Spice Mixtures

St Lawrence Guild meeting 1/30/05. Topic: poudre forte and poudre douce.

Poudre Forte (powder fort, powdo fort)

Form of Cury

[page xxx]
"Powder-fort 10. 11. seems to be a mixture like-wise of the warmer spices, pepper, ginger &c. pulverized: hence we have powder-fort of gynger, other of canel, 14. It is called strong powder, 22. and perhaps may sometimes be intended by good powders"

Poudre Douce (powder douce)

Form of Cury

[page xxix]
"Powder-douce, which occurs so often has been thought by some, who have just peeped into our Roll, to be the same as sugar, and only a different name for it; but they are plainly mistaken as is evident from 47. 51. 164. 165. where they are mentioned together as different things. In short, I take powder-douce to be either powder of galyngal, for see Editor's MS II. 20. 24, or a compound made of fundry
[page xxx]
aromatic spices ground or beaten small and kept always ready at hand in some proper receptacle. It is otherwise termed good powders, 83. 130. and in Editor's MS 17. 37. 38. or powder simply, N 169, 170. White powder-douce occur N 51, which seems to be the same as blanche-powder, 132. 193. called blaynshe powder, and bought ready prepared, in Northumb."

Galyngal powder is brown so if powder douce looks like galyngal, it is probably also brown. This would make sense if the sugar in 1390 was brown. Granular white sugar didn't happen till centuries later so the sugar and powder douce were likely both brown. I think blanche powder is a different sweet powder.

Fine Powder


FINE POWDER of spices. Take (probably: Ed.) an ounce and a drachma of white ginger, (probably: Ed.) a quarter-ounce of hand-picked cinnamon, half a quarter-ounce each of grains and cloves, and (probably: Ed.) a quarter-ounce of rock sugar, and grind to powder.

Du Fait de Cuisine

The only spice mixture specifically referred to here is fine powder. Towards the top, Chiquart gives a list of all the spices one needs

"Again, for the said feast there should be provided two charges of the major spices, that is white ginger, Mecca ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise, and pepper.

The minor spices: of nutmeg six pounds, of cloves six pounds, of mace six pounds, and of galingale six pounds; again, 30 loaves of sugar, 25 pounds of saffron, 6 charges of almonds, one charge of rice, 30 pounds of amydon, 12 baskets of candied raisins, 12 baskets of good candied figs, 8 baskets of candied prunes, a quintal of dates, 40 pounds of pine nuts, 18 pounds of turnsole, 18 pounds of alkanet, 18 pounds of gold leaf, one pound of camphor, one hundred ells of good and fine tissue for straining; and these things are for nothing but the use of the kitchen. And again, there should be for the said feast two hundred boxes of sugar-spice pellets [dragii] of all sorts and colors to put on potages. And if the feast lasts longer one will thus be provided for the extra."

From this, I'd think that the ingredients for fine powder are among those listed here which is possible with the Menagier's recipe.

Poudre Blanche (white powder)


"Kitchen spices: white powder, one pound; fine powder, half a pound; powdered cinnamon, half a pound for fricassee."

This suggests that white powder and fine powder are different spice mixes.

Our Experiments

We tried several possible mixtures of poudre fort and poudre douce on a few dishes. Forts 1 and 2 were influenced by an italian cookbook. Forts 5 and 6 were influenced by Form of Cury.

Fort #1
1 part clove
3 parts nutmeg
1 part Paradice
1 part mace
2 parts pepper
Fort #2
2 parts clove
1 part nutmeg
1 part mace
1 part Paradice
2 parts cinnamon
Fort #5
4 parts ginger
1 part pepper
1 part cinammon
Fort #6
2 parts ginger
1 part Paradice
1 part pepper
2 parts cinnamon
Douce #3
2 part cinnamon
6 parts brown sugar cone
1 part cubebs
Douce #4
4 parts cinnamon
4 parts brown sugar cone
1 part galingale
1 part ginger

We also tried a commercial salted powder fort and the pepperer's guild powder fort. Personally, I liked them in this order:
Fort pep guild > 5 > 6 > commercial > 2 > 1
Douce about equal (4 better on tarts and leeks, 3 better on chicken and fruit)
Combinations on rice: Fort 1 and Douce 3 was good. Fort 2 and Douce 4 was good.