MCC: Lemon Hart

Lemon Hart metaloaf

Lemon Hart

This month’s recipe comes to us from (the translated) The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old & New World (relatively speaking, of course), and dates back to 1669.

To Prepare a Lemon-Hart

Take minced veal just like for meatballs, add to it nutmeg, pepper and salt as well as peels of a fresh lemon cut into small pieces, for each pond of meat an egg yolk, a crushed rusk and mix it all together, shape it in the form of a large meatball or in the form of a heart, stew it with a little water. When done take off the fat, add Verjuice, butter, and peels of a salted lemon which has been boiled together, then dish up; a sauce is poured over made from Verjuice beaten with egg yolks.

Medieval Vocabulary 102

pond = approx. 430 grams which is, roughly, 15.16 oz–close enough to a pound that we’re going to call it even
rusk = the heel end of a loaf of bread, toasted
Verjuice = a tart condiment from unripe grapes, we substitute apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar (though it can be ordered online)
salted lemon = a type of preserved lemon; I have a quickie version of this that I’ll put below, but you can find preserved lemons at some specialty stores, too.

Basically we’re making a meatloaf, here, with ground veal if at all possible. If you can’t get or prefer not to use veal for whatever reason, very lean beef–the best quality you can afford–will be fine. You can also use venison (hart is another name for deer, after all), though it may be a little drier. The thing to notice with this recipe is that they made meatloaf much the way we would: mix up the meat with seasonings, an egg and some breadcrumbs and “bake”. Instead of ketchup or tomato sauce on top, it uses a tart egg sauce and also comes with it’s own gravy* thanks to the liquid added during and just after cooking.

Ingredients, to serve 6-8

2 lbs ground veal
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 egg yolks
2 heels of bread, toasted and crumbled, or more as needed
1 cup warm water
For the gravy 

1 Tbsp apple cider or wine vinegar
2.5 Tbsp butter
the minced skin of one salted lemon


For the topping

2 tsp apple cider or wine vinegar
3 egg yolks

This manuscript describes a sort of basic stove one could fashion in the mid 1600s so while we might make this meatloaf in the oven, an alternative is to cook it on the stove over a low heat (hence the water added to the cooking vessel, making this more of a braised loaf). I’ve little doubt such loafs were made in a pot over flame (as minced meats won’t very well stay on a spit unless otherwise contained) as a large meatball for many years before we had modern stoves and ovens. If you have a Dutch oven or other vessel that can be used in both the oven and on the stove-top, you could split the difference and bake it in the oven per your usual meatloaf and then finish it on the stove.


the ingredients for the lemon hart Combine the ground meat, seasonings, eggs and coarse bread crumbs. Shape into a large ball or decorative heart-shape and place in the bottom of a Dutch oven or roasting pan. Add 1 cup warm water to the bottom of the pot or pan and place over medium heat on the stove, covered, or in a 350°F oven for 1 hour or until the center of the load has reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
the cooked lemon hart, before deglazing or saucing Remove the lid and skim off any fat that may have accumulated in the pan. Add the apple cider or wine vinegar, butter and salted lemon zest and bring to a boil. (This is akin to modern chefs de-glazing a pan to make a rich gravy from the caramelized bits on the bottom.)
the sauced lemon hart Whisk together the topping ingredients (apple cider or wine vinegar and egg yolks) and pour over the loaf while still warm. (Between the heat of the load and the acid in the vinegar, the egg yolks will be cooked enough for safety. If you’re still concerned, you can whisk the topping over steaming water (a double boiler) until warm and the egg yolk coats the back of a spoon.)
Lemon Hart metaloaf Carefully transfer the Lemon Hart to a serving dish (I used 2 large spatulas and had a person standing by with the plate to quickly slip it under) and the gravy to a bowl. Let rest a few minutes before slicing and serving.

In the past I’ve baked this but decided to give the stove-top method a try this go ’round. On my electric stove I had to keep the heat down medium-low to prevent the liquid from boiling furiously and, even then, it took barely an hour to reach the right temperature.

Served with roasted new potatoes it made an excellent supper–the lemon is obviously there but not so overpowering as to make it unpleasant. You do want to make sure you only use the lemon zest and avoid the pith of the salted lemons–the preserving softens it a lot, making it much easier to remove.

Lemon Hart and Roasted New Potatoes

Meat and Potatoes Supper

*Because I let it go a smidgen too long, the gravy was non-existent, but the Lemon Hart was still moist and tasty so it wasn’t a great loss.

The next recipe for the Medieval Cooking Challenge will go out this weekend: sign up to get in on the scoop!


Quick Salted Lemons

There are several recipes out there for salted lemon preserves that are a common condiment in Middle Eastern food but they take several weeks to prepare. When I first did this recipe I didn’t have that kind of time so here’s what I came up with, instead.

Lemons, scrubbed clean of any waxes or residue
Kosher Salt

In a baking dish just larger than the lemon(s) you want to “preserve”, pour in a layer of Kosher salt, arrange the lemon(s) on top and pour more salt around them. Cover and bake in a 250F oven for 2 hours. Remove and let cool.

Pack the lemon(s) and salt in a fridge-safe container with a tight lid and they’ll keep for months.

Or, if you’re really in a hurry, split each lemon in quarters, lengthwise, but don’t cut all the way through one end. Sprinkle salt into the cut lemons, place in a microwavable container with additional salt, microwave for 2 minutes and then let cool. Store 1 night in the fridge, shaking or turning the container at least once, before using.