“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

Our Thoughts

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

Ingredients

  • 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
Dissolve the saffron in your 1/2 cup water. While that is going, rub in the butter to the flour, then add the egg yolk and saffroned water. Stir until entirely incorporated, adding more water very gradually until everything just sticks together.
To pre-bake a shell, line a pan with dough, rolled very thin. Using a fork, poke holes all over the bottom of the pan, or use a pie weight. Bake for around 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Don’t let it start to brown! Remove from oven and fill as per the recipe.

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

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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.

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25 Responses to Medieval Fruit Tarts- blueberry, strawberry, apricot, cherry

  1. Zelanity says:

    Those all sound wonderful! And now I have an excuse to shop for tart pans! I think my husband would love the cherry tart.

    Two small typo-y thinks: 1) the cherry tart directions in the first paragraph cut off midsentence 2) in the berry tart ingredient list you describe your milk as a sweet red, rather than the wine :)

    Keep up the tasty work!

    • Needs Mead says:

      Whoops! Good catches, both. I was so zapped by the time I got all the tarts made and photographed that all I could do was eat them! And yes, this is an absolutely WONDERFUL excuse for some new tart pans! Hope you and your husband love the recipes!

    • PrancingRedPandas says:

      Actually, Zelanity had a typo too! You meant thinGs, not thinKs.

  2. melonfish says:

    oh i love this blog and these tarts they are beautiful! I have been battleing tarts and pies lately with little success the crust is too hard!

    heee, snort, breakfast on the wall i love it!

  3. tiffany says:

    All of these tarts are stunning! I love that the dough has saffron in it!

  4. AHB says:

    Could you clarify what you mean by “extra thick” almond milk? My local grocer only has “Unsweetened Almond Milk Drink”. I used that, and then boiled it down to make it thicker. Worked OK, but is that what you meant? Or is there some bakers almond milk that I’m missing?

    • AHB says:

      Oh, BTW, I’m referring to the Apricot recipe.

    • Needs Mead says:

      That adjective was a relic from the recipe we based ours on. I’m not actually sure if almond milk comes in an extra thick variety, but thought I’d leave the description in just in case. I just used regular almond milk when I made mine, and they came out delicious. Hope you love the tarts!

      • Lys says:

        Two things. :)

        Apricot “milk” in medieval days was handmade by pulverizing roasted almonds into a paste and thinned out by using water, wine, or milk (what have you). It’s difficult to explain if you don’t d it out of course for your meals, but the recipes are available on the net for those that care to go there.

        And omitting marrow in the berry tart is essentially omitting butter. A lot of recreated/redacted work I’ve seen of medieval recipes substitute butter because you don’t have to cook the blood out of it and it is a bit more palatable to the modern mouth.

        I love these recipes and have added them to my growing medieval cookbook at home!

        • Joe says:

          I think in this context “marrow” refers to vegetable marrow (also called “marrows”), a larger less watery and slightly more fibrous relative of zucchini, once a staple British vegetable, now old fashioned and fairly rare. It holds it’s shape through long cooking and absorbs other flavours wonderfully. I would think that here it is used to stretch the other ingredients. it might be work trying though. When next I have a kitchen and some tarts pans, I shall.

          Great recipes, keep ‘em coming.

  5. Lizza Protas says:

    Thank you so much for the crust recipe. Crust has been the bane of my existence for ages, until last night, when my guy and I made your lovely concord grape pie with the crust you have here. The results were just absolutely amazing. Great blog, and I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

    • Lizza Protas says:

      Oh, just to let you know- we used 2 sticks of butter, and added water gradually until it started to stick into a ball. All in all, I think we only used about half of the recommended amount of water. Also added a small pinch of salt.
      The crust came out crumbly and flaky, and just perfect!

  6. Christian says:

    So, I’m going to try my luck with the Modern Pork Pie – modern because I’m not a big fan of the meat/fruit combination – and I’ve been wondering: Does the pie shell actually need to be pre-baked? If so, wouldn’t it brittle when I try to attach the lid? Or can I just go ahead and fill the raw pie shell with the other ingredients and bake the whole thing?

  7. Christian says:

    …also, does the recipe account for a lit, too, or will I have to double the ingredients?

  8. yspz says:

    can i substitute red wine for anything? like grape juice or something?

  9. Patrice says:

    What kind of creme are you using? Coffee cream (10%), table (15%) or 35% whipping cream ou 35% cooking cream? I’m living in Quebec, Canada and we have lot’s of cream to use. Many thanks and i definityl buying the cookbook :-)

  10. Aimee says:

    Hello, these all sound amazing! I was wondering if there was a substitute for the red wine though?
    Thank you!

  11. Vinz says:

    Hi,
    About the medieval dough you say : “Makes enough for 8-4 inch tart pans and one 9 inch pan.”
    Did you really mean AND or is it a “OR” ? making 8 small tarts AND a big one seems to be a lot with only 3cups or flour, isn’t it ?

    Thanks :)

  12. Mhairi says:

    Hi, in regard to the pastry recipe – the butter will have to be cold, right?

    • Vinz says:

      I allow myself to reply to you : yes, butter in pastry dough recipes must be quite cold (not soft or melted) to allow you to rub it into the flour, like when making apple crisp. :)

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