Peacock Subtlety: Part 2

Peacock Dora and more 054

The first time I wrote about peacock on the table of kings and the very well-to-do, the cooking was completely theoretical, with stand-in stunt ducks and a preserved skin.  http://roxalanasredactions.com/?s=peacock

This portion covers the messy, gory cooking parts of actually turning a freshly killed peacock into a dish once served to kings.

Part 1: The Bird

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This is the freshly killed peacock (not by me).  Short story, I went to a farmer’s house to pick up a couple of wild peahens, with fertilized eggs and baby chicks dancing through my head.  When we got to the Middle of Nowhere, Texas my daughter and I were greeted with the sounds of gunfire — a bit disconcerting.  We took a look around, staying on the polite side of fences, and saw the peahens and goose we were originally after.  While we were petting said friendly goose and his love interest, contemplating which recipe he would best be served in, up comes the Farmer Lady with a gorgeous and dead Indian Blue Peacock. She announced, “Here’s your cock!” I couldn’t do much more than say thank you and pay the lady for her magnificent cock and the two hens.  Sorry, the goose wasn’t going to fit in the car once I had the peacock with his tail in my car.  It’s not that big a car!

I did ask about how she could sell her birds so cheaply.  Seems the peacocks were let loose in the wild 20 some years ago and have flourished in the tropics of Texas — so much so that the resulting multiple flocks have become a nuisance for the ranchers and not just the beautiful lawn and table ornaments they were originally destined to be.  My win, their loss.

            An apropos poem for this bird handed to me, the cook.

“Peacock: you admire him, often he spreads his jewel-encrusted tail.  How can you, unfeeling man, hand this creature over to the cook?” (Mart.XIII-1XX/Faas, pp. 295)

During the time of Henry VIII, this bird would have incredibly expensive due to their breeding habits.  Based on my searches, a live bird’s pricing from a reputable breeder is usually on the order of $600.  The scarcity of peacocks caused the pricing to be such that only nobility could afford such a rare beauty for their yard or table.  So what I paid for this magnificent bird was a fluke, due to the nuisance the random flocks had become, rather than the norm.  This bird: much more affordable.

The peacock, unlike the chicken, was not a common bird.  (thecoolchickenreturns.com) Unlike the chicken, a peahen will only lay 3-9 eggs a year while a single chicken might lay up to 200 eggs each year.  (Damerow).  This cuts down on the number of pea chicks born and raised to maturity in any given clutch or year.  Low numbers with great beauty, much like gold or rubies, raises the price of the peacock out of the common man’s reach.

A quick bit of history on the eating of peacock.  Peacocks were valued throughout history, not only for their feathers but for their flesh.  Poems and songs were written about these gorgeous feathered fowls and their likeness graced plates, vases and even thrones.  They represented different ecclesiastic values to different religions.  This bird, with its jeweled-eyed tail, was coveted for both the look and symbolism represented in its display.  From a throne in India to the tables of rich Romans to paintings and vases in Persian Empire; even to the table of English royalty, many used this favored bird in recipes and decoration.

“Such subtle creations could be comprised of just the edible, or as the more elaborate a set up became, a combination of paper mache and lumber to support a larger and even grander display.  These decorative subtleties were for powerful displays and less about eating, with the production being undertaken by carpenters, metals smiths and painters and very little with chefs.” (Martins)

This is a research paper on cooking a beautiful period dish served to royalty . It covers the trials and tribulations of making this display happen in today’s modern world, which lacks an abundance of peacocks, as well as the “workarounds” needed to display the dish in a mostly period manner.

Part 2: Skinning

           With the bird in hand and period recipes dancing through my head, the first hurdle for this kingly presentation presented itself.

The Romans, French and English all agreed that the peacock’s skin and feathers should be saved to redress the dish(s).

Roman:

Cure the skin with coarse sea salt, so that it dries out a little, and wash it off just before you dress the roast bird in it…” (Faas, pp. 297).

French:

And when it is cooked, it must be re-clothed in its skin and let the neck be nice and straight or flat; and let it be eaten with yellow pepper. (Goodman, M-30)

English:

“Take and flay off the skin with feathers and tail, leaving the neck and crest still upon the bird, and preserving the glory of his crest from injury when roasting by wrapping it in a linen bandage.  Then take the skin with all the feathers upon it and spread it out on the table and sprinkle thereon ground cinnamon… Then take and sew him again into his skin and all his feathers, and remove the bandage from his crest.  Brush the feathers carefully and dust upon them and his comb gilding to enhance his beauty.  After a while, set him upon a golden platter, garnish with rosemary and other green leaves, and serve him forthwith as if he were alive and with great ceremony.” (Craig, pp. 157)

Yeah, the skinning part wasn’t quite as easy as these books made the undressing of the bird sound.   So here are my step by step pictures and running dialogue.  Let the messiness begin!

Peacock Dora and more 035            This is the messy part.  There is no other way to say this than ewww!  If you’re squeamish stop right here because the pictures just increase in gore factor.  Now, I’ve skinned and plucked more than a few feathers.  I raise period birds for eggs and meat.  Getting a bird ready for the oven is nothing new; however, trying to preserve the skin of a peacock with a 5 foot tail while your child and cat are trying to “help” is…exceptional.  I’m pretty sure period cooks didn’t have this issue.  The cats would know better than to be under foot.

So the first thing I learned is that this bird had some opalescent scales on the skin.

Peacock Dora and more 034A better picture when some of the scales flaked off while I was attempting to cut the skin.

Peacock Dora and more 033            I don’t know if this is normal, never having cut into the skin of a peacock before; however, I can say that these scaly flakes were gorgeous but made the first few attempts to cut into the skin a real bitch.

Once the initial cut was made, progress was made on separating the belly and leg skin from the bird.

Peacock Dora and more 036The feather portion of the skin ended at the peacock’s knees where the normal heavy-duty scaly legs started.

Those legs were almost as long as my forearm and had wicked claws.  I can see how these things are able to fend off both raccoons and foxes.  The peacock was only a couple pounds lighter than the period Spanish Black turkey I raised to make a Kraken subtlety.  That turkey managed to survive the Great Flock Killing of 2015 (by a couple of damn raccoons).  So yes, these birds can and do survive quite well with their natural defenses.

Back to the skin.  The skin had to be cut around the knee joint in a circle then sliced open.  Trust me, there was no way I was going to be able to pull the leg through and I didn’t want those clawed feet anywhere in the final cooked dish.  I disjointed the bird at the knees to make removing the lower legs easier.

The wings I left on the bird skin.  I attempted to take the skin off the wings but realized it was too fragile there for the amount of force needed to pull the many tendons/ligaments away from small bones.  Here I disjointed the wings and cut them at the inner breast joint.

Peacock Dora and more 037            As you can see the blood is pooling close to the neck where it was shot.  I had to drain the blood off a few times as I was making the cuts.  This is where I say either wear clothes you don’t mind getting bloody or skin in the buff so you can jump in the shower when it’s done.

Also note this bird is not covered in what we would consider a tasty amount of fat, as seen on modern day factory farm chickens.  This bird was wild.  It has a healthy amount of flesh and just enough fat along the skin and tail, yet the bird would never be considered as factory raised.

