Mannerly Margery’s Milk & Ale Pies
I can hear you thinking: “Why on earth would anyone make a dessert with milk and ale? And who is this Margery person anyway?”
The answer is simple. I am involved in creating a website for the late-medieval poet John Skelton. Together with my two fellow Webmaisters we are operating as The Skelton Project. You can visit our website www.skeltonproject.com, follow our twitter @skeltonproject for Middle English musings and mockery and like our facebook page for updates and fun stuff. Skelton is far from boring, trust me.
"Enough of the shameless plugging, what’s the deal with these milk and ale pies?"
One of Skelton’s poems, Manerly Margery Mylk and Ale, features a clergyman and his mistress Margery throwing rhyming insults at each other. For obvious reasons, Margery’s nickname caught my attention. I did some research and found out that milk and ale refers to the medicinal drink posset: a combination of an alcoholic beverage and milk, which together produce a drink made of curdles and whey (it probably refers to Margery’s unchaste nature). I found some posset recipes, none of which seemed particularly appetising. One source even suggests milking a cow straight over a bucket of ale…
Yes, but I was getting more and more curious about this medieval posset. So I went ahead and boiled milk and spices. I heated up the ale with some lemon zest and put the two together. Never before was I pleased to see curdles appear! I scooped them off and they tasted alright. I added a little more sugar, spices, and some eggs and my filling was done.
"And what’s inside the jar?"
The residue of whey and ale tasted, well, medicinal. But after adding lots of lemon zest and sugar it actually became rather tasty. With the help of a few egg yolks I managed to make a lovely lemon & ale curd out of the drink.
The tart shells are made of pate sucré, which I’m sure must have existed in some form in the fifteenth century. I filled the shells with the curdle custard and baked them.
The texture of the custard took some getting used to, it is slightly cheesecake-like, but the taste is pretty decent. With a crisp base, the zesty curd, and lots of snow (just whipped cream, really) I actually managed to turn medieval medication into a tasty pastry.