ēgre-dǒuce according to the Middle English Dictionary translates to a sauce made of sour and sweet ingredients, as well meat or fish served with that sauce.
Found in Forme of Curye [Rylands MS 7 – England, 1390‘s]
xxj. Egredouce. Take counynges or kydde & smyte hem on pecys rawe & fry hem in whitte grece, take raysouns of coraunce & fry hem, take oynouns perboyle hem & hewe hem smal & fry hem, take rede wyne, suger with poudour of peper, of ginger, and canel salt & cast therto, & lat hit seeth with a gode quantite of white grece & serve it forth.
Take luce (pike) or trench (doctor fish) [both freshwater white fish] & cut them on and fry them in white grease. Take raisins of currants and fry them. Take onions, parboil them and cut them small and fry them. Take red wine, sugar, with a powder of peper, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and combine with a good quantity of white grease and serve it forth.
1-2 fillets of fresh white-fish, fresh water fish preferred, cleaned & filleted. Fry them in clear grease, or olive oil until brown on all sides, and set aside. Take your onions (2-3 medium, sweet), dice them and parboil them until soft, then fry them along with the currants. In your pan, remove some of the oil, add red wine (1 750ml bottle), sugar (1cup), and ground cubeb, ginger, cinnamon, and salt* until you have a slightly thickened sauce that is both sweet and sour to taste, and allows the spice mixture to “bloom” for the diner. Cover the fish with a generous amount of your sauce, and serve it forth!
*It is my personal opinion that the cook has to find the correct blend of spices for their preference, I’ll be doing a post on spice blends at the end of January, more to come. See what I did for the “day board” version below:
10lb fresh cod, clean and filleted (freshwater white fish is hard to find in December, cod delivers a similar expierience)
Water & olive oil.
9-10 onions, diced
5 750ml bottles Aged Red Wine Vinegar (6% acidity is key – you can also sub 2 bottles of white wine vinegar if you find the red to be overpowering)
approx. 3 cups sugar
mace (1.5oz) , cloves (1oz) , & cubebs (2oz) (amts are ground – black pepper (in place of cubeb) – see thoughts below on amounts).
When creating any sauce, there is considerable leeway in how you create it, and regular tasting is essential throughout the process. I ended up adding a little sugar near the end of making the sauce, just a few tablespoons at a time and allowing it to incorporate to make sure I had a good blend of sweet & sour from my sauce – they way to tell is that the additional spices in the sauce “bloom” and it is pleasant in the mouth. A cook reading this book in the 14th-16th century would’ve been trained or worked until he had a sauce he knew to be please to his master, in this case, my audience was about 220 people.
Take your fish, and boil it in water on the stove until it’s cooked (145 degrees farenheit), and then to serve it to a crowd, I recommend cutting it into small pieces. These pieces are then fried in hot olive oil until crispy and brown on all sides.
Separate, prepare your sauce. Take your vinegar, onions, sugar, and spices and combine them in a large pot. Bring ingredients to a boil, turn to medium-low heat and allow to cook for 30-50 minutes, or until onions are very, very tender (cooking time is heavily dependent on volume, remember, tasting is your friend). The resulting sauce should be thinner than a syrup, but not as thin as the original vinegar. Also, I cannot stress the importance of using a high-quality vinegar for your sauce.
I highly recommend making the sauce in a separate place ahead of time as I did, the morning of the event, and serving it forth over the hot, freshly fried fish pieces. That seemed to go over very well. I spooned generous amounts of the sauce over the tray and we couldn’t keep it coming out fast enough.
The end result is a crispy, sweet, and sour treat your diners are sure to enjoy!