Week 3 - Waste Not Want Not (Part 1)

It’s estimated that each year, the average Canadian dumps about 170 kgs of food into their garbage. 170 kgs! To put that into perspective .... the average North American adult eats just over 900 kgs of food each year. That means for every 5 kgs we eat, we’re throwing 1 kg into the trash. Yikes!

Our 17th century ancestors can teach us a lot about reducing our food waste. And to prove it, this week and next, the Great Colonial Cook Off is challenging you to re-create two super frugal recipes that are also nutritious and delicious. For our first dish, we’re returning to one of our favorite 17th century cookbooks - Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife (1615) - for a recipe for whole roasted capon.

Whole roasted chicken with bread sauce. As with many 17th century recipes, the sauce tastes a whole lot better than it looks.

Whole roasted chicken with bread sauce. As with many 17th century recipes, the sauce tastes a whole lot better than it looks.


FYI, a capon is a rooster that’s had his “cock-a-doodle-doos” dispatched before he’s reached sexual maturity. The resulting lack of testosterone causes a capon to grow big and fat and, apparently, develop a distinct flavor. But before you run out and do the deed on Clucky, this recipe will work equally well with a run-of-the-mill supermarket chicken.

To accompany the meat, we’re providing Markham’s recipe for a Sauce for Roast Capon or Turkey. It’s fast and easy to make and tastes surprisingly good. And cooking both will let you get the biggest bang out of your ingredients.

And speaking of ingredients .... once you’ve finished eating your roasted bird, do not throw out ANY of the left over chicken. That includes all the bones. You’ll need them for next week’s recipe. Really. Trust us.

But back to this week’s recipe .... Markham provides two full pages of “observations in roast meats” including tips on spitting meats and temperature of the fire (“quick and sharp without scorching for all sorts of middle and lesser fowl”). In our 17th century kitchen, Lori and Krista will be paying close attention to Markham’s directions. For 21st century cooks, we’ve provided instructions for oven roasting.

Our recipe for the rub comes from Markham’s directions for The Best Bastings for Meats, which goes like this:

Then to know the best bastings for meats, which is sweet butter, sweet oil, barrelled butter, or fine rendered up seam [animal fat], with cinnamon, cloves and mace.

Here’s our 21st century version:

Roast Capon

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1 small orange
  • salt and pepper

Remove chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking to bring it up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 F.  

Combine your melted butter, olive oil, cinnamon, cloves and mace. Mix well.

Juice the orange. Set the juice aside. You’ll need it for the bread sauce. Take the squeezed orange (yes, the part you’d normally throw away) and stuff it inside the cavity of the chicken.

Drizzle the chicken with the butter/oil/spice mixture and rub all over. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on a roasting rack/pan and place in your hot oven, then immediately turn your heat down to 400 F and cook for about one hour and 20-30 minutes depending on the weight of your chicken.

Gervase Markham provides detailed directions to “know when meat is enough”. Apparently, a roast pig is done when its eyes fall out. Fortunately, the test for chicken is less dramatic:

Thrust your knife into the thickest part of the meat, and draw it out again, and if it bring out white [clear] gravy without any bloodiness, then assuredly it is enough.

If you’re less than confident in your knife thrusting abilities, feel free to use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 165F.

Of Sauce for Roast Capon or Turkey

To make an excellent sauce for a roast capon, you shall take onions and, having sliced and peeled them, boil them in fair water with pepper, salt and a few bread crumbs; then put unto it a spoonful or two of claret wine, the juice of an orange, and three or four slices of a lemon peel; all these shred together, and so pour upon the capon being broke up.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 100 grams fresh bread crumbs (perfect use for stale bread)
  • juice from 1 orange (see note in capon recipe above)
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine (optional)
  • salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the water and onion to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until onion has softened.

Strain onion and water mixture over breadcrumbs and stir to combine.

Quickly dice softened onion and add to breadcrumbs. Then add orange juice, lemon zest, and red wine (if using). Season with salt and pepper.

For a smooth sauce, feel free to puree in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Enjoy! Remember to post a photo of your roast capon with bread sauce on the Colony’s Facebook page for your chance to win this week’s prize.


Jane SeversComment