A Cherry Sauce from Meister Eberhard

New source: The recipe collection of Master Eberhard of Landshut! If you’ve ever eaten one of my medieval-themed feasts, you know this sauce. It is one of my favourites.

Hereafter follows (a text) about cooking, and Master Eberhart, a cook of Duke Henry of Landshut made it.

To make a sauce of tart cherries.

If you wish to make a good sauce of tart cherries (weichselnn), put the cherries into a pot and place it on the embers and let them boil. Then cool down again and pass them through a cloth, put it back into the pot, place it on the embers and let it boil well until it thickens. Then add honey and grated bread and cloves and good spice powder and put it into a small cask. It will stay good three or four years.

The duke referred to here is Henry XIV “the Rich” (Heinrich der Reiche) of Bayern-Landshut. Unlike his grandson, who is still celebrated in the Landshuter Hochzeit, he was not famous for culinary luxury, but every court had to provide good, high-status food. It is less clear, though, whether the Meister Eberhard to whom this recipe collection is ascribed actually was a court cook. There is certainly nothing in the text that suggests any such association. The collection ascribed to Meister Hans, another putative author about whom we know next to nothing, does contain recipes and anecdotes that belong in a courtly context. As we will see, this one has more in common with other recipe manuscripts from the Nuremberg region.

The first recipe in the collection is for cherry sauce, a popular condiment that is referenced in a large number of German sources. Interestingly, the recipe in Meister Eberhard is almost identical to the one in section two of Cod Pal Germ 551, but significantly different from the one in section one. Cherry sauce is frequently mentioned in other recipes, for example as a filling for fritters, and described in many cookbooks well into the seventeeth century. Apparently it was often pre-made and kept for later use.

This sauce is easy to make and can be kept in sealed ars, like jam. I prefer to keep it relatively liquid, but parallel recipes suggest that medieval sauces were often reduced to a thick paste and mixed with liquids before serving. That would have made them easier to store.

Meister Eberhard is a recipe collection that belongs into a south German context, most likely associated with the court of Bayern-Landshut during its ascendancy in the first half of the 15th century. We know nothing about the putative author other than that he claims he was part of the kitchen staff there. The text contains an eclectic mix of recipes and dietetic advice heavily cribbed from a variety of sources, including the (unattributed) writings of St Hildegardis Bingensis. The text is published in A. Feyl: Das Kochbuch Meister Eberhards. Diss. Freiburg i.B. 1963 and online on the website of Thomas Gloning.

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