Daily Archives: January 6, 2011

Applemoyse Concoction

There’s an SCA apple pudding (actually a mousse/muse/moyse, which literally means “blend” or “mix”) which isn’t supposed to be too hard to make the modern way. So I set out tonight to make it.

The problem is, that even when I added an extra egg yolk, it didn’t really thicken for me like it was supposed to, and it tasted like applesauce. I mean, exactly like applesauce. It was as if I hadn’t added any ingredients at all. (Possibly the applesauce I started with was more watery than what the redaction writer used.) I didn’t have any rosewater or “damaske water”, but I hadn’t thought that would be a serious problem. Now I knew what it was for — changing the taste.

It had occurred to me earlier that cheddar cheese would probably be really nice as a topper for it, but I didn’t have any cheddar. So I thought, “Maybe I should add some cheese. Maybe that would make it taste and look like something other than applesauce.” The only cheese I had was Velveeta, so I used it. It did thicken the applesauce a bit, but not much, and the taste didn’t change much, either, even though I used maybe a half inch off the Velveeta block. The Velveeta melted so well that it blended right into the applesauce! It did make the applesauce taste richer, but that was very subtle.

I added more spices. Still applesauce. I added turmeric. Finally, the color changed. But it still tasted like applesauce, albeit spicy applesauce.

So, in desperation, I hauled out the alcohol. (It’s still the holidays, so people like that.) I guess I could have used that black raspberry liqueur, but honestly, that flavor is so strong and sweet that the pudding probably would have been oversweetened. I probably should have just used whiskey, but not everybody likes the taste of whisky. I had some Bailey’s, so I mixed a few splashes of that in. It worked pretty well with the spices and the applesauce, though I think the alcohol didn’t cook out as thoroughly as it would have if I’d put it in from the beginning. But it was clearly not storebought applesauce after that, and it did seem more like a dessert than a side dish.

Overall, this applemoyse came out better than I deserved. It was very tasty, served warm. The flavor faded somewhat when cold, but it did finally get a thicker texture and it still was pretty good.

I think that the next time I make this recipe, I will have to strain out some of the applesauce water or put in a lot more egg yolks.

I probably could have put in more Velveeta than I did. The almost total solubility of the Velveeta in a watery substance was very startling! Another cheese might have improved the taste, though it would have to be something that does melt well or you’d have to make it into some kind of crust or topping. If I’d had more time, it might have been good to cook up some rice or tear up some stale bread and put it into the pudding to absorb the water, or put in some other fruit that had lots of pectin, to make the pudding thicken more. I probably also could have put in honey instead of sugar.

Of course, it’s also possible that using applesauce for this recipe is just not the way to go, and that you should start by roasting or boiling your apples according to the original recipe. With historical recipes, there’s often some hidden pitfall if you try to take a shortcut. But tons of other people seem to have had success with this specific applesauce version of the recipe, and they feel it’s easy and quick and hard to get wrong. Shrug.

Several different applemoyse recipes and cooking methods, from different centuries.


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In ancient Roman slang, “pagani” didn’t just mean “countryfolk”. It was military slang for “civvies”, the people who stayed home on the farm while you enlisted, or the people out in the countryside who your squad wasn’t supposed to antagonize while you marched through the Roman world. (See definition 2 in the link.)

So why was this picked up as Christian slang for non-Christian worshippers of the various gods? Because Christians were urban and countrydwellers were hard to convert? I now think that’s probably not what happened, in light of the military slang. No, I think it’s an old joke that goes something like this:

Roman recruits took an oath (sacramentum) and became legionaries. Catechumens took the covenant oath act/sacrament (sacramentum) of Baptism, and became Christians. So obviously, Christians were in Christ’s legion, and non-Christians were civvies. 🙂 But it was even more useful than that. Jews were part of the older covenant oaths of God, and so were clearly not civvies. This meant it wasn’t simply a cliqueish term for “those people over there who aren’t part of the Church”, but had wider application. It also implied a sort of protectiveness. Christians had been made the salt of the earth and the light of the world, for the benefit and defense of the civvies from the attacks of the enemy, the Devil.

From very early on, there were buttloads of military folks who (by the archaeological evidence) were buried as Christians, as well as all the legendary evidence to the same effect. We know they influenced religious discourse in some fairly important ways, like ending the Mass with the military command “Ita, missa est!” Imbedding a joke like this would be quite logical.

I’ve probably read this somewhere before, but it didn’t stick. I don’t remember Scott Hahn on “pagani”, although he talks a lot about “sacramentum”. Robin Lane Fox mentioned the military meaning in his 1980’s Pagans and Christians book on the transition of the Roman world to Christianity (which I’ve been reading), and says it was never formally used in formal early Christian texts like Bible translations.

UPDATE: Apparently Robin Lane Fox talks about this more, later in the book. His rationale is apparently centered on the early Christian image of themselves as “milites Christi”, soldiers of Christ, and not on “sacramentum”. But I have to get to that point in the book to see what’s going on, and if more is mentioned.

Also, apparently I missed talk about this on the etymology site Take My Word for It back in 1999, which was reprinted several places on the Web, and which apparently drew its info from Robin Lane Fox. Aeh, I’m always last to know.

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Happy Epiphany!

In Italy and Spain and many other countries, this is the traditional gift-giving day. (Because the Three Magi brought gifts.)

The Pope had another good homily today. He noted that the Magi didn’t find Jesus in the center of power, or even among the Scripture scholars (though they were useful signposts to finding Him). He also prayed that the faithful would become like guiding stars for people seeking Jesus.

He also made a hospital visit to kids (bringing them presents, of course!), where he made some remarks:

“Dear babies and young people, I’ve also wanted to come see you that I might be a little like the Magi we celebrate on this Epiphany Feast: they brought some gifts to Jesus — gold, frankincense and myrrh — to show adoration and love. Today I’ve also brought you some gifts, that you might feel in them a little sign of the care, the closeness and affection of the Pope. But I would wish that in these Christmas days, all of us, adults and children alike, remember that God has given the greatest gift to each one of us.

“When we look to the manger of Bethlehem, to the crib, what do we see? Who do we find? There’s Mary, there’s Joseph, but above all, there’s a baby — small, in need of attention, of care, of love. That baby is Jesus, that baby is God himself who wanted to come to earth to show us how much he loves us; it’s God who made himself a child like you to tell you that he’s always nearby, to say to each one of us that every baby, every child, carries his face.

Venetian/Italian cakes for Epiphany:

A Venetian corn flour/wheat flour mush cake with fruit.

Another couple of polenta mush/wheat flour cakes, if you scroll down. Polenta really is exactly the same as cornmeal mush from New England, so if you loosen it up, you could probably just use the tube of mush in your fridge. 🙂

In Italian, a yeast cake called Pinza with lots of fruit and nuts. (Scroll down for the recipe.)

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