Boil-in-the-Bag Meals

After reading about the bread and meat puddings Meister Hans cooks in stomachs, I decided to revisit the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch for this gem about campaign cookery:

Pig stomach filled with a meat and spice mix

27 If you should go on campaign (hervart) and are to cook many things, but do not have many pots, take the bruchen (one of the stomachs) of cattle and sheep and the stomach of a pig and clean them. Put into these each what you want, black, yellow, green, with root vegetables, with onions, whatever you like. Put each into a bruchen by itself with its own cooking liquid (soet). Close it up well, each with its separate content. Place these in a pan or a cauldron and let them boil until it is done. Then serve it as prettily as you can.

The idea of using stomachs as cooking containers to produce different dishes is as simple as it is fascinating. Of course the practice of cooking things inside various animal intestines is amply attested through history, but here the idea is specifically to produce variety by separating out dishes prepared with some attention to detail such as colour. This is not a makeshift dish to stave off hunger in the fields, it is a piece of culinary sleight-of-hand worthy of a master cook. Though it was done on campaign (hervart refers to an army in the field), this would be what was served to senior officers whose retinue allowance traditionally included a personal cook at full (in some cases double) landsknecht pay.

Sheep stomach filled with barley for pudding

Putting the idea into practice calls for an ample supply of water and some skill with needle and thread, but there is no reason to think it was challenging. The stomachs would need to stay watertight, but that is easier than it looks – I managed it accidentally by sewing one shut too conscientiously. The muscular membrane is easier to handle than thin and easily torn intestine. As to what would go into it, I assume just about any vegetable dish, but also beaten eggs, bread pudding, or porridge grains. If we assume that a cook would have access to the stomachs of one or two slaughtered animals, the range of options was already considerable. A ruminant would proivide several containers, but even a much simpler constructed pig still had an oesophagus and windpipe to press into service. If you ever actually find yourself in possession of these bits, this should be worth playing with.

And with this, I am off on my holidays. Expect fewer and shorter recipes until my return.

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