The skin from the back was actually the hardest to peel off.  I had to use my hands and a very small sharp knife to get into this area without slicing up the skin.   This portion of the deskinning was the hardest.  This skin felt thinner, though it really wasn’t, and the fat levels almost non-existent as I separated the skin and flesh.

A portion of the neck and head were left on.  All the period recipes say to leave the head on with feathers.  I couldn’t keep a pig’s ears from burning when I did a period pig head (http://roxalanasredactions.com/stuffed-boars-head/), so I was not about to risk the head of a peacock to the oven and my “linen bandaging” skills (which are nonexistent).  I had to do a quick improvisation.  2 inches under the head remained intact in the skin while I took out the rest of the neck.  The meat portion of the neck in the cooking had skewers to keep it upright for when the remaining neck and head were placed on top of the cooked portion.

Part 3: Cooking

             Most cooks have had the chance to work with their meat of choice before starting a major project.  Peacocks are as rare as hen’s teeth here so I had to adjust on the fly. I started with the period recipes for the Romans:

Roman:

Sometimes the peacock…were roasted. (Faas, pp. 297).

Another good Roman recipe; unfortunately this one does not include the redressing:

Grind chopped meat with the center of fine white bread that has been soaked in wine.  Grind together pepper, garum and pitted myrtle berries if desired.  Form small patties, putting in pine nuts and pepper.  Wrap in omentum and cook slowly in caroenum.”  (Giacosa, pp. 90)

French:

Peacock/Swan “Kill it like goose, leave the head and tail, lard or bard it, roast it golden, and it with fine salt.  It lasts at least a month after it is cooked.  If it becomes mouldy on top, remove the mould and you will find it white, good and solid underneath.” (Taillevent, pp. 23)

Or

Re-clothed Swan (substituting Peacock) “…in its skin with all the feathers.  Take it and split it between the shoulders, and cut it along the stomach; then take off the skin from the neck cut at the shoulders, holding the body by the feet; then put it on the spit, and skewer it and gild it.  And when it is cooked, it must be re-clothed in its skin and let the neck be nice and straight or flat; and let it be eaten with yellow pepper. (Goodman, M-30)

Italian:

If you want to roast a peacock on a spit, get an old one between October and February.  After it has been killed let it hang for eight days without plucking it and without drawing it; then pluck it dry…When it is plucked draw it…..put one end of a hot iron bar into the carcass through the hole by which it was eviscerated being careful not to touch the flesh: that is done to remove its moistness and bad smell.  To stuff it use the mixture outlined in Recipe 115, or else sprinkle it with salt, fennel flour, pepper, cloves and cinnamon; into the carcass put panicles of dry fennel and pieces of pork fat that is not rancid, studded with whole cloves or whole pieces of fine saveloy.  Blanch it in water or sear it on the coals.  Stud the breast with whole cloves. (The breast can also be larded or wrapped in slice of pork fat as is done with the pheasant in Recipe 135).  Roast it over a low fire, preserving the neck with its feathers as is done with the pheasant.  Serve it hot or cold as you wish, with various sauces … (Scappi, pp. 207)

The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, recipe #139 suggested for pheasant or peacock.

If you want to roast the small ones on a spit, as soon as they are caught pluck them dry and draw them; leave their head and feet on.  Stuff them with a little beaten pork fat, fresh fennel, beaten common herbs, raw egg yolks and common spices – which is done to keep them from drying out.  Sew up the hole and arrange their wings and thighs so they are snug.  Sear them on coals.  Wrap them, sprinkled with salt and cloves, in a calf or wether caul, or else in slices of pork fat with paper around them…When they are done serve them hot. (Scappi, pp. 206)

English:

Take a peacock, break his neck, and cut his throat, and flay him.  The skin and the feathers together, and the head still to the skin of the neck, and keep the skin and the feathers whole together; draw him as a hen, and keep the bone to the neck whole, and roast him, and set the bone of the neck above the broach (spit), as he was wont to sit alive; and above the legs to the body, as he was wont to sit alive; and when he is roasted enough take him off, and let him cool; and then wind the skin with the feathers and tail about the body, and serve him forth as he were alive; or else pluck him clean and roast him, and serve him as though do a hen. (Renfrow, pp. 572).

“Take and flay off the skin with feathers and tail, leaving the neck and crest still upon the bird, and preserving the glory of his crest from injury when roasting by wrapping it in a linen bandage.  Then take the skin with all the feathers upon it and spread it out on the table and sprinkle thereon ground cinnamon.  Now roast the peacocke and endore him with the yolkes of many eggs, and when he is roasted remove him from the fire and let him cool for a while.  Then take and sew him again into his skin and all his feathers, and remove the bandage from his crest.  Brush the feathers carefully and dust upon them and his comb gilding to enhance his beauty.  After a while, set him upon a golden platter, garnish with rosemary and other green leaves, and serve him forthwith as if he were alive and with great ceremony.” (Craig, pp. 157)

“A peacock may also have the skin and feathers removed as described above when it may be stuffed with spices and sweet herbs, and finely chopped savory meats, and roasted as described in the foregoing recipe.  Then replace the skin and feathers when it should be “served…”…with the tail of the peacock was covered with leaf of gold, and a piece of cotton dipped in spirits was put in its beak.  This was set fire to as the bird was brought in Royal procession to the table with musical honours.”  (Craig, pp. 157-158)

That’s quite a few ways to cook a peacock; however, most of the recipes had a few common elements:  the peacock, larding and salt while roasting.  Clove is mentioned, as is roasting on a spit.  I went with ‘less is more’ for this ad hoc project.

The body, freed from the skin, had to be rinsed to remove various bits of feather and blood before I could start to dress it in bacon.  As you can see, there is a good amount of meat on the bird.  This peacock was only a few pounds shy of what a wild turkey would dress out as.

Peacock Dora and more 038So here was a quandary:  if I wanted to redress the bird it had to be butt side up, yet as a cook I wanted the breast side up.  Argh!  Either way, this bird had to be covered in bacon.

I dithered for about 3 minutes, trying to visualize redressing with the skin.  I went with the easier task and put the bird butt side up, wrapping it all in bacon.

Now when I said I had no preparation for this, I meant it.  I had 30 seconds warning I would be coming home with a peacock for cooking and no time to prep prior.  I was lucky to have a side of bacon on hand in the freezer to start the wrapping project.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that the bacon was thin and not anything like the thick cut bacon (2lbs would have been the amount needed) that I really would have preferred.  You live, you cook, you learn.

Peacock Dora and more 046           Butt side up and the breast still needs to be covered in bacon.  Note the toothpicks.  This is what was holding the bacon to the downward facing breast.  Pull those out when you have finished cooking.  Trust me.  I forgot this part and had to pull everything off before restarting to redress the bird.  The neck was being held “Upward” by long wooden skewers.  Metal skewers would have worked as well.  I grabbed what I had on hand while trying not to panic over the time the skinning took me to get this bird prepped for the oven.

On reviewing the recipes, I see that I missed the ‘sprinkle with cloves’ portion of the recipe.  Depending on the recipe, the bird would have been studded with whole cloves or sprinkled with salt and ground cloves, then wrapped in calf caul (organ fat) or larded with bacon.  I missed the clove portion.  I was a tad flustered.  Next time though!

