Using the Fiddly Bits of Chickens

Another few recipes from the Innsbruck MS that illustrate nicely how elevated cuisine did not mean you limited yourself to the finest pieces. A good cook was expected to use every piece of the chicken.

129 If you would serve a good dish of hens, take young chickens and pound the feet, neckflaps (kräglein), livers and necks and prepare pounded chicken from that. Then boil the chickens, as many of them as you wish, and serve them, in that gemüez. That is also an uncommon dish.

130 If you would prepare a furhes from the (the above chickens’) blood, take wine and cut off their necks and catch the blood in the wine. Then boil this together and thicken it with toasted bread. If you wish, take their innards (ingeweide) and serve it in this, or chop it, and grate bread into it etc.


133 If you would make sausages from chicken’s necks (kragen), take beef and chop it small with 3 or 4 eggs, and season it. Then take the necks and leave the crops attached to the necks, and fill the chopped meat into them. If you have meat left over, form small balls from it and fill them into the feet. Also put the stomachs into the feet. Then boil them and serve them in a yellow sauce (prulein) or pfefflein sauce that is also yellow, or in a chicken puree (hüern muez) or a ziseindel sauce etc.

These are obviously not recipes that would be made in parallel, but they nicely illustrate how a cook was expected to use the various parts of the chicken in secondary dishes. In every case, the main fleshy parts of the bird would be served boiled or roasted and the side dishes could either make the meal stretch for more people at the table, or they could be served alongside to provide amusement and variety. This was very likely a lot more common than we instinctively assume.

Recipe #129 is basically a way of turning meaty pieces into a meat mush that is then used as a cooking sauce. This is not what we would do, but attested several times in the medieval corpus, though usually for serving separately. The description as an uncommon dish is a positive trait. The word seltsam used for it means remarkable more than weird in this context, and a degree of openness to novelty was expected of upper-class diners in medieval Germany.

Recipe #130 is a fairly typical fürhess, a blood-thickened sauce that is used to serve smaller pieces of meat or organ meats. There are many such recipes prepared from the blood of a wide variety of animals, and the entire class is so broad the word would come to refer to all kinds of side dishes involving meat.

Finally, recipe #133 uses the neck and crop (most likely the esophagus) as well as the skin of the feet to fill with a meat stuffing and cook as a sausage in the broadest of sense. These were then served in a variety of sauces, depending, we assume, on the taste of the recipients. A yellow prulein wouild be a saffron-coloured and spiced sauce based on cooking liquids. I suspect the distinction to the pfefflein or pfefferlein sauce is mainly that the former is thinner while the latter is always thickened, usually with bread. A ziseindel sauce involved onions and/or apples cooked to a mush. The hüern muez very likely is an error and intended to read hüner muez, a chicken meat puree like the one described in #129. It could conceivably also mean a brain mush, a dish that existed, but we do not know of being used as a sauce. We should in all cases assume that the dishes were seasoned generously.

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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