Quince Electuary after Walter Ryff

Rest day after the drive to Denmark. I took the opportunity to translate a longer recipe. Walter Ryff is verbose:

Quince, courtesy of wikimedia commons

To prepare a fine, useful and good quince electuary

… In this first part, we will most carefully describe the most common electuaries that are made in many form from may different fruit, herbs, roots, seeds, spices and the like. Firstly, quince electuary which is used by well-equipped apothecaries and diligent householders for medicine and is thought a strengthening food.

This electuary is mainly prepared from quinces, whence it derives its name Conditum Contoneorum. The fruit has a lovely and fresh scent, but is or rough taste which is why it is entirely unsuitable for eating raw. If too much is eaten raw, it is entirely impossible to digest, but cooked and prepared in many ways they strengthen the stomach, constipate the belly if they are eaten before other food, move urine, close the stomach, especially if they are very rough, and still the disgust and vomiting of the stomach. But if quinces are used after other foods, they loosen the belly. Quinces also have a lovely and sweet wine juice (Weinsafft) which is why they suppress all evil vapours that rise up from the stomach.

Quince juice that is drunk or quinces chewed in the mouth defend against drunkenness. The ancients also assure us credibly that is a pregnant woman frequently enjoyed quinces, the child would be very nimble, of good wits and sharp reasoning.

This fruit is of many kinds which the ancients referred to by name and distinguished by the manner of their planting. But in this country, we mainly only have two kinds of quinces: Common quinces are small, knot-shaped or full of uneven parts (knorren), rough, harsh, and have large cores (sehr steinig). The other kind are smoother, milder, more tender, also larger and of sweeter and lovelier scent and flavour. That is why they should mainly be chosen for all apothecaries’ preparations. Of such quinces, a useful electuary is prepared in the following manner: Take as many quinces that are quite ripe as you wish and peel them thoroughly. Cut off the stems, cores, inner seeds and whatever else is hard (steining) away. But you must not throw away the seeds because they can usefully applied to many purposes. Place these quinces in a new earthen pot that is well glazed and cleanly singed (ausgebrannt – sterilised over flame) and pour on good tart wine, but not too much, only so they are steamed in it and turn to mush. There are, though, many differences in the way of doing this. Some use only fresh well water, others the pressed juice of several quinces which is strongest, others again use no addition at all, but secure (verpreissen) the cut quince slices in a pot with small wooden skewers. They invert that pot over another in which there is wine or water and make a strong coal fire all around. Thus they let it cook in the steam and let them become very soft. You may do this as you please, only see that the quinces are quite soft and turn to mush so you can pass them neatly and entirely through a hair sieve, haircloth, or another commonly used linen cloth so that whatever is left of the skin, cores, or their like is separated and only the tender, pure pulp (mark) passes through.

The ancients used one pound each of strong, potent vinegar of white wine and clarified and well-scummed honey to one pound of this pulp. These three ingredients are boiled well together so that they acquire the proper and suitable thickness. Afterwards, the following powder is added: Take six Loth each of black pepper and white, cleanly scraped ginger, two Loth of parsley seed, which many translate into German as masterwort (Meisternwürtzel) seed and others as pimpernel seed, and mix that powder into it for an electuary.

Further, such an electuary was also prepared among the ancients in another manner. Namely, you take the pressed-out juice of the finest quinces and well-scummed honey, one pound each, and half a pound of sharp wine vinegar. Let it boil as is described afterwards, namely so that it acquires the thickness of the honey. Then mix in the following powder: Take three Loth of carefully chosen scraped white ginger and two Loth of white pepper, or in its stead of common black pepper, stir it all well together and let it boil to a suitable thickness. But when the ancients wished to give their quince electuary to people of hot complexion, and especially those who have much gall in their stomachs, they did not add these spices, but only for those who had cold, phlegmy stomachs and were more phlegmatic and ‘liquid’ (flüssiger) by nature.

