So, I have to confess that I ordinarily don’t much care for cauliflower. Or, well, most vegetables, if I’m perfectly honest. Don’t judge – It’s a genetic thing. But I am VERY pro cheese, so a recipe that masks veggies with a creamy cheese sauce, it turns out, was sorely needed in our household lineup. I even went back in for seconds. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s taken me three tries to get a photo of it before it’s been gobbled down.
In Stardew Valley, this recipe is a pretty early one received in the mail from Pam. It’s almost universally liked by everyone in town, excepting Krobus and Willy. I won’t hold that against them, though. Try it yourself and see what you think!
Recipe for Cheese Cauli
Prep: 5 minutes Cooking: 20 minutes Makes: ~4 side servings
- 1 cauliflower, divided into bite-sized pieces
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- paprika and chives to garnish
Start by preheating the oven to 400F. Toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread out evenly on a baking sheet. Cook in the heated oven for around 20 minutes, flipping about halfway through, until soft.
While the cauliflower bakes, make up the cheese sauce: Combine the cream cheese and heavy cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s a smooth consistency. Stir in the shredded cheddar until it has melted, then remove from heat.
When the cauliflower is done roasting, move it to a medium bowl and toss with the cheese sauce. Top with some paprika and chives, and enjoy!
Dish: Interstellar Garden Salad
First appeared in: Star Wars Galaxies, video game, 2003
Planet: Coruscant – Region: Core Worlds
Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult while traveling through space. Fortunately, scientists and bio-engineers have devised numerous nutritional supplements and mealstuffs to help interstellar travelers keep in fighting form. In fact, such a demand for healthier options has even been reflected in the offerings at classic diners and dives known for their rib-sticking grub.
This particular salad is a popular side at Dex’s Diner on Coruscant, where it features an array of ingredients from across the system, including Mandalorian oranges, Sriluurian raisins, and Wol Cabasshews, topped off with luptoomian dressing. Now, for the first time, Dex’s secret preparation for this refreshing salad has been revealed. It’s a versatile recipe that can be tweaked to reflect your deepest salad desires.
Interstellar Garden Salad
Makes 6 small servings
Prep: 15 minutes – Chilling: 2 hours
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup chopped cucumber with skin
- 1/2 cup mixed salad greens
- ~1/2 cup assorted salad toppings
- 2 Tbs. agar agar
- freshly ground pepper
Simmer the cucumber in the water for around 10 minutes, then strain out the pieces, reserving the hot liquid and discarding the cucumber. Add the agar agar to the hot liquid, stirring until dissolved. Pour this mixture into muﬃn tins or other molds, ﬁlling each spot nearly full. Wait for 5 minutes, then scatter the various salad toppings in each serving, then place the whole tray in the fridge to chill for about 2 hours. If the salads need a little help coming out of the mold, dip the bottom of the muffin pan into some warm water to loosen them. Plate and sprinkle with a little freshly ground black pepper to serve.
It’s springtime, and the salmon are flinging themselves up the raging currents of the White Knife river that surges past Winterfell, and the bears are lining up for their freshwater buffet (how does hibernation work in Westeros, anyway?)
Even though the weather is taking a turn for the better, we know that winter is always coming, so it’s never too early to set aside some stores for later.
Unfortunately, this recipe is so delicious that it doesn’t last long at all. I’ll admit that I only had salted butter when I made this, and I’ll also readily admit that I’m a salt fiend. It was all I could do to stop eating the still-warm salmon in order to let it set for the photo. So yeah, salted butter works great too, but it depends on your taste for salt. ;)
Potted meats were historically a way of preserving the ingredients in a world without refrigeration. The “because they ate spoiled meat” argument for why so many spices are used in old recipes is ridiculous. It’s also a rant for another day. Suffice to say that medieval folks were no more inclined to eat bad food than we are, and they were often considerably more clever about how to go about preserving many of their ingredients, from meats to edible flowers.
Potted Salmon Recipe
Prep: 30 minutes Makes: 2-4 small servings
Pairs well with: the rest of the white wine, fresh grapes or other fruit, a spring picnic
- 1/2 lb. boneless salmon
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 heaping tsp. dried juniper berries, crushed
- pinch each allspice, ginger, smoked salt
- 1/2 Tbs. minced parsley
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- crusty bread, to serve
Remove the skin from the salmon, if there is any, and discard. Set the salmon aside.
