Monthly Archives: December 2011

KQAS 2012- Apothecary connection

It started as an innocent question. How available gum tragacanth was to the average medieval cook? All the recipes call for it, but how easily could someone like Robert May, a cook, get his hands on this chemical. This would help answer what the difference in subtleties between a cook, a confectioner and choices of materials.

So I poked around a bit.

It appears the confectioners were generally the folks who had access to this chemical. And the confectioners were usually attached to apothecaries (who controlled the sugar and the chemicals). It was not uncommon for the sugar artist to be a sculptor or come from the local apothecary. For example, in 1574 a banquet was held to woo Henry III of France as he passed through Venice on the way to his coronation in France. The sculptures were based on designs by sculptor Jacopo Sansovino and executed by local apothecary Niccolo della Cavalliera. In late fifteenth century England, the official title of the King’s apothecary was “Serjeant Confectioner”.

Which of course lead to the all important question, why were sugar artist coming out of the apothecaries. A little digging later… and things make a lot more sense.

The key is the term, confectioner: a person who confects. Confect: to make up, compound, or prepare from ingredients or materials. Sugar was originally used in medicinal compounds. The age old adage of a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Robert de Montpellier, spicer-apothecary to Henry III, supplied powders for hypocras, electuaries, spices, medicines and confection to the court in the mid 1200s. In the 1300’s we get the disputes in Italy between the grocers and the apothecaries over who could confect medicine (and subsequently sweets as medicine and decorative food stuff). In 1432 Duke Albrech II decreed in Vienna ” merchants shall not bring any confections from Venice, neither shall they nor the shopkeepers sell them; but the apothecaries who reside here shall make such confections and trade in them.”

This is right around the time period where confection started taking the dual role of medicine and the emerging craft of sweet making. It is also when the guild status of apothecaries become solidified.

It is also right around the same time period where Europe begins to refine its own sugar. Italy was one of the first countries to refine white sugar for general consumption. Thus starting to break the Middle East’s hold on sugar importing. It is also one of the reasons Italy is where we find many of the first sugar paste recipes. The flow of recipes and raw material starts there and then migrates west.

So confectioner is not a new concept. The application of the art of confections simply, changed.

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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Sugar


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KQAS 2012- A plan

I think I have finally decided what to do about my A&S entry for this year.  We have to enter 3 different categories to show that we are well rounded artisans.

I am going to do one project, in three categories.  I have amassed quite a bit of information about the origins of sugar paste and cutting it down into 3 digestible pages of “documentation” would be problematic. I was already docked on this last year by going over a page or 2 from this limit.I will be entering research paper, heraldry and I’ve asked to be judged under confectionery (it doesn’t exist, but it probably should, or apothecary). It will probably get moved to cooking, but I can ask.

The main goal is to produce something that resembles an English Galleon.  Not necessarily  the Golden Hinde, but it is one of the more famous ones that the public would have had access to.  The ship will be 1/2 half of the Robert May “account” of a 12th Night subtlety.  I will be using SCA heraldry.  My patron is the Sabine de Kerbriant, Baroness of Bhakail.  Her naval Captain is Griffith Davion of the Argent Tyger, who has a letter of mark from Kronrad I.  This gives me the armory,colors and placement of the heraldry.

I will put the recipes, glossary and bibliography in as Appendices. Judges can look at them if they want to, but they do not have to. Since I am not “cooking”, the recipes and ingredients are not as critical to the overall project.

I can pull all of the history of sugar paste,connections to apothecaries and why cooks didn’t work in sugar paste, into a separate document. I can focus on heraldry specifically in it’s own document.  And I can tackle the actual build on it’s own.

Well that is the plan as it stands today.

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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Sugar


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When sugar goes REALLY wrong

It was a spectacularly bad week for poured sugar. The chess board that I poured, allowed to dry and packaged up, went very south. When I noticed some of the lollipops had gone form clear to cloudy I went to check on the chess board.

This is what I was greeted with.

It started like this:

The entire piece crystallized. You can see parts of the colored sugar and lines because of the flash. Due to this, I elected not to pour a top coat for the Salamander piece. I entered this into the A&S competition anyway. I wanted people to see what can happen to sugar when it is left to the elements. The chess pieces that went with the board poured nicely. But they were also sealed with varnish after they were dry.

The piece ended up being a great conversation starter. And I think people learned something.

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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Poured sugar


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Swabian Dress #3- Final Pictures

Here is the final pictures of the Swabian dress, complete with head wear  and belt.

Seamstresses: Barry the White, Ysmay de Lynn and Alesone Gray
Weaving and brocade: Lianor de Matos
Belt buckle: Muin maqq Minain

Photos by Cateline la Broderesse.


Posted by on December 6, 2011 in 15th century, Embroidery, German, Heraldic, Sewing


Swabian Gown #3- update

Every once in a while I get to work on something neat for someone else. I am part of a team working on a Swabian dress for HRM Kiena of the East. My job is to assemble the pieces into a finished garment and create the undergarments and hat.  All of the sleeve beading and applique was done by the talented Barry the White.  Ismay and I worked on the bodice beading/gilt application.

The bodice for the swabian gown has been appliqued,beaded, pieced and stitched.  All that remains is to attach the pleated skirt and hook/eyes. And to trim all the little thready bits.


Posted by on December 1, 2011 in 15th century, German, Heraldic


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