Stockfish Pastry

A short recipe today: It’s three days of school holidays around Ascension Day here and I’m spoiling my son rotten, which is much harder work than work. Anyways, from the recipe collection of Philippine Welser:

81 To make stockfish pastry

Take the stockfish and parboil it in salt water that is well salted. Take it out and pick out the bones thoroughly, break it up and put it into a pastry crust. Season it well and add butter the size of half a semel loaf and a glass (seydlin) of wine, and bake it for half an hour.

This is thoroughly unsurprising. Just about every recipe collection describes some way of preparing stockfish, and it is frequently quite cursory. Some of those recipes can be interesting and inspiring, some are full of technical detail. This is neither. I would have liked to learn how stockfish was processed in the Welser household, how long it was soaked, whether it was beaten or treated with lye. It would also have been interesting to read more about the spices (though chances are it would again by the same spice mix for pastries served warm). What this recipe does reinforce is the impression that stockfish was not appreciated much. The military writer Leonhart Fronsperger notes that just about anything else was preferable because it stockfish tasted unpleasant and required large amounts of expensive fat to prepare it. We can certainly see that here. While exact proportions are hard to establish, the recipes in this collection generally do not seem to call for very large quantities. Assuming this is a regular-sized pastry, the amount of butter going in is quite remarkable. A semel loaf would be fine, white bread loaf designed as an individual portion, slightly larger than a Brötchen is today. That suggests something like 150 grammes of butter along with a generous glass of wine. Since I don’t know how the fish was processed and how much liquid it would still absorb in that state, I cannot say what consistency this would come out as, but it sounds more like a fish-flavoured butter spread than a pie.

At the risk of repeating myself, I will once again quote the opinion of the inestimable Marx Rumpolt on stockfish in a noble kitchen:

Recipe 12: Of the Manscho Blancko that is made from stockfish you can make many dishes as is stated before. And if you were to make however many dishes of a stockfish, it is still just a stockfish and remains a stockfish, do what you will, it still is a stockfish. It goes through all the lands except Hungary, because they have enough fish there and a Hungarian says rightaway “Bidesk Bestia” that is, the rogue stinks. And you can make many dishes from stockfish, but it isn’t worth the trouble.

Marx Rumpoldt, Ein new Kochbuch, 1581, p CXXXII v.

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