Laurel’s Prize Tourney: FOOD!

The array of foods to try–oh wow! I didn’t even get to try all of it. I missed one because it was too early to eat when I was there, and I never got back to it, which grieves me.

I begin with the youngest to display. Roman Cooking demonstrated from more than one source is always a good beginning. Shannon of Fynnon Gath made a nice presentation and her samples tasted good.  I can see her being lauded for a feast in the future!

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Sigridr Ranglatr presented a beautiful selection of sweets that could be enjoyed on bread. I could very happily eat any of her delicious concoctions at a meal. She displayed her mortor and pestle which would have been a common kitchen tool in most of the SCA period.

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Gaelan Garrett created samples of preserved foods. He cured meats and made fermented preserved items.  He also displayed samples of puddings and other period means of making certain foods taste good past their prime, and also to make them go further. This was the ONE food booth I intended to return to and sample and ran out of time. I sadly missed my chance to taste what promised to be very interesting dishes!

p1000268p1000269p1000272  Photos by Anna Maleine

Alianorra MacKkye presented deserts and a vinegar drink I could drink all day long. She had various candied fruits, and ginger, which I sampled. I did not try the meat dish, although I was tempted but I didn’t want to mess up her lovely spread before the Laurel’s got to see and taste it first.  I came back and refilled my drink cup from that cold vinegar beverage, shown in the glass container with spicket, several times over the course of the day. Yum!

p1000276p1000278p1000277p1000279  Photos by Anna Maleine

Marie de Girau presented SAUCES. The garlic green sauce was spectacular. The mild garlic sauce really didn’t have much garlic flavor, but was pleasant otherwise.  She made meatballs for the sauces, but I liked it on a cracker just fine. I think it would do fabulously well over any meat.  The mustard sauce was good, but the garlic sauce–wow!  She also does garb.

p1000285p1000287p1000288   Photos by Anna Maliene

Marianna de Salamanca did not cook food. Her display probably should not be in this blog post, but I have no idea where to put it.  She made things for the skin, things to make you smell good, things to freshen clothing, things for cleaning teeth, and other similar items.

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This wraps up the Laurel’s Prize Tourney blog posts. I hope you enjoyed them, and I hope I did not make too many mistakes on names.  As of the time of writing this, I found one wrong name and changed what I wrote but that leaves me with another person whose name I did not get.  Not bad for my first time attempting to document this, one of my favorite events.

What I Do For Fun.. Society for Creative Anachronism: King’s College 2015

It is HOT, so I am heading off to the INDOOR summer Society for Creative Anachronism events here in Ansteorra, the premier of which is KINGS COLLEGE.  Why am I excited to attend this event? Well, try out the CLASS SCHEDULE. For how little it costs me, an event like this packs a huge punch; *details at the bottom of the article.

Now, what is your interest?

There is an entire day of classes about ARCHERY.

There are TWO tracks (or more if you count the class on playing music for dancing) for DANCE.  There is an entire track on CORALE for Renaissance music too. Carnatic Music from southern India gives a completely different experience.

FIBER ARTS: There are classes on embroidery, patterning a Persian coat, Barding for your dog (what does a well dressed dog wear in the middle ages?), hand sewing, Viking and early Medieval stitch types and the problem of finishing edges, seams and necklines, setting up an Inkle loom, simple T-tunics, How to make a St. Birgitta’s Cap, Skirt pleating for Renaissance skirts, and an introduction to Smocking.

GAMERS: there is a class about making and playing period games! Viking games anyone?

Calligraphy and Illumination: entire all day tracks of classes in this most lovely of arts.  Classes cover historical ideals of colors, for they combined colors differently than do we today.

HISTORY: punishments and methods of execution during the period covered by the SCA.

FOOD: 14th century England: foods eaten by both royalty and the common people. Middle Eastern: hummus; spices used in Middle Eastern Cooking, storing fruit and some recipes for Ottoman cuisine.

FENCING: the art of the rapier, several classes to develop your skills.

HEAVY FIGHTING: you know, knights in armor with heavy weapons and helmets.

