Grapes, cherries, plums, blackberries, blackthorns, apples, figs, and quinces are among the fruits that appear in Maestro Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria, a massive medieval cookbook that collects not only recipes for every medieval dish but also directions about the basic techniques that a courtly cook must know to become learned and skilled in his art.
This week we show the preparation of a sauce based on cherries. We made it in the past June, when the wild and cultivated cherry trees around our home were full of fruit, and we used three different varieties to give complexity to the sauce, but there is no need to use fresh cherries or even to use cherries at all: Maestro Martino recommends this recipe for either black or sour cherries or black grapes, with the addition of verjuice to prevent the sauce from turning excessively sweet.
When we made this recipe, our grapes were very small, so we did not prepare verjuice but used sour cherries instead, mixing them with wild black cherries, and we obtained an extraordinary taste. If you do not have verjuice or unripe grapes, use vinegar or, as the medieval physician Ugo Benzi recommends for a similar recipe, orange juice.
Black cherries are mentioned by Pliny, who writes about sour cherries, big and small, and sweet cherries. According to the Renaissance physician Pietro Andrea Mattioli, they are very sweet but they are not served in the banquets because they color the mouth and hands excessively, exactly like the ones we used here.
The only spices mentioned by the author are cinnamon and ginger, with the direction to add more good ones: we suggest choosing among the most popular in the 15th century, for instance pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and grains of paradise.
We paired this sauce with roast pork loin, but it would be excellent with other kinds of meat, such as lamb or poultry, especially goose, frequently paired with fruit in medieval and Renaissance sources.
The translation of the first part of Maestro Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria is available on our Patreon page, in which you find several articles about historical food and more translations of ancient and medieval sources. For more historical recipes based on fruit, check out our new book, Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, which collects many recipes from the Antiquity to early Modern Era, accompanied by an introduction about vegetables in the history of Italian cooking in the cookbooks and their relationship with dietetic, philosophical, and religious practices. The book is available on Amazon in English and Italian, in e-book and printed editions.
If you want to know more about medieval cooking, check out 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.
For more information about ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources.
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500 grams pork loin
200 grams sour and sweet cherries
20 grams crustless white wheat bread
spices (fresh ginger, cloves, cinnamon, white pepper)
Cut the meat into pieces and spit-roast it for 15-20 minutes depending on the size. In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Pit the cherries, mince the ginger, and grind the other spices.
Cook the cherries with the bread, spices, and a bit of salt for about 10 minutes. Serve the meat coated with the cherry sauce.
Sapor de cerase negre o viscioli. Per fare simili sapori seguirai l’ordine dato et discripto di sopra nel capitolo di fare sapore de uva. Ma il poterai fare differente di colore più et mancho secundo il subgetto gli mecterai [Habi de la bona uva negra et rompila molto bene in un vaso, rompendo con essa un pane o mezo secundo la quantità che voi fare, et mettevi un pocho di bono agresto, overo aceto, perché l’uva non sia tanto dolce. Et queste cose farai bollire al focho per spatio di meza hora, agiongendovi de la cannella, et zenzevero, et altre bone spetiarie].
Sauce with black or sour cherries. To make this sauce, follow the directions described above in the chapter about the preparation of the sauce with grapes. But you may color it differently depending on the ingredients you use [Take good black grapes and break them well in a vase, breaking with them a bread or a half depending on the quantity you want to prepare, and add a bit of good verjuice or vinegar to prevent the grapes from being excessively sweet. Boil these ingredients on the fire for half an hour, adding cinnamon, ginger, and other good spices].
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Ancient Roman Recipes Playlist
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Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers
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 1-8
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 (13th-14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Toscano (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Maestro Martino – first part (15th century)
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