Jedburgh: Ghosts and Orchards

Within days, the house was finished. His heart light with the prospect of the night’s feasting and entertainment, and heading home the next day to Allene, Niall entered the great hall with Lachlan and Owen. Serving boys poured in, setting out steaming platters of meat and bread. Douglas’s men flocked to wooden benches, pounded trestle tables, and shouted for ale. A man juggled small burlap balls stuffed with straw, until he tripped over one of Douglas’s shaggy hounds, and the balls showered down around him. He grinned at the laughter and ribbing showering down with them. The dog woofed, skittered in the rushes, and licked the man’s face. 
Amidst the laughter, the door crashed open. A messenger exploded into the ribaldry. “My Lord!” He paused, breathing hard, hands on knees, before looking up, in search of Douglas’s height and head of black hair. “Arundel is coming to take down Jedburgh forest,” he gasped.  

~Westering Home
Book Four, The Blue Bells Chronicles

Jedburgh Abbey: a beautiful structure that has stood for centuries on the Jed Water, just twelve miles north of the English border, its arched windows stretching toward the sky.  While some sites speak of its power, I found it a place of ethereal beauty and elegance.

It was here that Alexander III, after the death of his first wife and all three of his children, married Yolande De Dreux.  Standing amidst the soaring arches and windows, it is easy to imagine the ceremony, the pomp, and the king and his new bride processing down the aisle after the ceremony.  It is also easy to imagine a scene described in Walter Bower's 15th Century Scotichronicon.

Bringing up the tail of the wedding party, he reports, was a figure who might be man or apparition.  It seemed to glide rather than walk.  When it seemed to disappear before the eyes of the startled guests, the music stopped, and the dancers froze.

Was it a forewarning of Alexander's fate?  We'll never know, of course, but we do know that only months later, he died, as he tried to get home to his new bride on...

"...a dark and stormy night," Brother David said.
"You've got to be kidding," said Shawn.  

(~a paraphrase from Blue Bells of Scotland, in which Brother David explains Scotland's history to Shawn.)

What I had not learned of Jedburgh, until I visited myself, was that it was once famous for its apples and plums, and particularly for its pears, known as either Jethart or Jeddart pears, which grew in the abbey's gardens.  There were over twenty varieties, with such fanciful names as Fair Maid, Red Honey, Lady Lamont, and Goodwife of Glasgow.

At one time, pears made up a substantial part of the burgh's income.  Pears at the time were considered more a dessert than a fruit, so today, I offer a medieval recipe with pears.

Rysshews of Fruyt

From The Forme of Curry

Or, in language more familiar to us:

Take figs and raisins.  Pick them and wash them in wine.  Grind them with apples and pears pared and picked clean.  Do there good powders and whole spices, make balls thereof.  Fry in oil and serve forth

In still more concrete terms, try this:

First--no concrete!   That was only a turn of phrase.  Now then....
  1. Soak the fruit in sweet red wine until it begins to plump.
  2. Mix in spices--try a teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and ginger*--and work into a dough.
  3. Roll the dough into balls.
  4. Fry in hot oil.

[Edited to add: On a reader's suggestion, try less: 1/4 teaspoon of each spice, except the cloves--use only 1/8 teaspoon for that.]

Be aware I have not tried this.  The spices suggested in Gode Cookery include mace, ginger, anise, and grains of paradise.  This seems to me to be a bit much, so I chose the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves used in Hildegard von Bingen's Cookies of Joy.  I chose ginger because my research tells me this was a very common spice to use with pears.  So when I have the time to cook, this is what I'll do.

Tomorrow, Wardens in Syrup, or Wardonys in syrup.  Wardens were a type of English pear, and the syrup included more red wine.  Now who can argue with red wine?

SOURCES/Further Reading:

Bees First Appearance
The Hazel Tree
Hay Family Genealogy
Gode Cookery
Chatel Portes du Soleil

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