Eleventh-century baked apples

and quinces and pears. I always wondered why filled roasted apples were so common in the recipe corpus. This seems a likely origin point.

of apples

(…) And thus it is good to eat the juice that is pressed from apples and the flesh discarded, or to find another way in which their hardness and sharpness is relieved. It is relieved in three ways, that is, by boiling in water because that way they acquire softness and humidity, or by suspending them above the steam of hot water, because that causes moistening and ripening, or by cutting them apart in the middle, removing the hard seeds inside them and in their place inserting sugar or honey, (…) and they must afterwards be wrapped in some kind of dough and then placed in the ashes or coals until the dough outside is cooked. Through this art, their softness and tastiness predominates, they are quickly digested, and the harm they do to the nerves is relieved. (…) p. 394

of quinces

(…) Therefore when eating, them, it is good to press out the juice and discard the flesh, or find some other way how their hardness and sharpness is relieved. Which is done by boiling them or by placing them over hot water or by dividing them and, having discarded the hard interior, placing honey in them, as is said above. (…)p. 401

of pears

(…) Because of their harshness, grossness and hardness they harm the nerves of the stomach and it is necessary to find a way to soften them and relieve their sharpness, that is, boiling, or suspending over the steam of hot water so that they ripen and lose their sharpness and hardness, or by roasting them opened up in dough (operta pasta assando) or prepared cut into small pieces (in frusta concisa condiendo), each according to the complexion of the eaters. (…)p. 405

Apples that are cored, filled with some condiment, wrapped in pastry and baked or fried show up in many German recipe collections later. The dietetic advice given here is a reasonable explanation for why that should be – and I think it will be worth trying out for its culinary qualities, too. I have no idea what the pasty (pasta) would be made of, but I suspect it would be rather simple. Certainly no shortcrust or flaky pastry.

Isaac Iudaeus de diaetis universalibus et particularibus, originally written in Arabic in the late ninth or early tenth century, was translated and adapted by Constantinus Africanus in the late 11th century and circulated widely in Italy and beyond soon afterwards. While the original applies to a different context, it is still reasonable to use it as a guide to the advice that Siculo-Normans would have found useful. It is an open question how much the original was altered in translation – I cannot say since I read no Arabic. However, the extensive reference to eating pork suggests that some alterations took place.

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