Pear Tarts

After a longer hiatus than I would have wanted, finally some new recipes. And again, it is fruit tarts:

Kochbirnen, courtesy of wikimedia commons

28 If you want to make a pear tart

Take 2 pounds of pears, Regel birenn (cooking pears similar to wardens) or others that are good roasting pears. Let them roast in the fire a little, but not much. Then put them in fresh water and clean them well. Then grate them small and fry them in a butter for a short time. Then put them in a bowl and add half a pound of sugar, an ounce of cloves, an ounce of cinnamon, all pounded, and rose water that smells nice. Further take eight eggs with it and add a little salt. Stir it all together, make a tart base as for other tarts, and bake it with little heat above and below.

29 If you want to make a pear tart

Take good pears and cut about 10 or 12 slices from them. Turn them over in flour and then fry them a little. Let them cool and lay them on the tart base, two layers, then strew sugar, cinnamon, and a little ginger on it. You an also not put a top crust on it if you wish. Let it bake nicely, and before you serve it, let it brown (yber schlagenn) and then strew sugar on it.

30 If you want to make a pear tart

Take pears and cut slices from them, fry (schwem) them in hot fat, take them out and let them cool. Lay them on a tart base close to each other, and if you think it is too thin, put another layer on top. Put raisins on it, sugar, cinnamon, and a little ginger, and make a cut top crust to go on top. Let it bake, and brush it with egg before.

31 If you want to make a pear tart

Take good pears and cut 4 slices from them, and take the slices and cut small notches (? krmelin) into them, not all the way through, but one cut next to the other. Fry (schwem) the pears in fat before so they turn nicely brown, then cut them and lay them on the tart base one beside the other. Strew them with sugar, cinnamon, and a little ginger, and let it bake gently.

32 If you want to make a tart of chopped pears

Take pears and chop them small. Take grated bread and fry it in fat, add sugar and spices to the pears such as cinnamon and a little ginger, and pour them into the fat and fry them. Stir them and put them into a bowl, then put them on a tart base and let it bake nicely.

33 If you want to make a tart of pureed pears and quinces

Take pears and a few quinces and steam them, and grind them to a puree in a mortar. Then add sugar, cinnamon, and a little ginger, and stir it well together. If the mass (der dayg) is too thin, add a little grated bread until it is right. Then pour it on the tart base and let it bake gently so it does not turn too hard, otherwise it is not good.

These are broadly very similar to the apple tart variations found earlier in the same collection., but there are a few interesting points. Recipe #28 is noteworthy for providing quantities which we usually lack. Two pounds of pears with eight egg whites and half a pound of sugar give us an idea what size tart we are talking about at least, and do not sound entirely implausible in proportion. I find the quantity of spices difficult to imagine, though. While the ounce, like the pound, could vary regionally, even a small version of around 26 grammes seems far too much for a single tart. It may need trying out.

Recipe #31 is interesting in its presentation. I am not entirely certain, but the description suggests the quartered pears are sliced in a hassleback style. Given the tart is then baked without a top crust, the point might have been the decorative appearance as well as managing cooking time. We still do this with some versions of apple cake.

Recipe #33 combines pears and quinces in a filling, an interesting approach and probably worth trying out. As with the apples in previous recipes, the pears used here were not like the vsoft, juicy fruit we are used to. Especially the Regelbirne identified by name in Recipe #28 was tart and firm, meant for cooking and suitable for long storage. We can still buy Kochbirnen in season sometimes that come close.

Beyond that, we are again left with an impression of a limited cuisine. For all the varieties listed – and taking up expensive paper – the basic approach seems very similar and the spicing rarely varies. It is hard to see why it was necessary to write all of it down separately.

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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