Elderflower Pasta from the Innsbruck MS

Another very seasonal recipe from the Innsbruck MS that I just missed being able to replicate because a colleague fell ill and I had to cover:

128 If you would make a chopped elderflower porridge, boil the elderflowers in good milk and pass it through so that the milk takes on the scent. Take two eggs or 3 and good flour, beat the eggs into it and chop it very well and prepare the porridge from that etc.

There are a lot of recipes for flavouring milk with elderflowers, usually by boiling them in it, sometimes just by steeping them. I can attest to the fact that this works very well, though milk obviously has a tendency to burn if treated carelessly. The milk could them be used to make porridge dishes (or, presumably, other things). Interestingly, here it is used to cook what we would consider pasta.

The idea of pasta – a firm dough, usually made with eggs, that is boiled – is also not unknown in the medieval German corpus. The tradition may or may not have come from Italy, but that question is a bit pointless. Unlike the loseyns of the English corpus, German noodle dishes do not have imported names. They are typically described as a Mus. The Innsbruck MS itself includes such a one, an early record of ‘shaggy Mus.

Such pasta dishes come in a variety of forms – shaped by hand or rolled out and cut, with noodles long and thin, broad and flat, or chopped into small fragments like orzo. One recipe from the kuchenmaistrey that is also flavoured with elderflowers uses thin, long noodles intended to be worm-shaped. The technique of chopping the pasta small as is done here also occurs in the mid-fifteenth century Cod Pal Germ 551.

There is nothing new about this specific recipe then. I still wanted to single it out for a brief look because I think it encapsulates encouragement to be creative when engaging with the corpus. If there is more than one plausible technique to get something done, it is likely all were familiar. If two recipes or approaches appear compatible, someone very likely would have combined them. And if you look long and hard enough, it is very likely you will find evidence of this in a recipe source somewhere. It seems that if there was one thing we will not find in the medieval German tradition, it is the idea that a given dish must be prepared in one specific way.

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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