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15th c washing up

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:56 pm
by kate/bob
anybody got any suggestions where I could find something out about 15th c washing up? I've had a look through the Goodman of Paris and done a good googling, but can't find anything about what was used. I thought it would be good to have a go at authenty washing up next season even if we decided to wash the dishes with fairy after the mops have gone!

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:09 pm
by 40/- freeholder
It's a little later but look at Thomas Tusser's 500 points of Good Husbandry. One of the maids is chided for over zealous pan scrubbing removing the tinned lining. Fine sand and a cloth or chamois type leather were used for scouring out cooking pots. Still used in WW2 by my pa, who recalled it was dire hard work with only cold water on greasy pans. Try also Dorothy Hartley's books, I'm sure she has horsetails used for effective scouring because of the high silica content.

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:04 pm
by wulfenganck
There is a lovely illustration by Hanns Paur, done around 1475 and called "Verlobungsbild" = picture for marriage proposal(?); published in: Harry Kühnel (Publisher) "Alltag im Spätmittelalter" (= Commom life in late middle ages), Augsburg, 2006 (one of the "got to have this book" for german reenactors).
The description by Paur contains as examples:
"ein spulgelt" (modern german: SPülbottich = a (wooden) bucket for cleaning dishes),
"ein pantzerfleck" (modern german: RInggeflecht = a piece of maille; we've been using that for years for cleaning pans and cauldrons due to that descriptions, works perfectly well)
"zu der hackpenck ein panckschaben" (Hackbank und Schaber = hacking panel(?) and scratcher (?)

I have to check if soap was in use in the 15th ct, I don't think so, but I'm somehow not sure....

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:23 pm
by sally
wulfenganck wrote:
I have to check if soap was in use in the 15th ct, I don't think so, but I'm somehow not sure....
soap is very well known and widely available by then, but I'm not offhand aware of any obvious references to it being used in dishwashing, it tends to get used for textiles, medicinal and cosmetic use long before it makes it to the kitchen sink

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:17 pm
by Mark Griffin
soapwort, marestail or 'scrubbygrass' as its also known in some parts (subtle hint) are great for washing up. Always used to use spare scraps of mail back in the day, just seemed like a good idea! No provenance that I know of though.

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:54 am
by lucy the tudor
Wood ash on it's own cuts the grease, and is often used at Kentwell for washing out the big cauldrons on the sotlers stations. Mare's tails also used a lot, one of our number used small pine cones too- very effective at getting the lumpy bits off...

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:58 am
by Langley
Have used soapwort which is pretty midly effective. You do need something to scour. The German reference above regarding using old mail looks good. We also made brushes from twigs (birch IIRC) tied up with nettle string. We left one on display in Archaeon in one of the houses. Wood ash is slightly alkaline so wood ash plus fat = soap which is why it is effective along with it's abrasive effects. (As an aside, sitting with small bowl of olive oil and rag dipping into oil then ash and cleaning weapons and armour is one of the simplest ways to get into living history demos and an excuse to sit by the fire talking to people).

Old scout trick which may be useful... if you are going to cook over an open fire, rub a thin layer of soap (or mediaeval equivalent - ash and oil mix. Have not tried this but now on my list to have a go. It may make things worse if the proportions are not right so too much oil not converted to soapyness) up the sides of your cooking vessel to an inch or so from the top. When you come to clean the vessel all the nasty black comes off easily. (Maybe a quiet wipe over with washing up liquid in the tent before you bring the vessel out is in order!)

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:56 pm
by kate/bob
thanks for your replies.

Wood ash had been suggested to me before, I was just hoping to have some evidence to back it up with. We tend not to have a problem with stuff getting stuck to the cooking pots as I always make sure they're well oiled before MooseAbuse starts cooking so it's something to get rid of the grease I'm looking for.

This is part of my bid to be a little more authentic each season!

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 10:19 pm
by The sempster
I know this is not really helping you with your question for authentic cleaning, but I thought I put a small correction in here, in case anyone wants to use this as a source:

The description by Paur contains as examples:
"ein spulgelt" (modern german: SPülbottich = a (wooden) bucket for cleaning dishes),
"ein pantzerfleck" (modern german: RInggeflecht = a piece of maille; we've been using that for years for cleaning pans and cauldrons due to that descriptions, works perfectly well)
"zu der hackpenck ein panckschaben" (Hackbank und Schaber = hacking panel(?) and scratcher (?)

This is not a description by Paur, but a quote from a poem by Hans Folz from about 1500 :-). Anyone who wants to have a look for themselves, the "Verlobungsbild" shows a few lovely pieces of kitchen equipment, and the text mentions that only a tenth of what a proper household would have is depicted in the picture (p. 198), the quote from the poem is on p. 199

I have been looking for other sources for cleaning and washing up, but have not found much, but I've only come across ready-made soap for washing laundry, but then dishwashing isn't really mentioned in period texts...

We also use the mail scourer for anything that got burned in, and for getting rid of oil or fat we have used clumps of grass (roots and dirt) to scrub big pots, works a treat and is not as abrasive as sand would be = leaves the seasoning intact, although I have found sand mentioned for cleaning knives. Best way to get rid of leftovers in pots and pans is use some bread to wipe clean, then eat the bread. No evidence for that being historical, but seems sensible to me ;-) Then a bit of hot water and ash is probably all you need to get it clean enough to re-use. I also got taught to clean pans by basically burning salt into them, to soak up oil, fat and leftovers, and then wiping the salt off. That worked really well, and you could use the coarser dirtier salt that was used for salting (less expensive than the white salt), but might have been a more recent cleaning method.
Horsetail I have used for polishing wood and metal, not tried it as a cleaning agent in washing up though.

Re: 15th c washing up

Posted: Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:04 pm
by wulfenganck
@sempster: I stand corrected! The illustration is from Paur, the poem from Hans FOlz - a bit later than Paur's picture, my mistake, I was a bit hasty yesterday!