A Grape Juice Tart Experiment

This Sunday, we had a meeting with local people from my medieval club to craft, sociaslise, and talk about our various projects. For me, it was an opportunity to try out a few recipes for an appreciative audience. Most were taken from the collection of Philippine Welser, and all were broadly successful, though they will need further fine-tuning.

Left to right: grape juice tart, tart of chopped apples, venison pastry (beef, sctually), capon pastry, sage tart, and raisin marzipan “pears”.

I will try to address what I learned and how it turened out overt the coming days, but today I will have to limit myself to one. The grape juice tart that made me so curious turned out to work after all. The recipe says:

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 take, and I wondered whether it might set like a jelly or be reduced like a syrup before being baked. To start experimenting, I opted for a simple combination: storebought grape juice, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and white flour. Depending on how fine the sieve was and how much force was used in straining, the original mix may well have been a great deal thicker, more like fruit pulp, and I think I will try passing some grapes through a foodmill in season for comparison.

Today, I mixed about half a litre of red grape juice with about a tablespoon of melted butter, two tablespoons of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and two tablespoons of Typ 550 flour first stirred into a paste with some of the juice to make sure no lumps formed. This was to test the idea that the flour was the needed thickening agent, and it worked quite well. The liquid thickened as soon as it boiled and quickly started coating the pan so I needed to take it off the stove to stop it from burning. It did not reduce much.

Poured into a small pie shell based on the tart crust recipe in the same collection, it went into the oven at a medium heat and baked until it bubbled and started browning. With the dark colour of the grape juice, the colour change was hard to observe. The filling was still quite liquid when it came out, but set further as it cooled. However, it leaked and spread out as we cut the tart to serve it.

I think the first thing I will do when I try it next time is use white grapes, and a more pulpy mix. The tart base also might benefit from a ‘shorter’ and more absorbent crust, though this one held the liquid well and tasted quite good. Also, this may actually work better with small, portion-sized tarts than with one large one.

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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