This is how the bird looked coming out of the oven.

Peacock Dora and more 049           I made sure it was well covered in bacon as I wanted a juicy bird.  Once you go bacon you’ll never go back.  Bacon-wrapped makes the best, juiciest bird(s) I’ve ever tasted and I was really hoping this would be the case here.  I was trusting Scappi to know his shit on the period cooking.  (That’s Bartholomew Scappi, the period Italian cook to the popes.  Read the first research paper here (http://roxalanasredactions.com/?s=peacock)  with the recipes.)

4th Part: The Skin

Now we get down to the fastest but oddest part to this dish.  The skin.  Most people like eating crispy skin from their fowl.  This dish would rather show the skin and the feathers off than cook it without the feathers.  I can see this…and was able to implement this with a bit of kitchen magic.  In period when a swan or peacock was skinned salt or cinnamon was used to keep the skin from going bad.  (Craig)

Peacock Dora and more 044            Here is the unprepared skin.  It’s still red and gooey.  I had no idea how else to do this, though I suspect more time should have gone into cleaning out the blood and flesh, then wiping down with a damp cloth to clean up the leftover bits and blood.  This was a huge learning curve.  Going with the flow here.

Here I’ve coated the skin in sea salt as done in period. (Faas, Giacosa, Apicius, Taillevent, Goodman, Scappi). Salt deters bacteria in an exceptional way.  Cinnamon has some of the same properties but not in the same “dry everything out so it dies screaming in agony” way.  So, salt is what I used to keep the skin from going bad on me (no one wants salmonella!).  The skin was then left out until the peacock was done.

I pulled out thread and needle for when the time came to attach the skin back over the bird.

Peacock Dora and more 048            I wanted a fairly strong thread, so went with the quilting thread.  Nope, I did not have silk or linen thread on hand for this.  Again the “30 seconds choice of taking a peacock home” came into play and there was a lot of ad-libbing to be done.

It turned out I wouldn’t need these items — but more on that in the next section.

Part 5: Redressing and Serving Forth

So here we are at the final scene to this hastily-prepared dish. The peacock is placed butt-up on a nice hand thrown pottery plate.  The actual type of dish this would be served on is not mentioned; however, it would be safe to say that the higher on the table the dish went, the better quality and metal the plate for the peacock.   I did not have a silver or gold tray quite big enough to fit this magnificent bird so I used a hand-thrown pottery plate.

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This is sooo looking like a snail at the moment.  (I may consider doing a chicken dressed as a snail for a subtlety at some point, but not today).  We’re about to fix this look.  Yank out all the toothpicks but keep the skewers in place.  You’ll need the skewers to keep the neck skin in in place and hold the head up.  Yanking out the toothpicks keeps the keeps the skin from being pierced.  Now in period, a subtlety could and would have metal or wooden pieces in and around to keep the illusion going.   Subtleties could consist of just the edible or, as the setup became more elaborate, a combination of papier-mâché and lumber to support a larger and even grander display.  These decorative subtleties were for powerful displays more than about eating, with the production being done by carpenters, metals smiths and painters and very little by chefs. (www.reference.com/browse/subtlety).

Peacock Dora and more 050            Here I purposely change how the re-dressing goes.  In period the skin would be put over the dish.  The bloody fleshy very salted raw skin over the cooked body.  That’s a great way to give someone food poisoning.  I think I’ll pass on that as I’m the one eating this bird tonight! As you can see I’ve covered the peacock in foil.  You could use parchment paper (a closer period alternative) however I had this on hand (Notice a theme here?).

Once the bird is wrapped for your protection, slip the skin over the body with the neck and head going over the cooked neck portion.

Peacock Dora and more 051         My shy peacock is gorgeous!  The skin did not have to be sewn as I thought it would.  The skinning opened the flesh enough that it draped like a perfectly fitted dress over the body.  The tail feathers are long enough that propping them against the wall works to display his regal tail.  However the tail portion of the cooked body will need to be covered by silk or a cloth as the skin won’t fit all the way over the butt while the neck and main body are covered.  In period, not just in my kitchen, they would have used a wire form to hold the tail in place, probably wrapped around the cooked peacock, hiding under the skin but with a wire “fan” to press against the tail and hold it up for a glorious display.  That’s how I would have done it if I were presenting this dish to a head table.

Once the peacock has been displayed, take it back to the kitchen and slice the meat onto a plate for serving.

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The reasoning is that you don’t want to yank off a salty bloody skin over food that someone is going to have to eat.  No one really wants to see that side of the dish.  Remember this is FOOD MAGIC, a dish of awe and inspiration.  No need to let the populace (or the king) see how this surprise is really done.

Part 6: Conclusion

Monarchs put feasts to good use as ways to make a vivid point, like inducing guests to pledge allegiance to a planned crusade.  An example of this was when Philip the Fair, at the Feast of the Pheasant, showcased a giant Saracen entering the feasting hall leading an elephant (there is some question about the edibility of said pachyderm), with a knight (Oliver de La Marche) playing the role of the captive Eastern church. (Wheaton, pg. 8/Martins)  Another example of the royal use of subtleties involved Henry VIII.  George Cavendish wrote about a feast sponsored by the great Tudor king in such waxing enthusiasm for the feast “…I do both lack wit in my gross old head and cunning in my bowels to declare the wondrous and curious imaginations in the same invented and devised.” (Henisch, pp. 236/Martins).  The feasting was a display to move men and women into wondrous thoughts, glossing over a harsh reality of court life: a grand and compelling gesture.

A subtlety could be a simple item such as a redressed peacock on proud display or stuffed fowl riding roast piglets, or as elaborate as a full pastry castle with trees containing candied fruit, with mythical beasts glazed and stuffed, as well as musicians playing music from the limbs of the trees.  Allegorical scenes were not uncommon.  Some scenes could be “Castle of Love” or “Lady of the Unicorn”.  (Martins).  Taste wise.  I was terrified that this bird was going to be tough and nasty.  Wild caught game is allowed to “age” for a reason.  Aging a bird (including chickens) gives the flesh the opportunity to mellow and break down for a more tender and tasty bite.  The peacock had to be done as soon as I walked through the door.  There was no chance to age the meat (the skin wasn’t going to fit into my freezer at all with that gorgeous tail intact).  When I took the first bite I was pleasantly surprised.  There was a slight gamey taste but not overwhelming or nasty.  The meat was a bit chewy but not jerky tough.  Honestly, I expected rooster tough as this was a full grown male in his prime.  The meat was tasty and juicy, which I think can be attributed to the bacon wrapping.

I find this to be a dish best made and served on site if it were for an event.  The skin would be hard to keep from going bad unless frozen (not sure that would work) in a chest freezer as my upright was too small for this skin and tail feathers.  As for being able to replicate this on demand, I can’t.  Unless there are male peacocks on hand the day of an event AND the steward and cook are willing for me to kill, skin and gut a peacock in their kitchen while working around a 5 foot tail this isn’t going to happen at an event either.  This was a onetime shot or at the whim of the Farmer Lady when she shoot another peacock.  I learned a lot, but realize that the hardest part is knowing the limitations on what is possible in the future for a display.

