hrj: (doll)
I keep hoping that eventually the Random Thursday series will evolve into a sort of "ask me anything". I get such great blogging ideas when people give me prompts. And sometimes -- as in this case -- it pokes me to get something onto my website that has been languishing in almost-done-land for too long. (Although in this case, it's been languishing in "I'm going to set impossible standards for doneness land".)

Last week, when I posted my "how does she do it?" essay, [ profile] fighter_chick asked: What's your process for creating a well-researched SCA art project? Do you write up timelines and project plans? How long do you spend on research and testing phase? Do you do project books? Do you do something else entirely?

I fear this is going to turn into one of those "Argh, you're completely intimidating!" explanations, because I once wrote up a rather exhaustive explanation of my process in the context of a research project that was very much on the extreme end of complexity and effort. So I'll start off with a simpler version.

A big part of the answer is that I almost never start a historic art project from scratch. It's a bit like the answer to "how much research did you do for the Alpennia books?" The answer is either, "surprisingly little" or "I've spent my entire life on it." I have a compost-heap brain. I love looking at Big Pictures and learning a superficial amount about a broad interconnected set of topics. All those little individual facts and images settle into the compost heap and start to turn into mulch. I may forget that I know them. I may forget where I've seen them. (This is the "decomposition" part of the compost heap.) But at some point a seed falls into the heap and starts to grow.

This is the tricky point in the process. Because of the way my learning process and my memory work, I probably won't be certain about the specific details, dates, locations, etc. of the project-idea that just sprouted. But in the same way, I can be fairly confident that my rather amorphous "big picture" understanding is sound. When I go to start tracking down those details and to firm up the specifics, I may be tweaking details, but I rarely discover that I'm entirely on the wrong track.

Again, it's a bit easier to give examples from my fiction: when I started developing the plot about alchemical synthesis about magical gemstones for The Mystic Marriage, I had only a vague notion of the history of alchemy, the chemistry of gemstone synthesis, and the traditions regarding the magical properties of precious stones. But I knew that these fields existed. I knew that these concepts would work in the general historic milieu I'd developed. And so when I started the detailed research, I didn't have to make significant changes in my overall plan.

But the question had to do with more tangible projects, so let's take a look at a fairly simple one. A couple years ago, I wanted to enter a competition for "woodworking: tools". My constraints were that it had to be possible with the relatively rudimentary woodworking skills I have (without looking utterly amateurish), and with tools that I either already owned or would continue to have a use for. And I wanted to create something that I'd actually have a use for. This is where the compost-heap brain comes in: I let my imagination drift around thinking about wooden tools that I might have a use for in my SCA life. This means that I was thinking largely about the fields of textiles and cooking. (So, for example, a carved wooden cooking implement would have been one possibility.)

I love reading and collecting archaeological reports about everyday material culture, especially some of the less common materials, so I had a pretty good mental image library of surviving wooden implements to contemplate. And the concept I decided to pursue was a simple standing band-loom. I knew of one surviving example (from the Oseburg ship burial, which had a large variety of textile equipment), and I knew that the general structure continued in use at least through the 15th century because I'd seen a lot of them in manuscript images during a previous research project on textile work-containers. (I.e., what sorts of containers are people using to hold their paraphernalia when doing textile work of various sorts?)

Since I had that previous project to build on, it was a simple matter to pull up all the collected manuscript images of band looms, as well as going back to the same research sources to find other examples (that hadn't happened to include work-containers). And it was similarly easy to go online and find images and diagrams for the Oseburg band loom. The essential first step was simply knowing it existed and knowing what keywords to use. This is an example of how my research tends to have a long non-specific "tail" and then a relatively short, intense, focused pre-implementation burst.

After that, it was a matter of analyzing the structures of the looms and developing a design that would fit my practical needs, both in terms of manufacturing skills and for use. (Some of the examples were definitely not portable, and I wanted something that could be broken down and transported to events without disturbing the work-in-progress.) From that, I came up with a basic design concept and drew up some initial plans. Then I went lumber shopping and modified my idea slightly based on existing available lumber and hardware. (One non-historic aspect was using a carriage bolt in the bottom of the pillars to fix them to the base for easy dis-assembly. This substituted for a permanent mortise-and-tenon joint in the original.) Here's my LJ write up of that project.

To answer the specific questions:

Do I write up timelines and project plans? I have timelines in the sense that I'll often have a target event for which I want something complete. But I don't tend to do interim timelines. Anything that would require that sort of interim structure better not have an overall deadline! For any project that requires any sort of engineering (whether it's furniture or costuming or whatever), I've generally been sketching out ideas repeatedly for years before I get around to making the thing. I'm a compulsive doodler. I generally know I'm ready to work on something when I always end up doodling it the same way. That doesn't always mean that that's the final concept, but it means I've got a clear idea in my head. My garden plans work this way too. If I've doodled the same garden design for a year or so, I'm ready to start digging.

How long do I spend on the research and testing phase? Anywhere from decades to days. (See previous comments about "how long have I been researching Topic X?") I'll confess that I often don't do much in the way of "testing" other than concept sketches. I have the great good fortune to have a knack for visualizing things that are going to work without having to do proof-of-concept versions. This saves me a lot of time. I don't tend to think of it so much as an innate skill as being part of that general amorphous "big picture" awareness that takes account of material properties on an almost subconscious level. (I'll make a side note here that this same "general amorphous big-picture awareness" is also what makes me so good at my Day Job doing industrial failure analysis.)

Do I do project books? Do I do something else entirely? I don't tend to do formal project books as I go along. I may intend to, but then I get immersed in what I'm doing. I try to remember to take in-process pictures, but I'm not always good about this. I will usually try to do a detailed write-up at some point (not always when the project is complete) simply because I like sharing my experience and knowledge with other people. This often takes the form of a long, rambling, overly-detailed brain-dump. I'm going to link to one of those at the end. I do tend to organize my on-going research electronically, because it often involves scans and clips of images, or notes from reference books. Before I got quite so paperless, I'd have file folders full of xeroxes and sketches and notes. I've worked on converting those, even sometimes just by dint of scanning in the contents of the folders to pdfs so I don't lose track of them.

OK, ready for the overly-intimidating example? This question reminded me that I once put together a long rambling web article subtitled "anatomy of a research project" that goes into excruciating detail on how my mind tends to work. It walks through the process from initial observation (that then got buried in my notebooks and memories), to stimulus for further research (a random question on the internet that tweaked my memory), to how I approached looking into the question further, to my standard approach of data-collection and pattern analysis, to my experiments with turning all that research into physical artifacts. I think it was close to 20 years between the initial observation to the final write-up, but a lot of that time was spent in composting.

