In my medieval club, we have a tradition for artisans to give little gifts as tokens of appreciation to people who they find talented, helpful, or otherwise impressive. Sometimes these are buttons, pins, ribbons, or beads. I often use spice mixtures. This is one I prepared this week for an upcoming event. It is based on a recipe in the Meister Hans collection:
Recipe #81 Ain grüne sals die mach also vnd behalt die
A green sauce, make it thus and keep it
Item take sage and onions, parsley and sorrel old and young. Pick the herbs and wash them and dry them in the sun. Take with that pepper, galingale, ginger, cinnamon, anise, coriander, cubebs, cloves, mace, grains of paradise, and a little artickel (unknown), that makes the sage nice. And take dried white bread and make a powder of all of this. When you wish to eat it, temper it with wine or with vinegar. And keep (store) this as long as you please.
This recipe is the most detailed I have found yet, but these instant sauce powders are not unusual. There are also records of other sauces meant to be stored and carried by travellerrs, an interesting topic I wrote about a while ago on the Oxford Symposium’s blog. Some of them are fanciful and probably did not work, others look practical and even delicious. This one is my current favourite.
There are two problems with this recipe. The first is that I am not sure what artickel is. Suggestions have ranged from artichoke through Primula auricula to a deliberately obscured spice. Ultimately, given the range of ingredients in parallel recipes, I would suggest it is not very important. The sauce works fine without whatever it is, and the general class was versatile enough to make a great deal more variation plausible. The second is that there are no proportions, so we do not know how the flavours balanced. I played with quantities until I reached a satisfying balance for my Landsknecht Cookbook, and this is largely the mix developed then, just with a little more emphasis on the sharp spices for the coming cold and wet season.
To prepare the spice mix, I took the opportunity to inaugurate the vintage electric coffee mill I bought last year as my spice grinder and was very happy with the results. Yes, that was historically done with a mortar and that would produce a finer texture, but I do not have that kind of time. The herbs, all thoroughly dried, were then easily reduced to powder in a blender. The mix smelled delicious and works beautifully when stirred up with a little vinegar and – an addition not mentioned in the sources, but always favoured by me – salt. It is also likely to last a long time if it is kept dry, but I intend to give it away quickly.
One of the most extensive and interesting medieval recipe collections in German is a manuscript dated 1460 and ascribed to one Meister Hans, cook at the Wurttemberg court. It was often treated as a solitary, the work of a single cook, but there are too many parallels with contemporary manuscripts from Southern Germany to make this plausible. The recipes are an eclectic mix, many terse and simple, others detailed and sprinkled with anecdotes. The entire text was newly edited and extensively commented for Tupperware Deutschland by Trude Ehlert: Maister Hansen des von Wirtenberg Koch, Frankfurt (Main) 1996. I am currently working on a full, commented translation to publish as a book.