Combine the stock, wine, bay leaf, and spices in a medium pot with a lid. Bring everything up to a roiling boil, then remove from heat. Add the salmon to the hot broth, put the lid on the pot, and let sit until cooled, about 20 minutes.
When the salmon has cooled somewhat, transfer it to a small bowl and flake into small pieces with a pair of forks. Add in the parsley and a dash of the melted butter. Pack the salmon somewhat firmly into small jars or ramekins, then fill halfway up with the broth from broiling. Top off with just enough of the remaining melted butter that it covers the meat completely. Place in the fridge to set.
Should keep for at least several weeks in the fridge, but I doubt you can resist it that long. Let warm to room temperature before enjoying, and it’s great with lightly toasted bread.
Talk about the best side dish I’ve encountered all winter. It’s rich, creamy, and full of cheesy goodness. While it’s undeniably a hearty accompaniment to a main course, it is also absolutely amazing as breakfast on a day when one just needs a little extra oomph. And it’s gluten-free, and needs only a few ingredients.
The only downside? This recipe ostensibly makes enough for two large servings, but I could easily scarf it all down myself. Next time, we might need a giant crockpot version…
Where in Westeros?
Definitely up in the North. This is stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that will leave you feeling full and happy even in the chilliest weather. If the Night’s Watch sent samplers south, their recruitment rates might just spike.
Cheesy Oats Recipe
- 3 cups beef stock
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 2 oz. cubed ham (about 1/2 cup)
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
So as you may have seen in previous years (2014, 2015), our family has started doing a “colonial” Thanksgiving celebration. I use the quotes because it’s far from strictly colonial in terms of preparation and authentic recipes, but we do try to keep things mostly historical, and then we use only candles and oil lamps once it gets dark. I also have grand ambitions to grow everything we eat. Maybe if I really get the vegetable garden sorted out next year! In the meantime, we’ll settle for locally grown.
This year, my mother is gung ho to make a stew outside over a cookfire, which I think will really take the whole thing to the next wacky level. Our house was built in 1795, but due to some remodels and a fire, doesn’t have that classic brick kitchen oven setup, or you could bet your breeches I’d be using that.
The biggest change this year is that we won’t have a turkey. I made many, many tasty turkeys during the WoW Cookbook process, so it turns out that nobody in the family is quite ready to eat any more just yet. I think there’s still some in the freezer, waiting to be made into soup. But that’s actually pretty traditional. Just take for example this account from 1748 New Hampshire:
“Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish; in September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have mussels … at our doors. Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will; all the spring-time the earth sendeth forth naturally very good sallet herbs. Here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspas, etc. Plums of tree sorts, with black and red, being almost as good as a damson; abundance of roses, white, red, and damask; single, but very sweet indeed… These things I thought good to let you understand, being the truth of things as near as I could experimentally take knowledge of, and that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favorably with us.” -William Haywood’s journal, Charlestown, NH
Or this account, from 1779 Connecticut:
“Of course we could have no roast beef. None of us have tasted beef this three years back as it all must go to the army, & too little they get, poor fellows. But, Nayquittymaw’s hunters were able to get us a fine red deer, so that we had a good haunch of venison on each table. These were balanced by huge chines of roast pork at the other ends of the tables. Then there was on one a big roast turkey & on the other a goose, & two big pigeon pasties. Then there was an abundance of good vegetables of all the old sorts & one that I do not believe you have yet seen. Uncle Simeon had imported the seed from England just before the war began & only this year was there enough for table use. It is called sellery & you eat it without cooking. It is very good and served with meats. Next year Uncle Simeon says he will be able to raise enough to give us all some. It has to be taken up, roots & all & buried in earth in the cellar through the winter & only pulling up some when you want it to use. Our mince pies were good, although we had to use dried cherries as I told you, & the meat was shoulder of venison instead of beef. The pumpkin pies, apple tarts & big Indian puddings lacked for nothing save appetite by the time we had got around to them.”
I don’t know about you, but those descriptions definitely set my mouth watering!
