Thursday, February 2, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Cv. Lorey de Boolas - Plum Curd

.Cv. Lorey de Boolas - Plum Curd
This recipe from Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 by Thomas Austin was quite a surprise for me. The finished product is a beautiful rose colored, piquant fruit "curd". It might even be the precursor to modern day fruit curds. It lacks the butter that you would find in modern day curds, replacing it with bread crumbs. It also lacks sugar; the recipe specifies that you are to use skimmed honey. 

The taste testers were quite pleased with this dish, and this is something I plan on making in the future to give away as gifts. I also imagine that you could use it with other fruits; berries, apricots, lemon.

What is a fruit curd? It is a spread or a topping that in modern day is served with scones, bread, cheesecake, etc. I'm not sure it would have been a good keeping recipe, despite the wine and the honey that was added to it. If I were to serve this at an event (and it does go on the list of good things other people should eat at a medieval reenactment event), I think I would serve it as an alternative to butter, perhaps as a sauce to accompany a roasted meat, in a tart, or even with custard or cheesecake. The flavor of plum is intensified and a little bit goes a long way (I added some of this to oatmeal...yums...It made a very delicious breakfast).

Plums, like roses, apricots, peaches and cherries, are a member of the Rosaceae family and have a very long history of use. It is believed that the common European plum is approximately 2,000 years old and originates in or around the Caspian Sea. There is evidence that dried plums, also known as prunes, were a staple food of the Tartars, Mongols, Turks and Huns. Alexander the Great is believed to have introduced a variety of damson plums to Greece from either Syria or Persia. There are over 100 species of plums with 30 of them being native to North America.

The title of this recipe, leads me to believe that the specific plum that should be used is the bullace, which has a black skin. This is why I chose to use the darkest skinned plums I was able to locate.

.Cv. Lorey de Boolas.—Take Bolas, & seþe hem a lytil, & draw hem þorw a straynoure, & caste hem in a broþe; & do þer-to Brede y-gratyd, & boyle y-fere, & ȝolkys of eyroun y-swengyd, & a-lyid; take Canel, and Galyngale, Skemyd hony, & do þer-to, & sethe wyl, & serue forth.

Cv - Lorey de Boolas. Take Bolas, and sethe hem a lytil, and draw hem thorw a straynoure, and caste hem in a brothe; and do ther-to Brede y-gratyd, and boyle y-fere, and 3olkys of eyroun y-swengyd, and a-lyid; take Canel, and Galyngale, Skemyd hony, and do ther-to, and sethe wyl, and serue forth.

105 - Lorey of Bullace - Take bullace, and cook them a little, and draw them through a strainor, and caste them in a broth; and do thereto bread grated, and boil together; and yolks of eggs beaten, and mixed; take cinnamon and galingale, skimmed honey and do there-to and cook well, and serve forth.

Interpreted Recipe                                        makes approximately 1 cup              

2 plums cut in chunks
1 cup wine ( I used a sweet white)
1-2 tbspl. honey
1- 2 tbsp. bread crumbs
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and honey

Clean and wash your plums and cut into chunks.  Place in a pan with the wine, honey and spices, and allow to cook until the fruit is softened and the skin begins to shred.  Say a thank you for modern technology and put your fruit into a blender and puree it :-)

Strain the pureed fruit into your pan and bring to a low simmer.  Beat the bread crumbs into the egg yolks and temper them by adding a bit of the lovely ruby red plum sauce to the eggs and bread crumb.  Return the tempered eggs to the pot and stir, stir, stir until it thickens.  It is thick enough when it coats the back of your spoon rather than drips off. This will take between five and ten minutes.  During this process taste for sweetness--the sweetness of the final product is dependent on the ripeness of the fruit and your particular taste.  I was happy with just a tablespoon of honey.

Strain your curd through a strainer to remove any bread crumbs or bits of egg from it and allow to cool. It will thicken a bit more as it cools.

I can understand why this recipe might have been overlooked;  the instructions are a bit confusing.  It does not specify what kind of broth, and specifies the addition of two thickeners (bread and egg yolk). However, this recipe could not be simpler to put together, and I was very happy with the outcome.  Like modern day fruit curds, I believe this would be a dish a cook could make ahead of time and keep.