To Make Sturgyn
A dish of veal which resembles a sturgeon - contributed by L. J. Spencer

Original Recipe:

To make sturgyn. Take [th]e houghys of vele and caluys feete and sethe hem in hony. And whan [th]ou hast soden hem all to poudre, take [th]e bonys oute. In case [th]at [th]e flesshe be longe, take it a stroke or ii and put it in a fayre cannevasse and presse it welle. Than take it and lese it fayre in thynne leches, and not to brode. Take onyons, vynegre, and percelly and ley [th]eron, and so serue it forthe. (Curye on Inglysch, pp. 155-6)

- Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.

Literal Translation:

To make Sturgeon. Take the shanks of veal and calf's feet and seeth them in honey. And when you have seethed them all to powder, take the bones out. In case that the flesh be long, take it a stroke or two and put it in a fair canvas and press it well. Then take it and (slice ?) it fair in thin (slices ?) , and not too broad. Take onions, vineger, and parsley and lay thereon, and so serve it forth.

Probable Modern Translation:

To Make Sturgeon. Take veal shanks and calf's feet and simmer them in honey. When you have simmered them (until the meat falls apart), take out the bones. (If there are large pieces of flesh, chop them smaller) and put it (the flesh removed from the broth) and in a clean piece of canvas and press it well. Then take it and slice into thin slices, and not too (thick). Take onions, vinegar and parsley and lay thereon. Serve.

My Redaction:

  • 4 veal shanks, cleaned
  • 2 calf's feet, split
  • Water to cover
  • 1/2 cp honey
  • 1/4 cp onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 cp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Wine Vinegar
Wash meat and place in a large kettle. Cover with water. Add honey. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow boil. Cover. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hrs. or until meat falls apart. Remove meat from liquid. Remove bones from meat when cool enough to handle, chopping large pieces smaller, including skin if any. Put meat on a clean sterilized white cloth (canvas is best but muslin works fine). Wrap into a large sausage shaped roll. Place on a large pan or baking dish. Set a pan the same size on top and place a weight on it. (A one gallon jug of water works well, or 4 bricks). Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove cloth. Place on an oblong serving platter. Slice thinly. Sprinkle with onions, parsley and wine vingar. Serve.

Note: A line of thinly sliced onion rings down the center and parsley springs around the outside makes a nice garnish. The broth remaining can be strained and reduced to half, refrigerated and then unmolded to serve as an accompanying aspic.

General Comments:

Since the recipe is from Curye on Inglysch, smoked sturgeon would make sense. The thin layer of fat surrounding the finished roll was gray colored and retained the pattern of the cloth. It was also flattened, resembling a fish fillet. When cut into it revealed a nice coppery color that looked without too much of a stretch of the imagination like smoked fish.

This dish is a nice looking dish and is really rather tasty. I am of the opinion that the recipe for Mock Sturgeon which calls for boiling in honey is exactly what was intended and the quest to explain the word honey as a scribal error or otherwise is totally unnecessary. All and all, this dish is good enough to serve at feast and definately will go in my modern recipe collection as a thing to be served at special occasions or dish to passes. IMHO, the search for corroborating evidence by looking in similar recipes is an exercise in futility as there were many versions of the same recipe. Such exercises may help in filling the missing parts of obscure or missing texts but, as this recipe shows, it should never become the first thing one does when trying to understand a recipe from the Middle Ages. The first thing one should do is throw off the scholars robe, roll up one's sleeves and "get thee hence to the kitchen"! :-)

Metric, Celsius, & Gas Mark Equivalencies

L J Spencer lives in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where is an active and long-time member of The Society for Creative Anachronism. His SCA feasts are well-known for being delicious and authentic, and he is a major contributor to the SCA-Cooks Discussion Group.

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To Make Sturgyn © 1997 L. J. Spencer | This page © 2000 James L. Matterer

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