There was a bit of ad-libbing on my part for this whole dish, with a steep learning curve on how to skin and redress.  Overall though, I’m pretty damn pleased with the recreated period presentation.  The skin came out magnificently and I had the main ingredients to keep the dish (mostly) true to the original.

 

References:

 

Craig, E., (1953). English Royal Cookbook. Andre Deutsch Limited, London.

 

Damerow, G., (2010). Raising Chickens. Storey Publishing.

 

Fass, P., (1994). Around the Roman Table. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1994.

 

Giacosa, I., (1994).  A taste of Ancient Rome. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

 

Good man of Paris.(1395). Le Managier De Paris.

 

Renfrow, C., (1998). Take a

 

 

 

 

February 13, 2017 | No comments

So I made this dish a month or so back and really did it all wrong!  How you may ask?  Well for one, I used pomegranate molasses, because I had it on hand, instead of the juice.  Do NOT do this.  For the love of your taste buds…really do not do this.  Pomegranate molasses is great in some dishes but very tart.  Suck your face in through your cheeks tart.  So spend the time crushing and straining pomegranate seeds OR buy the juice (just juice nothing else in the juice!)

Tabikh Habb Rumman:

A cooked dish of pomegranate seeds

 Peacock and chicken with pomagranate 037

Translation:

Finely pound pomegranate seeds and strain.  Thicken with shelled almonds.  Add sugar, mint, cinnamon, and mastic, allowing it to congeal over the fire.  Mix with chicken which has been boiled and baked.  Boil it.  If you want to put pumpkin with it, do so.  (Ibn al-‘Adim Kitab al-Wuslah/Salloum, pp. 98)

 

Ingredients:

Whole chicken or 6 chicken thighs

1.5 C pomegranate juice

1 C shelled almonds (I used slivered…had ‘em on hand)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and ground mastic

1 tsp. sugar

2 tsp mint

 

Redaction:

Gather your items up.  Takes just a moment.

Peacock and chicken with pomagranate 010

I placed the chicken thighs in water to boil.

Peacock and chicken with pomagranate 033Ok, so this is the after boil picture.  The thighs had cooked about 10 minutes with me skimming the foam.  Hush…a novelty for sure!

The thighs were then placed in a baking dish to cook for 35 minutes at 350.

Peacock and chicken with pomagranate 018Fresh from the oven and roasting.  Personally, I can’t tell the difference of boiling then roasting instead of just roasting.  Perhaps it keeps the meat moist; however if you pay attention you can do this with roasting as well.  I’m sure somewhere, someone did this as a roast or just a boil and not both steps at once; however this time, we do both steps!

A quick note: Mastic smells a bit like pine resin yet has a slight almost lemon taste.  Don’t use a lot of this.  A little goes a loooong way.  This is more to perfume the dish then to add actual flavor.

The pomegranate juice was mixed with the almonds and spices.  The mixture is stirred till thickened.  The sauce smells amazing.  I can not emphasis how wonderful the aroma is.  Just beautiful.  I don’t normally wax enthusiastically about a smell over the taste, but the first thing you notice when cooking is just how gorgeous this sauce smells.  Take the time and take a few deep breaths; enjoying each inhale!

Peacock and chicken with pomagranate 032Yep, I went the easy buy the juice way.  It felt awesome!!  I highly recommend this.

I decided against pumpkin.  It is a period item but not one I had on hand easily today.  If you’re going to use pumpkin don’t use the orange ones!!  Those are modern and for show, being bred for size not taste.  Get a heritage pumpkin and roast that with just a touch of oil on the inside (after scooping out the seeds).

Pull the chicken out of the oven and place in the pot with the pomegranate mix.

Peacock and chicken with pomagranate 034

You can leave the pieces whole or shred.  Mix with the pomegranate sauce and serve over rice.   I do suggest leaving the chicken in the sauce till the meat is almost falling off the bone.  A long slow simmer of 30 minutes.

Peacock and chicken with pomagranate 037

 

January 31, 2017 | No comments

I had gone to Pennsic last year and picked up a small booklet of recipes.  Spanish.  “A Brief Overview of Early Spanish Cuisine”  As a side note: The full book has the only recipe for cooked cat.  Not that I would ever eat a cat; however the idea someone was hungry enough to actually make a recipe of said animal speaks a lot of the times.

Bake to tastier cooking though.  Mushrooms!  This is a sauce, though the taste of this dish could be a stand alone side.

Which speaks of making saucer of Mushrooms

Peacock Dora and more 015

Translation:

If you want to make sauce of mushrooms, parboil them well, and when they are parboiled take them and sauté them with oil.  And then make the sauce this way: have onions and parsley and cilantro, and mince them and distemper them with spices and with vinegar and a little fat.  And then make pieces of mushrooms; and when they are sautéed put them in this sauce.  Or give them cooked  on the coals with salt and oil.

 

Translation copyright Eden Rain (Sent Sovi. Catalan transcription copyright Rudolph Grewe) From: A brief Overview of Early Spanish Cuisine. Pg. 20.

 

Ingredients:

2 C Mushrooms

2 Tbs vinegar

1/2 onion chopped

1 handful ea. Parsley and cilantro

Salt to taste

 

Redaction:

Boil the mushrooms for 2 minutes.

Peacock Dora and more 003

Drain and slice once cool enough to handle.

Peacock Dora and more 010

Chop your cilantro and parsley (here I used flat leaf parsley).  Both Cilantro and Parsley came from my garden, store bought is good too!  I used roughly a half cup of olive oil though bacon fat/chicken fat/duck fat/beef lard etc. would work as well.

Sauté the onion, then the greens.

Peacock Dora and more 014

Add the mushrooms with salt to taste.  Finally drizzle in your vinegar.

Peacock Dora and more 015

 

January 28, 2017 | No comments

Homemade Bacon

 

Pork pictures 160818 009

 

I have attempted bacon before with both pork and beef.  My first try, with pork, was horrible!  One of the salts I used, to flavor the first side of pork, rendered the pork not only to salty but tasting of dirt.  I was mortified.  I took a year off from curing till now to retry.

I now share with you a very simple curing recipe for a well-marbled fatty bit of belly.

Ingredients:

1 Cups Kosher salt

1/2-1 Cup Sugar

1 tsp pink salt (enough for 5lb slab of meat)

1 Tbs juniper berries smooooooshed.

Redaction:

Gather your meat and salts/spices together.

bacon spices

Here I used a rough grained Kosher salt, regular table, sugar, juniper berries and pink salt.  When I originally made this, I erred on the side of too much salt.  I did a 2 to 1 of salt to sugar which is the right ratio but too much of the salt when rubbing.

Take your salts, spice and sugars and mix them together very well.

075Next rub this over your meat on both sides.

bacon with salt and spicesPlace in a large container.  Flip the meat every day or every other day.  The juice is part of the brine.

On the 7th day, rinse all the salts/sugar/spices off the meat in cool flowing water for 20 minutes.  This step is VERY important.  If you don’t rinse the salt off very well, the meat will be cooked with the salt on and rendered to salty.

