I recently entered the Ice Dragon Pentathlon Arts and Sciences competition in the Kingdom of AEthelmearc. I decided to summarize my entries in the next few posts. I'll post links to the complete documentation at the end of each post.
According to philosophies on health during the medieval period, the body is governed by four humors: blood, yellow bile, phlegm, and black bile. Each of these humors had distinct characteristics of nature (heat, cold, moist, and dry). Food was an important part of this system and individual ingredients were assigned these characteristics of nature. Consuming foods in combinations to balance the properties of the ingredients or counteract a person’s symptoms was believed to affect one’s health. Candied orange peel met the requirements theory perfectly. Orange skins and honey were believed to have warm and dry properties. Indeed, the Tacuinum Sanitatis specifically mentions that the candied skin of oranges is “good for the stomach” while honey “purifies” and “cleanses the chest and stomach.” I was unable to find an entry in the Tacuinum Sanitatis for ginger, but a great variety of spiced sweets and wines are seen in contemporary menus for serving at the end of the meal. Ginger is also known for aiding in digestion in modern medicine.
The recipe I chose to follow comes from Le Ménagier de Paris, originally written circa 1393.
Although there are several recipes for candied orange rind seen throughout the medieval period, this version is from the time I choose to specialize. The recipe reads:
"To Make Candied Orange Peel, cut the peel of an orange into five pieces and scrape away the loose skin inside with a knife, then set them to soak in good fresh water for nine days and change the water daily; then boil them, letting them come once to the boil only, in fresh water, and this done, spread them on a cloth and let them dry thoroughly, then put them in a pot of honey until they be quite covered therewith, and boil on a slow fire and skim. And when you think that the honey is cooked (to try if it be cooked, have some water in a spoon, and pour a drop of the honey into the water and if it spreads it is not done, and if the drop of honey remains in the water without spreading, then it is done), then you must take out your pieces of orange peel and set out a layer in order and sprinkle powered ginger thereon, then another layer and sprinkle, etc., usque in infinitum; and leave them for a month or more and then eat them."
Using the English translation from The Goodman of Paris, I formed a set of steps for the recipe:
- Cut the orange peel into five sections.
- Scrape away the pith with a knife.
- Soak the peel in fresh water for nine days, changing the water daily.
- After the ninth day, bring the pieces to a boil in fresh water.
- Remove from heat and dry the pieces on a cloth.
- Put the pieces in a pot and cover with honey.
- Boil on a low heat and skim the foam that forms.
- Continue boiling until the honey holds its shape when dropped into water.
- Remove the pieces from the honey.
- Sprinkle the pieces with powdered ginger.
- Let cool and store one month before eating.
This recipe contains only three food ingredients: oranges, honey, and powdered ginger.
- During the 14th century when this recipe was written, oranges would have been a more bitter variety than we know today. The Seville orange is believed to resemble most accurately the bitterness of medieval oranges; however, I was unable to find this variety in my area. I decided to use the common Navel orange. I chose this variety as it is readily available in most areas and has a thick skin, which would make it easier to peel.
- Honey was a common foodstuff and was used as a preservative regularly. I chose a raw, unfiltered honey for this project in order to mimic as closely as possible what type of honey would be available in the 14th century.
- I used basic powered ginger widely available from a modern grocery.
I scored each orange with a knife and cut into five sections.
I began scraping the pith of the orange with a knife, but found a spoon was easier to use without cutting through the skin.
I soaked the pieces in a redware bowl for nine days, changed the water at the same time every day.
After nine days, I removed them from the bowl and brought them to a boil in fresh water for one minute.
After they came to a boil, I removed them from the heat and spread them on a clean linen towel. Not knowing what the author meant by “thoroughly,” I let them dry for one hour. This allowed the surface to dry completely.
I placed them back in the saucepan and poured honey over them until they were completely covered. I placed the pan on low heat and waited for the honey to come to a boil. This took about one hour. As the honey boiled, white foam formed and I skimmed this off with a spoon. Over time, it became more difficult to keep up with skimming the foam off the top. I wonder if skimming is required, because at times it appeared to make no difference.
Several times, I tested the honey by dropping a small amount into a bowl of water. The recipe specifies a spoon (presumably a large spoon); however, the white bowl gave better contrast to see the honey in photos. It took about an hour for the honey to sufficiently candy to hold its shape in water.
After the candying process completed, (the liquid significantly reduced) I removed the pieces from the pan and set them on a plate. Immediately noticeable is the curling of the pieces. I then sprinkled powered ginger on both sides.
I was skeptical about the ginger flavor, as my modern palate is used to candied fruit sprinkled with sugar, but I was pleasantly surprised. This would definitely be a good addition to the end a meal. I thought the flavor was quite strong and a little goes a long way!
I want to try this recipe again, hopefully over an open fire with more medieval pots and utensils so gauge the difference.
Melitta Weiss Adamson, Food in Medieval Times, (Connecticut: Greenwood Press) 2004.
Luisa Cogliati Arano, The Medieval Health Handbook: Tacuinum Sanitatis, (New York: George Braziller) 1976.
Elise Fleming, “Candied Fruit Peel,” accessed January 2013, http://damealys.medievalcookery.com/CandiedFruitPeel.html.
Galen, On the Natural Faculties, trans. Arthur John Brock, accessed January 2013, http://classics.mit.edu/Galen/natfac.html.
Eileen Power, trans., The Goodman of Paris: A Treatise on Moral and Domestic Economy by a Citizen of Paris, c. 1393, (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) 2006.
Odile Redon, Françoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, trans. Edward Schneider, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press) 1998.
Terence Scully,The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) 1995. “University of Maryland Medical Center MedicalAlternative Medicine Index,” last modified 2011, http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginger-000246.htm.
Below is a link to the complete documentation in PDF: