Almond Cheese from Cgm 384 II

A ubiquitous show dish in the German corpus:

57 Almond cheese (cziger)

Take almonds and pound them very well and make a good milk with that. Pass them through with a little white bread (read wiss brottes for wins brottes) or put in grated white bread and pour in a little wine, and let it boil up until it thickens. Then draw it onto a sieve or a cloth, just as you do another cheese or milk (i.e. curdled milk). When you wish to serve it, spread it out lengthwise on a red serving bowl with a knife or a wooden shingle (schindel). Strew it with almond kernels and pour on almond milk on either side, strewn with sugar.

There are many recipes for using almond milk to simulate dairy products for Lent, and one of the more common conceits was simulating fresh cheese by thickening almond milk in a num,ber of ways. This recipe uses bread to produce a kind of porridge, but others also used starch, gelatin, egg, and acid curdling. What makes this version interesting is the explicit serving instruction: spread out on a red bowl, covered in almonds, surrounded by almond milk and sweetened with sugar. Arranged in a bowl surrounded by whey was how fresh cheese, something akin to Quark, was also served on meat days. It seems to have been a rather common dish, too common to describe much on its own, so, as happens frequently, we learn about it from its Lenten imitations.

The designation cziger crops up repeatedly in medieval recipes, and it usually refers to fresh cheeses as opposed to mature ones. That is different from its contemporary use in Swiss German where Ziger refers to an acid-coagulated whey cheese that can be hard and mature. The standard German spelling Zieger is based on a mistaken folk etymology. The word is not relate to Ziege, goat, and the cheese can be made from any kind of milk.

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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