Recipe Source: Coquinaria.nl. I have no idea who the translator is; if it's you please let me know so I can properly cite you. Find the original recipe here.
I've been kind of into the Netherlands lately and I'm not really sure why. It's not like I know a lot about the Netherlands. I know their history to some extent, but only as it touches upon other places. I know about William of Orange because of his impact on English history. I know a little about their struggle for independence from Spain because of how it impacted the reign of Elizabeth I. I guess that the real pull that the place has on me is New York. New York, for those of you who don't already know this, did not start out as an English colony. The first European settlers were Dutch. What we now know as New York State was called New Netherlands and the city they founded there was called New Amsterdam. (The land belonged to other people before the Dutch, but I know even less about them to my great chagrin, and none of what I do know is at all relevant to a food blog. Although if you do have any information on the diet of the first native New Yorkers please do get in touch with me.)
Anyway, I've found a couple of medieval Dutch recipes online. Now, I don't have the best impression of a lot of Northern European cookery. In my head it's all cabbage and boiled pork. I know that this is not accurate by any stretch of the imagination but there you have it. Both of these recipes involve, at least in some way, apples. In my imagination, which is sometimes given to excess, I can understand what it is that drew those colonists to New York and it is the apple. In my head I can just see an early Dutch colonist turning to his wife and saying, "This is great apple country!" Except he says it in Dutch. I love apples. Upstate New York, my native land, is pretty fantastic apple country and I take great delight in gorging myself on apples every fall.
Back to the recipe. The original only mentioned apples as a variation. The recipe is for a stuffing with which you can stuff all sorts of things, from birds to eggs to, well, apples. I was looking for a period side dish to serve at a Sunday open house and when I saw that you could stuff apples with it I said, "Ooooo!" Now, I did make one fairly major change. The recipe, which dates to 1484, called specifically for pork. I am hideously, ghastly allergic to pork. But I could stuff apples.... I almost decided not to make the dish but then I changed my mind. I've used turkey as a substitute for pork on several occasions and with the exception of bacon (turkey bacon is an abomination and must be stopped) it makes a very satisfying alternative. I decided to use ground turkey here.
Some people, and you know who you are, will be losing your mind here. Not only am I substituting out a period ingredient, but I'm replacing it with one that was unknown in Europe in 1484. I think that it is perfectly acceptable to substitute or omit period ingredients where safety is concerned. Usually when I do so it's a safety issue that affects everyone (Yes, I know they used pennyroyal like we use parsley. It's al
so toxic under certain very common circumstances so I don't use it unless I know no one dining with us will possibly be affected.) While in this case the safety issue only affects a small number of people - I can think of three including myself in my own social circle - it is a safety issue nonetheless. Furthermore, large parts of the Netherlands were ruled by Spain. We know from Nola that at least some cooks were accustomed to cooking for people who could not consume pork. Now, Nola was working in Naples but he was working for an Aragonese ruler, and the King of Spain at this point was Aragonese. I feel that it isn't much of a stretch to say that a cook in an area influenced by Spain might well have also substituted something else for pork. Furthermore, at least in later times the Netherlands became known for tolerating certain folks who did not consume pork. (Stuyvesant in New Amsterdam fought allowing Jews into the colony but his masters back in Europe firmly told him that he had to.)
So, now that I've justified using something other than pork for this recipe, let's talk turkey. Turkey is the most delicious white meat that you can find. It's probably just the result of Thanksgiving, but somehow the smell and taste of turkey are just eternally wedded to autumn in my mind. (Not that I won't eat turkey at other times of year. It's just more abundant in the fall.) It is also incontrovertibly New World and therefore wildly inappropriate for a recipe that dates to 1484. Okay. That's all true. I've certainly heard of turkey being recommended in later (still pre-1600) periods as a substitute for other birds that are not readily available as food in the modern United States - peacock or swan, for example. I could have used chicken, but I happened to have ground turkey on hand. Furthermore, while we modernly think of chickens as cheap protein sources they don't appear to have been thought so in the medieval period. I could have used ground beef or ground lamb, but both of those have
very strong flavors of their own and would not have been quite right here. If I were entering this into a period cooking competition I would not have used turkey. I was not entering this into a period cooking competition. I was serving this to some friends out on the back deck. If you care that much, go ahead and use pork.
Medieval Stuffed Apples (serves about 12; approx. cost per serving not available)
15 apples (I used Macintoshes because that's what I had on hand. I'm not sure what variety available in the medieval Netherlands would be available now.)
1 pound ground turkey
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Kosher salt to taste
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Roasting pan
- Frying pan
- Food processor
- Optional: Big Green Egg or other wood-fired oven. I could have easily made this indoors but the kitchen was hot enough and I think the smoke from the wood in the Egg really added something very tasty to this dish.
- Brown the turkey in the frying pan. I don't think I used any added fat, but if you're more comfortable with it use a little olive oil to prevent burning. The turkey should be fully cooked.
- Let the turkey cool a little.
- Transfer the turkey, eggs, spices and salt to the food processor and grind to a paste.
- Slice the top off each apple. Reserve the lids.
- Hollow out a space in the center of each apple. I used a melon baller to do this but you can use a spoon or whatever. It's important to leave enough substance to the walls of the apple that it can still stand up in the roasting pan.
- Fill the space you've just hollowed out with the turkey mixture.
- Replace the top of the apples and arrange them in a roasting pan.
- Roast in the Big Green Egg about 10 - 15 minutes at 350 degrees. If you are cooking indoors cook in a 350 degree oven. You can probably afford to go a little over time, but don't cook the apples so much that they collapse. The stuffing ingredients are fully cooked so this is not a safety issue.