I was asked to help do a Nobles Luncheon a little bit ago. I like luncheons. I do! They are fun more intimate and one person can cook for 20 instead of arm wrestling a horde of kitchen help to feed 120 who will laminate the feast is cold and late instead of pondering the wonderful tasty period food that was devised for their enjoyment. (That’s another story for another day though). So the original cook had to bow out, leaving me in charge of finding a period foods from England and France. These were not my specialized area of cooking research but I had a few ideas. Then the kicker part came down. The entire luncheon had to be of finger foods. Drat!!! There went my idea of pork loin studded with garlic, cooked in wine and rosemary. Soo I had to hit my library of cook books and come up with period food that was both tasty while cold and easily held in hand. Here is the meat portion of that luncheon.
Take and seethe a good gobbet of Pork, & not to lean, as tender as though may; then take them up & chop them as small as though may; then take take cloves & Mace, & chop forth withal, & also chop forth with Raisins of Corinth; then take them, & roll them as round as though may, like to small pellets & at two inches round, then lay them on a dish by themselves; then make a good almond milk & mix it with flour of rice, let it boil well but look that it is clean running; & at the dresser, lay five meatballs in a dish, pour thine pottage thereon. And if though will, set on every meatball a field-flower, & above strew sugar enough & maces: serve them forth. And some men make pellets of veal or beef, but pork is best & fairest.
(Renfrow, pp 152-153)
1 lb ground pork
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp mace
½ C currents
2 C low sodium beef broth
When I did this recipe for the first time I was not in my kitchen. I was at another house with out all of my ingredients such as raisons/currents so I had to improvise.
Here everything is on hand. Luckily you can’t hear me swearing at the lack of raisins while rummaging for a suitable substitute.
Here I put in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of black raspberry jam. A quick (and available) substitute for raisins that would at least give me an idea of what raisins would taste like in the finial cooking. (Remember this was the trial cooking here). Improvising is very period so don’t be afraid of having to add or subtract if necessity dictates.
Now some people will say currents and raisons are the same. They really aren’t. Currents are much smaller and a bit sweeter; however if currents are out of your price range/feast budget go with raisins. You’ll be much happier that way. The first improvising was not the use of raisins in the recipe (though I did do that on the 2nd batch that was used in a Nobles Luncheon) I had to use a dark raspberry jam so that the sweet would permeate the meatballs.
I mixed the spices and the jam into the meatball.
Then the making of the small balls and setting them to the side, until all the balls were formed.
I made these about 1 to 1 1/2 inches large. I wanted finger food that wouldn’t choke a horse and allow sampling of more then one type of sauce for dipping.
Once all the balls were made, I placed them in a pan that had beef broth.
Now the original recipe calls for cooking in an almond milk with rice, being not in my house I had to improvise again. I had no ground almonds from which to make the milk or powdered rice to add to this. Hence the beef broth per the cookbook.
The first time I did this recipe I used regular canned beef broth. Wow…that stuff is so salty!! Use LOW SODIUM beef broth. I can not stress this enough for this recipe. The first batch was still very tasty but the second batch with the low sodium blew the first batch out of the water in taste. There was a pork/beef taste but the flavor of the spices and the raisins also came through and not just a mouth full of salty meatball. (No jokes please!)
Place the balls in the pan for cooking in the broth. Make sure the broth comes about ½ way to ¾ of the way to the top. You could cover the meatballs but I would not suggest that.
When small fissures show at the top of the meatballs you know they are ready to be turned over for about 3-4 minutes to finish cooking through. A batch of about 10-12 at a time takes 8-10 minutes total to cook. Test out one or two off the stove to make sure your broth is hot enough and the cook time is long enough just to get an idea. Also a taste test is a good idea. The cook should be smiling when they are cooking not starving!
The recipe also calls for sugar and mace toping. Since I knew I would be serving this at a luncheon to a bunch of fighters and their consorts I decided to forgo the sweet topping and just have a dipping sauce on the side. Manly men don’t do flowers and sugar after a hard day of hitting each other up. They don’t. They want meat and lots of it. So I did a mustard dip and a plum jam dip and made the recipe by 6.
The balls were greeted with great enthusiasm as were the sauces. The balls were not served the same day they were made but the next day and were still moist and very tasty for having been essentially boiled the previous day and served cold.