The Oeconomia on butter and fuel-air-explosions

I’m stuck at home with suspicion of COVID, but at least I get to do more translating.

Of butter

(Marginalia: Butter, how it is to be made)

Butter and cheese are made from milk. The butter is good against hunger and for recovering your strength, and it is made thus: As soon as you have milked the milk and strained it through a cloth, you pour it into earthen (Thenerne unnd Irdene) milk vessels that are not deep, but nicely wide and broad. On the second or third day following that, you take off the topmost cream (Sahn oder Rahm) of the same milk with a large iron spoon, which is a thick, fatty mateter. You pour it into a long vat and stir it with a board with holes on a stick, up and down, without pause, until butter appears in it and the fat has separated from the thin buttermilk. That is called churning (rüren) or buttering (Buttern), that is making butter. First, you obtain small crumbs of butter, but when you keep on churning continually, these crumbs move together and one big lump of butter forms. You take that out and wash it in several changes of water until it is clean and has no more milk in it, salt it, and bash it together in a cask so that you can have recourse to it the year around. You also cut it through with a knife very often, especially around the time when the cows shed hair, in spring or in Lent, and carefully pick the hairs off the knife so that the butter becomes clean. (You keep doing that) until you find no hair on the knife.

A good householder will keep May butter and May cheese for his household because it is good for many medicinal uses, especially very useful and good for treating wounds (Wundtrencke), it heals well from the inside out. But it must be used unsalted.

Item, the butter you preserve around harvest time when the cows go over the stubble is also beautifully yellow and good, but May butter retains the prize.

If you would make butter in winter, it often does not turn into butter very well however much you churn it in the vat, especially (if you do it) outside the parlour, out in the cold. But just pour in a little warm water into it and it will soon turn to butter. Some also add warm beer.

The Silesians and the people of Vogtland are good cheesemakers, as are the people of Holland. Crossed cheese (Kreuzkäse), Swedish and Bohemian cheeses are also not bad. But guard against the (bladder) stone, it is a villain and an ingratus hospes (unwelcome guest), it often causes the entire house to become too tight for you. But the buttermilk that is left over from this (whey from cheesemaking) you give to the servants or the pigs or calves to enjoy in their food.

(marginalia: Butter in May healthy)

It is healthy in May for at that time the cattle eat the best herbs and flowers. That is why in that month nicely yellow and very healthy butter is pleasing which you also use often for medicinal purposes. And a good householder should make a supply of butter in that month and keep it well so that he can take recourse to it whenever need requires throughout the year. You must salt it well and not let it get too old, otherwise it will develop an aftertaste and does not smell and taste good. You can still use it for medicine and to grease carts, but it is a pity.

How you can have and obtain nicely yellow butter throughout the year.

(marginalia: Making butter nice and yellow throughout the year)

Many will gather many yellow cow flowers (Kühblumen – probably dandelion) in March, April and May and give them to the cows to eat when they come home at midday or in the evening. They dry a part and keep it for the cows until winter and give it ti them then.

(marginalia: the herb called Rintzel)

There is an herb that the peasants call Rintzel (a ranunculus variant?), it grows a little higher than a span and has very small buds and small white flowers on top, and from its knots (nodes) it grows short, narrow green leaves like dannereis (fir tree branches?), but quite narrow, and it grows along roadways here in the Marck. The peasants often collect that in summer and dry it in their attics, and in winter they strew it before their cows when they brew for them (i.e, soak hay). That way they obtain nicely yellow butter as though it had been made in May.

Of the use of butter

Butter has a particular warmth and a proper thickness and viscous moisture to it; when you wat it, it moistens the stomach and releases the belly especially if it is newly made and fresh. It causes you to be able to cough and expectorate out of your chest freely if there were a diseased growth (Geschwür) there, especially if it is eaten with honey and sugar. It is also a good prescription against all poisons in the body, moistens all limbs, cleans the face, and matures and opens all diseased growths (geschwür), heals internal wounds to the throat, chest, and stomach, lessens all gnawing of the kidneys and intestine, softens and relaxes all hardened and paralysed nerves, and has many more and wonderful effects about which I shall be silent hear fior the love of brevity.

The people of the Mark think highly of butter and eat the same before and after a meal at all times, even when they eat raw bacon, they smear it with butter before, and they use it in their food often and in great quantity.

(marginalia: Butter, how it can do damage)

But I must also say this to house mothers (Haußmuettern) to know, wjhat terrible and horrific damage can come to them from butter. For when they have set the butter over a fire and the same catches fire, and you pour in water and think to extinguish it that way, you set fire to the entire house, because the fire rises mightily above itself upwards and quickly sets things alight.

When Annaberg in Meissen burned to the ground in the year 1604 on the 27th of April, a woman is said to have caused it this way. However, later it was written from the city of Prague that two Jews in Prague had confessed to having set the fires, for it had not started in one place only.

So many interesting things to digest here. Obviously I would love to know for sure what kind of plant Rintzel is, but my research so far only locates it to the Eastern central dialects, from Silesia to Brandenburg. It is not a common word, apparently.

While the processing is described quite well, the references to preserving butter are fairly cursory. Coler is clearly aware of both salting and clarifying as possible options. He describes the latter in more detail elsewhere (hopefully coming tomorrow). And be careful doing that, lest you inadvertently burn down towns and start pogroms.

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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