Medieval cuisine

Make a Plan


One recent attempt to recreate medieval English "strong ale" using recipes and techniques of the era albeit with the use of modern yeast strains yielded a strongly alcoholic brew with original gravity of 1. I also liked the fact that I did not need to count calories or weigh portions. High-status exotic spices and rarities like ginger , pepper , cloves , sesame , citron leaves and "onions of Escalon" [] all appear in an eighth-century list of spices that the Carolingian cook should have at hand. Vinidarius' own dates may not be much earlier. I take my frozen lunch with me to work and I can get more work done while losing weight! Nutrisystem doesn't pay me a dime for this website.

Navigation menu


The website is full of good information and tons of motivation which I need and love!! Anyone can do this diet. At 32 years old, I had surpassed pounds and went on a diet with Slimfast Shakes and low fat dinners that I made. I was single at the time and had the time to prepare my own meals and exercise vigorously for about an hour 5 days a week.

Needless to say, I did lose 40 lbs in 3 months, but it was hard work and I was always hungry. I'm now 40 years old now and after several failed starts I decided to give Nutrisystem a go. Being married with 2 children, my time is much more limited now. Nutrisystem is perfect for this reason as I don't have to count calories — it's all done online for me. The meals are reasonably good and you can pretty much choose the meals you want. The first month I went with the default menu and selected the meals I liked best for the second and third month.

I'm following the menu strictly and my caloric intake is around calories a day. All in all, I have been on the diet for 42 days and I have lost 23 lbs and 3 inches off my waist! This program is well worth it! I needed to go on a diet. I had gained 25 pounds over the last year and I could not fit into any of my clothes.

I did not want to go buy a whole new wardrobe when I already had a perfectly good one. With Nutrisystem I have access to a website that allows me to track my weight loss progress.

I enjoy logging onto the website and seeing how far I have come. I also get support from the website. I enjoy almost all of the foods Nutrisystem has to offer.

They all taste pretty good. The best part of Nutrisystem is that I have lost weight with a program that is extremely easy to follow. I liked many aspects of the diet; however, I thought the food portions were too small. Maybe I'm too used to supersizing everything? The Nutrisystem plan does work though.

When I was using the plan I lost about fifteen pounds. The plan was also very easy to follow. I did not have to weigh out food. I did not have to count calories. I did not have to figure out which foods to eat to lose weight. I just had to follow the instructions that came with the plan and eat the food that the plan provided me with.

When I joined the Nutrisystem plan I also received 24 hour access to the Nutrisystem web site where I could chat with someone for support daily if I needed to. Haven't used it, but its nice to know its there for me. The food was just as tasty as pre-cooked frozen meals you buy in the grocery store.

I enjoyed many of the foods that Nutrisystem offers. The desserts and snacks were delicious. The dinners are done very nicely with foods that are very tasteful and full of flavor. The breakfasts were good I especially liked the pancakes. The lunches were also good. The thing I did not like about Nutrisystem was that the portions of foods they provided were too small.

The program is extremely easy to use. Any man can join the program and expect to lose weight easily. I joined the plan and Nutrisystem sent me dieting tools, instructions on how to use the plan and great tasting foods. I also have access to Nutrisystems website. The website includes chat rooms, blogs, and group discussions about dieting.

The website is a great place for me to go to receive support. I have not felt this energetic in awhile.

I now have the energy to get through the day without feeling so tired. I even have enough energy to work out. Without the Nutrisystem plan I would still be overweight, unhealthy and unhappy. Without Nutrisystem I would still be eating unhealthy and gaining weight instead of losing weight. I joined Nutrisystem two and a half months ago. When I first started the program it was an adjustment I had to get used to.

I was used to overeating all of the time. With Nutrisystem the food portions are designed to be just right so a person gets the nutrition he needs and still loses weight. I had to get used to eating the right sized portion instead of overeating. Once I adjusted to eating differently the plan started to really work. The plan is easy to follow and comes with instructions on how to do so. I am losing weight easily. I am feeling healthier every day. I am enjoying the foods I am eating, and I am enjoying the compliments I am receiving on my weight loss.

