A Collection of Hedgehogs

Many recipe collections feature a hedgehog-shaped confection. Meister Hans has a matching set of three:

Recipe # 5 Ainen weissen Igel zue kochn

To prepare a white hedgehog

Item to prepare a white hedgehog. Take a pound of almonds and pound them small and add sugar. Beat it together and shape a proper hedgehog from it. When it is hard, take twenty almond kernels and cut them small (sliver them) and stick them into it, that will be its spines. And give it an almond kernel into its mouth.

Recipe # 6 Ainen schwarczen Igel

A black hedgehog

Item to make a black hedgehog, you must have a pound of ginger and you shall wash that nicely and pick it nicely so that nothing unclean remains on it. And you shall heat (lit. sweat – schwaissen) it in a pan and let it cool so that it is dry. Pound it small, and you shall add cinnamon, cloves and sugar to it. Beat this together and shape it into a proper hedgehog, and when it is prepared, you shall stick it with cloves, those are its spines. And a gilded nutmeg in its mouth, that is healthy for the hedgehog.

Recipe #7 Aber ainen anndn Igel

Yet another hedgehog

Item but (for) another hedgehog, he shall take for it one pound of figs and wash off the flour. Let them dry, then chop them small. Pound them cleanly with good spices and add saffron, that makes it red. And you shall not forget the sugar. Beat it together and shape it into a hedgehog and make it nicely yellow with saffron. And take cloves, that will be its spines, and a fig into its mouth.

There isn’t much to add to the recipes – they are fairly clear and easy to follow, and a little edible hedgehog would surely make a popular centrepiece on any festive table. The intense spiciness the second recipe would generate suggests that these sculptures were not meant to be eaten in large bites. One would go a long way among many diners. I imagine them being eaten at the end of the meal, when épices de chambre and other fragrant confections were customarily served. That would allow the hedgehog to be admired for a while and conclude the occasion in style. Add to that the poetically best-known advantage of this creature and what is there not to like?

One of the most extensive and interesting medieval recipe collections in German is a manuscript dated 1460 and ascribed to one Meister Hans, cook at the Wurttemberg court. It was often treated as a solitary, the work of a single cook, but there are too many parallels with contemporary manuscripts from Southern Germany to make this plausible. The recipes are an eclectic mix, many terse and simple, others detailed and sprinkled with anecdotes. The entire text was newly edited and extensively commented for Tupperware Deutschland by Trude Ehlert: Maister Hansen des von Wirtenberg Koch, Frankfurt (Main) 1996.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Collection of Hedgehogs

  1. MaryAnne Bues Bartlett says:

    The first two of these would be just a heap of flour, if there were no liquid or fat added? Should they be treated like marzipan? Adding rosewater or something of the sort? Or wine, maybe? It’d only take a dribble, but I think it’s necessary.

    • carlton_bach says:

      I assume some liquid is added, either with the sugar (the term ‘sugar’ aspoparently can mean a syrup) or at some other stage. But I am not sure where and how. I guess it’s something a cook would just know.

    • These sounds lovely. Just to say that if you blend almonds long enough, the oils released enable a stiff paste to be formed. No liquid is needed to make the first hedgehogs. It seems to me you would need some kind of liquid to make the second hedgehogs, which sound like modern sugar mice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *