Geißlitz – a Raisin Dish

Another one from the Mondseer Kochbuch, and I am not quite sure what to make of it:

99 A black geißlitzl

Take ½ libra of raisins and grind them finely so they become small. You shall take small ships (?schifflein) of gingerbread (lebzelten). If you cannot have them, take a different kind of gingerbread (lebzelten) and toast it black. Let them cool and pound them fine and searce them through a pepper sieve (pfeffer sib). You shall add as much of this as is enough and you shall have ½ libra of honey and add it, and also add good spices. You shall temper them with the geißlitz and pass through the raisins, and let it boil well. Add white ginger to it and stir it well, and you must also have sugar for it. If it is about to become too thick, add Romania wine (romaneyer), and serve it cold.

100 A grey geißlitz

Take geißlitz and pass it through a cloth and let it boil well so it becomes properly thin. Pour it onto a serving bowl and let it cool, take off the skin, and serve it with wine or with cold milk, as you please, and serve it.

The cooking instructions here are clear enough, but I am at a loss what the functionn of this dish was. The word geißlitz does not help, it is a fairly common term for a porridge which this clearly is not. Cooking ground raisins and gingerbread with honey and spices is how other recipes produce sauces. However, given the instruction to serve it with cold milk suggests it was more akin to an almond cheese or similar show dish, served with a liquid component to be spooned up. I guess, depending on the proportion of gingerbread and wine, this could make an attractive combination – a thick, sweet and spicy paste served with cold milk like a very adult Rote Grütze. But this is very far into speculative territory, especially since the dish is described as ‘grey’, suggesting it is mixed with the milk.

Incidenbbtally, I also do not know what to make of the schifflein of gingerbread. Aichholzer reads them as scheiblein – slices – which is plausible, but the specification that other gingerbread could be used if they were unobtainable gives me pause. Surely, any gingerbread could be sliced. It may refer to some sort of gingerbread sold in a specific shape, something that still happens commonly with baked goods in Germany. As to its spercific qualities, I have no idea. Medieval gingerbread, as far as we can tell, was harder than far more strongly seasoned than our familiar variety. That is about all I can say on this count.

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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