Lenten Dessert

We followed the fish feast on Good Friday with a dessert of illusion foods: Pastries, bratwurst sausages, and porridge topped with fried lardons. All of them fit for Lent.

The pastries are easiest: You simply fill them with something other than meat. Options are nearly endless, and ours was apples and raisins, from the Mondseer Kochbuch:

55 Fritters (Krapfen) with Italian raisins (wehlischen weinpern)

Take Italian raisins and take as many apples with them and pound them small. Add spices and fill it into the fritters and let them fry, and do not oversalt them.

These are very good and I already tried them in February. The main reason I included them here was to have something for anyone who didn’t feel like eating the illusion food. I need not have worried.

The main dessert was a pot of hot porridge topped with fried lardons and fried sausages on the side. That would actually have made a perfectly normal meal outside of Lent, which makes the illusion so effective. The sausages are from the Königsberg MS:

[[22]] Wilthu Prottwirst inn der Fastenn machenn:

If you want to make bratwurst sausages during LentTake good figs and blanch them, and grind them up, and
you shall chop them beforehand. Place them on a board, add grated
gingerbread (
Leckogen) and roll it out as long as a bratwurst is. Make a thick strawben (a kind of fritter) batter with wine, dip the sausages in it and fry them. Serve them with sugar.

I had tried these several times before, but this time the batter was thin enough to make a halfway convincing bratwurst optically. Of course, it is actually a sweet, rich fritter, so heavy that I made the individual sausages the size of Nürnberger.

Along with them, there was porridge. In this case, it was rice – round grain, the kind most familiar to medieval German cooks – boiled to a mush in almond milk with a small amount of sugar. We have similar recipes in many sources.

Porridges of many kinds – the word Mus described this class of dishes – as well as soups were often served with a topping of fried onions or bacon pieces. This gives an otherwise often rather dull dish a twin flavour boost of fat and umami. No doubt there were also rules about how to share these, probably similar to the recorded ones for spices and confits at richer tables. Early modern folk tales sometimes reference conflict over fat on porridge, no doubt a feature of life in poverty.

In this case, though, our lardons were actually thin strips of apple fried in oil, from the Munich collection Cgm 384 II.

59 Crackling (gruiben) in Lent

Cut white bread into cubes like bacon and fry that in fat or in oil until it is brown, and strew that onto the spoon dishes (mueser) like cracklings, that is courtly. Also cut apples thus and also fry them in fat and also serve them on spoon dishes (mueßern) in Lent.

They were probably too sweet – modern dessert apples contain much more sugar than historical varieties – but they looked very convincingly like fried onions. More so than the fat bacon they were meant to mimic.

Altogether, it was a lovely dessert, and close in enough in appearance to get some surprised looks. Lent seems to have encouraged the creativity of medieval German cooks.

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