Fr. Z’s Kitchen: Of Roman snails and of medieval cherries

A boy stealing cherries from a tree, with an angry club-wielding man coming to punish him, the Luttrell Psalter, Add MS 42130, f. 196v

I found at the blog of the British Library a fascinating story about a recipe for cherries in the Medieval period in England.

There is a recipe for chyryse in a manuscript of Forme of Cury, a recipe book of Richard II’s cook from around 1390.

I’m going to try this.  The blogger worked out a recipe based on the sketchy indications in the manuscript:

The recipe

Take almaundes unblanched, waisshe hem, grynde hem, drawe hem up with gode broth. do þerto thridde part of chiryse. þe stones take oute and grynde hem smale. make a layour of gode brede & powdour and salt and do þerto. colour it with sandres so that it be stondyng, and florissh it with aneys and with cheweryes, and strawe þeruppon and serue it forth.

Take unblanched almonds, wash them, grind them, draw them up with good broth. Add a third part of cherries, take out the stones, and grind them small. Make a layour (thick sauce) of good bread and powder (spice mix) and salt and add. Colour it with sandalwood so that it is standing (thickened) and flourish it with aniseed and with cherries and strew on top and serve it forth.


To make this recipe, I mixed together 100g ground almonds and 150ml red wine (the recipe calls for ‘gode broth’, i.e. animal stock, but some alternative versions use wine instead, which seems like a better option). I heated them gently in a pan. After removing the stones, I roughly pureed a large punnet of cherries with a hand blender and added them to the pan. I grated a slice of wholemeal bread to make breadcrumbs, which I added to the mixture along with a spice mix of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, sugar and salt (the recipe does not specify which spices, but this is an authentic medieval blend). Not having any sandalwood to dye it, I left out that step. I gently simmered the mixture for about 20 minutes until it thickened, then refrigerated it overnight. I served it with a garnish of aniseed and halved fresh cherries.

Hmmm… I have some sandlewood shaving soap.  I don’t think that will work.

A “punnet” is a measure unit for things like berries and mushrooms.  In volume it is 400 cubic centimeters.  For berries it is about 250g.

I have some cherries in the fridge that need to be used up.  I’ll adjust.  Contrary to popular opinion, I’m flexible.

So, later today, let us sit upon the ground and tell glad tales of the desserts of kings!

More later.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Joe in Canada says:

    mL, cc, and grams? Father, you are very flexible!

  2. Mariana2 says:

    Ytte soundes delicieuse.

  3. Semper Gumby says:

    Mariana2: Good one.

    “…let us sit upon the ground and tell glad tales of the desserts of kings!”

    Great idea, Padre. In Old English. Beowulf-style.

    Where tales are told by “unlocking word-hoards,” and enemies are crushed by “siezing the benches of their beer-halls.”

    And where with the “harmony of the harp” the bard sings of the “almighty one” who “wrought the fair, sublime field of the earth, bounded by water, the sun and moon triumphant lamps for the land-dwellers who adorn the corners of the earth with limbs and leaves.”

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