Hard custard from the Inntalkochbuch

We are back at simple translations, and looking at my schedule we likely will be at that level for a fair while. I do not foresee any cooking experiments for a few weeks, I’m afraid. This one is for a hard custard, a dish that is found in many cookbooks. I tried out a different iteration of it last year.

<<52>> Von gemüs

Of a side dish

Boil a pan (pfenbert) of milk and break 16 eggs very small (or fine), salt it and season it with spices and saffron. When the milk boils, add the egg and leave it over the coals and let it gel (grin). Turn it out onto a pepper cloth (pfeffertuch) and fold up cloth with the gemüs inside it firmly. Place a board on top and weigh it down with a heavy stone so that the water comes out well. When it is cold, cut it into long slices and strew sugar on it.

Though it is fairly common, this recipe has a few interesting points. The first is its title. At this point, the word gemüs has not yet acquired the modern meaning of ‘vegetable’. It denotes a large and rather fuzzy category of non-meat, non-fish dishes meant to accompany other food. Basically, it means ‘sides’, what we call Beilagen in German today. The second is the pfeffertuch, the pepper cloth. This has been variously interpreted as a fabric trated with spices or one used to sift them. This instant does not fully answer the question, but I think it points towards a sifting cloth. If it was a piece of fabric impregnated with spices, it would convey flavour mainly to the liquid which is discarded.

Interestingly, this kind of custard is not roasted or fried, merely served sweetened as it is.

A similar dish from a different recipe. This was destined for roasting.

The Inntalkochbuch is from a monastic library in Bavaria’s Inntal region (the Inn is a tributary of the Danube), dating to the late 15th/early 16th century. It is written in Upper German and strongly reflects local culinary traditions, though some of its recipes are commonplaces found elsewhere.

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One Response to Hard custard from the Inntalkochbuch

  1. MaryAnne Bues Bartlett says:

    This same recipe shows up in Slavic cooking, particularly in Czech and Ukrainian as “hrudka”, Easter cheese. It’s part of those spring celebrations….although it’s not pressed, just hung. 12 eggs to 1 quart milk, then sweet or savory as you please. …and if you slice it right, you can heat it in the toaster. 🙂

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