Onion Puree from the Innsbruck MS

Today’s recipe is from the fifteenth century again, and it is quite interesting:

Onion from the 1484 Herbarius Moguntinus, courtesy of wikimedia commons

33 If you would make an onion puree (zwifel müez), boil the onions and chop them small etc.

34 If you would make an onion puree (zwifel müz), peel them and boil them like an apple puree in their own steam (in dem dampf). Break them up and then grate a semel loaf into it. Pass it through and season it with spices etc. Make it a little sour, add fat, and do not oversalt it.

35 Item a puree of garlic (knolach). Take three heads of garlic or four, pound them together and pass it through. Take a pan with fat, put it into this, stir it and do not oversalt it.

Number 34 is a very interesting recipe. It is not unique – there are recipes for onion sauces – but I don’t recall seeing the technique anywhere else. If I read it correctly, the idea behind in dem dampf is to cook the onions in a closed container with no additional liquid, the way apple purees are sometimes prepared. An example of this technique is recipe #2 in the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch. More usually, onions are chopped and then either cooked in a liquid directly or initially fried in fat. Cooking them in their own steam may well produce a more concentrated flavour, much as it does with apples, if the consistency comes out correctly. Thickening the mix with bread may not be necessary at all, and I can envision it going very well with vinegar, butter, and sharp spices like pepper, nutmeg, or cardamom. I may have to try this.

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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2 Responses to Onion Puree from the Innsbruck MS

  1. Anton Wijk says:

    This is a really interesting recipe, thank you for writing about it.

    Do you know if the cookbooks have been translated to English?

    All the best.

    • carlton_bach says:

      The Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch has been translated – the link takes you to my English translation. I am currently working on the Innsbruck MS, but that will take a while longer to finish.

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