Jacobin Sops

Take two hundred capons ...

Medieval shop for tablewareThis is a recipe from the delightful cookbook Du fait de cuysine by Maître Chiquart. He was a cook in the service of Amadeus VIII (1383-1451, also known as the last Antipope Felix V from 1439 to 1449), count and first duke of Savoy. Amadeus was a regular guest at the courts of Burgundy and Berry (the Duc de Berry of the famous book of prayers was his great-uncle), and was well aware of the elevated status of his family and court. He commisioned a history of the duchy of Savoy, and ordered several of the craftsmen and scientists at his court to write books on their subject. Interesting little fact for Harry Potter fans: a study about the philosopher's stone was one of the works that were written as a result.

Du fait de cuysine by Maître Chiquart
Maitre Chiquart (that is how he called himself, and how he is named in the ducal administration) dictated his book in 1420 to  "Jehan de Dudens, clerc, bourgeois de Anessier le bourg (Annecy)". That it is in essence a spoken text is obvious. An modern editor would have revised the text drastically. But the charm of the book is that you get a clear impression of how a kitchen in a great court functioned. This is clearly a cookbook written by a cook. The Canadian historian Terence Scully published an edition of the original text in 1985, and an English translation in 1986 (see bibliography).

Du fait de cuysine is unique in its composition. instead of a division in kinds of dishes or ingredients, the recipes are ordered according to the festive meals that were served on October 26 and 27 ((which year is not certain, Scully suggests 1403) during a visit of Philip the Bold. The menus of these meals are recorded on the last pages of the manuscript. No meat was served, just fish. As it appears, October 26 and 27 were a Friday and Saturday in 1403, both fishdays according to the rules of the Church. But Chiquart has given an equivalent meat recipe for every fish recipe.

This is not a cookbook for beginners or amateurs, Chiquart describes some very intricate recipes, like guilded, fire spitting boar's heads with heraldic decorations, or an outrageous castle that has to be carried in by four men, decorated with little figures of meat paste and a fontaine d'Amours that spouts rose water and spiced wine. On top of the four towers are spectacular entremets, and the birds that occupy the court are all roasted.

Chiquart's shopping list
For a festive banquet for several hundred guests you'll need to do some planning ahead. Chiquart provides a shopping list: one hundred fat cows, hundred and thirty fat sheep, hundred twenty pigs, one hundred piglets a day, two hundred kid and lambs, one hundred calves, two thouseand chickens and six thousand eggs. Not to mention about six hundred pounds ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise and pepper, twenty four pounds of saffron, and six pounds each of nutmeg, cloves, mace and galangal. 

Not Soupe, but Sop
The recipe is for soupe Jacobine. This soupe is not a soup in the modern sense, but a sop (food soaked in a liquid before being eaten). According to the menu at the end of the cookbook this was served during the main meal of the second day, the dynee that was served at noon. The sop must be served in gold, silver and pewter dishes. What metal you got depended on your status. Moreover, the lower you were on the social ladder, the smaller the portion you got. The dishes did not get smaller, but you had to share a dish with more people. On the picture above you can see a French tableware shop from the fifteenth century.
The soupe jacobine has a Middle Dutch variation. In ms UB Gent 476 (around 1500, edition) there is a recipe for soppijn Jacopijn, a slice of bread on which cheese and chickenmeat are heaped. But the recipes are not exactly the same. Chiquart uses broth with bone marrow and herbs, the Dutch version beef broth and sugar, and the cheeses are regional cheeses. I have prepared the Dutch version several times, and it is very good. Because of the sugar it tastes even more 'medieval' than the almost hundred year older recipe of Chiquart.
A very special version of Jacobin Sop from the seventeenth century, meant for Good Friday, can be found here.

