Sugared Milk Skin from de Rontzier

This was one of the recipes that stuck with me on first reading. I do not like lactoderm, but some people consider it a delicacy.

Of Nattes

You put five or six stuebichen (a Stübchen is a unit of volume that varied locally. Here it most likely comes to 3-4 litres, meaning we are working with 15-25 litres of milk) of milk into a brass cauldron, let it boil up five or six times and always skim it cleanly. Then you pour it into several earthen bowls (Erdeneschuesseln – earthenware pottery) and a skin will develop on top of it. Take off that skin and lay it in a confit dish (Confectschalen) or a silver (dish), one atop the other, sprinkle it with rosewater or sugar and stick it with wafers (Ablaten). Then you boil up the milk again five or six times, do this frequently and always take off the skin, and you sprinkle each skin with rosewater or sugar as you place it in the confit dish, stick it with wafers etc.

(p. 498)

It is interesting to see how milk skin is produced on a large scale, quite deliberately and professionally. I have never tried this and do not know how it would taste, but the whole process would cretainly require a good deal of preparation to duplicate. The earthenware pottery probably retained bacterial cultures that helped coagulation, and raw milk – difficfult to source – is still favoured in cultures that use milk skin culinarily. I’m not sure I have the energy to try it just to find out.

Franz de Rontzier, head cook to the bishop of Halberstadt and duke of Braunschweig, published his encyclopaedic Kunstbuch von mancherley Essen in 1598. He clearly looks to Marx Rumpolt’s New Kochbuch as the new gold standard, but fails to match it in engaging style or depth. He is thus overshadowed by the twin peaks of Marx Rumpolt and Anna Wecker. What makes his work interesting is the way in which he systematically lists versions of a class of dishes, illustrating the breadth or a court cook’s repertoire. He is also more modernly fashionable than Rumpolt. Looking to France rather than Italy and Spain for inspiration, and some of the dishes he first describes may be genuine innovations.

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