The typical medieval recipe uses a larger number of spices than its modern counterpart.
However, the total quantity of spices used it typically about the same (i.e. a smaller amount of each spice).
- Native to Eastern Mediterranean or West Asia, anise appears even in the earliest of European recipe books.
- Anise was also chewed as a breath freshener in the Middle Ages.
- Star Anise was not introduced to Europe in the 17th century.
- Bay leaves (leaves of the Laurus nobilis) have been used as spices since the time of the Greeks (and probably were used even before).
- Leaves of several types of bay trees including the California bay (Umbellularia californica), Indian bay (Cinnamomum tamala),
Indonesian bay (Syzygium polyanthum), West Indian bay (Pimenta racemosa), and
Mexican bay (Litsea glaucescens) are also sold as "bay leaves". All have different flavors and none were in common use in western
Europe in the middle ages.
- Black pepper (Piper nigrum), was not been known in Europe before the 4th century BC.
- The ancient history of black pepper is often interlinked with (and confused with) that of
- In spite of its astronomical price, pepper has been much used by the Romans and became, in the Early Middle Ages, a status symbol of fine cookery.
- First used in antiquity, caraway has been cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages.
- Evidence of caraway's use in medieval times comes from seeds found in debris in lakes in Switzerland.
- As early as the 4th century BC cardamom was used in India as a medicinal herb.
- Greeks and Romans imported it as a digestive aid.
- Cardamom spice was used in cooking by the Ancient Greeks, then by the Romans, through the Middle Ages.
- Black (also called brown cardamom, kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom,
white cardamom, or red cardamom)and green cardamom (also called cardamom, or true cardamom) both
come from plants in the ginger family and both are medieval.
- Always start with whole cardamom pods. If you buy ground cardamom, it won't be as flavorful since the
essential oils of the cardamom seed lose their flavor quickly after the seeds are ground.
- Cinnamon is an ancient spice mentioned several times in the Old Testament.
- Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum Cassia) was the first cinnamon species that has made its way to Europe.
- Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum) was not known in the West until the 16th century.
- Compared to the Chinese species, Ceylon cinnamon has a more delicate aroma and is the dominating quality on the Western market.
- Cloves are an ancient spice and, because of their exceptional aromatic strength, have always been held in high esteem by cooks in Europe.
- Arab traders brought cloves to Europe in the time of the Romans.
- Until trade routes were established with the east during the age of exploration, they were very expensive.
- Coriander seeds are a common spice in many countries of Europe, Northern Africa, West, Central and South Asia.
- In the Mediterranean region, coriander cultivation dates back to ancient Egypt.
- Cilantro is the leaf of the young coriander plant.
- Also known as 'tailed pepper', this Javanese relative of black pepper that tastes like a cross between allspice and peppercorns.
- Cubebs came to Europe via India through the trade with the Arabs in the 4th century BC.
- The King of Portugal prohibited the sale of cubeb in order to promote black pepper around 1640.
- Europe, garlic has been a common spice since the days of the Roman Empire.
- It is reported that in ancient Egypt, the workers who had to build the great pyramids were fed their daily share of garlic,
and the Bible mentions garlic as a food the Hebrews enjoyed during their sojourn in Egypt.
- Also called galangal or galanga.
- Two quite different roots were imported to medieval Europe under this name:
- Lesser galingale was known in medieval times as 'heavy galingale'. It was the preferred variety in medieval Europe.
Native to southern China, it has a sharp flavor, like a combination of ginger and pepper.
- Greater (or Java) galingale was known in medieval times as 'light galangal'.
Grown in Southeast Asia, it is a mild spice with a flavor similar to a mixture of ginger and cardamom.
- Ginger has been used in European cooking since the time of the Romans.
Grains of Paradise
- Grains of paradise were an important spice in 15th century Europe, when spices were high in demand, but the sea route to India has not yet been discovered.
- In these times, grains of paradise were a common substitute for black pepper.
- The West African coast got its name "pepper coast" because the grains of paradise were traded there.
- The were called Grains of "Paradise" because they were thought to be an aphrodisiac in the Middle Ages.
- Grow wild throughout the Northern Hemisphere and are used widely in Scandinavian and French kitchens.
- Long pepper (Piper longum) reached Europe 6th or 5th century BC
(more than a hundred years before black pepper).
- Long pepper has a similar, but hotter, taste to its close relative black pepper.
- Pliny erroneously believed dried black pepper and long pepper came from the same plant.
- Black pepper, began to compete with long pepper in Europe from the 12th century and had displaced it by the 14th century.
- The liquorice plant is a legume that is native to southern Europe, India and parts of Asia.
- It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds.
- The use of Liquorice as a medicine and as a sweet dates back long before the biblical era to the beginnings of recorded times.
- Ancient Egyptians’ pharaohs are believed to have enjoyed chewing liquorice as far back as 2044 BC.
- Mustard was used in ancient Greece and Rome as a medicine and a flavoring.
- By 800 AD, the French were using mustard as an enhancement for drab meals and salted meats.
Nutmeg and Mace
- Like cilantro and coriander, nutmeg and mace
are two different ingredients from the same plant.
- The Roman author Pliny wrote about nutmeg and mace in the first century.
- Middle Eastern traders brought nutmeg and mace to Southern Europe in the 6th century, and they were well known by the 12th century from Italy to Denmark.
- The Greeks used poppy seeds as flavoring for breads in the second century, and medieval Europeans used them as a condiment with breads.
- Saffron probably originates from Turkey.
- In the 13th century, the Crusaders brought Saffron back to Europe, where it was used both as a dye and condiment.
- In the Middle Ages, salt was produced in large, uncovered pans of brine were boiled, a process that had not changed since Roman times.
Salt production was costly, in both labor and energy, making good quality salt quite valuable.
- A wich is Anglo Saxon for a salt town, hence town names like Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich.
- Medievally called "saunderys" or "saundres".
- Often used in medieval recipes to add a red color food.
- Sesame seed is probably the oldest crop grown for its taste, dating back 6,000 years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean.
- The earliest recorded use of a spice comes from an Assyrian myth which claims that the gods drank sesame wine the night
before they created the earth.
- Used as a flavoring in biblical and medieval times.
The American variety is not the same as the Middle Eastern species.
- The ripe red berries of some American sumacs can be used as a seasoning. The closest match to middle eastern sumac is staghorn
sumac (rhus typhina). You can also use sicilian sumac (rhus coriaria) or smooth sumac (rhus glabra).
Avoid sumac with white berries (poison sumac, rhus vernix).
Fats and Oils