Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Plum time! Time for Erbowle

This is the time of year the plums are ripe. We used to have a full-grown plum tree in our garden, but that one was felled when we moved house. I planted a new plum tree in our new garden, but this year it still had to accommodate to its  new environment and did not flower or set fruit. Our stock of medieval plumsauce, however, was finished, so this time I had to resort to buying plums from the market in order to make 'Erbowle', the medieval plum pudding / sauce / jam.

The plum sauce made a few years ago for dinner at the museum in Eindhoven.

I have a modernised recipe of Erbowle from two cookbooks, Pleyn Delit and The medieval kitchen - recipes from France and Italy. They both use the same 14th century English source: The Forme of Cury, but their versions are quite different in amounts of ingredients used and the types of spices added. I did not remember well which version I originally used, so I made a combination which tastes quite well.

 The 'Reine Victoria' red plums.

First, the original recipe

Take bolas and scald them with wyne, and drawe hem thorow a straynour; do hem in a pot. Clarify honey, and therto with powder fort and flour of rys. Salt it & florissh it with whyte aneys, & serve it forth.

3 kg plums (I used Reine Victoria, a red plum variety)
approximately 1.2 litres red wine
4 spoons of clear honey
a pinch of salt
some rice flour (not more than a tablespoon)
a teaspoon of strong spices ( a combination of long pepper, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg)
a teaspoon ground ginger
a teaspoon of cinnamon
(the cookbooks also mention candied anise seeds)

The other ingredients, clockwise: clear honey, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, long pepper and ginger.

Wash and pit the plums. Add the red wine and bring to the boil in a stainless steel pan and simmer for five minutes. Drain trough a sieve and reserve the wine. Return the plums to the pan and mash them with a hand blender. Place the pan over a low heat and stir in the honey, the salt and the spices. Depending on the thickness of the plum purée add some reserved wine or reserved wine with added rice flour. Cook over low heat about 10 minutes. The plum purée has to have a consistency of porridge.

The plum purée is already quite thick.

Left: The remaining wine can be used to make hypocras, but much of the alcohol has been vaporised. Right: Only a very little amount of this rice flour in wine was needed to thicken the plum sauce.

Meanwhile, as I wanted to preserve the plum sauce /jam for later use, I sterilised some empty jam jars and lids by boiling them in water for 20 minutes. They were removed from the boiling water with the help of scissor tongs and put upside down to dry on a clean tea towel. The jam jars were then filled with the hot sauce and closed. I let them settle upside down for a few minutes; while the jar and sauce cooled down, the lid was automatically sucked vacuum. 

 Left: Sterilising the glass jars in boiling water. Right: Nine jam jars with plum sauce, ready for the next season.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A sneak preview of the hanging cupboard for castle Muiderslot

We have been working very hard during since June to have the scapradekijn (or hanging cupboard) ready in time for castle Muiderslot (nowadays also called Amsterdam Castle in order to attract more tourists). (Also reason of the few posts on this blog.) The hanging cupboard has a deadline of Sunday 23 October, so we have only one-and-a-half week left to finish it. The last part we need to finish is the crown of the scapradekeijn; this we will do in the last weekend at the castle. 

A medieval crafts weekend at castle Hernen in July 2016. the Thomasguild is present inside the main hall of the castle. The front panels of the cupboard are being carved. Photo by Ton Rothengatter, the 'house photographer' of the castle.

I will dedicate some blogposts later on the construction of the cupboard. Meanwhile, I will give you some sneak previews of our work on the cupboard.

Bram is working on the crown parts on his bench at castle Hernen at 2 October. 
In the background you can see the cupboard  standing - all parts are still loose. 

Medieval market at castle Hernen on 1 and 2 October 2016.

The scapradekijn hanging in the workshop. The hinges and lock have been attached by nails, 
while the rest is fitted by wooden dowels. They still protrude out of the left side of the cupboard.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The tools of Martin Löffelholz (1505)


Martin Löffelholz was a master technician born around 1496 in Nürnberg, Germany. Like his famous contemporary city member Albrecht Dürer he was also a bit of an inventor.  In 1505 he wrote a book - the Löffelholz codex - containing technical examples of tools, furniture, machines of war (e.g. crossbows) and 'interrogation' equipment. Most famous is his workbench containing one of the first screw-vices. Martin Löffelholz became alderman of Nuremberg in 1528 and passed away on 28 April. 1533. The Löffelholz Codex now resides in the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow, Poland, but the contents can be viewed online. (The only problem is that the official site hosting the codex is very unstable and crashes after viewing a few pages. The codex can also be downloaded, but you then need a special graphics program - Djview - to view/convert the .djvu files.)

