“A man was pushing a load of tarts by on a two-wheeled cart; the smells sang of blueberries and lemons and apricots. Her stomach made a hollow rumbly noise. ‘Could I have one?’ she heard herself say.” (I: 599)
Medieval Fruit Tarts
These are a wonderful treat that really showcase the fresh fruits of summer. We went all out and made all the varieties mentioned in the books: blueberry, strawberry, ambiguous berry, and apricot. We also added a cherry version because we found a tasty recipe for it, and cherry pie is a Father’s Day favorite.
Of all these tarts, our favorite was probably the apricot one. It had the most complex assortment of flavors, followed by the cherry tart. What all of these tart recipes have going for them, though, is that after eating several slices of each, you won’t feel bogged down by sugar, because there isn’t all that much in any of the recipes. The real focus of each tart is the fruit, and the flavors of the berries in particular comes across beautifully. In short, these are the perfectest herald of summer.
Basic Medieval Pastry Dough Recipe
Take fine floure and a curtesy of faire water and a disshe of swete butter and a litle saffron and the yolkes of two egges and make it thin and tender as ye maie. –A Propre new booke of Cokery, 1545
- 3 cups Flour
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1-2 sticks Butter (we used one, could do with more!)
- pinch of saffron
- 1 Egg yolk, slightly beaten
Makes enough for 8-4 inch tart pans and one 9 inch pan.
Medieval Cherry Tart Recipe
To make a close Tarte of Cherries. Take out the stones and laye them as whole as you can in a Charger and put in synamon and ginger to them and laye them in a tart whole and close them and let them stand three quarters of an hour in the oven, then take a sirrope of Muscadine and damaske water and sugar and serve it. –Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswifes Jewell
- 1 1/2 lb. whole cherries
- dash of rose water (optional)
- 1/4 cup sweet red wine
- 1/4 cup honey or sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ginger
- dash of red wine vinegar (to taste)
- pastry dough for 1-9 inch pan, or 8-4 inch tart pans
Combine cherries, wine, and vinegar in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for around 1/2 hour, or until the pits can be easily removed by squishing the cherries through a colander. Put cherry puree in a bowl and add the sugar and spices. Allow to cool. Line your tart pan with pastry dough (recipe above), and trim the edges. If you like, you can make decorative shapes with the dough remainders to place on top of your filled tarts.
Add rosewater and port to cherries. Add enough sugar to sweeten, but not make it cloy, plus the ginger. Add a little vinegar or lemon juice to sharpen. Cook for 45 minutes or until flavors are mingled. If needed, you may thicken with bread crumbs. Let cool. Fill shells, close, bake at 375º F for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serves 4-6
Apricot Tart Recipe
Leche frys in lentoun. Drawe a thik almaunde mylke wiþ water. Take dates and pyke hem clene with apples and peeres, & mynce hem with prunes damysyns; take out þe stones out of þe prunes, & kerue the prunes a two. Do þerto raisouns, coraunce, sugur, flour of canel, hoole macys and clowes, gode powdours & salt; colour hem vp with saundres. Meng þise with oile. Make a coffyn as þou didest bifore & do þis fars þerin, & bake it wel, and serue it forth. -Forme of Cury, 14th Century
Our Changes: The original recipe for this is sort of a hodgepodge of fruit. We took out the apples, pears, and dates, replacing them with fresh apricots and dried ones. The yellow-orange of the apricots is beautiful against the red of the almond milk filling.
- 2 cups extra thick Almond Milk
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced lengthwise
- 3-5 fresh apricots, diced
- 1/2 cup pitted prunes, sliced lengthwise
- 1/2 cup currants
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, mace & cloves
- 1/4 tsp. each ginger, nutmeg, white pepper
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- few drops red food coloring (in substitute of sandalwood)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- one 9-inch pre-baked pie shell, or 8-4 inch pre-baked tart shells
Mix together well the almond milk, sugar, spices, oil, and food coloring. The color should be a brilliant red; the mixture should be thick but runny. In a separate bowl, mix together the fruits. Add the almond milk mixture and thoroughly blend. Place this filling in the pie shell. You may find that you have to put the fruit in the shell first, then spoon the almond milk over that. Bake at 375° F for 45 minutes, or until the filling is set and the top has slightly browned. Remove from oven; allow to completely cool before serving. Serves 4-6.
Medieval Berry Tart Recipe
Daryoles. Take wine & Fresh broth, Cloves, Maces & Marrow, & poweder of Ginger & Saffron & let all boil together & put thereto cream (& if it is clotted, draw it through a strainer) & yolks of Eggs, & mix them together, & pour the liquor that the Marrows was seethed in thereto; then make fair coffins of fair paste, & put the Marrow therein, & mince dates & strawberries in time of year, & put the coffins in the oven, & let them harden a little; then take them out & put the liquor thereto, & let them bake, & serve forth. -Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks
Our Changes: We took out the marrow. Yeah. Not needed here. We also used this recipe for the blueberry and ambiguous berry tarts.
- 3/4 c. cream
- 1/4 c. wine (we used a sweet red, like that for the cherry tarts)
- 1/4 c. milk
- 5 egg yolks + 1 egg
- 1 pint strawberries, or other berries of your choice, or a mix
- 1/2 c. chopped dates
- 1/2 c. honey
- 1/4 tsp each saffron & ginger
- 1/8 tsp each mace & ground cloves
- 2 pre-baked pie shells, or 8-4 inch pre-baked tart shells
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream, wine, saffron and other spices, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. In a separate container, beat egg yolks and honey together. While beating, add a bit of the hot milk mixture. Pour this back into the pot with the hot liquid while whisking furiously. Place the cut strawberries and dates in baked pie shells and spoon the cream mixture over fruit and into the shells. Bake at 375° F for 45 minutes, or until the filling has set. Serves 4-6.