November Pottage

Frumenty

November was always going to be a tricky month in this experiment. It’s the month when the pigs were killed in the Middle Ages. Most people kept pigs and they would be killed in November. Neighbours would stagger the slaughter and share around the meat that couldn’t be salted and had to be eaten immediately. The rest would be salted and eaten throughout the winter.

Since I’m a vegetarian, and I’m not going to be putting a piece of pork in my pottage, I thought I’d try something completely different. This month’s pottage isn’t really a pottage, but frumenty. It’s a bit like porridge. For the wealthy, it was a side dish made with meat stock and saffron. For the poor, it was made with water. Sometimes they could add milk or egg yolks. I decided not to use milk, as it was probably more useful being turned into cheese, but, like most fourteenth-century housewives, I’ve got chickens, so I’m sticking an egg in.

I followed a recipe from The Medieval Cookbook. It’s very simple. I boiled some cracked wheat in water for 15 minutes, then let it stand for 15 minutes. After that I was supposed to add meat stock, but I added more water, some sage and parsley from the garden and some salt. I thought I could allow myself some salt this month since there would be salt around for the pigs. When the water was absorbed I stirred in the egg yolk over a low heat until it thickened a bit. The recipe suggests adding saffron, which is still very expensive today. Even though I know that saffron can be grown locally, my fourteenth-century housewife would not have grown it for her own use. Each plant only produces three stigmas, which have to be handpicked and dried. It takes thousands of plants to make one ounce of the spice.

More than anything, once it was in the bowl, it reminded me of homemade fried rice. It was very tasty and very filling.

If you’d like to see a meaty pottage being prepared, here’s a video from English Heritage. It’s a Saxon pottage and it’s made with hare, not pork, but it will give you an idea of how it might have been done.

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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22 Comments

Filed under Medieval Food

22 responses to “November Pottage

  1. This one sounds quite palatable as I like fried rice. White & purple carrots are new to me from the video.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Does your book have a recipe for chicory pottage? Recently I read of Queen Elizabeth I wanting to eat only succory pottage, and I wondered if this was made from the roots, leaves, or a mix of both.

    I love purple carrots – they add good colour to a mixed dish of roast root vegetables, or to raw vegetables for dipping. Sad that they’re more expensive than the orange ones. I’ve also seen pale yellow ones in the shops, but they don’t look so appetising.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve got three books about medieval food and none of them mentions chicory, I’m afraid.

      White carrots don’t appeal at all, but I quite fancy purpple ones. I’ve got a raised bed ready for them. It’s full of compost, so no stones and it’s not clay like the rest of the garden. If I can’t grow carrots there, then I really can’t grow carrots.

      Liked by 3 people

    • From what I’ve read, culinary chicory use was more common in the Mediterranean countries and southern Europe until the introduction of coffee. Seems the medieval English didn’t relish or maybe know ways to reduce bitterness. Radiccio & Belgian endive were cultivated from chicory

      Not to say it wasn’t eaten. Some found it palatable. For the English, bitterness indicated medicinal possibilities, including reducing worms in people and livestock. The roots were good subs for oats for horses.

      Trust the medieval English to devise uses for what seems the commonest of weeds.

      Like their dandelion cousins, chicory is part of the daisy family, including asters, sunflowers and thistles.

      The flower petals are pretty in tossed salads, but wilt quickly.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I’ve seen medieval frumenty recipes, but they sounded just awful. I think your version sounds much better. While I’m an omnivore, I’m trying to add more plants in my diet.

    Also wondered about adding dried fruits, such as prunes, apples and currants. All would have been available to the medieval English, and would have provided flavor and sweetness. Pretty sure I saw a recipe or two with these, but the books were from college.

    Online, cookfiction.com uses honey, currents & dried rose petals. Rose hips offer that crucial vitamin C, so hard to obtain in winter. Wonder if they played a part in frumenty recipes.

    Your dish dispelled the vision I had of gelatinous mucilage. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Apparently, white, yellow and purple carrots are the correct (natural) colors. The orange ones that we know today are a hybridization done by the Dutch. They were primarily carrot farmers before the tulips came along.

    Check out this site https://www.tested.com/science/43812-the-crazy-history-of-the-orange-carrot/

    Love carrots, and who knew about their past?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for the link. I didn’t know we had orange carrots because of the Dutch.

      Liked by 3 people

    • When the Dutch play with a plant, who knows what interesting thing they’ll give the world?

      Only way I can get colored carrots is in bags of the “baby” size, tumbled, cleaned, and ready-to-eat. I do seem to notice a difference in flavor (may be psychosomatic), but I really do not discern much. However, as one of those oddballs without many working taste buds, no one would want me to be a taste tester.

      What I do know is that color can indicate certain nutrients. Orange carrots have extra beta carotene and lutein. Purples have higher anthocyanin.
      But all carrots have nutritional value and fiber. They’re best cooked with steam, which enhances their colors & appeal. Sprinkle a little powdered ginger over, toss, and then toss with honey.

      If the medieval folk had colored carrots, they would have probably been welcome. Colors signified many things — wonder if they associated things like eye health to yellows & greens?

      Also wonder if chard and cauliflowers came in the colors we believe are “new”? What goes around comes around, as Mom used to say. They probably overcooked a great many nutrients away. Still, salads of sorts were known, so maybe they didn’t want to see all the pretty colors fade in the pot.

      As always, the more you explore, April, the more pieces we have to fit
      together! Glue to hold the old gray matter together!

      Have a great week! ☺

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I didn’t know about the history of saffron. Very interesting. Also, the video really helped visualize the medieval cook in action, vegetarian or not!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This month’s pottage sounds really good.

    Liked by 1 person

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