Memories of a Plague Year

This came across my social media feed again a few days ago. Back in the days when we were limited to meetings of just two households, no conferences, reenactments, markets or feasts happening. That was when I began translating a recipe every day, in order to keep myself stable, and when I started a habit of going out to meet friends at home to cook them together. Some of those two-households-alike-in-desperation meetings left me very positive memories. This was one of them. We cooked fifteenth-century foods (mostly) from the collection of Meister Hans.

Chicken Fritters

These are lanncz fritters – made with chicken breast meat, as the recipe allows, rather than the livers and stomachs described initially.

A dish of chickens that is called lanncz

Item take chicken livers and stomachs and cut them thinly and deep-fry (pachs) them in fat. Add to them fat, pepper, eggs, caraway, and salt. Stir it together as soft as (the filling for) filled eggs (and) push (streich) them into boiling fat in a pot so that they stay whole. That way they are fried until done. Then serve it, this is called lanncz. In the same way, you can prepare young chickens or lamb.

I used spoons to drop small portions into hot fat, which worked well. Using a board in the manner of spaetzle would also have worked, except the drop into a modern deep fryer is too steep. Caraway serves surprisingly well as a main flavour, but on the whole the dish is a bit underwhelming this way. Livers and stomachs are better suited to it, if cooked for a more adventurous audience.

Meat Pastries

These are meat pastries from Anna Wecker’s 1598 cookbook. They are a familiar fallback option. Good, but a bit boring. A certain crowd pleaser when there are children present,. however.

Krapffen von dem ubergebliebnen Fleisch

Pastries of leftover meat

Take of such (meat) as you have that is no longer suitable for the table , it is good for these things. Cut the meat off the bones and chop it well. Make a dough of fine flour and eggs, a little fat, salt it well, or the way you make it for tarts, as you please.

Take two thin sheets, one as big as the other, shape it as you would like it and as you can, round, triangular, or rectangular, into hearts, roses, or stars. The add good spices to the meat, raisins, and what you like to have sweet or sour, as you please. (Add) enough fat from what is skimmed off soups (Suppenschmalz) or beef marrow, according to how fat or lean the meat itself is. If you wish, you can also add good herbs, with or without spices, or eggs as though you wanted to make sausages that go into the fat-lined part of the large intestine (Klobwürste). You may also take coarsely ground almonds, (but) they are better grated, especially if you also add eggs, and grate a little bit of hard white bread if you please. Always add a little meat broth.

If you want to make them, prepare it (the meat) and put a little of it on part of the abovementioned sheets (shaped) according to whatever you want of animals, birds, hounds , hares, as described above. Shape it with the prepared stuff (meat mixture) and then place the second sheet on top. Press it together according to its shape and close it as artfully as you can.

Give each its form: to the sow, bristles with a pastry wheel, give each one eyes from black dried cherries or juniper berries, (arrange) the skin of an egg around it or of red apples or rose petals, each after its kind. As to what else belongs to them, I have kept the little sheep’s trotters and such things as well as the young hares’ feet, those who are artful do not need much description, to those who aren’t it is in vain. Roughly done does not improve them or detract from them. Close them, brush them with egg as is always done, bake them quickly and serve them warm. They are best without egg, but to each as they like it. Almonds and a little bread makes them good.

This is not so much a recipe as a method. Since we rarely have leftover meat, I tend to boil or roast a cheap cut for those, but they are well suited for the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas. And of course they can serve as an outlet for creativity if you are so inclined.

Falcon Dish (or maybe just a thick mush)

This is an interesting egg dish: habich muos (egg with herbs cooked in the shell)

Recipe #88 Ain habich muoß von ayren

A ‘falcon dish’ of eggs

Item chop sage small and fry it in butter. Mix herbs and saffron into it and make a ‘falcon dish’ from it. Fill it back into the shells and lay them into boiling water. Boil them and quarter them nicely afterwards.

The etymology of habich is unclear. It may be an adjective.

Here, I fried fresh sage in butter, added it to the raw egg with salt and parsley, and returned the batter to the shells. I was unfortunately unable to find a good way of stabilising them in boiling water (no egg cooker on hand) so instead I cooked them in an oven standing in egg cartons. Don’t do that. They were tasty, but ugly. I am convinced a gentle simmering will be much more effective.

And to edit at this point: This solution works well stood in a tall pot of hot water.

Raisin Marzipan Pears

Little dessert pears – a variation on the theme of marzipan.

Recipe # 129 Ain essen gestalt als die piern mach also

Make a dish shaped like pears thus

Item take well-selected Italian raisins and pound them in a mortar. Take blanched almond kernels and pound them together with that. Mix ginger and sugar into it. When that is done, knead it in your hand so that it is shaped like a pear and stick a stalk into it.

Having a mortar large enough, or a really potent food processor, helps here, but even so they were good. I used 150g of raisins, an equa quantity of ground almonds, and 100g of sugar, seasoned with ginger. The resulting mass looks surprisingly similar to pears in colour (though not in this light). It would come even closer if it were mixed more finely.

It was altogether a lovely meal, and one I recall with fondness. There was also a berry sauce, a dish of fritters, and salad. We can have bigger gatherings again, but there is something to be said for the intimate setting of these extended family meals.

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2 Responses to Memories of a Plague Year

  1. Joe Lovell says:

    Try standing the eggs upright in mini-muffin tins.

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