Here’s the current plan, which always changes at the last minute. I’ll hopefully be posting any new recipes that turn out well:
- Hand washing water – (also makes the house smell nice)
- Beeswax and bayberry candles
- Pewter, linen, antler, and assorted other period dishware
- Venison Stew – traditional, 1749
- Cod in Coals – traditional
- Cranberry Chutney – 1767, with some tweaks
- Blueberry Chutney – ad lib, homegrown
- Roasted Squash with homemade maple syrup
- Cabbage, onions, and bacon
- Pumpkin Pie – 1653
- Mother McCann’s Lemon Pie – pre-1891, from a family cookbook
- Cider Cake – 1881
- Apple Tansy – 1754
- Gooseberry Hops – 1792
- The First American Cookbook, Amelia Simmons, 1796
- The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion by E. Smith, 1754
- Vinetum Britannicum, J. Worlidge, 1691
- Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, Mrs. Beeton, 1861
- The Way to a Man’s Heart, various authors, pre-1891
- Dr. Chase’s Receipt Book, Dr. Chase, 1887
- Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, Karen Hess, 1749
As my mother put it, “Why would anyone settle for turkey when they could do this?!” We had an absolute blast, and the extra smoky flavors from cooking over the fire put everything right over the top. From shaking up cream to make our own butter, to toting that giant cod to and from the firepit, it was a holiday to remember. My mother prepped the cod by wrapping it in cabbage leaves and clay (8 lb turned out to be a lot of fish), and baked some bread in her woodstove. The star of the day, the venison stew, was rich and hearty, with chunks of meat, sausage, and root vegetables swimming in a flavorful broth. The handwashing water was a big hit, and while the lemon pie didn’t quite set right, it was tasty enough to perfect- more on that later. We concluded the evening, as always, with dramatic readings in the livingroom, by candlelight.
The thing I love most, perhaps, about approaching a holiday like this is that it takes away so much of the pressure that can do in what should be a festive time. Nobody was worried about the turkey prep, or whether their cranberry sauce would hold up to Aunt Mabel’s scrutiny. Instead, it’s about the adventure of the cooking, and having fun together. And because we try to make the dinner with all local or homegrown ingredients, it gives us a proper appreciation for the effort that goes into growing and preparing the food. Looking back in time, it’s easy to marvel at the amount of hard work that went into keeping a family alive and fed. Here’s to all the hunters and housewives that have gotten us to where we are today!
And speaking of that, I’m thankful for the years you all have spent here at The Inn with me, and I hope you’ll join me for many more to come!
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to tag along on one of the many Weed Walks around Pennsic (or as I like to call it, “medieval summer camp”). This, in addition to a great introductory class about medieval gardens, inspired me to take another look at my garden plots, and the “weeds” growing in them. There’s a great list here of the various plants, many of which we would consider “weeds”, that medieval gardeners and cooks would have prized for their extra nutritional boost, either in salads or pottage.
One of the most interesting finds in the yard was Lambsquarters. Pretty much everything about this plant is great, except perhaps that you’ll likely find it growing in your garden as a “weed”. Well, before you go tossing it onto the compost heap, consider for a moment that it’s related to chard and spinach, but more nutritious than both. In fact, Michael Pollan counts it as one of the most nutritious plants worldwide. How about that? PLUS it can serve as a decoy for garden pests, luring them away from the more cultivated crops. I’m all kinds of crazy for this stuff. And since I’m halfway doing a medieval-style cloister garden, I’m not too fussed about leaving some good weeds here and there. Because let’s be honest: Ain’t nobody got time for all the weeding.
Anyway, back to the food. For today’s post, I’ve actually done two simple recipes, one for a salad and one for a pottage, which is a sort of herbaceous oatmeal. Because winter is not only coming, but it can be tough, and back in the day, getting enough greens was hard to do.
Here’s my pick list from the yard and gardens, which I divided among the two recipes:
- Wood Sorrel
- Dead Nettle
- young Plantain
- Creeping Charlie
- Creeping Thyme
- Violet Leaves
And a few things I have, but didn’t include: purslane, hops shoots, lovage, burdock, and a few others.
See how many delicious green edibles could be lurking just outside your door? Then again, as one of my cousins recently observed, “Wow, most people just grow cucumbers and stuff, but you only have weird things!” Whoops.
