[Sca-cooks] Gervase Markham and "faux venison"

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Wed May 27 07:40:08 PDT 2009

On May 27, 2009, at 9:55 AM, Vandy J. Simpson wrote:

> Greetings.
> I'm working on a menu for a late-period feast. One of the books I'd  
> been reading, Tudor Food and Cookery, mentions that "Gervase Markham  
> suggested that by marinating beef or ram-mutton in vinegar, beer and  
> turnsole (a bluish colourant) you could produce counterfeit venison  
> for a pie!"

"111. Of baking red deer, or fallow, or anything to be kept cold.

"When you bake red deer, you shall first parboil it and take out the  
bones, then you shall if it be lean lard it, if fat save the charge,  
then put it into a press to squeeze out the blood; then for a night  
lay it in a mere sauce made of vinegar, small drink, and salt, and  
then taking it forth season it well with pepper finely beaten, and  
salt, well mixed together, and see that you good store thereof, both  
upon and in every open and hollow place of the venison; but by no  
means cut any slashes to put in the pepper, for it will of itself sink  
fast enough into the flesh, and be more pleasant in the eating: then  
having raised the coffin, lay in the bottom a thick course of butter,  
then lay the flash thereon and cover it all over with butter, and so  
bake it as much as if you did bake great brown bread; then when you  
have draw it, melt more butter, with three or four spoonful of  
vinegar, and twice so much claret wine, and at a vent hole on the top  
of the lid pour in the same till it can receive no more, and so let it  
stand and cool; and in this sort you may bake fallow deer, or swan, or  
whatever else you may please to keep cold, the mere sauce only being  
left out which is only proper to red deer.

"112. To bake beef, or mutton for venison.

"And if to your mere sauce you add a little turnsole, and therein  
steep beef, or ram mutton; you may also in this manner take the first  
for red deer venison, and the latter for fallow, and a very good  
judgement shall not be able to say otherwise than that it is of itself  
perfect venison, both in taste colour, and the manner of cutting."

		--Gervase Markham, "The English Housewife", ed. Michael R. Best,  
1986 McGill University Press

It appears to me that what's happening here is that venison is being  
marinated [hence "mere sauce"] overnight before being baked in a crust  
in an otherwise pretty straightforward manner. Markham is presumably  
advocating adding a little bluish coloring to the marinade to enhance  
the purple-red shade of the meat and create the illusion of venison.

I have no idea what that would do to the flavor, but with plenty of  
pepper, wine, salt, vinegar, and a ton of butter, one never knows.  
Texturally, my own experience is that  one long-baked red meat in a  
pie and served cold, is very much like another, with a dense and  
almost waxy mouth feel. Season any two alike, and there'll be some  
similarities. Season any two and color one to resemble the other, and,  
well, it'll resemble it to some extent.



"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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