168 Blogs Later : Four of My Favorites

Blog Collection Picture

Well it does seem to be that time of year when everyone is doing a retrospective on 2015. To be honest, I have never done that sort of thing before with my blogs, so I decided to do a variation on that theme to start out the new year.

Since I started writing my blogs back in 2012 I have posted 168 blogs. The themes of these blogs have ranged from Prayer Beads, to Gardening Hints, and Metal Working to Medieval Cooking. The majority of the blogs have something to do with pre-1600 accessories, food, and camping. And of course I have my favorites, so I decided to share a few.

This is a blog about an A&S project that I did. It is not a literary gem, but rather a recounting of my process and results. It was the first time that I had ever worked with antler. I only used hand tools, and I tried very hard to make everything as period as I could. And the result was A Viking Antler Comb.

And then there was this blog about Wrist Clasps. I often sell wrist clasps in my shop, I wear them on a couple of my Viking Under Tunics, and I get a fair number of questions about them. I wrote the blog to help people understand how the clasps work and how handy they could be.

My husband and I both love to cook Medieval food. When we cooked a Medieval Feast a number of years ago we went in search of some really yummy recipes that wouldn’t be too shocking to the modern palate. This is still one of my favorite Medieval snacks, and we will sometimes make it for potlucks – Succades, the perfect medieval palate cleanser.

And last but not least, an article about why I do what I do. – Stardust Moments in the SCA.

I hope that you enjoy these blogs as much as I do. Check out some of the other interesting topics in my blog collection, there is something for everyone.


Simple Subtelties Can Be Subtle

Subtlety – today we think of the word as the quality or state of being subtle. Our Medieval ancestors knew a subtlety as a cooked dish that looked like one thing but was something else.

There are many little “touches” that you can use to make a period feast prettier and more authentic-looking. In a previous article I discussed making sugar plate and candied violets and then using them to create an enjoyable and unique, by modern standards, subtlety. Another project comes immediately to mind – something simple with an easy culinary joke.

“White mice” is a simple Roman recipe – an easy and inexpensive way to serve eggs. When we served this dish people were already getting the idea that some of the things we were doing were jokes, or a play on words. The first tray of “mice” was announced and placed on the dayboard (snack) table. People thought they were cute and they were eaten fairly quickly. A couple of our volunteer kitchen staff took pictures. This picture shows a tray of mice with carrots for tails. The sauce boat has not yet been placed on the dish.


The next tray was announced as having something special about it. People came to see it and many pictures and much laughter ensued. Can you see what is special?


The answer: Three Blind Mice!

It was really interesting to see how many people really enjoyed the joke. That sort of jest would have been a common part of a medieval feast.

White Mice(Roman era recipe)

6 hard boiled eggs

12 blanched almonds

whole chives (we also used carrot strips)

cloves or peppercorns

sauce:1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp cuminpinch of caraway seeds

small bay leaf

fresh herbs to taste

2 oz dates finely chopped

4 tbs wine vinegar

4 tbs vegetable stock

2 tsp olive oil

Grind pepper, caraway, cumin and bay leaf together in a mortar. Add green herbs tied in a muslin bag, finely chopped dates, vinegar, wine, stock and olive oil. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for 20 minutes to reduce. Remove herb bag. Cut eggs lengthways and place side by side on a serving platter. Place the sliced almonds as ears, cloves or peppercorns as eyes and use the chives as tails. Pour sauce over the mice and serve.

WARNING: Don’t eat these eyes! We chose to put the sauce on the side and allow people to serve themselves. We suggest labels to let folks know what is in a dish. Some of the flavors can be a bit startling to the modern palate.

Another approach to décor for a Medieval feast is embellishment with pastry. There are many Medieval cooking manuals and descriptions of feasts which detail the elaborate constructs of pastry that were often presented at feasts – Gilded and painted presentations of the bakers’ art. A simple, but effective approach to this is to simply use the crust from a pie or tart and make it more decorative through the use of cookie cutters. I am fortunate enough to own cutters designed for pastry dough, but any simple shaped cookie cutters can be used. Simply place the cutouts using your fingers and a knife to fine tune the positioning.


Pastry in place before baking.


This is the version for the Head Table. The other tables received a simpler version with fewer cut-outs. The cut-outs were designed so that every slice received a decorative piece of pastry dough.


This use of extra pastry has now become a tradition in our home. All of the pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and Christmas are decorated with leaves and acorns.

