Friday, May 2, 2014

May Day Quiche

Baking, pulled from a neat food history site for kids
The Earl of Bradford once produced a cookbook. That makes it sound more historically interesting than it really is (apologies to the earl), because it was just a few years ago. In it, he and his co-author mention that English peasants, in the week after the vernal equinox, had the right to the milk that would normally have gone to the lord on whose land they were tenants.

With this extra milk they could make cheese and butter that would last for awhile. In that honor, I present a cheese tart recipe from the Forme of Cury book (mentioned before) assembled by the cooks of Richard II. The recipe is for "Tart de Bry" and reads like this:
Tart de Bry. Take a crust ynche depe in a trap. Take yolkes of ayren rawe & chese ruayn & medle it & þe yolkes togyder. Do þerto powdour gynger, sugur, safroun, and salt. Do it in a trap; bake it & serue it forth.
Let's see how the translation works if we stick closely to the original:

  • Take a crust an inch deep in a trap [trapped in a pan/dish]
  • Take yolks of eggs raw & autumn* [older; not soft] cheese & mix it and the yolks together.
  • Add thereto powdered ginger, sugar, saffron, and salt.
  • Put it in the trap.
  • Bake it and serve it forth.

Pretty straightforward—forgetting for the moment the near-complete lack of measurements. Keep in mind that precise measurements for baking did not really exist until 20th century United States and the invention of Betty Crocker, with the intent to make baking easy for any household. Medieval cooks no doubt had their own tools and cups with which they learned to make the same dish over and over, relying on memory and experience.

We are pretty sure that the "Bry" of the title would have resembled our modern Brie, but was probably not as soft as modern Brie. Another version of this recipe gives directions to grate the cheese, so it would have to be more firm than we expect Brie to be. If you are interested in more medieval cookery, there are many websites devoted to it, especially this one.

Hope you had a happy May Day!

*ruayn was a word for cheese made from the milk from cows that grazed the autumn fields. Remember that tenants were allowed to graze their animals on common land after the harvest.

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