Anyhow, I was surprised just how tasty both these recipes are. And I know that “recipe” is a bit of a stretch for the salad, but even so. They taste… healthy. And they really are, especially compared to the flavorless crunch of iceberg lettuce, or the nearly-always-wilty storebought baby spinach. My husband called the greens an “elf salad” because of how zesty and healthy they tasted, and I love the idea. I’ll admit that I’m not much of a vegetable fan, so whenever I find a new way to get some leafy greens, I’m a happy eater. While the salad is a quirky take on a fairly timeless dish, the pottage is pretty unique. But the more I thought about it, the more I reasoned that it was probably the medieval equivalent of slipping some healthy greens into a smoothie to hide them!
Where in Westeros?
Just about anywhere for the salad, and for the pottage anywhere they’d have a rough winter. A lot of “weeds” are the first plants to come up in the spring,
Salads always strike me as a more southern Westeros fixture, though, for the Reach, or even King’s Landing, if the castle gardens were up to the task. The pottage seems a decidedly Northern dish, though. I could easily see the cooks in Winterfell or Castle Black slipping some greens into the morning oats to keep everyone’s scurvy levels down during those interminable winters. If they couldn’t get fresh greens (I might die in a Westeros-length winter), they might have pickled some to store through those long, long cold months.
Take persel, sawge, grene garlec, chibolles, oynouns, leek, borage, myntes, porrettes, fennel, and toun cressis, rew, rosemarye, purslarye: laue and waische hem clene. Pike hem. Pluk hem small withyn honde, and myng hem wel with rawe oile; lay on vyneger and salt, and serue it forth. -Form of Curye, 14th Century
Basically, you pick an assortment of the greens listed in the link above, toss with a little olive oil, then a little vinegar and salt (I used red wine vinegar, but pick your favorite).
To make buttyrd Wortys
Take all maner of gode herbys that ye may gette pyke them washe them and hacke them and boyle them vp in fayre water and put ther to butture clarefied A grete quantite And when they be boylde enowgh salt them but let non Ote mele come ther yn And dyse brede in small gobbetts & do hit in dyshys and powre the wortes A pon and serue hit furth. -Pepys, 15th Century
This one is a little more complex, but not by much. Essentially, parboil your greens in some broth, then strain and press out the liquid. Chop them small, with some oatmeal (which I’ve taken to mean uncooked oats, in this case). Boil some broth, then add everything into the pot. Boil a bit (until the oatmeal is done), adding more broth if needed then serve.
- a few handfuls assorted greens
- as many handfuls rolled or flaked oats
- enough fish or chicken broth
A few months ago, in my quest to find more campfire-capable recipes for my repertoire, I flipped through one of my favorite medieval cookery books, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi. I don’t even have the words right now to tell you how much I love this book. In fact, it probably deserves its own post, so let’s leave it for now, and get back to the recipe.
“Sops” make a frequent appearance in medieval cookbooks. The word comes from sopp, the Old English word for “bread soaked in liquid”, and that’s pretty much what it continued to be for many hundreds of years. It’s a cognate of “soup”, and is likely where we got the term “supper”, as well as the phrase “sopping wet”. A “milksop” was a weakling, someone who could only take bread soaked in a little milk. The same goes for the synonym, “milquetoast”.
Ok. Etymology lesson over. FOOD.
While the concept of sops is a simple one, the execution can be anything but. Most sops recipes tended to have a base of either almond milk, wine, or a meaty broth, depending on the Lenten season. Scappi has a lot of recipes for sops, some savory and some sweet. He calls for dried legumes, mushrooms, fruits, capon meat, cheese, and (disturbingly specific) trout entrails.
I’ve spared you the latter, and gone instead for both a savory and a sweet version.
For the savory version, I used leftover roast chicken, scraps of cheddar, and meaty broth from the same bird. One thing I love about the sops is how adaptable they are. If I’d had any, mushrooms would have been a delicious addition to the savory sops. The fruity and sweet version has a wine base, and is not dissimilar in concept to the recipe for Arya’s Tarts in the cookbook. Stewed fruits provide the substance, while honey and spices jazz it up.
Where in Westeros?
This dish would be as widespread in that world as it was in our own.
