Blacktown Medieval Fair- Cooking with Charcoal
On the 18th and 19th of May, 2013, Company of the Staple went to Blacktown Medieval Fair. We didn’t have a tournament this year which allowed us to concentrate on our first love, medieval food and craft. We cooked bread and cheese for the first time, crushed black grapes for pink garlic sauce, brought back a favorite in ‘lamb haricot’, and turned the fresh cheese into delicious deep fried cheese fritters.
It was also the first time we used charcoal to cook instead of wood. So. Much. Easier. It took us a while to work out what was a good temperature as charcoal doesn’t give the same visual clues as wood.
Charcoal fuel made the weekend easier for two major reasons
1) We didn’t have to keep chopping up wood, the charcoal came in nice sized pieces.
2) We didn’t have to wait for the wood to burn down to embers in order to cook. Flames might be pretty, but a cooking fire requires a constant radiating heat and the flame is no good for that.
In the above photo, we have a grill which the charcoal is sitting on, which is providing air flow for the fire. Hopefully we will have a bellows by Winterfest as our Human Bellows seemed pretty exhausted by the end of the day. Our firebox and charcoal grill are not medieval, but we have to use them for many venues where we may not dig a hole for our fire.
The ceramic saucepan is sitting on a metal trivet. It provides plenty of heat for cooking and ensures that the saucepan is steady, which is important when you are deep frying oil over a charcoal fire. (We had blankets nearby in case of spillage as the buckets of water would not have done any good in an oil fire.)
The pot just contains water keeping warm. It’s always nice to have hot water.
Cooking with Ceramics.
All our ceramics come from Flaming Gargoyles in the ACT. They may not be as study as iron cook pots, but there’s a lot more evidence that they were used by middle class people, and they are much lighter to carry around. Some care instructions for anyone wanting to start using ceramics themselves.
- Soak the ceramics for 24 hours prior to use. This ensures that they are not dry, which will make them prone to cracking on the fire.
- Slowly warm up the ceramics. We put the ceramics in the coldest corner of our firebox and gradually move it in to a warmer place. Thermal shock is the biggest cause of damage to ceramics, so warm them up slowly before they go on the fire.In that same vein, let them cool down again before you put cold water in them or lay them on cool ground.
- Don’t touch the ceramics once they’ve been on the fire – they will stay deceptively hot for a long time without looking any different. We use a goatskin leather mitten with wool insulation inside for handling the cookware.
Making bread to feed the masses. In the background, the leather fire glove can be seen on the table, next to some of the ceramics.