Eating in Early Middle Ages Europe – Recipes – Summer Fruit, Honey and Hazelnut Crumble

A baked dessert like this would have been sunk in the embers of the fire, with a cauldron or pot, upturned over it to form a lid.

Serves 6 (six)

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2.5 lbs) mixed soft summer fruits – raspberries, loganberries, strawberries, currants, bilberries or what ever is available.
  • 75 g (3 oz) toasted hazelnuts
  • 75g (3 oz) wholemeal or whole wheat brown breadcrumbs

Method

Put the fruits in a pan or microwave dish with about 20 cm (1 inch) of water in the bottom and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes (about 4 to 6 minutes in a microwave, depending on power), or until the fruit has become soft.  Avoid it becoming a puree.

Sweeten to taste with honey or brown sugar (people of the era would have used honey, so if authenticity is what you’re after, go with the honey).  How much honey you need, will depend on the type of fruit(s) used and how sweet they are.  Drain any excess juice and save to serve with the Crumble.  Chop hazelnuts in a food processor or similar until they are around the consistency of bread crumbs, but preferably just a little bit larger, to still have definition and be recognisable from the breadcrumbs, and then mix the two together.

Spoon the fruit into an oven proof dish and cover with a thick layer of the hazelnut & breadcrumb mix.  Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees Celsius, 350 degrees Fahrenheit, gas mark 4) for between 20 to 30 minutes or until the top is slightly crunchy and browned.

Serve with cream or a plain yoghurt, and the warmed fruit juices.

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Eating in Early Middle Ages Europe – Grains – Barley

One of the major differences between today, and the Early Middle Ages of Europe, is that foods which would have been available are much different. Some foods were discovered in the Americas, and even then, they didn’t gain widespread use in Europe until the Renaissance or later. So the peoples of the Early Middle Ages would have mostly eaten foodstuffs which could be cultivated easily in their local area. Only foodstuffs which could be preserved through things such as salting, or other preservation methods would have been able to be transported and hence traded.

Barley – One of the first cultivated grains, growing in temperate climates, and known to have been cultivated in Eurasia it is estimated 13,000 years ago.  The word Barley, comes from the Old English barlic, berlic, a compound word derived from the Anglo Saxon bære / bere and the term lic which means body.  This matches to the scandinavian form bear, itself derived from the Old Norse barr, which can all trace their origin back to Proto-Germanic from  *bariz, *baraz.

Barley has been found in the Arbon Bleiche 3 Neolithic lake dwelling site, located on the southern shore of Lake Constance in Switzerland and the occupation is dated to 5400 years ago, indicating that Barley had well and truly been established in Europe prior to the period we are re-enacting.  Finds of Barley have been discovered at the following sites:

  • Jorvik (modern day York) in the Danelaw, England
  • Birka, Sweden (found in Bread)
  • Dublin, Ireland
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