And this does NOT include everything.

 

I am eagerly awaiting the day. Next Year I shall teach a class!

*CONSIDERING ATTENDING? You will need a basic pre-16th century garment to wear; a basic T-tunic works and if you check out your local SCA group, the Gold Key, Hospitaler or Chatelain will have loaner tunics.

There is a gate fee, and a $5 add on if you are not a member of the SCA, but once that is paid to the troll at the gate, you are welcome to select classes at will. SOME classes have fees to cover the hand outs or material costs, but others have no charge at all. Arrive Early to sign up for the most popular classes before they fill up. Carry one and five dollar bills in your money pouch to cover those class fees. Most classes have no fee at all.

 

Coriander Seed in Sauerkraut

OH WOW!  This is an eye opener, indeed.  I put coriander seed in a fermentation of cabbage and this morning the resulting excess brine was added to breakfast.  This is a one bowl sort of meal, with the steamed veggies and cut up meat mixed together with whatever interesting flavor is available. Today, it was coriander seed brine and cinnamon.   Coriander with cinnamon produces a pungent odor, almost like the smell of a really strong cheese. I enjoyed the flavor to a surprising degree.

So my breakfast, in addition to the lovely probiotics found in the brine after fermentation, was amazingly flavorful.

As this is a fermentation process that was common in the 10th century, and the coriander seed was a common seasoning in that period, and human beings love to eat what tastes really good, and the Byzantines loved strong smells (just research their take on perfumes!), I suspect I just ate a breakfast that would not have been out of place on the table of my SCA persona. FUN!

I apologize for scarfing it down before I thought to take a photo for the blog. MUST improve on my habits!

Update on Fermentation Preserved Vegetable Project

The carrot ferment was delicious! The stick cut carrots and diakon radish turned out still crisp but nicely tangy. The sliced version had more tangy flavor but went soft so was less satisfying.  We opened up one of the large crocks of fermenting cabbage and it is good. This time we got a stronger fermentation and the cabbage was softer yet still with enough texture and a lot of depth of flavor. Can say that garlic can certainly over-whelm a ferment, but ginger doesn’t.  Am not certain what I think of the coriander seeds since that is a strong flavor and while interesting I am unable to decide if I like it or if I am neutral.  I certainly do not dislike it!

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This post really does need a picture of a nice bowl of carrot sticks and sauerkraut.

There remain two large crocks of cabbage which will ferment longer.

There is a smaller container that is a mix of leftover items from the other preparation and absolutely NO garlic. Will broach that one next.

If anyone wishes to try this process themselves, I recommend the facebook pages Wild Fermentation and Fermentor’s Kitchen.

Why 10th Century and Fermentation of Cabbage?

Why 10th Century? Well, longish story. I used to bake. My beloved husband does not like baked goods. I needed an episodic kitchen thing so I thought about how great grandma made kraut and that tasted way better than the junk that comes in the jar and don’t even mention the canned version!  Anyway, I was asked in a fermentation group why the historical focus on the 10th century, and as my explanation was much too long for a post there, I decided to carry it over here and blog on it.

In my family of origin, I was taught to bake cookies and then later to expand that out into pies. These were the delights I made whenever I had the urge to be creative in the kitchen. Then I fell in love with a whole foods healthy eating focused man who took over the general cooking and anytime I mentioned baking a pie would tell me he would rather eat the berries straight than be presented with them in a pie.  He also considered cookies an entry food to bad eating practices. So what is a girl to do when her ONE creative food outlet is unwanted and even deemed wasteful? In my case, I went looking for something else creative and interesting to make my contribution to the table.

Anyway, I started learning about how to make Sauerkraut, finding first the book WILD FERMENTATION, and later other books on the subject.  Somewhere along the way an author, it may have been the first author, mentioned in passing that Pliny wrote about lactic acid fermentation. Another author mentioned in passing that the ancient Roman legions, when they traveled by land or by sea, always brought with them fermented cabbage because the use of it with every meal resulted in a more stable digestive system when dealing with ever changing food and water sources. They especially wanted the fermented cabbage when heading into the middle east, for apparently the foods going that direction were harder for them to digest.

