Frumenty (Or how to pimp your porridge) – Week 2 2022


Welcome to Week 2! Before we jump in, a big shout out to everyone who participated in last week’s challenge.

Great to see some of our veteran cook off-ers returning again this year. Equally exciting to see so many new faces. Thanks sooooo much for joining the insanity. The Cook Off isn’t a cook off without you.

A Dish of Many Names

This week’s recipe goes by many names: frumenty, frumentee, furmity, fromity, fermenty…. Whatever you decide to call it, it’s a classic. It appears in the 1390 manuscript of The Form of Curry, one of oldest surviving English-language cookbooks, and Florence White, founder of the English Folk Cookery Association, proclaimed it England’s “oldest national dish”.

At its simplest, frumenty consists of grain (usually wheat, but sometimes barley) gently stewed until it forms a soft, glutinous mass. Mmmmmmmm! Basically, it’s a porridge, but a super versatile one. It can be sweet or savoury, and may be served hot, or left to cool and then sliced, like polenta.

Pimped out versions include eggs, cream, and honey/sugar, dried fruit, and nuts (sweet) or broth with a side of meat (savoury). Venison appears to have been a popular accompaniment with savoury fermenty – at least for those with the means and status to acquire it – but there are also recipes featuring beaver and porpoise. Don’t worry, we’re not going there, but archaeological evidence indicates that the Colony of Avalon’s early settlers did.

Delicious AND Nutritious

If you’ve been following the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page, you’ll know that Lori has been experimenting with this dish for a couple of days. Her initial feedback includes a comment that periodic spoonfuls of fermenty throughout the day have kept her feeling full and energized. It’s no wonder. Cracked wheat and bulger wheat are both complex carbohydrates that are high in nutrients and super-good-for-you fibre.

The Recipes

We’re giving you two recipe options this week. The first one is for the hard core cook off-ers out there (yes, we’re talking about you Sean!) who want to go the extra mile. It uses whole wheat grains that still include the hull and bran. These grains must be creed, or softened, otherwise they won’t gloop together.

The second recipe uses bulger, which allows you to skip the creeing. There’s absolutely no shame in taking this easier route. You won’t be the first. Back when frumenty was a really big thing, market vendors sold creed, jellied wheat by the bucketful.

The first recipe comes from Peter Brears’ Cooking and Dining in Medieval England, courtesy of our friends at CKBK.

The second recipe is for a sweet frumenty. It uses bulger instead of whole wheat, which reduces the processing and cooking time.

We encourage you to make this recipe your own. For inspiration, here’s a 1653 recipe for frumenty from A True Gentlewoman’s Delight

To make Furmentie

Take a quart of sweet Cream, two or three sprigs of Mace, and a Nutmeg cut in half, put into your cream, so let it boil, then take your French Barlie or Rice, being first washed clean in fair water three times, and picked clean, then boyle it in sweet milk till it be tender, then put it into your cream, and boil it well, and when it hath boiled a good while, take the yolks of six or seven eggs, beat them very well, and thicken on a soft fire, boyl it, and stir it for it will quickly burn, when you thinke it is boyled enough, sweeten it to your taste, and so serve it in with Rosewater, and Musk Sugar , in the same manner you may make it with wheat.

In case you’re wondering, musk sugar is exactly as it sounds – sugar infused with musk, which is a strong-smelling reddish-brown substance secreted by the male musk deer for scent-marking. Personally, I put musk in the same “not going there” category as porpoise, but if it’s your thing, go for it. We’d love to hear how it turns out!

Remember, snap a pic of your 17th century coffee and post it as a comment under the Week 2 recipe on the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page for a chance to win this week’s prize and the grand prize. Deadline for entries is 11:59 pm, Saturday, July 23, 2022. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!