Liver in Honey and an Interesting Verb

Unwitting deer about to be turned into liver confit

The second recipe in the Mondseer Kochbuch is also interesting in its own right:

2 How to preserve a deer liver in sauce (ain hirssen leber sulzet)

You should roast a deer liver on a griddle if you want to keep it long. Then you should cut it into thin slices. Take clear, thick honey (honigsaim) and boil it, and take ginger and galingale and cloves, pound them together and throw them in. Then take a small cask or a vat into which you wish to put it and wash it very clean. Then pour in a layer of honey and a layer of liver, and so on.

This method of preserving cooked meat comes up repeatedly in various sources, and the sauce used for it often referred to as a sulcz. The earliest such reference I know of is the salsa dominorum in the Harpestreng manuscripts (V and VI). Here, spices are mixed with vinegar and the sauce thickened with toasted bread, a method we find frequently in German galrey or sulcz recipes. I have already written about how these words would eventually expand to refer to clear gelatin aspics and thast their usage remained inconsistent well into the seventeenth century. Here, we see another aspect of this development.

The recipe describes the process of sealing cooked meat under honey with a verb, sulzet. That verb does appear on occasion later and its modern form, (ein)sülzen, refers to enclosing foods in aspic. Clearly, it had a broader original meaning, and it had no connection with a specific ingredioent. Most sauces described as sulcz contain broth or cooked meat and thus could conceivably have gelled. This clearly cannot – it’s honey. Thus, sulzen at this point refers to preserving under a sauce, the sulcz.

I am not fond of liver in general, but I am willing to give this recipe a try out of sheer curiosity. Honey with ginger, galingale and cloves sounds like an attractive combination.

The Mondseer Kochbuch is a recipe collection bound with a set of manuscript texts on grammar, dietetics, wine, and theology. There is a note inside that part of the book was completed in 1439 and, in a different place, that it was gifted to the abbot of the monastery at Mondsee (Austria). It is not certain whether the manuscript already included the recipes at that point, but it is likely. The entire codex was bound in leather in the second half of the fifteenth century, so at this point the recipe collection must have been part of it. The book was held at the monastery until it passed into the Vienna court library, now the national library of Austria, where it is now Cod 4995.

The collection shows clear parallels with the Buoch von guoter Spise. Many of its recipes are complex and call for expensive ingredients, and some give unusually precise quantities and measurements. It is edited in Doris Aichholzer’s “Wildu machen ayn guet essen…” Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher: Edition, Übersetzung, Quellenkommentar, Peter Lang, Berne et al. 1999

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

Leave a Reply

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