Making Medieval Sauces
A class by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
This class will consider the nature of
and renaissance sauces, discuss the theory of humors as it relates to
and experiment with creating sauces from period recipes.
Common points about period sauces:
- "Note that to every sauce and condiment salt is added, and crumb of bread
to thicken it." --Tractado
- Period sauces are rarely 'emulsified' sauces (an example of an emulsified
sauce is mayonnaise)
- Flour is rarely used to thicken period sauces-- bread crumbs, ground nuts,
organ meat, 'grease', and hard-boiled egg yolks are used instead.
- Straining the sauce is very important. In some cases the type of strainer
(cloth, fine, coarse) is mentioned; other times you have to guess. Have muslin,
a wire strainer, and a colander-type strainer ready to experiment with.
- The spices to be added are not always specified. Some period spices to keep
on hand: saffron, cassia, Ceylon cinnamon, pepper, long pepper, ginger (powdered
ginger should be replaced every six months), cloves, nutmeg (grate your own
nutmeg), mace, galangal, cardamom, grains of paradise, cubebs.
- In period, most spices would be bought whole and ground with mortar and
pestles of various sizes. For small amounts, this approach is just as good
today. However, for large amounts, you may want to use a cranked or electric
- "First, when you grind spices and bread for any sauces or soups, you must
grind the spices first and remove them from the mortar, for as you grind the
bread it will gather up any spices remaining; thus you do not lose any speck
which would be lost otherwise." -- Le Menagier de Paris
(In other words, after you grind spices in a mortar or grinder, run the
bread crumbs through to pick up any remaining spices.)
- "In winter all sauces should be stronger than in summer." --Le
Menagier de Paris
- Remember that breadcrumbs and nuts will soak up water and thicken your sauce
over time; and that heating mixtures with breadcrumbs, milk or nut milk will
also thicken them.
- Graters were used in period to make breadcrumbs from dry (day old) bread;
you can use a grater or run dry bread through a food processor.
Tips for working with period recipes (aka redacting)
- First, read through the original recipe or the translation of the
Write it out in modern English if necessary.
- Look up unfamiliar terms.
- Note or write down the steps of the recipe.
- Check for any points where the original author 'doubled-back',
steps in a different order in the recipe than he wanted you to do them.
- List and gather your ingredients
- Look for indications of absolute or relative quantities
- Prepare your ingredients
- Follow the recipe, as written, at least once. [i.e., don't
for modern tastes' without trying the recipe first!]
- Don't be afraid to adjust ingredient and spice quantities to taste
Sauces and humors
The sauce served with a meat or fish was usually selected on the basis
the theory of humors (hot/cold, moist/dry). The idea was to 'correct'
food to be almost equally dry and moist, hot and cold, but leaning very
toward the dry and warm.
Scully says: "Sauces function primarily as a means by which any foods
happen not to be entirely suitable for safe human consumption--
because they are too hot, too cold, too moist or too dry-- can be
sufficiently to be eaten . . . without seriously harming the eater . .
Other variables-- especially seasonal considerations and methods of
must enter into a determination of the proper sauce to be used to dress
particular meat, but the prime factors remain the inherent qualities of
meat and of the sauce, their relative moisture and temperature . . . in
weather food is healthier if relatively cool in nature, whereas in cold
food should be warmer."
In summer: "verjuice, lime or lemon juice, vinegar, fresh elderberry
vine-shoot juice, pomegranate wine, rosewater, almond milk, and toast
in vinegar or any of the preceding liquids." No hot spices, but thyme
parsley used to produce a moderate heating/drying effect.
In winter: "mustard, rocket, white ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves,
sage, mint, thyme, parsley, wine, meat broth, and weak vinegar which is
to the nature of wine (that is, warmer than normal vinegar.)."
"In winter weather, the sauce should be cooled a little by reducing the
of the spices; conversely in colder weather the amount of spices in the
should be increased and the liquid base should be provided either by
rather than the vinegar, or by a vinegar which is less strong and
less cold." (Scully, Medium Aevum, 1986).
Meats by humoral quality:
- Beef: dry and cold
- Veal, kid and lamb: temperate
- Pork: cold and moist
- Rabbit: cold and dry
- Chicken, young: moderately cold and moist
- Chicken, old: moderately cold and very dry
- Game birds: warmer than chicken, but moist
- Capons, pheasants: temperate
- Waterfowl: cold and dry
- Fish: according to some authorities cold and moist; others say cold and
dry; the 'grosser' the fish, the colder and drier.
Platina, in On Right Pleasure
and Good Health, classifies meats thus:
- fish, cold and MOIST
- beef- cold and dry
- veal -- almost balanced
- male lamb and wether (castrated sheep) - warm and damp
- kid -- balanced
- venison - cold and dry ?
