|.Ciiij. Bolas - Poached Pears in Plum Sauce|
Ciiij - Bolas. Take fayre Bolasse, wasshe hem clene, and in Wyne boyle hem that they be but skaldyd bywese, and boyle hem alle to pomppe, (Note: Pulp) and draw hem thorw a straynoure, and a-lye hem with flowre of Rys, and make it chargeaunt, and do it to the fyre, and boyl it; take it of, and do ther-to whyte Sugre, gyngere, Clowys, Maces, Canelle, and stere it wyl to-gederys: thanne take gode perys, and sethe hem wel with the Stalke, and sette hem to kele, and pare hem clene, and pyke owt the corys; than take datis, and wasshe hem clene, and pyke owt the Stonys, and fylle hem fulle of blaunche poudere: than take the Stalke of the Perys, take the Bolas, and ley .iij. lechys in a dysshe, and sette thin perys ther-yn.
54 - Bolas - Take fair bullace, wash them clean, and in wine boil them that they be but scalded and steeped, and boil them all to pulp and draw them through a strainer, and mix them with flour of rice, and make it thick, and do it to the fire, and boil it; take it off and do there-to white sugar, ginger, cloves, maces, cinnamon, and stir it well together: then take good pears, and cook them well with the stalk, and set them to cool, and pare them clean, and pick out the cores; then take dates, and wash them clean, and pick out the stones, and fill them full of white powder: than take the stalk of the pears, take the plums, and lay three slices in a dish, and set your pears there-in.
This recipe asks for "blaunche poudere". After my interpretation of .Cj. Eyron en poche was published the question was raised; what is blaunche poudere? It is one of the mysterious medieval spice blends that must have been known in period. I imagined that it would be heavier on the sugar than any other ingredient making it "whiter" then the other spice blends that were used in period. With the question in mind, I set out on a quest to try to discover what "blaunch poudere" is.
FINE POWDER of spices. Take an ounce and a drachma of white ginger, a quarter-ounce of hand-picked cinnamon, half a quarter-ounce each of grains and cloves, and a quarter-ounce of rock sugar, and grind to powder.
To understand the instructions for fine powder it is first necessary to understand the system of weights and measures that are being used. In this period of history, the pound was based on the "Apothecary Weight" which is 12 ounces and not the 16 ounces we think of today.
This weight system was not standardized and weights varied from region to region. The Apothecary system was based on the concept of the weight of grain. The grain (weighting approximately 0.065 grams or 0.002 ounces) was the earliest and most uniform unit of measure. This measurement varied by region and culture dependent upon if the weight was the measure of a single grain of barley or a single grain of wheat (1 barley grain weighed approximately 1 1/3 grains of wheat) taken from the middle of the stalk.
With the understanding that the weight of a grain varied depending on which grain was being weighed, I offer my best interpretation of what the modern day US measurement would be.
The spice powder instructions that are found in Le Menagier de Paris refer to a drachma. The drachma is the measure of the weight of the Greek drachma which weighed approximately 52 grains or 2 drams. With this information in mind, the instructions for "Fine Powder" can be interpreted thus:
Fine Powder of Spices
Take an ounce and a drachma of white ginger = 10 drams of white ginger ~ approximately 7 1/2 tsp. or 2 1/2 tablespoons of white ginger
a quarter-ounce of hand-picked cinnamon = ~ approximately 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
half a quarter-ounce each of grains and cloves = ~ approximately 3/4 tsp. each grains of paradise and cloves
and a quarter-ounce of rock sugar, and grind to powder - ~ approximately 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
The resulting powder is pale brown. But, it is much darker then what you would expect from a powder that was described as "white".
So I moved forward and started looking for spice blends that might fit the profile of white powder, by looking at Rupert de Nola's Libre del Coch (ab 1529) which gives instructions for Common Sauce Spices. Amended.
|Libre del Coch|
Roughly translated from Spanish to English (thank you Google) this set of instructions can be translated to be:
Cinnamon three parts; cloves two parts; one piece ginger; pepper a part/ some dry coriander well ground/ a little saffron be all well ground and sifted.
This set of instructions yielded a mixture of spices that were a dark reddish brown and I believe too dark for "white powder".
Common Sauce Spices, Amended
Cinnamon three parts
Cloves two parts
Ginger one part
Pepper one part
Dry Coriander (ground) 1/2 part
Pinch of Saffron
Delving further into the Libre del Coch De Nola offered another set of instructions for a blend of spices that might be the elusive "white powder." Certainly the ingredients when fully interpreted would yield a powder that was heavy on the sugar, but would it be "white"?
Roughly translated (again thank you Google) from Spanish to English this set of instructions can be interpreted to be:
Pólvora de duque. Enmendado, translated to English "The Duke's Gunpowder. Amended."
Cinnamon half an ounce, cloves half a quarter, and for the lords do not lie down but only cinnamon and sugar a pound if you want it sharp of flavor and for passions of the stomach throw you and little ginger
Cinnamon half an ounce --1 tbsp.
Cloves half a quarter (1/8th of an ounce) --3/4 tsp.
Sugar a pound -- (based on the 12 ounce pound) 1 1/2 cups
Ginger - a little --1 tbsp.
This mixture of spices, while not completely white, yields a very light tan powder. This is the mixture that I have used in my interpretation for Bolas and is pictured as the powder filling the dates.
My search for the elusive "blaunch poudere" ended when I located a set of instructions in The haven of health Chiefly gathered for the comfort of students, and consequently of all those that have a care of their health, amplified upon five words of Hippocrates, written Epid. 6. Labour, cibus, potio, somnus, Venus. Hereunto is added a preservation from the pestilence, with a short censure of the late sicknes at Oxford. By Thomas Coghan Master of Arts, and Batcheler of Physicke by Thomas Cogan. This book was published in 1636, which puts it into the grey area of period for the SCA. However, Thomas Cogan is documented as having died in 1607. Although I have been unable to locate it, the first edition of The Haven of Health was published either in 1584 or 1586.
CHAP: 126. Of Ginger.
GInger is hot in the second degree, and dry in the first. It is the root of a certaine herbe, as Galen writeth. It heateth the stomacke, and helpeth dige∣stion, and is good for the sight. For this experience I have of Ginger, that a penny weight thereof toge∣ther with three penny weight of white sugar both made very small in powder and •earsed through lawne or a fine boulter cloth, and put into the eie, hath with∣in short time worne away a flegme growne over the eie: also with two ounces of sugar, a quarter of an ounce of ginger, & half a quarter of an ounce of Cina∣mon, al beaten smal into powder, you may make a ve∣ry good blanch powder, to strow upon rosted apples, Quinces, or Wardens, or to sauce a hen. But that gin∣ger which is called greene Ginger, or ginger Condite, is better for students: for being well made, if it be ta∣ken in the morning fasting, it comforteth much the stomacke and head, and quickneth remembrance, and is very good for a cough.