[Sca-cooks] More on salamanders
Stefan li Rous
StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
Sun Jul 25 01:30:36 PDT 2010
Thanks folks for reminding me that this hot metal plate used to brown things is called a salamander. We did have some discussions about this device in the early days of this list. I think it was considered as the starting point for a symbol for this group. I probably should have remembered the word, but didn't. But I don't think we have any evidence yet of it being used in period. The two recipes I gave earlier talk of "fire shovels" not salamanders.
However, knowing what the thing is often called, I could now do a search in the Florilegium and came up with the following two messages from the cheese-msg file.
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 11:53:18 -0500
From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Toasting salamander.
Christina Nevin wrote:
> Speaking of toasting, I got to see an interesting piece of kitchen equipment
> in action on TV this weekend. The BBC did a docu on Hampton Court Palace,
> including a brief piece showing re-enactors in the kitchen. They showed a
> 'salamander', basically a flat iron disk with a very long handle, which was
> shoved in the coals to heat up, and then used mostly to heat cheese on top
> of bread. A medieval toastie maker the housekeeper said (erm, yes, well...).
> I'm not sure how accurate this is, as I didn't agree with some of the other
> stuff they said about food of the time. Has anyone seen pictures of this
> equipment in use?
Not in use, no, but I seem to recall seeing recipes for things like
Cambridge Burnt Cream (a.k.a. Creme Brulee) which describe getting the
salsmander red hot and holding it close to the surface of the sugared
cream, and moving it around a bit to get an even brown.
This all has to do with the fact that it was impossible, until the
advent of gas ovens with broilers, to get radiant heat directly on _top_
of foods (with possible exceptions like tandoor ovens), without a
heat-transferring "middleman" like the red-hot salamander.
As for toasted cheese being made with a salamander, I believe this
practice post-dates period, probably coming into being in the 18th-19th
centuries when things like Mornay Sauce(more or less cheesy bechamel)
became common, and thse sauces were and are frequently glazed under a
broiler or salamander.
Well, only if we don't count the use of a fire shovel as a type of salamander.
There are descriptions of cheese being toasted in England and Wales, as
I recall, in late or early-post-period (perhaps Harrison's "Description
of England"???) and the process generally involves roasting the cheese
on an inclined board propped up near the fire: when the butterfat leaked
out enough to cause the cheese slice to begin to slide down the board,
by which time it was also brown and bubbly, it was quickly transferred
onto buttered (and sometimes mustarded) toast. I believe I've seen this
in Wilson's "Food and Drink in Britain".
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 12:24:44 -0800
From: "James L. Matterer" <jlmatterer at labyrinth.net>
Subject: Re: SC - Toasting salamander.
> There are descriptions of cheese being toasted in England and Wales, as
> I recall, in late or early-post-period (perhaps Harrison's "Description
> of England"???) and the process generally involves roasting the cheese
> on an inclined board propped up near the fire: when the butterfat leaked
> out enough to cause the cheese slice to begin to slide down the board,
> by which time it was also brown and bubbly, it was quickly transferred
> onto buttered (and sometimes mustarded) toast. I believe I've seen this
> in Wilson's "Food and Drink in Britain".
In "The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages," Terence Scully gives this
recipe from The Neapolitan Collection ( MS Buhler 19 in the Pierpont
"Crostata de caso, pane, etc. Crusty Cheese, Bread, etc.
Get bread, remove the crust, slice it thin and toast it on the fire to
colour it, then coat the slices with fresh butter and put sugar and
cinnamon on top, then slices of creamy cheese, then sugar and cinnamon;
then put the slices in a tort pan on the coals with its lid on and coals
on top; when the cheese has melted, serve it quickly."
A quick glance through Scully didn't reveal a date for the Neapolitan
Collection, but it appears to be late Medieval Italian. Perhaps someone
else could help in dating this MS?
Ah, perhaps an example of a dutch oven type of arrangement used for browning the top of food, afterall. Assuming this is for browning the cheese and not just melting it.
And another possible salamander or maybe just coals on top of pot example. In the pancakes-msg file:
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 15:54:08 -0500
From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>
Subject: RE: SC - dayboard (Ruzzige cake; Buch von guter Speise #52)
I would would say "ein blat von eyern" is an egg and flour dough rolled very
thin. A crepe would not need the butter under it. Putting butter under the
dough suggests that it might be there to soften the crust and keep the crust
Sauting the herbs to soften them and mixing them with eggs cheese and bread
sounds suspiciously like a quiche filling.
If Thomas is correct (and his linguistic skills are certainly far better
than mine) and "flur" is actually "feuer," then this could mean that this
dish is baked in a kettle with coals on top. It might also mean using a
"salamander" to brown the top of the dish before baking. The browning might
also make the top crisp.
Again, this is a recipe to play with. I wonder if they would have put salt
in the "blat?"
THLord Stefan li Rous Barony of Bryn Gwlad Kingdom of Ansteorra
Mark S. Harris Austin, Texas StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
**** See Stefan's Florilegium files at: http://www.florilegium.org ****
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