I joined the Nutrisystem plan because I knew I was headed in the wrong direction with my body weight. I decided to start going to a gym. However, I did not know how to start eating right. I pick the food I want to eat from the menu that Nutrisystem provides. Nutrisystem also shows me how to plan what to eat for the day. The foods are really good. I love some of them, like most of them and only disliked one or two items out of the whole menu. One of my favorite foods from Nutrisystem is their Mexican style tortilla soup, it's great.

As far as diets go Nutrisystem is a great plan. When I was on the Nutrisystem plan it worked for me. I lost weight, learned to eat healthier and felt great.

Nutrisystem is also extremely easy to follow. The plan comes with easy to follow instructions on how to use the program to work for you. When I was on the plan my wife and children would eat their food while I ate my Nutrisystem food.

Her food was hard to resist; however, I stuck to the Nutrisystem plan because their food also tastes good. I ate good food every day. Foods such as blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, honey mustard pretzel sticks, beef stew and broiled beef patties. Nutrisystem truly does go to great lengths to help make losing weight easy. I wanted to lose 20 pounds, but ended up shaving off 30 pounds thanks to Nutrisystem.

Nutrisystem is the best diet plan I have ever tried. I have tried to diet a few other times in my life but I could not stick to the diet. With Nutrisystem I do not have to learn recipes. I do not have to learn to eat better foods. I do not have to count calories. I do not have to weigh food. With Nutrisystem all I have to do is follow the instructions and eat the foods Nutrisystem supplies.

When I joined Nutrisystem I was afraid the food would taste terrible as I had read a review online saying so. Of course there are a few foods that do not suit my taste such as the eggs frittata; however, most of the foods are delicious. For breakfast I can eat pancakes, blueberry pancakes, cinnamon buns or oatmeal.

There are many other breakfast foods to choose from also. For lunch I can eat hearty minestrone soup or choose from many other menu items. Nutrisystem also offers great dinners, snacks and desserts. Following the Nutrisystem plan is easy and I am seeing results.

I wish the weight melted off easier, but it took a while putting it on and so I expect it'll take time getting it off too. I had tried losing weight on my own a few times but it was too hard to count calories and weigh out all of my food what a time sucker! I always got discouraged about losing the weight.

With Nutrisystem I have not became discouraged because Nutrisystem makes the plan so simple to follow. While it's not fresh food the meals are frozen , it still just as great tasting.

Speaking frankly, I was really afraid that I would hate the Nutrisystem food. I gave the food a try thinking it would taste like cardboard. However, I was completely wrong, the Nutrisystem food is delicious.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and all my snacks provided by Nutrisystem are tasty. My wife loves me being on the Nutrisystem diet too. She is very impressed with the progress I have made losing weight. She just makes dinner for the family and I eat my Nutrisystem meal. Nutrisystem is a great diet plan that I personally think can help anyone lose weight.

Let's be honest here, does any man like to cook? Not only do I not like to cook, I just don't have the time to cook. Many apps can help you track your eating. Since you probably have your smartphone with you all the time, you can use it to keep up with your plan.

Or keep a pen-and-paper food journal of what you ate and when. So ask your family and friends to support your efforts to lose weight.

At the most basic level, food is fuel. It gives you energy to do things. But very few people eat just for that reason. The first step is finding out what your triggers are. Is it stress , anger, anxiety , or depression in a certain part of your life? Or is food your main reward when something good happens? Next, try to notice when those feelings come up, and have a plan ready to do something else instead of eating.

Could you take a walk? These are the sugars in cookies, cakes, sugar -sweetened drinks, and other items -- not the sugars that are naturally in fruits, for instance.

Sugary foods often have a lot of calories but few nutrients. Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato or lower in carbs per serving than others.

Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. There are vegetarian and vegan sources nuts, beans, and soy are a few , as well as lean meat, poultry, fish , and dairy. While grains were the primary constituent of most meals, vegetables such as cabbage , chard , onions , garlic and carrots were common foodstuffs.

