A Sage-Flavoured Green Custard

It is called a “tart” in Philippine Welser’s recipe collection, but really it isn’t. I need to try this.

Sage, Tacuinum Sanitatis, late 14th c.

50 If you want to make a sage tart

Take 2 bunches of sage and two bunches of parsley greens and pound them together in a mortar. Press the juice out thoroughly. Then take a pound of sugar, well pounded, and put it into a bowl. Take ginger to the value of one kraytzer and pepper to the same value, and a little salt, all pounded small. Further take eight eggs and a quarter (qwerttlich) milk, or a little more. Then take the above juice, mix it all together, coat the pan with butter and make the base as thin as possible. Have a care with the embers, you must often lift the lid and make sure that it doesn’t burn. It takes much effort. It is written that you should not use any base, but only flour strewn over the butter.

This is a fascinating recipe that doesn’t really need much in the way of guesswork. The “quarter” of milk probably refers to a quarter of a Maß, somewhere in the reqion of a cup. The spice measure is less certain, given how much prices could fluictuate, but it illustrates neatly that at this point, spices were still a luxury item. The Kreuzer referenced here was a silver alloy coin valued at 1/60 of a Gulden and represented somewhere around 10-20% of a day’s wage for a labourer. Spending that amount was not bank-breaking, but it is still the rough equivalent of putting 30-40 Euros worth of one ingredient into one dish. It is not a trivial expense unless you are someone like the Welser family.

I expect the consistency that is aimed for is a light, soft custard, slowly cooked at a gentle heat. The herb juice would coour it an even green, and of course it would be very sweet. If it was cooked in a greased and floured pan, removing it in one piece must have been a challenge.

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).

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 *