01.10.2015 by Rotschopf in Ceramics, Material culture, Medieval cooking

Warning: This is a report about a failed experiment

For our vivification of the Bachritterburg Kanzach we wanted to have grilled chicken. Since the best grilled chicken is made over open fire on a spit, we needed a spit-support for the open fire hearth in the fort’s kitchen

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The evidence:

Depictions of spit-supports can be found in numerous variations in pictures from the 14th century. for example from Graz around 1300-1350 or from the Lutrell Psalter around 1325-45 or the Speculum Humanae Salvationis around 1330 . As you can see, many forms and materials have been in use from a simple stick to clay to advanced metal works.

We made a decision for a support made of clay as has been found in the Netherlands in almost 70 cases (more information in the article “Brick Spit-supports in the Netherlands”, H.A. Heidinga und E.H. Smink in “Rotterdam Papers IV, A contribution to medieval archaeology”, Rotterdam 1982).

The Spit-supports from these findings are made from different kinds of natural clays from very fine to quite rough and have not been gridded. They are similarly built as building bricks and tiles of that time. Many of them have decorations on them, applied with knife points or stamps, some even show anthropomorph or zoomorph structures, mostly designs are very simple and timeless though. The number of holes in the bricks reach from 1-8 in different arrangements.

Our own spit-support:

Actually, we hired a professional to do our bricks. Making them though is a tough challenge. the bricks had not been entirely dry and exploded during the burning process. Since we really wanted that chicken though, we improvised and I made 2 bricks from normal artist-clay which we wanted to “bake” (burning is hardly the correct word in a 400° hearth-fire) so that we at least had some stable support for our spit. The look of the bricks was not that bad, I have to admit.

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And they definitely did what we wanted them to.

We left them in the fort since we already knew that these bricks would not have a long life before them and asked other LH-groups to put them into their fires, hoping that they may at least get a little harder overtime.

Unfortunately the combination of cold and rainy autumn weather, the fine clay and the use next to fire was too much for them after all and they broke. Back to waiting for the professional to help us out :-) Read more about it on Nikolaus’ Blog soon!