Pork was a staple gourmet food in the middle ages. Sausages, ham, and blood pudding all used the pig's meat to make tasty, salty dishes. Lamb and kid meat were also used in such dishes. Before the pig was used, cooks were required to examine the tongue for ulcers. If ulcers were found, the pig was discarded so that diseases were not communicated to the nobles and those who it would have been prepared for.
Because only nobles were permitted to hunt in the middle ages, game like deer, rabbits, and wild animals were delicacies. Poaching was a crime punishable by imprisonment, loss of limbs, or death. Therefore, only the wealthy had access to foods and dishes like veal and mutton. Hedgehog and squirrel were also delicacies and were enjoyed only by the wealthy and the nobleman hunters.
Gourmet breads were fine, soft white breads. These were often considered preferable to dry, coarse, rye and barley breads.
Because of the lack of preservatives in the middle ages, bread had to be eaten rather quickly, and thus was not often left to sit out for very long. Stale bread was often either thrown out, fed to the animals, or given to the poor.
Hunting fowl was also an exclusive privilege. Only noble men were permitted to hunt in the forests and fields, and thus pheasants, quail, swan, herons, lark, peacock, thrushes, and starlings were delicacies that could only be afforded and eaten by the wealthiest of men. These exotic dishes were considered gourmet by both the rich and poor alike.
Water was considered unclean during the middle ages, and thus only the poor suffered through drinking it for sustenance purposes. Many of the wealthy did not consider drinking water a possibility.
Ale and Beer
Made using barley or other grains, beer became popular before the middle ages, during the Roman Empire. During the middle ages, however, a type of beer gained popularity. It was called godale, meaning "good beer." This beer was made using various spices including apples, sage, lavender, cinnamon, laurel, and even bread crumbs.
The middle age was surprisingly a time of experimentation when it came to wine. Instead of simply using grapes, many of the wealthy used raspberries, apricots, strawberries, and pomegranates to make their wine. They also used the milk of almonds and mulberries to make eclectic mixes of sweet wines, often used for refreshment during warm summer months.
Desserts originated in the middle ages. At first they simply
consisted of fine wine and nicely aged cheese. Eventually, the
wealthy began to use crepes, fritters, and custards as after dinner
treats. Waffles, wafers, and sorbets were also considered gourmet
desserts by the noblemen of the day. In some places, sponge cake and
sweet ricotta were fried and filled with sweet cream cheese, making
for a delicate and sweet dessert. The invention of the biscuit, or
what some may call the cookie, was also added to the dessert menus
of many families and courts of the middle ages.