Piperatum, also called piperata or peverada, is one of the most important medieval sauces, but this name originates from ancient Roman cooking. We find a few variants in the cookbooks, depending on the color and the kind of pepper used: the sauce may be white, black, or even yellow. Piperatum nigrum is usually served with meat or fish with a strong flavor, for example game meat; piperatum album with more delicate meat or fish, such as chicken or pheasant. Piperatum croceum or yellow is generally colored with saffron and recommended for fish. There are other possible colors for piperatum, but these are the most common.
The recipe we are presenting this week is called piperatum album, but actually, it is slightly yellow-colored with saffron and eggs. Probably, the adjective album is referred to the kind of pepper we are meant to use, white pepper, not mentioned in the list of the ingredients but taken for granted.
The source for this recipe is the Registrum Coquine, a cookbook written in the 15th century by the German cook Johannes Bockenheim, who worked at the court of Pope Martin V. In this source, we find several recipes for piperatum, with some recommendations about to which social classes or nationalities the dishes are more suitable for, a characteristic of this text: a piperatum nigrum for roe deer suitable for the rich; the piperatum album we chose for this recipe, for pigeon, chicken, or pheasant; a piperatum nigrum for hare; a piperatum nigrum for goose or duck (as well as swamp birds such as heron and crane; the same recipe may be used for wild boar, and in this case it is suggested for the peasants) specifically recommended to the Alemanni and Bohemians; a piperatum album or nigrum for peacock suitable for the Italics; a piperatum for fish meant for the rich (in addition to a recipe for lamprey).
There are no directions about the social class for which our piperatum album is most suited, however, from other medieval sources, such as the Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria or the book on dietetics by Michele Savonarola, we know that meats such as chicken, pigeon, or pheasant are considered best for the nobles, whereas coarser kinds of meat, for instance mutton or beef, are more apt for the lowest classes.
We recommend aged cheese for this recipe, since the author specifies that it must be grated, for example Parmigiano or pecorino. If you do not have verjuice, substitute it with lemon or orange juice. Rose water is very common in the late-medieval recipes. You may buy it in Middle-Eastern or Indian shops. Otherwise, you can prepare it by steaming some rose petals and collecting the steam that gathers on the lid.
In addition to saffron and white pepper, we used fresh ginger. Other spices you may add are cloves, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
We used chicken, but the alternatives recommended by the author are pigeon and pheasant. Use the meat you prefer, cut into pieces.
To know more about the source of this recipe, check out our book Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook. In addition, it is available our translation, commentary, and glossary of a beautiful 6th-century source, De Observatione Ciborum, written by the physician Anthimus to the king of the Franks Theuderic. This book contains some of the earliest medieval recipes, in addition to information about the diet of the Franks and the differences between their food habits and the alimentation of the Mediterranean populations, showing the passage between ancient and late-medieval cooking.
For more information about ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources and check out our Patreon page, in which you find several articles about historical food and the translations of sources, among which a booklet dedicated to medieval sauces, the Opusculum de Saporibus, and the first and second part of the Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria.
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spices (saffron, white pepper, fresh ginger)
Grate the cheese and mince the ginger. Steep a bit of saffron in warm water. Pound in the mortar the sugar, ginger, white pepper, and salt, then add the saffron, egg, grated cheese, a bit of rose water, and verjuice. Cut the meat into pieces. Warm the sauce in a pan then add the meat and cook it for about one hour, depending on the size of the pieces.
Ad faciendum piperatum album. Recipe caseum grattatum bonum temperatum cum croco et ovis et aliis spetiebus, ac zucharo, et agresto et sale, et aqua roseacea. Post hoc recipe fasianos, seu pullos, vel pipiones et divide illos in partes ad libitum tuum. Et mitte omnia illa simul bulire modicum et erit optimum.
To make white peppery sauce. Take good grated cheese mixed with saffron, eggs, other spices, sugar, verjuice, salt, and rose water. After that, take pheasants or chickens or pigeons and cut them into pieces as you want. Cook all the ingredients together for a while and it will be excellent.
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks.
Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes
Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-5
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8th-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria – first and second part (13th-14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Toscano – first part (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
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