It’s a terrible feeling?when you realise that you looked away from your delicious pottage for just a second and now it’s burnt. It’s too late to start another pot, and people are depending on this for their meal. We’ve compiled the list of medieval sources about removing the burnt taste from the pottage here.
Le Viandier de Taillevent
2. To remove the burnt taste of a pottage.
To remove the burnt taste of a scorched pottage, tie a bit of leaven in a small white cloth and throw it into the pot (but do not leave it for very long).
Leaven is most likely yeast. It refers to something used to make bread rise.
Menagier de Paris
To remove burn from a soup, take a fresh pot and put your soup in it, then take a little leaven and tie it in a white cloth, and throw it in your pot, and do not let it stay long.
A citizen of Paris is known to have copied from other sources when creating his manuscript. Le Viandier is slightly earlier and also French, it’s likely that MdP copied the idea from this text and merely added the part about using a fresh pot. (Perhaps Le Viandier made the assumption that his audience would already know to do that but MdP had to spell it out more clearly for his young wife.)
The Art of cookery
Because such a pottage can easily burn, in case it does, remove the burned taste as follows:
pour out the pottage from the pot, being careful not to touch the bottom, and place it in a clean
pot. Then take some white cloth and fold it over itself three or four times and wet it with cool
water. Then squeeze the water out and place the folded cloth over the pot with the pottage; and
let it set there for a quarter of an hour; and if necessary, wet it again and put it back over the
pot; and by doing so you will remove the burned taste. Nor do I know a better remedy. And the
same can be done with farro.
MS Harley 5401
Harley 5401 is a new book to me. Written in the 2nd half of the 15th Century in England by John of Arderne. (it’s called Harley 5401 after the person who donated it). And this is an example of the fact that there are many, many cookbooks that we just don’t know about because they haven’t been digitalised or aren’t as famous as Forme of Curye or Menagier de Paris. It’s so unfair.
To mend Meat that is Burnt in the Pot. Take 2 or 3 small bags and fill them full of malt, and stew them fast, and take out the meat and put it in a clean pot, and then hang the said bags in the meat. Say it it touch not the bottom of the pot, and let it seethe therein a good while, and stir it well, and let it cool.
A translation of the recipes of Harley 5401 can be found here
Libre del Coch (Spain, 1520 – Robin Carroll-Mann, trans.), entitled “168. Mirrauste of pears which can be given to sICK PEOPLE”
“And if by chance, it tastes of smoke, or of charring, or of burning, take a little leaven which is quite sour and tie it in a linen cloth; and make the pot boil constantly; and cast it in so that everything boils together; and know that if the pot does not boil, it will not as swiftly remove the taste of the smoke nor of the scorching; and this you can do in all sauces and pottages;”
Transfer all but the bottom two inches to another pot. Then add either parsley and lemon juice or cinnamon. This will help remove the bitter ash taste of the burnt pottage and make it more smoky.
Of course, prevention is the best solution. All these cooks also talk about the importance of “being careful not to burn” “stir at the very bottom of the pot to ensure it does not stick” and ensuring that the pot does not burn is far better than trying to find a way to remove the burnt taste. But if all else fails, now you hopefully have a way to salvage dinner.
Image is of Company of the Staple cooking at St Ives Medieval Fair 2016, where, fortunately, they did not burn the pottage.