Place on a very low heat smoker/grill.  I used hard wood charcoal.  It really does have a better cooking temperature, longevity and better flavor then the regular briquettes.  The grill I used is very nice…I managed to keep the temperature between 140 most of the time.  Occasionally it creeped up to 200 and I had to open the dampers up to cool it off.

The meat smoked for 5(ish) hours.

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The meat cut nicely…still not store bought thin, but I didn’t need thin, I needed tasty.  The final verdict is that the outer skin was a bit salty but very tasty.

November 11, 2016 | No comments

Nope, still haven’t finished the pig kicking.  I have one, maybe 4 more recipes to share.  Another awesome one from Scappi.  Definitely not for anyone who doesn’t like liver and isn’t slightly adventurous!

Pig Liver #1

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Translation:

If you want to spit-roast a pork liver in a large pieces, when the membrane that is around it is removed, along with the gall bladder.  Stick the pieces with lardoons of pork fat that have been dredged in pepper, cloves, cinnamon and sweet fennel, dry and ground.  Put them onto a spit and cook them over a low fire. (Scappi, pp. 188)

Ingredients:

Pork liver

Strips of pork fat (or uncooked thick cut bacon)

1 tsp each ground pepper, cloves, cinnamon and sweet fennel (seeds)

 

Redaction:

So here I had to slightly improvise.  I didn’t have enough sliced pork fat to make a nice tight the way I wanted the first time I did this recipe.  I really like to get a nice tight crisscross of bacon going.  So I went with the flow.

Pork pictures 160818 046All the spices first with the sliced bacon in the bacon ground.

The liver chunk was laid out while the bacon/pork fat (either will do nicely but make sure that the bacon is thick cut NOT thin) is dragged in the spice mixture.

Pork pictures 160818 048I usually like to do a nice basket weave on my bacon wrapped anything, but was low on bacon (my bad).  I pinned the strips down trying to go for maximum coverage.

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NO, I didn’t have a spit….why do you ask?  Yes, yes it is period and mentioned in the book…so is polio and piss in the water.  MOST people don’t have spits.  They’re a bitch to install in modern day houses.  The liver was then laid on the grill (wood charcoal for the fire), until the liver was cooked all the way through.

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There were scraps left after the first bite and nothing let to photograph!!  It’s not the usual way you try liver, but it is period.  Again, sometimes you gotta eat the different to say you ate period!

October 20, 2016 | No comments

So I did a bit of research on pig.  Pig is a tasty tasty animal, with a few very bad traits.  Yeah…but it’s still damn tasty.  Some of the recipes I did were amazing, some…not so much.  This is one of those recipes you just gotta try!!

Rack of ribs of a domestic pig #1

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Translation:

If the pig is young, the ribs can be spit-roasted with or without their skin….You can also set the ribs to steep for a day in a seasoning composed of vinegar, must syrup, cloves of garlic and coriander.  (Scappi, pp. 185)

Ingredients:

Pork Ribs

1 C. Vinegar

1 C. Sweet wine (or the dregs from the bottom of a sweet wine barrel)

8 cloves of garlic

2-3 tsp ground coriander

 

Redaction:

So here  I wanted to do something a little bit different.  I bought pork ribs but couldn’t find any with a good layer of fat or skin, so I wanted to take the trimmings from another dish where the skin wasn’t needed yet still had a good bit of a fat layer and tie it on over the ribs soaking overnight in the brine.  What actually happened?  I ran out of time so had to do the ribs without the fat/skin layer.

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I gathered everything up, made the brine and let the ribs soak overnight.

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The next day, I laid the ribs on a nice hot grill (no spit being available) using wood charcoal.

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Oh mai!  These are some of the best ribs I’ve eaten in a long time…and Ansteorra has some damn good rib joints, so that’s saying something!

 

Pork pictures 160818 059

Give this one a try next time you fine the ribs of your dreams calling out to you.

September 29, 2016 | No comments

Sow’s Belly

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Translation:

A sow’s belly is put into a press for six hours with pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ground fennel seed and salt, then wrapped around in a sugared caul and mounted on a spit.  Cook it slowly.  It is optional whether you cut it up into pieces.  If you want to parboil it first, before putting it in the press, that can be done. (Scappie, pp. 185)

Ingredients:

1 skinned pork (sow) belly

1 tsp. ea. Ground pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fennel seed

1 tsp. salt

Caul fat or bacon or lard

Sugar

 

Redaction:

So I didn’t have a good option for sow’s belly at the Chinese market.

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I had to go with a pork shoulder with a good layer of fat.  I removed the skin and evened the meat out so that when laid flat the meat would roll up.

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Next I sprinkled all the spices (including the salt) onto the meat.

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The meat was then rolled and pinned for 6 hours.

 

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 I didn’t have caul fat or bacon so used the lard of the shoulder (about an inch thick).  This is then roasted for two hours at 350.

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I like this but I’m not sure I’d make it for an everyday meal.  Don’t get me wrong it’s good…but it’s a bit of work!

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This comes out succulent and flavorful…it’s a show piece rolled or sliced.  Try it at least once!

September 24, 2016 | No comments

Doing a lot of pig recipes…have to throw this one out, because it is period.

 

Sauoge

Pigs Feet

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Translation:

Sage.  Take pig’s feet clean picked; then take fresh broth of beef, & draw small milk of almonds, & pigs therein; then mince sage; then grind him small, & draw out the juice through a strainer; then take cloves enough, & put therein powdered ginger, & cinnamon, galingale, vinegar, & sugar enough; salt it then, & serve forth. (Renfrow, pp. 509)

 

Ingredients:

4 pigs feet, cleaned    1C. beef broth     1 C. almond milk, freshly squeezed

1 tsp minced sage     3 cloves or 1/4 tsp ground cloves     1 tsp ground ginger, cinnamon and galingale

1/3 C. vinegar     2 tsp sugar     Salt to taste

 

Redaction:

Gathering all the ingredients.  They look so nice!

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I took cleaned and split pigs feet and put these in a bath with the broth and almond milk.

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I let these boil for a bit before adding the spices, vinegar and sugar.

 

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I let these cook for a loooong time.  Very long time.  Roughly 4 hours.

 

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Pigs feet are very cartilaginous.  There isn’t a lot of meat and what is there is tough as old shoe leather, so the long cook time is for your benefit.

Once the pigs feet were tender enough to remove the flesh from the bones, I gleaned as much from the feet as possible.

 

Pork pictures 160818 075My honest opinion, I wouldn’t eat these again unless I’m starving.  I love smoked ham hocks in bean soup but the spicy sweet pigs feet is more than my Medieval Cook’s stomach can stand.

September 15, 2016 | No comments

So this thing happened.  The thing where you get curious “Why” something isn’t allowed.  Like say pork for Middle Eastern cooking.  I mean pork is tasty tasty meat…who doesn’t love pork?  Right?!  So I went down a rabbit hole, then Pennsic then Steppes Artisan.  Here is the research present on Pork.