The Jacobin cloister in 1794 at the termination of the revolutionary JacobinsJacobins
More medieval Jacobin recipes have survived. In the Ménagier de Paris there is a recipe for a delicious eel pie called Tarte Jacobine. (there is also a Middle Dutch version of Tarte Jacobine in the Nieuwen Coc-boeck of Carolus Battus 1593). Who or what were these Jacobins? They were monks from the Dominican order, their oldest cloister in Paris was dedicated to the apostle Jacob. The street where the Dominican cloister was situated, was named after the cloister Rue Saint-Jacques. During the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century there was a group of radical revolutionaries than named themselves after the street where they convened, but these Jacobins have nothing to do with our soupe Jacobine. On the picture a rendition of the 'termination' of the revolutionary Jacobins in 1794 with the cloister as backdrop. Anyway, I would love to take a peek at a fourteenth century cookbook of that cloister, because both recipes are very tasty!

The original recipe
The cookbook of Maistre Chiquart is called Du fait de Cuysine (About cooking). It survives in just one manuscript, S103, that is kept in the Kantonal-Bibliothek in Sion (in the Swiss province Wallis). Terence Scully, who has also delivered excellent editions and translations of the Viandier and the three books by La Varenne, has published the Oldfrench text in 1986, and seperately an English translation. Both are hard to find, but there is also a translation on the internet by Elizabeth Cook, so you can at least get an impression. Manuscript S103 is the actual manuscript written in the hand of Jehan de Dudens, in 1420. For the English translation I have used Scully's version (edition pp.44/45).

Et pour servir de la soupe jacobine fault que haiés voz beaulx chappons et, selon la quantité de la feste, cent ou .iic. chappons de haulte gresse, et d'aultre poulaille a grant foyson pour servir en deffault desdistz chappons ; et si soient roustitz bien et appoint. Et quant sera au despiecer les beuffs d'aute gresse si prenne on les os miolle et les lavés bien et adroit, puis les mectés boullir en chaudieres belles et nectes, et de beau mouston parmi ; et puis apprés faictes que vous ayés ung quintal de tresbon fromaige de Crampone et de Brye et du plus fin que faire se pourra et trouver, et lesditz fruictz faciés parer et nectoyer bien et appoint, et puis le tayllés bien minument. Et ledit queux qui est ordonné pour faire ladicte soupe jacopine si prenne deux ou .iiic. pains de bouche et ce pain taille par belles lesches et les roustissez tresbien nectement sans bruller, et qu'il soit rousselet, et puis le mectés en belles cornues belles et nectes - et que vous aiés .ii. belles postz blanches et nectes pour tailler vostre dit pain rousti pour les souppes jacobines ; et puis que vous ayés vostre platz d'or et d'argent et d'estaing a la suite, et par voz platz alloés vostre pain bien et doulcement et le fromaige par dessus. Et prennés voz chappons et les mectés par membres, c'est assavoir levés les ailles et les cuisses et levés la crouppe ; et puis prennés le blanc dudit chappon et le taillés bien menuz, et ce blanc de chappon semés par dessus vostre souppe jacobine ; et puis apprés prennés les membres desditz chappons, c'est assavoir les aylles, cuisses et crouppe, et mectés par dessus vostre souppe jacopine en ordonnance. Et vous prennés garde de vostre boullon des miolles de beufz et moustons qui sont bons et doulx, et coullés ce boullon en une olle grande, belle et necte ; et que vous hayés une bonne -bonnete- buguete d'erbes de salvy, percy, margellayne et ysope, et quélles soient bien nectoyés et lavees, et mectés dedans vostre boullon. Et faictes que vers le dreceur, ou vous serés pour servir des dictes souppes jacopines, vous hayés bon feu de charbon et dessoubz vostres oulles en quoy est vostre boullon affin qu'il boulle toujours ; et dudit boullon cuisés voz dictes souppes jacopines.To serve Jacobin Sops you need your good capons, and, depending on the size of the feast, that will be one or two hundred fat capons, and a large number of other poultry to serve if those capons run out; and they should be properly roasted. When fat oxen are being cut up, their marrow bones should be taken and carefully washed, and then set to boil in good clean cauldrons with good mutton among them. After that, arrange to get a quintal [120 lbs] of very good Crampone cheese and Brie cheese, the finest that can be made and found, and have this cheese properly pared and cleaned, then cut it up very small. The cook who is ordered to make these Jacobin Sops should take two or three hundred loaves of table bread and cut this bread into good slices and toast them very neatly without burning them, so that they are brownish, and then put them into good clean two-handled pots; and you should have two immaculately clean work-tables to slice that toasted bread for the Jacobin Sops. Then you should set out your gold, silver and pewter dishes in a row, and place your bread delicately on them with the cheese on top. Take your capons and dismember them, that is, remove the wings and the legs, and remove the rump; then take the white meat of each capon and cut it up very small and scatter this white meat from the capons on your Jacobin Sops. After that take the members of the capons, that is, the wings, legs and rump, and place them in orderly fashion on top of your Jacobin Sop. Check on your broth of beef and mutton marrow, that they are good and soft, and filter this broth into a large good clean kettle; get a good bonnette - bouquet garni of sage, parsley, marjoram and hyssop which should be thoroughly cleaned and washed, and put this into your broth. Over by the dressing table where you will be serving up the Jacobin Sops, arrange to have a good coal fire under the kettles containing your broth so that it will keep on boiling, and cover your Jacobin Sops with this broth.

Modern adaptation of the recipe Print the recipe on this page
I've reduced the amounts to a meal for four persons. My estimate is that the amounts in the original recipe were for four to eight hundred people, if you reckon a half to a quarter capon each. In the fifteenth century the Jacobin Sop was served in dishes for multiple eaters. The guest of honor and the host probably had a dish for themselves, from which they would present morsels as a token of favour. The larger the distance between the eater and the places of honour, the more persons he had to share his dish with. For the modern adaptation I use individual soup plates. We are all guests of honour! Although ... the plates I used were simple earthenware dishes ...
First course or main course soup for 4 persons; preparation in advance at least1 hour; preparation 15 minutes.

Jacobin SopIngredients
1 fat chicken, home-roasted (the ready roast chicken you can buy won't be spiced the medieval way!)
2 marrow bones of beef and 2 of sheep or lamb, or 4  marrow bones of beef
200 gram (1/2 pound) salers or cantal, or gruyère if you can't find the other two
200 gram (1/2 pound) brie, not too ripe
coarse white bread, uncut, two days old
sprigs of sage, parsley, marjoram and hyssop
8 deciliter (3 cups/1 1/2 pints) medieval beef stock (or modern stock, preferably home made)

Preparation in advance
Cover the marrow bones with cold water, bring to the boil. Take the marrow bones out of the water, rinse them well and put them in a pan with the beef stock. Let simmer for an hour. Strain the stock while still hot (marrowfat coagulates at a high temperature). Push the remaing marrow fat out of the bones, let it cool slightly and slice it. You can also make the stock after deboning the chicken, because then the carcass can be used too.
Remove legs and wings of the chicken, and take off the white meat. Mince the breast meat.
Before I forget: the chicken was filled with an onion spiked with cloves, and coated with a mixture of melted butter, pepper, ground cloves and cinnamon before roasting.
Grate the salers, cantal or gruyère, remove the crust of the brie and cut into small cubes.

Bring the stock to the boil with the herbs.
Cut the bread into thick slices (2 centimter, 1 inch) and toast them in an oven until brown but not burnt. Place each slice in a deep soup plate and sprinkle the cheeses over them. Then cover with the minced chicken meat that you have reheated in a little hot broth. Place a leg or wing on each plate.
Pour the boiling hot broth over the covered bread and serve at once. If you are not averse to it, garnish the sop with some slices of marrow.

To serve
You can also, like Chiquart, pour the stock over the sop at the table, but take care that the stock is as hot as possible.

