To make cherry pie and berry pie (c. 15th - 16th century) ★★★


Finally, a recipe! I've been busy the past few weeks with work and renovations on our house. I've had this recipe as a draft for probably months now, but when I saw bags of fresh cherries in the grocery store I decided that I would buy a bag, thus forcing myself to make this pie or else lose $13 of cherries!

I found this recipe in a Dutch cookbook, known as Gent KANTL 15. I found the translated version at Coquinaria, and there is a great introduction to the cookbook there as well. This cookbook is actually a number of manuscripts bound together, written around the 15th to 16th centuries, likely in the same household.

In the medieval period, most pies were still filled with savory foods, and on top of that modern ideas of taste did not apply. Therefore this recipe for berry pie with only sugar and cinnamon is actually pretty rare. Many of the other recipes in the cookbook include interesting combinations such as berries and chicken, a cake made with pike's roe, and an omelette stuffed with spiced apples.

Original Recipe:


[Original Dutch]
2.78. Om kersentaart en bessentaart te maken
Neem kersen en ontpit sommige wel en andere niet. Neem veel kaneel en suiker, en vul het brood. Kleur de bovenkant met zwarte kersen. Hetzelfde met aardbeien, vossebessen en aalbessen. Om fijn brood hiervoor te maken: neem tarwebloem en wat raapolie, niet veel, en eiwit.



[Translation]
2.78. To make cherry pie and berry pie
Take cherries and stone some of them, and others not. Take a lot of cinnamon and sugar, stuff the bread. Colour on top with black cherries. The same with strawberries, lingonberries and redcurrants. To make fine bread for this: take wheat flour and some rape oil, not much, and egg white.




The Verdict:

Well, to be honest the crust sucked. This was probably because the recipe was pretty vague and also because silly Mr.Man put the pie in the fridge and I had used coconut oil, which gets pretty hard in cool temperatures. So yes, I was going to use canola oil, since I assumed that's what the recipe called for. I don't know anything else called "rape oil", and the first known use of the word dates back to the 14th century, interestingly enough from the Latin word for turnip (rapa or rapum). But, after I mixed the egg into the flour I discovered that I didn't have any canola oil, so I decided to use coconut instead. I mean, the crust is definitely edible, but its not the best ever. It wasn't flaky at all and basically just snapped into pieces like a cookie or something.

The filling, on the other hand, was delicious! The cinnamon and sugar paired perfectly with the cherries, and somehow I got the perfect balance of flavours. The only issue was that the filling was ridiculously runny. Probably close to a cup of liquid spurted out when I cut the pie. A little cornstarch would easily fix the problem. Oh, and having some cherries un-pitted was a huge pain, both in eating and in cutting. Don't do it. Lastly, as you can see, the top doesn't really come out very colored. It was a bit brighter when it first came out of the oven, but I think my paltry attempt at coloring combined with heat just didn't make for a bright red pie.

So overall Mr. Man and I gave this recipe three stars for average, but I think if you adapted the recipe a bit it could be 4 stars. Changes that would need to be made are: 1) use your favourite pastry recipe; 2) add some sort of thickener to the filling; and 3) pit all the cherries.


Modernized Recipe:

(Adapted from Gent KANTL 15)

FLOUR
CANOLA OIL
2 EGG WHITES
BERRIES (strawberries, cherries, lingonberries, or red currants), plus extras for coloring the top
CINNAMON
SUGAR

1. In a mixing bowl, mix 2 eggs whites with about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour. Add enough oil to get a workable dough. Blend it together in a food processor, with a pastry blender, or with your hands (my preferred method). Knead into a ball and divide into two disks. Roll out both disks. Place the first one in a pie pan.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, mix the cherries with cinnamon and sugar to taste (I used about a tablespoon of cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar). Mix together well and pour into the prepared bottom crust.
3. Place the second crust on top, crimp down the edges, and make slices or holes in the top to let out steam. To color the top of the pie, I tried to rub a cut cherry on the pastry, but it didn't make much juice, so I would suggest pureeing or mashing some berries, straining them, and brushing the juice on with a pastry brush. Or even mix some juice with an egg white or butter and then brush it on.
4. Bake the pie in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes.


Anje graduated with a Honours Bachelors degree in History with a minor in Museum Studies. She currently lives and works in Japan's least populous prefecture as an assistant English teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Rape oil is probably rapeseed oil which is just canola.

    ReplyDelete