Dairy Dishes (a new and interesting source)

I’m working with a new and very interesting source, the Kochbüchlein aus Tegernsee, and today I can share the first bit of it. The translation is more challenging that straightforward recipes, so the intervals between posts are liable to stay a bit longer for a while. Here is section six:

Tegernsee monastery, 1560 print courtesy of wikimedia commons

6 Of milk and the dishes that are made of milk, for 40 persons:

Buttermilk: 14 Maß and 4 courtly pounds (hoffpfund) of butterfat (puttersmalz), one piece of buttered bread (schmalzen prot) each

Two (pieces of) butter weighing 7 hoffpfund, 2 slices of a gingerbread loaf (zelten) and two (loaves of) lordly bread (herrenprot).

Clabbered milk: 7 Maß and 10 lautter (?) go in it

Modlmilch (custard): 80 eggs, 6 Maß of milk prepared as an egg cheese (ayrkäs), then 10 Maß of pure milk.

For egg cheese (ayrkäß): 200 eggs, 20 Maß of milk, 1 lb of raisins to go in it.

For pressed milk: 2 eggs each and 9 Maß of milk.

Voglspeiß (lit. bird food): 3 eggs each, 3 drinks of milk.

Gewurz (lit. spices): 2 eggs each, 1 Maß of wine or none, 4 (pieces of) bread, 4 semel loaves, the bread is toasted, 1 Maß of milk.

Roasted eggs: 2 eggs each.

Yellow milk: 2 eggs each, 1 drink of milk, 1 semel loaf, a handful of caraway, raisins, and spices.

Entire filled eggs: 2 eggs each and spices.

Half filled eggs: 2 eggs each, 10 for the filling

Knödel from the shells: 2 eggs, 1 semel and 10 eggs mixed in, and spices

For cakes with greens (kuechln auf das kraut): 70 eggs, 2 seml loaves, spices, one handful of figs cut small.

Cakes from a fruit sauce (kuchen aus dem zizendel): 2 eggs each, 2 seml loaves, spices, a handful of raisins.

Pfänzl (dumplings) on greens: 50 eggs, 1 semel loaf.

Ox eyes or cold fried eggs (kalts ayrnschmalz): 2 eggs each.

For ground milk (geribnen milch): 12 Maß of milk, 8 eggs, prepared like an egg cheese, then rubbed in the dish with butter, 2 lbs, and a drink of honey.

This is both interesting and slightly infuriating. The Tegernsee document, despite being called a Kochbüchlein or recipe book by its editor, is not that. It looks like an administrative document, instructions for running the kitchen of the monastery, and must be read through that lens. Unfortunately, even as such it is not entirely clear. We know by comparing its entries with surviving recipes that the lists of ingredients are not complete. Most likely, they refer to ingredients that are controlled by the estate manager, as opposed to things the kitchen had ready access to. This explanation makes sense since the list includes valuable ingredients such as eggs, cheese, and milk, spices, dried fruit, and wine, all of which would have been drawn from stores.

Beyond having to mentally add other ingredients, we also do not fully understand the measures applied here. Eggs are counted, but even the size of a hard cheese or a semel loaf are subject to variation. Semel was the finest grade of bread commercially produced and usually sold in small, individual portion rolls. The word Semmel refers to a breakfast bread roll today. The size likely was similar. We also do not know what is meant by the countable noun “brot“. It is hard to see how it can refer to regular bread loaves given the discrepancy between semel and bread that would create in some recipes. I suspect it means a standardised portion, but that is speculation. Finallyy, what exactly set apart the lordly bread (herrenprot) from the regular kind is unclear. I suspect it was particularly fine white bread, possibly made to a higher standard than even semel, but it could also be a fine rye bread or enriched in some way.

Other measures are also problematic. The Maß is fairly clear, a standard trade measure usually hovering around a litre. The pfund most likely refers to the trade pound, though it may mean the Roman pound used in the Benedictine rule. Some monasteries took these things very seriously. The distinction betweeen the pfund and hoffpfund is not clear. A hofpfund is generally understood as the weight standard used in a given court, a practice that makes sense for itinerant princes moving between different residences. Unfortunately, we do not have details as to which court is meant. Then we have the trinken, literally a drink. It may simply mean a drinking vessel, though there is a reference to a becher elsewhere in the text, or it may mean the quantity usually allowed one person to drink. I suspect it is somewhere between 0.2 and 0.5 litres, but will need to do more research.

Going beyond the problems, what makes this source interesting is that it illustrates the variety of dishes served and can help us reconstruct some basic ratios. This section is just the dairy and egg dishes typically produced for the refectory, and we have a wide range of options: Buttermilk, served with bread or butter (or possibly as a buttered bread porridge), and plain butter, but also clabbered milk and a variety of custards. One of them is served with milk in the way fresh cheeses commonly were, and we have surviving recipes for the firmer kinds of custards known as egg cheese. Eggs themselves are served fried or, more elaborately, as filled eggs (boiled eggs with the yolks scooped out and turned into a seasoned filling), or as roasted eggs (seasoned, returned to their shells, and roasted on a spit). The küechen, kucheln and pflänzl most likely refers to fried dumplings of some description with egg as the main ingredient.

Finally, the most interesting thing for me is the grated or ground custard listed at the end. It reminds me a little of the Mayenmus recipe from the 1559 kuenstlichs und fuertrefflichs Kochbuch. Reading the recipe’s detailed (if confusing) instructions is a salutary reminder that an ingredient list does not make a dish. More importantly, it has a combination of butter and honey (admittedly mixed with custard) which strikes a chord. The medieval club I am active in has a long tradition of serving honey butter for feasts despite the fact there is no evidence for the practice. This has, by now, passed into folklore and will continue despite this. Here, though, at least we have something a bit like it.

I will continue working on the document and try to draw some more conclusions.

The recipe collection from the monastery at Tegernsee (Bavaria) is an unusual source. It seems to have been produced to serve very specific practical purposes in the administration of that particular monastery, giving quantities for dishes and instructing the reader on which days what is to be served. A calendar and a short treatise on fishes are written in the same manuscript, the whole produced around 1500 and in use until at least 1534. The text was partially edited by Anton Birlinger in Germania 9/1864 ( pp. 192-207) who regarded it as a resource for linguistic study. I am relying on his edition for this translation.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *