Tomorrow is Candlemas, or The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is 40 days after Christmas and a halfway mark between the start of winter and the start of spring. It would be a celebration that the end of winter is near. However, it is also a Friday, which is a fast/fish day in the medieval religious calendar.
So I decided to make a “festive” fish dish. Salmon is one of my husband’s favorite foods, something he doesn’t get very often because his loving wife does not eat it.
My research (granted not exhaustive) of medieval Candlemas told me a lot of information about traditions surrounding this feast day, but nothing about the dietary traditions of the period. Something about making pancakes came up and that was about it, and that was a modern tradition as far as I can tell. So I went with fish.
I’ve elected to use fresh salmon, but it might be possible that in February that salted salmon would have been used (lower classes would have used salted fish most of the time). I used dried herbs since it would he home stretch of winter.
This is a 16th century English dish.
To seeth fresh Salmon.
Take a litle water, and as much Beere and Salt, and put thereto Parsley, Time, and Rosemarie, and let all these boyle together: Then put in your Salmon, and make your broth sharpe with some vinigar.
The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin. , London 1594, 1597
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups beer (I used an Irish pilsner lager)
Large pinch salt
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp dried thyme 1 ⅓ lb salmon filet
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
Combine water, beer, salt, parsley, rosemary, and thyme in a large pan with a lid. Bring to a boil then let boil, covered, for five minutes. Add vinegar and salmon (skin side up), reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
When I pulled the salmon out of the pan it broke up a bit, but I also put the whole field into the pan in one piece. Be sure to drain the salmon a bit before serving, as it will have the poaching liquid in it.
I neglected to tell my husband that the salmon he would be eating tonight was a period recipe. He walked in the door expecting salmon baked with butter, dill, and lemon. He was a bit skeptical but liked it after he tried it.
The dish was tender and juicy, with flavor, but not overwhelming the salmon.
According to my husband,
“After getting clobbered all day, feasting on this will heal me of my injuries. 5 out of 5 Garcias.”