An Easter Feast in 2021, part I

This is the second half of the socially distanced Easter feast we had in 2021, recipes from fifteenth and sixteenth century sources associated with Easter. The joyous excess in using eggs, butter, milk and meat reflects the long-awaited end of Lent permitting people to finally enjoy the bounty of spring. We went through over 120 eggs feeding 20-odd people that day.

Dockenmilch (from Balthasar Staindl)

lxxvi Then take good milk that is newly milked and set it so that it stands warm (in a warm place) and curdle (baiß) it with a medium that you curdle cheese with, as much to a quarter of milk as a bean or as the quality of the material dictates. (this means rennet) When it curdles, you must lift it out carefully with a slotted spoon onto a coverlet made of straw. Fold over the coverlet and press it, then the water runs off it nicely. And turn it out onto a platter, take off the edges with a knife so that it is nice and even and square on the platter like a gingerbread, and strew sugar on it.

Fresh rennet cheese, not yet pressed into shape

This is basically sweetened fresh cheese, one of the many ways in which milk was sent to the table regularly. Anything between basic vinegar-curdled goats’ milk cheese and the luxurious mix of fresh butter, cream, sugar and cheese that produced “May Dish” were among the pleasures of springtime.

The celebration of Easter was marked with baked goods, a long tradition that continues to this day in the Osterzopf and Osternest.

Pressmetzen zu Ostern (from Balthasar Staindl)

ccxxii Make a good gentle egg cheese (like a custard) and do not burn it. Put it on a draining board so that it sinks down (drains) well, then take the egg cheese and stir it apart with a spoon, add more eggs, a little sweet cream, also grate manchet bread into it, yellow it (with saffron), season it, add sufficient raisins. Then take manchet bread (semmel) dough from a baker, roll it out wide, put the abovementioned egg cheese on it, and wreath (kräntzel) it around and around (make a plaited edge). Bake it in an oven, but before you put it into the oven, add figs, put almonds on top. Anoint the wreath outside with yellowed (saffron-dyed) egg yolks and put it back into the oven briefly. These flecken (tarts) are blessed for Easter.

Pressmetzen straight from the oven

Obviously, the interpretation here is wide open as to the shape, but we have some illustrations showing things that vaguely look like circles with geometric designs on them that may be this. the consitency of the egg filling was fascinating, not at all like I expected – almost gelatinous and very rich and sweet.

ready to bake

the next pastries we prepared were ‘May Cake’, an egg dish that shows up in a lot of sources, usually without a cruust, baked in a container. This is how Meister Eberhard describes it:

Maischer Kuchen (according to Meister Eberhard)

#9 If you want to make a May cake.

Take ten eggs and beat them well. Add parsley and stir it in, then take a mortar and place it on the coals and put into it a spoonful of lard and let it get hot. Pour in the egg and let it bake at a gentle heat, then turn it out onto a bowl in one piece. Do not oversalt it.

Sabina Welser’s recipe collection has a more refined and heavily sweetened May Cake baked in a tart crust.

176 Take a pound of raisins, a pound of wine berries, five small pieces of May butter, a handful of hyssop, a handful of ground ivy (glechoma hederacea), some sage, about ten leaves, twice the amount of mint, a handful of costmary, about fifteen eggs and a half pound of sugar. The herbs are chopped, baked for two hours. The batter must be stirred with the herbs. For the bottom, two eggs, it must be made as though for a tart.

This is what our interpretation ended up looking like before baking (yes, we used storebought pie crusts – COVID rules forbade us from getting in extra kitchen help after all). Then we wanted to do a slightly different tart based on cheese:

Torte von grünem Kraut (from Balthasar Staindl)

lii Take eggs Vogelspeiß (cooked to a custard), let them dry (drain) well, take green herbs, pellitory, marjoram, a little Bisem (chard?), chop that small, press out the juice so that the chopped herbs are all dry, then take the custard into a mortar, pound it well, beat it back into the eggs with a little sweet Reinfal wine, a little grated white bread, sugar and raisins. Put in the chopped herbs, stir it all together and season it.

This is how they came out:

Staindl’s green tart on the left, May Cake on the right

The May Cake browned much faster than I expected, but did not taste burned or rubbery. the herb tart was excellent in every respect.

More on the Easter lamb and our wonderful dessert in a later instalment.

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