Lampreys Preserved in a Spicy Sauce

Another iteration of the tale of sulcz, though this recipe from the Mondseer Kochbuch does not use any of the words:

Lampreys courtesy of wikimedia commons

25 How to prepare lampreys

Take a lamprey and drown it in the best wine that you can have. Then cut it in six pieces. When it has been cut up, sprinkle it with salt, lay them on a griddle and roast them until they are done. Take the middle piece once it has been roasted fully and pound it in a mortar. Add the black crust of rye bread that has been soaked in vinegar beforehand. Also add pounded galanga, pepper, and ginger, caraway, mace, and cloves. But if you wish to keep it long, make it sharp with vinegar and with a little honey and boil it well. Lay it (the fish) in (when it is) cold.

There are numerous recipes for preserving meats by immersing them in thick sauces, effectively excluding bacteria. Most of these sauces also included vinegar which would further reduce spoilage. Here, we have another early example, though this time involving fish. Lampreys were fashionable throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, though most surviving recipes describe how to prepare them fresh. This is an unusual occurrence, but as the same source in a different recipe for such a preservative sauce specifically instructs the reader to apply the process creatively, not an unexpected one.

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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