Perys en Composte
PERIOD: England, 15th century | SOURCE: Harleian MS. 279 | CLASS: Authentic
DESCRIPTION: Pears in wine and spices
.xxxv. Perys en Composte. Take Wyne an Canel, & a gret dele of Whyte Sugre, an set it on þe fyre & hete it hote, but let it nowt boyle, an draw it þorwe a straynoure; þan take fayre Datys, an pyke owt þe stonys, an leche hem alle þinne, an caste þer-to; þanne take Wardonys, an pare hem and sethe hem, an leche hem alle þinne, & caste þer-to in-to þe Syryppe; þanne take a lytil Sawnderys, and caste þer-to, an sette it on þe fyre; an yif þow hast charde quynce, caste þer-to in þe boyling, an loke þat it stonde wyl with Sugre, an wyl lyid wyth Canel, an caste Salt þer-to, an let it boyle; an þan caste yt on a treen vessel, & lat it kele, and serue forth.
- Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.
GODE COOKERY TRANSLATION:
Pears in Compote. Take wine and cinnamon, & a great deal of white sugar, and set it on the fire and heat it hot, but don't let boil, and strain; then take fair dates, and pick out the stones, and cut thin, & add; then take pears, and pare them and boil them, and cut them in thin slices, and place in the syrup; then take a little sandalwood, and add, and set it on the fire; and if you have quinces, add them, and look that it stand well with sugar, and well laid with cinnamon, and add salt, and let it boil; and put it in a wooden container, & let it cool, and serve.
Our modern pears, which can be purchased fresh from the grocery store, are softer & sweeter than the type available to the Medieval cook, and don't need to be boiled to soften before cutting; I also find cutting cooked, soft pears a little inconvenient. To "pare" (from the Latin parare - to prepare) means to either "pare" (remove outer skin) or "to prepare;" I have thus chosen "to prepare" my pears by slicing before boiling.
Composte is an Old French word meaning "stewed fruit."
Wardonys were a type of English pear common in the Middle Ages - feel free to substitute any slightly hard, not-too-sweet variety.
Sawnderys, or sandalwood, was used primarily by Medieval cooks as a red food dye. It can taste rather nasty if not used properly, and is only recommend for authenticity's sake. Red food coloring is much cheaper and easier to find.
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