Winter Pottage


I know that it’s not quite winter, but I thought I’d make my winter pottage before I use up all my leeks. They’re the only winter vegetable I have in my garden.

As with the summer pottage I’m assuming that I have garlic and onions available. The leeks and sage are from my garden. I’m also using marrowfat peas. I grew peas in the summer and did let some stay in the pods to dry. There weren’t very many, though, because who can resist eating fresh peas from the pod? For the pottage I used marrowfat peas from the supermarket. I also added barley (again from the supermarket) to give the pottage a bit of body.

The peas were soaked overnight. A medieval housewife would have had to soak her barley as well, but mine just needed washing. I boiled some water with an onion and some garlic. I added the peas, barley and sage for half an hour, then added the leeks for ten minutes. All of this would have taken longer over an open fire.


If you kept pigs in the fourteenth century you would be killing one about now. Most of the meat would be salted to last the winter, but you might add a bit to the pottage. It might not necessarily be a part of the pig that you’re familiar with. I’m a vegetarian, so it’s not something I’m going to try.

You might also have a carrot or two to add to the pot. Carrots don’t grow terribly well in the clay pit that passes for my garden, but they would have added some flavour.

Talking of flavour, it wasn’t too bad. I ate it all without feeling the need to add salt or pepper. I probably made it more interesting than it would have been in a fourteenth-century home by adding two things to give it bulk and texture – the peas and the barley. As always, I can only guess at the quantities that would have been available. It was probably less than I used, since I don’t have to make my ingredients stretch for another six or seven months until next year’s crops start to grow.


What else can you eat at this time of year? Three out of our four chickens are laying at the moment. Medieval chickens were probably not such prolific producers of eggs as our modern hybrids, but a medieval housewife probably had more than four chickens. She probably had a cockerel as well. Spare eggs could be sold at market or swapped for food that the family didn’t grow.



Filed under Fourteenth Century, Medieval Food

27 responses to “Winter Pottage

  1. As vegetable soups go, it sounds quite tasty. I will have to try my hand at making this. Since I am not a vegetarian, but I am allergic to pork, what parts of a sheep or poultry would be used to make Midieval pottage?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very few people could afford to eat poultry. Their eggs provided far more meals than their bodies could.

      The answer about pigs and sheep is that they would use most of them, including the offal, the heads and the blood. They were a lot less fussy than we have become today.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I enjoy learning about the lifestyles of our ancestors. The pottage looks very tasty 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Unbound Roots

    I loved reading about your recipe as your wove history in throughout. I also enjoyed learning about the origins of this recipe. I often read my great-grandfather’s memoirs, and the way they harvested food and made it last through our long Minnesota winters never fails to fascinate me. Thanks for a fun read!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Erin. I have no idea how authentic it is, but, on the basis that they threw whatever they had into the pot and boiled it, they might easily have eaten something like this.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m an escaped Minnesotan, now living in Britain, but I remember hearing tales of the Minnesota winter allowing people to freeze meat once they’d slaughtered it. A friend here in Cornwall who’s working on a local history project was told that when one family in the village slaughtered a pig, they’d salt a lot of it but would also share some with families they were close to, who’d do the same later when they, in turn, slaughtered one. It’s a neat way to get around the problem of preserving the meat.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This post struck a chord. Last night I told a friend I thought I might go vegan for Lent (still a while way). Then I said I might allow myself eggs, because if I kept my own hens they would lead a comfortable life.

    That led to an argument about what would happen to the hens once they were too old to lay! And how tough they’d be if I waited till they died of natural causes.

    Silly stuff, but it did remind me of how many traditional recipes should properly be cooked for a very long time to make the hen more tender and/or extract the maximum amount of flavour for the broth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You probably don’t want to eat a hen who has died of natural causes. That ‘natural’ cause might be disease or a parasite.

      To be honest, there’s not a lot of meat on our chickens. They’re bred to lay eggs. Because they’re bred to lay eggs, the male chicks are killed. This is why I struggle a bit with chickens and eggs. They’re not really vegetarian-friendly. Ours do have a good life, though. Once they’re too old to lay, they’re just pets. Chickens are not long-lived, which is a bit distressing. Once they’re sick, they usually die, which is even more distressing. Worse, because we’re in an urban area, our local vets don’t know about chickens. Fortunately, a man a few houses away breeds chickens and knows a lot about them.

      I suspect that we lost a lot of the flavour of things when we were able to cook quickly in gas and electric ovens. I’m not going to build a fire in my living-room to check that theory, though.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. This was really interesting, April. The pottage sounds really tasty but I love how you’ve included the historical elements to this. I can picture a 14th c woman stirring a huge pot over an open fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just wonderful, April – you’ve done it again! Brilliant! How about you write a book along the lines of ‘How to survive the Middle Ages’?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That sounds pretty good. I’m not adverse to eating pork and other meat, but we have our share of meatless meals. I’m not sure how many months I could go, but one night would be OK. It always amazes me when I consider how much time and effort went into the very basics of survival.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s so interesting to ponder the fourteenth-century diet. I expect sugar consumption was way less as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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