Dumpling Recipes from the Oeconomia, Part Three

These two recipes conclude the entries in the dumpling section (they are followed by fish recipes). They look like ancestors of modern Semmelknödel:

Die Knödelesserin, image courtesy of wikimedia commons

In another way

(marginalia: another way)

Take a three-pfennig Semmel loaf and cut it into slices across its length. (Also take) half a noeßlein (measure of capacity, here probably about a cup) of cream and beat three eggs into it. Cut an onion and a little bacon into it along with green herbs (gruenen Kraeutericht) such as parley, sage, or ground ivy, chopped and salted and (all of it) stirred together, poured over the sliced Semmel and allow it to steep (laß es drein kriechen). Then add wheat flour with a spoon so that it becomes thick, and also add melted butter. When the water boils, lay the dumpling into it with a spoon.

To make flour dumplings (Meelkloesse)

(marginalia: to make flour dumplings)

Cut the crust off a Semmel and cut cubes (viereckichte stuecklein) of bacon and fry it together in a pan. Throw it into a bowl, take milk, salt it, and stir in an egg. Then scatter (schuette) fine wheat flour on the fried matter (das geroehste), pour on the mixed matter (das gequirlete), and do not make the dumplings too hard and not too thin. First of all, set water to boil by the fire, and when it boils, lay the dumplings into it with a spoon. If you wish to cook meat with them, boil the meat in a separate pot and add it to the dumplings.

Unlike the previous two, these are actually cooked like dumplings and look a lot like what is served in South Germany as Semmelknödel today. They even come with rough guides to quantity, which makes replicating them at least broadly plausible. It is definitely something I want to try. The exact weight of a three-pfennig Semmel differed by place and economic circumstance, of course (bread prices were usually regulated by varying the weight of a loaf sold at a fixed price according to the cost of grain in a given year), but a Semmel is always an individual portion, and the quantity of half a Nössel of cream gives us a baseline. The Nössel usually amounted to between 400 and 600 ml. This also indicates that the recipe is intended as a portion for the master’s table, not something to be shared by the servants or kept for reuse. These dumplings were a luxury.

There are two interesting points specifically in the second recipe. The first is the instruction to first combine dry and liquid ingredients separately. The versatility of German participles allows for this to be explained in an intuitive manner, though the English rendering is clunky. Secondly, the instruction to boil the meat separately indicates that dumplings were cooked in hot water at a very specific temperature. German culinary terminology of the time only had one word (sieden) for cooking in hot water, but cooks obviously understood the difference between cooking things at a simmer (as we do with Knödel today) or a rolling boil (as you would fresh meat). It also tells us that these dumplings would be served in a bowl with boiled meat, which makes an attractive dish reminiscent of later seventeenth and eighteenth-century presentation.

Johann Coler’s Oeconomia ruralis et domestica was a popular book on the topic of managing a wealthy household. It is based largely on previous writings by Coler and first appeared between 1596 and 1601. Repeatedly reprinted for decades, it became one of the most influential early works of Hausväterliteratur. I am working from a 1645 edition.

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