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Musk is noted in more medieval recipes for food and perfumes than you can shake a sword at, adding a depth and complexity to foods the same way sandalwood does.  A little goes a very long way!

Now modernly, we can get musk from whales (ambergris) also known a whale snot.

Beaver musk (castor sacks of Castor Canadensis or Castor fiber).

Civet (viverridae).

Finally ambrette musk (hibiscus ablemoschus).

Period musk is almost impossible to get.  Why you may ask?  While I was doing a bit of studying for another project (surprise, surprise), I’ve found that the original(ish) musk mentioned in period cooking came from three sources.  The Siberian musk deer (M. moschiferus), black musk deer (M. fuscus) Alpine/Himalayan musk deer (M. chrysogaster).  The glands of the musk deer were harvested (and small quantities from very small musk deer farms) by removing the scent glands of the deer.

The gland secretions would dry into small black grains that were, and are, prized for the pheromones they exude.  The description is that of a rich and earthy smell, almost heavenly.  Mostly.  Some people found it repulsive, but not so many that the deer aren’t on the verge of extinction now.

The original method for removal was to kill the deer and take the musk glands, without worry about sustainability.  This has come back to haunt those who relied on the deer’s scent gland.   Few of these animals survive, except in the most remote regions.  The price, in period is listed as being twice the weight in gold and modernly 3 to 4 times that price now.  (Nabhan, pp. 150-151).

So where does that leave the modern cook?  Up a creek for the period musk.  There is no way that musk, from the listed deer, is harvested cruelty free or without costing an arm and a leg (throw a kidney in for good measure).  There are substitutions.   There is a variety of plant based musks with beautiful earthy notes and of course synthetics.  If possible go with the plant based.  Experiment.  Try new things!  Always err on the side that more can be added but it’s going to be hard to remove what you’ve already put in!

May 2, 2017 | No comments

While doing research for another project, I ran across this random little gem of a recipe. I had Scappi’s butter pie crust on hand and fresh pears, along with spices and dried fruit.  I thought to myself, why the hell not!  Let’s see what happens!  And a taste new dish is recreated.


  • A Winter’s Tale Pear Pie



    “…saffron to colour the warden pies (pears).  Mace, dates, non; that’s our of my note; nutmegs, seven, a race or two of ginger, but that I may beg; four pound of prunes, and as many raisins of the sun.” The Clown in A Winter’s Tale (Milton, pp. 20)



    Pinch of saffron

    4 pears

    1 tsp ea. ground mace, nutmeg, ginger

    20 dates (pitted and chopped)

    20 prunes

    1 C. raisins

  • ***Quick note before we get started, this pie is being made in a single serving pie mold.  I gave instructions for a full pie. If you want to do a single pie just cut everything down to 1/4. 



  • Gather your ingredients.  First things first!
  • Chop up your pears, dates, prunes.  Toss in the raisins and mix.


    Add your spices, mixing again.

  • Here I used a butter crust, because it is awesome! (and I love making it) along with the fact I had extra on hand.
  • Make a top for the pie.  I was pretty sloppy with this pie crust…a late night of cooking.   You can make a pretty pie topping with a little bit more effort.   If I were serving this to company, of course it would be much much nicer!

    An interesting note.  The Clown, in a The Winter’s Tale, didn’t ask for sugar.  The dried fruit and natural sweetness of the pear is supposed to cover the delicate flavors and natural sugars without any extra.

    Cutting into the pie…it just smells period.  That scent of spice and fruit that comes only with a real medieval cooking.

  • I hate to admit this, but I was skeptical about the no sugar thing.  Turns out the fruit pie is fabulous without.  Very tasty.

April 17, 2017 | No comments

Craving sweets lately, but I don’t want to eat lots of sugar.  So I turned to my cookbooks in hopes to find something that will hit the sweet tooth without so much sugar my teeth hurt!  I found this wonderful little gem.

Rutab Murabba

(Fresh Date Preserves)


Leave ripe dates in the sun so that they dry a little.  Remove their pits and replace them with peeled almonds, and arrange them in a glass (container), and throw skimmed honey on them and a little saffron.  It comes out excellently. (Perry, pp. 433)


Enough dried dates to fit into a glass jar

Enough almonds to fit into dates

Enough honey to cover dates once in the jar

A pinch of Saffron


I gathered up a box of dried dates, a handful of almonds (or two), an empty glass jar and a pinch of saffron.

I removed the seeds from the dates with a chop stick.

Then replaced the seeds with almonds.

I didn’t have peeled almonds, so I used regular.  This may be a taste thing or a “We’re serving this to the king so it has to look fancy .” thing.  I used what I had because I haven’t found peeled almonds available regularly yet!

Once the almonds were de-seeded and stuffed, they were thrown into a clean empty glass jar.  Nope, our modern day jars are not what they had, obviously.


Something like this might, might have been used.  Decorative and useful.

Antique Bottles 392 – November – Kidlington Oxfordshire –  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b6/d1/ca/b6d1ca749c483afdcb2bed37c7d9d463.jpg


This is a simple utility jar.  Nothing fancy other than it can easily fit dates at the top and pour honey in.

No, I don’t know 100% if either jar was used for this purpose.  These are images I found for jars that meet my criteria.  They will fit the item (dates) into said jar, and the item (dates) can be fished out with ease, i.e. stuffed dates.

The first of many more to come.  Don’t fill the jar with honey first.  Dates float and if you have to much honey and keep stuffing all your dates into the jar, the honey WILL over flow onto the counter, making a horrible mess.  Do the dates first, then the honey…I promise this will keep you from having to clean or lick your counter tops off from all the spilled honey!

So once the dates are in the jar of your choice, place the pinch of saffron on top,

and pour in the honey.

I screwed on the lip, to keep small fingers and my own out of this until a later date.  Set to the side until ready to use.


Right now the dates are soaking up honey and a little bit of the saffron flavor.  I’m drooling already!


March 5, 2017 | No comments