[Sca-cooks] Fresh Cheese and other ingredients

K C Francis katiracook at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 11 13:38:43 PDT 2012

Years ago I entered a cooking contest and selected a recipe that called for cheese.  I tried three different cheeses and documented the results.  And as noted, I also submitted the three versions for the judges to taste.  In this recipe at least, the different cheeses didn't have a significant impact on the end result.   I use the milk/lemon juice cheese for any medieval recipe calling for a fresh cheese and have had good results.

Wooden Spoon
Beltane Coronation
Kay the Innocent of BelAnjou (now known as Katira al-Maghrebiyya)
Category: An Italian dish 
Tartara alla senese
Primary Source: New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS Buhler 19: unpublished manuscript. In The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy, the authors state: "Scholars think it is of Neapolitan origin. It contains many recipes similar to those in Maestro Martino's Libro de arte coquinaria....we think that this anonymous manuscript postdates Martino's work." Neither manuscripts is dated in The Medieval Kitchen, but the volume is limited to fourteenth and fifteenth century sources.
Original Recipe: Tartara alla senese 
Piglia vinti amandole e falle ben bianche he pistale quanto se po. Da poi habi meza libra de zucaro, XII ova he una fogletta di late he doi quantani de canella he sale asufficientia he mezo quarto de probatura fresca tanto pistata che piu non bisogna pistarla. Dapoi inbrata una tiela de butiro he poi infarinala he desopra gli ponerai la dita compositione, Et pone la tiella sive padella lontano dal foco, coperta, cum foco moderato. Et nota che in le predita compostione ci potrai ponere uno ramaiolo de lasagne cote in buno brodo. He como sia cotto pone desopra zucaro he aqua rosata. (49v-50) 
Translation Source: Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, & Silvano Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy, The University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Translation: Sienese tart. 
Take twenty almonds and blanch them thoroughly, and pound them as fine as possible. Then take half a libra of sugar, twelve eggs, and a fogletta [about a cup] of milk, two quatani of cinnamon, and the proper amount of salt, and half a quarto of fresh provatura cheese, pounded until it need be pounded no more. Then spread a mold with butter, and then flour it. and put the mixture on top. And set the mold or pan far from the fire, covered, with a moderate fire. And note that you can put into the mixture a ladleful of lasagne cooked in good broth. And when it is cooked, put sugar and rose water on top.
Translation Notes: I attempted a translation using a French/English dictionary.
It wasn’t pretty. In The Medieval Kitchen, the authors discuss conversion of weight and volume measures and state that this is not possible unless you know their precise source. The names might be the same in various recipes, but quantities were not always the same. Therefore, they left them untranslated with the exception of fogletta. Therefore I made educated guesses for the others and tested them out. 
Process Notes:
Starting with a guess that a libra is a pound and that a half pound of sugar equals about 1 cup + 3 T, I chose 1/2 cup sugar plus 1 T. 
The authors note that provatura cheese is currently found in southern Italy and is like mozzarella, a pulled curd but one cannot assume that it is the same as the period cheese of the same name. They substituted cream cheese in this recipe, but used a "mild, reasonably soft white such as a very young French or Swiss tomme, or farmer's cheese or mozzarella" in another recipe from the same source that called for provatura. I chose to make a simple fresh cheese from milk and lemon juice, pressing until firm.
Note: I actually made 3 versions of the recipe while testing it out. One with cottage cheese, one with cream cheese and one with my own fresh cheese. This was the most disappointing result I had ever had when preparing an entry. I just wasn’t impressed with it, but I included all three versions in my entry just for fun. The only difference I could see was a slight variation in the color after cooking and the texture/taste was almost identical, yet each judge had a favorite! When I went to pick up my entry, I found the plate empty of all but a few crumbs, a couple of the whole almonds I had used to decorate it, and some very satisfied judges. I found out later in court that my most disappointing entry had won!  		 	   		  

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list