 

The Tale of a Piggy in Period

By

Honorable Lady Sosha Lyon’s O’Rourke

The Tale of a Piggy in Period

Pig has a special place, whether good or bad, for the medieval cooks and gastronomics.  This edible mammal has undergone changes from a favored food for the rich to a food associated with the poor or the undesirable.    When I first started researching pigs, I did so because I find pork tasty, very tasty!  However, I do a lot of Middle Eastern cooking, which has NO pork.  I have always been curious as to why.  Pork is daaaamn tasty and seems to be readily available to both rich and poor.  The research was illuminating in many ways on both how the pig developed and why some people find pork to be unclean, therefore unedible.

Pig is defined as

1a) a young domesticated swine not yet sexually mature; broadly: a wild or domestic swine. b) an animal related to or resembling the pig.

2a) pork, b) the dressed carcass of a young swine weighing less than 130 lbs…

3) dirty, gluttonous, or repulsive person

(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pig)

 

This evolving little piggy:

Starting from the beginning, pigs evolved into one of the fastest breeding meat animals, with a digestion that can handle almost anything.  Evolution for the pig started off as a  two )toed mammal.  Most of these two toed mammals went on to become grass eaters, i.e. cows, goats, and sheep.  Grass eaters require many heavy grinding teeth to chew down grass.  They also require multi-chambered stomachs in which to break down the cellulose for the bacteria in their gut to provide enough nutrition.  Think cows chewing cud.  Pigs’ digestions is unusual in that it is very similar to humans’ digestion with one stomach and similar teeth.  They are omnivores, which means they can eat anything remotely edible.

Pigs evolved from wild to domesticated over several hundred to thousands of years.  Normally, pigs in the wild would eat nuts, roots, grains and anything that didn’t move away fast enough like grubs or dead animals.  This is called mast fed.  Pigs became attracted to human habitation because humans would throw the inedible bits away into middens (trash heaps) where dogs and pigs would forage.  The more pigs got used to feeding on human garbage the “tamer” they became, no longer having to forage for their food 100% of the time.  (Essig)

This is simplifying a more in-depth look at several genetic considerations such as flight vs. fight adaptations.  Those pigs, like dogs, with lower flight and fight genes stayed closer to humans instead of avoiding.  We’re going to let that sleeping dog lie for this paper.

Pig reproduction is comparable to that of rabbits.  Fast and furious, with lots of offspring.  They can have up to 12 piglets per litter twice a year.  That’s up to 24 piglets a year, with roughly half of those females who will be ready to breed in roughly a year’s time.  It is estimated that with 1 sow, in 6 years there will be over 2 million pigs.   (Hawaii.edu) With this type of math, soon you’re swimming in swine.

In comparison, cows can have up to one or two calves per year.  Same for sheep or goats.  Rabbits breed quickly but there isn’t a lot of meat on those tiny bones: 1-3lbs for rabbit, as compared to the 180-300 pound porker led to slaughter.  A young male swine can reach up to 200 pounds in six months kept in a pen.  If mast fed, the weight is lower at six months, taking a year plus to reach such a hefty weight.  Now that’s a lot of pork, especially if you have ways to store the meat and fat for more than a week or two.  Leave the sows to breed more piglets and you have a very quick growing, mobile and easily fed source of meat.  For people who were at the whim of the season or game, having a tame or nearly tame source of readily available meat was the difference between maybe surviving and thriving.

Looking at the other domestic animals with only one or two offspring a year, you might wonder why these mammals were held in such high regard while the pig was sidelined.  The other domesticated animals had things counting in their favor.  Cows, goats and sheep provide milk and wool besides skin and meat.  Plus, being herbivores they were easier to transport when all food to be foraged was grass.  Pigs required feed at the end of a traveling day, which was roughly ten miles.  Pigs also were not good with being in bright sun, burning easily, unlike herbivores which could be herded through hot sunny days shrugging off solar rays due to their fur.

 

This hungry little piggy:

Mast feeding continued as long as there were forests surrounding villages (usually small).  People would open the pens and herd the pigs to the forests then herd them back to their pens during the day.

A picture of a pig herder in an oak grove, feeding his pigs with both fallen acorns and throwing a stick into the trees to loosen another round of acorns for his charges. (Metmuseum)

 

November activity: Fattening Swine

http://blog.metmuseum.org/cloistersgardens/2009/11/13/pigs-and-pannage/03v_012r-november_top_full/

 

Pigs, who searched out their food sources in woods, would expend 33% of their calories on just finding food.  The hope and desire was that pigs would only spend a 3:1 ratio for food-to-meat ratio instead of the original 10:1 that was common until today’s commercial farming. (Carlton)

The closer the connection to humans that pigs had the more distinctive the domesticated characteristics became.  Wild boards have long thin legs, leaner bodies with longer snouts and pointier heads.  Domesticated pigs, even those that interbreed with wild boar, retain the juvenile head form,  rounder head and shorter snout.  (Essig)

From the Luttrell Psalter, showing the 14th century spotted pig of England has many traits as that of a wild boar.

 

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/23050648.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

 

This form is so distinctive that archaeologists can determine with a glance at a pig’s head bones, dug up from any midden in any age, whether the pig was wild or domesticated.  The shape of the bones at almost any given age at the time of slaughter is telling in shape and size.  A domesticated pig’s head is smaller thinner, without the need to root for grubs under rocks or dead trees.  A wild boar’s head is wider and thicker suited to act like a plow for foraging hard to get to foods.  (theydiffer.com)

As humans stayed closer to home to farm and did less hunting, the pig became a useful domesticated food source, becoming a status symbol as found in Neolithic burials. (Carleton)  Pigs would eat the slop and forage during the day in the woods for roots and acorns.  Unfortunately, this very resourceful self-sufficiency kept the European pig from reaching a preferred body type.:Fat.  Not to say that boars weren’t heavy, they just weren’t marbled with the tasty pork fat that we’ve come to like in our modern pork chops.  Sows would go into heat while in the woods and it was male pigs’ chance to get a ride.  Domesticated or wild male, the sow did not care which. (Essig)

Pig breeding was a wishful dream for farmers who wanted a fatter more marbled meat.  Fat wasn’t an undesired trait as it is now but a necessity.  Fat could be used not just as a food source but as a food preserving source.  Pigs were an excellent source for acquiring fat.  The problem though, was that pigs who were mast fed wandered in the woods during the day where little control could be exerted on sows in heat.  Any pig would do, including wild boars.  This meant that it wasn’t until the 1800s that pigs had standardized types of breeds in Europe.  The Roman Empire and China were exceptions to this. (Carlton)

 

This fat little piggy:

The Roman Empire had two types of pigs; the normal mast fed opportunistic type of pig that was considered tasty with long legs and a narrow body

http://www.sophialambert.com/PORK-HAM-AND-BACON.htm

and a second heavier meatier fatter pig that was white with short legs and round body with heavily marbled meat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suovetaurilia

 

Note the rounded shoulders and heavy jowls of the pig in the lower right portion.  This pig was the product of selective breeding and happy feeding.  No opportunistic boars need apply for the stud job on this farm!

There were a few in Rome who commented on the desirable qualities for pig and how to feed them.