But in our time, quince electuary is prepared in a much more elegant and stronger manner by apothecaries and diligent householders. You take three pounds of the passed-through pulp of the quinces and four pounds of clear, well-scummed honey, and let it boil well together, steadily stirring with a wooden paddle (spatel) or a small shovel made for the purpose until it begins to thicken. Then let a little of it fall on cold iron, cold stone, or the bottom of a mortar so it cools. If it has boiled enough, it can then be easily detached (abschelen – lit. peel off) and does not stick to the fingers either but comes off easily and dry. Then lift it off the fire and and stir in the following spices (Species) or powder: Take three and a half Loth of select, sharp cinnamon, two Loth of white, cleanly scraped ginger, one Loth each of common black pepper and galingale root, three quintlin each of cloves and nutmeg, half a Loth each of the noble, alien spikenard, aloeswood or wood of paradise, of mace, and of cardamom, and a quintlin of select ceodary that has not been eaten by worms. Thus quince electuary is commonly prepared in well-appointed apothecaries’ shops in our time. However, such electuary is also prepared by some in a manner that causes it to drive out stools or acts as a laxative (treib oder laxire), which is not usually found reported of electuaries. But in our times, quince electuary is not only prepared as medicine for the sick, but also as a food for the healthy to strengthen the stomach and close it after taking (other) food. But instead of with honey, you do this with fine white sugar thus: Take three pounds of the passed-through pulp of quinces and two pounds of pure white clarified sugar and let it boil gently over a slow coal fire until it detaches cleanly from the pan as described above. You can pour such an electuary into a new box or sugar container (zuckerlädlin) and use it for many purposes.

But many prepare quince electuary more artfully still, only from the juice of quinces, and also pour it into such boxes. Do that thus: Take eight Loth of fresh quince seeds and let them soak in fresh well water for one day. Press out the slime through a clean cloth and add to it four pounds of the pressed juice of quinces. Or you may soften the above seeds in such a juice or make them take effect in it, but not in a copper, iron or brass vessel so it does not receive any flavour from that. Let it boil well together, but not too much, so that you can still pass it through a cloth. Take 2 pounds of the finest sugar that is well purified and clarified to the finest. Boil it to the proper suitable thickness and pour it into small boxes as described above. You can also prepare this electuary that way using scummed honey instead of sugar.

Further note here that when you wish to press the juice out of the quinces, you must grate them on an iron grater finely all the way to the cores and catch them in a haircloth or other linen cloth so you can easily press them with a suitable tool or press.

Quince electuary that is boiled to a proper and suitable thickness can stay good for a considerable time, but it must be kept in a temperate, airy place where it is not too hot in summer, not too cold in winter, and otherwise neither too wet nor too dry.

A quince electuary, especially the kind that is prepared with sugar, is an elegant and pleasing confit (Confect) and gifted with valuable powers. For it recovers the lost desire and appetite to eat, strengthens and furthers digestion, and has the particular property of strengthening the stomach and the liver except in matters that are caused by heat.

This electuary also keeps people in good colour and stills disgust, eructations, and unnatural vomiting of the stomach, stops the flowing and breach of the belly and the white and the bloody flux or bloody stool. But in this case it must be eaten before food, because if it is taken after food, it gentles and softens the stomach, furthers digestion and closes the stomach so no evil vapour may rise up from it. Thus it is not improperly taken by rich people in the evening to strengthen a dull stomach incapable of digestion.

This electuary, prepared with Malvasier or another strong wine and spices, is served cold as a sauce (Salsen) or common dipping sauce (Eindunck) with food, especially useful and strengthening to the stomach head, and digestive powers.

Further note that sometimes, quince electuary, and especially the kind in which no spices are used, is mixed with a little musk and stirred well with wine, rosewater, or pressed-out quince juice.

Quince electuary that is prepared with wine as described above and with spices and other hot ingredients serves old people, women who have cooled, and every complaint of cold and moist complexion. But if we first boil the quinces with water of the pressed juice and then prepare the electuary with sugar, or only from quince juice and sugar, the heat is tempered (because quinces are moved to be cold in the first and dry in the second degree). That is why it is more useful and suitable to those who are of a hot nature or have much gall in their stomachs.

(p. 27 ff)

For all the pomposity, this is very useful information, technical and precise. We can basically go from clarifying the sugar or honey to making the electuary to preparing the sauce, working with a reasonable approximation of original proportions and techniques. Ryff even describes an early version of the gelling test we still use on jam. This goes well beyond the recipe in my Landsknecht Cookbook.

Walter Ryff, a somewhat enigmatic figure, was a medical professional and incredibly prolific author in the mid-16th century. Many of his works on areas ranging from dietetics to obstetrics to architecture were very successful despite repeated accusations of plagiarism. His Confect Buch, dedicated to sweet confections both medicinal and culinary, was repreinted several times posthumously.

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