Almond Milk the Medieval Way: Pt. 2

This is part two of a three-part series of medieval almond milk recipes. Part One includes some background information about the important role that almond milk played in medieval cooking. If you haven’t done so already, I highly suggest reading  Almond Milk the Medieval Way.

 

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Today’s almond milk recipe comes from a medieval cookbook called Du Fait de Cuisine (On Cookery), written in 1420 by Maistre Chiquart.

Here is a digital version of the original manuscript: Du Fait de Cuisine, Médiathèque du Valais

Lucky for us there are English translations! I relied on this translation by Elizabeth Cook.


The Recipe

“And again, flans of almond milk: according to the quantity of flans which you are making take the quantity of almonds, have them well and cleanly blanched and washed and then have them very well brayed; and take very clean fair water and let him strain his almond milk into a bowl or a cornue which is fair and clean according to the quantity of flans which he should make….” – Du Fait de Cuisine (E. Cook translation).

Don’t be fooled by Maistre Chiquart’s wording here. This method of making almond milk is almost exactly the same as the one found in Le Viandier de Taillevent (1300). This is actually an excerpt from a flan recipe that calls for almond milk, not a stand-alone recipe.

You will need:

  • Almonds (blanched)
  • Water
  • Strainer or sieve 

Step ONE: Prep the Almonds

“And again, flans of almond milk: according to the quantity of flans which you are making take the quantity of almonds, have them well and cleanly blanched and washed and then have them very well brayed;”

This time around I used blanched almonds as suggested. If you have never blanched almonds before and would like to learn how, click here.  Because Maistre Chiquart told me to use measurements calculated according to the “quantity of flans” I am making (I am making 0 flans), I just used the same ratios as last time. 1 cup of almonds to 2 cups of water.

I ground/crushed (“brayed“) them up into a floury paste. You can do this by hand with a mortar and pestle like a true medieval food enthusiast or save time by using a blender or a spice grinder.

 

Step TWO: Boil and Steep

“…and take very clean fair water…”

The directions regarding the steeping process are vague. It is likely that Chiquart would have assumed that any cooks reading his book would have had a basic understanding of almond milking. So I drew on my experience with my recreation from Le Viandier de Taillevent and the redaction by Medieval Cookery to determine exactly how I should complete this step.

I boiled two cups of water and poured it over the almond paste. I then let the almond water steep for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. It is worth noting here the use of the word fair in medieval recipes, which could mean clean, fresh or even the quantity. If referring to quantity, “fair” would be a moderate amount. In this context, “fair” probably means “fresh.”

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Step THREE: Strain

“…and let him strain his almond milk into a bowl or a cornue which is fair and clean according to the quantity of flans which he should make….”

Once my almond milk was good and steeped, I poured it through a fine strainer into a bowl. Medieval kitchens did have sieves and strainers, so we know they didn’t just use cheesecloth to strain out the almond pulp. And if you were curious, I did some research and discovered that a cornue is a small bowl with handles.

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If you are the resourceful type, you can keep the almond pulp and use it in other recipes, like marzipan or almond flour. The options are endless, really.

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Don’t throw away your almond pulp!

This almond milk was very similar to the last one, but I definitely prefer the flavor of blanched almonds over the natural. I also much prefer using a strainer instead of cheesecloth, though the cheesecloth is probably more effective. I suspect that letting the ground almond steep a few extra minutes helped infuse the flavors a bit more.

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Overall, the milk is thin (closer to water than cow’s milk in consistency) and has a stronger almond flavor than the commercial products. The texture is still a touch chalky, but I really didn’t mind it at all. If you want to sweeten it up feel free to add some sugar, vanilla or agave, whatever your preferences are.

Stay tuned for Part Three, which will be a recreation of a sweetened almond milk recipe from the 15th century.

 

 

 

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