Vinegar recipes from the Kuchenmaistrey

I apologise for the hiatus, I was away for the holidays. Here are some new recipes:

5. i. Vinegar is made in many different ways. Firstly, take the sourest grapes that you can find, press them and strain them through a cloth. Pour in old, good vinegar and let it stand. When it has settled, pour it off the dregs (den defen). And add more of the pressed sour grapes. Let it stand again and pour it off again. And do this as frequently as much vinegar you wish (i.e. repeat until you have the desired quantity – the original is ungrammatical).

5. ii. Item make a vinegar of wine thus: Fill a small cask halfway with old wine. Set it in the sun or better yet by the fire and let it stand in the warmth. That way it becomes good vinegar.

5. iii. Item take a pitcher that smells strongly of old vinegar and pour in wine until it is half full. Stop it up well. And set it in a cauldron full of boiling water above the fire. When it is in there and boils only a little, it becomes vinegar.

5. iiii. Pour old wine into a pot or pitcher. Add a piece of good rye sourdough the size of an egg, wrapped up well in a cloth. Set it by the fire and let it boil a little. And set it aside, this turns into good vinegar.

5. v. Item put old wine into a pot or a cauldron, let it boil and skim it. Close it and bury it in the ground in a cellar for three days. Dig it out again and let it boil up quickly again. Set it aside. This becomes good vinegar.

5. vi. Put wine into a narrow-necked glass (kolben glas) or a pitcher and set it in a cauldron full of water. Let the wine become hot or just warm in this. But you must place red willow wood and ginger, long pepper, and a sourdough of raw dough or freshly baked bread into the pitcher with the wine. This makes the vinegar strong.

People did not scientifically understand how vinegar was produced, but they had long experience with the process and clearly a lot of instructions were circulating. All of these will probably work. None are anywhere near as safe as inoculating sterilised wine or beer with vinegar cultures.

The mention of willow wood and long pepper is interesting. Willow wood features in a number of vinegar recipes because it was thought to preserve sourness. Fresh willow actually does have a sour taste, but it is unlikely that this is the explanation. Long pepper features by name in several vinegar recipes as well as some medicinal ones, but not in culinary recipes. That may mean it did not matter what kind of pepper you used in cooking, but it seems more likely to me that long pepper was used by apothecaries, not cooks, at the time.

I will continue posting recipes from the Nuremberg Kuchenmaistrey produced around 1490, but my mode will change. Instead of translating one daily and posting it here, I will try to use what time there is to translate as much as I can and post only some of them here. Once the entire text is done, I will try to get it published either as a book, or online.

The Kuchenmaistrey (mastery of the kitchen) was the earliest printed cookbook in German (and only missed being the earliest printed cookbook in any language by a few years). The book 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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