This grain (Hordeum, al kinds of varieties) comes from Asia, but because it is very versatile and low maintenance, it can be grown anywhere. Barley may be the oldest cultivated grain. In the Netherlands it serves mainly as fodder, but is also the main ingredient for a popular drink: beer. The grain has ears with long awns. Recipe: Roman bread.
The bitter orange, Seville orange or Bigarade orange(Citrus aurantium) is not directly related to sweet oranges but a separate variety that belongs to the same family as Rue, the Rutaceae. Bitter oranges were introduced into Europe before sweet oranges; they were cultivated on Sicily as early as the eleventh century. Sweet oranges did not arrive in Europe until the end of the fifteenth century, four centuries later. See also citrus fruit. Recipes: Broccoli in the opera, Smoking bishop, Aubergines for Cardinals.
What a pity that it is so difficult to obtain fresh pig blood! Cookbooks from Apicius till very recent have recipes for blood sausages and black puddings. Even my butcher’s handbook from 1965 (Moderne beenhouwerij en charcuterie) has no less than sixteen recipes for blood sausage. The Dutch blood sausage for baking is made with pig’s blood, meal of rye or buckwheat, spices and diced lard. But there are many variations, such as the ‘Rotterdam blood sausage’, with pork jowl, rind, blood, salt and saltpetre, black pepper, cloves and marjoram, no grains. Other blood sausages were with tongue or kidney, arranged attractively (see picture).
‘The soft, nutritious substance found in the internal cavities of animal bones, especially the shin bones of oxen and calves’ (The Oxford Companion to Food). It used to be a delicacy, but now it is looked upon with suspicion (BSE, cholesterol). This distrust and repulsion is not justified. Bone marrow contains iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, and contains 75% monounsaturated fat which is believed (though not yet proven beyond a doubt) to reduce the risk of heart disease and even some cancers. Since the shin bone is not connected to the brain or spine, there is no risk of BSE.
Before using bone marrow, you have to prepare it. The bones have to soak for at least twelve hours in salted water which has to be refreshed several times. You’ll see the water turn pink from the blood that is extracted from the bone marrow by the salted water. After soaking rinse the bones and dep them dry.
Bone marrow can be prepared in to fashions: you can boil them or roast them. If you boil them, fifteen minutes is enough. Roasting takes about as much (or little) time, in a preheated oven of 225-240 °C/435-465 °F. Just place the bones upright in a greased baking tray. When the bones are done, they are served on a plate with a special marrow spoon. The marrow is scooped out of the bones, spread on freshly toasted bread and sprinkled with salt.
The marrow spoon dates from around 1700, when serving roasted marrow bones was quite popular. The spoon can be used at both sides, for narrow and wider marrow bones. Recipes: Pasties with marrow, Stuffed quinces, Pasties with sweetbread, Square omelette.
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Also known as ‘starflower’, as the flowers are like little blue stars. In Dutch it is called ‘cucumber herb’, because the smell and taste of a leaf is decidedly like that of cucumbers. Young, tender leafs can be used in salads, finley cut because of the many trichomes. The flowers can be used to decorate dishes with. You only need to seed this annual once, it will spread so well that next year you’ll weed rather than seed borage. Some research indicates that consumption of borage influences the production of adrenaline. Recipe: Garden Salad.
The modern expression botulism (a potentially lethal food poisoning) is derived from another Roman phrase for sausage (botulus), but has nothing to do with Roman sausages as such. Botulism was especially in the nineteenth century a danger for public health, because of the new canning techniques. It was not known yet that to destroy anaerobic bacteria in food that has a low acid content, this must be heated under pressure until at least 116 oC/240 oF. Fruit preserves, pickled gherkins and achar have a high enough acid level to be safe without heating under pressure, but not frankfurters for example. Because botulism does not betray itself by smell or taste, it is not until one becomes ill that contamination is discovered. Curing salt, which contains saltpetre, prevents the growth of anaerobic bacteria. An ordinary canner never reaches a temperature higher than 100 °C/212 °F (at sea level), but there are also pressure canners. Curiously enough, I can only find offers of these in North-America, not in Europe. Here you can see a selection of pressure canners at Amazon.
A bundle of aromatic herbs, that is added to stock or stew. They are removed before serving the dish. The usual combination is parsley, thyme and bayleaf, but other herbs can also be used, like rosemary, sage or chervil. The term bouquet (without the garni) is already used by François La Varenne in 1651 in his stock recipe (Le Cuisinier François, II), but except for cloves he doesn’t specify the herbs. However, in the second edition he mentions parsley, chives and thyme. Pierre de Lune (Le cuisinier) also uses the bouquet in 1656, but he calls it a paquet, consisting of thyme, chervil, parsley and clove, and a piece of lard when the dish was to be served on a meat day. 17th century stock, Potage à la Reine, Salsify fritters, Cream of Chicken Soup.