Many of these were eaten daily by peasants and workers and were less prestigious than meat. The cookbooks, which appeared in the late Middle Ages and were intended mostly for those who could afford such luxuries, contained only a small number of recipes using vegetables as the main ingredient.

The lack of recipes for many basic vegetable dishes, such as potages , has been interpreted not to mean that they were absent from the meals of the nobility, but rather that they were considered so basic that they did not require recording. Various legumes , like chickpeas , fava beans and field peas were also common and important sources of protein , especially among the lower classes.

With the exception of peas, legumes were often viewed with some suspicion by the dietitians advising the upper class, partly because of their tendency to cause flatulence but also because they were associated with the coarse food of peasants. The importance of vegetables to the common people is illustrated by accounts from 16th-century Germany stating that many peasants ate sauerkraut from three to four times a day.

Fruit was popular and could be served fresh, dried, or preserved, and was a common ingredient in many cooked dishes. The fruits of choice in the south were lemons , citrons , bitter oranges the sweet type was not introduced until several hundred years later , pomegranates , quinces , and, of course, grapes. Farther north, apples , pears , plums , and strawberries were more common. Figs and dates were eaten all over Europe, but remained rather expensive imports in the north.

Common and often basic ingredients in many modern European cuisines like potatoes , kidney beans , cacao , vanilla , tomatoes , chili peppers and maize were not available to Europeans until after , after European contact with the Americas, and even then it often took considerable time, sometimes several centuries, for the new foodstuffs to be accepted by society at large.

Milk was an important source of animal protein for those who could not afford meat. It would mostly come from cows, but milk from goats and sheep was also common. Plain fresh milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, and was usually reserved for the very young or elderly. Poor adults would sometimes drink buttermilk or whey or milk that was soured or watered down.

On occasion it was used in upper-class kitchens in stews, but it was difficult to keep fresh in bulk and almond milk was generally used in its stead. Cheese was far more important as a foodstuff, especially for common people, and it has been suggested that it was, during many periods, the chief supplier of animal protein among the lower classes. There were also whey cheeses , like ricotta , made from by-products of the production of harder cheeses.

Cheese was used in cooking for pies and soups, the latter being common fare in German-speaking areas. Butter , another important dairy product, was in popular use in the regions of Northern Europe that specialized in cattle production in the latter half of the Middle Ages, the Low Countries and Southern Scandinavia. While most other regions used oil or lard as cooking fats, butter was the dominant cooking medium in these areas.

Its production also allowed for a lucrative butter export from the 12th century onward. While all forms of wild game were popular among those who could obtain it, most meat came from domestic animals. Domestic working animals that were no longer able to work were slaughtered but not particularly appetizing and therefore were less valued as meat. Beef was not as common as today because raising cattle was labor-intensive, requiring pastures and feed, and oxen and cows were much more valuable as draught animals and for producing milk.

Mutton and lamb were fairly common, especially in areas with a sizeable wool industry, as was veal. Domestic pigs often ran freely even in towns and could be fed on just about any organic waste, and suckling pig was a sought-after delicacy. Just about every part of the pig was eaten, including ears, snout, tail, tongue , and womb. Intestines, bladder and stomach could be used as casings for sausage or even illusion food such as giant eggs.

Among the meats that today are rare or even considered inappropriate for human consumption are the hedgehog and porcupine , occasionally mentioned in late medieval recipe collections. In England, they were deliberately introduced by the 13th century and their colonies were carefully protected.

They were of particular value for monasteries, because newborn rabbits were allegedly declared fish or, at least, not-meat by the church and therefore they could be eaten during Lent. A wide range of birds were eaten, including swans , peafowl , quail , partridge , storks , cranes , larks , linnets and other songbirds that could be trapped in nets, and just about any other wild bird that could be hunted.

Swans and peafowl were domesticated to some extent, but were only eaten by the social elite, and more praised for their fine appearance as stunning entertainment dishes, entremets , than for their meat. As today, geese and ducks had been domesticated but were not as popular as the chicken , the fowl equivalent of the pig. But at the Fourth Council of the Lateran , Pope Innocent III explicitly prohibited the eating of barnacle geese during Lent, arguing that they lived and fed like ducks and so were of the same nature as other birds.