- hare - cold and dry
Now, Platina is wierd because he thinks pork isn't healthful, and other authors
think it IS healthful, being closest to human in its constitutence. Platina
"...if necessity compells,
she-goats are better than he-goats, castrated males than females, the younger
than the old. This is deceptive for pigs, which are considered better to eat
at six months to a year, and sheep better than lamb, and amimals fed in the
mountains better than on the plain or in swampy places. We realize by their
taste that animals fed on acorns, chestnuts, wheat, barley, beans, Italian
millet, and millet are better than those fed on bran and grass, as in the
case of pigs and chickens."
Some general types of sauce:
- Green Sauce -- made with green herbs, usually parsley. Sage and
'hot' herbs are common ingredients/variants.
- Black Sauce or Pepper sauce -- made with pepper and toasted or
- Jance -- a yellow sauce, generally made with ginger
- Cameline -- made with cinnamon
- Garlic -- usually garlic and thickener (nut milk, animal milk,
- Mustard -- mustard seeds with liquid and spices and/or sweeteners
- Fruit sauces -- cooked and/or ground fruit
- Galantine -- usually a gelatin-like sauce, often used on fish
- Civey or Civet-- thickened cooking juices with onion; usually an
rather than additional sauce.
Black Pepper sauce
The Viander of Taillevent:
"Poivre Noir. Black Pepper Sauce. Grind ginger, round pepper,
burnt toast, infuse this in vinegar [and a little verjuice], and boil."
Le Menagier de Paris:
"BLACK PEPPER. Take a clove and a little pepper, ginger, and grind very fine:
then grind toasted bread soaked in a little liquid from the meat or in a little
cabbage-water which is better, then boil in an iron pan, and when boiling add
vinegar; then put in a pot on the fire to keep hot. Item, some add cinnamon
"Take brede, and frye it in greece, draw up with brothe and vinegre;
ther-to poudre piper, and salt, sette on the fire, boile it, and messe
The Cookbook of Sabrina Welserin:
"Make [the sauce] so: Take rye bread, cut off the hard crust and cut
bread into pieces, as thick as a finger and as long as the loaf of
is. Brown it over the fire, until it begins to blacken on both sides.
it right away into cold water. Do not allow it to remain long therein.
that put it into a kettle, pour into it the broth in which the game was
strain it through a cloth, finely chop onions and bacon, let it cook
together, do not put too little in the peppersauce, season it well, let
it simmer and
put vinegar into it, then you have a good peppersauce."
Le Menagier de Paris:
WHITE OR GREEN GARLIC SAUCE For Birds
Or Beef. Grind a clove of garlic and
white untoasted bread-crumbs, and soak in white verjuice; and if you
it green for fish, grind in some parsley and sorrel or one of these or
Sawse Gauncile (Two Fifteenth-Century
Take milke and a litul floure, And cast hit in a potte, And lette boil
togidur al thyn; and whan hit is wel boyled, take and stampe garleck
and caste there-to pouder of peper, and salt, And then serue it forthe.
Maestro Martino, Libro de Arte Coquinaria (translation
Redon, et. al.)
"White garlic sauce. Take carefully skinned almonds and pound
them, and when
they are pounded halfway, add as much garlic as you like, and pound
very well together, adding a little cool water to prevent them from
oily. Then take crumb of white bread and soften it in lean meat or fish
depending on the calendar; this garlic sauce can be served and adapted
will for meat days and days of abstinence. (Ma 157)."
Le Menagier de Paris:
GARLIC JANCE. Grind ginger, garlic, almonds, and soak in good verjuice
then boil; and some add a third of wine to it.
Le Menagier de Paris:
GARLIC CAMELINE SAUCE For Ray. Grind ginger, garlic and crusts of white
bread soaked in vinegar, or toasted bread, and soak in vinegar; and if
add liver it will be better.
Le Menagier de Paris:
"CAMELINE. Note that at Tournais, to make cameline, they
together ginger, cinnamon and saffron and half a nutmeg: soak in wine,
take out of the mortar; then have white bread crumbs, not toasted,
with cold water and grind in the mortar, soak in wine and strain, then
it all, and lastly add red sugar: and this is winter cameline. And in
they make it the same way, but it is not boiled.
And in truth, for my taste, the winter sort is good, but the
is much better: grind a little ginger with lots of cinnamon, then take
out, and have lots of toasted bread or bread-crumbs in vinegar, ground
Le viander de Taillevent:
"To make Cameline Sauce: Grind ginger, a great deal of cinnamon,
grains of paradise, mace and, if you wish, long pepper; strain bread
has been moistened in vinegar, strain everything together and salt as
"Sauce camelyn for qualys & othir maner of foules and fysch.
