Eating Medieval: Apple Muse

It would be far too easy a pun to say, "Thanks to a perfect storm...."

But, in fact, it has been a perfect storm this evening, both literally and figuratively.  I left home to make the drive to my farthest-flung teaching location on an almost clear day, and within 15 minutes was driving on a highway with traffic barrels--you know those big orange ones used to mark off lanes during construction season in Minnesota--blowing around the highway.

In addition, the cord on my sander had broken (while sanding my kitchen cupboards in preparation for veneer), my washing machine latch broke just an hour before I left, and one of Emmanuel's Light's pictures needed screws added to the back of its frame.  For all these reasons--a perfect storm of stuff happening--I had to go to a friend's house after work even apart from the actual storm around that left me not feeling quite safe driving the long distance home.

So here I am, laundry going, frame set up for hanging, sander repaired--and can't go anywhere until the laundry is done and the standing water on the highway hopefully goes down a bit (some of it was dangerously high, and at times it was like being on a log flume, with the spray of other cars shooting up over the top of my minivan).

Naturally, I'm using the time to work on medieval recipes linked to scenes in my writing, and so we have decided to make an apple recipe or two tonight.

The Scene(s):

He jogged to the single gate leaving the castle compound. He had to get out before MacDougall came through. He had only to get past the orchards beyond, and through the next gate, and he’d be in the town’s narrow, twisting streets, with plenty of places to hide. 
A flurry of light, feminine voices stopped him. He picked up the collective note of agitation. Past experience told him he might well be the target. He glanced behind—back inside the castle walls—and before—across the bridge where he’d be exposed. He couldn’t see them. 
He ran for it, the lute thumping on his back, and just as they emerged from the twilight, at the far end of the orchard, he threw himself to the right, into the shadows of the west orchard. 
Their voices came to him. “It seems he’s met every one of us here!” That was Emeline. 
Shawn pressed a hand to his eyes, stifling a groan. Not now, Emeline! 
“He’ll be playing at the castle for the commander’s dinner.” 
That was Duraina. 
The voices came closer. “There’s only one way in and out,” said the carpenter’s daughter. “He’s met all of you here. He’ll be back to meet me. Let’s wait. 
~ ~ ~ 
Harclay waited in the castle courtyard to meet MacDougall personally. There were rumors he was in a black mood these days—something about a prisoner escaping his gallows, and a false accusation against the young Niall Campbell, resulting in public humiliation. The Scots would be at Carlisle sooner or later, and he’d as soon not have to deal with MacDougall’s moods, as they discussed the anticipated attack. 
He greeted the lord as he rode in from the orchards. Reaching a hand on his reins, he said, “Welcome, My Lord! There’s a fine meal being laid even now for you and your men, and I’ve a wonderful lutar for you, only recently arrived!” 
As he dismounted, MacDougall smiled. 
A good start, Harclay thought irritably. He disliked having to soothe grown men’s tempers. 
“A lutar and an orchard full of comely young lasses,” MacDougall said. “It seems my stay will be pleasant indeed.” 
“My Lord?” Harclay questioned. “Lasses in my orchard?”

The Water is Wide
Book Three of The Blue Bells Chronicles

I don't believe I ever specified, but as plenty of medieval recipes call for pears, it seems quite reasonable that the orchards at Carlisle contained both apples and pears.  For tonight, however, as we have time on our hands, we have settled on a few potential apple recipes.

The Recipe:

The simplest is Apple Muse, or what we would call applesauce, found in several early cookbooks.

Take Appleys an sethe hem, an Serge hem thorwe a Sefe in-to a potte; thanne take Almaunde Mylke and Hony an caste ther-to, an gratide Brede, Safroun, Saunderys, and Salt a lytil, & caste all in the potte & lete hem sethe; & loke that thou stere it wyl, and serue it forth.

We are going to do this, in more modern English:
2 apples
2 cups of almond milk (a recipe for that will be forthcoming)
4 tbsp honey
2 slices of bread crumbled into crumbs
A pinch of saffron (Thank goodness only a pinch!  This stuff is expensive!)
A dash of salt

[The recipe calls for sandalwood, but we are forgoing that as it is simply not available in the Twin Cities at 9 pm.]
  1. Peel, core, and slice apples, and press them through a sieve.
  1. Add everything else and simmer
Did I mention that medieval recipes are not into specificities?  They're sort of the forerunners of Cooking with Shawn.  So we simmered for a bit and then decided to eat.

The results were great!  One blog described it as like a pudding.  I would say it's more like lumpy applesauce, but better, thicker, more filling.  This could have been either a breakfast or a desert.  Just for fun, we tried added half a shot of Glayva to one bowl and half a shot of Highland Park Scotch whiskey to another.  (I have my friend Elaine, who lived under Castle Campbell in the Ochill Hills to thank for the Glayva!)  If I had to leave my house early to take care of the cows on a chilly Highland morning, I can't think of a better way to start the day than with Apple Muse with half a shot of Glayva!  The scotch whiskey was also quite good, but in a different way.


  1. It was indeed "gle mhath" with Highland Park (from Orkney) or Glayva. I can imagine all sorts of stout winter chores being made that much easier with a bowl of this under one's belt!

  2. Yum. How come I am never invited over to sample these food themed blog posts?

    I was surprised to see that saffron was available in Northern Europe at that time, and actually googled, and ran into this interesting tidbit on wikipedia's 'history of saffron' article:

    "Saffron demand skyrocketed when the Black Death of 1347–1350 struck Europe. It was coveted by plague victims for medicinal purposes, and yet many of the farmers capable of growing it had died off. Large quantities of non-European saffron thus was imported.[48] The finest saffron threads from Muslim lands were unavailable to Europeans because of hostilities stoked by the Crusades, so Rhodes and other places were key suppliers to central and northern Europe."

    1. Dan, you are hereby officially invited to come and sample! Yes, it's amazing how many things really were available. More and more, I find information saying we have a LOT of misconceptions about medieval times.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts