What’s sugar without a little colour..

And with a sentiment like that, so began the ruination of the modern diet way back in medieval times…

My son will describe people who are being a little over enthusiastic about things as being “hopped up on Coke (of the cola variety) and Skittles”.  I feel a little guilty with my current project to find out how to give medieval sugar paste colour.   Medieval wealthy folk loved to advertise their wealth by creating extravagances in sugar. Adding colour to food usually meant importing spices, yet another way to show off, and some of the most entertaining recipes I’ve been reading have elaborate ways to bring colour to dishes.   I understand that subtleties were often painted with  limners colors, and never in fact intended to eat, but the recipe I gave in my last post definitely suggested that the diner was meant to partake of the creation, if they so desired.    I had assumed that it didn’t really matter if the icing tasted good or not because I didn’t think anyone actually ate a subtlety, but I’m reliably informed that the dragon I made for Coronet was demolished and eaten with enthusiasm, so I need to keep taste in mind.   I’ve read that later period cookbooks incorporate vegetable colors into sugar paste, so I’m hoping to dig out some of those.  Finely ground spices or dried crushed flowers kneaded into the paste seem to be the way to go. 

I need to figure out ways to create a decent black, yellow, green and red.  I’ll be using a little edible gilding as well. So far I have some Elizabethan tricks –  Alkanet (also used in dyeing cloth and wool) and sandalwood, which I would need to test and also research to make sure I had properly edible forms.  Borage is an alkanet plant, so I’ll start looking into that.   Tumeric and saffron would make yellow, again I’ll have to try them for taste.  Marigolds are used as a yellow dye and would probably work for icing too, floral tastes should work well with sugar, I think?      Black??  To the books! 

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