[Sca-cooks] The purpose of SCA-Cooks from Isabella de la Gryffin and a Culinary Question
lilinah at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 21 18:37:29 PDT 2007
> Could anyone recommend some good sources for period confectionary?
> I'm willing to start with marzipan, but I'd like to move past that.
There's a confectioner's manual as part of 14th C. "The Book of the
Description of Familiar Foods", translated by Charles Perry and
published in "Medieval Arab Cookery", published by Prospect Press.
Some of the recipes go so far as to involve cooking sugar to a
certain state, then pulling and stretching it with hooks over and
over, before letting it finish cooling...
> And, is cane sugar period?
Absolutely, but it rather depends on where and when.
For most of SCA period, the primary sweetener in most of Europe is
honey. The natives of the Americas also used honey. They didn't have
the European domestic honey bee, but according to Sophie Coe, there
is evidence that bees were kept in Meso-America prior to the arrival
The Greeks encountered sugar in India during Alexander's time, but
didn't use it in food. And later sugar occasionally made its way into
Rome, where it was so expensive it was treated as a drug. But it
wasn't much used in Europe until after the Crusades. It was still
expensive, so its use was limited. However, sugar cane was being
grown and processed in parts of Europe with intense Arab contact,
such as al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia) and Sicily earlier, where it was
locally used and sometimes exported.
Sugar shows up in cookbooks like Form of Curye and Le Menagier (very
late 14th and very early 15th C.). But by the 16th C. Europeans had
their own trade routes and there was an outburst of sugary sweets.
And after colonizing lots of tropical areas in the 17th C., Europeans
had their own sugar plantations in many parts of the world and sugar
became cheaper and cheaper.
The Ottomans used plenty of sugar, but they also had a thick grape
syrup called pekmez.
In the Near and Middle East dates were sometimes use as a sweetenerd,
mashed to a paste or processed into a syrup called dibs (and
sometimes called "rub" or "rab"). As far as i can tell, however,
"date sugar" is a modern product made of dried, granulated,
And i suspect that that palm sugar, from the sap of certain palm
trees, was used as a sweetener in Southeast Asia. (now that stuff
New World maple syrup was not used in the Old World. New World corn
syrup was unknown.
The method of producing beet sugar was discovered very late in
period. It was not economical, however, and so it was abandoned until
well OOP for the SCA. Also, i've read that beet sugar behaves
differently from cane sugar in certain sweets (discussed on this list
in the past). In the US, if a product just says "sugar", it's either
mostly or entirely beet sugar. If it's cane sugar, it will say so.
I've always bought "cane sugar" - but before i joined the SCA a 1-lb.
box would last me for several years.
OK, food history wizards, what about sorghum? It's of African origin
and apparently spread to South Asia early on (1st millennium BC
according to one source). I gather that primarily its grain is eaten,
but i know that at least from the 19th C. to the present a syrup is
made from it. Was it used as a syrup within SCA period in? And if so,
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita
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