[Sca-cooks] Basting spit roasted meat

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Thu Jan 31 12:33:39 PST 2008

On Jan 31, 2008, at 3:14 PM, Dragon wrote:

> Michael Gunter wrote:
>> I'm doing some research on just what the drippings of
>> spit roasted meats would be.  It is surprising that I'm
>> running into such difficulty but I've gone through several
>> manuals (Digby, Two 15th Century Cookbooks, Sebrina
>> Welserin) and haven't found anything on spit roasting
>> beef.  There are detailed instructions on how to roast
>> birds and such but very little on roasts and even whole
>> pigs or lamb.
>> I've determined that the term "sewe" in Two 15th Century
>> cookbooks means "drippings" as opposed to beef broth
>> or stock. I'm still looking for some kind of concrete example
>> of what we all seem to "know" about roasted meats.
>> The best I've found was in broiling steaks that are basted
>> with verjous, wine or vinegar and whatever herbs you want
>> but not much better.
>> Any sources out there for basting juices for whole roasts
>> or what would compromise "sewe" of beef?
>> I'm still looking and the results are surprising.
> ---------------- End original message. ---------------------
> I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb here in that I am not fully
> familiar with the humoral theory of health that influenced the
> cooking of the Middle Ages but I am going to suggest that the reason
> you are having difficulty finding anything on roast beef is because
> they would not have considered that a proper way to cook it.
> As I understand it, the theory says that beef is of a hot and dry
> humor and thus it would have been cooked by boiling more often than
> not to temper its hot and dry nature under the theory.
> Again, my understanding is not complete as I really need to do more
> reading on it, but I have come across some notes to that effect in an
> annotated translation of Taillevant if I am not mistaken.

You may be speaking of Scully's edition of Taillevent. I think he  
says, more or less, that the dryer, hotter meats (humorally speaking  
-- these can be identified in sources like Tacuinum Sanitatis, for  
one), are generally parboiled to offset the heat and dryness, then  
larded before roasting. The finished meat will still be hot and dry in  
temperament, as it were, but less harmfully so. Mutton and venison are  
common examples of meat that might be treated in this way, and while  
beef, which presumably could be treated this way, was probably more  
often boiled than roasted. You may notice there might b said to be  
more recipes calling for beef broth than there are for dishes  
specifically calling for beef, so perhaps either this beef is being   
referred to by another name or is being eaten in some very simple  
form, like being boiled, cut iup, then served with something like  
pepper sauce.  Add to that the fact that we're probably not talking  
about young, grain-fed beef steer, so slow simmering  might make a lot  
of sense.

That's another rather large hole in what we think we know about the  
roast beef genre in period. Seems like even young, tender beef was  
often coming from young oxen or bullocks, but not really what we'd  
think of now as a steer.

Isn't an ox a castrated adult male, a bullock any castrated male  
bovine, and a steer castrated before reaching sexual maturity?


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