Columella advised “Not to rely on acorn foraging alone but to make use of legumes for fattening as well.  He also advised breeding for a new type of pig more suitable for rapid weight gain than for ranging in the woods. “Pigs should be sought whose bodies are exceedingly wide, but squarish rather than long or round, with protruding belly and large rump rather than tall legs or hooves, a broad glandulous neck, and a short upturned snout.” (Carlton)

 

However when the Roman Empire fell, this pig type was lost as farms were thrown into chaos.  The mast fed pigs from feral stock could outrun the hungry wolf or human while the shorter fatter pig, not so much.  Remember it’s not that a pig has to be the fastest just faster than the slowest…and the slowest were always eaten.

China, with its very mountainous terrain, had to eke out the most farming from the worst terrain, and learned early how to keep pigs close and pick the best pigs for breeding.  They, like the Romans, liked short legged, round bellied, with lots of fat.

The European pigs started to show what we consider more desirable traits once pigs were introduced via ships from China to Europe and interbreeding could begin.  This introduction happened sometime in the 1700s, so what we consider a heritage breed is at best 300 years (roughly) old.  (Carleton)

 

A picture of a Chinese pig by Thomas Bewick

nvhis.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/1/94/F4.expansion.html

 

While pigs that we consider “heritage” are really post period, the heritage pigs fulfill several niches worth mentioning.  One of the more outstanding heritage breeds was called a Lard pig.

.  

http://www.puremangalitsa.org/products.html

 

The Lard pig, was just what the name implied.  A pig guaranteed so round and fat while still mobile enough to walk to market that any house wife could buy enough fresh lard for her home cooking needs along with some excellently marbled cuts of meat for dinner or sausage preparation.

Worth mentioning is that much of the machinery pre-WWII was oiled with rendered pig fat (lard).  Machinery oil replaced lard in the mid-20th century.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lard)  Until this point, all lubrication was animal fat, pig fat being the easiest to render, ship and buy.  (Essig)

 

This poor little piggy:

Pigs got the short stick on favorability once villages became cities.  Pigs had to be driven, like cows or sheep, to market.  Besides needing to be fed every 10 miles, pigs had an ornery habit of running back towards their home styes at the slightest provocation.   One account at the start of a pig drive, which could reach up to 10,000 pigs, was to sew the eyes of a pig shut.  I’m not really sure I could personally do that but there is a post period account of how Abe Lincoln did just this as a lad driving his herd of pigs to market. (http://www.atlasobscura.com)

I have not found further in period how pigs were driven to market.  I can make assumptions such as piglets being taken in baskets.  Small, cute, easily transportable this way.  Perhaps a full grown pig had rope tied to it’s neck and either tugged along or bribed with food to follow.  Possibly even driven to market as noted on the Appalachian trails.  The pig drive idea had to come from somewhere, yes?

Because pigs weren’t herded as easily as other meat animals, when taxes were assessed (in period) and payment was needed in the form of meat, other animals were requested.  One noted taxation of animals is when the pyramid of Giza was built the Pharaoh asked for X cows, sheep or goats along with X amount of men.  Beef, sheep and goat bones were found in the middens (trash pits) for the workers and manager types for the pyramid workers.  Archaeologists have studied the buildings for workers, very straight streets and sturdy huts where the better-off managers and workers lived.  As the men stayed and married upwards or moved upward in the chain of command these meats became preferred as what the rich people ate.

Next to this “upper” city a looser collections of less well to do section(s) was uncovered.  This village was determined to be for hangers-on, composed loosely of winding paths and not very sturdy huts. Archaeologists found mostly pig bones in the middens of the shanty village that catered to the baser desires of the workers to blow a week’s wage on beer and prostitutes.  Here it is assumed that the managers and upwardly mobile workers developed a taste for beef, mutton and goat, equating these meats with better living while the poor consumed pork.  (Essig)

The Egyptians went so far as to depict Horus judging souls.  The bad souls were turned into pigs.

From the tomb of Ramses II, depicting how Horus would judge souls in the afterlife, reincarnating the nasty ones as pigs. Via Wikimedia Commons.

I Would Rather Be Herod’s Pig: The History of a Taboo

Another example of how pork became associated with the poor relates to how easily pork could be stored in salt or fat much easier than beef or mutton.  The taste of salted pork seemed to be better than that of salted beef or mutton.

For shipping and storage, pork was layered with salt in barrels.  These barrels would be sold at a very minimal pricing. This is where the term “Scraping the bottom of the barrel” comes from as those who bought the barrel knew they were in dire need of new food when they had to scrape what was left at the bottom to feed their family.   (Essig)

Pigs were plentiful which meant there was plenty of pork to go around, keeping the price within a somewhat reasonable reach for those who weren’t wealthy.  Beef, on the other hand, required refrigeration or to be sold on a day to day basis, which raised the pricing of beef.  A butcher shop that offered beef had to know his clientele was well-off enough to pay the higher price.  The same was true for sheep and goat.  The meat from these animals could be salted but was better fresh, and fresh required ice and shops that carried ice or cold counters for specialty meat were usually located in the affluent areas, not the poor.  (Essig)

Pork was so plentiful that eating pork became associated with gluttony.  Paintings, in period, that wish to allegorically show gluttony would depict people eating pork or with a pig and/or pig parts somewhere in the painting.  These portraits were usually of peasants, passed out around the bones or partially eaten remains of a pig, reinforcing the idea that only the poor would eat so much to the ruination of their health and lifestyle.

http://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Pieter_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._037.jpg?resize=500%2C325&ssl=1

http://zannifoodcuriosities.blogspot.com/2016/07/food-in-art-history.html?view=flipcard

 

Pieter Bruegel “The Land of Cockaigne”.  Here eating to excess is the deadly sin of gluttony. Note the pig in the upper right?  As well as pork snout and portions on the table?  The peasants passed out under the table?  Gluttony was a peasant thing, nobles should never be so crass as to eat so much and pass out.

 

This unclean little piggy:

Once towns became bigger, different eating habits became the norm, where pigs were the walking trash collectors.  People in towns would dump out food waste into the streets, where the pigs would root around, a mobile cleaning service keeping the pigs well fed without the necessity of a stye for those living in yardless homes or apartment hovels.

However pigs had a taste for any trash including the very undesirable such as eating human waste and dead animals; both of these things were plentiful in medieval towns.  Pigs were also notorious for eating small unattended children, or severely biting them as well as the habit of eating human corpses or just attacking when agitated.

Several lawsuits were charged against pigs.  Such as in 1379 when two French pig herders were killed by their charges. The pigs who had done the killing and those pigs that had watched were put on trial.  The watching pigs were pardoned while the killing pigs were killed. (www.wired)

Another lawsuit against pigs was in 1494 when a pig was arrested for strangling and chewing on the face of a babe in the cradle, while the parents were out.  The chewing of the face and neck causing the death of the child. The judged ruled against the pig, who was strangled by hanging. (www.medievalist.net)

However not everyone raising pigs thought the eating of human feces a bad thing.  In the Far East, small outhouses were built up and over the family’s pig pen.  Human garbage and waste elimination turned into food.  