I hope that this gives you some ideas about how a simple culinary joke or bit of pastry can improve the mood and feel of a feast.



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The Perfect Medieval Palate Cleanser – Succades

If you are a fan of lemon, natural lemon, not any of those strange fake chemical lemon flavors, I have the perfect Medieval palate cleanser and treat for you – succades. A couple of years ago we were involved in the presentation of a Medieval feast as part of our SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) Yule celebration. It was a Tudor feast, with a fairly large number of dishes and LOTs of meat. We were searching for something yummy, that could be made ahead of time, and be something of a sweeter, lighter, palate cleanser. And there it was in the cookbooks – succades.

Now to the modern individual the concept of eating the peels from lemons may seem a little strange, even yucky. But, if you can imagine this issue from the prospective of a Medieval cook you may begin to understand. The Master of the house has procured a barrel of lemons for the use of the household. Now a barrel is not always the giant size of the metal oil drums that we think of today, but regardless of its size this is a valuable commodity! You use the insides of the fruit as flavoring or ingredients for making lemonade and now you have the skins left. Do you throw them away? Not on your life! They smell great – there must be a way to make them taste great, too! So what do you do to remove bitterness? Boil them! Now one of our modern mavens of domesticity has a recipe for succades that is much quicker and uses an oven for at least a portion of the process. Her recipe will keep for a week or two – the original will keep for months. The original purpose of creating the succades was to use and preserve a precious commodity.

The Original Recipe :   Succade of Lemon Peels from The Treasurie of Commodius Conceites and Hidden Secrets by John Partridge, 1573

To make sucade of peeles of Lemmons First take off your peeles by quarters and seeth them in faire water, from three quartes to three pintes, them take them out, and put to as much more water and seeth them likewise, and doo againe, till the water wherein they are sodden have no bitterness at all of the peeles, then you are ready, now prepare a Sirop [of] the same liquor . . . one pint of rosewater, and for every quart of liquor one half pound of sugar; seethe them againe together on a soft fire of coles till the Sugar bee incorporated with the liquor, then put in your peeles, let them seeth softly till you percieve that your sirop is as thicke as lite honey. Put them in a pot of stone.

Modern Recipe:  Cut the lemons into quarters and use the juice for another purpose. It can be frozen for later use. Most of the pulp of the lemons and the bitter white layer on the inside of the lemon peals needs to be removed. The simplest way to do this is by using a spoon. With a little practice you should be able to remove the pulp and a good bit of the white layer in one piece. Start at one of the points of the peel, hook the spoon under the white layer and peel the white layer and pulp away from the peel.

Once the peals are cleaned, they need to be boiled with 4-5 changes of water. It’s important that you start with a large quantity of water and boil until it is reduced by half. When you think the peels have cooked long enough and with enough changes of water, taste the water. If it is still bitter the lemons are NOT ready. Change the water again and boil them longer.

The cleaned lemon peels in their first pot of water. You can see how we cut the peels and how clean the insides of them are – very little white layer.M3361S-3034

In a colander in between batches of water. The lemon peels are beginning to become more translucent.


To candy the peels, pour off the last batch of boiling water. Replace with enough water to barely go over the top of the peels. Add sugar enough to make a light syrup – it is hard to give exact amounts because we have NO idea how many lemon peels you have. When we made these for the feast we did it on the scale of a small industry – buying 20 pound bags of lemons and processing them all for juice (we served fresh lemonade) and succades. Simmer until the sugar/water mixture achieves a medium weight of syrup. Remove the peels from the pot and place over a wax paper on a rack to cool – I recommend using tongs – the sugar syrup is REALLY not. Do NOT leave the pot unattended once the level of syrup in the pot gets low. Sugar can burn and once it is burned the only solution is to start over.

Here is a picture of some of our racks full of drying succades.


Once the peels have dried, layer them in a jar with sugar. Cover loosely. Let stand for 3-5 days. Serve. The “scraps” of lemon “jam” in the bottom of the pot can either be used as jam or rolled in sugar and served as lemon candy. If you roll them in sugar, allow them to dry overnight before you pack them in more sugar in jars. They will resemble the “fruit jelly” candies that you can buy, only they will taste waaay better. If you wish to use the jam as jam – it is really good on toast or with shortbread.

I hope that you will give this process a try. It takes several hours, but does not require a large amount of attention until the final stages of candying. I usually just set the timer and check the water level every fifteen minutes while the lemons are cooking. Our family has added this item to our lists of Medieval “goodies” to take to potlucks and they always disappear rather quickly.