substitutions-msg - 3/7/05
Comments and guidelines for substituting ingredients in period recipe.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.
Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).
Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 21:51:06 +0200
From: "Cindy M. Renfrow" <cindy at thousandeggs.com>
Subject: SC - Re: substitutions
Here are a few quick examples. Sorry I haven't time now to search for more.
Harleian MS. 279 - Potage Dyvers - lxxxviij. Mammenye bastarde. - "...&
.ij. galouns of Wyne or Ale..."
Harleian MS. 279 - Potage Dyvers - Cxxiij. Strawberye. - "...a-lay it with
Amyndoun o[th]er with [th]e flowre of Rys..."
Harleian MS. 279 - Potage Dyvers - Cxxxij. Sauke Sarsoun. - "...frye hem
in oyle o[th]er in grece..."
Laud MS. 553 - 10 Saug saraser. - "...lie it with amydon or with flour de
Harleian MS. 279 - Potage Dyvers - Cl. Cawdel out of lente. - "...bynd hym
vppe with fflour [of] Rys, o[th]er with whetyn floure, it is no fors..."
Harleian MS. 279 - Leche Vyaundez - lxiiij. Towres. - "... if [th]ou
wolt, a litel so[th]e Porke or vele y-choppid..."
Harleian MS. 4016 - 182 Chared coneys, or chardwardon. - "... And if thou
lust to make it white, leue the hony, And take so moch sugur, or take part
of [th]e one and part of [th]e o[th]er..."
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000 09:57:14 -0400
From: "Alderton, Philippa" <phlip at morganco.net>
Subject: Re: SC - Re: Substitution - Response
The problem with substitutions, as has been said before, is that we basicly
don't understand what and why a Medieval Cook might have substituted.
Problem the first:
We are so used to a wide availability of different foods in all seasons,
that it is often difficult for us to remember that they might not have had
access to, say, strawberries to mix with their apples. This includes their
meats. Harvesting of certain items was done at certain times of the year,
and they had no choice. While we can get veal calves or lamb year round,
this does not mean that they could, so in order to serve something out of
season, we need to know that they had it available out of season, at least
Problem the Second
Their health theories, regarding the balance of the humors, are very
different from our modern theories regarding the balances of flavors and
nutrition. If we were to substitute, for, say, a sweet spice which we didn't
have, we would perhaps substitute another sweet spice- cinnamon for nutmeg,
for example. They might well have had a completely different idea. If the
original spice was three degrees of warm in order to compensate for a food
which was considered three degrees of cool, they'd have substituted
something else which was considered three degrees of warm, rather than
something which was considered two degrees of damp. Their basic idea was to
either provide a "balanced" food, which might be readily "digestible" by
everyone, or to provide a group of foods, in which one might be damp, one
might be cool, one might be dry, and one might be warm.
The reason for sticking to the exact recipes and menus they produced is to
get an understanding for how they balanced their foods and menus, and how
far they might have allowed a particular food's humor to be out of balance.
We do the same sort of things today, just from a different point of view.
How many of us enjoy a cold beer with a bowl of hot chili? Or a dry red wine
with a beef roast? As good as that tastes to us, a Medieval person might
well have wanted a different, sweeter wine, to balance the perceived hot,
dry nature of mature beef.
Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 20:51:29 -0400
From: "Alderton, Philippa" <phlip at morganco.net>
Subject: Re: SC - Re: Substitution- long
>Is there proof that a medieval cook would have substituted fish for duck,
>rather than chicken, or is this merely conjecture?
Then, Allison skrev:
>SAUCE TO BOIL IN PIES OF YOUNG WILD DUCK, DUCKLING, YOUNG RABBIT >OR WILD
>RABBIT. Take lots of good cinnamon, ginger, clove, grains, half a nutmeg
>and mace, galingale, and grind very well, and soak in half verjuice and
>half vinegar, and the sauce should be clear. ...
OK, Balthazar, this is exactly what I'm talking about. When I was using the
image of subbing in fish for duck, I was speaking hypothetically about the
matter, which, rather than exchanging one bird for another, as we as modern
people would tend to do, we might find Medieval folk exchanging a food item,
fish, which, being of the element, Water, for a bird, a duck, which again,
might be attibuted to the element of Water, regardless of our modern
taxonomic definitions. Instead, Allison provides us with a recipe in which
rabbits are considered interchangeable with ducks. Why? I don't know, but
this is a perfect example of why our modern logic might avail us naught in
attempting to use substitutions for the ingredients specified.
