Colouring Wine Red

Another parlour trick from the Mondseer Kochbuch:

Red wine, Tacuinum Sanitatis courtesy of wikimedia commons

124 To make red wine

If you wish to make red wine in any season, take blueberries (haidper) and place them in a wooden trough, and when you draw the bread out of the oven, slide the trough with the berries into the oven and let it stand in there for two days. Take them out again and then take small cloths. Into each cloth, wrap berries to the size of an egg, and then put them into wine. This way you can have good red wine when you have berries. It is as good as the red wine that you put red grapes into.

There isn’t very much to this, but it is a neat trick and gives us an idea of the practical aspects of drying berry fruit. It also suggests that, at least in the south of Germany, ‘normal’ wine was white rather than red.

It would be helpful to know what quantity of wine each of these bundles was meant to colour. I suppose the most likely is a serving size, a Kanne or pitcherful, which would come to about a litre. That is just guessing, though. I don’t drink wine, so I am not likely to experiment with it.

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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