Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My handout from my class

What is recipe redaction?

                The process of reconstructing  a medieval recipe into modern terms and methods.

What is a redaction?

                A redaction in this regard is a recipe that has been translated from medieval to modern terms often scaling down the amounts needed.

How to start the process?

                It is best to work from a primary source if possible, if a primary source is not available in your language you will either a) need to translate it or b)need to get it translated. Translations will not always make sense. Terms for cooking can be different as well as many other items like pots , pans, and utensils and in some cases there is no word to translate to. Once you find a recipe that looks interesting to work with is where the fun begins.

Things to remember:
                The first attempt is usually a disaster! You might get lucky, or have a very simple recipe, or be really good on the first try, but usually the first attempt is a complete miss. Why do I tell you this? No, it is not so you feel doomed from the beginning and don't even try.  It is warning so that you don't get discouraged! Remember that redacting is trial and error.

                No two people will come to the same conclusion.  As most recipes include the elusive term "to taste". This one term has been the cause for heated debate among cooks everywhere. I like spicy foods so may add more pepper and ginger to an item when it is called for, others may like dishes sweeter and so use a heavier hand with sugar when an amount is not indicated and some others may omit a spice all together when it is not "to their taste". The third person though risks turning the dish into something entirely unintended.  As long as the ingredients are nothing you are allergic to every attempt should be made to use all the ingredients or reasonable substitutes. Also to be mentioned, every person has a style of cooking even if they think they don't. This style imparts an unquantifiable quality to the food. Give two people the exact same recipe, access to the exact same stove, measuring cups, utensils and ingredients; you will get two similar but different products. The difference could be subtle or like night and day but there will be differences.

                There are NO wrong results.  Results can be inedible, gross, disgusting, ugly, divine, enchanting, awesome, and a myriad of other descriptive words. None of them are wrong. Conversely there are no right results either. Lacking the capability to go back in time and see and taste what "right" truly is, no one can say with 100% accuracy that what they made and the way they made it is "right".

                Work with what you know. If you are attempting to redact a recipe on your own I am going to assume that you have some experience and knowledge of cooking and how to cook. If you do not have this background it will make the process harder but not necessarily impossible. So assuming you have the background skills, think about the recipe you are trying to redact, dissect it. What do you mean by that? Well, what I mean is break it down into its major parts, ingredients and cooking method(s). Then sort the ingredients by how they are treated, pre cooked, chopped, ground, etc… This will help you get a feel for what might be a "recipe starting point".  A recipe that is similar enough to use as a base for amounts or ratios that will help you construct your recipe.  Also during the process if dissection start to think of your substitutions, not just for ingredients but for the cooking utensils and methods as well.

                Example: On page 23 of The Good Housewife's Jewel, is a recipe for "To make pears to be boiled in meat".

The recipe reads:

                Take a piece of a leg of mutton or veal raw, being mixed with a little sheep's suet, and half a manchet grated fine taking four raw egg yolks and al. Then take a little thyme and parsley chopped small, a few gooseberries or barberries or green grapes being whole. Put all these together, being seasoned with salt, saffron and cloves, beaten and wrought altogether. Then make rolls or balls like to a pear, and when you have so done, take the stalk of the sage, and put it into the ends of your pears or balls. Then take the fresh broth of beef, mutton or veal, being put into an earthen pot, putting the pears or balls in the same broth with salt, cloves, mace and saffron. When you be ready to serve him, put two or three yolks of eggs into the broth. Let them boil no more.