Meats were more expensive than plant foods. Though rich in protein , the calorie -to-weight ratio of meat was less than that of plant food.

Meat could be up to four times as expensive as bread. Fish was up to 16 times as costly, and was expensive even for coastal populations. This meant that fasts could mean an especially meager diet for those who could not afford alternatives to meat and animal products like milk and eggs.

It was only after the Black Death had eradicated up to half of the European population that meat became more common even for poorer people.

The drastic reduction in many populated areas resulted in a labor shortage, meaning that wages dramatically increased.

It also left vast areas of farmland untended, making them available for pasture and putting more meat on the market. Although less prestigious than other animal meats, and often seen as merely an alternative to meat on fast days, seafood was the mainstay of many coastal populations.

Also included were the beaver , due to its scaly tail and considerable time spent in water, and barnacle geese , due to the belief that they developed underwater in the form of barnacles. The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II examined barnacles and noted no evidence of any bird-like embryo in them, and the secretary of Leo of Rozmital wrote a very skeptical account of his reaction to being served barnacle goose at a fish-day dinner in Especially important was the fishing and trade in herring and cod in the Atlantic and the Baltic Sea.

The herring was of unprecedented significance to the economy of much of Northern Europe, and it was one of the most common commodities traded by the Hanseatic League , a powerful north German alliance of trading guilds.

Kippers made from herring caught in the North Sea could be found in markets as far away as Constantinople. Stockfish , cod that was split down the middle, fixed to a pole and dried, was very common, though preparation could be time-consuming, and meant beating the dried fish with a mallet before soaking it in water.

A wide range of mollusks including oysters , mussels and scallops were eaten by coastal and river-dwelling populations, and freshwater crayfish were seen as a desirable alternative to meat during fish days. Compared to meat, fish was much more expensive for inland populations, especially in Central Europe, and therefore not an option for most. Freshwater fish such as pike , carp , bream , perch , lamprey and trout were common.

While in modern times, water is often drunk with a meal, in the Middle Ages, however, concerns over purity, medical recommendations and its low prestige value made it less favored, and alcoholic beverages were preferred. They were seen as more nutritious and beneficial to digestion than water, with the invaluable bonus of being less prone to putrefaction due to the alcohol content.

Wine was consumed on a daily basis in most of France and all over the Western Mediterranean wherever grapes were cultivated. Further north it remained the preferred drink of the bourgeoisie and the nobility who could afford it, and far less common among peasants and workers. The drink of commoners in the northern parts of the continent was primarily beer or ale.

Juices , as well as wines, of a multitude of fruits and berries had been known at least since Roman antiquity and were still consumed in the Middle Ages: Medieval drinks that have survived to this day include prunellé from wild plums modern-day slivovitz , mulberry gin and blackberry wine. Many variants of mead have been found in medieval recipes, with or without alcoholic content. However, the honey -based drink became less common as a table beverage towards the end of the period and was eventually relegated to medicinal use.

This is partially true since mead bore great symbolic value at important occasions. When agreeing on treaties and other important affairs of state, mead was often presented as a ceremonial gift. It was also common at weddings and baptismal parties, though in limited quantity due to its high price.

In medieval Poland , mead had a status equivalent to that of imported luxuries, such as spices and wines. Plain milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, being reserved for the very young or elderly, and then usually as buttermilk or whey. Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling. However, neither of these non-alcoholic social drinks were consumed in Europe before the late 16th and early 17th century.

Wine was commonly drunk and was also regarded as the most prestigious and healthy choice. According to Galen 's dietetics it was considered hot and dry but these qualities were moderated when wine was watered down. Unlike water or beer, which were considered cold and moist, consumption of wine in moderation especially red wine was, among other things, believed to aid digestion, generate good blood and brighten the mood. The first pressing was made into the finest and most expensive wines which were reserved for the upper classes.

