Clarifying butter, and how it goes with cherries

The Oeconomia does interesting things. I cannot quite envision this combination.

How to make clarified (geschmelzte) butter

(marginalia: To make clarified butter)

Place the butter into a pan and let it melt. Afterwards, beat (quirl) in a spoonful of flour and if you want to keep it over the winter, put in a scarce handful (bahr handvoll) salt into it. Set it by the fire again and let it boil up strongly. Afterwards, pour it into a pot, let it settle, skim off what floats at the top, and pour it into a vat (Kübel).

How to prepare cherries with their stones, which is a side dish

(marginalia: Cherries, how they are to be cooked)

Take cherries, place them, in a clean thick-walled cooking vessel (Tiegel) and thus let them boil with their own liquid. Raise them up (lüfte) with a fish spoon below so that they do not burn, and when they no longer have much cooking liquid (soth), take a spoonful of clarified butter and about a quarter of sugar (irgend ein viertel Zucker), add it and keep letting it cook gently (mehlich). Keep lifting (stirring) them until they have no more cooking liquid (soth) when you lift them up and they hiss, thus they are good. Then place them in a unglazed pot and let them stand for a while until they harden (beschlahen) on the top. Then take clarified butter, let it get quite hot and pour it over the cherries. It must be quite hot so that when you pour it on the cherrries, they boil up in the pot and that the butter in the pot reaches roughly about a digit deep (irgend eines Glieds tieff). Do not let them stand in a place where they grow mouldy on the outside. When you wish to prepare them for a meal, take out the cherries carefully with a small spoon so that you do not make a big hole. Put as many into a thick-walled vessel (Tiegel) as you want and pour wine on it and add more sugar and butter so they are properly prepared. And let them cook again with the wine, then they will be good.

Or take green (i.e. fresh) unsalted butter and a little cream (Milchrahm oder Sahn). First let the butter melt, then add the cherries, red or black ones, let it scream together (untereinander in der pfannen krischen) in the pan, that can also be a properly good dish.

Oeconomia, Book III, page 84 (233 in pdf)

The technique of clarifying butter for preservation is the context in which yesterday’s fuel-air-explosions could (and apparently did) happen. It was then used, among various purposes, to preserve other foods as in this case cherries. I am not sure what I think of the combination of whole cherries with butterfat, but I’m not dissing it until I try it.

Fruit as an ingredient in savoury cooking and even as a side dish on its own was a German habit that visitors at the time sometimes remarked on. Entertainingly, we also have at least one account of noblemen spitting cherry pits at each other across the feasting table. This dish would have served to that end, though Coler, inveterate bourgeois prig that he was, would have been horrified.

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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