Fruit leather from the Oeconomia

For children and servants…

[…] In Silesia, there are many small plums almost like sloes except that they grow on properly tall trees and taste almost like plums. They are tapered (keulicht). They call them Kriechel or Kriechen (today that word refers to damsons) and there are two kinds of them, brown and white. They make a muß of them like you do of cherries and then they have smoothly planed boards with raised sides. They pour the muß on that and spread it out smooth on the top and broad with long wooden spoons. But they smear the board with bacon first so it does not stick. Thus they let them stand in the sun for eight days and dry out nicely. Then they cut long strips and turn them over, on the other side, and let them dry in the sun for eight days again. Then they roll them around each other and wrap nut leaves around them and thus lay them aside. That way, they can stay good for up to two years.

They cook a lovely muß of that in winter for the children and servants, and if you prepare it right, with sugar and other good spices, the parents also happily eat it. It is indeed so good a food that the coarse boors (groben Dölpel) often eat (fressen) it with two spoons. They bethink themselves that since God has given them two hands, the boorish louts (groben Hempel) must have a spoon in each, and eat their beer soup and plum mus. For they commonly eat a soup and two kinds of side dishes (Zugemüse) together, cabbage and root vegetables, buckwheat and milk porridge, millet and carrots etc. If they have meat twice a week, that is (like) easter or Sunday to them.

The women in Silesia often stir this plum dish (gepfleume) for three, four, five, or six days continually (continue), day and night in turns, then set it aside and use it through the winter and the summer until it grows anew. That improves their diet greatly. They also often give it to the sick and to poor people to enjoy (zur Labsal) and cook side dishes and black meat and fish dishes (i.e. those cooked with blood) with it as with the cherries.

(p. 212-13)

[…] If you would make cherry juice or cherry muß, treat them thus: Break off all their stalks or, which is better, only break off the cherries when you pluck them from the tree and leave the stalks on the tree. Lay the tart cherries into a cauldron, set them over the fire and let them boil and bubble together well. Stir them with a long wooden spoon, especially on the bottom so they do not burn. Then pour them into a big colander (durchschlag) and let the juice run off and keep it safe in pots. Then press them through the colander entirely, by force, so that they become a puree, and also store that in separate pots. You may also add all manner of spices and stir them in, that does not spoil such things. When the stones are away together with the skins and other coarse things, put them back into the cauldron and let them boil more, and always stir them around and around so they do not burn, until they become thick like a muß. If you want to stir in sugar or honey into it afterwards, they become so much better. Some also add honey at the end and keep stirring it continually.

(p. 215)

This is an interesting recipe not so much because of the product itself – fruit leather – but because it describes the production process and how to use it. The hefty side order of classist prejudice is not unusual for Coler, who does not think highly of the poor.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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