Here's the link. A bunch of the image links are currently borked and I need to go through in detail and trouble-shoot them (and if I'd gotten started last night, I might not have finished until dawn), but the text is all there and enough images to show what I'm talking about. I'd put the article together originally for a series of classes, but then had gotten stalled on putting in on-line because of questions on how to handle the images. (I'm a bit uncomfortable about the fact that I'm just going ahead and using my collection of scanned images, although they're all of historic objects, not of other people's analysis or work.)
hrj: (doll)
In a random twitter conversation this morning about hypothetical Duolingo for ancient languages, it occurred to me that I've never put my "Conversational Medieval Welsh" booklet up on the web. That has now been remedied. I actually have a lot of assorted research papers I've never put on the web. In some cases, I had a paper publication available. In others, the formatting was daunting. (In some cases, I have class materials that would make a good web article but they're image-heavy with pictures I don't have rights/permissions for.) I really should work on all that. Sometime when I have free time.

Hey, you know what else I could throw up easily? It's been 10 years since I celebrated the 25th anniversary of my Laureling. I put together a collection of 25 articles representing both the breadth of my work and what I considered my "best work" at the time. I have it right here in pdf. Let's throw that one up on the web site as well. Some of the content is SCA-specific, but most of it is of more general interest.
hrj: (doll)
I've tackled a lot of historic reproduction pieces that I wanted to try once and never felt the need to do again. When the project in question normally comes in pairs, this can be a problem. Fortunately, knitted silk ecclesiastical gloves were normally preserved as relics (either in the formal sense, or simply in the sense of being associated with a prominent figure). So the notion of only having one is at least vaguely supportable. I started this project well over a decade ago, and the knitting was so fidgety and required such intense concentration that I rarely got any momentum going. I had one finger left to go, when the excuse of an arts competition for textiles (suggested project: hand coverings) gave me the excuse to push it through to the finish. I include below the documentary notes I prepared to go with it.


My Inspiration

This glove is closely inspired by a pair of liturgical gloves recovered from the 13th century grave of Rodrigo Ximenez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain. Information about the original is taken from the conservation report by the Abegg Institute. (Flury-Lemberg 1988) The original glove is knit from colored silk and gold thread. The article doesn’t mention the color of the silk, but typically liturgical gloves are red. The glove has a cuff of gold-brocaded tablet weaving. The article gives charted patterns for all the knitted motifs.

I’ve included a somewhat poor multi-generation image of the glove and charted patterns from the original publication. My apologies for the quality.

My Reproduction

My primary consideration in a choice of thread was to get as close as practical to the physical nature of the thread of the original. While the conservation report doesn’t specify the weight or twist of the silk, it is clear that the thread is very fine (ca. 10 stitches per cm) and silk-work of this era generally uses thrown silk rather than spun. I was able to obtain a very fine two-ply thrown silk thead in multiple colors and this inspired the project. I was not able to obtain either red or metallic gold thread in this weight, therefore I chose the two colors of what was available that had the best contrast to show the pattern. My thread is not quite as fine as the original, running ca. 6 stitches per cm on 0.75mm needles (the smallest I could obtain), so my glove has fewer repeats of the motifs than the original. I omitted the large agnus Dei motif from the back of the hand as I preferred to omit the religious designs). Therefore, due to the relatively small size of the other motifs, I was able to include all of the original pattern. In my glove, the band patterns extend further up the hand than on the original, where they end right below the start of the thumb. I retained the two-color diamond pattern on the thumb, following the original, however I found that this type of design resulted in a very bulky and inelastic knit, due to the thread floats, therefore for the other fingers I chose to use a plain color with knitted “rings” in the design color, following the model of several later ecclesiastical glove examples.

The glove was knit in the round on multiple double-pointed wire needles. Although no knitting needles survive from this early (and artistic depictions of knitting are later and show a larger scale of work), the physics of possible materials suggests that metal wire is the most likely type of needle for work on this small scale.

The cuff is tablet-woven red silk, brocaded with paired silver threads in a simple vine motif, taken from a band on a textile associated with the 8/9th century Saints Harlindis and Relindis (Spies 2000, p.126). I chose this design for it’s relatively small scale, rather than trying to match the time-period closely. The color of this band is more typical for the ground of brocaded bands as well as being more typical for the ecclesiastical gloves, however I didn’t have access to this thread when I began the knitting. I used a red silk in this case because I did the brocading as an “add on” to a piece of plain red silk tablet weaving for a scroll seal ribbon.


Flury-Lemberg, Mechthild. 1988. Textile Conservation and Research. Schriften der Abegg-Stiftung, Bern.

Spies, Nancy. 2000. Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance. Arelate Studio, Jarrettsville. ISBN 0-615-11681-7

hrj: (doll)
One of the two large groceries most convenient to my house is a "Ranch 99" which, for those of you not resident in one of the four states the chain appears in, specializes in groceries for Chinese cuisine (and a number of other SE Asian cultures). One feature that definitely distinguishes it from your average American chain grocery is the variety and selection of animal species featured in the meat department. (This is where I got the whole kid that I roasted last year at the WAT cooks' play-date.) I've had a mind to start working my way through the non-chicken poultry offerings, so for the picnic dinner at yesterday's Crosston Dance Ball, I picked up a partridge. It did not -- alas -- come with feet attached (although you can get chicken and duck in that form) but did come with head affixed. This was part of the attraction: a major aspect of the esthetics of medieval roast birds in art is that they are served with feet and head intact.

There are plenty of recipes for roast partridge in 14-15th c. European cookbooks but they are all quite simple.  See e.g., Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks p. 78:

  • Partrich rosted. Take a partrich, and sle him in the nape of the hede with a fethur; dight him, larde him, and roste him as thon doest a ffesaunte in the same wise. And serue him forth; then sauce him with wyne, pouder of ginger and salt, and sette hit in a dissh on the fuyre til hit boyle; then cast powder ginger, anell, thereon, And kutte him so; or elles ete him with sugur and Mustard.

Relevant to this is the directions immediately preceding for roasting pheasant:

  • ffesaunte rosted … kutte away … the legges by the kne and putte the kneys in at the vente, and roste him ….

Since the market had already taken care of the slaying and dighting, and this was a domestically raised bird so there was enough subcutaneous fat that it didn't need larding, I simply tucked the ends of the legs into the vent as directed for the pheasant (I had to wedge the end of the bone into the hollow of the pelvis for them to stay -- this made the legs splay out a bit). I dusted the outside with a little saffron salt and then roasted at 350F for 60 minutes on a rack. Because I was being a little lazy and had a small jar of honey-mustard sitting around, I went with the "sugur and Mustard" sauce.

