A Preliminary Examination of
“Balled Mustard for Trips”
From The Neapolitan Recipe Collection,
Cuoco Napoletano,
By Terrence Scully

Presented at Fall Festival of the Rose, 2007
For HRM Ithuna breithrazi

Æduin of Skye, OLC, OHA, ODC

Most Medieval and Renaissance recipes are not written like modern recipes with lists of ingredients in precise amounts followed by preparation instructions.  Instead they are written in an almost conversational style with ingredients mentioned as you need them and frequently without amounts.  There are also frequently multiple choices, for example, “take beef or pork”.  Then you have to deal with the fact that they don’t always tell you how to prep the ingredient you just had to choose, based on cost, availability, time of year, and in some cases what religious restrictions were imposed.

The challenges for the modern cook attempting to recreate a period recipe are many:


In order to get a better understanding of food cooked during the SCA period of study I’m going to be trying to re-create various recipes using the different options listed in the recipe.  For each recipe that I do, I’m going to write up my notes and observations at my household website, www.housemorien.org .

The recipe presented today is Balled Mustard for Trips from The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, Cuoco Napoletano by Terence Scully University of Michigan Press, 2000.  It is based on the Bühler MS B19 Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

Mr. Scully’s Translation:

123. Balled Mustard for Trips.

Get mustard seed and, when it has steeped a day, grind it up with a handful of raisins, cloves, cinnamon and a little pepper, and with this paste form balls, small or as large as a walnut; then set them to dry on a board; when dry, you can take them with you when you go riding; to distemper them, use verjuice or must or wine or vinegar.

His notes on the recipe:

123. This recipe for dried balls of enriched mustard allow a glimpse of Italian travelling customs in the mid-fifteenth century. The recipe permits a variety of liquids to be used to moisten the balls when the time comes to eat them, in all likelihood because the traveller is not apt to be able to lay his or her hands on any particular one of them. Both Riva and the Arte coquinaria (and the Honesta volupate, Recipe VIII,15) drop pepper from the mustard mixture--pepper seeming to be a spice to which their common source was not overly partial. Rather than specify "walnut-sized" balls, the latter collections describe round balls and cubes of "any size you like" into which the mustard paste be formed.

His mention of the Honesta volupate led me to grab my copy of Jeremy Parzen’s translation of The Art of Cooking by The Eminent Maestro Martino of Cuomo which is where Platina got his recipes.  In this version pepper is indeed dropped from the list of ingredients.  There is also a specific type of mustard seed mentioned, charlock which Mr. Parzen notes is Sinapis arvensis which happens to be the wild mustard found throughout the Ventura County area among others.  It’s listed as a weed in many places.  When they are ready to seed I may be able to get some to try this again since it is growing all over a friend’s property.

What I did:


So I could have it ready for Festival of the Rose I substituted brown mustard seeds, obtained for $2.29 for a 17oz jar at my local multi-ethnic marked.

I included the pepper as it is in my original recipe and made the assumption that they meant black pepper.

The rest of the ingredients were standard. 


I divided the seeds equally.  It worked out to 3 cups so that was easy.  Once they were in their individual containers I covered them in water, red wine vinegar and red wine respectively and let them steep for 24 hours.  I noticed that the seeds steeped in water had begun to sprout.

I ran the batches through a food processor, as medical issues precluded me from trying to do it with a mortar and pestle.  In addition to the seeds and their steeping liquid I added ¾ cup raisins, ¾ Tbsp of black peppercorns, ¾ Tbsp of ground cinnamon and 1 tsp of whole cloves.

The seeds soaked in water looked most like a stone ground mustard after their time in the processor.  The red wine and red wine vinegar batches were much darker, probably because of the color of the steeping liquid. In order to try to make the mixture more paste like I drained most of the liquid from the red wine vinegar seeds, I had to add it back in since the food processor was just tossing the seeds around otherwise. The vinegar batch had the sharp smell of fresh mustard.  The other two let more of the smells of the other ingredients come through.

I rolled out 15 balls of each type and set them on parchment paper to dry.  They were turned a couple times to make sure that they would dry evenly.

Evaluation methodology:

I will set out 12 bowls. 3 will have extra made mustard that was never dried.  The other 9 will have a ball of mustard of each type mixed with verjuice, wine or vinegar.  Members of the populace will be asked their preference and I will tally the results.

Results and Conclusions:

The display went over well and I was given some good advice on how to improve my displays for later exhibitions.

I had a bowl with a ball still in its dried state next to a row of dishes with the moistened mustard.  The first dish in each row had mustard that had never been dried, the other three had balls that had been moistened in verjuice, red wine vinegar and red wine respectively.  Each row had mustard whose seeds were steeped in different liquids, water, red wine and red wine vinegar.

I had water crackers as a neutral flavored tasting medium. 

I got 10 responses from people with a clear favorite.  Four people couldn’t decide between two of the choices and three people said that the one they liked the best depended on what they were going to serve it with.  Unsurprisingly to me those responses were given by experienced cooks.


Dish 1:  Steeped in water and never dried, 0 votes.
Dish 2:  Steeped in red wine and never dried, 1 vote.
Dish 3:  Steeped in red wine vinegar and never dried, 0 votes.

Dish 4:  Steeped in water, moistened in verjuice, 1 vote.
Dish 5:  Steeped in red wine, moistened in verjuice, 0 votes.
Dish 6:  Steeped in red wine vinegar, moistened in verjuice, 2 votes.

Dish 7:  Steeped in water, moistened in red wine, 1 vote.
Dish 8:  Steeped in red wine, moistened in red wine, 1vote.
Dish 9:  Steeped in verjuice, moistened in red wine, 0 votes.

Dish 10:  Steeped in water, moistened in red wine vinegar, 1 vote.
Dish 11:  Steeped in red wine, moistened in red wine vinegar, 1 vote.
Dish 12:  Steeped in red wine vinegar, moistened in red wine vinegar, 2 votes.

I’m not surprised that there was a wide range of favorites since everybody’s taste buds are different.  I am a little surprised that the control mustards that never dried only got one vote.  I had a wide range of tasters voting from people who were at only their second event to experienced feast cooks and everything in between. 

I was able to use the time to teach some of the non-cooks how recipes were chosen and redacted for SCA use and how those choices affected taste. 


Copyright 2007-Steve Montgomery, some parts additionally Copyright 2000 University of Michigan.

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