Berry Sauces

The final revised Kuchenmaistrey is out the door and I have time for just a short recipe before the holidays begin. Returning to the Innsbruck MS for a bit of local flavour:

121 If you would prepare a brown sauce, take strawberries and semel bread and pass it through with wine etc.

122 Item a blue sauce, take blueberries and also prepare them in this manner with semel bread and wine etc.

123 Item a sauce of raspberries (holper): pound them and pass them through with wine and spice them so they are sweet, or also add honey to it etc.

Raspberry, courtesy of wikimedia commons

By the sixteenth century, some foreign visitors remark on the German habit of using fruit in cooking, and we have a good deal of documentation for that, mostly featuring apples and pears. These sauces are a rarer survival, and I suspect they are a seasonal treat.

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries at the time were almost entirely foraged, not grown for the market. They were also smaller than our cultivated varietals, especially the European forest strawberry. This made them laborious to gather and hard to transport over any longer distances. They were available locally and seasonally, sometimes in large quantities, but never predictably. With sugar preservation not yet widespread, they were very likely eaten fresh, turned into fruit purees and – as we see here – sauces.

We do not know whether these sauces are meant to be cooked. If they are, it is possible they functioned as preserves. However, looking at how they are prepared I think it is more likely they are meant to be eaten fresh. There is little point adding wine only to boil it out again, and long-lasting fruit sauces are usually not bound with grated bread. Thus we are looking at berry purees aromatised with wine and slightly thickened with grated white bread. Personally, I am most partial to the raspberry sauce with cinnamon and honey, a redaction I included in my Landsknecht Cookbook, but all three are very nice with roast meat.

Unfortunately, much as we would love to imagine them accompanying rich, dark meat and thick roasts – and they are wonderful with a nice pork loin and divine with goose – seasonality dictates this is unlikely. Unless you were hunting, summertime meats would mainly be chicken and, expensively, lamb and suckling pig. They are good in that combination, but nothing stops us from making full use of modern preservation technology to enjoy them when they are at their most welcome.

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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