The second and third pressings were subsequently of lower quality and alcohol content. Common folk usually had to settle for a cheap white or rosé from a second or even third pressing, meaning that it could be consumed in quite generous amounts without leading to heavy intoxication. For the poorest or the most pious , watered-down vinegar similar to Ancient Roman posca would often be the only available choice. The aging of high quality red wine required specialized knowledge as well as expensive storage and equipment, and resulted in an even more expensive end product.

Judging from the advice given in many medieval documents on how to salvage wine that bore signs of going bad, preservation must have been a widespread problem.

Even if vinegar was a common ingredient, there was only so much of it that could be used. In the 14th century cookbook Le Viandier there are several methods for salvaging spoiling wine; making sure that the wine barrels are always topped up or adding a mixture of dried and boiled white grape seeds with the ash of dried and burnt lees of white wine were both effective bactericides , even if the chemical processes were not understood at the time.

Wine was believed to act as a kind of vaporizer and conduit of other foodstuffs to every part of the body, and the addition of fragrant and exotic spices would make it even more wholesome. Spiced wines were usually made by mixing an ordinary red wine with an assortment of spices such as ginger , cardamom , pepper , grains of paradise , nutmeg , cloves and sugar.

These would be contained in small bags which were either steeped in wine or had liquid poured over them to produce hypocras and claré.

By the 14th century, bagged spice mixes could be bought ready-made from spice merchants. While wine was the most common table beverage in much of Europe, this was not the case in the northern regions where grapes were not cultivated. Those who could afford it drank imported wine, but even for nobility in these areas it was common to drink beer or ale , particularly towards the end of the Middle Ages. In England , the Low Countries , northern Germany , Poland and Scandinavia , beer was consumed on a daily basis by people of all social classes and age groups.

For most medieval Europeans, it was a humble brew compared with common southern drinks and cooking ingredients, such as wine, lemons and olive oil. Even comparatively exotic products like camel 's milk and gazelle meat generally received more positive attention in medical texts. Beer was just an acceptable alternative and was assigned various negative qualities.

In , the Sienese physician Aldobrandino described beer in the following way:. But from whichever it is made, whether from oats, barley or wheat, it harms the head and the stomach, it causes bad breath and ruins the teeth , it fills the stomach with bad fumes, and as a result anyone who drinks it along with wine becomes drunk quickly; but it does have the property of facilitating urination and makes one's flesh white and smooth.

The intoxicating effect of beer was believed to last longer than that of wine, but it was also admitted that it did not create the "false thirst" associated with wine. Though less prominent than in the north, beer was consumed in northern France and the Italian mainland.

Perhaps as a consequence of the Norman conquest and the travelling of nobles between France and England, one French variant described in the 14th century cookbook Le Menagier de Paris was called godale most likely a direct borrowing from the English "good ale" and was made from barley and spelt , but without hops.

In England there were also the variants poset ale , made from hot milk and cold ale, and brakot or braggot , a spiced ale prepared much like hypocras. That hops could be used for flavoring beer had been known at least since Carolingian times, but was adopted gradually due to difficulties in establishing the appropriate proportions.

Before the widespread use of hops, gruit , a mix of various herbs , had been used. Gruit had the same preserving properties as hops, though less reliable depending on what herbs were in it, and the end result was much more variable. Another flavoring method was to increase the alcohol content, but this was more expensive and lent the beer the undesired characteristic of being a quick and heavy intoxicant.

Hops may have been widely used in England in the tenth century; they were grown in Austria by and in Finland by , and possibly much earlier. Before hops became popular as an ingredient, it was difficult to preserve this beverage for any time, and so, it was mostly consumed fresh. Quantities of beer consumed by medieval residents of Europe, as recorded in contemporary literature, far exceed intakes in the modern world.

For example, sailors in 16th century England and Denmark received a ration of 1 imperial gallon 4. Polish peasants consumed up to 3 litres 0. In the Early Middle Ages beer was primarily brewed in monasteries , and on a smaller scale in individual households. By the High Middle Ages breweries in the fledgling medieval towns of northern Germany began to take over production. Though most of the breweries were small family businesses that employed at most eight to ten people, regular production allowed for investment in better equipment and increased experimentation with new recipes and brewing techniques.

