Multicoloured Jelly from de Rontzier

I am finally back (the trip was awesome) and will be bringing you more recipes. Tonight’s is an addition to the jelly recipes from de Rontzier that I thought deserved a post of its own:

Apothecary, the source of red colouring. 1568 woodcut5 from the Ständebuch by Hans Sachs and Jost Amman, courtesy of wikimedia commons

20 Item if you would have multicoloured jelly (bunten Gallert), you shall prepare a round or square thing (rund oder viereckicht Ding) of tin or sheet metal. Take of all kinds of colours of cool jelly, each in the same quantity, and then you pour one colour after the other into the bowl this way: Once one colour has set, you pour on the next straightaway and so on, until they have all been put in on top of each other. Once the jelly has stood for one night, invert (lesset) it out of the bowl onto a table. Then you cut it into thin or thick slices and lay them in a silver dish or confit dishes (Confectschalen) and serve them.

This is an interesting recipe, though cursory. It reminded me of somewthing I read in Balthasar Staindl’s Kochbuch, so I went and checked. Here it is:

1.xviii Item jellied (gesulzte) almond (milk) that has colours as you please

Almond milk (der Mandel) is white by itself. Make it yellow with saffron. Make it green with parsley. You shall take red from the apothecary, something that one calls a coloured cloth (farbtuoch) from the apothecary. You boil that and it makes the water red with which you may temper (prepare) the almond milk. But you must boil isinglass with it and mnis it well with sugar, just like egg cheeses (Ayrkaeß).

xix Item you make brown colour thus: Take ground almond milk and cherry sauce (Weichselsalssen), thus the almond milk becomes brownish-black (braunschwartz). Take clove powder and water in which isinglass has been boiled, boil peas in that, strain the pea broth through a cloth and sweeten it with sugar. This turns black.

To make red colour

xix Make it thus: Take water in which isinglass has been boiled, sweeten it and strain it through a cloth. Then take red colour from a bonded apothecary (einem geschwornen Apotecker) let the above water cool, stir in the colour and pour it soon, It will set, pour it in whatever shape you wish.

To make almond cheese that has any colours you wish

xx Make it thus: Pour the above described colour into a cup (becher) and let it set one finger thick. Then pour in another colour on top, but not hot, only cold or it will flow into the other. Pour in of colour(s) as many as you wish until the cup is full (vil, lit. much). When it has boiled and set (gesotten und gestanden), thrust the cup into hot water and take it out again soon. Invert it over a serving bowl, thus you have all the colours. Then cut the pounded almond (the almond jelly) lengthwise, then you see the colours one after the other.

Here we have some more details on the colouring process and a clear description of inverting a jelly by using hot water to loosen it. The becher involved could be quite large, so the resulting jelly might well be very substantial. Unfortunately, I lack good pictures for this. Neither do I have a contemporary depiction nor a good photo of the attempt I made at replicating this many years ago. But it can be done.

Franz de Rontzier, head cook to the bishop of Halberstadt and duke of Braunschweig, published his encyclopaedic Kunstbuch von mancherley Essen in 1598. He clearly looks to Marx Rumpolt’s New Kochbuch as the new gold standard, but fails to match it in engaging style or depth. He is thus overshadowed by the twin peaks of Marx Rumpolt and Anna Wecker. What makes his work interesting is the way in which he systematically lists versions of a class of dishes, illustrating the breadth or a court cook’s repertoire. He is also more modernly fashionable than Rumpolt. Looking to France rather than Italy and Spain for inspiration, and some of the dishes he first describes may be genuine innovations.

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