On The Wall and in parts of the North, it would be a way to salvage stale bread and cobble together a small meal out of whatever they had. Further south, in more prosperous regions, the different elements would likely include finer breads and more varied and expensive ingredients, such as quail, fresh fruit, and so on.
In either case, it’s a very easy party food with an authentic feel, and great as a serve-as-they-come dish for when you are expecting multiple rounds of guests.
Sweet & Savory Sops Recipes
Cook’s Note: As Sops are more of a concept than a hard reality, these recipes are just a starting point. Absolutely experiment and be sure to share your final favorites!
Ingredients for Sweet Sops :
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 1/2 cup honey
- pinch each cinnamon, ginger, and pepper
- 1/2 cup dried diced fruit, such as figs, prunes, dates, currants, etc.
- 2 slices toasted bread
Combine all ingredients in a shallow saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the consistency has thickened, and the fruit has soaked up some of the liquid. Serve over toast.
Ingredients for Savory Sops:
- 1 Tbs. salted butter
- 1 Tbs. flour
- 1-2 cups meat broth, depending on desired consistency
- 1 cup shredded chicken meat
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- dash of ground mustard
- 2 slices toasted bread
Melt the butter in a shallow saucepan, then gradually add the flour and mix until you have a smooth paste. Cook this for a few minutes, then pour in the broth, while stirring. Add the remaining ingredients, cook for a few minutes until the flavors have melded and it’s hot through, then serve over toast.
“Thanksgiving we eat and drink of ye best.”
Dated Nov. 24, 1748 from
William Haywood’s journal, Charlestown, NH
Without gushing too much, I have a lot to be thankful for this year, but on a daily basis, I’m surprised and delighted by waking up in my new old house. The oldest part of it was built in 1795, when George Washington was still president. The brickmaker who built it is buried in the old, old cemetery up the hill. There’s a brick-floor section of the cellar that never gets wet. Talk about fantastic engineering.
So when I started to think about this year’s Thanksgiving festivities, I decided to do something a little different. I really wanted to make up a spread that would delve into history, and reflect what might have been served at very early colonial-era Thanksgiving celebrations. My mother, on hearing this, wondered aloud if she could cook cod for the occasion on a bed of coals out in the firepit.
At least you know I come by it honestly…
I haven’t gone full Pilgrim with the meal (never go full pilgrim), for a couple of reasons. The main consideration is that the early pilgrims were met with a coastal array of fare, while I live in VT. Rather, I’ve tried to think about what meal might have been served when the house was still new, in the late 1700s.
As always when researching recipes, I begin with actual excerpts from the text, and go from there. Let’s start off with a great historical anecdote. For a citation just past the colonial period, this is too fantastic not to consider. From a 1779 letter from Miss Juliana Smith to her ‘Dear Cousing Betsey’, we learn that some staples of this meal have been around just about since the beginning, like pumpkin pie.
‘This year it was Uncle Simeon’s turn to have the dinner at his house, but of course we all helped them as they help us when it is their turn, & there is always enough for us all to do. All the baking of pies & cakes was done at our house & we had the big oven heated & filled twice each day for three days before it was all done & everything was GOOD, though we did have to do without some things that ought to be used. Neither Love nor Money could buy Raisins, but our good red cherries dried without the pits, did almost as well & happily Uncle Simeon still had some spices in store. The tables were set in the Dining Hall and even that big room had no space to spare when we were all seated… of course we could have no Roast Beef. None of us have tasted Beef this three years back as it must all go to the Army, & too little they get, poor fellows. But, Nayquittymaw’s Hunters were able to get us a fine red Deer, so that we had a good haunch of Venisson on each Table.’ There was an abundance of vegetables on the table…Cider was served instead of wine, wiht the explanation that Uncle Simeon was saving his cask ‘for the sick’… ‘The Pumpkin Pies, Apple Tarts & big Indian Puddings lacked for nothing save Appetite by the time we had got round to them…We did not rise from the Table until it was quite dark, & then when the dishes had been cleared away we all got round the fire as close as we could, & cracked nuts, & sang songs & told stories.”
