A Green Sauce from Cgm 384 I

I am back home from a wonderful visit to friends and have prepared a recipe for today.

6 Sauce

Take grape leaves and (only?) the tenderest stalks, and sorrel, barberry leaves (erbsal loub), hyssop (sepplin), parsley and sage in equal amounts, chop it, pound it, and macerate it with pepper bread (pfeffer brott, probably a kind of lebkuchen)

In principle, this is just another ‘green sauce’ like many others across the entire corpus of medieval European cookery, but it has a few interesting features. Firstly, I am not sure whether the first instruction should be interpreted as using only the leaves with the tenderest stalks (because the others would be fibrous and not reduce to sauce) or whether it specifically means to include both leaves and the tenderest stalks. Vines have tendrils that were sometimes used to make verjuice, so they are a plausible ingredient.

image courtesy of wikimedia commons

The next question is the combination of the herbs. Sorrel, hyssop, parsley and sage all have distinctive flavours and often feature in such sauces. Grape leaves are unusual, and I am not at all sure what the barberry leaves would add to the overall profile. This would, of course, also depend on the proportion, something we have no guidance on. My first instinct would be a mild sauce dominated by the acidity of grape leaves and seasoned with the other herbs, but that is not a given at all.

Finally, the pfeffer brot is somewhat unclear. I suspect it is a variety of lebkuchen, strong spices held together with flour and honey and softened in the liquid to act as both seasoning and thickening agent. That was commonly done at the time and still is widespread enough for Soßenlebkuchen to be available in larger supermarkets. It may simply be a dialectal variant of the more common lebkuchen or lebzelten, or it may refer to some specific quality I cannot yet reconstruct.

Bound together with medicinal, veterinary, and magical texts, the culinary recipes of Munich Cgm 384 were partly published in 1865 as “Ein alemannisches Büchlein von guter Speise“. The manuscript dates to the second half of the fifteenth century. My translation follows the edition by Trude Ehlert in Münchner Kochbuchhandschriften aus dem 15. Jahrhundert, Tupperware Deutschland, Frankfurt 1999, which includes the first section of recipes not published earlier.

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