Potage for somer season

DESCRIPTION: A pottage with meatballs (not 'A pottage of pork, veal, & almond milk, coloured with violets')

From Jeff Berry, author of The Aspiring Luddite

The redaction for the recipe Potage for somer season on the 'A Boke of Gode Cookery' website is based on a mistaken transcription of the original recipe and this results in a rather strange interpretation of a relatively straight-forward recipe.

The source is listed as 'A noble boke of festes ryalle and Cokery' and the receipt is given as:

Potage for somer season.
Take felettes of porke and of vele welle beten in a morter rawe / and in the betynge alaye thy flesshe with egges / thanne take up the flessh in a fayre vessell and put therto pouder of clowes pouder of peper & salte colour it with saffron & meddle it well togyder thanne make therof smale vylottes and put therin in the panne with water boylynge on the fyre / & whan they be well boyled put therin to a fayre vessell / thanne take almonde mylke made with broth of fresshe beef & put it in to a fayre potte / do therto clowes maces pruynes raysyns of corans & gynger mynced grete: than sette the potte on the fire & styre it well togyder & put the vylottes in the potte & lete therin have one boylle or two & coloure it cawdell hewe and salte it and serue it.

A transcription of this recipe from this source appeared on the SCA-Cooks mailing list in 2009 - http://lists.ansteorra.org/pipermail/sca-cooks-ansteorra.org/2009-November/028378.html - which gives a 'Scully-type' line by line transcription of two separate editions.1 That article renders the word transcribed above as 'vylottes' as 'pylottes' in one manuscript and 'pilotes' in the other. The latter spelling, 'pilotes,' is also the one which appears in the transcription located on medievalcookery.com - http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/napier.txt.

Another variation of this recipe appears in 'A noble boke off cookry ffor a prynce houssolde or eny other estately houssolde' available at the Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/b21529565. The recipe is on page 24, and reads:

To make potage for somer sessone
TAK felettes of pork or of befe well betten in a mortair rawe and in betteinge alay the fleshe with egges then tak up the fleshe in a faire vesselle and putt ther to pouder of cloves pouder of pepper and salt and coloure it with saffron and mele it well and mak ther of small pilotes and cast them into a pan with watir boiling on the fier and when it is well boiled put them in a faire vesselle then tak almonde mylk mad with brothe of freshe beef and put it in a faire pott putt ther to hole cloves mace pynes raysins of corans gengile mynced then set the pot on the fiere and sturr it welle and put the pilotes in the pot and let them haue one boyle or twaine and colour with cawdelle hewe and salt it and serve it.

It is apparent that the source on Godecookery has been mistranscribed, specifically that the letter combination 'pi' or 'py' has been rendered by the transcriber as 'vy' and the word given as 'vylottes' should be rendered as 'pilottes' or 'pylottes'. (The word 'them' also appears to be mistranscribed in several places as 'therein.')

All else aside, taking the word as vylottes is problematical for many practical reasons.

First, vylottes does not appear in the online Middle English Dictionary at all. The entry for violet - https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/m/mec/med-idx?type=id&id=MED51217 - does not include any entry with that spelling, which, while not definitive, does suggest rather strongly that the word does not exist with that spelling.

Second, the recipe as redacted calls for the dish to be served in slices like meatloaf. This is not generally the case with pottage, which usually means something with a more soup- or stew-like texture. This instruction hinges, I suspect, on the misreading of violets requiring a somewhat torturous interpretation of the phrase 'coloure it cawdell hewe and salt it and serve it' which is explained as shaping it like a pudding and slicing it. A more reasonable reading would be to simply make it cawdell colored, salt the pottage, and serve it.

Third, the recipe explicitly calls for the pottage to be coloured with saffron, which would lend it a yellow colour. Indeed, that is much of the point of saffron in medieval cookery.

Fourth, the instruction in the transcription to 'make thereof small violets' makes little sense. To mix the meat and make pellets, which are then boiled is far more sensible.

Fifth, and on this point I am less certain, I believe that violets bloom late in winter and early in spring, which would make them an odd choice for a summer soup.

In short, the recipe is for a soup with meatballs, not for a violet coloured meatloaf.

Pottage for summer season
Take fillets of pork and veal, well beaten in a mortar raw, and in the beating allay thy flesh with eggs, then take up the flesh in a fair vessel, and put thereto powder of cloves, powder of pepper, and salt. Colour it with saffron and meddle it well together. Then make thereof small pellets and put them in the pan with water boiling on the fire and when they be well boiled put them to a fair vessel. Then take almond milk made with broth of fresh beef and put it to a fair pot, do thereto cloves, mace, raisins of corans, and ginger minced great. Then set the pot on the fire and stir it well together and put the pellets in the pot and let them have one boil or two, and color it caudel hue, and salt it and serve it.

Or, in brief:
Take ground pork and veal. Mix it with raw eggs, ground cloves, pepper, salt, and saffron. Make small (yellowish) meatballs and boil/poach them until they are cooked.

Make almond milk with beef broth. Season it with cloves (I'd use powdered), mace (likewise powdered), currants, and minced ginger. Mix that well and bring it to a simmer. Add your pellets and bring them up to temperature. If needed, give the broth a yellowish color with a bit of saffron. Salt it, and serve it.

1. Scully uses this technique in The Viandier of Taillevent, where all extant manuscript version of a recipe are presented interlineated.