To sum up, her Thanksgiving dinner was made up of:
- Haunch of Venison, Roast Chine of Pork
- Roast Turkey, Pigeon Pasties, Roast Goose
- Onions in Cream, Cauliflower, Squash
- Potatoes, Raw Celery
- Mincemeat Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie
- Indian Pudding, Plum Pudding
I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at that! What I find especially delightful is that the even seems not to have changed considerably in the last 200 years. Even with our improved technologies in the modern era, the cooking/baking still takes days to complete. When the family assembles, there is still barely enough room at the table for all the guests, nor enough room in bellies by the time dessert is served.
At a certain hour before dinner, we will light the house only with candles and oil lamps. I expect it will be a cozy and intimate evening, during which we reflect on what makes us truly thankful. Everyone who is coming is encouraged to bring something period to read aloud during the digestion part of the evening in the living room.
And now, without further ado, I’m very excited to present to you my Colonial Thanksgiving menu! Anything with an *asterisk* will be posted in time for the holidays, and while this is a starting point, I’m sure it will change over the coming month. I also welcome any suggestions!
Thanksgiving has now come and gone, and I can say with great certainty that this is a menu to be many times repeated.
The grape sauce, adapted from my recipe for Goose and Mulberry Sauce, was a tart and surprisingly wonderful addition to the meal. I went back and forth between that and the usual gravy, and never could decide which I liked better. We were unable to obtain an heirloom turkey, so that will have to wait for next year. An organic bird took its place, and a tastier, more tender and juicy turkey I have not yet encountered.
I plundered the cellar for all sorts of delectable homebrew- with dinner we enjoyed wildling cider and a completely unique bottle of birch beer (which got all the neighborhood talking when I tapped the birch out front), with a Concord grape port to finish off the meal.
But what really made the evening for me, apart from the delicious simplicity of the foods, was the ambiance of the continued candlelight.
Colonial Thanksgiving Menu
Venison Stew? with Wheatsheaf Breadsticks
Main and Sides:
Heirloom Turkey with concord grape sauce
Scalloped Turnips with Cheese
17th century Pumpkin Pie, with ground acorns instead of almonds
Homemade Birch Wine – coming soon to Game of Brews!
So, when I asked on Facebook and Twitter what you all suggested for real-world foods that would be at home in Castle Black, a number of you suggested Pemmican.
I’d never heard of it, but when I looked it up, I knew you’d nailed it.
Pemmican is a Native American Indian food consisting of dried and ground meat and berries, held together with fat.
I know, it doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? But this amazing food has sustained not only natives, but also early colonial fur trappers, AND (here’s the good one) Arctic explorers. Shackleton and Peary, among other, relied heavily on pemmican’s relatively dense calorie count for survival. As soon as I read up on it, I knew it was getting made.
Making it, however, is no light task, but rather a drawn out preparation for such a relatively plain meal-replacement. The meat has to be completely dried (which would be done over a fire in Westeros), then ground to a powder (with stones. STONES.), and combined with equally dried berries and tallow (rendered from the same fat as the butchered animal). I sorely pity anyone who had to grind their dried meat between stones. I even gave my food processor a peck on its little plastic cheek. Even with modern conveniences, this took the better part of a day to complete.
The resulting, ah, food, is… curious. Very dense, and not unpleasant, it’s somewhat bland, if nutritious. The rendered fat helps it harden, so it travels very well. Flavor-wise, it’s not unlike jerky, which makes sense, as it essentially was that before shredding. A friend who tried it also said it resembled a very dry pate in flavor, due in part to the fat content.
I’d wager that with the addition of a few key modern ingredients, such as freeze-dried veggies, it could actually be a pretty decent trail food.
Where in Westeros?
Definitely up north. I imagine that the Wildlings would rely heavily on something like this, and that the rangers of the Night’s Watch, as well as some other lords of the hilltribes surrounding Winterfell, would have picked it up from them. It would make a great source of protein in a small size for rangers out north of The Wall, where foraging can be difficult even at the best of times.
Were I a ranger, I’d add some ground rosehips for the vitamin C content. Once their limes run out, scurvy is bound to become an issue, as Jon muses in Dance. As a wildling, can you even conceive of how much pemmican one could make with a mammoth? It boggles the mind. The more I think about it, though, the more I like what could be done with this. Wild duck, cherry, and thyme? Venison, rosehip, and acorn? *Drool*.