Thanks, Allison, I owe you one ;-) You definitely saved me some research and
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 14:40:59 EDT
From: CBlackwill at aol.com
Subject: SC - Documented Substitutions (Long)
Greetings to this fair assembly,
I was asked if I would post a list of the "documentable" substitutions I have
come across, so here is a sample. Bear in mind that these are just a few....
Le Menagier de Paris (pp 159) 'Cretonnee of new peas or Fava beans': "For
another Liaison you can use crushed peas or fava beans. But you can use the
Liaison you like best."
Le Menagier de Paris (same recipe): " When it is ready, you should prepare
some pieces of young chicken, veal or goose giblets...."
Liber de Coquina 'Of Lasagne' : " And, if you like, you can also add good
powdered spices and powder them on them..."
Libra de arte coquinaria - 'Ravioli for Meat Days' : "...and a libra of fat
hog's tripe or calfs' head...<snip> ...and if you add the chopped breast of a
capon, so much the better...<snip> ...You can make ravioli with breast of
pheasant, partridge, and other birds" (this is the first recipe I came
across with actual substitution suggestions in the recipe itself. It seems
to validate my belief that medieval cooks regularly substituted one meat for
another, and not necessarily because of humoral theory)
Le Menagier de Paris - ' White Poree' : "...served with pork loin,
andouille, or ham on meat days in autumn and winter...<snip> ...put them to
cook in a pot with the water from salt meat or with pork and pork
fat...<snip> ...sometimes a bread liaison is made for the leeks." (note:
this recipe suggests a lot of substitutions for days of abstinence)
Le Menagier de Paris - 'Green poree for days of abstinence' : "...And at the
bottom of the bowl, under the poree, put some salted or fresh butter, or
cheese or curd, or aged verjuice."
Libro della cucina del secolo - ''Of little leaves' : "...These herbs,
finely pounded in a mortar, if chopped fish or meat is added, can be made
into mortadella or comandelli and many other things; to make this, you can
use cultivated plants, or wild ones if you cannot get garden plants." (This
recipe then goes on to list at least five variations of the same recipe,
which indicates that it is a very versatile dish, and often used as a
foundation for creating other dishes, much the way a modern cook would.)
Libro de arte coquinaria - ' Fresh Fava beans with meat broth' : "...And you
can do the same with peas or any other fresh vegetable, but note that they
should not be skinned with hot water like fava beans..." (question: In
humoral theory, were all vegetables considered to have the same properties,
as this recipe makes no mention of it, and seems to treat all vegetables
Libro della cucino del secolo - 'Civet of Hare or other Meat': "...The same
can be done with partridges.." (This would seem to back up Huette's comments
that medieval cooks classified meats differently than we do today. But
again, was this due to humoral theory, or rather a similarity in the flavor
and affinity for certain cooking styles? I'm still researching this)
Libro de arte coquinaria - 'To make a game-meat civet' : ...then add plenty
of ginger and cinnamon so that it be mild or strong according to the
collective taste, or to that of your master..." (This seems to illustrate
quite plainly that the recipe is very flexible, based upon the persoanl likes
and dislikes of the diners, or the lord of the manor. The recipe itself does
not indicate which meat to use, and so leaves this wide open to the cook. It
is merely, like most of these recipes, a guideline from which to work.)
Liber de Coquina - 'Limonia' :...When the time to serve nears, add the juice
of lemons, limes or bitter oranges."
Libro della cucina del secolo - 'Saracen Brodo': "...You can use a similar
method for sea fish. You can put apples and pears in these brodi." (Again,
much room for variation on the theme, and not a rigid, lock-step production
These are just a few I have noticed. I have plenty more, if anyone is
interested. Again, I understand the concern for stepping too far away from
the documented recipes, but this does illustrate my point that, indeed, the
medieval cook was not as bound by the recipe as the list seems to think.
Those who are in this for pure research will, of course, not be willing to
make any assumptions from this, and I understand the reasoning. But, for
those adventurous few who are, I hope this helps.
Balthazar of Blackmoor
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 13:45:28 -0700
From: "Laura C. Minnick" <lcm at efn.org>
Subject: Re: SC - Documented Substitutions (Long)
"catwho at bellsouth.net" wrote:
> > Libra de arte coquinaria - 'Ravioli for Meat Days' : "...and a libra of fat
> > hog's tripe or calfs' head...<snip> ...and if you add the chopped breast of
> > a capon, so much the better...<snip> ...You can make ravioli with breast of
> > pheasant, partridge, and other birds" (this is the first recipe I came
> > across with actual substitution suggestions in the recipe itself. It seems
> > to validate my belief that medieval cooks regularly substituted one meat for
> > another, and not necessarily because of humoral theory)
> But notice though that they aren't substituting beef for fowl. They
> list a series of different fowl that would be appropriate. Probably
> if calf wasn't available they might have used lamb (or vice versa)
> Small game such as rabbit might be substituted for other small game
> animals. Make sense? So you wouldn't substitute beef for pheasant.
