An Easter Feast in 2021, part II

This is the second part of the recipes from the socially distanced Easter Feast we had in 2021. It followed the Saturday Lenten Feast with a single-minded focus on meat and eggs, long forbidden and now finally available in great quantity as the fast ended. Today, we look at the intended centrepiece, and Easter Lamb.

Easter Lamb (from Sabina Welser)

153 To make an Easter lamb. Take a lamb and take off its skin, but leave the claws (hooves), the ears and the tail, covered in a wet cloth so that the hair does not burn away,. Roast it thus on a board in an oven. And if you wish it to stand, stick a skewer in each leg. When it is almost roasted, baste it with egg and take it out. Let it cool. Then take a cloth, three spans long, with butter and squeeze it out with a cudgel. It passes through like real wool. Take it and make wool for the lamb that way. Set it up on a pretty board and make a fence of butter around it as follows later.

154 Make it just as described above, but cover it in a coat of many colours. Make it thus: Take eggs, separate the whites and the yolks, beat the eggs, add a little salt and sugar, take a pan, put in clean fat, let it heat, pour out the fat completely, pour in the egg white and let it run back and forth in the pan. Hold it over the fire, but no longer than until it begins to quiver. Then hold the pan close by the fire until it becomes dry, but not too close to the fire so that it stays white. This way make as many pancakes as you wish. Do not make them too thick, no thicker than a thin cloth. Then make the yellow ones the same way, add saffron to the yolks. Also make brown this way, take cherry electuary, pass it through with the eggs and make pancakes of that. That way you have four colours. Cover the lamb with these, cut the colours lengthwise, as wide as you wish.

Then take cinnamon sticks, make little nails with them, dip their thick ends into fritter batter that is yellow and fry them in fat so they have little heads. If you wish, you can gild or silver them. Then take hard-boiled eggs, cut off their tips, take the fried cinnamon sticks, thrust them through the egg tips and that way attach the colours to the lamb. And colour half the eggs yellow, leave the other half white. Make a fence of good spices around the lamb, put the lamb on a nice board. Then take smoked meat that is nicely red, cook it, cut away the outside. Chop it small. Then boil eggs, separate them, the white and the yolk separately, chop each separately, and when the lamb is done, put the white on one side of the board, the yellow on the other opposite it, and also lay whole boiled eggs and pancakes with it, if you have any and want to, and honey. This lamb is nicer to eat than the first. However you prepare the meat, it is not ugly, and you can eat everything except the board.

ready for decorating

Much though we might have liked to, there was no way for us to prepare an entire lamb with the constraints of COVID regulations limiting kitchen help, attendance, and the number of diners. Instead, we went with whole legs of lamb that made nicely sized chunks, easy to transport to their destinations, decorate, and carve up. Brined overnight and basted with plenty of butter, they went into a slow oven and turned out tender and juicy, though not as meltingly gentle as proper Milchlamm in Easter season would have been.

Then the decorations: A ‘coat of many colours’ to clothe the meat:

Cinnamon slivers with batter-dipped ‘nailheads’ awaiting use with smoked ham and chopped boiled eggs

Preparing the cinnamon ‘nails’ was fiddly work, but not as difficult as I feared. I still haven’t figured out an easy way of splitting them efficiently, so that involved a good deal more wastage than I had hoped. The batter was initially too thin, so I progressively added more flour until it held its shape, but I could very likely have made it considerably thicker without any issues.

Yellow yolks, white egg whites, and red pancakes coloured with cherry preserve

The pancakes worked a charm, though they were very delicate in the early stages of cooking and turning them involved copious expletives. They would no doubt have been more impressive on a whole lamb, but even on a chunk of meat they looked bright and gaudy.

Of course, a main course this theatrical deserved a fitting dessert which we found in a Swiss version of the South German staple ‘May Dish’:

Cibus Maiis (from the libellus de lacte)

Melca or freshly curdled milk is also seasoned with sugar together with butter, a dish that is served at feasts crowned with flowers stuck into it. It is called May food, since it is mostly eaten at this time, when much springtime sweetness from the feed passes into milk and butter.

The preparation is fairly basic: some variety of yoghurt is sweetened with sugar, mixed with melted butter, and chilled. Some recipes add cream and the consistency they aim for is quite solid. We went with a spoonable dish decorated with freshly picked flowers as the centrepiece of dessert.

‘May Dish’ ready for the table

It was all quite good.

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