Several of us were having an impromptu shared meal at the Ball so I carved the bird up into a dozen or so tasting portions and served with mustard or plain as requested. Everyone declared it quite tasty and definitely not "just like chicken". I found the taste pleasantly a bit stronger than chicken and vaguely reminiscent of duck, but in a much milder way. The roasting time may have been longer than necessary and the wings and drumsticks were turning a little on the dry side.

My imagination is contemplating the concept of a medieval dinner with as great a variety of bird species as I can lay my hands on.
hrj: (doll)
ETA: photo credits (sorry!)

(As usual, I'm belatedly putting up a project diary because someone wanted to see it and this is the easiest place to make it available.)

For years, people may have seen me wandering around spinning with my drop-spindle and heard bits and pieces of the story of this project.  I present here the status so far.


There are a number of textiles from northern Europe from the Migration Era and early medieval period that have a checked or plaid-type pattern created entirely by the spin direction of the thread (S versus Z) rather than by using multiple colors of thread.  The light reflects off the two spin directions differently enough that, at a first glance at photos of these textiles, you would swear they were dyed.

First Test Piece

I wanted to see just what this effect looked like in real life. My first test-piece isn’t a particularly good piece of weaving, but you can see a bit of the spin effect in the warp stripes. They're most visible when viewed obliquely. There are also supposed to be weft stripes but the weaving ended up being somewhat warp-faced which makes this more difficult to see.

(photo courtesy of Sandra Linehan)

Second Test Piece

Since my first test had been at least somewhat successful, I started planning a larger piece. The second test piece focuses primarily on the warping border, with various experiments in spacing the warps to see how to get a well-balanced warp and weft and a slightly tighter weave. This piece doesn’t involve any spin-direction effects. I was also playing with several possible border decorations: texture effects from the tablet-turning direction, wool brocading, metallic thread brocading, and extending the warp threads out for a twisted fringe. Unfortunately this sample isn't very visible in the photo below. You can see it spread out to the right, in front of the pottery.

(photo courtesy of Sandra Linehan)

Main Project

In the end, I decided on a plain warp border and no fringe.  My project is a rectangular cloak, to be woven on an upright loom with tablet-woven borders. There are a significant number of cloaks of this style surviving from northern Germany and Scandinavia from the Migration Era and early medieval period, so the garment seemed compatible with the weaving technique. The cloak is planned to be approximately 6ft x 6 ft with alternating 1” stripes of each spin direction in both the warp and weft. (16 threads per inch). The warping border is a simple 10-tablet band (4 threads per tablet) with the tablets alternating turn direction. The plan is to work a similar tablet-woven band along both edges and finish the warp off with a similar band that will also weave in the warp ends.


The starting warp border is complete. You can see it in the photo above primarily as a mass of chained groups of warp threads.  (Each group of 16 threads forming a directional stripe is loosely chained to keep them in order until I’m ready to begin weaving.) You can see how the different spin directions cause the group of threads to twist in one direction or the other.

The current stage of the project is to spin all the weft thread, in equal quantities of S and Z spin. While the amount of thread needed is based on length, I can estimate that by weight. As I will be weaving this on an upright loom, I don’t want to set the weaving up until I’m ready to work on it intensively. Based on my past spinning rate, this could easily take another 5 or 10 years! Typically, I can spin one ball of yarn of the size displayed (which is one spindle-full) in approximately 4-6 hours of work, though I don't usually spin continuously for that length of time. A typical spindle-full measures out at 210 yards. The total weft I'll need is 72" x 16 threads/inch x 2 yards (plus a bit for fudge factor, but we'll leave it at that for now). This comes to 2304 yards, so about 10 balls of thread, half S, half Z. Wow, really? Because I already have about 7 spindle-fulls of weft done. I could do this. I could totally do this.
hrj: (doll)
I'm not the only person who brings "the produce of my estates" to 12th Night to give out as presents. I was the grateful recipient of a cheese produced by Duquessa Juana (as well as some candied ginger and onion marmelade from other friends) which I will review herein. I tried to hunt out on her fb page the description from when she was doing the cheesemaking, but evidently there were several batches around the same time with slight variations, so I'll have to wait to be corrected. I <i>believe</i> it's a cow's milk cheese. It definitely came wrapped in a grape leaf and with a light white mold on the exterior of the leaf but not on the rind inside. It's a young, semi-firm (but moist) cheese with no perceptible rind (due to the wrapping) and maybe the slightest beginnings of interior ripening. The taste is nicely sharp without (as noted previously) significant ripening changes, so more of an acidic feel than the beginnings of ammonia. A faint bitterness that gives it a robustness that stands up well to other flavors. (I'm having a hard time not slathering it with the onion marmalade for every bite -- the two go together extremely well.) It would pair well with strongly-flavored red wines and goes excellently with cider (probably also with beer, but I'm not a beer drinker so I can't make specific recommendations on that end). As noted, it pairs well with caramelized onions and to my mind would also go well with kippers or sardines. As I say, very robust. There's a slight herby flavor that I can't quite identify -- possibly the influence of the leaf wrapping, but I know some of the cheeses from this general batch had additives and I'm not sure if this one did.

Definitely a cheese I'd try again, given the chance.
hrj: (doll)
(Just for grins and giggles -- and for various other sociological reasons -- I've taken up the challenge to enter the West Kingdom's A&S championship this year. There have been a number of years with relatively few entrants -- and sometimes no entrants eligible for the overall championship -- so I'm doing this not for the sake of trying to win, but for the sake of supporting arts and the visibility of the arts in this kingdom. I'll most likely be blogging my entries. In most cases, the blog may be just my accompanying documentation with pictures or text, as applicable, of the entry.)

West Kingdom A&S Championship - 12th Night 2014 - Woodworking (Tools Made of Wood)

This is an upright weaving frame used as a free-standing anchor for tablet-weaving and other narrow-ware techniques. Frames of this type are seen in medieval art, especially in genre scenes involving the Virgin Mary. Although a variety of structures are seen in these depictions, not all of them are functional, as depicted. The general structure involves two upright pillars fastened to a base plank, and a cross-brace running between the uprights to act in opposition to the tension of the weaving. This cross-brace may be placed below the weaving area ...