All this meant that my interest in an episodic cooking project had cross-over with my Society for Creative Anachronism interest in all things 10th Century Byzantine.  It also meant it crossed over into my research for my Historical novel.  Thus was born a passionate pursuit of the history of Brassicas and anything else the Byzantines grew or fermented in the 10th Century.

And the best part?

I have only just begun the journey.

Researching Cabbage

The process of properly preparing an Arts and Sciences (A&S) Project has interested me from my first days in the SCA, but up until recently nothing caught my interested thoroughly enough to keep me focused. My topic came along by way of the kitchen, and my mundane one at that!  Enter salt brine fermentation, sauerkraut, and the history of cabbage.

As I began to explore sauerkraut for my fun contribution to the table, Sandar Katz’s books (WILD FERMENTATION & THE ART OF FERMENTATION) gave me the technique and hinted at a very long history behind the practice.

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Intrigued, I began to explore sauerkraut for 10th century Byzantium.

I no longer recall the titles of the earlier books I explored. The search was tantalizing and confusing. One author mentioned Pliny, but gave no footnote to aid in finding the quote. Another hinted at differences between cabbage varieties over time, but gave little detail except to say that modern tight heads were a late Medieval development, so while OK for some portions of the SCA period, they are not correct for my 10th century Byzantine. Still another commented, without footnote, that the ancient Roman Army always carried fermenting cabbage when traveling. Oh, the frustrations of finding hints of what I longed to find—without attribution!

My first exciting breakthrough came with a Horticulture textbook by Geoffrey R. Dixon. Bibliography for it can be found at the bottom of this article.

Vegetables from the Brassicas family go back to the Neolithic period. According to Dixon there are quite a few references to these plants in the extant literature. Three plant families are the roots of all the brassicas: Brassica nigra (grows on rocky Mediterranean coasts), Brassica oleracea (coastal throughout Europe) and Brassica rapa (from the high plateauxs of Iran, Iraq and Turkey). [Dixon, pp 1-3]

“[A]ncient Sanskrit literature UPANISHADS and BRAHAMANAS, originating around 1500 BC. Mention brassicus, and the Chinese SHIH CHING, possibly edited by Confucius (511-479 BC), refers to the turnip….”

“Aristotle (384-322 BC), Theophrastus (371-286 BC), Cato (234-149 BC), Columella (1st century AD), and Pliny (23-79 AD) all mention the importance of brassicus.”[Dixon p. 1]

As always, the quotes are not given. But with the names of the authors, I am further along in my search for documentation than I was before. Theophrastus’ writing INQUIREY INTO PLANTS is sitting on the pile waiting with Apicius.

Meanwhile my kitchen counter looks like this: IMG_1229

The next step, in my research for documentation, will be to dig around in the original works cited by G. R. Dixon and gather up the quotes. Future articles will be about the versions I selected to grow because they most resemble the descriptions from the ancient texts, containers I am using for the fermentation process and what was likely used in 10th Century, and a how-to article so you can make your own. The next root veggie ferment will be 3 weeks March 19, and I do my next taste check on the cabbage March 22.

In conclusion, long before SCA time, these plants were cultivated, traded, crossed with each other, and spread throughout Europe and Asia. This makes my efforts to use the ancient practice of salt brine fermentation on vegetables in 10th Century Byzantium all the more interesting!

Today’s article takes heavily from:
Dixon, Geoffrey R., VEGETABLE BRASSICAS AND RELATED CRUCIFERS, Crop Production Science In Horticulture #14, CABI North American Office, Cambridge MA, copyright 2007 G. R. Dixon, ISBN:978 0 85199 395 9.

UPDATE: Fermenting Cabbage

The first attempt at making sauerkraut by the means of a possible in period recipe was a success. The initial kraut was shifted from the fermentation crock to containers for the refrigerator after 3 months fermented. They further aged in the refrigerator as they were used up.

The flavor improved over time even in the refrigerator. Initially the sauerkraut was too salty and not as sour as I like. Each successive container we opened to use was less salty tasting and more tangy. So there wasn’t anything we did not end up enjoying.