All descriptions of ingredients

A marrow spoonBone Marrow - 'The soft, nutritious substance found in the internal cavities of animal bones, especially the shin bones of oxen and calves' (The Oxford Companion to Food). It used to be a delicacy, but now it is looked upon with suspicion (BSE, cholesterol). This distrus and repulsion is not justified. Bone marrow contains iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, and contains 75% monounsaturated fat which is believed (though not yet proven beyond a doubt) to reduce the risk of heart disease and even some cancers. Since the shin bone is not connected to the brain or spine, there is no risk of BSE.
Modern use of bone marrow is limited to soup bones and ossobucco.
Before using bone marrow, you have to prepare it. The bones have to soak for at least twelve hours in salted water which has to be refreshed several times. You'll see the water turn pink from the blood that is extracted from the bone marrow by the salted water. After soaking rinse the bones and dep them dry.
Bone marrow can be prepared in to fashions: you can boil them or roast them. If you boil them, fifteen minutes is enough. Roasting takes about as much (or little) time, in a preheated oven of 225-240dgC/435-465dgEF. Just place the bones upright in a greased baking tray. When the bones are done, they are served on a plate with a special marrow spoon. The marrow is scooped out of the bones, spread on freshly toasted bread and sprinkled with salt.
The marrow spoon dates from around 1700, when serving roasted marrow bones was quite popular. The spoon can be used at both sides, for narrow and wider marrow bones.
Brie - Soft cheese with a crusty white mould, originally made of raw cow milk. It is made in the region East of Paris. Most Brie you can buy today is made from pasteurized milk, to the detriment ot the taste of the cheese, but it eliminates listeria bacteria. That is important for pregnant women, because it can cause miscarriage or a very sick baby. However, if you or your guests aren't expecting, look for unpasteurized Brie. By the way, in unpasteurized Gouda cheese there's no danger of listeria because of the different production process.
Brie has a long history. It was already produced during the reign of Charlemagne who enjoyed the cheese in 774. In the fifteenth century the cheese inspired Charles, Duke of Orleans (1394-1465) to write a little poem to accompany 240 whole Bries that were send to as many ladies at the court: Mon doux coeur, je vous envoie / Soigneusement choisi par moi / Le brie de Meaux délicieux. / Il vous dira que, malheureux, / Par votre absence je languis / Au point d'en perdre l'appétit. / Et c'est pourquoi je vous l 'envoie. / Quel sacrifice c'est pour moi! (source: Duizend gezichten van zuivel). Famous is the anecdote about the Congress in Vienna in 1814/1815, when Talleyrand, to lighten the mood, organized a competition between the attending nations which produced the best cheese. Brie was the unanimous favourite and received the honorary title roi des fromages, et fromage des rois.
Craponne or Salers - The fromaige de crampone is a pressed cheese of cow milk originating from Craponne in the Auvergne. The modern name of this cheese is Salers, a variation of Cantal. Salers is still produced with raw milk from cows grazing on mountain pasture. But, while Cantal is made all year through, the production of Salers is limited from April 15 to November 15.
Hyssopus officinalisHyssop - A small shrub with tiny purple flowers, Hyssopus officinalis. You can grow it easily in your own garden. The taste of the leaves resembles thyme. The plant originates from the Middle East and the Mediterranean, where it was a kitchen herb in classic times. The taste is rather dominant, use it sparingly. According to Alan Davidson (The Oxford Companion to Food) hyssop helps the digestion of fat, which makes it a very good herb in fatty meat dishes.
Marjoram - In Latin Origanum majorana. The kitchen herb oregano is wild marjoram, Origanum vulgare. Marjoram is the cultivated variety, but very old, it is already used in classical Greek and Roman kitchens. In a temperate climate like the Netherlands marjoram is an annual herb, it has trouble surviving the winter. Oregano is stronger, but tastes better in a warmer climate.

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)

  • Manuscript UB Gent 476: Ria Jansen-Sieben and Johanna Maria van Winter, De keuken van de late Middeleeuwen (Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 1998, second, revised edition; or. 1989)
  • Terence Scully, 'Du fait de cuisine par Maistre Chiquart, 1420'. In: Vallesia 40 (1985) pp.101-231. Online English translation by Elisabeth Cook
  • Terence Scully, Chiquart's 'on Cookery': A Fifteenth-Century Savoyard Culinary Treatise (American University Studies Series, IX : History, Vol 22, 1986).