Cook’s Notes: This is a highly adaptable recipe. You can use your choice of meat, and add whatever berries youlike. Also, if you’ve got a dehydrator, you’re golden. Otherwise, you’re stuck making this in a conventional oven. I suppose you could also use pre-made jerky as a starting point, but the additives in it might throw off the recipe, and it would probably still need further drying.
- 1 lb. steak meat
- rendered fat, ~2 cups
- 1/2 cup dehydrated berries
- pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to its lowest setting (mine was 170F). Slice your meat as thinly as possible, against the grain. Arrange on a cooling rack over a baking sheet, and place in the oven. The ideal temperature for dehydrating the meat is between 130-150F, so you may need to prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon, like I did. The drying process takes many hours; mine was completely dry and no longer pliable after 6-8 hours, depending on the size of the slice.
When the meat is completely dry, place it in a food processor and blitz until it is a light and powdery consistency (this won’t work if the meat is at all still soft). Place in a bowl, and do the same with the dried berries, keeping the two separate.
If you need to render your own fat, you will need to start with suet, often available in the weirder-foods section of the meat department in grocery stores, alongside liver, tripe, and pig feet. Cut the suet into chunks, and place in a tall pot. Cook over medium heat until you have a nice layer of melted fat in the bottom of the pan, then reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook for around an hour, or until the bits of suet have become brown and crispy, and there is a substantial layer of clear golden fat in the pan. Strain into a clean container, and allow to cool somewhat (it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: hot fat is really hot, and the spatters burninate).
To actually make the pemmican itself:
To the powdered meat add about 1/4 volume of ground berries. Weigh this mixture, and gradually add a little less than the same weight of rendered fat in its liquid form. Mix these as much as possible with a spoon, then by hand once it’s cool enough to handle. Press into cupcake tins to harden, or roll out into flat shapes, and cut into bars. Wrap in parchment or wax paper, and slip into ziploc bags.
By all accounts, it shouldn’t need to be refrigerated as long as it’s kept cool and in a dark place, but it can’t hurt to put it in the fridge. Historical accounts claim it would last for decades, but I’d recommend eating within two weeks, just to be on the safe side.
If you have a garden, and like me, thought back in the spring that a single little squash plant would be a great thing to plant, then you are also probably finding yourself swamped with more of the little things than you can cook. I’m pulling out about 1-2 per day at this point, and they’re piling up. It’s almost enough to drive me to that age-old trick of slipping them into open windows at the coop parking lot…
Thankfully, Bartolomeo Scappi is here to (literally) spice up our squash:
This 1570 recipe is fairly simple: fry the squash and season with spices. But the resulting concoction is one of the most flavorful presentations of squash I’ve found yet. I’m not a big fan of fennel, or anything especially anise-like, but fennel pollen has been a revelation. It’s a popular ingredient in Scappi, so I decided after the last paycheck to splurge and get some.
I say splurge because the stuff is pricey, but so little of it packs a big amount of flavor that I think it’s probably worth it in the end. Combine it with a little garlic, salt, and vinegar, and you’re in serious business. The squash softens as it cooks, while the almost tempura thin coating on the outside crisps up. I put no more spice on than you see in the photo above, yet the flavors were definitely present. After just one batch, I knew this was a keeper. Give it a go, and tell me what you think!
Scappi’s Fried Squash Recipe
Cook’s/Gardener’s Notes: it turns out that harvesting one’s own fennel pollen isn’t that hard; I’ll be planting some next year for sure. You can also harvest dill pollen, another mega flavor powerhouse!
- 2 Tbs. salt, plus another pinch for sprinkling
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 cup rice flour
- ~1 cup olive oil, for frying
- pinch of fennel pollen
- pinch of garlic powder
Slice the squash into discs about 1/4″ thick. Put these in a large bowl and salt liberally, tossing around to salt both sides of the slices- this will draw out excess moisture from the veggies. After about 15 minutes, press any remaining liquid from the squash. Toss the slices in rice flour until coated. Pour the olive oil into a shallow saucepan and bring up to medium heat. Gently lower the floured squash slices into the hot oil. Let each side fry for around 3-5 minutes, or until a light golden color. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.