Evaluation of how it tasted initially led to the conclusion that my use of the salt was heavy handed and would be better if I went lighter in my next attempt and if I were to allow it to ferment longer in the crock before placing in the refrigerator.

My reading about the history of cabbage has taught me that the firm tight heads of cabbage we enjoy now are a more recent development. “Heads” of cabbage in period were looser. So for the next batch of sauerkraut I selected a different kind. I have no idea what it is called but it is darker, smaller heads, and the outer leaves spread away from the head as they mature, thus leaving only the center tight. I think it is also a modern variety, but just not the common large heads I usually see in the stores.

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So currently there are THREE crocks fermenting on my desk. Thyme and whole peeled cloves of garlic went into each crock. One crock also received whole cumin seeds, another received sliced, peeled, fresh ginger, the third nothing extra. Cabbage was sliced very thin, almost shaved, and mixed with less salt than last time and squeezed until liquid began to form. I packed each crock with the wet salty cabbage and pressed it repeatedly with each handful to pack it as tightly as I possibly could pack it. Folded whole cabbage leaves were used to cover the contents, then weights were added to hold it all down. A 2% brine was mixed and pour over everything until even the weights were covered.

And we wait.

Fermenting Cabbage

Thus far the cabbage in the salt brine is fermenting with all the correct odors and none of the “uh-oh” elements (like mold which means dump it in the compost, sterilize the pot and try again).  My pot was left warmer than ideal over the weekend.  It is still fine!

WE open it up, taste and put it in jars in the fridge in another week.  No, fridges are not period, but this is anachronism!

In period, they would just keep it under the brine until it is all eaten.  They might have rows of pots of cabbage preserved in this manner.  I read it is popular as a method in period for preserving other veggies as well.

Did you know botulism gets its name from sausage because until modern canning the usual way someone got poisoned with botulism’s toxins was from badly preserved sausage?  Apparently the salt brine encourages a ph that is so hostile to botulism and its like that it will not grow in a fermentation pot.

Meanwhile, I look forward to fermented cabbage!

CABBAGE!

Started my first crock of cabbage fermenting a few days ago, and so far it is off-gassing exactly as it should! Happy cabbage! I am using the lactic acid fermentation that takes place on a salt brine. I made my salt brine with pink salt that has been mined in the same place since before my 10th century time period. So my persona could very well have purchased this sort of salt in the market of Constantinople.

Due to a discussion on whether or not the Byzantines would have spiced their ferment of cabbage, I did not spice this batch. Meanwhile, I have been reading up on the history of cabbage and attempting to discover if any of the heirloom versions resemble what my persona would have used. If I find one, I will see if I can manage to grow it in a pot and try it in another ferment.

Meanwhile, I used the modern head cabbage that was developed much later in Europe. It is inexpensive so makes a good choice for learning the method. If I mess this up it will not cost me so much to try again.

And I am still seeking out sources to find, if I am able, an example of spiced cabbage ferment.

Sometime in October this first crock will be ready to eat! I am very excited and barely can wait!

Well, not everything runs smoothly!

We have had an interruption to our lives here. An 18 wheeler exploded and took out the windows of the workshop, caused quite the grass fire, and as the workshop is connected to the house, filled the house with the stink of the smoke. It also took out the internet and electricity. A week later, both of those are restored.  Sadly, the contents of the refrigerator got warm and had to be tossed. Small loss compared to the thousands of dollars of repairs and cleaning that restoration will take. God bless friends for all they do to keep us sane in crazy times!

So I am camping out in the RV which is not fully renovated. It is a challenge.  Hubby is cooking in the house, but I have moved my office to the RV because the smell makes me feel ill. Doesn’t bother my hubby though.

So my exploration of fermenting cabbage like in period is on hold.  I took this opportunity to explore what spices to use in it with the help of SCA cookery persons on Facebook. Say what you will about the flaws of facebook, I am enjoying the wide array of SCA folk who are on there!

I think I may have a spot for my crocks…. time will tell. LOL!