[Sca-cooks] period fruit pastes (long and whiny and with questions)

lilinah@earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 12 19:18:18 PDT 2006

Stefan wrote:
>A find this a bit unusual. Perhaps the guild feels they are being
>taken advantage of or perhaps they've gotten too many requests in the
>past year.

I don't think so. I've been on their list for a couple years. They 
sometimes make things for their Prince and Princess to give while 
travelling, but nothing terribly difficult, from what i've read. If 
it's like so much else in the SCA, there are probably lots of listees 
and a small number who are actually productive.

>One compromise might be to buy the materials and let them
>donate the labor.

Sorry, i ain't rollin' in dough (although i may be rolling out some 
dough :-), i just want this sub-event to be a success.

I'm going to try to make
-- some fruit pastes
-- a pan of irnin (SCA-period mamoul with date-nut filling, but i'm 
going to make them in a pan (layer of semolina dough, layer of 
filling, layer of semolina dough) and cut into diamonds rather than 
try to make dozens of them in my mamoul mold which would just take 
too long)
-- dates stuffed with almonds cooked in honey (this is easy)
-- some fruit syrups for beverages
-- some savories... if i can figure out which ones would be 
appropriate... suggestions?
The Ball is held after dinner, so i don't want anything meaty or 
drippy or runny.
On the other hand, given that there's no feast, there may be some 
people who haven't eaten enough during the day.

I find our Western Twelfth Nights kind of disappointing, in their own 
special way. They are our one major indoor event, usually held in a 
hotel (Collegia are one-day indoor events, too, but held at public 
schools and generally with low attendance). There are at least three 
courts, each of which goes on for hours on Saturday - that's, like, 
most of the day. I mean, it's great if you're on court and get to 
show off your spiff new garb, or if you or a friend is getting some 
sort of award or honor, but that's basically it.

I'm in a group that traditionally performs a "period" play at 12th 
Nights. This year it's another one from Plautus, an ancient Greek. 
The play is between two of the courts, and often people are so 
excited to get their butts out of chairs that attendance is good but 
not terrific.

There's always a room set aside for the "Casbah!", i.e., Middle 
Eastern dancing, not Medieval/Renaissance (seriously, folks, i 
imagine it could be "period" if people tried, but they don't, so it's 
pretty much just ATS).

There's some good shopping, and i like to shop, but that's it for 
"official" entertainment.

Then there are unofficial parties, often with quite a bit of alcohol, 
held in people's hotel rooms. Oh, boy, that's festive and Medieval - 
all that distilled liquor and bottled versions of blender drinks in a 
sterile hotel room...

Additionally, there's no feast. It's BYO: groups of friends, 
households, and some shires may pre-arrange to have a mini-potluck. 
Or families and friends eat in a nearby restaurant, which many people 

AND until the first Duchesses Ball last year, Renaissance/Medieval 
dancing was "accidental", if it happened at all. It would be held in 
a hallway, because no room or time was set aside for it. It happened 
only because a few people REALLY felt there should be dancing and 
dragged a boom box along.

So the point of the Ball is to create a greater Medieval/Renaissance 
atmosphere at Twelfth Night. And i want to support that.

>Maybe they feel they aren't getting the visibility
>they think they should get. I'd think for the latter alone, they'd
>want to do something.

I even said in more than one post that this would give the Guild 
added exposure.

Frankly, i'm wondering if the list may perhaps be the "private 
reserve" of the frequent poster... i've seen some lists like that. If 
it isn't the dominant person's idea, then it ain't gonna happen. I've 
been on the list for a couple years, so it's not like i just barged 
in. But i'm not in their physical area, so i could easily be missing 
the face-to-face personal dynamic.

>Our baronial herb guild recently offered to provide rose and/or
>orange butter for the headtable at our upcoming Candlemas feast. Not
>the rose oil mixed in with store-bought butter, but doing it the
>period way of mixing the essence in with the cream and then turning
>that into butter. You should've seen the baron's eyes light up when
>that was proposed!

That sure sounds tasty.

>I'd hate to give up
>this atmosphere that most would benefit from for one, particularly a
>loud and whiney, individual.

I'm not giving up. I'll just ask elsewhere.

>However, so far this just sounds theoretical.  No one with a
>known condition has come forward and said they would have a problem.

I can't remember if there were flowers at the Ball last year. See, i 
spent part of the Ball last year sleeping under a table, hidden from 
view by the long tablecloth :-)

It's like this: I'd cooked all the food for the Laurel vigils of two 
friends (a mix of 13th C. Andalusian and 16th C. Spanish, per the 
request of the one with a Spanish persona) and sat up in their 
"hospitality room" until after 2 AM Friday night/Saturday morning. 
Then i had to be up early Saturday because i'm Kingdom Gold Key. I 
pretty much forgot about eating until a friend dragged me into the 
BYO room and a friendly shire fed me. And i was in last year's play 
(minor part, but i still had to be there). I was a contributor to the 
Banqueting Table at the Ball - and i had friends doing a special 
performance there, so i was awake for that, but i think i curled up 
under the table during the dancing.