 

Han outhouse

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anhui_Fuyang_Han_Dynasty_Pig_Toilet.jpeg

 

The feeding habit of eating human flesh was not overlooked.  This strongly influenced both Judaism  and Muslims for refusing an easily raised meat source with horrible eating habits.  I have not found direct quotes for this reason; only pigs returning to wallow and unclean because it does not chew cud. (biblehub.com)

It is my belief that prior to towns growing so large and farms cutting down grazing lands that were the normal feeding areas for pigs, that pigs had been in good standing in Europe and the Middle East.  However once farms took away the woodlands, and towns needed more wood for fires and grains to feed the populace did the more undesirable traits become so obvious, knocking this mobile meat conversion mammal down a few pegs for eating.

The main trait that endeared the pig to humans, cleaning up the rotting and nasty from around huts, became the trait that would eventually do the pig in.

 

This edible little piggy:

What I learned from researching why pigs were so much in demand and so reviled, was eye opening.  We’ve all heard the jokes about never trust a man with a pig farm or why piglets aren’t in those cutsie petting zoos for kids.  Pigs like meat as much as humans do, dead or alive.  I didn’t know they would eat feces, though I did know that the slop they were fed (from reading Little House on the Prairie) was something I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  I remember how my own father raised chickens, doing everything wrong according to the books, yet we still had eggs and chickens when I was growing up.  I think that’s sort of how pigs were raised once the forests were no longer available for free feeding.  The attitude of “Eh, survive so we can eat you later.” instead of finding a humane way of feeding and penning a potentially dangerous but edible animal.

Once we started to consume pigs, because they were easy to raise and tasty, nothing kept the pig from being used in quantity and completely.  Everything was used, nothing was wasted.  Everyone loved the prime pieces in sauce.  Intestines and fat for casing of random tidbits of meat and spices.   A soft cutable meat product, called head cheese, for the tender cooked parts on the face.  Ears, tail and feet were used to make gelatin or eaten in their own right.  Organ meats were eaten with gusto as delicacies.  There are recipes for the good cuts, the one that modern palates have grown accustomed to, and recipes for the cuts modern palates aren’t used to eating.

My three main sources for cooking are: The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi,  Take a Thousand Eggs by Renfrow, and Apicius.  (Italian, English, and Roman).  These are by no means the only cook books which have pork recipes.  I could fill an arena with all the pork dishes listed and still run out of room; however these are just a few of the books I had on hand.  The recipes vary from only excellent cuts of meat (i.e Renfrow) to what the modern palate would consider offal (i.e. Apicius) to everything from nose to tail (Scappi).

 

So let’s get to the good stuff, we’ve all been waiting for!  How to eat all the parts of a pig.

Roman:

Ius in Aprum Elixum: Sauce for Boiled Boar

Krea Tareikhera: Pork in a Red Wine and Fennel Sauce

Minutal Ex Praecoquis: Pork and Apricots Friccasee

Cracklin’ & Pig Skin

 

English:

Chawettys: Pork and Blue Cheese Pies

Trotters

Pumpes: Pork Meatballs

Bacon

 

Italian:

Head Cheese

Roasted Pig Head w/Garlic Sauce

Rolled Sow Belly

Resources:

Apicius: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome. Translation by Vehling, J., Dover Publications, Inc. New York.

Essig, M., (2015). Lesser Beasts- A Snout-to-Tail-History of the humble pig. Basic Books.

Renfrow. C., (1991). Take a Thousand Eggs. Volume II. 2nd Edition.

The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570).  Translation by Scully. T., (2008). The Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library.

http://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/14-8.htm

https://blog.longreads.com/2015/10/14/i-would-rather-be-herods-pig-the-history-of-a-taboo/

http://blog.metmuseum.org/cloistersgardens/2009/11/13/pigs-and-pannage/03v_012r-november_top_full/

http://carleton.ca/linr/wp-content/uploads/Reading-for-Environment-and-History-White.pdf

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anhui_Fuyang_Han_Dynasty_Pig_Toilet.jpeg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lard

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silphium

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suovetaurilia

http://hg.ccsd.ws/webpages/ndiamente/index.cfm?subpage=1641894

nvhis.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/1/94/F4.expansion.html

http://theydiffer.com/difference-between-hog-pig-and-boar/

http://www2.hawaii.edu/~halina/201/pigb.pdf

http://www.ancientworldalive.com/#!Ancient-meals-and-eating-habits-Part-2-Romans/c16ee/555085d40cf248741723ecb3

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-great-appalachian-hog-drives

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/23050648.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

http://www.medievalists.net/2013/09/08/medieval-animal-trials/

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pig

http://www.puremangalitsa.org/products.html

http://www.sophialambert.com/PORK-HAM-AND-BACON.htm

http://www.wired.com/2014/09/fantastically-wrong-europes-insane-history-putting-animals-trial-executing/

 

August 23, 2016 | No comments

What happens when you have a cocky rooster who attacks small children?  Dinner.  This rooster got to age for 2 days in the fridge and was fork tender after roasting but I needed the perfect sauce.  Something sweet.  Something sour.  Something best served hot.  I had just the right new recipe to try out on the damn cock who went out with a squawk.

Limonada – Lemon Sauce

Peacock Dora and more 026Translation:

First make broth of chickens and the broth should be well cooked and flavorful.  And then make of it milk of peeled and minced almonds.  And put this to cook in a good pot, with spices, much ginger, saffron, and lots of white sugar and juice of lemons.   And make it to boil a lot.  And if you wish to enhance it, put in a chicken wing well minced, so that it disappears.  And this sauce should be well colored, and you should give with chickens from the spit or the pot.  And you should have much sugar and juice of lemons, in the stew that the one pull the flavor of the other.  And flavor it with salt and with spice, of sour and of sweet.  And if for chance you don’t want to make it with sugar put in of good honey.

From the 14th c. Sent Sovi.  Translation copyright Edan Rain. From: A Brief Overview of Early Spanish Cuisine. Pg. 30.

Ingredients:

1 tsp ginger

1 pinch saffron

1 Tbsp. sugar or honey

1 C lemon juice

1 C almond milk

1 whole roasted chicken

1 C chicken broth

 

Redactions:

Roast a whole chicken.

Peacock Dora and more 001

This rooster will offend no more.  So fresh if I squeezed he’d still be crowing.  Gather up your ingredients.  I had to wait till the chicken was roasted for the drippings.  That’ll teach me to get ahead of the recipe!

Peacock Dora and more 017Take the juice from the roasted chicken and pour into a pot.

Peacock Dora and more 018This came straight from the roasting pan of the above rooster.  I would suggest saving the drippings from any future chickens just in case you have a period sauce you want to make.  They used a LOT of what we would consider wastage now…i.e. the roasted juice and fat of a fresh cock.

Add the almond milk,

Peacock Dora and more 019

with spices with lemon juice,

Peacock Dora and more 022

and add the sugar.

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Give everything a stir till blended then boil.

Peacock Dora and more 024

Once the sauce has thickened and reduced by 1/3, take the chicken and quarter it.  Place on a plate and pour the sauce over.

Peacock Dora and more 026I had to add a bit of honey because the lemon juice I used was organic, so it was NOT a mellow lemon flavor.  This juice had bite.  So be sure to taste this before you serve over the hot chicken.  My daughter was delighted with the taste of the sauce and her former pet rooster.  The circle of life was had this night!

March 30, 2016 | No comments

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