Secunda Mensa, Cena Prima
Second Course, First Table
CONDITUM Paradoxum : Spiced White Grape Juice Surprise
Spiced Wine Surprise is made as follows: 15 lb. of honey are put in a metal vessel into which you have previously put 2 pints of wine, so as to boil down the wine while cooking the honey. It is heated over a slow fire of dry wood, stirring all the while with a stick; when it begins to boil over it is checked by adding [cold] wine; it also sinks when removed from the fire. When cool it is heated once more. This must be done a second and third time, and only then is it removed from the fire, and skimmed on the following day. Then take 4 oz. pepper, 3 scruples of pounded mastic, a handful each of aromatic leaf and saffron, 5 roasted date-stones, the dates softened in wine, having previously been soaked in wine of the right kind and quality, so as to produce a soft mash. These preparations completed, pour over 18 pints of sweet wine. In the end add coals, if it is too bitter.
[ ----- Apicius, Book I, Chapter I, Recipe 1]
5-1/3 cans White Grape Juice Concentrate
Water, enough to make 2 gallons of juice
10 fresh Dates, soaked in juice
3 lb. Honey
1/2 cup White Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Verjus/Sour White Grape Juice
1-1/2 Tb. ground Black Pepper
10 Tejpat/Malabathron Leaf/Bay Leaves
3/4 tsp. Saffron
3/4 tsp. Gum Mastic
1. Reconstitute juice.
2. Soak dates in a small amount of juice until soft.
3. When soft, put in blender with a bit more juice and blend until pureed and liquidy.
4. Mix 6 cups of juice with honey and bring to boil.
5. Add seasonings and dates and cook on medium-low heat for a while, until mastic melts.
NOTE: The mastic never completely dissolved and some of it stuck to the bay leaves.
6. Add remainder of juice, then stir in vinegar and verjus to taste.
7. Let stand overnight.
8. Strain/decant. Some of the pepper settled out, and i intentionally left it behind when the juice was decanted. I like the bite it added but i was concerned many diners might find it unexpected and unpleasant.
10. Diluted to taste with water, if desired.
-- Many scholars believe that the aromatic leaf in this case was malabathron (Gr.) / malabathrum (Lat.). This is still used in South Asia where it is generally called tejpat, which is botanically called Cinnamomum tamala. I really tried to find tejpat leaves. There is a significant South Asian community where i live and i went to South Asian markets and asked for them. I was shown some leaves that looked a lot like bay, and when i asked the proprietors they said that this is what they use in the US and it tastes a lot like the original. While I am not utterly convinced they taste the same, that's what i ended up using.
-- I skipped the roasted date stones.
-- This should have been made with wine. However, SCA rules do not allow the purchase of wine or other alcohol for serving as beverages with organization moneys. Therefore I substituted white grape juice, spiked with Middle Eastern sour white grape juice so it wouldn't be too cloying.
-- This was a surprise hit. Several folks who said they very much disliked white grape juice asked me for the recipe.
PINE NUT PATINA
An Inverted Patina as Dessert: Pine nuts, peeled and chopped nuts, are roasted, grind with honey, pepper, fish sauce, milk, eggs, a little undiluted wine and oil. Turn into a plate.
[ ----- Apicius, Book IV, Chapter II, Recipe 16]
Modern recipe courtesy of Cordelia Toser, who cooked them all for the feast including a special one for the Prince that had soy milk instead of regular milk.
50 large Eggs (4 doz. + 2 eggs)
5 cups ground Pine Nuts
5 cups Clover Honey
2-1/2 tsp Black Pepper
5 tsp Salt
2 Tb. and 1-1/2 tsp White Winev
2 Tb. Olive Oil
30 cups Whole Milk
Butter a 1-1/2 quart glass casserole.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In large bowl, beat eggs until uniform.
Add other ingredients and blend until smooth.
Place casserole in large baking pan that is about 2 inches deep.
Pour egg mixture into casserole and add warm water into baking pan.
Try to get the water level about the same as the egg mixture.
Gently place pan in center oven.
Bake until the edges of the custard should be brown and the center is no longer liquid. That should be about 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove casserole from oven and cool on wire rack until it reaches room temperature.
It may be served warm or cold. Leftovers must be refrigerated.
I figure this is not very much like the actual Roman version. But Cordelia's recipe is scrumptious and super yummy and it was a big hit. Some diners ate five helpings.
SWEET MUST CAKES
Must cakes to be made thus:
two gallons of bread-wheat flour to be moistened with must; add to this anise, cumin, 2 lb. lard, 1 lb. cheese, and grate in the park of a bay twig; when you have shaped them, put bay leaves under them while you cook them.
[ ----- Cato the Censor, De Agricultura, 121]
4 lb unbleached white wheat flour
1 cup must
- - - or - scant 1/2 cup red wine - plus - scant 1/2 cup red grape juice concentrate
- - - or - soak 1/4 to 1/2 cup dark raisins in 1-1/2 cups warm water until soft and plump.
Strain out, squeezing liquid out of raisins. There should be about 1 cup of liquid
1 lb. butter alone or mixed with sesame oil
1-1/4 lb. farmer or pot cheese, or *real* cream cheese without gums
(i.e., NOT Philadelphia brand or those like it)
3 Tb. lightly toasted anise seeds
3 Tb. roasted cumin seeds
80 bay leaves
1. Toast cumin and anise seeds separately.
2. Mix butter and soft cheese.
3. Work butter and soft cheese into flour by hand.
4. Mix in whole toasted seeds.
5. Mix in must or wine-and-grape juice or raisin juice.
6. Cover 2 jelly roll/sheet pans with a single layer of bay leaves.
7. Divide dough into two equal balls.
8. Pat each dough ball down a bit.
9. Lay one ball over the bay leaves on one sheet, and pat out until it covers the baking sheet completely. Repeat with other ball.
10. Bake 350 degrees F. for 15 min or until golden.
11. Score thoroughly into 50 bars per pan while still warm.
12. Cool in pan.
13. Break out bars to serve.
To be perfectly honest, i didn't really have or use a recipe for these. I just winged it. I hauled the ingredients to the site kitchen, and with a some guidance from Euriol - since it has been a very long time since i baked cookie like things - i just faked it. So the recipe above is not really quite what i used or what i did. But since i just improvised, you can take this info and improv your own.
I used a tad over 1 cup of must as that was all the container had. It was expensive. Next time i will use homemade raisin juice, since it tasted a lot like that, and add more.
I left out the cumin seeds at the feast.
This could have taken some additional sweetener.
The resulting bars were somewhat crunchy on top, and soft and chewy on the bottom. I found them very pleasing. I guess others did too, as there were none left over. And I'd like to make them again!