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History Cookbook: Boiled Peas and Ham

This recipe is in categories Main courses, Saxons & Vikings, Starters
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  • Boiled Peas and Ham
    Boiled Peas and Ham
About this recipe
Healthiness : (19 votes)
View a modern version of this recipe

This is a dish cooked wrapped in cloth in a large pot. The pot is filled with water and set directly on the fire. All of the preparation takes place in the house but the cooking fire has been lit outside. In fine weather, much of Saxon life took place outside.


The Vikings kept and bred cattle, sheep, goats, poultry and pigs. Pigs were one source of meat that could be kept and slaughtered all year round.

It is thought that crops such as peas and beans were cultivated (although some researchers believe peas were not introduced until Norman times, others believe that the Normans only introduced new varieties).

Horseradish has been cultivated since ancient times and was known to the Greeks and Romans. As traders, the Vikings and Saxons may have been aware of it and used it in their meals. Both root and leaves were used as a medicine during the Middle Ages and the root was used as a condiment with meats in Germany, Scandinavia, and Britain.
For images of the cooking process see our Boiled Peas and Ham Picture Gallery.

With thanks to Steve and Jo Parish  of Past Alive for their help with this podcast.

Ingredients
  • a large piece of ham
  • gathered peas
  • horseradish root
  • a handful of linseeds
  • 2 pieces of linen cloth and string (to wrap the food in to cook)
  • optional: ale to add to the cooking water
Equipment
  • Weighing scales
  • Large pan
  • Dish
  • Two clean cloths
  • String
  • Fork
  • Sharp knife
  • Spoon
Making and cooking it
Always wash your hands before preparing food Always wash your hands before preparing food.

  • Half fill a cook pot with water (and a little ale if you are using it), set it onto a wood fire (Make sure you keep the fire going throughout or the food won't cook)
  • Shell the peas into a dish
  • Cut a small piece of horse radish root, peel it and chop it finely. Add it to the dish of peas. Horse radish is hot so only use a little
  • Sprinkle some linseeds over the peas and mix
  • Add a little butter to the dish
  • Tip the dish out into the centre of the cloth.
  • Tie the cloth up around the peas  and make sure there are no gaps or the peas will come out
  • Tie the ham in a separate cloth
  • Put both cloths into the cooking pot and leave for a few hours
  • The ham will be done when you can push a knife in and the juice runs clear You will need to lift the bag from the pot to test this. Once the ham is done you know the peas will also be ready
  • Serve hot
Boiled Peas and Ham - print view  Boiled Peas and Ham - print view

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Comments
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Name: George 29th November 2012
This was weird.... And helpful. Add more information about how they used to cook it though. The historical recipes in this section have historical methods and measures, so sometimes they aren't very easy to follow. If you search using the title in our serach bar you will find another version (in the main cookbook) which has all the measurements and information needed to cook it in a modern kitchen. We hope this helps. The Cookit Team.
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