These operations later spread to the Netherlands in the 14th century, then to Flanders and Brabant , and reached England by the 15th century. Hopped beer became very popular in the last decades of the Late Middle Ages. When perfected as an ingredient, hops could make beer keep for six months or more, and facilitated extensive exports.

In turn, ale or beer was classified into "strong" and "small", the latter less intoxicating, regarded as a drink of temperate people, and suitable for consumption by children. As late as , John Locke stated that the only drink he considered suitable for children of all ages was small beer, while criticizing the apparently common practice among Englishmen of the time to give their children wine and strong alcohol.

By modern standards, the brewing process was relatively inefficient, but capable of producing quite strong alcohol when that was desired. One recent attempt to recreate medieval English "strong ale" using recipes and techniques of the era albeit with the use of modern yeast strains yielded a strongly alcoholic brew with original gravity of 1. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew of the technique of distillation , but it was not practiced on a major scale in Europe until some time around the 12th century, when Arabic innovations in the field combined with water-cooled glass alembics were introduced.

Distillation was believed by medieval scholars to produce the essence of the liquid being purified, and the term aqua vitae "water of life" was used as a generic term for all kinds of distillates. Alcoholic distillates were also occasionally used to create dazzling, fire-breathing entremets a type of entertainment dish after a course by soaking a piece of cotton in spirits. It would then be placed in the mouth of the stuffed, cooked and occasionally redressed animals, and lit just before presenting the creation.

Aqua vitae in its alcoholic forms was highly praised by medieval physicians. In Arnaldus of Villanova wrote that "[i]t prolongs good health, dissipates superfluous humours, reanimates the heart and maintains youth. By the 13th century, Hausbrand literally "home-burnt" from gebrannter wein, brandwein ; "burnt [distilled] wine" was commonplace, marking the origin of brandy.

Towards the end of the Late Middle Ages, the consumption of spirits became so ingrained even among the general population that restrictions on sales and production began to appear in the late 15th century.

In the city of Nuremberg issued restrictions on the selling of aquavit on Sundays and official holidays. Spices were among the most luxurious products available in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper , cinnamon and the cheaper alternative cassia , cumin , nutmeg , ginger and cloves.

They all had to be imported from plantations in Asia and Africa , which made them extremely expensive, and gave them social cachet such that pepper for example was hoarded, traded and conspicuously donated in the manner of gold bullion.

The value of these goods was the equivalent of a yearly supply of grain for 1. Sugar , unlike today, was considered to be a type of spice due to its high cost and humoral qualities.

Even when a dish was dominated by a single flavor it was usually combined with another to produce a compound taste, for example parsley and cloves or pepper and ginger. Common herbs such as sage , mustard , and parsley were grown and used in cooking all over Europe, as were caraway , mint , dill and fennel.

Many of these plants grew throughout all of Europe or were cultivated in gardens, and were a cheaper alternative to exotic spices. Mustard was particularly popular with meat products and was described by Hildegard of Bingen — as poor man's food. While locally grown herbs were less prestigious than spices, they were still used in upper-class food, but were then usually less prominent or included merely as coloring.

Anise was used to flavor fish and chicken dishes, and its seeds were served as sugar-coated comfits. Surviving medieval recipes frequently call for flavoring with a number of sour, tart liquids. Wine, verjuice the juice of unripe grapes or fruits vinegar and the juices of various fruits, especially those with tart flavors, were almost universal and a hallmark of late medieval cooking.

In combination with sweeteners and spices, it produced a distinctive "pungeant, fruity" flavor. Equally common, and used to complement the tanginess of these ingredients, were sweet almonds. They were used in a variety of ways: This last type of non-dairy milk product is probably the single most common ingredient in late medieval cooking and blended the aroma of spices and sour liquids with a mild taste and creamy texture.

Salt was ubiquitous and indispensable in medieval cooking. Salting and drying was the most common form of food preservation and meant that fish and meat in particular were often heavily salted.