This is quite like what I have been thinking.
While I was making lunch I had a sudden flash of... something- I don't
know what really. Here goes-
There are many ways to make meatloaf. One of my cookbooks has three
different recipes on the same page. You can use onions or not, tomato
sauce or not, you can use hamburger or a combination of beef and pork,
you can even put ketchup on top. And you can use breadcrumbs or oatmeal
These illustrate a great variety of variations for what is in essence
the same recipe (reminds me a little of bukenade and the 8 bazillion
ways to make it!). However- these variations can't necessarily transfer
to other recipes. For instance, you can use either oatmeal or
breadcrumbs in you meatloaf. But you can't then turn around and use the
meatloaf as rationale to substitute breadcrumbs for the oats in your
oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Well, you could, but it would no longer
be an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie! It would be something else and it
doesn't sound all that yummy to me.
Some recipes say to use fish or fowl. But the bukenade recipe doesn't
list fish as one of the alternatives. If you make it with fish it will
be different, and it won't be Bukenade. I don't find this limiting-
because there are so many recipes for fish, that there really is no need
to change a chicken recipe.
Is that any more clear?
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 11:21:29 -0400
From: "Jeff Gedney" <JGedney at dictaphone.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Documented Substitutions (Long)
The Issue, Balthazar, rests on knowlege and certainty.
A supposition adds a degree of uncertainty to any postulate.
If we are trying to be accurate, we should eschew supposition as far
as possible. This means trying to stay with substitutions we KNOW to have been made. That is, IF we are trying to be accurate.
Many of are trying to do that, and so, the issue is not "do we know that
substitutions were made?". I think we have fairly well established that
substitutions were made. The REAL ISSUE is "What substitutions do we KNOW were made?". Any substitutions that did not appear in the corpus of period recipes cannot correctly be said to be KNOWN as having been done
Look at it like Archery...
If I am trying to consistently hit a target, I will try to eliminate or account for all the variables. Shooting in a dark room unnecessarily adds a level of
If I want to cook as much like a period cook as I can, I'll stick to
the recipes and substitutions that I KNOW come from the period corpus
Adding additional substitutions that MAY have been done, but which
I cannot be sure of, removes a level of certainty, and the likelyhood that
the meal I am making would have been _actually_ served in period to
period eaters goes from say 90% to say 50%, and decreases more with
each change I make that I cannot be sure was made in period.
Would a Period cook have departed form the period recipe as written?
Maybe. Maybe not.
I don't _know_ for sure.
That is the point.
I DO know that at least one period cook used the Recipe as written.
Since that is all I can actually verify, that is as far as I can go and still
So If I want to serve a meal that I can prove was served in period, I
have to stick to the period recipes and any substitutions called for in them.
If I want to serve food and don't care about making it "Documentably
Period" (as you might say) I can make such substitutions as I feel the
But such a meal cannot be said to be just like one served in period.
It might be, but then again, it might not. I can't be sure.
It might be made in the same _style_ as one served in period, but that
is not the same thing.
Depends on what level of uncertainty you consider acceptable for the
menu you are doing.
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 21:21:22 EDT
From: allilyn at juno.com
Subject: SC - Re: Substitutions
Here's a substitution for a visual reason, I believe. It's in
Redon, Odile; Sabban, Francoise; Serventi, Silvano . THE MEDIEVAL
KITCHEN. Schneider, Edward., translator. The University of Chicago
Press, Chicago & London. 1998. ISBN 0-226-70684-2.
#39. Seyme' of Veal
Grave' or seyme' is a winter potage. Peel onions and cook them all cut
up, then fry them in a pot; now you should have your chicken split down
the back and browned on the grill over a charcoal fire; and the same if
it is veal; then you must cut the meat into pieces if it is veal, or in
quarters if it is a chicken, and put it into the pot with the onions,
then take white bread browned on the grill and soaked in broth made from
other meat; then crush ginger, cloves, grains of paradise, and long
pepper, moisten them with verjuice and wine without straining this, and
set aside; then crush the bread and put it through a sieve, and add it to
the brouet, strain everything, and boil; then serve. Menagier de Paris
"The recipe gives us the choice of chicken or veal; we have chosen the
latter. Here, seyme' is given as the equivalent of grave'; for the
moment we have nothing to add on this matter of terminology." p. 93.