To dissect:

Ingredients first, there are no amounts listed save for the number of eggs used.

raw veal or mutton (a piece)                          sheep's suet                                                                      thyme (fresh)                                                    manchet(gratedfine)                                                                 
parsley (fresh)                                                   4 eggs                                                                                   gooseberries, barberries or green grapes            salt                                                                                         saffron                                                                cloves                                                                                  
fresh sage                                                           broth (made from beef, mutton or veal)                              mace                                                                    2 or 3 more egg yolks

Cooking equipment and method:

                Earthenware pot                                                              To be boiled

                OK, substitution time. First evaluate your ingredients, their availability and their treatment. First on the list is raw veal or mutton. Now think of the recipe as a whole, the recipe calls for a whole piece of leg but in the end everything needs to be pounded and mashed together. You could a) get a piece and mash/grind it yourself or you can go and buy pre ground. What is easier for you? What do you have time for? What is available? If like me you have a butcher available you can go to and order your meat. If you are relying on a grocery store you will have to make more substitutions so I will address those. Getting veal or mutton may be expensive where you are, though knowing that veal is from a cow, ground beef is a likely substitution. Knowing though that when they grind beef they add fat to it to make it grind better as well as to "keep it moist and flavorful" while cooking, makes thinking about the second ingredient easier. If you were to grind your own leg you would have to add in the fat, if you buy pre-ground from the store they have added fat, now it becomes an experiment with what "fat content" works best for you.
                Fresh herbs are the most common type of herbs used in the time though dried herbs did exist. Fresh is best but not always available.

                Manchet, a type of bread or roll about the size of a man's hand, usually described with a crusty exterior. So what you need is bread crumbs.

                Berries or green grapes? The most common one of them all will be the grapes and please, go with seedless.

                Fresh sage, this could be skipped. It mostly makes for a nice presentation.

                The other spices, they are mostly self explanatory, while an omission of saffron will change the flavor and possibly the color some it is important to know that those with allergies to onions, garlic and other items from the Alliums family are also sensitive to saffron. Cloves, while those used in the meatballs themselves should likely be ground the ones in the broth may be whole and then strained out before the egg yolks are added.

                Broth, this can be bought in cans, cubes, or granules, but you could also make your own by boiling "soup bones" or a chunk of meat.
                Now that the ingredients have been addressed we need to talk about what to cook it in. The method is simple, they are boiled, but not everyone has an "earthen ware pot" just hanging around to cook with on their stove (or over an open fire). So, it is likely you will be using a large aluminum or stainless steel pot.
              *Ok, so now we have ingredients but what do we do with them? Now we think about a similar recipe that we can use for a base. For me it was meatballs\meatloaf. My recipe has most of the same ingredients, ground meat, spices, egg and bread crumbs (for my meatballs) or oatmeal (for meatloaf). I use 1 cup of bread crumbs and 1 egg per pound of meat and I use a total of about a table spoon of spices. Now, I bake mine not boil them but that is part of the experimental fun of redacting. Trying new things.  So my rough estimate of what this recipe would look like is:

1lb ground meat
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme@
1 egg
1 handful of green seedless grapes

1/4 tsp ground cloves#
8 cups of broth
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground mace

Make the "pears" as directed by combining all the first set of ingredients together. Place a sage stem in each one. Place into a pot so there is little space but they are not "packed in". Use enough broth to mostly cover them but not entirely the sage stem should be outside the liquid. Boil them about 1/2 an hour. Remove one as a "test subject" and cut it open to check for doneness. If done remove "pears" to a shallow bowl. When the pan is empty of pears, remove the pan from heat and add the 2-3 egg yolks. If you do not want the eggs to "curdle", beat the yolks in a bowl and add a Tbsp at a time of the hot broth warming up the yolks, then stir them into the rest of the both. Pour the broth over the "pears" and serve.

*Disclaimer I have not sat down and fully redacted this recipe! All amounts are approximates

@A flavor I am not particularly fond of, so enough to have notice but not be too over powerful I hope)

# Cloves are very powerful especially when ground, I don't want to risk "over spicing"


redact [rɪˈdækt]vb (tr)
1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) to compose or draft (an edict, proclamation, etc.)
2. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) to put (a literary work, etc.) into appropriate form for publication; edit
[from Latin redigere to bring back, from red- re- + agere to drive]
redaction  n redactional  adj redactor  n