MS Fr 598 fol. 29 arachne low bar cards
Arachne Bibliotheque Nationale de France (MS Fr 598 fol. 29) early 15th century

... or it may be placed at the top of the pillars, creating an overall square frame.
BNF Fr. 376, fol. 116v high barFestal Missal - high bar w cards
Annunciation, Pilgrimage of the Heart
(BNF Fr. 376, fol. 116v), second quarter
of the 15th century
Less functional depictions may omit the cross-brace ...
base no bar
... or may have no base-plate (also essential for countering the tension of the weaving) ...
British Library Royal 16 G V penelope high bar no base
Penelope (fol. 45v), De claris mulieribus (British Library Royal 16 G V), c. 1440

...or may omit any sort of connection between the two pillars entirely.
PML M.453, fol. 24r no base no bar
Mary weaving, a book of hours (PML M.453, fol. 24r), c. 1420-1435

A more practical piece of evidence for construction than simple force dynamics is the surviving example of this type of frame from the 9th century Norwegian Oseberg ship burial.
Brøgger, Anton W. & Arne Emil Christensen. 1928. Osebergfundet 2. Kristiania: Universitetets Oldsaksamling.

Construction and Modifications

I have followed the general construction of the Oseberg find for my frame with several modifications. Specifically, mine uses the flat base-board with stabilizing cross-feet at the end, uprights that are square in cross-section at the base and more rounded above the cross-brace in the weaving area, and a cross-brace placed below the working area.

The major differences in my frame are overall smaller dimensions, omitting the decorative shaping of the base-plate, using somewhat longer stabilizing cross-feet, giving the upper portion of the pillars an octagonal rather than round cross-section, and making the whole thing easily disassembled with certain other modifications to this end.

In order to make it possible to disassemble the frame for transport, rather than the pillars being pegged through the base-plate and cross-feet, a 1/4” x 3” hanger bolt is screwed into the end of the pillar which then passes through drilled holes in the base-plate and cross-foot and is fastened with a wing-nut. There is a washer counter-sunk into the bottom of the cross-foot to prevent wear that could result in a loose fit. As the base-plate and cross-feet are meant to come apart, they are not joined with a dovetail as in the Oseberg frame, but simply overlapped and held in place relative to each other by friction. In order to leave room for the protruding wing-nut, I added an additional layer to the end of the cross-feet to raise it off the ground slightly. These pieces are glued to the cross-feet with wood glue and have been carved into decorative “lion’s paw” shapes. This design (with the protruding feet) will also make the frame somewhat more stable on uneven ground if I take it to outdoor events.

The cross-brace is shaped into a tenon at the ends and fits into a mortise cut into the pillar. No additional fastening for this joint is required as the tension of the weaving will hold the cross-brace in place during work.

The frame is made from oak 1x2, 1x3, and 2x2 lumber. The lumber for the pillars was intended as spindles for stair railings, hence the protruding round post at the top. I’ve left this part unfinished at the present with the intention of using it to attach decorative finials when I’ve been able to locate appropriate pieces.

The wood is finished with beeswax.

hrj: (doll)
Posting this in response to a question on the sca fb community. From my museum journal from a trip to Europe in 1999. Should be self-explanatory.

hrj: (doll)
My working deadline for having at least some version of my 15th c. dresser finished is the West-An Tir War held 4th of July weekend. That means this weekend was my last chance to meet the deadline (after three weeks of a crazy work schedule that involved late nights and at least one Saturday). So I've set a reasonable partly-done goal for this event: the main dresser without the upper shelf unit, and possibly without the painted decoration. The first step was to assemble the main cabinet kit from IKEA.
The basic structure will be to add removable legs underneath...
...and then a lower shelf unit with feet.
Since the cabinet has a recessed bottom, the leg plates I'm using for this part are triangular and attach with 5 screws along the edges.
like so:
The feet on the lower shelf will attach with regular square plates. I've cut the shelf to length (it's a smidge wider than the cabinet, but not enough to be worth cutting it down to match), drilled the screw holes for the leg plates, and drilled sockets to receive the ends of the pegs I've glued into the bottom of the legs. The pegs will prevent the units from being knocked apart casually but they don't actually fasten. And I've only left about 1/4" of the pegs sticking out of the legs in order to reduce the chance of them getting snapped off. Because I don't trust the complete interchangeability of my carpentry, I've discretely numbered the legs and their home plates and the corresponding corners of the lower shelf. The numbers won't be visible in use. Here the cabinet is sitting on the lower shelf (but without the lower shelf feet yet).
When I ordered the various legs and feet, I expected them to all come with the hardware attached like this:
Three of the feed had their hardware, but one didn't. The legs had holes drilled for the hardware, but not hardware. And the two longer legs (for a part of the project I'm still designing) had neither hardware nor holes.
The hardware in question is like a screw on one end (the part inserted into the leg) and a bolt on the other (the part screwed into the plate). Now my Favorite Home Depot Guy was able to identify for me what hardware I needed to make up the lack, but his suggestion for inserting it was to put a nut on the bolt portion and ratchet it in using a wrench. The problem with this was that the only style of screw/bolt available had a rather lengthy bolt portion and it would have been too long for my socket wrench.
So just as an experiment, I inserted the bolt portion into my power drill and then used low power to screw it into the drilled hole in the leg/foot. This worked perfectly. Due to the design of the bottom of the cabinet, I didn't need to cut off the excess length on the bolt for those four legs, so I only had to apply a hacksaw to the one lone foot, and to the two larger legs that are set aside for future elaborations.

At this point the legs, feet, and lower shelf were set aside to be varnished before doing any further work. It's too hot to do any work outside at the moment. (Reports say we're at 102F currently.) So I moved on to creating the doors. I'd previously said that the door hinges would be invisible in use but the ones that had the right design and small profile end up with the hinge showing slightly (and therefore taking up a little space on the face of the cabinet, which has consequences that we'll see later). These are spring-loaded kitchen cabinet hinges, shown here sitting on top of one of the shelves that will be turned into doors.
The two outer doors have the hinges attached to the edge of the side of the shelving cabinet. The "doors" are just barely tall enough to overlap the opening just slightly, so I was very careful about lining them up to avoid gaps. Once the two outer doors were attached, I was able to evaluate the constraints on the middle door. The doors themselves ended up being completely flush with each other with no space for a side hinge on the middle door. So my options were a top hinge or a bottom hinge. The bottom hinge would have been less visible and slightly more accessible, but it would create the potential for someone to lean on the open door and splinter the wood. (Yes, my project risk assessments assume that my friends will be clumsy and clueless.) So I went with the upper hinge.
The design of the hinge means that when the middle door is opened all the way, the door holds in place, so the convenience aspect turns out ok, it's just the visibility in an odd location that's non-optimal.
So once the varnishing of the legs and lower shelf is done, I'll have a completed cabinet of this style:
One other part of the project is to add a removable upper shelf unit, to make the whole thing look more like this:
I have plans for how I'm going to do it, but it involves more carpentry than I thought I could get done this weekend (since I also have some tent canvas repairs to do, and I need to make packing lists and figure out which cookbooks to take). The other part is to paint the main side panels and doors with a trompe l'oeil design imitating wood carving. I was thinking originally of doing some fancy gothic tracery, along these lines:
But the more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards a simple linen-fold design repeating on each panel, more like this:
What I'm thinking of is something of a pen-and-ink drawing effect, using fine parallel lines for the shading. I have an acrylic-paint "pen" to experiment with (and one extra door to use for practice), but I don't want to mess it up by being in a hurry.