What I have to add is that I think he is going for the effect that is
produced by a seyme' in heraldic illustration. Reading through the
recipe, the brouet is going to be a deep brown, and the chicken and veal
are both white or light meats. Even though browned on the grill (for
humoral reasons, I think, as they are both moderately warm and moist)
they are then cut up and the light flesh would stand out against the
How does this sound to the rest of you? If I'm right, then we have
another reason for making possible substitutions. Even more visually
effective if the meat were cut into dice sized pieces, as might have been
done in a feast kitchen rather than a home kitchen--labor intensity. I'd
serve this in a wide, shallow soup dish, to let the light meat peek out
of the brown brouet.
BTW, someone mentioned substituting pork for beef. Don't think that
would have happened: beef was hot and dry, pork was cold and moist. By
the time you changed the cooking methods and the liquids, seasonings and
sauces, you had a different recipe.
Allison, allilyn at juno.com
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000 13:26:29 -0500
From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>
Subject: SC - Substitutions
About a month ago (which is how far I am behind on the list), Ras and
Balthazar were discussing substititions and Ras wrote:
>Is such a list of substitutions available? More importantly are there any
>manuscripts which give details about exactly how a period cook would have
>substituted and what would have been substituted for what? I am only aware of
>specific substitutions detailed in specific recipes.
The closest equivalent of this that I know of is Chiquart's cookbook,
_Du Fait de Cuisine_ (15th c. French. by the chief cook of the Duke
of Savoy). Unlike all other period cookbooks I know of, it is largely
the plan for a particular feast: sort of "this is how you would do
the biggest feast anyone would want to do". He gives a complete set
of recipes for a large two-course meat-day feast, with many dishes in
each course. Then, with the comment that at such a feast there will
be many noble lords and ladies who are not eating meat, he gives a
parallel menu for the equivalent fish-day feast, so that for each
meat-based dish in the first set of recipes, there is a fish or other
non-meat version in the second set of recipes. If I wanted one place
at which to look to see just what substitutions were done for the
constraints imposed by medieval fast-day rules, this is it.
To answer another comment in the same thread, I would disagree with
Balthazar that it is obvious to us what substitutions a medieval cook
would have used when he needed to for some reason; to use his
example, I can't think of any period recipes where walnuts are
suggested as a possible substitution for almonds--but I remember one
place where hazelnut milk is suggested as an alternative to almond
milk, which would never have occurred to me. I think when you have to
subtitute or guess, it is worth going to some trouble to find similar
recipes that give you an indication what substitutes would have been
used or what "good spicery" would have consisted of.
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 08:55:10 -0400
From: Gaylin <iasmin at home.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Substitutions
Elizabeth kindly wrote:
>I can't think of any period recipes where walnuts are
>suggested as a possible substitution for almonds-
I can. Platina (Milham's translation).
"Garlic Sauce with Walnuts or Almonds. Add to
semicrushed almonds or nuts as much as you
want of clean garlic, and grind best at the same
time, as is sufficient, sprinkling continually with
a bit of water so it does not produce oil. Put into
the ground ingredients bread crumbs softened in
meat or fish stock, and grind again. If it seems too
hard, it can be easily softened in the same juice.
It will keep very easily to the time we mentioned
for mustard. My friend Callimachus is very greedy
for this dish, even though it is of little nourishment,
delays a long time in the stomach, dulls the vision
and warms the liver (Milham, pg. 359)"
Correct me if I'm wrong but this is in the
Miscellany, no? :)
Iasmin de Cordoba
iasmin at home.com
gwalli at infoengine.com
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] what are your thoughts on period-style food?
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 10:30:48 -0500
From: Kirrily Robert <skud at infotrope.net>
> For documentational purposes, I think recipes are very necessary - but I
> also keep in mind that medieval people ran out of supplies (at times), had
> too many of something going bad (at times), had personal tastes that
> determined the amounts of ingredients... and found that they preferred
> their version.
I've found heaps of substitutions recommended in the texts I've been
working with. Common types are:
"Take a capon, or if you have no capon a chicken or some other fowl of
"Take beef or mutton or any other meat..."
"Spinach and violet leaves or any other sweet herbs..."
"Or if it be Lent..." (substitute oil for butter, almonds/almond milk
for dairy/eggs, pea broth for meat broth, etc)
"... according to your master's taste" (usually used for spices, sugar,
and sharpness; sometimes you see "and make it sweet or sharp according
to your taste.")
"take marrow if you have it..."
I try to get a feel for what are usually acceptable substitutions or
modifications within the same cookbook, or similar cookbooks (eg, I'd
consider two late-16th century English cookbooks interchangeable in
this case), and use those in preference to totally made-up ones.
Lady Katherine Rowberd (mka Kirrily "Skud" Robert)
Caldrithig, Skraeling Althing, Ealdormere