Emplumeus--the Mystery Dessert!

Okay, it's not actually much of a mystery, but hey, I can't give it all away in the title.  And I had this idea putting the word MYSTERY into the title was more enticing and curiosity-arousing than...apples. 

[And a reminder, after that exciting introductory paragraph--the #GIVEAWAY is still going.  Leave a comment to be entered.  Any comment will do.  Well, maybe a nice comment.  And no politics.  Unless it's 14th Century politics.  Are you on Team Edward or Team Bruce?  Just remember--you get called names and boycotted for having the wrong opinion on modern politics.  You get disemboweled and hanged for the wrong opinion on medieval politics.  So, well, maybe we should just stick to pleasant comments after all!]

Back to the Mystery Dessert.  Yes, there it is.  Emplumeus is cooked apples.

An old version of this recipe goes as such:

Again, emplumeus of apples: to give understanding to him who will make it, take good barberine apples according to the quantity of it which one wants to make and then pare them well and properly and cut them into fair gold or silver dishes; and let him have a fair, good, and clean earthen pot, and let him put in fair clean water and put to boil over fair and clear coals and put his apples to boil therein. And let him arrange that he has a great quantity of good sweet almonds according to the quantity of apples which he has put to cook, and let him blanch, clean, and wash them very well and put them to be brayed in a mortar which does not smell at all of garlic, and let him bray them very well and moisten them with the broth in which the said apples are cooking; and when the said apples are cooked enough draw them out onto fair and clean boards, and let him strain the almonds with this water and make milk which is good and thick, and put it back to boil on clear and clean coals without smoke, and a very little salt. And while it boils let him chop his said apples very small with a little clean knife and then, being chopped, let him put them into his milk, and put in a great deal of sugar according to the amount that there is of the said emplumeus of apples; and then, when the doctor asks for it, put it in fair bowls or pans of gold or silver.

I tried it last night, and it was good.  One site that discusses medieval cooking says, of medieval cheese, it's often very like exactly what we eat today.   Cockatrices and birds within birds and hedgehog creations and subtleties aside--this is frequently true, and is true of this dessert, too.  Although it uses a combination of ingredients I have never seen, it's not exactly 'exotic.'

One thing I've learned in pursuing medieval cooking for the upcoming Food and Feast in the World of the Blue Bells Chronicles is that they loved almonds.

I believe my mistake in making this last night was not grinding up the almonds well enough.  Like Shawn, I have quite the story about why, starting with the fact that, 12 years ago, in order to get a house big enough for 9 kids, the trade-off was buying one that wasn't exactly up to date.  The time has finally come to deal with the kitchen.  As a result, my rolling pin is among the missing.

I sought high and low for a recalcitrant child to take out his anger on the almonds.  You'd think with this many kids, I could have found one who was annoyed about something!  But my children were all perfect angels.  Neither did they want to dance on the almonds.  Hm.  Just not my day.  I concocted other methods to grind the almonds, but at a certain point, the bag split open, and my methods had to stop, if I didn't want to send almonds flying all over the kitchen.

The point of the almonds is really to make almond milk, which merely requires steeping the almonds in water, and then strain this almond mixture so that only the almond milk goes into the apples.  So the only real upshot of this is that the emplumeus probably had a little less almond flavor that it ideally should have had.

In addition to inadvertently tweaking the recipe by poor almond-grinding, I added nutmeg and ginger.  I chose these because they seem to be favored spices in the medieval world, and also because nutmeg and cinnamon are great favorites of Hildegard von Bingen, being used in her Cookies of Joy.  She believes these spices have a positive effect on on people's mood and spirit.  I wanted to add cinnamon--another medieval and von Bingen favorite--but, well, I bought this house 12 years ago, and the cinnamon was in hiding with the rolling pin.  (I mean...I don't really know that for a fact.  But it seems a reasonable conclusion.)

I split the apple mixture and added some of the only-semi-ground almonds to one pot, to see how it tasted.  I concluded there's a good reason to have the almonds very finely ground.  Many meals taste good with a bit of 'crunch' but not this.  Definitely find your rolling pin and grind your almonds very well.  Or find some good recalcitrant children.

As to the emplumeus with only the almond milk, I really liked it.  It was mild, and far less sugar than goes in our modern desserts--another trend I see in medieval cooking, which is hardly surprising, given their lack of an Aldi to buy sugar cheap.

I did save the pot with apples and lots of semi-ground almonds, and it made a great topping on my salad today.  I think that one falls in the Cooking with Shawn category.  I was glad that all was not lost with my almonds.

And, finally, I'd post a picture, but, well, Murphy has been an active, if uninvited, guest this past couple weeks.  I wouldn't mind so much if he were finding my rolling pin and cinnamon, but, well, that just isn't in Murphy's nature, is it?  Rather, my cell phone won't upload pictures, my camera needs the SD card re-formatted, and my daughter forgot to send my the pictures she took.  Actually, she only took one.  Maybe I'll post that later when she sends it.

Stay tuned for more on Food and Feast in the World of the Blue Bells Chronicles.  I will be including emplumeus in more modern terms there.

In the meantime, I'll be spending this week at Gaelic Word a Day on food terms.  Last week was animals.  

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