Preserving Quince Juice

Another recipe from Philippine Welser’s recipe collection, another luxury. This is the earliest description I have yet found of the spoon test:

Philippine Welser courtesy of wikimedia commons

5 If you want to prepare quince juice

First take the quinces and have them peeled. Cut them apart all the way to the core, heat them in a glazed cooking pot, and pour on clean water up to two fingers below the quinces. Then let it boil under a good glowing fire (place glowing embers underneath?) and boil them until the quinces are soft and the cooking liquid quite thick. Then strain it through a linen cloth and press out the quinces very well. It does no harm if it (the juice) is opaque, that just makes it better. Then measure the juice and take a pound of sugar to an eighth (achterlin) of juice, but if you wish to have it sweeter, you can take more sugar. Then set it over a good fire and let it boil quickly. When you want to see whether it has boiled enough, take a silver spoon, dip it into the juice, and let it cool. If a skin (heyttl) is formed on the spoon, it has boiled enough. But though it is thick now, it is not yet good. You can then pour it into any vessel you like and it will throw up a foam. Take that off.

This is an interesting recipe, but its description is misleading to modern readers. We are looking at something more like a jelly, not what we would think of as a fruit juice. In fact, it comes fairly close to what Walter Ryff calls a quince electuary. There is not much to be said about the recipe. As an ingredient, sweetened, gelled quince juice represents great indulgence.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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