Advice for Aspic from Cgm 384 I

This is the last recipe in section I. It is enticingly titled ‘bean flower’, but contains advice on how to ensure that aspic gels. Only one of the methods involves bean flowers.

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15 Bean flower (bonen bluost)

Take bean flowers, pea flowers, or vetch flowers, dry them cleanly in the open air and pulverise them neatly (puluers die schon). And when you wish to make a galantine throughout the year, take from the bush (suspect error: parallel has: the powder), 1 ½ lot to each maß, tie it in a clean cloth and boil it in the galantine. That way, the galantine will gel. Isinglass and all manner of fish swim bladders (hussen pletter und allerlay fisch pletter) are also good in galantines because the galantine gels from them. It is also good to pour galantines into glazed dishes or pewter dishes or stone ones, and to pour them cold. And you should set the dishes on cold stones or on the cold earth in cellars or elsewhere.

The entire field of aspic recipes suffers from uncertainty. Both the words sulz (cognate of modern Sülze) and, more rarely, galrei (derived from gelatina) occasionally refer to thick sauces rather than jellies, and this is not, as I originally assumed, a matter of change over time. I am using the word ‘galantine’ to render both sulz and galrei because it suffers from the same issue, but will always try tzo indicate whether the dish is a sauce or an aspic. Here, the matter is fortunately clear: we are talking about jellied aspic.

Making aspic gel in the days before manufactured gelatin and artificial refrigeration must have posed a serious challenge, evidenced not least by the many surviving methods that promise to be foolproof. Using smooth containers (metal, stone or glazed pottery), cooling the liquid, and storing it in a cool place are all commonsense measures that we still employ. Isinglass, the swim bladders of sturgeons, is no longer commonly used as a gelling agent, but it is basically just a source of gelatin much as bones and connective tissue are. The most interesting aspect here is indeed the powdered bean flowers. I cannot figure out how they would have helped the gelling process, but I am willing to believe there is something to it. However, the Kuchenmaistrey ascribes a similar effect to bay leaves which clearly do nothing for gelling, so this might merely be a piece of baseless kitchen lore. The word puluers (pulverise) is also interesting. It is used in place of the more usual stoßen (pound) and its Latin root suggests ties to medicinal recipes.

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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