[Sca-cooks] "Fresh" Cheese Question

Doc edoard at medievalcookery.com
Mon Jun 2 11:59:12 PDT 2008

--- Kerri Martinsen <kerri.martinsen at gmail.com> wrote:

> Now see I would have suggested Ricotta.  It is a
> "firmer" cheese with less
> processing than cottage, but still fresh.   It is
> simple to make at home,
> being a vinegar produced cheese.
> Can you post the recipe?

I believe this is the one that Her Excellency is
referring to:

For tarts owte of lente. Take neshe chese and pare hit
and grynd hit yn A morter and breke egges and do ther
to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell all well
to gethur put not to moche butter ther yn if the chese
be fatte make A coffyn of dowe and close hit a bove
with dowe and collor hit a bove with the yolkes of
eggs and bake hit well and serue hit furth.
[Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047)]


If so, then I see something else interesting.  "Take
neshe chese and pare hit ..."  If this recipe were
calling for something like ricotta or freshly-made
cheese then pareing it (removing any rind, mold, dry
part, etc) wouldn't make much sense.

--- Elise Fleming <alysk at ix.netcom.com> wrote:

> Aha!  So in that case, a Cheshire or Wensleydale
> would fit since they are
> fairly soft, agreed?

Both look like reasonable candidates - provided that
the Cheshire isn't one that was colored bright orange
with annato or whatever.

> Which mozzarella would you choose?  The fresh one
> (which is easy to get
> here) or the regular pizza-type mozzarella?

Really it would depend on my mood and budget.  Though,
thinking now about the "pare hit" part now, I'd
probably go with the pizza type since it's a bit

> And,
> another question: Is
> mozzarella a modern cheese?  Would it have been
> found in England in the
> 1400s?

This is a trickier question than it seems - I know
there's been some debate on the topic of medieval
cheeses here in the past.  My current understanding is
that while we know cheese was made all over Europe
throughout the middle ages, there's no concrete proof
that the cheese made then is like the cheese made
currently.  For example, merchant records make it
clear that cheese was being made throughout period in
Cheshire, but we have no way of knowing if that cheese
was anything like modern Cheshire cheese.

On the flip side, mozzarella is a very easy cheese to
make and is well documented (at least in Italy -
someone correct me if I'm wrong here), and parmesan
has been unchanged since the middle ages as well.

So on the whole, as long as the cheese used isn't a
hard cheese (e.g. parmesan, romano, manchego, etc) and
can still be cut with a knife, I think it would be
appropriate for this recipe.  It will certainly turn
out differently depending on the cheese used, but then
any medieval cook working from the same recipe would
encounter the same variability.

- Doc (who feels like he just muddied the waters)


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