Oh, and it's really really hot this weekend, and I'm trying to focus on achievable goals.
hrj: (doll)
Temple, Michele. 2001. The Middle Esatern Influence on Late Medieval Italian Dances: Origins of the 29987 Istampittas. The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston. ISBN 0-7734-7428-5

One of the benefits of being one of my SCA apprentices is that I will tend to keep an eye peeled in the Kalamazoo bookroom for something you might find interesting ... or challenging. (This isn't a guarantee, of course. I might not spot anything relevant. But I'll look.) So with my apprentice [ profile] kiria_dk being interested in dance and music (along with lots of other fun things, of course) my eyes lit on this book long enough to decide it could fall both in the "interesting" and "challenging" categories.

This book is a study of a set of Italian Istampittas -- a type of dance tune that evolved (like many dance genres) into more of an instrumental performance piece and that may in some cases also have had lyrics set to it. (See also French estampie etc.) But the author specifically explores what she believes to be Middle Eastern influences on the particular forms of this set of tunes, that set them apart from other tunes in the genre. The discussion and comparisons are copiously illustrated with notated tunes, which was one of the primary reasons I decided to pick the book up. (After all, reading about music is all very well, but what's the point without a chance to play it?)

Now, I'm well aware that we have no direct evidence for the steps of the istampitta/estampie, so the "challenging" part of the gift is fairly open ended: anything from "learn some of the tunes" to "take one or more of the tunes and do something else interesting with it" to "make your best imaginative stab (but grounded in research) at what an istampitta dance might have looked like".

Isn't it fun to have an apprentice to torment?
hrj: (doll)
So given my two engineering challenges (constructing the basic elements & designing the assembly/teardown structure), my design breakthrough came when I discovered IKEA had come out with a new Trofast shelf unit. One that had the size and relative proportions ideal for the central element of a 15th c. dresser.


Very conveniently, the shelf units that were supplied as alternatives to the plastic storage totes are exactly the right size to serve as doors, saving me from having to cut and finish something to shape.


The planned understructure requires a design compromise from the original inspiration. For the lower shelf itself, I picked up another glued-pine shelf board like the one I use on top of the tower units in my current set-up. It’s strong, solid, and lightweight and will stand up to having hardware attached.


But the legs in all the 15-16th c. dressers are uniformly plain rectangular columns.

Aubert_Chas_Martel clip 1

And the easiest way to achieve strong, stable, easily-removable legs is to use a commercially available screw-in leg and metal top-plate set-up. (Specific leg style is not the one I’m using.)


But these items all involve some version of turned decoration or similar shapes because -- duh! -- why would you want to use this method to make a table with plain square-column legs? And here’s my compromise. Turned joinery is certainly common in my target era. Bebb’s Welsh furniture book has numerous examples from as early as the 15th century of turned table legs and a style of elaborately decoratively turned chairs. But the earliest I can find an example of a turned column as a decorative element on a dresser is the early 17th century.

Bebb562 copy

And the earliest I can find a turned leg in the position I want to use it is the end of the 17th century.

Bebb587 copy

Given the vagaries of survival, I don’t feel entirely inappropriate using the commercially available turned legs for my purpose, but it’s definitely a divergence from my target model. The plan, then, is to fasten the leg top-plates to the underside of the Trofast cabinet with relatively short legs attached. (I’d have to look it up on my order but I believe it was the 15” style.) The lower shelf will also have top-plates attached to the underside corners with short ball-style feet attached. (It probably wouldn’t be a packing problem to leave the feet permanently attached, but for structural reasons it will be stronger to use the same screw-on style.) To stabilize the box portion when set onto the lower shelf, I plan to insert small pegs into the bottom of the legs that will sit in holes drilled into the shelf. Set up both parts independently then set the top unit on top of the shelf and into the holes.

A bit of kitchen cabinet hardware supplies hinges for the doors that will be invisible when the doors are closed and won’t get in the way of access to the storage totes. The only remaining engineering problem is the canopied backing piece with shelves. And that will take another post.
hrj: (doll)
So what exactly is the target image I have in mind for this piece of furniture? I wanted something that would be a combination of a “display” piece where serving dishes could be stored visibly or staged for use, but also with internal space for the (modern) modular storage totes. Ideally, the visible storage/display space would be appropriate both for serving dishes (plates, pitchers, glassware, etc.) but also for my reproduction cookware.

Initial research suggested that the sort of thing I was looking for would be most appropriate for the 15-16th century, which also fit best with the era of most of my reproduction pottery. (It doesn’t necessarily fit ideally with the eras I dress for -- I tend to max out at the end of the 15th century.)

Manuscript illustrations (primarily Burgundian) provide examples of a couple of basic types, both of which could be thought of as a wide box (with doors on the front), standing on 4 legs, with a shelf fixed at the bottom of the legs just above the floor.

The more elaborate variant adds a backing, either simply as a standing panel, or with shelving and sometimes a shallow canopy:

(Brussels, ca. 1472) This is going to be image-heavy. )
hrj: (doll)
It is part of the constant SCA balancing act that Authentic Stuff often tends to be large, heavy, and bulky, or requires multiple servants to transport and set up. (Not always, but often.) As someone who loves serious cooking at events -- whether modern cooking of medieval foods or full all-out medieval cooking in little footed pipkins -- I’ve spent the last quarter century penduluming back and forth between practicality and authenticity (whether only in appearance or in underlying structure).