Take white bred and draw hit in the manner of a sauce gynger, with
& put therto poudyr of canell, a grete dele, & poudyr of gynger
poudyr lumbard. & draw hit ayen, & yf thu wilt, draw a lytyll
therewith, & sesyn hit up with sygure that hit be doucete. Salt hit
colour hit with safron."
Tractatus de modo preparandi et condiendi omnia cibaria
394, translated in Redon et al.
"Here is how to make green sauce: take ginger, cinnamon, pepper,
cloves, parsley, and sage. First grind the spices, then the herbs, and
a third of the sage and parsley, and, if you wish, three or two cloves
garlic. Moisten with vinegar or verjuice. Note that to every sauce and
salt is added, and crumb of bread to thicken it."
Max Rumpolt, Ein New Kochbuch,
"9. Sauce of green parsley made/ with toasted bread and vinegar ground
together/pepper and salt it a little/ so it becomes good and well
Le Menagier de Paris:
Forme of Cury, 1390
"GREEN SAUCE WITH SPICES. Grind ginger very fine, clove, grain, and
out of the mortar: then grind parsley or allheal, sorrel, marjoram, or
or two of the four, and white breadcrumbs soaked in verjuice, and
and grind again very fine, then strain again and put it all together
flavour with vinegar."
"Take persel, mynt, garlek, a litul serpell and sauge; a litul canel,
piper, wyne, brede, vyneger; do thereto powdour of gynger and pepper,
the grece of the maulard. Salt it; boile it wel and serue it forth."
Le Menagier de Paris:
"SORREL VERJUICE. Grind the sorrel very fine without the twigs, and
in old, white verjuice, and do not strain the sorrel, but let it be
ground; or thus: grind parsley and sorrel or wheat-leaves. Item vine
that is those that are young and tender, without any sticks."
Forme of Cury: Lombard
"Take Mustard seed and waishe it & drye it in an ovene, grynde it
drye, farce it through a farce, clarifie honey wt wine & vinegr
& stere it wel togedr, and make it thikke ynowe, & whan thou
wilt spende thereof make it thynne wt wine."
Other variants of Mustard
Marx Rumpolt, Ein New Kochbuch,
"Brown Mustard Sauce: Brown mustard made up with clear vinegar/ is also
Le Menagier de Paris:
"MUSTARD. If you wish to provide for keeping mustard a long time do it
wine-harvest in sweet must. And some say that the must should be
Item, if you want to make mustard hastily in a village, grind some
in a mortar and soak in vinegar, and strain; and if you want to make it
the sooner, put it in a pot in front of the fire. Item, and if you wish
make it properly and at leisure, put the mustard-seed to soak overnight
in good vinegar, then have it ground fine in a mill, and then little by
moisten it with vinegar: and if you have some spices left over from
jelly, broth, hypocras or sauces, they may be ground up with it, and
leave it until it is ready."
Le Viander de Taillevent:
"Cameline Mustard Sauce: Take mustard, red wine, cinnamon powder and
sugar, and let everything steep together. It should be thick like
It is good for any roast."
- Abala, Ken. Eating Right in the Renaissance.
(University of California Press, 2002).
- Dalby, Andrew. Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2000).
- Flandrin, Jean-Louis, "Seasoning, Cooking and Dietetics in the
Late Middle Ages," in Food: a culinary history from antiquity to the present
(NY: Columbia University Press, 1996), p.313-327.
- Forme of Cury. http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/foc/FoC108small.html
- Marx Rumpolt, Ein New Kochbuch, c. 1581. Translation by M. Grasse. http://clem.mscd.edu/~grasse/GK_Rumpolt1.htm
- Heise, Jennifer. "Making Medieval-Style Mustards." http://www.lehigh.edu/~jahb/herbs/Mustards.html
- Hieatt, Constance B. An Ordinance of Pottage: An Edition of the Fifteenth
Century Culinary Recipes in Yale University's MS Beinecke 163. (London:
Prospect Books, 1998)
- Hinson, Janet. Le Menagier de Paris. online version of an 1844
English translation: http://www.best.com/~ddfr/Medieval/Cookbooks/Menagier/Menagier.html
- Parkinson, Lynn S. "The Saucebook." 9/2/99. Published on Stefan's Florilegium.
http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD/The-Saucebook-art.rtf viewed 11/7/03.
- Platina. On Right Pleasure and Good Health. Translated and edited
by Mary Ella Milham. Available in hardback from MRTS and paperback from Pegasus
- Redon, Odile, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen:
Recipes from France and Italy. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
- Scully, Terence. The Viander of Taillevent: An edition of all extant
manuscripts. (University of Ottawa Press, 1988)
- Scully, Terence. "The Opusculum de Saporibus of Magninus Mediolanensis."
Medium Aevum, v. 54, no. 2, 1986: p. 178-207.
Copyright 2003, Jennifer A.
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