I got to thinking today that there will be events at which it will be handy to bring a basket of food, like a more period version of the picnics we bring when we go walking in the mountains etc. Being in research mode I took a starting point of “Say we were going to a day long event, what would we bring to eat?”
The list I’ve compiled so far includes:
- Bread and ‘cakes’ – oat varieties seem to work best for a middle of the road Irish persona, wheat for a more wealthy type (if I remember my Vision of MacConglinne right) This group could include pan and griddle cakes I’m thinking? I like oats, they have a natural sweetness I’m fond of, but I’ve never had actual oat bread. I think some further research and experimentation is called for.
- Cold roast or boiled meats – Irish people didn’t eat a lot of mutton or beef (except in winter), pork and bacon feature predominantly.
- sausages and pudding (irish versions being maróci and indreachtana, which are research projects for another day too)
- smoked meat or fish
- In season fruit or – if you’re feeling rich – fruit preserved in honey
- pies/pasties (or in Irish, pigheann) I *love* pies. I make them from time to time, they’re really handy where people want to have something satisfying without worrying about cutlery, plates or even a place to sit properly. There seems to have been a hard “structural” pastry made by dissolving fat in hot water for pies that needed strength and longevity and a softer pastry, more in keeping with modern shortcrust, that was used for more delicate flavours which had a shorter “use by” date. I’m amused that it seems pie pastry shells were called coffins. I will be trying out some pie recipes so I’ll keep the details til then, but for now I will add that I’ve come across the idea of providing dipping sauces for the pies which intrigues me. In keeping with the medieval preference of having honey with meat, I’m curious to try a dipping sauce that is half butter and half honey and seasoned with salt as a starting point. But oh, I can hear my arteries clanging shut already…
Apparently medieval Irish people *loved* their Dairy, I mean really loved it, especially milk. Works for me, I’m rather partial to it myself.
It’s late so I need to wrap this up, so courtesy of http://www.seandalaiocht.com, here’s how to make some basic butter and cheese:
Butter: Whisk the hell out of a litre of cream, when the butter begins to separate from the buttermilk, gather and transfer to a shallow wooden bowl, spreading til it’s flat and about 2cm thick. Cover this with a shallow layer of clean water and start pressing the water into the butter with the back of a spoon, the water will leech the remaining buttermilk out of the butter, drain off and repeat until the water runs off clear, showing you that most of the buttermilk has been removed.. The more buttermilk you have in the butter, the more sour it will taste. Add salt and herbs as desired. Leave to stand in a cool place, covered with a light cloth.
Cheese: Pour 2 litres of buttermilk into a pot, cover with a lid and stand in indirect heat (not over a fire, but close to). Rotate the pot, checking occasionally to see if the curds and whey have separated. Take the pot away from the heat and stand for 20 min. Separate the cheese from the whey using a cheesecloth, taking care not to break up the curds too much to ensure a soft cheese, add chopped herbs and salt to taste. Leave to stand in a cool place, covered with a light cloth.