Through long trial and error, my compromise point has settled on the following conveniences necessary for my sanity:

* camp kitchen furniture must be able to be packed in a reasonably-sized vehicle
* camp kitchen furniture must be able to be set up and taken down in a reasonable amount of time
* ideally, camp kitchen supplies must be able to be packed and stored in the same structures in which they are used at events
* camp kitchen supplies and equipment must be stored and transported modularly so that different needs can be accommodated without totally repacking everything and without taking All The Things to every event
* my kitchen at events must be organized in a way that makes cooking easy and safe

To this we add the following goals on the historic side:

* modern elements in the kitchen should be relatively hidden from view from outside my camp
* the larger physical structures used to organize my kitchen should at least be not obviously modern (e.g., wood surfaces if possible where visible) and should bear some conceptual similarity to historic equipment whenever practical

I confess that I’ve more often settled for “not obviously modern” and “natural surfaces” than the further goals. I settled for purchasing a round firebox rather than making or commissioning the reproduction of the Roman cooking brazier I long for. I’ve been a only gradually inching closer to having reasonably authentic trestle tables for prep and dining. But I’ve long had my dreams. And one of my dreams is for my camp kitchen to include something like this:


This is the project diary of that quest. Read more... )
hrj: (doll)
(I’m going to do this is individual segments in part so that I don’t get too sucked in and neglect other work, in part to do it in manageable bites for the reader to avoid that TL;DR effect.)

I’m going to organize the data according to date (putting the uncertain date first) somewhat arbitrarily, even though that doesn’t appear to be the order in the manuscript. As noted previously, the translations are by [ profile] vittoriosa.

15?0: The table was prepared with two cloths, one over the other, and on top of them were placed the materials described below, that is, napkins, folded in various fashions, and on each one was a big bouquet of perfumed flowers made of silk and gold. Six little milk breads [boffettini] per person, and one succarino da monache.

1524: The table was prepared with two clothes; the napkins, salt cellars, knives, and four little milk breads [boffettini], and a gilded pine-nut candy [pignoccato] of pistachios at every place.

1536: The table was prepared with two cloths; placed on it were napkins, knives, salt cellars, candelabras, and then a wreathed bread for each person, and a bread roll [brazzatella], and a large gilded pine nut candy [pignoccato], and a little animal or bird or fruit made of sugar, at each place.

1537: The table was prepared with two cloths, and napkins, and salt cellars, and knives, and trenchers [tondi]; then above them were placed the goods described below, which were: One wreathed bread and one manchet bread [boffetto] per person, and one piece of twice-baked marzipan, and a little bouquet of flowers at each place.

1540: The table was prepared with two cloths; the napkins, salt cellars, knives, and a sliced bread roll [brazzatella] and a wreathed bread were set at each place.

1548: First two cloths, one on top of the other, were place on the table, which was illuminated by four silver lanterns belonging to His Excellency, attached to the ceiling so as not to block anyone’s view, and on the table there were four silver salt cellars. One napkin, a knife, a wreathed bread, and a little crescent [bread] made with butter, sugar and egg yolks for each person.

Non-food items

All menus specify that the table is laid with 2 cloths (and at the end of the numbered courses, they specify that one of the cloths is removed). Napkins are also mentioned in all cases, and one menu specifies that they are “folded in various fashions.” Five of the six mention knives and salt cellars and I suspect it is reasonable to think that these were included for the sixth dinner even though they aren’t mentioned explicitly. Lighting is only described in two of the menus (“candelabras” and “lanterns suspended from the ceiling”). Logic dictates that all the dinners were lit in some fashion, so it’s unclear whether these two types of light sources were unusual (and therefore worth mentioning) or whether it was simply random whether this was thought worth including in the description.


All the menus mention at least one type of bread being laid out, with most indicating two types.

15?0: 6 boffettini per person
1524: 4 boffettini per person
1536: 1 brazzatella, 1 wreathed bread
1537: 1 boffetto, 1 wreathed bread
1540: 1 sliced brazzatella, 1 wreathed bread
1548: 1 “little crescent”, 1 wreathed bread

Four different types of bread are mentioned (assuming that “boffettini” are simply a smaller version of “boffetto”). Since three of them occur in combination with “wreathed bread” but not in combination with each other, we can tentatively conclude that we have two conceptual “bread slots”: wreathed bread and other types of bread. (Note that this is a tentative conclusion based only on the carnival menus. It’s contradicted by the non-carnival menus, but I want to develop this analysis step by step.) Wreathed bread never occurs here in isolation. Boffettini do, but only in the multiple diminutive.

Messisbugo’s recipes include one for brazzatelle (a sweet bread including rosewater, milk, sugar, eggs, and butter) and a description of “Milanese-style wreathed bread” (less sugar and no milk than brazzatelle) where the dough is rolled out into sheets then rolled into a tube around a filling of spices pine nuts, and raisins (or other thigs), which is then formed into a wheel to bake. This gives us reinforcement to the hypothesis that “wreathed bread” is a different conceptual category than ordinary bread.

He also gives a recipe that is translated simply as “bread” (presumably not a specialized word like boffetto). The description is roughly equivalent to that specified as brazzatelle (although with a suspiciously larger proportion of rosewater) and specifies that the bread is better if made “round rather than wreathed or in buns”. This may indicate that the distinctions in bread names may be fairly subtle and supports the notion that “wreathed” is something you do with the dough rather than an entirely different recipe.

Other items

For two of the menus, this is the extent of the table setting, but a majority of menus include some additional sweet or decorative item or both. The sweet may be a gilded pine-nut candy (pignoccato) although one is described as “pignoccato of pistachios”. This increases the temptation to group these with the “twice-baked marzipan” and hypothesize a menu-slot for “nut-based candy”, in which case three of the six menus fill this slot -- four if one considers the “marzipan biscuits” in the 15?0 menu’s “pre-course” as being a displaced member of this item.

Although the gilded candies can be considered to have visual appeal, three of the six menus have an item that appears primarily intended to be a visual and/or aromatic delight: “a little bird or fruit made of sugar”, “a little bouquet of flowers”, or “a big bouquet of flowers made of silk and gold”.

In addition, the 15?0 menu indicates a “succarino da monache”, a name that [ profile] vittoriosa footnotes as literally meaning “little sugar (or type of drinking glass?) of nuns”. If the 15?0 marzipan biscuit is not displaced, then there’s a temptation to see the succarino da monache as filling an equivalent slot to the nut candies, whatever it might be, given that this menu also has a separate listing for flowers.

One of the menus (1537) also mentions tondi which are translated as “trenchers” but no context is given for how these are used and the mention is unique among the menus.

