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Saucy Series, Part VI: Sauce Cameline

Welcome to guest blogger Deana Sidney of Lost Past Remembered, a blog dedicated to discovering, replicating and adapting historic recipes. In this saucy series she demystifies one of the cornerstones of classic French cuisine: the mother sauces.

Sauce Cameline

Sauce Cameline was like the ketchup and barbeque sauce of the Middle Ages. It was a cinnamon-y bread and vinegar sauce that was so popular it was actually purchased at a store. I read in the 14th century Le Mangier de Paris “At the sauce-makers, three half-pints of cameline for dinner and supper…”

forme of cury carmalyne1

He also gives a recipe for it in the book:

“CAMELINE. Note that at Tournais, to make cameline, they grind together ginger, cinnamon and saffron and half a nutmeg: soak in wine, then take out of the mortar; then have white bread crumbs, not toasted, moistened with cold water and grind in the mortar, soak in wine and strain, then boil it all, and lastly add red sugar: and this is winter cameline. And in summer they make it the same way, but it is not boiled.

And in truth, for my taste, the winter sort is good, but the following is much better: grind a little ginger with lots of cinnamon, then take it out, and have lots of toasted bread or bread-crumbs in vinegar, ground and strained.”

Another famous 14th Century cookbook, The Forme of Cury had it as well:

Take currants, meat of nuts, crusts of bread and powdered ginger, cloves, ground cinnamon, pound it well together and add thereto salt temper it up with vinegar and mess forth.

The great Taillevent’s 13th century Le Viandier also had an even earlier recipe:

Take ginger, plenty of cassia, cloves, grains of paradise, mastic, thyme and long pepper (if you wish). Sieve bread soaked in vinegar, strain and salt to taste.

I decided to combine a few recipes and make squab with Cameline Sauce.

It is delicious and tangy, and you will get an idea what it was like to eat in the Middle Ages, not too shabby at all!

Cameline 3
Squab with Cameline Sauce

4 cooked squab –  (see recipe)
1 recipe Cameline Sauce (see recipe)
garnish (I used frisee & parsley)
Place the squabs on the platter with garnish and serve with the sauce

Cameline 4

Cameline Sauce

1- 2 slices bread, crusts removed and well-toasted (about 7″ x 3″, 3/4″ thick)
1 c red wine*
1/4 to 1/3 c red wine vinegar*
2 T currants soaked in 4 T water till plump and soft
2-3 t sugar
1 T blanched almonds (optional)
2 t – 2 T cinnamon to taste (I used 1½ T)
1/2 t – 2 t ginger (I used 1t)
1/2 t ground grains of paradise (optional)
Healthy pinch of cloves, nutmeg
Pinch of ground mastic (optional – if you use it remember is it very powerful so use sparingly)
1/2 t thyme
pinch saffron (in 1 T warm red wine)
salt and pepper to taste (if you have long pepper, grind 1 in a spice grinder and add to taste, otherwise use black pepper)

Cameline 1

Bread with wine and vinegar

Cameline 2

Bread after soaking an hour

Soak the bread in the wine and vinegar for an hour till mush. Grind the almonds if you are using them, then put in bread and soaking liquid in a blender or processor and puree. Add the spices to taste (especially the cinnamon — most recipes ask for a lot of it, but you may want less – if you use less, add less ginger). At this point you can press through a strainer for a finer texture or not, mine did not, it was smooth as silk.

*You may need to add more wine and vinegar if the sauce is too stiff –– mine was not. You may want to play with the proportions for the tang you like. It will have the texture of ketchup.

To Cook the Squab

4 squab
2 large carrots, cut into 4-6 sticks each
1 T oil
salt and pepper (you can use ground long pepper and grains of paradise if you have them)

1. Pre-heat oven to 500º. Place a cast iron skillet in the oven and heat for at least 15 minutes.

2. Season the squabs inside and out with salt and pepper. Oil the carrot sticks.

3. Remove the skillet from the oven and place the carrot sticks in the pan and the squab on top (to keeps the bottom of the bird from burning and they are delicious to eat afterwards – a Ming Tsai technique). Roast from 15 to 18 minutes till the squab reaches 120º interior temperature – you don’t want squab done to death –– medium-rare to medium is good. Let rest for 10 minutes.

All About Squab

Squab are young pigeons that have never flown. For thousands of years, they have been a favorite meal for every stratum of society throughout the world. They were unequivocally the first domesticated poultry, even preempting chicken.

This may surprise twenty-first century Americans. More often we think of pigeons as annoying denizens of city monuments and buildings. In fact, these are rock doves, a relative of pigeons, and far less edible. Yet squab is considered a most exquisite ingredient in cuisines as distinct as Cantonese, Moroccan and French. The simple reason for squab’s universal appeal is the delicate, succulent flesh, truly unlike that of any other bird. Squab is a dark-meat bird, like duck and goose, yet the meat is not nearly as fibrous, rendering it far more tender. Its flavor, when properly cooked, is a lush, rich essence, reminiscent of sautéed foie gras, albeit with more texture.

History
Historically, squab were a reliable and inexpensive source of animal protein. Documents detailing aristocratic banquets frequently show squab used in one or several important courses. B’stilla, a splendid Moroccan phyllo-crusted pie that is sweet, salty, crispy and juicy at the same time, is traditionally made with squab. It dates from around the 15th century, when the Moors were kicked out of Andalusia and migrated to North Africa. Huge molded timbales of pasta, and molded domes of rice made with squab and rich accompaniments, were fashionable 16th and 17th century Italian culinary showpieces.

Early on, wide circular structures with tapered tops, or dovecotes, were built in fields to attract wild pigeons to roost. Numerous cubbyholes lined the interior, accommodating several breeding pairs. Adult birds forage independently and, being monogamous, return every evening to the same roost throughout their adult life. Other than constructing the residence facility, the squab farmer was required to do little or no maintenance except to harvest the young squab. Using a ladder, one simply plucked them from the nest.

Farming
In the United States squab are raised primarily in central California and South Carolina. The birds weigh about 1 pound each. Large covered pens are used for up to a dozen breeding pairs. They are capable of producing up to 24 offspring a year. Parents share in all activities required to raise the squab. They build their nest together, incubate the eggs, and feed the young. The male participates willingly as long as the female accommodates him sexually on demand. When she refuses, he pecks her in the middle of the head. As a result, farmers can separate the sexes far more easily than might otherwise be the case.

They just look for the bald birds, which are females.

Sorting young squab from mature pigeons is also an easy activity. The farmer gathers his squab in a crate. When the crate is opened and shaken vigorously, any birds that fly away are not squab but adult pigeons.

No one farms squab to make a fortune. The birds’ notorious sensitivity prevents using modern poultry techniques, like those employed in the factory farming of chickens, to produce enormous flocks at minimal costs. They respond poorly to artificial insemination and inferior-quality feeds laced with animal by-products.

Farm-raised pigeons must have the same food year-round. Their nesting cubbies must never be disturbed. For this reason, the cost of squab, which has remained constant for decades, is expensive relative to mass-marketed chickens. It’s a whole lot of bother to raise good squab. But these succulent birds make a feast fit for a king.

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS:
Roast Squab with Corn Cake
Monarch Restaurant Squab
Mario Batali’s Barbequed Squab al Mattone with Porcini Mustard

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