[Sca-cooks] Easter Cheese

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Mon Apr 6 09:15:04 PDT 2009

On Apr 6, 2009, at 10:15 AM, Alexandria Doyle wrote:

> In preparing one of my family traditional dishes for Easter, I was
> wondering if anyone has seen similar dishes in period cook books.  I
> don't recall anything in the late period English cookbooks, where I
> have typically focused.  I have found something similar in Martha
> Washington's cookbook, but I think it might have been one of the later
> additions...
> I think the spelling is Cirak, Eastern European origins.  It is
> simple, a dozen eggs, a quart of milk and a teaspoon of salt, stirred
> over a low heat until curds form.  Then it is strained in a cheese
> cloth, hung from a hook to drain and/or pressed between weights (one
> receipt suggested that the family bible would be the right weight to
> do this).  Afterwards it's chilled, sliced and served on Easter
> morning.

Well, apart from the modern (and perhaps not so modern) Russian Easter  
cheesecake, pashka, there're a ton of 14th, 15th, and probably 16th  
century French, English, and German recipes for milk curdled with  
beaten, whole eggs, colored in different ways, sometimes including  
diced fat, sometimes not, which are then drained, pressed, chilled,  
sliced, and then fried on a griddle or grilled. A dusting of sugar is  
a common garnish; some versions are presented as a faux bacon subtlety.

The earliest I can find readily to hand is from ~1381 C.E., Ms. Douce  
257 D:

"25. For to make mylk rost. Nym swete mylk & do yt in a panne. Nym  
eyryn wy(th) al (th)e wyte & swyng hem wel & cast (th)ereto & colowre  
yt wy(th) safroun & boyle yt tyl yt wexe (th)ykke, & (th)anne seyz yt  
(th)orw a culdore, & nym (th)at leuy(th) & presse yt vpon a bord; &  
wan yt ys cold lard it, & scher yt on schyuerys, & roste yt on a  
grydern & serue yt for(th)e."

'25. To make milk roasted. Take fresh milk and put it in a pan. Take  
eggs with all the whites and beat them well and add them [to the pan]  
and color it with saffron and boil it till it becomes thick, and then  
strain it in a colander, and take what remains [the solids] & press it  
on a board [under a weight], and when it is cold lard it [insert  
strips of fat with a larding needle], and slice it in strips, and  
roast it on a gridiron and serve it forth.'

It seems to me what you're dealing with is very close to this, only  
without the extra grilling step, and without the larding step that is  
not present in all the recipes.

This dish is frequently found in the pan-European "royal cuisine" of  
the 14th through the 16th centuries and beyond (IOW, one of those  
dishes you find everywhere in all the cookbooks over these centuries),  
known variously by the name of roasted milk, milk made into bacon,  
layt larde (which would translate as milk bacon, more or less).

You may find earlier versions still in Ein Buoch Von Guter Spise and/ 
or one of the Harpestrang cookbook variants.


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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