Grape Juice Tart

Here is another interesting recipe from Philippine Welser’s collection:

Vintner, early 16th century, courtesy of wikimedia commons

56 To make a wine tart of grapes (wein draubenn)

Take the berries of the grapes and a little flour, melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Press it through (a sieve) together and put it in a pan. Let it boil until it turns thick, put it into a tart and let it bake a quarter of an hour. When you think it has had enough and it is turning nicely brown, take it out and let it cool. Then sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon and serve it.

This is an interesting recipe, though the technique is not unique. we have a few recipes where tarts are prepared from fruit juices, including one from the same collection. I tried out one with apple juice unsuccessfully, wondering how much thickening would have played a role. This recipe suggests that it was indeed a factor.

As regards the title, this is not a wine tart and I suspect it is called that by scribal error. The title repeats the word wein twice, and in both places it could be intended to identify grapes (wein draubenn) but for the interposition of the word for tart. I suspect this is accidental. It is an easy mistake to make, and the recipe does not involve wine. That meant that this was also a seasonal recipe, depending on the availability of fresh grapes. Those could be preserved into winter by coating them in glue, but it’s not likely this elaborately secured fruit would be sacrificed to make a tart.

Depending on the proportion of flour, butter and sugar to juice, what actually went into the tart might have been more like a batter than what we would consider juice. We do well to recall that contemporaries, again including this very collection, use the word saft for things so strongly thickened we would class them as jellies. I do not know how this will play out, but I am definitely interested and likely to try making this, just to see what happens.

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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