Conceptual outline and the Coronet menu

Taken all together, most of the items in the table-setting section seem to be standard rather than optional. The following is my conclusion of the structure (and how I filled it for the Coronet dinner):

* 2 table cloths (I only used 1 for logistical reasons)
* napkins (done in a simple fold into which I tucked the flowers, see below)
* knives (skipped this because I designed the dinner not to need carving, though I did provide spoons and forks, which are not mentioned)
* salt cellars (check)
* optional lighting (I had some large candles on the table primarily to keep the cloth from being blown off, though we lit them by the end of the dinner)
* regular bread (1 for each place), optionally a wreathed bread (I provided an individual rosewater/sweet bread for each diner but didn’t include the wreathed bread option)
* optional but typical: a nut-based candy (I had planned to provide small marzipan fruits to fulfill both this and the “visual” category but couldn’t locate any commercial ones and didn’t have time to make my own)
* optional but typical: a primarily visual decoration that may be edible (I tucked a small spray of lilac into each folded napkin)
hrj: (doll)
In the week before the dinner, I was compulsively checking my iPhone weather app several times a day to divine whether there would be a significant chance of rain on Saturday. The largest flaw in my dinner plan was the absence of a sheltered area to hold it. (I don't have one of those big ol' honkin' sunshades and I didn't want to ask anyone else to haul one out just for the one meal.) My back-up plan was that if it were raining then the sit-down dinner would convert to an afternoon buffet (also on the theory that rain would make people less willing to hang out at the event after court). But although there was some heavy mist in the morning, and although there was wind to contend with, the weather cooperated otherwise.

As I do, I'd been fidgeting with staging the serving dishes and non-temperature-dependent food supplies for half the afternoon. In the break after the tournament and before court I started setting up the tables and laying out the dishes and decorations that would be present at seating. At this point I also heated the large pot of water with the bagged dishes and set up the smaller pot for cooking the tortellini. During court, I began plating out everything that wasn't heated, poured the wine into pitchers, and generally fidgeted with things (with a small excursion to court to hear Asa's performance piece). This meant that when court was done all I had to deal with was getting the opening entertainment settled (Joan the Harper, playing background music) and briefing the servers on structure and expectations. This was a "lightly served" meal. We did allow the diners to serve themselves after the initial service and each table had only one attendant doing both serving and carving. That allowed time for the servers to eat a little between courses and gave me plenty of breathing space to do the last-minute plating of the hot dishes while the others were clearing the previous course.

A bit on theory. When I'm doing fancy at-tournament dinners -- whether it's just a dinner party for 3 or something this large -- my basic principle is to allow for as few possible delays as humanly possible. All cooking is done in advance. As much plating as possible is done in advance. Nothing should require the washing and reusing of dishes or utensils during the meal itself. It helps that I've been collecting up serving dishes of all sorts for the last 30 years or so. So each course simply involved removing the previous dishes and stacking them out of the way, plating anything hot, and immediately taking the course out to serve. The timing of the courses was based on monitoring the diners. Were they still actively eating the previous course? Was there an involved conversation going on? Or had we come to a natural lull? I didn't time the whole process but I think each course lasting maybe 20 minutes from start to end at most. I could be way off. There were two minor entertainment breaks: one when Joan had to leave and I called the diners attention to her so she could be thanked before packing up, and one for Vittoria to sing (I think between the 2nd and 3rd courses).

Backing up even more on the theory part, given my philosophy of at-tourney dinners, this means that the menu is very carefully designed around dishes that can be made in advance and that -- whenever possible -- can be served cold. So pies are nice, but they have to be ones that are good cold. Roast meat is ok, but only if it will be appealing cold (e.g., chicken, but not so much beef) or if it can be heated in a sauce using boiling bags (as with the pork loin). Things that must be assembled (e.g., salads) should be prepped except for the final combination. In this particular case, the servings for each table were packaged separately for transport/heating so that it was one package per dish.

Ooops, end of my lunch hour. More later.
hrj: (doll)
Here's the expanded version of the menu with recipes (or sources) included. I'll post more on how the dinner went (swimmingly) later.Read more... )
hrj: (doll)
So if I were writing all this in order, I'd start with the fascinating structural analysis of the Messisbugo menus, leading to my conclusions about how to do an extremely stripped down dinner menu that still retains the same look-and-feel. But that would be more brain-work than I can manage at the moment, so I'll jump ahead and list the stripped-down menu that I plan to serve Saturday.

On the table when the guests arrive (in addition to the tablecloth, candles, plates, glasses, utensils, and napkins):
* salt
* bread rolls
* a little bouquet of flowers
* planned but omitted due to lack of time/lack of availability for purchase: a small fruit of marzipan at each place setting (I went so far as to pick up some marzipan to make my own but don't have the time; all my usual sources seem to consider marzipan fruits to be a seasonal winter item)

First Service from the Credenza
* a salad of endive, radicchio, arugula, capers, and sliced lemons
* an assortment of sliced salumi (almost every menu features smoked tongue in this slot, and since I stumbled across some while shopping, I decided to be daring enough to include it along with the more usual fare)
* parmesan cheese, sliced
* little pastries of pine nuts and raisins
* almond biscuits

First Service from the Kitchen
* roast game hens with oranges (deboned and stuffed with a forcemeat then wrapped in a cloth and boiled, served with orange slices over)
* cheese torteletti
* a pie of artichokes
* grapes (which will remain on the table for the rest of the meal)

Second Service from the Kitchen
* roast pork loin with spicy plum sauce
* little eggplants stuffed with cheese, simmered in broth
* a German-style tart of apples (I haven't quite figured out what makes this "German style")

Second Service from the Credenza
* olives
* wafers with lattemele (which appears to be some sort of clotted cream, for which I've substituted creme fraiche)
* an assortment of cheeses

As a Banquet after the Dishes are Removed
* an assortment of fruit confections, dried or in syrup
* marmalade of quinces
* pistachios and pine nuts

As is usual for my "fine dining at camping events" logistics, there are relatively few dishes that will be served hot, and they are designed to be re-heated in boiling bags, so that I can have them all hot and ready to serve without worrying about things getting over-cooked. The sole exception is the torteletti which will be cooked fresh (but can be held hot fairly easily). So in addition to the torteletti, only the two meat dishes and the eggplants will be served hot. The pork loin will be pre-carved when it goes to the table, so the only at-table carving that will be done is the game hens (which wouldn't look anywhere near as interesting if they were pre-sliced).
hrj: (doll)
As part of reading the source materials for the recent Perfectly Period Feast, I was perusing the various menus cited in Messisbugo (mid-16th c. Italian cookery manual). And I started noticing some regular similarities between the menus. So of course I created a spreadsheet to analyze them. (You knew there was going to be a spreadsheet in here somewhere.) And this tied in with my offer to do a small 16th century Italian dinner for [ profile] thread_walker at Mists Coronet this weekend. So I started thinking about how those regularities between the menus could be used to identify the essential structural components of a mid-16th century Italian menu, so that in condensing the structure, I could retain the essence. I also started thinking about how I could compare the Messisbugo menus to Scappi's menus, and to menus any other 16th c. culinary Italian culinary sources, and ... well, but that's a different project.

