Frying Raisins and Pear Fish

Two short recipes from the Kuenstlichs und Fuertefflichs Kochbuch:

35 To Fry Zyweben (large raisins)

Take Zyweben and wash them well in wine or raynfal, thus they will grow large. Prepare a batter with the wine as for repuntzeln and soften them. That way the batter will stick to them, otherwise it will fall off. But if you soften them, the batter sticks to them.

36 To Fry Pears (Regelpiern)

Cut the pears like (in the shape of) gobies (Gruendelein, a small fish), and moisten them with wine. Dust (Schwing) them with wheat flour and fry them.

Zibeben, according to wikimedia commons

We have seen before that Renaissance German cuisine was inordinately fond of deep-fried foods. These two recipes belong in that tradition, but they are interesting in their own right. In #35, instead of fresh fruit, raisins are first soaked in wine to make them swell up and then battered and fried. The word Zyweben, modern Zibeben, is our third term for raisins in this source, after rosine and weinbeere. In modern times, Zibeben are particularly large and soft raisins. The Regelpiern in #36 are hard and tart cooking pears. What makes them remarkable is that they are cut into the shape of small fish before being fried. Of course playing with your food is an ancient and venerable tradition, but this takes us remarkably close to the origin myth for French fries. The repuntzeln mentioned in #35 for comparison are probably the roots of campanula rapunculus, the rampion bellflower, though the name was also applied to lamb’s lettuce (valerianella locusta). Unfortunately I have yet to find a recipe specific to them.

The short Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch was first printed in Augsburg in 1559 and reprinted in Nuremberg in 1560 and subsequently. Despite its brevity, it is interesting especially as it contains many recipes for küchlein, baked or deep-fried confections, that apparently played a significant role in displaying status. We do not know who the famous cook referenced in the title may have been or if he ever existed.

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