Suckling Pig from the Mondseer Kochbuch

Another short recipe as I head out to Roskilde and Lejre today:

Seventeenth-century Spanferkel courtesy of wikimedia commons

8 To prepare a filled suckling pig (spensau) well

Take a piglet that is three weeks old and scald it not too hot (küle) and remove its hair. Careful not to injure it, you should loosen the skin all around and detach both flesh and bones and everything that is inside the body all the way to the claws. And take a quantity as large as two eggs of the flesh you took out and boil it until it is almost done. And take the bacon and chop it, and add an egg and a slice of bread and parsley and sage in measure. Fill the piglet with this, not too full, tie up its snout and lay it into a cauldron gently and boil it so its skin does not break. Then take it, place it on a wooden griddle and roast it gently. When it is well roasted, take bread and lay it in a serving bowl. Fix four sticks on a board and clad the board with dough (? pluot, literally flowers) and loosen its snout and let the ears stand out, and serve it.

This is another of the parallels with the Buoch von Guoter Spise, and the comparison solves one of the odder parts: The recipe instructs us to cover the servbing board in flowers (pluot), which is possible, but unusual. In the parallel recipe (#8), it is clad in a blat, a sheet of dough, which seems more probable. The instruction to “let the ears stand out” also is made clearer in the parallel where the piglet, too, is covered in dough which is then presumably baked.

Another question I have is what is meant by the “two eggs of the flesh” which is found in both parallels. I suspect that is a garbling that was already in the shared source of these recipes and originally simply referred to adding two eggs (the interpretation depends on a few small words and could easily slip in). That would mean the meat of the piglet is cooked in its entirety, turned into a stuffing, and filled back into the skin which is then cooked like gefilte fish. It is also possible that there is something more complicated going on. The instruction to loosen the skin all the way around without damaging it occurs in recipes for poultry that is cooked with a seasoned filling between the skin and the meat. The way a pig’s skin attaches to the flesh with fatty tissue between would make this challenging, but it is something I could easily imagine as a showy dish.

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

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