Butter poses interesting problems for Society feasts. What can be done with butter that makes it more interesting? Might I suggest the art of butter sculpting or butter molding?
In 1604, Lancelot du Casteau published in the city of Liege a small cookery book titled Le Ouverture de Cuisine. That work has been translated by Master Edouard Halidai and appears on his website www.medievalcookery.com. Le Ouverture ends with the description of butter sculptures created for the banquet “of Monsieur Robert de Berges Count of Walhain, Esquire & Prince of Liege, made in the palace in Liege, the year 1557 in the month of December.”
The list reads:
“There were four parks of two feet square, environed in a hedge of butter.
The first was Adam & Eve made of butter, a serpent on a tree, & a running fountain, with little animals all around of butter.
The second park was the love of Pyramus & Thisbee, the lion by the fountain, & the trees all around environed in a hedge of butter.
The third park the hunt of Acteon, & the nymphs with Diana at the fountain, & then of the little dogs of butter.
The fourth park was two wild men, who battled one another with the masses by a fountain, & little lions of butter all around: each park had four banners.”
So based upon this description from 1557 (appearing in print in 1604), it seems that for special feasts in at least the winter months, we can and ought to be creating sculptures of butter or diverse and lovely objects and animals of butter. Having taken up the craft of butter sculpting and practiced the molding of butter, I would strongly endorse the use of professional weight molds such as those sold by Tomric when doing butter and honey butter sculptures for feasts. [http://www.tomric.com/ .] The molds are expensive but well worth it. I would add that butter molding is not as easy as it looks at first glance, and it can take a great deal of time to mold multiples of even small animals or objects in butter for a feast. But they do keep and if wrapped well and stored in plastic boxes, the butter figures can be made in advance and stored in a freezer until needed. Honey butter molding is trickier as the honey has a tendency to weep out if the proportions of honey to butter are off. Use too much honey and the figure will weep honey. Use too little and the figure won’t taste of honey. It’s tricky. But as butter is relatively inexpensive to buy, I would urge more people to take up the craft of butter sculpting or molding. And if some are made of honey butter, I am sure that certain monarchs will not mind.
Le Ouverture de Cuisine . 1604. This rough translation is courtesy of Daniel Myers (copyright 2006) at http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/ouverture.shtm