Fruit Purees from the Innsbruck MS

Continuing the entries from the Innsbrucker Rezeptbuch (Cod. Vind. 5486), today’s collection is a series of fruit puree recipes. Again, they are nothing special, but their grouping shows the systematic approach of the whole text:

Weichsel, prunus cerasus, courtesy of wikimedia commons

7 If you would make a tart cherry puree (weichselmüz), take tart cherries in a pan and break them up (zertreib sy), add toasted bread and pass it through a cloth with wine. Season it well and beat egg yolks into it, then make it as thick as a side dish (gemüez) and do not oversalt it.

8 If you would make a puree of sweet cherries (chersen), make it in the same way as the tart cherry puree and do not oversalt it etc.

9 If you would make a puree of damsons (krichen müez), also prepare it in the same manner as the first.

10 If you would make strawberry puree (erper müz), also make it in the way etc.

11 If you would make a puree of brambles (praper) farnts (?) etc.

12 If you would make a puree of spilling plums (Prunus domestica ssp pomariorum, spendling müz), take the spilling plums, pour on a little water, and boil them so that the stones fall out. Take some toasted bread and pass it through (together) with wine, and add honey and spice it well. Then bring it to a boil and prepare it like the other purees (müeser) and do not oversalt it.

Various fruit purees thickened with bread and/or egg were a staple of medieval German cuisine, and we find a lot of recipes scattered across many sources, including one from the Kuchenmaistrey and several in the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch. They are very similar to others for sauces, but are clearly meant as dishes in their own right and referred to as Mus, the catchall term for spoonable, but not liquid foods. We need not imagine them as sweet dessert foods, though their descendants today are. The distinction between a savoury main course and a sweet dessert did not yet exist at the time. Fruit purees could be served as side dishes to a meat or fish course, or as a course of their own.

The distinction between tart cherries – the Weichseln that could be foraged in the wild – and sweet cherries – the Kirschen or Amerellen that were always cultivated in gardens – was very clear in medieval recipes. They were effectively considered different fruit. Tart cherries were very popular for sauces and electuaries.

The Innsbrucker Rezeptbuch is a manuscript recipe collection from a South German/Austrian context. It dates to the mid-fifteenth century and survives as part of a set of medical and culinary texts bound together. The editor Doris Aichholzer published it together with two related manuscripts and drew attention to the less elaborate, more practical recipes. The manuscript is of unknown provenance, but has been owned by the Habsburg emperors since at least the early sixteenth century. It is now held at the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. An edition, German translation and commentary can be found in Doris Aichholzer: Wildu machen ayn guet essen… Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher, Peter Lang Verlag Berne et al. 1999

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