Cooking the Real “Garbage”

Garbage recipe, a photo of it on a table“Garbage” is a 15th century recipe for a thickened broth made of…well, garbage. Why?

It was the annual chicken harvest at the Packards’ house. A few SCA and non SCA folk gather and harvest the chickens raised over the summer. This year there were 49 chickens. Last week Anya and I made chicken foot stew loosely inspired by the Garbage recipe to make a potluck dish at the Endewearde Hunt. We used last year’s frozen chicken feet. But – behold – it was chicken killing day! There were all KINDS of chickens and ample “garbage” about so we decided to make the recipe today with all the fresh garbage we had.

The recipe from the late 1400’s goes like this:

Garbage. Take faire Garbage, chikenes hedes, ffete, lyvers, And gysers, and wassh hem clene; caste hem into a faire potte, And caste fressh broth of Beef, powder of Peper, Canell, Clowes, Maces, Parcely and Sauge myced small; then take brede, stepe hit in the same brothe, Drawe hit thorgh a streynour, cast thereto, And lete boyle ynowe; caste there-to pouder ginger, vergeous, salt, And a litull Safferon, And serve hit forthe.

It’s from “A composite and miscellaneous volume put together by John Crophill (d. in or after 1485), medical practitioner and bailiff of Wix Priory in Essex.” This is the original manuscript. I first encountered it on Daniel Meyer’s


Livers and gizzards in a bowl
Gizzards and Livers.

We cooked based on the above recipe, and redacted it as we cooked. We didn’t formalize it, but this is what it was.

14 chicken feet
7 chicken heads
5 chicken livers
5 chicken gizzards
12 cups beef broth (we used “better than bouillon”)
Herbs and knife
Spices and herbs.

ground herbs as follows:

black pepper and ginger each- to fit in the hollow of the palm
cinnamon and clove – about half a palm (2tsp?)
mace – about a quarter palm (1tsp?)
fresh herbs as follows:
broad-leafed sage, chopped finely – to fit in the hollow of the palm
carrot tops, chopped finely – to fit in the hollow of the palm
cider vinegar – about 2tbs


heads washing and feet and stuff on a plateBecause we were slaughtering, there were lots and lots of parts of chickens. Agatha saved feet, gizzards, livers, and some heads for use in the recipe. (I was plucking.)
I carefully cleaned the livers and gizzards and feet. I then plucked the heads as much as I could be motivated to (I figured that medieval people may have also been lazy!) and cleaned them as well. It began to rain heavily, so I fled for a while, and when I returned there was rainwater in the bottom of the cast iron pot hanging over the fire. I added to that steaming water livers and gizzards and feet. Anya brought out the broth and added it. When the broth was in, I added the heads and herbs, except the ginger. Put the lid on. Let it boil.
After it had boiled, I added the ginger to it and stirred. We decided to hold on the bread and that the saffron was likely for color, but we didn’t have any anyway. It looked horrible but smelled ok. Put it back on the fire and let it heat up again.
Another hour later or so we checked on it.
 1017151614It looked a lot like it had been appropriately named.
Here we decided to deviate from the recipe.
We added the ginger and chose to strain the broth, and then to not use the bread to thicken it. Instead we’d serve it with bread, so people could dip bread into the soup. (This felt like a good idea, since we had people with gluten issues anyway.)
I removed all the parts, separating the livers, which we used to make a pate with butter and onions. The “garbage pate” was well received and many ate it on toast and praised its rich taste.
Ultimately we just dipped bread into the soup and ate the bread. We then canned all the remaining broth. The assessment was that it looked horrible but it was very tasty.
It made sense to not waste things that could make a good and fatty broth, which we did and which made for little waste. It was especially good on a day when we were deeply in touch with our older time agricultural heritage – killing and gutting and plucking by hand made the process seem ancient and rooted. Gathered around a fire, sharing a spoon of broth, tearing off large pieces of bread and dipping them into soup or putting thick smears of pate on them, felt like an old, old fellowship.

I’m glad we made the Garbage. It was fun, entertaining, thrifty, and tasty. We have put some away for leaner times (or feasts) and that felt right too.

Anya canned the remaining Garbage, of which we now have five pints!


Eating, singing, laughing – this is the stuff of a good life. I call this experimental archeology project a smashing success!