Shaggy Mus – Milk Pasta

Today’s recipe from the Innsbruck MS is part of an interesting tradition, and it illustrates why names mean relatively little when you are researching German recipes:

Egg pasta ready for cooking in milk (these were cut by children and should be thinner)

25 If you would make a shaggy Mus (zottet müez), make sheets of dough that are thin, and then cut them so they are as small as small rings. Fry them in fat so they are not very brown and then cook them in good milk. Serve it and add fat etc.

Recipes for zottet or zotten (shaggy) Mus show up repeatedly, and they are broadly similar. It has become one of my standby dishes for camp cookery and features in the Landsknecht Cookbook. The one from the Innsbruck MS, though, stands out for frying the dough before cooking it in milk. Compare the parallel recipe (#150) in the broadly contemporary Dorotheenkloster MS:

Take good white flour and make a dough with egg white. Have boiling milk ready in a pan and pull the dough into little pieces, throwing them in as the milk boils. It is to be salted beforehand. Also add fat. See that it stays worm-shaped. Do not oversalt it. Serve it.

Note also that the pasta (here made with only egg whites) is pulled apart and shaped by hand in this case. Meanwhile, the recipe that Balthasar Staindl (#64) gives about a century later has it chopped into something much like orzo:

Make a dough of eggs, roll it out firmly and chop it up. You must always dust it with a little flour while you chop it as small as rice grains. Place them apart for a while so they can dry.Then cook it in boiling milk, make it yellow if you want, boil it till it thickens and serve it.

There is a certain similarits to these recipes that does support them bearing the same name. Egg pasta boiled in milk, giving the whole an irregular, “shaggy”, appearance, is known as a zotten Mus. One would be tempted to see the development from hand-pulled noodles to finely chopped, dried dough as technical progress, but there is a fifteenth-century recipe that closely parallels Staindl’s:

A dish of eggs

Make a good mus of eggs thus: Take four eggs and flour and chop that together, and see that there is not too little of the flour so that it can be chopped. And when it is small, put it into hot milk and do not make it too thick or too thin. Add a good amount of fat and strew sugar on it, and do not oversalt it.

This dish in Cod Pal Germ 551 is not referred to as zotten Mus. That is interesting, but not unusual. Names in the German tradition are often descriptive and can be applied quite flexibly. The dish described in the Innsbruck MS shares certain features with the other zotten Mus ones, but it is also related to a number of recipes for Mus made from boiled fritters. Indeed, it keeps this company:

28 If you would make a Mus of strauben fritters (strauben muz), chop the strauben and cook a Mus with them. If you wish, pound the strauben and pass them through with wine and prepare the Mus with spices, the thickness of a Mus of pounded chickens etc.

29 If you would make a Mus of pounded chuchlein fritters, prepare it like the strauben Mus, with spices.

I am not entirely sure what the exact difference between chuchlein and strauben is, but both are fried and therefore will introduce the kind of Maillard flavours that seem to be the point of these recipes.

The name zotten/zottet Mus does not survive for long, but the class of dishes continues with various designations. Today, Milchnudeln are considered a dessert dish, but the tradition is very much alive.

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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