 A workbench with a double screw vise as well as an end-vise. The end-vise clamps wooden stock against an iron dog. Several holes have been provided for the iron dog, which can also be sunken level to the workbench top.With the two vises the workbench looks very like the modern workbenches.

 A similar workbench but with different pointed dogs.

The parts and construction of the end-vise of the second workbench, together with the pointed dog.

A double screw vise; here used as a paper press. More on medieval double screw-vises can be found in this blog post.

The Codex Löffelholz, however, contains much more ingenious tools, including those needed to make the wooden screws and screw-nuts.

On the left page the auger to tap the screw-nut is shown. Note that this auger can produce holes of three different sizes! Mine, only can do one size... On the right page the threadbox, both open and closed. Compare these tools with the modern versions on the photos shown below.

Left: The opened modern threadbox. Right: the nut-auger.

Left: the Loffelholz brace with several spoon bits. Right: a 19th century Sheffield brace with a set of bits.

Left: a tapered reamer used for enlarging holes or making tapered mortises. This tools is e.g. used by cart-wrights and coopers. Right: an antique coopers bung hole reamer. Note that both augers start with a twisted part.

Left: A wooden leg vise with metal clamps. Right: a modern antique full metal version.

 One wooden divider and three metal ones. Interestingly, to become a master compassmaker in the Nuremberger guild the apprentice had to make such a metal compass with screw. Several of these items could also be found in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, which I visited this summer. 

To become a master compass-maker in Nuremberg around 1600, the apprentice had to make a handheld vise, a thumbscrew compass, pincers and an all purpose hammer. At least one complete set was always kept in the guild chest.

Left: An auger as an adjustable circle cutter. Right: The modern version of it.

A triple auger drill; the handles are augers themselves.

A machine to make crossbow arrows. The wooden shaft is clamped by a screw-vise, while a spokeshave/scraper/plane like tool moves along a fixed track to smooth the arrow shaft.

A close up of the scraper tool.

The Löffelholz Codex also contains some furniture pieces, among those a rocking cradle and an office chair.

Two drawings of a rocking cradle. These kind of cradles are ubiquitously depicted in late medieval manuscripts 
showing the birth of Maria.

The right upper part of the Maria altar showing a similar cradle painted by Marx Reichlich (around 1500). 
Alten Pinakothek Muchen, Germany.

The first office chair on wheels?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Details of the scapradekijn from Köln

My previous post told about our project to make a scapradekijn or hanging cupboard for Castle Muiderslot (Muiden, the Netherlands). It also showed two of these hanging cupboards that are at the Museum fur angewandte Kunst in Cologne (which I visited several years ago). I wondered if I could get some more information from the museum curator and tried my luck with an email. And yes, after a few weeks the reply came, together with a bunch of photos that showed the hanging cupboard from different angles those found in books. Curiously, the curator, Mr. Werner Nett, mentioned that the museum owned only one hanging cupboard, even though the museum catalogue showed two. The item number (A 988) of the second cupboard I had enquired appeared to be a painting. I do hope that this cupboard is somewhere on loan to another museum, else they have a problem of missing museum property!

The front of the hanging cupboard (Inv. Nr. A 136). There is a small difference between my photo of the hanging cupboard and this one. My photo showed some damage in the top middle window, whereas this one is complete. 
 Photo copyright W. Nett, MAK Koln.

One of the sides of the hanging cupboard. The sides are fastened to the front by iron strips. 
Photo copyright W. Nett, MAK Koln.

Anyway, I am very grateful that they took the other hanging cupboard from the wall and made photos from all sides, taking care of a blanc background. Surprisingly, this medieval cupboard is no different from modern Ikea furniture. The sides that you see are good quality, while the back is made up of cheap material. In other words: the front and sides are made from sturdy oak panels, and the 'invisible' back is made from pine. 

The backside consists of two pine boards that are nailed to the sides of the cupboard. 
At the top space for two hangers can be seen. Photo copyright W. Nett, MAK Koln.
 The top of the hanging cupboard. You can see that the decorative rail is fastened against the front panels. The front panel is sawn away in places where the decorative rail has the X-decoration. Of course there is no supporting front panel at the cupboard door. The back is supported by an extra piece of wood. Photo copyright W. Nett, MAK Koln.