I really like doing all the things individually, but those activities 
kind of ganged up on me at Twelfth Night - my own fault. But that's 
the only time the Golden Stag Players perform, and that's when my 
friends were having their vigils, and when the Ball was, and my 
friends doing their excerpt from a 16th C. proto-opera, and... and...

Fortunately, i will be getting rid of Kingdom Gold Key in February or 
March. That mean's i'll have held the office for 3-1/4 years. We're 
only warranted for 2, but the person who was supposed to take it over 
last 12th Night decided not to and didn't tell me until i arrived at 
12th Night with all the Kingdom's garb. This would otherwise not be a 
big deal, except that i've now had back problems for about 2 years, 
and my consort only comes to 3 or 4 events a year, since he works 
Saturdays, so i have to lug this stuff alone (gee, now i'm being 
whiny :-)

Anyway, the person on the herbal guild list pointed out what a big 
problem roses and rosemary are and how wrong it would be to have any 
rosemary there, and problematic if there are roses. I am not denying 
that some people are allergic to them, but i think that it's not a 
huge problem. Sure, huge for the individual who is allergic, but i 
don't think there's a huge number of sensitive people who'll be at 
the Ball. As with food at feasts, one cannot accommodate every 
possible allergy, and this is the Masked ROSE Ball, so i think roses 
are de rigueur.

>Check the recipes in the file I posted at the beginning of this

Oh, i downloaded them days ago - along with 49 other relevant files 
from the Florilegium :-)

>I suspect that starting with the commercial jellies might not
>really save you much time or effort.

Pre-made preserves won't save me any money, but they'll definitely 
save me major butt loads of time and effort.

First, I won't have to wash all the fruits, drain and/or dry them, 
parboil (helps in peeling), peel, seed, slice, pre-cook, de-foam, 
strain, cook some more, etc. And then do this over and over for each 
different kind of fruit.

Second, my space is limited. My kitchen is rather oddly set up in an 
L-shape, with sink and short counter in a small alcove, then the 
stove and fridge next to each other on a perpendicular wall - i have 
a narrow table set between them, but i don't have lots of counter 
space. So pre-prepared fruit will take up WAY less space in the room 
and in the garbage.

Third, my arthritis means i'm not really happy being on my feet for 
hours and hours, and beginning with preserves will save several hours 
of standing over the stove, stirring and cooking fresh raw fruit for 
each individual kind of fruit, not to mention all that prep time.

Of course, if this were for A&S or a cooking competition, i'd do it 
from scratch, but i'd probably only be making a small amount of one 
fruit. But for the Ball i'm willing to take some short cuts so i can 
produce as much as possible for a bounteous Banqueting Table.

I'll try what Selene recommended and make at least some out of frozen fruit.

>Using a slow-cooker should make the work easier, even if it takes a while.

Yeah, i got one for those vigils i cooked for last year, but ended up 
not using it. I'll give it a whirl, too.

>You may be able to find
>quince paste commercially, although I don't know about other fruits.
>Considering the cost of quinces, it is going to be hard to make
>quince paste from fresh quinces any cheaper.

I'm in a position of trying to balance both time, physical effort, 
and money. In some cases, it's worth spending a little more money to 
save *hours* of work.

I've got about 10 cooks lined up, including myself. Some will only 
make one thing, others more than one. I've got one person making 
candied citrus peels, one making sugared fresh fruits. I've got one 
who offered to make both sugar plate and some puff paste sotiltie. 
I've had a few more specific offers of single dishes and there are 
others i'll need to give recipes to. So we'll have "stuff". I just 
want really cool stuff :-)

>Commercial fruit jams are likely to have added pectin from other
>sources and maybe other thickeners.

If there are other thickeners, they should be listed on the label and 
i'll avoid them. I rarely buy any food without reading the label 

Additional pectin may not be bad, but i dunno... anyone have any idea 
about that? I don't think i've ever made jam before. Or maybe i have, 
but if, so it was well over 30 years ago. I remember making Indian 
lime pickle and mango chutney in 1967, but i don't recall doing 
anything like it again.

>You may not need to add much more
>sugar, but then I don't know how close the result will mimic a period
>fruit paste, either.

Well, if the ingredients are the same - and a wide range of fruits 
could be used to make fruit pastes in the 16th C. - then i think they 
won't be radically different, although clearly they won't be 

Of course there's the beet sugar vs. cane sugar issue. I've got a 
huge sack of pure cane sugar in my kitchen, but i suspect that most 
commercial preserves are made with the cheapest sugar they can get. 
Anybody have any idea if the sugar source will matter for fruit paste?

Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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