Cherry porridge from the Kuchenmaistrey

Commonplace dish, interesting technique

1. xxx. Item if you would make a good muß (soft dish – in this case a kind of porridge) of cherries, break off the stalks and pound them in a mortar with the kernels and all. Take figs and raisins for a dish. Take slices of white bread, soak them in wine, temper (stir) it together and pass it through a cloth with other wine. Make it neither too thick nor too thin. Add a dusting (steüblein) of flour to it and fat. Put it through (into?) a pan and rub it well until it boils like any other muß. Serve it and strew pure fat (butter) and spices on it, bring it to the table thus. And you may also make spoon dishes of Amerelle cherries, tart cherries and strawberries. And red wine is more suitable for this than white. You shall always mix the dusting of flour well with the wine in advance, before you add it (to the pot). And stir it well until it has boiled, that way it thickens (müßet es sich) well and gels nicely.

Mushy preparations of just about anything were a staple of medieval German cuisine, but this recipe is interesting in the way it describes the thickening technique. The proportions of fruit to wine to bread and flour are anyone’s guess, obviously, but this is basically a modern flour thickening.

My current project are recipes from the Nuremberg Kuchenmaistrey produced around 1490. This was the earliest printed cookbook in German (and only missed being the earliest printed cookbook in any language by a few years). The Kuchenmaistrey (mastery of the kitchen) gave rise to a vibrant culture of amended and expanded manuscript copies as well as reprints spanning almost a century. The recipes seem designed to appeal to a wealthy, literate and cosmopolitan clientele.

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