Also interesting is that the thickness of the panels varies between 12 to 16 mm (no medieval thicknesser). The construction of the cupboard is simple, consisting of nailed butt joints. The backside falls within a rabbet. Likely, the shelves fit into a groove. The information provided by Werner Nett and his photos have been very helpful for our design and construction of the scapradekijn for the Muiderslot. Many thanks!

Detail from the side/front construction. The piece of iron on top is a modern replacement. The edge is rounded.  
Photo copyright W. Nett, MAK Koln.

The bottom shows two remaining of the four forged nails from the iron strip. 
The sides are nailed with smaller nails to the front panel. Photo copyright W. Nett, MAK Koln.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

A 'scapredekijn' or hanging cupboard for the Muiderslot

Bram and I have been asked to make a late medieval hanging cupboard for Castle Muiderslot (Muiden, the Netherlands). This year (2016), one of the castle rooms - the red chamber or 'kemenade' - is being refurbished and redecorated in the style of living quarters for nobility around 1450. The room has already been painted by the Kennemer Kunstgilde. One of the projected items for the new room is a hanging cupboard, known in medieval Dutch as a scapprolken or scapredekijn

 The design for the red room, made by Marius Bruijn of the Kennemer Kunstgilde.

The red room as redecorated by the Kennemer Kunstgilde with the newly painted mantlepiece and wall strips.

The hanging cupboards are typically found in the West-Rhine area and the counties that were influenced by them, such as the Netherlands. These cupboards (Hängeschränkchen in German) were used to show and store valuable items, and therefore found in the private rooms (such as the kemenade) or .... the kitchen. The cupboards in the private rooms were heavily decorated with openwork tracery, which allowed the expensive items (glass, silverware) to be seen. The kitchen cupboard, on the other hand, was not as decorated and e.g. used to store sugar cones and spices. Most of the surviving examples of the hanging cupboard are beautifully decorated; as far as I know only one relatively simple - with only linenfold panels - hanging cupboard exists in Museum Gruuthuuse in Bruges (Belgium). Below some images of the hanging cupboards are shown.

A simple hanging cupboard in the kitchen. On the second shelve you can see a sugar cone. Detail of 'The miracle of the broken sieve' by Jan van Conincksloo (1552). Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium. 

Left: Another simple hanging cupboard in the kitchen. Illumination from the Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves (dated 1440; Ms. M. 917 folio 151, Morgan Library, New York, USA). Right: Detail from a page on bell-founders guild with a simple hanging cupboard (the Balthasar Behem Codex, a guild book from Krakow, Poland in 1505).

Left: A scapprolken from the Gruuthuuse Museum, Bruges, Belgium. It is made from oak and has a height of 80 cm, a width of 70 cm and a depth of 27 cm. Image scanned from 'Thuis in de late middeleeuwen - het Nederlands burgerinterieur 1400-1535'. Right: A luxury hanging cupboard with silver and goldware and a paternoster. Image from the Institut für Realienkunde des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit.
Two Hängeschränkchen that used to be in the Schlossmuseum in Berlin, Germany but were lost during the second world war. Second part of the 15th century. Left: Height 80 cm, width 59 cm and depth 17 cm. Right: Height 68 cm, width 57 cm and depth 18 cm. Images scanned from O. von Falke, Deutsche Möbel des Mittelalters und der Renaissance.

Two Hängeschränkchen made of oak of the late 15th century from the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne, Germany. Left: Height 68 cm, width 47 cm and depth 14 cm. Right: Height 73 cm, width 54 cm and depth 16.5 cm. Images scanned from Möbel - Gotik bis Jugendstil (museum catalogue, volume 14) by Edla Colsman and Huusraet - het stedelijk woonhuis in de Bourgondische tijd by B. Dubbe.

A late 15th century oak hanging cupboard of which a  (19th century?) replica appeared in an auction (Aguttes auction house, France) and the original in an antique shop (Marham Church Antiques, UK, images shown here). Height 80 cm, width 67 cm and depth 21 cm.  Both doors have two sections of pierced floral decoration and heraldic devices divided by a single carved buttress with a lion and shield. The sides consist of carved linenfold panels. The difference between the replica and the original are the missing carvings on the heraldic shield.