Have a go at Pottage!
Welcome back to the Medieval Kitchen Garden Blog. Everyone here at the abbey hopes that you have had an excellent time over the festive period and that 2017 has gotten off to a fantastic start!
This week, on the run up to our fantastic ‘Hurdle Making Course’ on the 25th January, we will look at the different types of vegetables and herbs we may be growing in our six different beds and the ways in which these foods may have been used by the abbey’s monks.
Each of the six beds will be dedicated to a different type of vegetable family, for example in one bed different types of brassicas such as kale, and spinach will be grouped together, another bed will be allocated for alliums such as garlic, onions, leeks etc., a bed for legumes such as beans and peas, another bed for root crops such as carrots, parsnip and beetroots, and finally the last two beds for ancient grains and edible weeds. Edible weeds were especially important to the medieval diet as during the lean months of February, March and April when the stockpiled preserved meats and vegetables had been eaten, they came into their own importance for making dishes such as Pottage.
We know from many medieval history books that Pottage was a very common dish to find on the medieval dining table. It was a dish that spanned social classes as it was found on the tables of the very poor and the rich alike, the only real difference being was the inclusion of rarer and more luxurious ingredients for the better off folk. Pottage was a medieval hybrid of porridge and stew. It was made from a basic meat stock with added vegetables such as onions, leeks and garlic and grains such as barley, oats or even breadcrumbs to thicken the watery consistency with herbs added for taste. The rich would have had extra ingredients such as meat, almonds, wine and even expensive spices such as saffron, ginger or cinnamon. Pottage was often eaten with bread, which again, was a staple that differed widely in quality depending on your social status. Typically bread would have been made with wheat or/and barley flour or a mixture of grains known as ‘maslin’. Bread was quite different to our modern gluten rich breads of today – the dough was not nearly as elastic rendering the final bread produced much heavier and more filling than its modern equivalents. The poorest in society quite often ate horse bread, a type of bread made from ground beans made for, as the name suggests, horses! Most wealthy houses baked their own bread and it is thought that it was consumed with most meals and made up a large volume of food consumed, especially for the poorest echelons on society. If you were a poorer member of society the likelihood is that you would have paid a baker to produce your bread or you would have made a flatbread on a hearth stone in front of the fire.
Bread was a really important staple for the monks of Glastonbury – they produced a 2lb loaf called ‘wastellum’ and would have sustained them for the day.
It seems that bread has held a pivotal position throughout our historic relationship with food, however this hasn’t been always the case with other common food groups. In contrast to our modern relationship with meat, in the medieval period meat was considered a treat for many due to its expensive nature and was generally only eaten a few times a week. It is thought that a pig could feed a family for a year if eaten sparingly, and was preserved by smoking and salting to ensure its longevity.
A recipe for Vegetable Pottage
8-12oz of mixed herbs (a mixture of any of the following: beet tops, betony, borage, briar (blackberry) leaves, clary, cress, water cress, spring greens or cabbages (no stalks), red cabbage, fennel, lettuce, mallow, nettle, parsley, primrose, thyme and violet)
Method – Boil the herbs in plenty of water for ten minutes, drain, press dry, chop and grind to a smooth paste. For Meat days grind 4oz soft white breadcrumbs with the herbs and a little stock, stir into 2pts of beef stock and simmer until thickened. For Fish days, replace the beef stock with salmon or eel stock.
Yum! Why not give making your own Pottage a try?
If you would like to take part in the Medieval Kitchen Garden Project there is still time to book your place on our next interesting course ‘Hurdle Making’, which takes place on 25th January & 25th February. If you are interested please do get in touch with Marcelle, our project Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, on 01458 832267. We look forward to seeing you there!
See you soon with our next exciting progress report on our day making willow hurdles!
Added: 18th January 2017