Until the fifteenth century fermenting was caused by wild yeasts. Bread was baked with sourdough. Beer (or ale), that was already brewed in prehistoric times by the Egyptians, was fermented with the help of wild yeasts. From the fifteenth to the seventeenth century the yeasts used for brewing were refined by adding the froth of a previous brew to the wort (malted grain, the basis of the beer). In that time only top fermenting beer was produced, hence the yeast in the froth.
Brewer’s yeast was also used to bake. Baker’s yeast became available in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was considered a great improvement, because the quality of the yeast was more consistent, and it tasted less bitter. Whether brewer’s yeast or fresh baker’s yeast is easily available depends on where you live. You can also use dried yeast, which will need less rising time. Just see what you can get. Only, don’t confuse real brewer’s yeast with the health tablets.
Soft cheese with a crusty white mould, originally made of raw cow milk. It is made in the region East of Paris. Most Brie you can buy today is made from pasteurized milk, to the detriment ot the taste of the cheese, but it eliminates listeria bacteria. That is important for pregnant women, because it can cause miscarriage or a very sick baby. However, if you or your guests aren’t expecting, look for unpasteurized Brie. By the way, in unpasteurized Gouda cheese there’s no danger of listeria because of the different production process.
Brie has a long history. It was already produced during the reign of Charlemagne who enjoyed the cheese in 774. In the fifteenth century the cheese inspired Charles, Duke of Orleans (1394-1465) to write a little poem to accompany 240 whole Bries that were send to as many ladies at the court: Mon doux coeur, je vous envoie / Soigneusement choisi par moi / Le brie de Meaux délicieux. / Il vous dira que, malheureux, / Par votre absence je languis / Au point d’en perdre l’appétit. / Et c’est pourquoi je vous l ‘envoie. / Quel sacrifice c’est pour moi! (source: Duizend gezichten van zuivel). Famous is the anecdote about the Congress in Vienna in 1814/1815, when Talleyrand, to lighten the mood, organized a competition between the attending nations which produced the best cheese. Brie was the unanimous favourite and received the honorary title roi des fromages, et fromage des rois. Recipes: Jacobin sops, Mushroom pasty, Cheese bake with pears.
A cabbage with quite a history. Read more about this vegetable in the sixteenth recipe for Broccoli in the Opera.
This is not a cereal, but a plant from the same family as rhubarb and sorrel. Buckwheat is native to the Far East, the temperate climate zone. If I understand correctly, buckwheat has come to Europe by two ways: buckwheat first reached Europe by way of Russia. In the fifteenth century the plant entered Germany. Later the plant reached Southern Europe through the Middle East (hence the French name for this plant: Sarassin). Btw, the English name buckwheat is derived from the Dutch boekweit, litt. beech wheat, because of its resemblance to beech nuts.
Since buckwheat contains no gluten, you can’t bake bread just with buckwheat flour. Famous dishes with buckwheat are blinis (Russian pancakes) and soba (Japanese noodles). Recipe: Medieval bread.
Or Anchusa officinalis, related to borage, but a perennial. Beautiful blue flowers that attract lots of bees. Recipe: Garden Salad
A perennial (Sanguisorba minor) with decorative leaves and sweet little flowers. Indigenous to Europe. The young green leaves are used in salads and cooling drinks, the flowers are very decoratove in salads and to garnish dishes. Recipes: Herb soup with potato dumplings, Salmon Salad, Garden Salad.
Isigny is situated in Normandy, between Cherbourg and Le Havre. The butter from Isigny was famous as early as the sixteenth century. The producers claim that the combination of briny sea-breeze and the quality of the meadows the cows graze on give butter from Isigny its unique quality. However, if you can’t find real Isigny butter, you can use any other butter, as long as it is unsalted. Recipe: Mint soufflé.
This perennial is probably named after the custom to keep butter wrapped in these leaves to protect it. To me, it will always be associated with the bustling innkeeper of The Prancing Pony in Bree, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The botanical name of butterbur is Petasites hybridus. The plant loves a moist environment, and flowers in early spring before the large leaves appear. In the street where I live butterbur grows rampant on the side of the canal. I used the blanched leaves to wrap the prehistoric fish in, and the leaves themselves were not eaten. It is not advisable to eat large quantities of butterbur leaves. The plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage. Possible alternatives for wrapping the fish are large cabbage leaves or sorrel. Especially sorrel is excellent, because it adds a slightly tangy flavour to the fish. (Wikipedia on Butterbur). Recipe: Prehistoric clay fish
Laatste wijziging December 17, 2019