At any rate, I did sufficient analysis to be comfortable coming up with a small menu of 4 courses of 3 dishes each (not counting what's on the table to begin with or the sweets course after the tables are cleared).

For which I am currently cooking.

Menu (analysis and results) and recipes will be forthcoming. I won't actually have the final recipes until I've cooked the dishes, although I have the general notion sketched out already. There may be pix, if I remember.
hrj: (Default)
As those who follow my journal know, one of my goals for the playdate was to try out my new spit setup. In addition to the spit, I had a new dripping pan, courtesy of Mercy the Potter to try out. To add in to the mix, I wanted to reprise the Pisam farsilem that I'd done for A&S, and I'd offered to do drop-in "intro to open fire cooking" for which I figured I'd recycle my handout and recipes from the culinary symposium. So with all that put together, I figured I'd split my time between the 15th century on Thursday and the Roman empire on Saturday, meeting in the middle with seafood dishes and overflow on Friday. This got long. )

hrj: (Default)
I wanted a dish to do for the A&S Tourney cooks' playdate that would give me a chance to experiment with the new firebox spit set-up as well as providing a contribution to the Classical/Mediterranean theme potluck for Villa Luna's Saturday evening dinner. So I hit on Apicius's Pisam Farsilem, a sort of layered "pea casserole" thing. The full recipe as translated by Grocock & Grainger is:

Pease mould: cook peas and add oil to them. Put some belly pork in a pan with liquamen, (water), leek and green coriander. Put it to cook. Make cubes of finely-groud forcemeat, and at the same time cook thrushes or other little birds or chicken meat and also par-cooked brains in stock. Roast some lucanicae; boil some pork shoulder and cook leeks in water; dry-roast a pint of pine nuts. Pound pepper, lovage, oregano, ginger, pour on some of the cooking liquor from the belly pork; make it smooth. Take an angular mould which can be turned out and line it with caul fat. Pour on oil, then sprinkle with pine nuts and put some peas on top of that so that you cover the bottom of the mould and then lay on top some of the pork, leek and chopped lucanicae. Put in another layer of peas; keep putting in alternate layers of the ingredients until the mould is full. Last of all put in a layer of peas to seal everything in. Cook in an overn or put it on a slow fire so that it sets from the top down. Hard-boil some eggs and put aside the yolks. Put (the whites) in a mortar with white pepper, pine nuts, honey, white wine, and a little liquamen. Pound it and put it in a pan to heat; when it is simmering, turn the pease mould out on to a serving dish and pour the sauce over it. This sauce is called 'white sauce'.

I simplified the recipe somewhat, found an alternate method for moulding it, and omitted the final sauce (mostly because it had just gotten too hot to keep cooking). Here's roughly what I did:

In a pot, put about 1.5 c split green peas and about 3 cups of water. Set it by the fire, covered, to simmer then let it cook very slowly while you work on the other ingredients. When the peas are cooked enough to mash (and the water is mostly absorbed), remove it from the fire and just let it sit in the covered pot until the other ingredients are prepared. (Note: I failed to add oil to this step, but since I later used the water from cooking the belly pork to bring the peas to the right consistency, I think this covered the topic.)

Put a piece of fat pork (I used ca. 1/3 lb "country-style ribs") in a pot with the whites of 3 large leeks, sliced, and a small handful of chopped green coriander. (Since my coriander had recently bolted, this was a mixture of leaves and immature seed-heads.) Cover with water and simmer while you work on the other ingredients.

As mentioned above, I wanted to experiment with my spit, so when the above two items were started, I put two quail on a spit and started it cooking over a relatively low indirect heat. Since I haven't come up with an automated spit-turning mechanism, I simply rotated the spit a quarter turn every 10 minutes or so. (The birds were almost perfectly balanced so the facets on the spit were enough to keep it in place when I turned it.) I think I roasted them for about 1.5 hours, basting once with some olive oil that I had out for greasing the wafer iron (different project). When they looked done, I took them off the spit and let them sit for about another half hour before picking the meat off the bones. The wing-tips were a bit crispy but otherwise they were perfectly done.

Next I spitted two large "sweet Italian" sausages and roasted them similarly. Alas, this time the load was unbalanced and when I turned the spit I had to pin it in place with a skewer (if I had pictures this would make more sense). I think they roasted for about an hour, again with a rather low heat. When they'd cooled a little, I cut them in quarters the long way then chopped them into cubes. (They sort of stood in for both the "forcemeat cubes" and the lucanicae.)

When the pork (with the leeks) was simmered to near dissolving, I fished it out of the pot and removed all the leeks with a slotted spoon. (At which point, since I still had the rest of the quail from the 6-pack, I put them in the pot and let it continue simmering in the broth.) I minced the pork and mixed it well so the fat and lean parts were thoroughly mixed.

I purchased pre-toasted pine nuts.

So now I assembled my ingredients: the cooked peas, the quail, the sausage, the pork, the leeks, the pine nuts, and the broth from the pork/leeks. I thought about assembling the layers in a pot, perhaps lined with thin slices of bacon, and putting it in a very slow fire to bake. And as it turned out, I could have snagged some caul from [ profile] madbaker's meatball class. But the optimal container from unmoulding was the new ceramic colander I'd bought from Mercy at Beltane, and I was feeling a bit hesitant about adding more fat to the dish, so I lined the colander with cheesecloth and started with a layer of crushed pine nuts (ca. 1/4 cup). The peas were a little dry at this point, so I took about 1/5 of the batch at a time and added just enough broth from the pork/leek (and now quail) pot so I could beat them into a sticky paste. So a layer of peas went onto the pine nuts. Then the minced quail, then peas. Then the leeks, then peas. Then the minced sausage, then peas. Then the minced pork, then the last of the peas. I folded the rest of the cheesecloth over the top and covered the colander with a plate then let it sit in the shade until dinner time (several hours).

When we set up for dinner, I opened up the cheesecloth, placed a plate over the top, and turned it over, then carefully removed the cheesecloth. Here's the result, although the layers aren't entirely visible. (We ate about a quarter of it, and when I got the leftovers home I re-heated them with water to cover to turn it into soup.) I think I may try this again at West-An Tir War.



hrj: (Default)

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