For our third excursion into “Meatballs From History,” I present a dish called “Golden Apples”.
Medieval and Renaissance-era cookery texts contain numerous examples of “illusion foods” — foods that are disguised as other foods, or even non-food objects. One of medieval cooks’ favorite games to play seems to have been to dress up strings of dried fruits to make them look like animal intestines. Surprise! Yes, the fourth-grade-boy mentality was alive and well, even back then.
Golden Apples, or Pomme Dorryse (as they were called in 1390) are meatballs that have been painted with an egg batter so as to resemble apples. Here’s the original recipe:
Farsur to make pomme dorryse and oþhere þynges.
Take þe lire of pork rawe, and grynde it smale. Medle it vp wiþ eyren & powder fort, safroun and salt; and do þerto raisouns of courance. Make balles þerof, and wete it wele in white of ayren, & do it to seeþ in boillyng water. Take hem vp and put hem on a spyt. Rost hem wel, and take persel ygrounde and wryng it vp with ayren & a perty of flour, and lat erne aboute þe spyt. And if þou wilt, take for persel, safroun; and serue it forth.
–Forme of Cury (c. 1390), #182, as quoted in Curye on Inglysch
What’s that you say? You’d like to see that again in English? But…that is English! You’ve all studied your Chaucer, right? (Hint: Say the words aloud, and most of them will make sense.)
Oh, all right. Here’s a slightly-modernized rendition:
Forced meat to make pomme dorryse and other things.
Take the meat of pork, raw, and grind it small. Mix it up with eggs & strong powder, saffron and salt; and do thereto currants. Make balls thereof, and wet it well in white of egg, & do it to seethe in boiling water. Take them up and put them on a spit. Roast them well, and take ground parsley and wring it up with eggs & a party of flour, and let turn about the spit. And if you will, take for parsley, saffron; and serve it forth.
So, essentially, you take ground pork and mix it with eggs, spices, and currants. Roll them into meatballs, dip them in egg white, and parboil them. Then put them on a spit and roast them, coating them with a mixture of eggs and flour that has been colored with either parsley (for green) or saffron (for yellow). Here’s my rendition:
5 pounds pork, ground
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon poudre fort (or substitute a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and nutmeg)
5-8 threads saffron
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups currants
1/2 bunch parsley, washed and plucked
1 dozen eggs
1/2 cup rice flour
5-8 more threads saffron
Mix pork, eggs, poudre fort, saffron, salt, and currants, mixing thoroughly as possible. Form into 1” (or slightly larger) meatballs. Bring salted water to a boil and poach meatballs in it just until they float. Skewer meatballs on bamboo skewers and suspend above a roasting pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, take 6 eggs, the parsley, and half the rice flour and puree together in a food processor or blender. Set aside. Take the other 6 eggs, the remaining rice flour, and the saffron, and likewise puree it in the blender; set this aside, also. When the meatballs are cooked, remove them from the oven, and while they are still hot, baste half with the first egg mixture, and the other half with the second; return to oven for a minute or two until this coating solidifies. Repeat until you run out of the egg mixtures.
(Note that for some reason, I seem to have skipped the step of dipping the meatballs in egg white before boiling. Hmmm. Wonder why I did that?)
I don’t think anyone would actually be fooled into thinking these were apples, but they do make a pretty dish.