material things: Reduced to or into ashes, dust, etc.
- verb
1. transitive - a. to bring (matter of reasoning or discourse) into or to a certain form; to put together in writing
(1432)  b. to bring or insert (a thing) into a scheme or body (1570)   c. to reduce (a subject) to a person's understanding (1657)
2. to bring together into one body (1432)
3. To reduce (a person or thing) to, into a certain state, condition, or action. (1542)
b. To reduce (a material thing) to a certain form. (1634)
4. In modern use: a. to draw up, frame
(a statement, decree, etc) (1837)   b. to put (matter) into proper literary form, to work up, arrange, or edit (1851)


For our purposes, "Redact" and "redaction" are perfectly suited terms when we are referring to any formula in a period source and rework it into a frame that we, in these modern times, can understand, re-create, and reproduce.

Original manuscripts neednÕt be intimidating.  Sure, the spelling and wording is strange and unusual, and the texts are nothing like our modern cookbooks, but study the difference.   Look at any recipe from Curye on Inglysch; the text is a narrative, with some side notes, and there are no measurements, no ratios, no cooking times or temperature. Some say that these original texts were notes from one professional cook to another.  A  "Head Cook" was some one held responsible for all that transpired in the kitchen, and would have the knowledge base from which to replicate a recipe from these same notes.   


I also read the texts as being recipes that we would share casually with a friend: "this is an old family favorite.  In a fry pan melt butter, sautˇ thinly sliced beef and a chopped onion, add a spoonful of flour to make a paste, add broth, maybe some mushrooms, and a good couple dollops of sour cream."   Do you recognize the basic recipe for Beef Stroganoff?  Note that I didnÕt use ratios, precise measurements, or cooking times and temperatures.  Yet the recipe can still be followed by anyone who knows what we define as Beef Stroganoff.  Makes all those funny sounding recipes a bit more user-friendly, doesnÕt it?  So letsÕ tackle a recipe:



To make a syrosye.


Tak cheryes & do out the stones & grynde hem wel & draw hem thorw a streynoure & do it in a pot. & do therto whit gres or swete botere & myed wastel bred, & cast therto good wyn & sugre, & salte it & stere it wel togedere, & dresse it in disches; & set theryn clowe gilofre, & strew sugre aboue.

Taken from part III: Utilis Coquinario  Curye on Inglysch (p.90)


First, read through it aloud.  Phonetics is a good tool, as is checking the bookÕs footnotes, glossary and introduction for words that are foreign, even when "sounded out."  Then with pen and paper write out what you have read:


Take cherries and do out the stones and grind them well and draw them through a strainer and do it in a pot and do there to white grease or sweet butter and mild wastel bread and cast thereto good wine and salt it and stir it well together and dress it in dishes and set there in cloves gillyflower and strew sugar about.


Now that you have a basic text, write it in a more understandable manner:


Take cherries, remove pits and puree (grind and put through a strainer).

Put the fruit puree in a pot with butter, {sweet/white/mild} breadcrumbs, wine, sugar and salt. Cook it until thickened (?) and pour the mixture into a bowl/ individual serving dishes. Put whole cloves on top, sprinkle with sugar



        If you are still uncertain about what the dish is supposed to be, check out a basic modern cookbook.  The Joy of Cooking and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook are good examples.  Looking in the chapters under fruit, the basic recipe for Syrosye resembles stewed cherries, or cherry conserves.


Time to roll up the sleeves and experiment in the kitchen.  I prefer to experiment in small batches  -- less waste and more opportunity to "tweak" a recipe until I am satisfied with the results.   This is also not the time to use the best/most expensive ingredients.  Save them for a final presentation for family and friends.  You may also want to keep a bit extra of the different ingredients on hand "just in case." Remember to measure accurately and to write good accurate notes!  You want to be able to reproduce the same results next time.


Take cherries, remove pits and puree (grind and put through a strainer)  


1 pound can of pie (sour) cherries packed in water, drain, saving the liquid. Grind the cherries  -- use a hand grinder, a food chopper, a processor, or a blender (you may need to use some of the saved liquid).


Put the fruit puree in a pot with butter, {sweet/white/mild} breadcrumbs, wine, sugar and salt.


Measure the puree (I had about a cup) and put it in a heavy saucepan.  Measure the reserved cherry liquid, and add enough of a sweet wine (I use Chardonnay) to measure ½ cup.  Add to the saucepan 1-2 Tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons sugar and ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs (preferably a sweet white bread).


Cook it until thickened (?)  


The original says to "do it in a pot" and once the ingredients are all added "to stir it well together" I am playing on an educated guess that this is to be cooked  -- how long is the question.  I played with it a bit, and decided I liked a thick dense pudding consistency, so I cooked the mixture down until I could draw a spoon through it and see the bottom of the pot.

Pour the mixture into a bowl/ individual serving dishes, put whole cloves on top, sprinkle with sugar


Pour the mixture into a bowl or bowls, place whole cloves on it, and sprinkle it with sugar.

Or : pour the mixture into a well oiled mold.  Chill. Unmold.  Dot with cloves in a decorative manner, and sprinkle lightly with sugar.  


Period recipe redaction presents a great deal of latitude; for every cook who sees a recipe, there can be that many different redactions.   Most of the recipes that have been saved do not tell us how the dish should look/taste/smell/ feel/ etc.  There are no hints on texture and consistency.   How do we know we have done it right?  We donÕt.  Moreover, the variables of this dish lends itself to a  "to taste" recipe. How sweet are the cherries? The cook may need to use more or less sugar.  Syrosye could be a saucy/soupy mixture, or it could be the dense pudding dish I like.  There arenÕt any hints that it was served warm or chilled.   In my redaction, I kept the ratio heavy with the fruit puree  -- I have no idea if maybe this recipe was a way to stretch the fruit  -- just as much wine and bread as cherries.  "dress it in dishes" maybe the original authors way of meaning to use a mold, and let it "set" Prior to offering it to eat. My taste testers have enjoyed this dish warm as well as chilled.  


Other tweaks I have done:  I didnÕt add the breadcrumbs until I set the fruit mixture to a slow boil, stirring well adding a little at a time.  I also sprinkled a dash of ground cloves into the cherry puree to give it a bit more of a clove bite.  I also like taking the reserved liquid and wine and boiling it down to about one-half the volume to intensify the flavor.  


There is the thought that through experience, training and research we establish what period cooking may have been like, but there is no certainty.   I like to think that diversity of cooking a dish "right" was as prominent then as it is now.   Enter into the fun! Read through a cookbook from the Middle Ages, and find yourself a new adventure.     Read!  Redact!   Enjoy!



Copyright 2000 by Karen O., (kareno at lewistown.net). 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